The webcomics blog about webcomics

Extra Update: Jess Fink Speaks!

First, go read this. Then come back and enjoy the candor of Jess Fink regarding art, jerks, and her fists.

Fleen: Art is all about appropriation and reworking, but this is at least the — third? fourth? — fairly obvious direct copy of your work by different parties. What is it about your work that makes you such a high-profile target for these situations?

Fink: There is a great deal of difference in being inspired by a work and completely copying it. I’ve been inspired by a ton of artists and it’s reflected in my work I’m sure, but that is the outcome of living within the art community and growing up with it. After cookie loves milk got printed there was a swarm of food based shirts, peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and mustard and if they were inspired by my design it wouldn’t bother me.

I think the reason It’s been stolen so many times is that the art is fairly simple. I’m just playing around with the idea of cookies being good with milk, it’s something everyone understands. I’ve made other designs for Threadless that are much more illustrations rather than funny concepts and those never get ripped off (not that I’m daring anymore) because it’s a much more complex thing to copy. The thing with simple designs is that you can just take the idea and make art that is slightly different, that way they think no one will notice who they stole it from. Obviously I also can’t hold a copyright on the idea of cookies being good with milk, but I can take action against people who blatantly copy and even trace my designs.

Fleen: In a weird way, is it flattering that so many people want to copy your designs?

Fink: No! Haha. A lot of people ask this and it’s really not! Every time I get an email about some Cafe press store selling cookie loves milk rip-offs or a big name department store selling a trace or some shop in Hong Kong printing exact copies it just completely ruins my day. You don’t get paid an awful lot to make shirt designs so feeling like you are getting exploited is never fun. If it were just something similar someone made that they weren’t selling it would be a completely different story, but I know these places are making money off of something that is mine.

Fleen: This is a Threadless shirt design, and they hold the copyright to be defended. In a perfect world, what would they do now?

Fink: Well it might not be a perfect world but it might be a polite one at least! In the past when dealing with these situations Threadless has granted me the authority to take legal action myself.

Fleen: What would make it less likely for you to be targeted in this way?

Fink: I’m not really sure. Less jerks in the world? Science needs to find a way to see if a person is a jerk or not right when they are born! “It’s a girl! Oh…I’m sorry, it’s also a jerk.”

Honestly I think more people need to be aware of art theft and how often it happens and how wrong it is. There are people who just appropriate things without even thinking that it’s stealing. Someone once sent me a shirt with a panel from my comic, Chester 5000 on it. It was cut up in with a bunch of panels from other black and white comics. I would assume that the person who made the shirt just thought they were making a shirt covered in cut-outs from cartoons, not realizing that you can only use art from the public domain. I don’t think most people are actually taught what intellectual property means.

Fleen: What do you think drives people to engage in such blatant copying?

Fink: I think it’s just ignorance and in the case of Todd Goldman simply wanting to make a buck by any means possible. He churns out copy after copy of other people’s work, it’s the quantity over quality technique. He thinks, “If I make enough crap someone will buy at least one.” And at this point it’s really pretty disgusting since he knows he is blatantly ripping off hard working artists and he’s been involved in so many legal battles for it, it’s hard to imagine being such a nasty person.

Fleen: Todd Goldman has tossed lawsuit threats over copying accusations in the past. Do you feel that speaking truthfully about this — “situation” — puts you at any risk?

Fink: It’s always a little scary dealing with situations like these but I feel that I have enough evidence against Goldman that I can talk freely. His rip-offs of my work are far from coincidental since he actually offered me a job back in 2008, telling me he loved my Lil’ Soap and Cookie Loves Milk designs and then instead of giving me work apparently decided it was more profitable to just rip me off.

Fleen: How long before somebody starts passing off Chester or Time Traveling Jess as their work? How badly will you beat them?

Fink: SO HARD. I will beat them with all of my fists at once! And then Top Shelf will beat them too! Both books (Chester 5000 and We Can Fix It) are due out next year and honestly I’m excited but kind of scared to death!

