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Aarne-Thompson Class #130: Karl Kerschl on Fairy Tale Comics

Karl Kerschl is pretty much universally praised for his comics art — from superhero work for the major publishers to videogame tie-ins, to the critically-acclaimed, Eisner-winning The Abominable Charles Christopher — and is constantly in demand for various projects. The latest of those will see release next week in the form of Fairy Tale Comics from :01 Books, edited by Chris Duffy and with a couple-dozen of the greatest talents in comics contributing. Kerschl was kind enough to take time away from his newborn daughter to talk about how he almost passed on Fairy Tale Comics, a shift from his usual artistic style, and the stories that grab us.

Fleen: When Chris Duffy invited you to be a part of Fairy Tale Comics, what made you decide to contribute?
Kerschl: I wasn’t going to, initially. I really liked the concept but I was extremely busy and I think I actually turned him down. Chris eventually badgered me into it by extending the deadline. I like Chris a lot and it’s really hard for me to say no to things, even when I probably should.

Fleen: What was it about fairy tales that intrigued you? Something made it different than, say, a miniseries tied to a videogame.
Kerschl: Fairy tales have always resonated with me; the structure of them and the lyrical quality. It’s much closer to my heart than working on traditional superhero/action stuff. And I also really liked that they’re open to so much interpretation. You can read the same fairy tale told by a dozen different people and they all differ in some way — some quite drastically — as they’re retold over the years. That’s one of the fun side-effects of an oral tradition, I guess. So it was an interesting challenge to try to adapt one with my own spin and contemporary sensibilities.

(more…)

Fleen Book Corner: The Witch Boy

I finally got the chance over the weekend to pick up a copy of The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag; given that it released nearly two weeks ago, this was long overdue. Short version: you want to read this book which is beautifully illustrated, clever and subtle in its message, and a cracking good read; more importantly, you probably know somebody in the target age range (call it 8-12) that desperately needs to read this book. Longer version is below, with the requisite warning that spoilers abound.

Aster has the same problems as any other just-teen boy — cousins that make fun of him, a family that doesn’t understand him, expectations that he beats himself up for not fulfilling, or even feeling that he can fulfill. Then again, he’s got some problems that other just-teen boys don’t — three generations of his family, 20 or more people, all live together in a big house that’s somewhere between isolated and quasireligious compound.

There are rules in the family, too, some of which would be downright sinister in a slightly different story (don’t talk to strangers, don’t leave the property, there are evil things away from this place of safety that want to destroy you), and a great big one that dominates the story:

The family (and others like it, scattered around the world) has magic. Girls are witches. Boy are shapeshifters. Acting outside those roles is forbidden and dangerous.

Come to think of it, the blind faith in gender roles is still sinister, even though it comes from a place that’s more benign that a lot of real-world implementations¹. Aster understands, and he wants to fit in — he begs unseen fates to let him fit into his assigned role — but the truth inside him is undeniable. Shapeshifting doesn’t work for him, and he’s drawn to witchery.

Nobody understands, not his parents, his sister, his cousins, aunts and uncles … although Grandmother surprisingly doesn’t berate him, despite knowing more than any the danger in fighting the system. If you’re going to be playing with witchery, she says while correcting his pronunciation, at least get it right.

The only person he can confide it should think him even crazier than his family does — wandering out past the wards and guardian spells into suburbia, he meets Charlie: nonmagical, dreads on her head, denied participation on sports teams because they don’t let girls on them. She catches him doing magic, he confesses his misgivings, she tells him he should be who he knows himself to be. He’s a witch, and hers is the only encouragement he gets.

Good thing too, because one of those dangerous things wanting to destroy the family starts stealing away Aster’s cousins as they try to improve their shapeshifting. It whispers in their ears that it will make them powerful, let them defeat all those that have wronged them; Aster should be easy prey for temptation, but the tempter can only offer what Aster’s not interested in: mastery of shifting. Ultimately, it’s Aster’s delving into forbidden areas (scrying, healing, binding) that saves his cousins and unmasks the danger preying on his family. It takes some time (and a rather surprising remonstration from Grandmother) to set his family on the path of acceptance.

But — and I think this is the most important part of Ostertag’s message — there’s tension still there when Aster admits to Charlie, Mom and Dad don’t really get it, but … I don’t know, they haven’t kicked me out or anything. It’s a shock to their worldview and they don’t understand, but they love him. The rules are changing more quickly than anybody knows what to do with, but Grandmother’s word is I think we have much to learn from each other. And Aster decides that there are some rules you have to figure out for yourself.

