The webcomics blog about webcomics

Being A Chronicle Of The End Times

Sunday is always a weird day at San Diego Comic Con; the crowd is trying to decide on last minute purchases, the vendors can see the end coming but then have to do tear-down (and here’s a little trade secret for you — the larger booths can’t start until the carpet’s taken up, and there’s a lot of carpet) and throw everything on pallets. The good news is that by the time you’re done, there’s not much of a line at any of the restaurants. The best news is that the day earlier Eben Burgoon of Eben07 and B-Squad¹ gifted me a bottle of the honey blonde ale that was brewed to tie in with the publication of B-Squad volume 2 which was opened approximately 12 seconds after the show ended and sustained the crew of several booths through teardown. It was pretty tasty!

But before you get to teardown (and I swear, some year somebody’s going to get caught in the giant layers of clingfilm used to hold everything together on the pallet; I swear it almost happened to me twice) there’s still a mostly-full day of the show. I managed to see the YA panel, which was held in a large room but attracted a surprisingly — disappointingly, actually — small crowd, considering the talent on the riser (from left): Sierra Hahn moderating; Hope Larson; Raina Telgemeier; Cecil Castellucci, James Dashner, and Brenden Fletcher.

Bios: Hahn is senior editor at BOOM! (a somewhat recent transplant from Dark Horse, and not responsible for the crappy contracts they offer; creators that I speak to about BOOM! generally have good things to say about the editorial side); Larson and Telgemeier should need no introduction if you read this page; Castellucci wrote for DC’s now-dead Minx line for YA girls, and more recently a Star Wars tie-in about Leia and Shade, The Changing Girl for Vertigo; Dashner doesn’t write comics (yet), but is the author of the wildly popular Maze Runner series (now a motion picture franchise) as well as other YA book series; Fletcher is the cowriter of Gotham Academy and the revived Batgirl.

A quick word of praise for Hahn here as we begin; the panel could have easily turned into a slog where the moderator throws out a question and each panelist answers it; rinse; repeat. But midway through the first period of questioning, Castellucci asked a question of her fellow panelists and Hahn backed the heck off, letting the conversation take on its own life. After that, about three times she threw out new feeder questions and stood back to let them develop organically; it’s a very difficult thing to moderate with a light hand, I could see that Hahn had prepared a lot of questions and she very smartly adapted to the situation. It was the best moderating job I saw all week.

That initial question was about what it is in YA that unique attracts readers, which became a discussion of influences. Larson’s first experiences with comics were Tintin, Asterix, and other adventure stories, and Compass South is a love letter to the genre; Telgemeier has shifted away from autobio/realism with Ghosts, citing Miyazaki as her biggest influence. Castellucci noted the irony of telling the story of a YA character in Shade within the structure of mature-readers imprint, contrasting with her next project (a girl in 1932 riding the rails with hobos) and recalling the influence of reading My Cancer Year in high school. Grief is what she gets as something that’s uniquely expressible in comics, saying I write prose, but sometimes there are no words to say what I want, and then I turn to comics.

Dashner’s not written comics, but loves what pictures can add to storytelling, being particularly satisfied with some tie-ins to the movie version of Maze Runner. Fletcher said that he would be cribbing answers from others — Tintin, etc — but that Miyazaki (and in particular, Totoro) changed my life when I was falling down a hole of ’90s dudebro comics. Totoro hit my reset button and I thought that was who I am, that’s the storytelling I was to express when I grow up. He tied that ability to influence a younger reader into the idea that his run on Batgirl was mandated to be written for an audience of 21 – 28 year olds — sex, party times, woo — but at the first con after the first issue came out, a 10 year old girl dressed as Batgirl came up to get it signed and that was it: the creative team bucked their instructions and We aged it down. Gotham Academy was always in the space for my 10 year old niece, but we shifted Batgirl to be closer to that same space.

This was about the point that Castellucci shifted the conversation, asking what appealed to the others about YA. She found it compelling because the characters are raw and figuring out who they are, and that was what she always wanted to write. Larson noted it’s what comes most natural to her, and doesn’t understand why YA is looked down on; eople that look down on YA suck at writing it, she opined. Dashner jumped in to tell the story of a friend who was told by a Very Important Person In Publishing that her YA writing was really good, so she might now be good enough to write for adults.

Telgemeier held forth on the idea that YA as a category didn’t really exist when she was growing up, that you went from Baby Sitters Club straight to VC Andrews (or possibly Stephen King); her introduction to the idea of YA was discovering Lynda Barry at the age of 12. There followed a general discussion of what counts as YA and why, despite the fact that good YA has always had a significant older readership (and 60%+ of the market is women over the age of 30), the term all ages isn’t helpful. All ages is code for inoffensive, as Larson pointed out. But at the same time, comics publishers don’t always know what to do with it. Fletcher related how Gotham Academy was ignored in the direct market because it had two teen girls on the cover so they figured it was for kids. Librarians asked him where to shelve it — in the children’s section, or teen/YA?

Hahn fed that point by noting that libraries and bookstores will have to have a YA shelving concept so you don’t put Vertigo books next to those appropriate for kids. Fletcher lamented that Barnes & Noble has Gotham Academy next to Batman (alphabetically, wedged in by Gotham Central, which, yeesh, serious disconnect), but Lumberjanes is in YA, so where will the Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover go?

Castellucci wonders if people who want their comic books not just for kids, dammit! are willfully ignoring the YA section and how that might prevent people from picking up a book they might like. Larson wryly observed that those readers won’t pick up a book with a non-powered teen girl on the cover anyway, so there’s no harm in putting it in a YA section. Dashner wasn’t sure — he said that his books, and others like the Harry Potter series, Twilight series, Divergent series, and plenty others wouldn’t sell nearly as well without adult readers. It’s also the case that several of those series were issued with serious, adult-style covers to provide the ability for grownups to read them in stealth mode.