Fleen thanks Ms Fink for her time and openness, and reiterates that Mr Goldman has been invited to respond via his representatives, but has not done so yet. Spread the word and do what you can, my minions.

Holiday Comic Roundups

Anybody that reads comics online knows that when Kate Beaton goes home to Nova Scotia, the comics that result are always gold — heartfelt, hilarious, occasionally bizarre, and always featuring the inadvertent comedic stylings of her mum and da.

In case you missed them as they hit Twitter over the past ten days or so, Beatonmas Comics 2013 are collected for you on Beaton’s Tumblr in five very tall roughly chronological sections. Go read them now.

Every year, Jess Fink&rsquo’s in-laws hold Jessmas a few days before Christmas, as Fink isn’t able to spend Christmas Day with them. Taking a lead from Beaton, this year’s Jessmas made it into comic form as well and if there are fewer of them than of the Beatons, there’s about 100% more contextless mentions of vagina so that’s all right. Go read them now.

Perhaps feeling that the west coast was underrepresented, David Malki ! got into the famiy holiday comic-making game as well, with a series featuring Earth’s feistiest grandma. Go read them now.

All told, that’s about 100 comics to tide you over until next year; if you have trouble waiting that long, just go back to one of those links on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and read one update each time. And if you draw comics, maybe grab a Moleskine or two when you head home next.


Re: Cards Against Humanity’s 12 Days of Holiday Bullshit and hints of the involvement of webcomickers. There are more than twenty creators whose work has been wrangled into shape (by R Stevens) together in a Sunday Funnies-style comics section.

You can enjoy the entire thing online, if you happen to dig on people like (in no particular order) Allie Brosh, Nick Gurewitch, Dylan Meconis, Erika Moen, Maki Naro, Abby Howard, Anthony Clark, Sam Brown, Jon Rosenberg, Ryan North, Natasha Allegri, John Campbell, Zach Weinermsith, Shawn Smith, Elaine Short, Kris Straub, Megan Murphy, Jana Kinsman, Jess Fink, or John Allison¹.

For my money, though, the best one was from Katie Rice, a wordless, delightfully evil little parable about Santa rewarding good children and punishing bad children. For your money, you’ll just have to browse through, and if you find work that you particularly like, maybe visit the creator and check out their fine wares?

In other news, as I write this, there have been Something*Positive comics for twelve years and eight minutes. Sadly, I can’t claim to have been there from the very beginning, having been tipped off to the brilliance of the pudding cat known as Choo-Choo Bear some time after his first appearance, probably around the time two dangerously violent psychopaths got luchador masks. I guess that means for me there’s only been eleven years, eight months, eleven days, and eight minutes of S*P, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

I have written extensively on this page about how Randy Milholland may be my favorite writer of characters, because they quickly grew out of the caricature stage and into messy, complex, changing (ever so slowly) people, none of whom can be entirely dismissed or despised. All of them, even Ollie, have reasons to empathize with them².

Maybe it’s appropriate that today’s strip features Kharisma, as she’s grown the most of any of the cast³. It’s a messy kind of extended family that Milholland’s built centered on Davan, who I’m just now realizing I haven’t felt the need to describe as hapless for a couple of years now. That’s the way that Uncle Randy works — slowly, incrementally, and before you realize it, those little incidents of not being an utter asshole have assembled themselves into something resembling redemption and self-improvement.

The really amazing thing, though, is that Milholland used S*P as the springboard for multiple other strips, each of which are just as good. Seriously, get the Super Stupor issues and ask yourself (like I do) why Randy doesn’t have major publishers offering him miniseries.

Finally, let me wrap up this by reminding you all that it is your moral duty, on whatever occasion you may actually meet Mr Milholland, to badger him mercilessly until he does the Fluffmodeus voice. You may need to offer booze. It’s a fair trade.

So sorry about that, Randy, and thanks very much for the comics; you — and they — are damn good.

¹ All of whom, it should be noted, were paid for their contributions, ’cause CAH don’t screw around.