Aster doesn’t get happily ever after because his life isn’t a fairy tale. It all worked out is messier, but ultimately more achievable. There’s a lot of readers of The Witch Boy (young and old) that need to be reminded that achievable changes and the path of acceptance and figuring out rules for yourself are things that can happen. Not usually as quickly as for Aster, but they can. And if their families aren’t as accepting as Aster’s, then deciding who gets to be their family is one of those rules you figure out for yourself.

Aster is people, Ostertag is telling us. Grandmother, who’s more than solely a witch and never admitted it before, is people. The rest of the family, coming around on their lifetimes of habit, are people. Charlie is people. Even the adversary is people, or was before he fell and rejected everybody that wasn’t him². The Witch Boy tells us unambiguously that anybody that tells you that you aren’t people, they need to come around.

In the meantime, you can come sit here with us. We know you’re people.


Spam of the day:

Black Friday racking up debt?

This doesn’t work until after Black Friday. You’re ten days early, scammers.

_______________
¹ Rather than being based on ancient dictates and the subjugation of women, the customs of gender roles is reinforced by a recent, living memory disaster of what happened when Grandmother’s twin brother tried to be a witch. Think fallen Jedi in thrall to the Dark Side.

² Or perhaps, was rejected by everybody around him, leading to the fall. There’s plenty of blame to go around there, even among the good folk of the family.

From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The Second Subpart The First

What’s better than transatlantic comics coverage? Nothing! Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin continues his reportage from Saint-Malo, with the first part of Day Two coverage, with more to come.

Saint-Malo is not a big city; if you’ve never heard of it before, one of its claim to fame is that it was the home harbor for famed corsairs such as Robert Surcouf. And it is because the Falklands were often visited by sailors from there that in France we call them: les îles malouines (which is why the Argentinians call them the Malvinas).

But Quai des Bulles is big. They claim to be the second biggest French-Belgian comics festival, and I have no trouble believing them: just look at that program, list of expected creators, and exhibitors floor plan. And let me tell you, after a while the sheer number of people meant the ambiance under the tent was quite warm, even though it was cold outside.

There were not many webcartoonists present; for instance, this year Lapin had no booth. But this was more than compensated for by excellent programming which will be covered in the highlights.

  • Catching a glimpse of Maester, who came to sign for one hour even though he is still recovering from a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. Kudos, master.
  • A fairy tale (East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon, if my references are correct) performance with professional conductor and musician, with scenes drawn live by Obion.
  • A “conference” by “Prof” Bernstein and James on the art of the joke … which was itself silly, or at least ostensibly so: it is true that context and timing matter a lot for joke delivery for instance. It took place in the same auditorium (the amphitéatre Maupertuis in the Palais du Grand Large) as the Montaigne event from the previous day, and I must thank the designers of that auditorium for including a power outlet and a folding tablet for each seat, greatly facilitating this hack pseudojournalism activity. [Editor’s note: I didn’t make him say that, but it makes me very, very happy.]
  • A meetup with Marie Spénale set up by N. Masztaler on the matter of new publishing means [Editor’s note: transcription coming soon; the translation on this one is tricky]; in attendance was only a small cohort of about a dozen people where everyone could ask questions, and many did (your correspondent included). It ended up going over the planned hour for it by half an hour, though no one (least of all your correspondent) seemed to mind.
  • A memorial exhibition for Michel Plessix, local creator who created the poster image for this year’s festival before his untimely death in August of this year. While he had a varied career (as recounted by that exhibition), he was best know for his comics adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows (that is his representation of Toad that can be seen in the poster). The exhibition included, as customary, a number of tribute pieces (written or drawn) from many fellow comics creators and professionals.
  • Finally, a drawn concert with Volo (musical instruments) and Grégory Panaccione (drawing instruments).

We’ll continue with Day Two coverage tomorrow, as FSFCPL brings us the details on panel on new methods of publishing. Small audience discussions yield the best questions, but boy are they a pain to transcribe, much less translate. As always, we at Fleen are grateful for FSFCPL’s extensive efforts.


Spam of the day:

Hey guys!!!
designs and builds specialty lines of lead oxide production equipment, material handling systems, battery related process machinery, parts, and accessories for the battery, pigment, glass, and chemical industries.

I am haunted by the missing start of that sentence. Who designs and builds these lines of lead oxide production equipment? I must know!

A Week Later, It’s Still Awesome News

The news is out, albeit after an unavoidable week’s delay: Kelly & Zach, the principals of Weinersmith & Weinersmith Enterprises, have announced their biggest project to date¹: a book on the technologies most likely to change the world in a relatively immediate timeframe (call it the next handful of decades) and how likely each one is to come to pass as their adherents claim.