There’s always a point in a panel like this where the discussion turns to the value of comics in getting kids to read and it followed the usual path, but there was an observation from Catellucci I hadn’t heard before. She works as a literacy volunteer in LA public schools and started a reading club. One girl brought in Larson’s graphic adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time and spent all year on it. She loved that book, and later when Castellucci showed a page from Mercury her hand shot up and she asked Is that Hope Larson? It haddn’t occurred to her the idea of having a favorite author who does different kinds of stories. She proselytized that book, shared it with all her friends, and then wanted to make comics herself. Kids that love comics make and share comics, which is the crux of Catellucci’s point. There’s an enthusiasm that even the most eager readers of prose don’t have.

(This was followed by Fletcher telling how his 10 year old niece fell in love with Gotham Academy, which he basically wrote for her. She shares them, she begged to go to a comics creation camp that was aimed at older kids, and on a visit she gave him a copy her first comic. That destroyed me. She’s doing fanart of my characters and I burst into tears.)

The other thing that usually comes up in YA discussions is deciding what’s appropriate for inclusion, and again there were a pair of unique points I hadn’t heard before. Castellucci pointed out you could aim a comic for a particular age (say, 10), and there are kids that age reading far above that level, and kids reading far below; reading ability really spreads out in age cohorts, but they may all be reading the same comic, so finding a way to keep language, sex, or violence “age appropriate” is almost impossible.

Telgemeier pointed out that comics are a challenge in that showing something has more impact than writing about it, even for the same audience; she’s so far been unable to get any character having a period into her books (all of which star teenage girls), but thinks it might be possible soon. Fletcher pointed out the advantage to comics is you can treat danger in different ways; Batgirl might be beating people up, but the Gotham Academy kids are more likely to run until they’re in a kind of environmental danger (collapsing floor, possibility of a fall, etc). In Batgirl there’s an acknowledgment that things like drinking or sex exist, but since it’s aged down now, you can cut away without showing. You’re not ignoring it, it’s not imposed, it’s just what feels right.

A short while later, it was time for the Kickstarter panel, which at long last bows to reality and includes on the dias George friggin’ Rohac, along with Hope Nicholson of Bedside Press and Kel McDonald of Sorcery 101, along with Jamie Turner from Kickstarter (from left: Turner, McDonald, George, Nicholson). Interestingly, Turner introduced the panel by noting how many projects they’ve each run: 5 for himself, 9 for McDonald, 6 for Nicholson, and an estimated 50 for George.

The first third or so of the panel was taken up by a sort of Kickstarter 101 which in an ideal world shouldn’t have been necessary, but given the number of people in the audience who had indicated they planned on doing a Kickstart at some point, and who were frantically taking notes and photographing the projection screen, it was wanted by the majority of the viewers. Some numbers, then: comics represent about 4000 of Kickstarter’s 108,000 successful projects, with a funding rate of about 55% (versus 40% for the site as a whole). This means that George himself has run approximately 1.25% of all comics projects in Kickstarter history, yikes.

The most valuable part of the panel was the first thing Turner said: although he titled the panel Kickstarter Secrets Revealed in order to get it approved, there are no secrets. It’s all in the tutorial material that Kickstarter makes available: have an original project, communicate with your backers, have a good video, make sure you can explain what’s compelling, bring an audience with you. Prep before the project, complete with cushion for unexpected situations (McDonald calls it The Screwup Fund and budgets in US$2000; Rohac calls it The Unexpected Situations Fund and allots 12.5% on top of however much he thinks the project will require). Keep close track of expenses, expect postal rates to go up by the time you have to deliver rewards, and as Nicholson emphasized, If you don’t want to think about shipping [in the planning stage], don’t offer physical rewards.

Other rules of thumb:

  • From McDonald: expect to get 1/3 of your total take in the first three days; if that’s not going to get you to goal, re-evaluate what you’re doing and know that you still have time to correct course.
  • From Rohac: Don’t set the goal of the project to do your absolute Platonic ideal of a book; look at one that’s simpler and cheaper, and if you hit funding make the idea version a stretch goal.
  • From Nicholson: Don’t neglect to include both time and expense of shipping from the printer to you — people have been crippled in the past by unexpected multi-month, multiple-thousands-of-dollars delays and expenses.
  • From everybody: the glut of offers you get from companies that want to charge you to promote your Kickstarter will do absolutely nothing for you.

The audience didn’t appear to fully take in the lessons, though. They wanted to know about things like changing SEC rules that allow crowdfunding to be used for investment (Turner: moot point because KS is ideologically opposed to the idea; Rohac: if you think keeping track of shipping is a headache, imagine trying to keep track of who is owed what share of equity in your business), what the benefit of paid promotions/advertising is (Rohac: you will convert so few it’s not worth it; McDonald: you can promote to your audience, who are most likely to support you, for free; Nicholson: does sometimes do Facebook ad buys because Facebook is a donut-stealing mobster), exactly what format the video should be (all: whatever you want, just make one), how much prep to do before launch (all: as much as humanly possible, then some more), and the most effective promotions channels (all: Twitter, existing audience channels). You know, questions the answers to which are embedded in all the previous advice.

The questions weren’t about How do I determine if my audience is large enough to support a project? or What percentage of them will actually give me money?; instead they revealed the still too-common attitude that Kickstarter is a game that can be approached algorithmically, and if you have the cheat codes you will get All The Money. The answer remains what it always has been: hone your craft, grow your audience, make stuff, then crowdfund. You never could do it in reverse, and you won’t be able to in the future. The Magic Money Machine was always a myth.