² Okay, not Avogadro, but he’s dead. Also, I’m not sure that Fluffmodeus is actually a sentient being as opposed to free-roaming hallucination.

³ Except maybe Mike, but I’d argue that he’s much further along the way towards being an actual, whole person and Kharisma is very much still a work in progress. Additionally, Kharisma’s growth has largely been by dint of her own personal effort, seeing as how she’s on the wrong and the only good examples she’s got are the ones she can make for herself.

Catching Up

Just imagine the rockin' soundtrack, or click here. IT'S YOUR CHOICE.

Whew, that review of Boxers and Saints yesterday took a lot out of me, and preempted some news that would have been timely yesterday. Let’s get all caught up, shall we?

¹ As far as I’m concerned, Ms Cooper is the sine qua non of sexy, sexy cartoons.

² If you’re here because you googled “Miss Danielle”, close this page and forget you saw anything, okay?

³ Whatever cranks are left unturned in my vicinity by Ms Cooper are heartily handled by Ms Fink.

Slightly Behind The Curve Scratch That, I Just Noticed This Is Post #2500, So Yay Me

See, the thing is, I’m on vacation in a city populated almost entirely with excellent food (much of it in carts), beer, public transport, and awesome people, and I am not online all day as I have things to do that involve interacting with excellent food (much of it in carts), beer, public transport, and awesome people. Between my phone and the basic netbook I have with me, some browsing and webcomic¹ and such, but I am likely horribly behind. I trust that you will adapt in some manner.

  • Ryan North has now shared what it was like to win an Eisner Award², but I don’t believe he has shown you what that Eisner Award looks like. Wonder no more, it’s right up there at the top of the page. You can click it for embiggening.
  • Zach Weinersmith announced (or perhaps “launched”) his latest Cool Thing during the rush of SDCC — in collaboration with the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, Weinersmith has an e-book of 128 (2^7) nerd insults, with illustrations lovingly supplied by the inimitable Jess Fink. Weinersmith mentioned to me in San Diego that they really wanted to do 2^8 disses, but that they couldn’t come up with a full 256. Anyway, you can get up in the grill of smart people for as little as one dollar.
  • Kris (Straub) and Scott (Kurtz) have, as previously mentioned, done up a Mappy series of animated shorts for ShiftyLook, the first of which is now online. It’s difficult to watch with the resources I have at hand, but it’s definitely got the feel of Blamimations³, so that’s all right.

Below the cut, the best remaining cosplay photos from the con: Toki and Murderface, a Plants vs Zombie zombie, and Attack on Titan trainee Sasha “Potato Girl” Brause.


Well, Hell

Having picked up a copy at my local comic shop over the weekend, I was going to tell you what I thought of We Can Fix It today, but then I made the mistake of reading The AV Club and saw that Noel Murray said everything I wanted to, only better:

A clever, poignant twist on the autobio comics format, Jess Fink’s We Can Fix It!: A Time Travel Memoir (Top Shelf) ponders what would happen if the author went back in time to warn her younger selves not to make so many dumb mistakes, whether it be trusting the wrong boy, taking the wrong drug, or acting rudely toward her mother. [...] The result is a book in which Fink treats her own life as a series of loosely connected vignettes, open to different interpretations depending on who she’s become by the time she looks back at them. This isn’t just an effective way to handle autobiography, it’s one with a touching take on the interconnectedness of people’s best and worst moments.

That’s much better than what I was able to come up, which isn’t really a surprise given that Murray is a nationally-regarded culture critic and all. In any event, I’m more than happy to point you towards words that may convince you to read We Can Fix It, as I think it’s something everybody should do. It’s smart and funny and sweet and wise and full of joy and hurt and sexy, sexy time-travel jumpsuits. Give it to the person in your life that needs to be reassured that none of us has all the answers, but that’s okay.