It’s called Soonish, it’s got wonderful introductions to ten areas of technological exploration², and the occasional cartoon. Explainer here, pre-orders here, and despite the fact that Soonish has a major publisher behind it (Penguin), Weinersmith (Z) can’t get away from the indie creator let’s Kickstart this to the moon! habit, and thus the number of pre-orders (release date is in October) will determine rewards that will be widely distributed.

Oh, yeah, and Weinersmith (Z) has also produced — in addition to today’s announcement cartoon, with requisite Phil Plait mockery³ — two regular SMBC comics today. I say regular advisedly, as it’s not a word I’d normally apply to W(Z). The first of them is a fairly standard SMBC, but the second features the single most horrifying thing ever drawn in a comic by a Certified Genius Master Hypnotist. Steel your hearts and be not afraid. Or actually, just don’t eat anything before you read that second one. Trust me.

For non-Weinersmith related news:

  • I’m not sure if it’s pop-culture saturation or just Rich Stevens being really good at expressing the intrinsic character of things in the minimum number of pixels, but you can totally tell exactly what each of those action figures behind Electron Mike are in today’s Diesel Sweeties. It’s a marvel of refined deisgn.
  • The Creators For Creators grant was announced about eleven months ago, took its first applications about ten months ago, closed them about four months ago, and announced its first recipient over the weekend and EmCity. M Dean, illustrator and cartoonist, is figuring out what to do with an extra US$30K to support her creative efforts while working on her next project, titled I Am Young. There’s a brief interview with Dean at the C4C homepage (undoubtedly, it’ll move to a subpage in future), which is well worth a read.

    Also worth mentioning: that the C4C grant was founded with the financial backing of a bunch of Image folks and C Spike Trotman, who continues to rip shit up in webcomics publishing. It’s been a bit less than two days since Dean’s recognition, so give ’em a bit of time to regroup and then we’ll see what this year’s application cycle looks like; I’d imagine it looks a lot like last year’s six month application period, but we’ll all find out authoritatively in the near future.

  • It is a well established phenomenon that we at Fleen — that is to say, me at Fleen, aka Gary — loves me some Digger (yes, I know there’s serious singular-plural disagreement in there; deal with it.gif). A large part of that comes from the fact that Digger creator Ursula Vernon is probably the best writer of (vague handwavy gestures because I know this is an almost wholly useless term) fantasy this side of Neil Gaiman, the best writer of (more gestures) YA this side of Raina Telgemeier, and the best combiner of the two this side of Jeff Smith. Specifically, she does smart, empathetic, actual-person girls better than anybody this side of Hayao Miyazaki.

    Thus, when her serialized novel Summer In Orcus debuted online last equinox, I recommended it sight unseen. Well, not quite, she’d done the equivalent of the first chapter on LiveJournal a few years prior, so I knew it started with Baba Yaga’s chicken house trotting down the back alley of suburbia, and how can you dispute a start like that? It was going to be damn good, there existed no other mathematical possibility.

    It exceeded my expectations significantly, and caused me no small outbursts of emotions at regular intervals over the next three months. Frustrations at the days-long waits between chapters. Utter and true heartbreak at loses suffered (and I use that word precisely; Vernon made her heroine hurt, because sometimes that’s what life teaches you: that you can do your best with the best of intentions and people still get hurt and you can’t shake the feeling it’s your fault even when it isn’t but maybe it is a little), blind hatred of the second-tier villain, soaring exultation at particularly smart or heartwarming or weird circumstances in the story.

    This is not a fairy tale that instructs moral lessons, it’s one that offers warnings about what the world is like. It’s certainly not one that gets you to Happily Ever After without an equal measure of regrets. Also, there’s the bit with the cheeses, which is pretty damn hilarious.

    The complete Summer In Orcus has been available in various e-formats since the story wrapped eight-ten weeks back, and Vernon acknowledged the wants of those of us that craved a book book version, one that works by flashlight under the covers, and said she’d try to figure something out. The figuring is apparently past, as her Digger publisher, Sofawolf Press, had an announcement over the weekend:

    We are still working out final details, but we can reveal that there will be both a softcover and a hardcover edition, and the cover and interior illustrations will be done by Lauren Henderson (aka: “Louvelex”). We’ll be doing a very simple Kickstarter to help us gauge demand, but we’ll also have a couple stretch goals that will allow us to spiffy up the final book.

    Final details to come over the next month or so. For me, that’ll be a hardcover for my library, and I figure I’ll get a stack of paperbacks — I’ve got nieces and nephews that need this book, and for half a year I’ve been pointing people at Summer In Orcus as the entry point to Vernon’s work; now I won’t have to try to remember the URL, I can just put a copy in their hands.