Creators who gave me books or significantly discounted them at some point during the week because they all rock and are The Best:
Kate Beaton (King Baby), Raina Telgemeier (Ghosts), Jeff Smith (BONE Coda), Dave Kellett (Peanuts: A Tribute To Charles M Schulz).

Cosplay was a bit thinner on Sunday, but I did see a pretty impressive Rescue² but the most ambitious cosplay of the entire show was the woman who dressed as the entirety of Middle Earth.

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¹ Tagline: Like Suicide Squad, but funnier.

² In recent Marvel continuity, Pepper Potts has her own Iron Man-style armor, and you can tell from the distinct design of the chest reactor it’s not just a gender-swapped Tony Stark. I have no idea how I know this.

SDCC 2016 Floor Preview

Hey, look at that! A map of San Diego Comic Con 2016’s exhibit hall, which you can pull down to your device of choice here [PDF].

There will never be an extension to the San Diego Convention Center, so once again the bend in the hall divides things roughly in half, with our attention mostly on the north — or away from Tijuana¹ — side of the hall.

The Great Geek North
Let’s start over to the right side of the map, which is the side of the building closer to most hotels, the harbor, and the road from the airport. Conversely, it’s further away from the stadium and the surrounding lots where much of the offsite eventing will take place. It looks like this:

The Webcomics, Small Press, and Independent Press Pavilions are all reasonably accessible from the “B” lobby. Let’s break ’em down.

Upon The Webcomics Sea
Centered roughly on booth #1332, you’ll find a majority of the webcomickers who will be at the show within about a 1.5 aisle radius; some are slightly outside the orange area, but not too far. Those that return are for the most part at the same booth number as previous years, but there’s been some upheaval, as we shall see.

:01 Books Booth 1323
Alaska Robotics
with Marian Call²
Booth 1137
Blank Label Booth 1330
Blind Ferret Booth 1231
Cyanide & Happiness     Booth 1234
Dumbrella Booth 1335
Girl Genius Booth 1331
Monster Milk Booth 1334
PvP and Table Titans Booth 1316
Scallywags International Booth 1332
Sheldon and Drive Booth 1228
The Oatmeal Booth 1021
TopatoCo Booth 1229
Two Lumps Booth 1230

Notes:

  • Blank Label appears to have given up its space, with David Willis deciding that twin boys are preferable to SDCC crowds. Booth 1330 will be the home of newcomers Cool Cat Blue.
  • Similarly, it appears that Matt Inman will not be at the show, perhaps the better to defend against pornbots (or, more likely, spend his time and effort on his ever-expanding series of Blerch Runs; coincidentally, yesterday marked seven years of The Oatmeal, so happy strippiversary to Inman).
  • Other listed newcomers to Webcomics Central include Jefbot in 1232, Mystic Revolution (boothing away from the rest of Keenspot, see below) in 1235, Digital Pimp in 1237 (which is odd, considering their latest newspost is about SDCC 2014), and Rhode Montijo (of Happy Tree Friends fame) in 1329. Lotta turnover.
  • No news yet on which TopatoCo creators will be along; we’ll update once we know.
  • Given all the book deals flying about, I would be remiss not to mention the presence of Hachette (1116), Harper Collins (1029), Macmillan Children’s Publishing (1117), and Simon & Schuster (1128) in Publisher’s Row; Knopf Doubleday is staking out their turf on the other side of Webcomics Central (1520).
  • As of this writing, Booth 1332, the heart of Webcomics Central, is not listed as having an exhibitor. If this situation persists on arrival, I will claim that space in the name of Garylandia. So much for territorial ambitions. Looks like Phicno.com (an indie community for comic book, graphic novel, children’s books, cartoon and original content authors and fans) grabbed up the space.

Small Press And Such
Right by the Webcomics section is Small Press. Here you should find:

Eben Burgoon Table P-12
Bob the Angry Flower Table K-16
Ben Costa Table O-07
Claire Hummel Table Q-15
Kel McDonald Table M-13
Wire Heads Table N-01

From the Small Press section, you’re close by:

Cartoon Art Musuem Booth 1930
CBLDF Booth 1918
BOOM! Booth 2229
Oni Press Booth 1833
Gallery Nucleus Booth 2643

Notes:

  • Gallery Nucleus will feature arty types when they aren’t hanging out at Mondo down in booth 835. Keep an eye out for your Scotts C, your Beckys and/or Franks, and alumni of the various Flight anthologies.
  • No confirmation yet on which webcomickers will be at the BOOM! booth when, but I’d expect a pretty strong rotation.
  • Gene Yang and Hope Larson will be spending at least some time at DC’s enormobooth (1915).

Now head back toward the “B” Lobby into the Independent Press area and you’ll find Jeff Smith (no longer webcomicking but so what, he’s the best) again splitting booth space with Terry Moore (who’s announced no new series work — miniseries only from here out) at Booth 2109. You’re also not too far from the Jack Kirby Museum at Booth 5520 which, yes, is a very large number but is actually just inside the B1 entrance. Weird, right?

Going back to that larger map of the northern half of the exhibit hall. Wedged in between the Marvel and Image megabooths you’ll find Keenspot in Booth 2635.

The South Shall Rise Again
There’s still some neat stuff if you keep wandering past the video games, Star Wars, Legos, and suchlike.

Give yourself half an hour or so, try not to spend all your money on Copic markers (Booth 5338), and you’ll find both Udon Entertainment (home of such worthies as Christopher Butcher and Jim Zub at Booth 4529); and The Hero Initiative (at Booth 5003). Zub’s onetime Skullkickers artist, Edwin Huang will be in the Artists Alley at table EE-19, and Katie Cook will be at table HH-17.