  • Hail to our new overlords protectors, I meant protectors. Wes Citti and Tony Wilson, previously best known for making some amazing soup, have decided to branch out into technology and are Kickstarting the entire process. I must say, their campaign to build an orbital death ray is going to throw off my Kickstarter models, what with having backer tiers up to the US$100,000,000,000 level and a total goal that could be expressed as approximately 4% of US GDP.

    Going by the Fleen Fudge Factor for Kickstart predictions¹, Wes and Tony are on track for reaching their second stretch goal. On the other hand, I expect the usual delays in delivering on the promised rewards, so don’t hold your breath that the world will be destroyed until at least six months after the predicted doomsday.

  • Readers of this page should be well familiar with Zahra’s Paradise from :01 Books, which launched back in 2010 and saw print eighteen months later; for those who are new around here, it’s the work of semi-anonymous political exiles commenting on life in Iran since the discredited elections of 2009. When the state has taken your child and you’ve finally retrieved his body, what more is there to fight for?

    The thing about elections, even in places where only the vestiges of democracy exist, is that they come around again. Zahra may not be a real person (although her experiences mirror those of far, far too many people in Iran), but that hasn’t stopped her from taking a stand in this election cycle. Vote4Zahra chronicles the story since “the end” as Zahra declares herself a candidate for President and speaks truth to the clerics that hold power in a country made up predominantly of youth eager to engage with the world. Here’s hoping her message makes its way to where it can encourage those who need encouragement.

¹ Look at the Kicktraq prediction afer two days of funding, and at the trend prediction; most projects will hit somewhere between 1/3 and 1/6 of the prediction.

L’Alliance De La Bande Dessinée Est Mort …

Vive L’alliance de la bande dessinée. Or more precisely, somebody please tell me where the very talented writers from Comics Alliance [link may not work much longer] end up, since their site (the only comics site I read regularly) got axed by parent company AOL. I really liked CA, I liked the writers, I liked their approach which appreciated comics in all its varied forms (not to mention the respect they gave to webcomics — do a search there for as long as the site is live on “Nedroid” say, or “Jess Fink”). They reveled in the most batshit insane¹ of comics, thought deeply about how comics tell their stories, poked fun at the comics they couldn’t stop reading and always somehow found happiness in a shared legacy of the world’s greatest heroes (and Aquaman).

The fact that those last three links lead to pieces written by the same guy should tell you something. I have no doubt that none of the CA staffers and stringers will have much trouble landing in their next writing gigs (and boy do I hope that they take the Eisner Award that they’re nominated for this year); in the meantime, if you haven’t already, maybe toss a thank you towards the staff of CA as they disperse (hopefully to coalesce together again — like Voltron, they are mightier together than in their constituent parts). And if it won’t get you fired, they’ve already received the ultimate accolade in a pop culture-saturated world: an angry tirade about their fate from a noted friend of comics [NSFW on account of naughty subtitles and oh yeah -- Hitler].

Nevertheless, there is always good news to be found, and little is more regarded as good news in these parts than a new project from Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson, this time a book launch party for the Capture Creatures collection. Those with long memories may recall that Capture Creatures launched at the beginning of 2012, with a goal of finishing the 151 painting series, a gallery show, and a book collection in the same year.

Along the way, other things intruded², and the completion of Capture Creatures pushed back to 2013. Good news: the painting are apparently done, since the gallery show will launch in LA on 1 June. And with the completion of the paintings comes the comprehensive book (including the creatures we haven’t seen on the site yet), details of which I am solemnly assured are nearly upon us. We at Fleen will bring you the details as soon as we can, and in the meantime, dibs on whichever creature might be based on the greyhound, if such a thing exists.

¹ So to speak.

² Dreistadt did more than 300 (!) paintings last year, so I think we can cut her some slack.

Hey, Look At That, I’m Back

Silly me, I didn’t get a screen shot of the parking page that greeted readers of Fleen earlier today as the renewal was making its ways around the world. While the email service saw no interruptions, for a few hours I was assured that this page would make a perfect address for auto dealers, auto loans, and all your auto needs. Sadly, people that may have wanted to snag the domain weren’t greeted with the sensitive yet handsome dude, the beautiful yet computer-savvy lady, or the couple that for some reason you just want to slap. Sorry ’bout all that.