    We’ll be sure to let you know about the Kickstart when it comes, but do yourself a favor and start clearing space on your shelves now. And if anybody reading this is at Laika and wants to figure out their next project, I would suggest that Summer + stop motion is a friggin’ license to print money.


Spam of the day:

Up yours!

Somebody’s seen Sweet Charity too many times. Yeesh.

_______________
¹ Again, if we discount the production of two miniature alive humans.

² Reminder-slash-disclaimer: I’ve read a late pre-final version, and it’s impressive how many absolutely brilliant, Nobel laureate-level people were willing to go on the record in a book that also features dick jokes.

³ Scroll to the bottom, and don’t forget to hover over the comic for a bonus gag.

SDCC 2016 Programming, Part Two

Saturday, oh Saturday, the day where hopes go to die in San Diego. Sunday, the day where the light at the end of the tunnel is visible, except for those that have to wait to bring their cars around to the docks for load-out. Before we get to those, let’s make a quick visit to a pair of Fridays.

First, last Friday, C Spike Trotman¹ announced her latest forthcoming publication, this Sarah W Searle is bringing her Sparks from serialization at Filthy Figments {NSFW, depending on your W]. Second, this coming Friday, when Kel McDonald finds out if the second and final Sorcery 101 omnibus funds or not. I’m kind of astonished how many established creators are having trouble making funding on their Kickstarts, and McDonald’s sitting on a projected 97% final funding, so this is literally make or break time.

Okay, onward and conward, and as always, let us know what we overlooked.


Saturday Programming

Once Upon A Time: Teaching Fables, Fairy Tales, And Myths With Comics And Graphic Novels
10:00am — 11:00am, Shiley Special Events, San Diego Central Library

The aforementioned Ms McDonald will be talking about fantastical tales for a library-centric crowd, along with Chris Duffy, Alexis Fajardo, Ben Hatke, and Trina Robbins, with moderator Tracy Edmunds, MA Ed.

Spotlight On Kate Beaton
10:30am — 12:00pm, Room 5AB

This will be my first chance to tell Kate Beaton in person how much my niece loves The Princess And The Pony. Hint: a lot.

Comic Book Law School 303: New Revelations
10:30pm — 12:00pm, 30CDE

Part three, which bee-tee-dubs is qualified for continuing education credits for lawyers. This one’s on complex issues of copyright and trademark.

Spotlight On William Gibson
11:30pm — 12:30pm, Room 24ABC

Appropriate, since we seem to be living in one of his cyberpunk dystopias at the moment.

Spotlight On Jeff Smith
12:30pm — 1:30pm, Room 8

Jeff Smith is the opposite of a dystopia. Let’s all go and have some fun and ignore stupid, stupid [fill in horrible person type here]s.

The Kids Comics Revolution
1:00pm — 2:00pm, Room 29AB

Best panel ever? Emily Carroll, John Patrick Green, Noelle Stevenson, G. Willow Wilson, and Gene Luen Yang.

Spotlight On Noelle Stevenson
4:00pm — 5:00pm, Room 23ABC

Because she’s a shark, AAAAHHH.

Buckaroo Banzai: Getting The Band Back Together
5:30pm — 6:30pm, Room 8

Holy crap: Perfect Tommy, Pinky Caruthers, Scooter Lindley, and Rugsucker will be on stage together.


Sunday Programming

Historical Comics
1:00pm — 2:00pm, Room 28DE

Kate Beaton, Chester Brown, and Derf Backderf in conversation with Calvin Reid. Hopefully to contain Nemeses.

YA? Why Not? The Importance Of Teen And Young Adult Comics
1:00pm — 2:0pam, Room 24ABC

Going to be tough to decide where to be this hour — Kate down the hall, Hope Larson, Raina Telgemeier, Cecil Castellucci, and Brenden Fletcher over here at the same time.

Spotlight On Emily Carroll
2:00pm — 3:00pm, Room 4

It’ll be the spooktaculariest room all weekend for an hour.

Kickstarter Secrets Revealed
3:00pm — 4:00pm, Room 4

At last, they finally admitted that if you’re gonna do a how-to on Kickstarter, you got to get goddammned George Rohac there. Also the afivementioned Kel McDonald, Hope Nicholson, and Kickstarter’s comics outreach lead, Jamie Turner.

Markiplier Comics & More: Keenspot/Red Giant 2016
4:00pm — 5:00pm, Room 7AB

The annual Keenspot panel, pretty much closing out the programming for the year.


