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.

In Which I Must Disagree With Ryan North

In all other respects I generally agree with him, but I am firm in this: feta is gross and its presence on an otherwise-delicious pizza is just wrong. I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll come to that bit later.

  • It’s been maybe six weeks since David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc and semi-pro Mr Bean impersonator) announced that he was taking legal advice to determine if it would be possible to produce a printed version of Irregular Webcomic without running afoul of the LEGO corporate behemoth. It appears that the answer was affirmative, given the announcement today:

    I have started work to have collections of Irregular Webcomic! strips printed in book format, for purchase.

    Boom. That’s the sound of perhaps the longest-running webcomic without a print collection (going on thirteen years old) giving its readers what they want. Given a deep archive filled with interleaved storylines, Morgan-Mar opted out of the sequential approach, and will be going with a themed collection:

    The first book will collect all of the Fantasy theme strips up to the hiatus period which began with strip #3198. By my count, that’s 504 strips. With some bonus material, we’re estimating about 140 pages.

    Smart move, by the way — grabbing the first 500 or so strips in IW history would require readers to hop between fourteen different storylines, and not get much resolution on any of them. Also, I’ll note that the Fantasy theme probably makes the least use of actual LEGO assets¹ (other than the Me theme), as the main characters are painted RPG miniatures and not LEGO minifigs; the branded building bricks are used more for backgrounds, props, sets, and side characters. Having less prominent LEGO stuff in the LEGO-themed comic is probably a safe move from a legal standpoint, at least to start.

    Morgan-Mar is presently working with the wonderful folks at Make That Thing, with plans to launch the requisite Kickstarter around the first of the year so as to avoid the holiday confusion (not to mention the tax implications of making a bunch of money in 2015 but not spending it until 2016). I’ll keep you appraised of any future developments, but I will say that this exciting news. Very exciting.

  • Speaking of unreasonably large Kickstarted books from longtime webcomickers, Ryan North officially finished the last stretch goal of the To Be Or Not To Be campaign: he made a pizza that looked like Kate Beaton’s Hamlet portrait and ate it. And then, because he is a Ryan-sized man and has prodigious hunger, he also made one that looked like Beaton’s Ophelia and then ate it, too.

    There was a third pizza².

    This third pie resembled Beaton’s take on Juliet, and with that, North announced the sequel to TBONTB, the long-rumo[u]red Romeo and/or Juliet. Key points: the book will not be crowdfunded, but rather published by Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin. As a result, a hard release date can be promised (7 June 2016), the book is in a final form (no stretch goals), and will feature 400 pages and (by my count) ninety friggin’ artists providing illustrations. I ain’t typing out the list but you can find a copy/paste of it below the cut.

    Oh, and let me point out this one line near the bottom of the announcement:

    I can’t say more about the book JUST YET, but I will say this: as someone who has backed the original Kickstarter and is also awesome, be sure to hold on to your preorder email receipt. For SURPRISES :0 [emphasis original]

    Done, and done!

  • Still on Kickstarted books, the TJ & Amal omnibus got a nice writeup today at The AV Club, and not to do with Kickstarted books at all, yesterday’s Nick Trujillo news has revealed itself: Glitched is running as a Twitter account, and appears to make use of the new polling feature. IN-teresting.

Spam of the day:

You have missed messages vindication Cordially Skype+ service

Weird, it’s almost like I’m being invited to click on links of unknown provenance by services that I don’t use.

¹ Or maybe the Space theme, for similar reasons.

² cf: Ryan-sized man.


Exhibitor Maps

Man, I dig exhibitor maps for conventions. I love being able to figure out my approach to talk to all the people I want to talk to in the least amount of time. Sometimes the maps are huge and sprawling, and sometimes there’s no point in trying to point out where the cool web/indie-comics types are because you’d just end up putting a circle on the entire damn map that says HERE on it.