  • Having dipped her foot¹ into the world of e-self-publishing, A Girl And Her Fed creator K Brooke “Otter” Spangler has been noting some distinct similarities between that world and the earlier, what the heck are we trying to accomplish? days of professional webcomicking, and she’s been kind enough to share her observations with you.

    Having also spanned the world of webcomics self-publishing, and actual-publisher publishing, Otter’s buddy (and Fleen Fave) Ursula Vernon² has her own take of the astonishing Webcomics/SelfPub parallels, and likewise holds forth with useful opinion. They are are pair of sharp ladies and to paraphrase Otter, BUY THEIR BOOKS.

  • Oh my, yes, please: Jess Fink’s so very delayed, I thought I might never see it released, can it really be true? time-travel self-makeout epic, We Can Fix It, finally has a release date! Of course, we’ve heard this before (more than three years of hearing it before) but this time it’s certain because Fink has the actual books in her hot little hands, meaning she’ll have them for TCAF in a few weeks. For those of you not going to TCAF, you can exchange money for this book in a variety of places, including by pre-ordering from Top Shelf directly. Go do that now.
  • Did somebody say most prestigious awards in comics? The Eisners nominations are out, the superheroes are relatively absent, and webcomickers and their natural allies are well represented. How well represented? Enough so that there’s simply too many names to track down all the web addresses and put the links in the text³. Let’s just take them from the top down, shall we?
    Best Single Issue or One-Shot
    The Mire, by Becky Cloonan (self-published)

    Best New Series
    Adventure Time, by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb (kaboom!)
    Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain)

    Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
    Adventure Time, by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb (kaboom!)
    Amulet Book 5: Prince of the Elves, by Kazu Kibuishi (Scholastic)
    Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse, by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos (Archaia)

    Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
    Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens, by Meredith Gran (kaboom!)
    A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted by Hope Larson (FSG)

    Best Humor Publication
    Adventure Time, by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb (kaboom!)

    Best Digital Comic
    Ant Comic, by Michael DeForge
    Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover
    It Will All Hurt, by Farel Dalrymple
    Our Bloodstained Roof, by Ryan Andrews
    Oyster War, by Ben Towle

    Best Adaptation from Another Medium
    A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted by Hope Larson (FSG)

    Best Graphic Album —- Reprint
    Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel (First Second)

    Best Penciller/Inker
    Becky Cloonan, Conan the Barbarian (Dark Horse); The Mire (self-published)
    Colleen Coover, Bandette (Monkeybrain)

    Best Coloring
    Colleen Coover, Bandette (Monkeybrain)

    I’m particularly excited to note the presence of Bandette in the Digital Comic category, but also represented in other categories against print comics. And I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Comics Alliance, Robot Six, and The Comics Reporter have all been nominated as Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism, and they are the homes of such webcomics-friendly folks as Chris Sims, Brigid Alverson, and The Spurge. Best of luck to a very strong and deserving field, and let’s hope that we see such good nominations in future years.

¹ Up to about the knees, actually.

² We at Fleen loves us some Digger.

³ On account of the fact I am a lazy, lazy man.

Turns Out The Title I Was Going To Use Was Already Used Seven Years Ago, Go Figure

That title was “Linkapalooza”, and it featured a photo of Frank Zappa in an Uncle Sam-patterned oversized novelty tophat because at that time that title produced that result in a Google image search. Anyhoo, things to point you towards today.