Spam of the day:

Make $7,682/month from home

a. That’s a supiciously specific number. b. Who’s to say that I don’t already?

_______________
¹ C Spike Trotman. Trotman, Spike, Trotman!

No? Fine.

New Comic Day

Attention (on projects past, present, and future) is being paid to webcomickers, and that it all meet and proper.

  • We’ve mentioned the ongoing series of geographically-themed fairy tale anthologies from Kel McDonald, Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales, on more than one occasion. Volume three’s been out for a while now, and it’s gathering notice. Caitlin Rosenberg over at The AV Club does her usual thorough analysis and found parts of the Asia edition of CF&FT a mixed bag — while she finds the stories visually appealing, she finds their overall quality variable, and the book as a whole lacking in cohesion beyond “Asia”.

    I’d argue that what she’s describing is one of the defining characteristics of anthologies, which she acknowledges in noting the individual stories are good, but don’t seem to work together. I’ve read the two prior CF&FT editions, and never found that awkwardness to be an issue, but I also approach anthologies as a book that I revisit time and again, consuming small chunks in isolation rather than reading through. I’ll pick it up at some point in the future, if only to read a new Monkey King story from Gene Luen Yang and to find creators I wasn’t familiar with before.

    And when you’re done reading Rosenberg’s review, check out Tim O’Neil’s take on the last few months of Achewood; O’Neil’s a critic I find myself disagreeing with more than agreeing, but he holds forth on the weirdness and melancholy of Achewood to a masturbatory degree that I not only appreciate, but find as obsessive as my own writings on the topic. I don’t want to get all article on you, but Achewood is definitely something you should be paying attention to.

  • In my hold box at my local comic shop today: issue #2 of Goldie Vance by the inimitable Hope Larson (words) and Brittney Williams (pictures). Issue #1 did a great job of capturing a moment in the early Space Age, finding a niche where a whole host of non-white people could represent all strata of society, and wrapped the whole thing up in a Nancy Drewesque mystery motif.

    Comes now the news (which I first noticed from Johanna Draper Carlson) that GV is no longer a four-issue miniseries but an ongoing title. Based on that first issue (and presumably, those making the decisions have seen the full four issues), this was a no-brainer of a decision. It’s a terrific book.

    It’s been mentioned more than once that GV publisher BOOM! is crappy with the page rates, so one can only hope (no pun intended) that by tapping one of the best known and successful creators of her generation, Larson had the leverage to explain that she does not value things like building your career and great exposure. If BOOM! is able to maintain profits on Goldie Vance, they’ll have no excuse to plead poverty in underpaying so many other of their writers and artists.

  • First it was Christopher Hastings, tapped for one-shots and minis before landing Gwenpool, then Ryan North, tasked to make Squirrel Girl the surprise breakout hit of the past year. It appears that Marvel’s learned that if you need a more light-hearted — one might even say comical — comic book in a world of capes that are overly serious, you tap a longtime webcomicker.

    Latest proof: a tie-in book (due in August) to the latest no-really-this-will-change-everything line-wide crossover will feature the writing of one John Allison, whose work is the diametric opposite of grimdark.

    Judging from the description, it appears that Allison will be contributing a story about the Marvel Universe’s most blusteringly beleaguered newspaperman¹, which ought to allow for plenty of room for a story that flirts with humo[u]r². So well done, Mr Allison, and damn you for making me buy a damn line-wide event tie-in book … that’s how they get you.

  • Rosemary Valero-O’Connell has shared a bit more of her next book³ — the centerspread this time. Do yourself a favor, set aside a buck or two each month, so that you’ll be ready to purchase the moment it releases. Given the polish it’s got with at least a year and a half to go until release, I’m willing to say entirely on faith that it’s going to be great.

Spam of the day:

Poster & Release Date Announced: #TravelBoobs

It claims to be a forthcoming YouTube series, but I’m not clicking on anything in this email to find out.

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¹ Want to stop feeling like the entire world is arrayed against you, Jameson? Maybe don’t wear a friggin’ Hitler moustache.

² Dare I say, whimsy?

³ Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, words by Mariko Tamaki, coming from :01 Books in 2018 (whimper).