  • It’s the latter case that we concern ourselves with today, as both the SPX and TopatoCon exhibitor maps have gone up, and they’re chock full of creators you’re going to want to see. They’re also on a humane scale, so I don’t have to do one of those maps-hacks where I show you where to go on the showfloor, as I’ll have to do sometime next week for NYCC¹.
  • Since we’re already talking about TopatoCon (because let’s face it, we’re always talking about TopatoCon), one might point out a couple of new programs on the schedule. At noon on Sunday, please note the killer description for Pleasure Is The Measure:

    Join us for a sciencey, sexy, feminist conversation about women, their bodies, and comics — featuring Kate Leth (Kate Or Die), Jess Fink (Chester 5000), Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots), and Spike (Smut Peddler) and moderated by NYT bestselling author Dr. Emily Nagoski (Come As You Are).

    Smart ladies who know their way around what makes things sexy as all hell? Yes, please.

  • Also, one modestly points you to the new official description of the 5:00pm Saturday event in the podcast space²:

    Join host Gary Tyrrell ( as our three contestants Frank Gibson (Bee & Puppycat, Capture Creatures), Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Darkest Part Of The Forest) and Holly Rowland (TopatoCo VP) square off in a tournament-style cocktail challenge. Each contestant will be given a box of mystery ingredients and will make up a theme cocktail on the fly. One contestant will be eliminated in each round by a panel of judges chosen from the audience. Who will emerge victorious and who will get 86’d?

    86’d/eighty-sixed is bartender slang for cut off and ejected from the establishment; think Chopped but for booze. This is gonna be fun, and I want to make ti clear that I am not the one putting together the challenges and will be just as surprised with what the contestants have to work with as you will. It’s not Cutthroat Bar and I am not channeling my inner Evil Alton Brown³.

    Oh, and because it’s a damn shame that cocktail enthusiast Christopher Hasting will have to miss Boozetopia (due to his comedy-writing workshop happening at the same time), I will need a volunteer to take the best drink of each round across the hall to him.

    Also, if you are going to be at TopatoCon, are at least 21 years old, and interested in being a judge for 86’d, I’m looking for people who will be able to articulate what they like (or don’t) about a drink, not just chug the damn thing with an eye towards getting wasted. Please email me (gary) with the subject line TASTING AND JUDGMENT, at this-here website (

  • Speaking of Hastings, news comes today that once again Marvel is coming to him to add to their cape-comedy offerings:

    The Gwen Stacy/Deadpool mash-up begins in a three-part back-up story by writer Christopher Hastings and artist Danilo Beyruth beginning in Howard the Duck #1 and going through the two subsequent issues.

    In December’s Gwenpool Special #1, She-Hulk throws a holiday party and invites many Marvel luminaries, with Gwenpool showing up. Writers Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule and Christopher Hastings, along with artists Danilo Beyruth, Langdon Foss, Gurihiru are listed for the book.

    Marvel, just do what we all know you need to do and give Hastings and ongoing title where he can blend the action with the goofy. Because is there anybody else that would throw in a scene with Tony Stark telling Reed Richards about how many weddings he’d been to that summer where Get Lucky got played4? No, there is not, and that little bit of human interaction is what’s missing from so many cape books (the magnificent Squirrel Girl excepted, obviously). Give him a book, Marvel. Doooo iiiiiit.

Spam of the day:

Hi, I do think this is a great website. I stumbledupon it ;)

I never use StumbleUpon; it renders like shit in my browser.

¹ Also, I’m never thrilled with the interactive maps that take you someplace else every time you click on the damn thing and which require JavaScript/Flash to run and are completely useless on mobile.

² AKA the bar.

³ Maybe next year.

4 Four.

Before The Holiday Rush

Hey. So I have to travel I-95 — aka Satan’s Own Highway — alter this afternoon, the Friday before a long weekend. This is gonna be brief.