Offsite
Every year for the past half-decade the amount of stuff you can see outside of the exhibit hall has grown; I’m guessing we’re only a year or so away from complete parity. If you know of anything especially good, let us know and we’ll add it here. Otherwise, just wander the city and see what you got.


Spam of the day:

Lonely Asian Girls Looking for Boyfriends

Nothing special about that, but the fake disclaimer at the bottom that tells me how to get off their list (liars) is hilarious: Click here if you no longer want to receive offers of Safeway coupons.

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¹ The happiest place on Earth.

²Don’t forget that Ms Call has a concert on Friday night over in Little Italy with a passel of internet musicians, NASA scientists, and David Malki !.

On Reflection, It Makes Perfect Sense

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: There were three, then there were two, and Rudy Cava had some dark shit in his past. All hail the pissed man with goals.

Longtime Friend o’ Fleen and shadowy mystery man Eben Burgoon has been on a bit of a tear recently; we mentioned that he put up a Kickstart for the latest volume of his kill-’em-all comic series, The B-Squad, unfortunately the same day as the Cyanide & Happiness folks put up their megasuccessful card game’s campaign¹. But now that the oxygen is coming back into the room, we can see that B-Squad Volume 2 is a bit shy of goal (that is to say, 45% with nine days to go), and direct people to check it out. Burgoon was kind enough to send a copy of Volume 1 over to the Fleenplex and it’s a hoot. A hoot and a half, even, with cruel twists of fate dictated by literal throws of the die².

Burgoon’s been here before — closing days, goal looking iffy — and he’s always regrouped, replanned, and readjusted to reality, and it’s made him a better creator. He’s also too smart to have just one creative venture define him. Which is why he’s now got a signature beer:

The beer itself is a blonde ale brewed with Sacramento wildflower honey. BEE-SQUAD! SEE! It is all connected!

It’s brewed with California grown barley and blend of 2 hops. It’s a slight twist on their previous blonde ale, but to me it sounds ridiculously & dangerously drinkable at 7.0% alcohol and I certainly intend to leave many an expended pint full bee-hind! [emphasis original; puns unfortunate]

Why has no other webcomic had a signature booze before? Those of you in Sacramento on Saturday the 19th of March (coincidentally the end date for the Kickstarter) will have a chance to ask Burgoon, label designer Sean Sutter, and the brewmasters of New Helvetia Brewing Company in person, as they’ll be having a combination end-of-Kickstarter launch-of-beer party from 3:00pm to 8:00pm. Fun goes down at New Helvetia, 1730 Broadway in Sacto, and fun it will be if the book funds out.

If not, it’ll be a hell of a fun wake, and Burgoon will get up Monday to find the next way to bring his creations to life. Adaptability + booze is pretty much what indie and webcomics are all about.


Spam of the day:

LEGAL NOTICE: You may be entitled to settlement from implantable-mesh

Fun fact: my wife has worked in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries for pretty much her entire career, and so I know that implantable meshes are commonly used for breast augmentation. I haven’t ever had either of those, so I suspect that the authors of this spam may not, contrary to their claims, have actually tailored the message to my unique situation.

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¹ Joking Hazard by name, and I use the term megasuccessful in a precise sense, as it closed earlier today having raised 3.246 US megadollars, or roughly double the midpoint of what the FFFmk2 predicted. Well done, lads.

² There’s a double meaning there; the character whose number comes up on the die will die. If one of them perishes in some kind of industrial die-cutting machine, it’ll become a triple meaning.

Busy Day

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: No strip; Beef is undoubtedly deciding who among the gathering hordes will be invited to roll with Son of Rodney.

So much going on, I barely know where to start. Let’s just go in the order of when I scribbled notes to myself.

  • Longtime Friend o’ Fleen Eben Burgoon started in [web]comickry with spy spoof Eben07, then moved onto action-adventure spoof B-Squad (and, almost uniquely among creators, managed to repurpose a failed Kickstart into success with the first volume). He’s back with more weird deconstruction of the ragtag-team concept as B-Squad volume 2 launched on the ‘starter yesterday. I was going to write about it yesterday, but honestly when C&H dropped their immediately megasuccessful card game¹ on the world, any other new Kickstart was just gonna be overshadowed and so I pushed back a day.

    And B-Squad didn’t deserve that, so here we are today. One day in, 38 to go, sitting at about 16% of goal, as Burgoon pairs up with five artists to tell five stories and also deal with the worst writing constraint in history: each story, at least one character is going to kick it, as determined by a die roll that Burgoon must then adapt to. They say that writing is about killing your darlings, but what if you put work and love into a character and then the die says they gotta, well, die? Help make it all a bit less painful for Burgoon by at least making financially worthwhile for the creators to deal with the challenge and heartbreak.

  • The ongoing endeavour that is trying to figure out who the heck gets a table at SPX hits a significant date soon; the curated portion of the floor is being allocated, and soon the showrunners will know exactly how many spots will go into the table lottery. Want to exhibit but not specifically invited? Check it:

    On February 12, 2016, the lottery registration will become available and the lottery registration period will last between February 12 and February 26, 2016.

    The lottery registration will take place through a web page on the SPXPO.com website. We will provide basic instructions on this page that can also be viewed in the FAQ section below.

    Each lottery registrant will receive an e-mail containing their own randomly generated 6-digit number that you will receive within 48 hours of registering for the lottery.

    Once the lottery registration period is completed on February 26, 2016, we will have a digital coin flipper to determine whether we sort the random numbers by ascending or descending order. The lottery registrant list will then be sorted by random number according to the coin flip, and those tables above the capacity threshold will be selected to exhibit at SPX 2016. The order of the tables below the capacity threshold will determine the wait list. [emphasis original]

    Got that? Friday is the day to start looking at the website for lottery applications. This is a much better system than the frantic rush to apply that SPX used before the lottery system, meaning that timestamps and postmarks and checks received don’t determine who gets in. Two weeks, same chance whenever you apply, and hope to see you in September.