All This And A Bag Of Fatty Chunklins

As the various year-end holidays loomed, I looked out daily at the Wide World o’ Webcomics and saw a bunch of crickets putting away their instruments and heading home early cause wasn’t nobody around to listen to ’em. It was a dead ten days or so for news¹, but I said to myself, Self, I bet things pick up as soon as January rolls around. And hoo boy, was I ever right. In no particular order then:

And there’s even more if you look at what got hit the net in the last 24 hours or so:

  • Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett announced that he’s cutting back Sheldon to three days a week in order to concentrate more time on Drive. Now I stand second to no man in my love of Drive, but fact is that LArDK has not yet provided canonical proof that Fatty Chunklins exist in the Second Spanish Empire (as opposed to, say, Denny’s) and therefore Sheldon is — by some infinitesimally-small interval — the superior strip. Until we find out exactly what Fatty Chunklins are, I’m going to have to call this one a wash.
  • For what is I believe the first time in its nearly ten year history, Three Panel Soul has broken the format declared there in the title. Always it’s been three panels, although not always equal-sized and side-by-side, and breaking the format today comes with a very good — not to mention heartbreaking — reason. Our condolences to everybody that knew and loved Jess McConville’s Poppy, and to everybody that deals with the bastard of a disease known as Alzheimer’s.
  • Oh, and then there’s this, fresh from the New York Times, the School Library Journal, or anybody else that’s paying attention: Gene Luen Yang has been appointed by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress to a two-year term as the fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He will be inaugurated into the role by the acting Librarian of Congress on Thursday, 7 January 2016, in a public ceremony at the Library of Congress.

    Yang is the first graphic novelist to be appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, but then again he has a history of being the first graphic novelist to do things (first to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the ALA’s Michael L Printz Award, both for the masterful American Born Chinese). He basically hasn’t slowed down since ABC, releasing (either alone or with an art partner) Level Up, Boxers & Saints, The Shadow Hero, Secret Coders, The Eternal Smile, Prime Baby, a stack of Avatar tie-ins, reprints pre-ABC work, and much, much more. Oh, and he’s writing something called Superman these days, too.

    Point being, you could hardly find anybody that’s written more for readers of all levels, approaching more different topics, in more different genres, and with a greater level of penetration into the the world of young readers4. The next two years are gonna be great for fans of YP lit (not to mention all those YP), and should Yang go mad with power and stage a coup to declare himself National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature For Life, we at Fleen would like to point out that any good benevolent overlord needs good PR and we would be up for the job.


Spam of the day:

Subject: Benachrichtigung

The rest of the spam appears to be a lottery scam in German; I’m just entranced by that wonderful, wonderful subject. Could any other language cram as many awkwardly-sounding syllables into such a randomly-discordant order?

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¹ Unless you want to count as news the ongoing attempts of a very large corporation to get me to want to keep giving them money by withholding services and pulling no-shows on repairs. But that word implies something novel or unique, and this was anything but.

² Go here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

³ Because all you have to work with in DC is dialogue, which means you’re not really messing with the form. Besides, he already has a comic for that. I also feel that I should note here that as an electrical engineer, this new endeavour should really be called jToons.

4 Okay, yes, Raina Telgemeier, but I would argue her contributions are fewer and more concentrated, whereas Yang’s are greater in number and broader in scope. I still think she’s probably the most important person working in comics today.

Somewhat Less Frantic Than Yesterday, Thanks

You’d think after doing this for nearly 10 years, I’d have a better feel for when work was gonna get in the way. Then again, my match says this is the 2663rd posting I’ve made on this here blog, meaning I’ve posted about 73% of the days since launch, so I’m not gonna beat myself up too much over it. Here’s that big news that I promised you.

  • I’m assuming that you’ve all seen the big interview with Kate Beaton running at The Comics Journal? It was started at SPX (a place as formative to Kate Beaton, Internet Cartoonist as Cape Breton is to Kate Beaton, Alive Human) and gives a nice recap of how she simultaneously got to be the favorite cartoonist of those who love comics and those who are completely indifferent to comics.

    Personally, I was struck by how things happened for Beaton both very quickly and very slowly — she bounced around between the Maritimes, Vancouver, the Alberta tar sands, and Toronto, becoming a huge deal in webcomics circles while simultaneously isolated from the community. The success of her first pieces of merchandise brought her quickly to full-time pro status, but at the same time she went back to Fort McMurray and the tool crib to retire student loan debt. She exploded in popularity at that time, with her ballpoint-on-printer-paper drawings¹ — uploaded at night from the middle of an environmental moonscape — capturing something in all our hearts, and then found herself an Official Big Deal with her return to the faster pace of metropolitan life.

    See also: her entry into childrens books took a couple of years from suggestion to pitch to launch, and some of her best work comes about from leaving the speed of urban life for the sedate pace of Nova Scotia (cf: any of her family comics). She’s a pile of contradictions, then; she contains multitudes, all of them funny, insightful, charming, adorable. Go read it.