  • James Kochalka may have retired American Elf, but he’s keeping plenty busy what with voicing Grotus in the SuperF*ckers shorts [NSFW, obviously] and starting a new strip for his local newspaper¹, and collaborating with Shmorky on a comic that fits hopes and dreams and malice and loss into one page. What I am basically saying is that you can keep up with all your Kochalka needs by keeping an eye on his Tumblr.
  • Jim Zub, one-man living embodiment of the creation/destruction duality that undergirds comics, is back with more of his ongoing series of analyses of how the heck you make it in such a crazy industry. His latest looks back at a year of Skullkickers² running on Keenspot (starts here), which has brought the online reader to the end of the second story arc and just into the first story of the second Tavern Tales collection. It’s a topic that we at Fleen have discussed with Zub more than once over the past year, but seeing numbers puts everything in perspective:

    Skullkickers online has garnered just over 5.8 million pageviews and been visited by 272,000+ people over the past 12 months. More than 90 times the number of people who buy our monthly issues have checked out Skullickers online so far. Each month an average of 22,600+ new people come on board the story and the site generates almost 486,000 pageviews. I don’t know how it compares to other webcomics (though I’m sure it’s far lower than a lot of the long running and financially self sufficient sites) but it’s reaching 7-8 times our floppy comic print run worth of new readers every month, building up awareness of the title day by day using content we already had archived and ready to go. [emphasis original]

    That bit about “content we already had archived and ready to go”? That’s Zubese for “free money”.

  • Over the years, we at Fleen have been eagerly waiting for Jess Fink’s We Can Fix It, her very sexy time-travel self-makeout story of sexy sexiness. Unfortunately, over the years, We Can Fix It (which has been complete forever, come on guys) has been repeatedly delayed by the publisher, which to be fair, they may have had extremely good reasons for doing. It may be working out for the best, as Top Shelf³ have had Fink go back and make everything even prettier than it was before Also, because she loves you, Fink has posted a seven page preview where Future Jess resolves that make the past as sexy as possible by making out with it. Oh, like you wouldn’t.
  • A bare 24 hours since our posting yesterday, and Zach Weinersmith’s newest book collection has gone from about US$40K on Kickstarter to damn near US$110K (as of this writing). He’s burned through twelve more stretch goals, extended the Map Of Mystery twice, and had to space out new goals to increments of US$10K instead of US$5K, because they were being achieved too quickly.

    One may note that Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543 is in the Kickstarter Comics category, and the not-quite-resurrected Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be: A Choice-Filled Adventure By Ryan North And Also William Shakespeare Too is in the Publishing category, meaning that Weinersmith cannot break North’s record ’cause different categories. However, looking at their respective backers-and-dollars reports at Kicktraq, one can see that Zach may well hit Ryanesque numbers by the time this is done in — my glob — a month.

¹ Note for our younger readers: a “newspaper” is a means of distributing information by printing it on multiple sheets of thin paper, folding to a convenient size, and making it available for sale to interested parties. Formerly, they roamed the American landscape in vast herds, but the population has lately dwindled to near-extinction levels.

² Which tends pretty much all the way towards the “destruction” end of the spectrum.

³ Who are all the very best people, and I always make sure to drop by their booth at any show I attend to buy anything I don’t have already, but also just to say hi. Seriously, they’re wonderful.

Meanwhile, At Stately TopatoCo Manor

For those that follow this page to an unhealthy degree (hi, Mom), there was no post on Friday due to traveling, but today is two different holidays in the US and Canada and I’m totally allowed to take off from writing but I am here making up Friday because I love you people.

The reason I was traveling on Friday was to attend a wedding, but that doesn’t do it sufficient justice. Much like how Sherlock Holmes would only refer to Irene Adler as the woman, there is every evidence that this should be forever known as the wedding. In fact, you can all stop getting married now, as there is no chance that you will have more than one of these things at your wedding, much less all of them:

These are things that happened, and they will not happen again; it was an organic, spontaneous, joyous celebration that will never be equaled. Holly, Jeffrey, you win at getting married, so said we all.

¹ Citation needed.

² Long live the Queen/Livre le Québec libre.

³ As opposed to grown ass-people

4 Agent Paperklip and I accidentally made something delicious. As this happened hard on the heels of a conversation about Tumblr, we named this concoction The Apple Privilege:

In a champagne flute, build:
1 part apple cider
1 part prosecco

Garnish grated nutmeg, tears of the oppressed.