  • For those wondering, Queen of Comictopia Raina Telgemeier has topped off a recent move back to San Francisco with the release of the fourth of her newly-colored Baby Sitters Club adaptations and whaddaya know, it’s entered the New York Times Best Seller List in its first week. In slot #1. With five other books (Smile, Drama, Sisters, and two other BSC volumes) in slots 2, 5, 7, 8, and 9. Okay, book purchasers, let’s get that last BSC book on the list so that Telgemeier can have 70% of it to herself (until Ghosts comes out and she hits 80%). It’s her world, comics, we may as well acknowledge it.
  • The Nib, lost to a reorg at Medium, has pretty much been Matt Bors’s singular focus for the past eight months or so. First it was the Kickstart to reprint the best of the site, and much of the time since has been dedicated to finding a new home for editorial cartooning on the web that pays. Good news dropping this morning, then:

    First Look Media today announced that they have partnered with award winning cartoonist Matt Bors on his irreverent comics publication, The Nib. Formerly part of the online platform Medium, The Nib will re-launch this summer through First Look Media as an independent daily publication and online newsletter.

    Great news, in fact, but why do I recognize that name, First Look Media?

    Bors will remain editor of The Nib as it joins First Look Media’s family of media properties including The Intercept, reported.ly, and Field of Vision.

    Ohhhh, right, The Intercept — that’s Greg Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the people that brought Edward Snowden’s leaks to light. Damn, this is going to be a match made in heaven, with adversarial journalism committed in both words and pictures. It’ll have been a year spent Nibless, but before long we’re going to have voices back that we haven’t seen as much lately, in one place, both delighting and enraging me, and (most importantly) getting paid. That’ll do, Matt. That’ll do.


Spam of the day:

say hello to these naughty and wild milfs

Why, for the love of all that you might find holy, why would you send me a spam trying to intrigue me on a sexual basis and then write that spam in ficking Comic Sans?

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¹ As of this writing, above US$400K on a US$10K goal, with more than 8700 backers. The FFFmk2 predicts a final funding in the US$1.5million (plus or minus call it US$300K) range, which would be frankly insane if not for the example of Exploding Kittens last year.

The Value Of Art

Although the best rule one can follow on the internet is Never Read The Comments, I find it for somewhat obvious reasons useful to go through those at this site. The post from Tuesday of this week attracted some comments that caught my eye, not only for their length, but for the mention of something that’s been on my mind a fair bit. Responding to my commentary on his latest Kickstarter, the probable cover identity that self-identifies as Eben Burgoon discussed his logic for resubmitting an initially-unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign; here’s the important part:

I really fundamentally looked over the Kickstarter last time and rethought my plan of attack. The main thing –- hire Lauren as the artist and do so with my own pocket money so that my goal was far more reachable. She’s an incredible talent, deserves to be paid for her hard work, and if I am going to ask the internet for money to help see this work to it’s end –- I sure as hell better pony up too.

The Lauren referred to would be Lauren Monardo, a colleague via the Brainfood Comics project, and creator of several comics that aren’t really accessible on the web right now¹. Monardo’s credentials (which are excellent) aren’t the point here — the important part is the bit about deserves to be paid for her hard work and I sure as hell better pony up too.

Burgoon’s regard for his artist made me happy, particularly because I’ve spent entirely too much time reading Ryan Estrada’s For Exposure twitterfeed and watching his dramatic re-creations of people that don’t think artists should be paid. Hopefully (although in truth, I hold out very little hope for this), the bozos who have provided Estrada with so much material will look at Burgoon’s example and realize that their pathological short-sightedness is not the only way to approach making comics.

  • Speaking of art having value, there are times when you can get away with not paying a creative collaborator — when said collaborator finds value in something other than up-front cash², or volunteers to work for free, or is dead and the work is out of copyright. That last one doesn’t come up too much, but may do in the not-too-distant future.

    Evan Dahm (whose work you should be familiar with, seeing as he’s put a few thousand pages of it out there for you to enjoy for free) has of late been noodling around with images inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; that would be the original Wizard, the novel by L Frank Baum, adapted a few million times³ since it was first published in the dawning days of the twentieth century.

    Many people have taken their artistic whacks at the Oz milieu since W W Denslow’s original illustrations, notably the work being done presently by Skottie Young for the Baum novel adaptations being published by Marvel. Dahm isn’t talking about doing a sketchbook though, or an adaptation; he’s thinking bigger:

    My name is Evan Dahm and I would like to illustrate and publish an edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was published in 1900 and is now in the public domain. I like it a lot and I think I can illustrate it in a way that works with the story and has a visual character that’s distinct from other interpretations.

    I can’t recall anything like this happening previously. There was an edition of Huckleberry Finn with racist language softened a few years back (which prompted an emulation with the n-word replaced with robot), and there have been some pretty beautiful comics editions of classic works (Kipling seems to be a favorite there), but I can’t recall somebody producing a new edition of a prose work to do their own spin on illustrations.

    And what illustrations! Dahm’s new Baum-sketchbook Tumblsite is full of promise as he starts what will likely be a lengthy project; he’s set ground rules for himself that guarantee that it’ll be years before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum with illustrations by Evan Dahm sees print. However long the wait, I’m ready to grab a copy.

  • Also speaking of art having value, here’s an emergency commission announcement from Dean Trippe. whose MacBook had a crisis and requires replacement as soon as possible. If you like Trippe’s meld of clean line and capes, he’s declared an impromptu convention complete with bargain pricing for superheroic inked drawings. DeanCon lasts through the weekend, so get your requests in now while you can.