  • The other big news I wanted to make sure you all saw came from The Hollywood Reporter; it’s been a while since Ursula Vernon did webcomics on the regular², what with all the kids lit she’s writing, and the modern takes on fairy tales and fantasy, and the podcasting on disturbing events/disturbing food, and all the rest. So maybe you didn’t notice that one of her books got optioned for film by an obscure sometimes voice actor:

    Disney has optioned the movie rights to Castle Hangnail, a children’s book by Ursula Vernon, for an adaptation to be produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

    So that’s all right. As noted on this page on several previous occasions, an option doesn’t mean that Vernon is now rolling in huge piles of money; it doesn’t even mean that a movie will get made anytime soon or at all. Lots of things can happen between now and some nebulous point in the future, particularly if Degeneres and Disney decide to go the animated route ’cause dang, that takes time. But it means that Vernon’s more on the radar of the deep-pocketed entertainment industry, that other studios may try to lock up rights to her other works in case Castle Hangnail becomes a monster hit, and each of those things means the possibility of less financial wobbliness than is usually found in the indy comics/indy writer career path.

    Vernon celebrated the announcement by welcoming a new rescued dog into her household and threatening a hack webcomics pseudojournalist who smarted off at her on Twitter. Honestly, she’s probably happier about identifying a new moth in her garden than anything else in the last week, which means she’s unlikely to go the coke and hookers route of other suddenly successful people; Fleen congratulates Vernon on not letting Hollywood change her.


Spam of the day:

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Been getting a lot more of these scams lately; bonus points for this actually being a second email and being signed by the same fake lawyer (who claims to be from Zurich but has a Russian character in the middle of his Germanic name and give a UK phone number).

______________
¹ As Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett, her choice of topic (literature, history), posting schedule (irregular), posting location (Livejournal), and drawing materials should have killed any chance of success, but her style, humo[u]r, and raw skill overcame those presumed handicaps.

² As always, I loves me some Digger.

A :01 Two-Fer

This bit about pushing all non-:01 Books content to the side becomes a bit hard when there’s something as significant as the announcement that SPX and Nickelodeon are partnering up for animation pitches¹. We’ll leave my thoughts for the footnotes.

In the meantime, we have two (two!) books to discuss today, in the form of Ben Hatke’s Little Robot, and the anthology Fable Comics. Unsurprisingly, they are both highly suitable for the younger reader (perhaps listener) in your life.

Little Robot is a bit of a departure for Hatke; it’s not the rolicking adventure story of Zita the Spacegirl, nor the almost entirely sweet Julia’s House For Lost Creatures. Little Robot occupies a middle position between the two — incorporating the lush illustrations and storybook nature of Julia’s, but getting into the more melancholy themes of the Zita books. This is particularly impressive because Little Robot features a pair of protagonists who don’t get names.

There’s a girl, and she lives a life without luxury (not deprivation, but pretty low on the socioeconomic scale); she doesn’t have friends her age around, but she has the wild woods (based on Hatke’s own Shenandoah Valley home) to explore and a junkyard of stuff to mess with and a bag of tools for repairs. She’s young, she’s solitary, she’s barefoot and poor, but she ain’t stupid.

There’s a robot, lost from where he was supposed to be; we don’t know entirely what his designation or purpose are, but when he goes missing his masters are pretty quick to send out some big hardware to find him, trampling over anything in the way.

The girl and the robot become friends, but a bit haltingly — neither has much experience with it — and it’s a friendship that’s punctuated by jealousy and possessiveness and jerkish behavior. In other words, a perfect representation of how a young child would act in uncertain circumstances; our characters are no angels, and no matter how much they want to be good friends, they aren’t entirely certain what that means.

Angry fight followed by rejection or not, when your friend gets snatched up by a giant robot and whisked away to who-knows-what, you grab your favorite wrench and head out to mess stuff up. It’s a neat journey about finding friends, making (literally) friends, and being overwhelmed by friends. There’s a bit of betrayal and darkness in the middle, and it ends up in a good place because girl and robot work for it to. Kudos to Hatke for not hiding the tougher aspects of friendship, and for giving us a (female, poor, rural, brown) POV character that’s demographically unlike the audience that many books get pitched to.

Fable Comics is the third Chris Duffy-edited collection of the world’s best cartoonists tacking some of the world’s best-loved stories; like Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics before it, Fable Comics splits its contents between stories likely familiar to its audience (lot of Aesop here) and stories that are likely new (there are Chinese and Angolan and Native American fables, and stories taken from the Panchatantra and the satires of Ivan Krylov and Ambrose Bierce).