SPX has revealed its programming slate, and it appears to be the usual (i.e.: high on quality, low on quantity). Each day will feature two rooms of programming, one with events on the hour, the other with events on the half hour, from midday on. Highlights include:

Have a heck of a weekend, Statesians. Maybe I’ll see you on Monday, maybe not.

Spam of the day:

Download Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star Movie.

I wouldn’t watch that shit with your eyes, my friend; I ain’t gonna watch it with mine.

¹ Make comics while queer.

It’s Changing Faster Than I Can Adapt! Soon It Will Achieve True Intelligence!

TopatoCon, that is. For starters, there’s more names on the exhibitor’s page — I noticed Kevin Budnick, Gillian Goerz, Jonathan Griffiths, Phil Kahn, and Stacey King in addition to the previoiusly-announced guest below the cut — and there’s news of a pre-con concert!

TopatoCon proudly presents:

To kick off our convention weekend, we’ve invited some of our favorite musicians to play a concert that’s open to the public!

8 p.m., Doors open at 7:30
Academy of Music Theatre
274 Main St
Northampton, MA 01060

$15 General
$12 Students

Purchase at the box office, by telephone at (413) 584-9032, ext. 105, or click here to order online.

Reminder: this is before the con even starts, and you’re entertained; further, those that have never seen The Doubleclicks or Molly Lewis before can sample their (considerable) talents and have the opportunity to meet them the next day (although Lewis isn’t listed on the exhibitor site yet, I doubt she’s getting out of town immediately after the show) and buy all their stuff. That’s at least a win-win, possiby a win-win-win-win.

In other news there’s a pair of comics that tell stories about being in comics. The first is from Maki Naro, and tells of his righteous irritation at yet another “contest” for illustration/comics pros that amounted to spec work; he actually submitted it to the contest-holders in question, which I think is brilliant and laudable. The other is from Faith Erin Hicks (h/t: Heidi Mac at The Beat), and tells of how you can only break into comics by knowing the secret handshake and living in a big city oh wait no, that’s not how it works. Both of them are worth your time.

Spam of the day:

You are requested to claim your pending commission
payout in the amount of $7,302.29 earned since
you registered for our programme.

Best regards,


Bite me, “Gary”


Multiple Media

There are a couple of offshoots of webcomickry in other realms of expression that caught my eye today, plus the list of SPX exhibitors is live. Let’s go down the list, shall we?

Spam of the day:

In days gone by, should you stood a bankruptcy or even a foreclosure, getting approved with an car finance was like pulling teeth

Days gone by? Are we talking like the pre-lidocaine era?

¹ Oh please, oh please, let ASW recurring character Ryan North be part of this play!

Now With More Drifters

The fine folks behind the next great webcomics-centric convention (that would be Holly and Sara) released a bit more information, including an updated exhibitor list, information on where to stay, and transportation options. Let’s dive in.

On the Exhibitor page I spy a few new names, including Z Akhmetova, Lex Cornell, Shelby Cragg, M Dean, Sarah Tacey, and Jim Zub. There are some corrections as well, with the former Skullmandible now listed as Cohen Edenfield (Skullmandible), and Kori Michele as Kori Michele Handwerker. Also, Jeph Jacques has confirmed that he will be there after all. Compare to the previous exhibitor list, which is below the cut.

Also, the hotel listings and directions are now up, the latter of which includes something that I’ve never seen before: a con-provided rideshare forum, so that if you happen to be passing by one of the airports or rail stations, you can maybe pick somebody up for a cut of gas money and tolls.

Naturally, one should take all possible precautions in utilizing this method of transit, as this discussion between showrunner Sara McHenry and exhibitor Dante Shepherd shows:

So far two TopatoCon exhibitors have signed up on the attendee rideshare spreadsheet. Working with cartoonists is fun and cool always

Will I have to mention that my truck does not have AC and I like to stop to give drifters rides too if I sign the list

I think that’s an assumed level of risk.

(Dunno if I’d trust that Shepherd guy if I were you — he claims to have a pseudonym to separate his comics from his academic career, but how much do we really know about him?)