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¹ The Slightly Askew Adventures of Inspector Ham & Eggs leads to a dead page, the Brainfood Comics page has a bunch of unreadable symbol placeholders and a Call of Duty 2 ad, and may be somebody squatting on Monardo’s former domain.

² Possibly an ownership stake.

³ Sadly, a Google search for “wizard of oz” puts Baum’s novel (the first of 14 in the Oz series) sixth behind various references to the 1939 film, although some of those are because one of three surviving Munchkin actors died at the age of 89.

Ephemeral

As noted last week, A Softer World launched a Kickstarter campaign and released their 999th update, leaving everybody (or at least me) wondering what Emily and Joey would cook up for strip #1000.

Wonder no more.

What initially appeared (to me, at least) as a double-size update has been growing over the past few hours:

We are updating the 1000th comic all day! It’s like a story! A whole big STORY! *passes out* PS KICKSTARTER

As of this writing, it’s eleven rows tall, and each time another strip is added the alt-text changes with it. I suspect that there may be meaning — even a parallel story — there, all those yellow pop-ups will be lost in time, like tears in rain

  • There’s been a foofaraw in the writerly corners of blogistan for a couple of days, as a posting credited to the VP of the Horror Writers Association (and on the HWA Los Angeles chapter blog) purported to divide the world into professional writers and — gasp! — hobbyists, and succeeded mostly in pissing off a great number of professional writers. As is often the case, I find the John Scalzi (who is not the only writer I follow that scored only 1/10 on the quiz, far below the 8/10 necessary for validation) may have put it best:

    Here’s the actual quiz for knowing whether you are a pro writer or not:

    1. Are you getting paid to write?

    If the answer here is “yes,” then congratulations, you’re a professional writer!

    Okay, that’s Scalzi in snippy mode; he made an even better point a bit further down:

    The problem with [HWA VP’s]² quiz is that it confuses process for end result. Her quiz is about process, and presumably her process — what she thinks is necessary for one to do in order to produce the work that create the end result of making money as a writer. But process isn’t end result, otherwise in this case I wouldn’t be a professional writer, which I clearly and obviously am.

    Confusing process and result here is not a good thing. It confuses writers who are hungry to know what “being professional” means. The things [HWA VP] describes can lead to being a pro writer, but it’s not the only path, or a guaranteed one, not by a long shot. In this respect this quiz defeats its own purpose — it offers no indication about whether one actually is a professional writer, only whether one has jumped through the process hoops that one single writer believes are important to become a pro. [emphasis original]

    This thought of process vs status has been on my mind a fair bit; I don’t think that I’m letting any cats out of any bags to say that Brad Guigar asked me to do a first read on The Webcomics Handbook³, and I find it suffused with a tone of Topic A: Okay, here’s how I do it, and this works for me; you may find a variation on this that works better, or a way that’s completely different and that’s cool. What matters is what you produce. and how few absolutes there are. Maybe Guigar should send a copy care of the HWA.

  • Speaking of what you produce, readers may recall that international mystery man Eben Burgoon of Eben 07 launched a Kickstart for a side project called B-Squad back in December, one which didn’t fund very well, and was ultimately unsuccessful. Like others before him, Burgoon has opted to resubmit the B-Squad, a technique that is rarely successful.4

    Unlike those others before him, Burgoon is capable of learning from his mistakes: he’s redone his project scope (reducing a US$8000 goal to US$3000), tinkered with his stretch goals, and borrowed successful ideas from other projects (case in point: challenge coins). As a result, he’s much more likely to succeed the second time around.

    In a domain where success is too often assumed to be inevitable, it’s natural for Kickstart campaign owners to look towards successes as things to emulate. These might be your own previous projects (such as Bill Barnes, Paul Southworth, and Jeff Zugale funding the second Not Invented here collection), or they may rely on accumulated name recognition and goodwill (say, Tavis Maiden taking a boost from Strip Search to launch a new strip, much like his fellow Artists have done). It’s rare to see somebody adjust approaches after a stumble rather than just have a hissy fit5 about it. Here’s hoping that Burgoon is the start of a trend.

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¹ Rutger Hauer is the man.

² I’ve taken the name because it’s pretty obvious in the posting, and because I suspect that the VP in question is taking a fair amount of shit today for the pretty significant overreach in the original article. I just don’t feel like piling on right now, as I’m presuming that the mistake was one of execution and not intent. Should reports come about that no, the execution matched the intent that that’s actually the viewpoint being promulgated, I may reconsider this notion.

³ Spoiler alert: it’s very good.

4 No names, but seriously I’ve seen Kickstarts that failed to raise even ten bucks resubmitted with nothing changed expecting a different result.

5 Again, no names, but remember the guy whose project failed to fund and he changed the video into an obscenity-laden screed about how the world didn’t deserve his genius ideas? That was great.

New Beginnings

We’re less than eighteen hours into 2013 where I am, and already things are off to a fast start.

  • Firstly, more news of Strip Search has come to light, including details I couldn’t get Robert Khoo to divulge if his (or, more likely, my) life depended on it. Maki [Edit to add: I’ve discovered that Maki is not uni-named, and is more fully known as Maki Naro; Fleen regrets the deviation from our usual naming conventions], from Sci-ənce dropped news that he was a participant, that production took place in December, and that the other eleven creators vying for the top prize were Lexxy Douglass, Amy Falcone, Ty Halley, Alex Hobbs, Abby Howard, Monica Ray, Katie Rice, Mackenzie Schubert, Nick Trujillo, and “Hurricane” Erika Moen.