Standouts include a very James Kochalka take on the story of the Fox and the Gapes, Sophie Goldstein’s take on a hungry leopard and clever deer, R Sikoryak telling the story of the lion and the mouse by way of Krazy Kat, and a series of short pieces by George O’Connor tied together by the presence of Hermes (who he hasn’t gotten around to yet in his excellent Olympians series).

Honestly, though, every piece has art that suits the story, an intact lesson, and the clever (and stupid, and generous, and wise, and venal, and hubristic, and greedy, and, and, and …) animals that have captured our imaginations for millenia. Perfect for reading a story or two at bedtime for a week or two.

Little Robot releases 1 September; Fable Comics three weeks later on 22 September — plenty of time to brush up on your animal and robot voices for when you read them to the kid(s) in your life. As always, we at Fleen thank Gina Gagliano and everybody at :01 for the review copies.


Spam of the day:

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I put a Post-It note scrap over the webcam on my laptops; you think I’m putting CCTV cameras in my house? Not a chance.

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¹ In which I find it odd that no mention of the pairing appears on the SPX website yet. There was a good back-and-forth on the pros and cons between the Twitter accounts of Meredith Gran and Christopher Butcher that you should go look at.

Please note the past tense of the conversation; both Gran and Butcher said what they felt was important, and I doubt neither is interested in reopening things, so please do not read two tweets, decide that somebody is wrong on the internet and get all foamy at the mouth.

But Gary, doesn’t this imply that you think that Butcher and Gran are smarter than we are and we should just shut up and let the grown-ups talk?

No Comment.

Post Con Post

Got a lot of stuff at SDCC this year, all of it readable (I’m usually good for at least one toy, but not this year); I spread it out for the customary photo, which my dog decided to crash. For the record, he was here in New Jersey the entire week. In case any of you want to know what’s good, let’s do a survey:

  • On the left hand side, the Stan Sakai tribute book and the hardcover collection of 47 Ronin (on which Sakai supplied the art); the former is new, the latter’s been out since March, but I hadn’t been able to find a copy anywhere so yay. Sakai is one of the great treasures of comics, and if you haven’t been reading his work all along, you could do far worse than to read the standalone story of the loyal retainers of the Asano Clan.
  • Top center you’ve got the two cheats: In Real Life and To Be Or Not To Be. My copy of TBONTB is nearly a year old, but the key word is nearly; my copy came in the mail just after SDCC ’13, and thus I missed the opportunity to get contributors to sign it. I brought it this year, and now have 19 of the 69 contributors; this one may take a few more cons. A copy of In Real Life by Jen Wang and Cory Doctorow was offered to me at the :01 Books booth, but I suspected I’d have a copy waiting for me when I got home and so it was.
  • Continuing clockwise, we get the latest Bravest Warriors and the last issue of Midas Flesh, both of which are excellent (Midas #8 is the Ryan Northiest story that there ever could be), and for both of which I offer my profound thanks to the folks at BOOM!, in that they actually sell their comics at their booth.
  • I see now that I could have composed the placement of items a little better to keep similar things together, but oh well. We have the previously-mentioned Penultimate Quest by Lars Brown and Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Africa Edition, edited by Kel McDonald, both of which I devoured on the plane. Penultimate dares to ask the question Why are we invading this same dungeon day after day and why doesn’t time pass? from the perspective of a character in that situation. It’s a ballsy thing to decide that Valhalla gets kind of old when it might be your eternal reward; it’s ballsier for Brown to end the book on a cliffhanger, with resolution to come in volume 2.

    Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of damn good stories in Cautionary, ranging in their treatment and degree of fidelity to source material. Also unsurprisingly, the standout was Carla Speed McNeil’s story of why Frog and Snake don’t play together; no other story captured the sense of timelessness, the speech rhythms of griot, and drop-dead gorgeous art that precisely matched the needs of the tale to quite the same degree. Then again, if you’re producing a story that isn’t quite as assured as one by McNeil, you’re doing pretty damn well.

  • In between Brown and McDonald’s gifts is the first issue of Terry Moore’s SIP Kids, bringing characters from his justly-acclaimed Strangers In Paradise together as Peanuts-age children. It’s hilarious and you should get it even if you never read Strangers; you’ll get more out of it if you’re familiar with Moore’s work, but it stands marvelously on its own.
  • In the center, you’ve got Jim Zub’s most recent Skullkickers issue (I had trouble finding it previously) and Jeff Smith’s first print issue of his webcomic Tüki Save the Humans. Typing their names in such close proximity makes me want to see those two dudes collaborate on something someday. Oh man, that would be awesome.

Oh, and my hotel clerk gave me these, which was very generous given that I hear there’s a trade in them on eBay.


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