Still to come: programming, events, and fun things to do in town. Stay tuned to this page for information as it become available.

Spam of the day:

Protect Your Deck from Winter,

As soon as I get a deck, I promise to get back to you so we can protect it from winter in the middle of August.



The TopatoCon exhibitor list grows by leaps and bounds! When last we spoke of such things, it looked like this:

KC Green
Jeph Jacques
Jess Fink
Tom Siddell
Rosemary Mosco
Kate Leth
Anthony Clark
Christopher Hastings
Danielle Corsetto
David Malki !
Dante Shepherd
Becky Dreistadt & Frank Gibson
Michael Rapa
Mildred Louis
Sara Goetter
Jon Rosenberg
Karla Pacheco
RJ Lake
Allison Shabet
Lauren Jordan
Joshua AC Newman
Magnolia Porter
Alison Wilgus
Shoona Browning
Randy Millholland
Brian Lee
David Willis
Kori Michele
Hannah McGill
Blue Delliquanti
Evan Dahm
Molly Ostertag

And thanks to the list that’s been posted at TopatoCon’s Internet Information Center, we may add to the list:

Amazing Super Powers, Kory Bing, Boston Comics Roundtable, Tony Breed, Cardboard Fortress Games, Eric Colossal, Matt Cummings, Megan Nicole Dong, Catie Donnelly, The Doubleclicks, G Town Games LLC, Games By Play Date, Erin Gladstone, John Green, Tyson Hesse, How To Win At Everything (Daniel Kibblesmith & Sam Weiner), Kitfox Games, Amanda Lafrenais, Braden Lamb, Matt Lubchansky, Ira Marcks, Kel McDonald, David McGuire, Tom McHenry, Maki Naro, Nerdcore Medical, Cole Ott, Aatmaja Pandya, Amanda Scurti, Sarah Winifred Searle, Small Beer Press, Sarah Sobole, Space Whale , Spriteborne, Olivia Stephens, Jordan Witt, and Jessi Zabarsky (whew!).

Sadly, we appear to have lost some exhibitors from the list. Rosemary Mosco reports that she’ll be attending, but not tabling. Jeph Jacques isn’t on the new list, and TopatoCon falls right in the midst of the time that he reports he’ll be moving to Canada, and so it may be too uncertain to promise an appearance. I’m sure that there are other missing names, but as my previous list was sequential-by-announcement and the new one is alphabetical, maybe it’s best that you double-check yourself.

In other TopatoCon news, the venue has changed to allow more attendees, and the show will now be taking place at the venerable Eastworks, site of the much-loved NEWW and NEWW2 shows in 2009 and 2010. Hotel/ticket information will be coming soon, and the showrunners have released a code of conduct that lays out a zero-tolerance policy for:

… offensive comments (related to a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, disability, or religion), stalking, unwanted photography or recording, unwelcome physical contact or sexual attention, and disruption of events. In general, the polite and courteous method is to err on the side of caution. If you feel you may be making someone uncomfortable, end your interaction with them. No one owes you their time or attention (and you don’t owe anyone yours), so be cool. [emphasis added]

I bolded that part because it seems necessary to remind the Sea Lions out there that the world does not, in fact, revolve around their obsessive needs to talk you to death. Hooray!

Spam of the day:


You know, just waving about your hands and saying SEO is not how that actually works. Maybe in the LARP of website management, but not in the real world.

For Those Not In San Diego

Weirdly, not everything to do with comics and webcomickers centers on southern California; here, then, is a list of comics-related things that have nothing to do with SDCC.

  • For example, those of you in New England will find that the showrunners of ConnectiCon scheduled directly against SDCC. CTCon had a reputation as a webcomic-friendly show for a while there, but their guest list doesn’t seem to reflect webcomics as a category this year — webcomickers are lumped into the Online Media category, which at least puts the creators of webcomics like Sister Claire, Dueling Analogs, The System, or Bittersweet Candy Bowl on par with, say, George Takei.