    [Edit to add: Missed one! I took my list from Naro’s posting, and did not notice that there were only ten names listed rather than eleven; Naro initially omitted Tavis Maiden, and I missed his name on Lexxy Douglass’s post. Mr Maiden helpfully contacted me via Twitter to point out the oversight; Fleen regrets the error.]

    Best news: most of these creators aren’t known to me, so I can now get exposed to new talent. Even bester news: the three whose work I am familiar with are really damn good, which gives me confidence in the other nine. Specifically, I’ve had my eye on Douglass’s¹ art blog since she was featured on PA: The Series going through the hiring process; Rice has been tearing it up at Dumm Comics for going on five years, and Moen is basically an unstoppable force of nature. My already-high level of anticipation for SS just went through the roof.

    One last thought — I’m really hoping that Maki didn’t speak out of turn (it is mere days since Khoo wasn’t willing to tell when production took place or who was involved) and as he (Maki) rightly observes:

    Khoo is a very kind, friendly, and utterly terrifying man

    I kid, I kid, Douglass also disclosed her involvement today, but she didn’t make a show of terror so she doesn’t have as good a pull quote. Obviously, the NDA period is over — or Maki and Douglass are dangerously overconfident, not realizing that their doom is nigh.

  • Speaking of fast starts, Ryan Estrada has launched the second iteration of The Whole Story (six months after the first), this time on Kickstarter. Since the launch at midnight EST, TWS: Winter 2013 has exceeded the extremely modest US$2500 goal, which had the entire purpose of reimbursing Estrada for the out-of-pocket costs that he fronted to creators and translators; everything that comes in from this point will be split among the creators (of which Estrada is one, meaning he gets a share, but not the entire total going forward).

    Moving TWS to Kickstarter from its earlier distribution site makes sense — it’s easiest to just set the “pay what you want” model to a minimum of a buck, and to add bonus content by exceeding the average amount paid in the prior incarnation, than it is to adjust those pricing structures on the fly. Having a set period of time for the campaign creates a scarcity that wouldn’t exist otherwise for electronic content.

    And holy jeeze, there’s a lot of previously-released and brand-new content available, including KC Green’s latest story comic at the pay-what-you-want level; the bonus level (a paltry thirteen American dollars) includes almost 200 pages of Ryan Andrews comics that bore themselves into your soul and don’t let go plus Green’s magnum opus, The Anime Club. At this point, just call The Whole Story the e-book equivalent of Benign Kingdom.

  • Finishing up on the Kickstarter front, at the beginning of December we at Fleen mentioned a Kickstarter from longtime mystery man Eben Burgoon for a project called B-Squad, wherein characters will be killed off by the roll of a die and replaced by others waiting in the wings. Burgoon’s project is four days from completion, and I’m particularly interested in its progress, because it’s the first test of something I learned back in October.

    Some may recall how I shared some information from Kickstarter Director of Community Cindy Au, at the B9 panel at NYCC; specifically, the magic inflection point appears to be 1/3 of goal. If you reach 1/3, you’re extremely likely to succeed, and if you fail, you very likely didn’t approach even 1/3 of goal. As of this writing, Burgoon’s B-Squad is at 39% of goal, with four days to go.

    The projects I’ve had my eyes on since I learned of Au’s thumb-rule haven’t hung around the 1/3 mark for more than a few minutes before racing ahead to success, so I’m curious to see what happens here — a big push to get support and a slide over the line before the campaign closes? Or a statistical outlier? Dare we, as Kickstarter attention-payers, turn Ms Au’s prediction on its head? That could cause the laws of Kickstarter physics to start to fail and create a tear in the fabric of crowdfunding-spacetime, the likes of which not even the ghost of Ryan North could navigate. I’m just saying, if Kickstarter eats itself, we only have ourselves to blame.

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¹ That’s entirely too many “s”es.²

² So is that.³

³ And Guigar.

Too Much For A Friday

Seriously, people — all kinds of mid-week days I’m scrambling for content, and then this gets dumped on me all at once? Do none of you want a weekend?

  • Hired! Jim Zub may be the smartest guy working in comics, and working every angle of them — publishing licensed work, writing original creator-owned comics, writing revived videogame IP, and thinking very hard about everything he does. To that we can now add writing for DC, as Jim Zub is taking over Birds of Prey. It’s a pretty high-profile gig, as BoP is regarded as a well-written book (having a long legacy of Gail Simone as chief wordsmith), and not just an IP-parking exercise in stasis. Here’s hoping that he can keep up all his own projects while still working for the bigs; nobody deserves success for all his hard work more, but I confess that I’m more interested in the things that are uniquely Zub than things dreamt up by somebody else getting a Zub spin. The first one is just … Zubbier? Zubesque? Zublike¹, I guess.
  • Kickstarted! How did I miss this? Girl Genius is doing a videogame, and with two weeks left in the Kickstarter, they’re up over 500% of goal. More interestingly (since GG fans are pretty rabid and any project related to Agatha Heterodyne was going to be supported to the point of success), this is the first time I’ve seen what appears to be a new cultural evolution of Kickstarter projects, in the form of the Kicking It Forward pledge.

    Short form: people running Kickstarters promise to dedicate no less than 5% of the profits from their campaigns (after costs and fulfillment of their own projects; we’re talking actual profit here, not gross proceeds) to supporting other Kickstarters from other project teams in the future. This is a terrific idea, and puts me in mind of something I saw on Twitter the other day (heck if I can remember who tweeted it originally, sorry); in a nutshell, it was an opinion that people running Kickstarters who have a track record of backing other projects are more likely to see support (at least, from the twitterer in question) than somebody who’s first interaction with the platform is to ask for money. Kickstarter is a terrific tool, a key part of business plans for independent creators of all kinds, but having it be a real community may be where its full potential gets unleashed. I’m very excited by these developments.

  • Unmasked! Search the archives of this page for Eben07 or Burgoon and you’ll find many references to a shadowy operative, a peerless spy-type agent and the webcomic he’s produced for a half-decade, and now he’s just gone and made himself all public and every-damn-thing. Eben Burgoon has Kickstarted a new project about an underfunded set of misfit mercenaries sent on deniable missions with a reality-show twist: every mission, somebody will be eliminated, leading to lots of funerals. The B-Squad, as it’s called, sounds like a hoot, so do give a look, yes?
  • Speaking of! Kickstarters for the last time today: Ryan North is up over US$275,000 for TBONTB:ACFABRNAAWST, which means mini-plush Yorick skulls. Something tells me that Ryan North may be in the mood to celebrate come Monday, 17 December for the Third Annual Beguiling/Dinosaur Comics Holiday Party with fun and good times and Ryan and Kate and Joey and a Secret Santa and booze. The party starts at 7:30pm and goes until whenever Paupers Pub is tired of the shirtlessness (Ryan), tomfoolery (Joey), and knife fights (Kate). You’re on your own for bail money.

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¹ Insert your own Being Jim Zubkavich joke here. Zubkavich, Zubkavich? Zubkavich. Zub.

Zub Don’t Shiv

The rumo[u]rs are making the rounds regarding Jim Zub’s Skullkickers #17, available tomorrow in fine comic shops everywhere; actually, I’m not sure you can call it a “rumo[u]r”, when you come right out and say it in the solicitation:

Somebody DIES! Or, everyone DIES! There’s lots of DYING! Oh man, it’s some kind of DEATH-fest goin’ around. It’s all epic and brutal and a major character DIES so you better order a ho-jillion copies. No, seriously, someone DIES. Big DEADING in the house. Also: The end of our incredible third story arc. Sweet.

I would have put some emphasis in there, but I think it’s pretty apparent that the takeaway is “major character dies”. Now this being comics, death is a temporary condition, the result of an imaginary story or retconned immediately so that you can have drama but still put things back the way they were. But not if you name is Zub, Sparky. There’s a for-real shocking conclusion, a cliffhanger, and a stack of questions that amount to How the hell is he going to keep the story going for another three arcs after that? Do not doubt the Zub, he will find a way.

(more…)

How Was Your Weekend? We Made Cookies!

Getting back into the swing of work, a bit behind, so perhaps you’ll forgive me if I point you towards some things that I’ve noticed over the last little bit and forgo the more thinky things like the Harvey nominations?

  • For starters, we’re coming up on the opening of We Love Webcomics at Doublepunch Gallery in San Francisco. It’ll feature the works of incredibly, almost stupidly talented people. Quite frankly, it would be worthwhile to attend if it featured no more than three random Showdowns, any two Rebecca Clement whimsies, and Natasha Allegri’s tribute to Snooki. As it turns out, I have no special knowledge that any of those things will be present, but then again, you could substitute just about anything by Campbell, Clement and Allegri and have it rock, not to mention the work of Furuichi, Green, Jonathan, and more. Those in the westerly climes, do check it out for us, yes?
  • Late-breaking realization #37: by not attending SDCC this year, I am missing out on obvious purchasing opportunities. Under normal circumstances I’d be picking up copies of the new Chainsawsuit, Starslip, Scenes From A Multiverse, Penny Arcade, Super Stupor, Drive, and Flight collections. Just the shipping on all of these books is almost enough to justify the flight and hotel costs for the week¹. That’s not even considering that I wouldn’t be able to pick up the newest Schlock Mercenary and Digger books, since Tayler and Vernon won’t be there either. Gonna be an expensive July….
  • Doing me the favor of not having a new book that needs purchasing, the ever-mysterious E Burgoon passed some information to us² regarding some of his(?) recent semi-covert activities. Of greatest interest is the fact that Burgoon has worked a deal with the seemingly-legitimate front organization friendly local comic shop, Empire’s Comics Vault in Sacramento, to offer seminars designed to bring more artists and writers to webcomickry. It’s possible that there may even be video of the first of these for your edification and/or viewing pleasure in the near future.

Okay. Going slightly off script here for a moment; I think that I’ve calmed down enough to approach this rationally and not go on the written equivalent of a tower-based shooting spree. A few hours ago I read this:

[Blog] : One chapter ends, another begins… http://www.mindpollution.org/2011/07/05/one-chapter-ends-another-begins/

… which lead to the unwelcome news that Rick Marshall, consummate comics reportage pro and relentless booster of webcomics, has been let go from this position at MTV Splash Page (no link, because screw them). Rick’s way too much of a gentleman to see this as anything but an opportunity to explore new projects, but I’m not. I’m going to say that MTV are foolish for not realizing what a resource they had (Rick’s Rolodex is deep and broad, and his interviews revealed a knowledge of comics to match); keeping him on a blog with the too-narrow focus of comics-meets-movies-and-TV was understandable when that was all that MTV had in the way of comics coverage, but not asking him to helm their dedicated comics blog (MTV Geek; again, no link because still screw them) was shortsighted in the extreme³.

So, if you’re looking for somebody that exemplifies journalistic best practices and has a deep and abiding love of comics and all they do, drop Rick a line — he makes the rest of us that dabble in banging out copy look bad, while making the medium, its creators, and fans look very, very good. Anybody that’s lucky enough to snatch him up will be lucky to have his talents working on their behalf.

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¹ It is very, very expensive to ship to the Fleenplex.

² Via the traditional dead-drop, as befits his(?) strict adherence to the best practices of tradecraft.

³ Which should not be construed as a criticism of anybody that MTV did invite in to work on MTV Geek. There’s some good work being done over there, but I think you’ll forgive me if I decline to read it in future.