    They don’t, however, put links to sites in their guest lists. They also seem to think that Jamie Noguchi is going to be there when he appears to be opposite the Dumbrella booth. On the other hand, CTCon is hosting Super Art Fight and that’s always stupidly fun.

  • For those of you a little further west and north of Connecticut — that is to say, Schenectady, New York — may find yourself at the Schenectady County Public Library-sponsored Electric City Comic Con, which is small-scale, a first effort, free to attend, and features the incomparably awesome Jess Fink and Chris Giarrusso. Libraries are great.
  • Further west (a lot further west) — San Francisco this time — the California College of the Arts is hosting a series of events in association with their MFA in Comics program. Mike Mignola was there last Friday, Spike Trotman will be there tomorrow (along with an opening reception), Paul Madonna will be there next Friday … it’s a whole Friday thing. Lectures start at 6:00pm, and are free to the public at the Timken Lecture Hall, 1111 Eighth Street in the city of Saint Francis.
  • Okay, fine, SDCC. Nobody from webcomics appears to have made any sacrifices to the blood god yet, setup appears to have been conducted in good order, Rich Stevens appears to have the product of the show, and Jon Rosenberg appears to be enjoying himself.

    Oh, and help me start a rumo[u]r. I say that this photo means that Jim Zub has been tapped to write a new Hello, Kitty ongoing. I have attempted to contact Mr Zub to confirm that this is what’s going on, and I have not received a denial, which I’m choosing to interpret as a confirmation. You heard it here first: Zub on Hello, Kitty, now with Japanese demons, skull-kicking, and awesome, awesome fight scenes … tell me you wouldn’t buy the crap out of that.

Spam of the day:

I do not know what you are saying

Shhh, shhh, just relax, you’ll be fine.

On A Sunny Friday, Followups From Yesterday

  • Alison Wilgus, one of the new invitees to TopatoCon, was kind enough to drop a comment on yesterday’s post to let us know that there are still more new invitees to TopatoCon that we at Fleen missed.

    Aatmaja Pandya, Maki Naro, Matt Lubchansky, and Olivia Stephens are added to the list, the full version of which sits below the cut. Thanks for the info, Alison!

  • Also yesterday, TopatoCon invitee Dante Shepherd¹ let us know that his second great creative work, one that’s been under development for most of the past year, has launched:

    Holy hark. I’m a Dad. Again.

    Hey, world! Meet Torpedo! She’s 6lb 7oz and she’s utterly awesome.

    My ChemE dept just sent out an announcement that the baby arrived. They announced that her name truly is “Torpedo”. So that’s delightful.

    Torpedo, welcome to the world. It’s kind of loud and noisy and bright right now, but that’ll settle down soon enough. It’s also kind of stupid and cruel at times, but I think that if you follow your dad’s lead, it’ll become less so; if everybody followed your dad’s lead, it’d be cleared up before you’re old enough to read this. In any event, it’s the best world we have right now, and the only one we can offer you, so we’ll try not to mess it up too bad before we turn it over to you.

    Best of luck to you and your big sister Cannonball (senior henchman); she’ll help you learn your way around the important things in life, like your dad’s lab coat, his Red Sox cap, the junior faculty, and the chalkboard in the spooky basement. Remember not to eat the chalk, no matter how delicious it looks. Try to give your parents the occasional full night’s sleep and they’ll love you more than you ever thought possible.

    Oh, and maybe give your dad a break at feeding time? He’s not as tasty and nutritious as you might have hoped.

    Torpedo and mother The Swede are reportedly doing well; best wishes to everybody at STW Headquarters.

Spam of the day:

It is no secret that a boost in confidence and having a positive self-image can contribute to a woman’s over all well being but the majority of women do not have cosmetic surgery for anyone other than themselves.

Are … are you negging me?

¹ A pseudonym for mild-mannered professor of chemical engineering Bruce Wayne.