The webcomics blog about webcomics

Things You Don’t Want To Write

But we’re supposed to be about news and webcomics, and a giant bolus of webcomics news hit yesterday in the form of John Campbell’s presumably last Kickstarter update. It’s painful and horrifying to read.

I’ve liked Pictures for Sad Children a lot, but I don’t know John Campbell; I’m pretty sure we briefly met once¹, and we have people in common. Or perhaps we’ve had people in common; reading between the lines on Twitter yesterday, along with conducting a book-burning Campbell has apparently cut ties with just about everybody.

The rambling, makes-sense-if-you-wrote-it … I’m going to call it a manifesto … that Campbell dropped yesterday puts a lot of past behavior into stark relief: the claim to have been faking depression, the systematic removal of comics from the web, a needless shitfight on Tumblr, and a book about a hallucinogen that may or may not be autobiographical.

Like I said, I don’t know Campbell; those that do² have said online that Campbell doesn’t acknowledge inconsistent or worrying behavior, and refuses both contact and assistance. Campbell did some brilliant comics; it’s likely that will not happen any longer, and for reasons that are almost certainly outside Campbell’s control. I’m going choose to remember Campbell not for this turn of events, but for PFSC and the moments of insight and uplift it provided.

And there is nothing else that can be done in this situation but to bear witness, to recognize that this is something that happened, and to hope like hell that this story eventually has a non-tragic outcome.

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¹ As near as I can recall, our interactions were limited to an email exchange around the time of the Mexico Comics Commune of Aught-Seven, and it’s possible Ryan Estrada introduced me when we talked that night before he walked across the border. Honestly, I can’t remember.

² No names; this being the internet, somebody is going to berate them simultaneously for what they did and did not do vis-à-vis Campbell, and they don’t need the grief.

Although there are multiple people in that bonfire video; I can only hope that one of them recognizes that in front of them is somebody that needs help immediately and tries to arrange it. I don’t typically hold people that would burn books for the hell of it to be capable of such rational analysis, but I’m willing to make an exception here if it means Campbell finds safety and care.

For Those Not Going To SPX, Don’t Feel So Bad

SPX floor map by Marion Vitus showing where to find Comics Bakery, but you can use it to find all your favorite creators. Just click, print, and bring!

Sure, there’s awesome stuff in Bethesda, like John Campbell’s debut Pictures for Sad Children book — don’t buy all of them, because the leftovers will go on sale online next week. Oh, and I guess Latin Heartthrob Aaron Diaz will have a new Dresden Codak book available. And other attendees (missed yesterday) will include Dylan Meconis (tabling with Carol Burrell) with a new print, and Dave Shabet and Evan Dahm getting a last-minute table assignment.

And that’s not even considering Raina Telgemeier giving away two galley copies of her forthcoming graphic novel, SMILE:

I’m also holding a raffle and a contest! I have a few advance-reader galleys of SMILE available, and I’d like to give them away. There are two ways to win:

Raffle! Come fill out a raffle ticket at our table, any time before 4:30 PM on Sunday. I will draw a winner at 5 PM.

Contest! Tell me a horror story about your teeth! You have to come and tell me your story in person, also any time before 4:30 PM on Sunday. I will choose a winner at 5 PM. Most horrific dental story wins.

Man, I have a great horrific dental story, too. I won’t go into it here, because I realize that some people are squeamish; if you have a strong stomach, the short version is below the cut. Suffice it to say, nearly 20 years later I am still fully prepared to run down a respectable member of the dental profession in cold blood in front of his terrified family, then kick my car into reverse and repeat until the cops drag me away.

But I promised you good news for those not going to SPX, and that would be the First Ever Topatoco Tag Sale:

[W]e ain’t no second-rate ham-shop runnin’ T-shirts out the back of an off-label methadone distillery either — we’re the world’s largest graphical internet entertainment licensing firm, and we got literally twenty dozen different designs that we throw away on a daily basis. We are straight-up and down-low professional and the side effect of all this legitimate-businessin’ is that we got tee-shirts in every orifice and stacked up to reach the danged rafters.

Solution? TAG SALE. This Saturday, September 26, we are opening our doors and urging you, a bunch of strangers, to come paw through a giant stash of our clean cotton miscellany. That’s right — the TopatoCo offices will be open to the discount-loving public for a one-day bargain-basement housecleaning hootenanny. [emphasis original]

Note to every random entertainment company that sends me press releases — use the words “methadone distillery” in your boilerplate, and I’m far more likely to run with it.

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Happy Estradarama 2008

And what do I find in my Inbox? Our very first guest strip, featuring our Masthead Guy. That’s right, it’s time for another Estradarama, which today features the following comics as of press time, in no particular order:

Please note that some of those may shift from their present linked addresses in the future. If last year was anything to go on, those 31 39 43 46 52 60 62 65 strips (plus two blogs, plus the empty strip, plus the comic book) are a bare fraction of what will make itself known by end of business today. But then there’s the mysterious 1/100 in the signature of all the strips. Could Estrada be attempting 100 guest strips in a single day?

And if you recall Estradarama 2007, you’ll remember that Ryan Estrada used the occasion to also launch the Cartoon Commune. This year, he announces the availability of a full comic book, written with John Baird of the Create a Comic Project, Create a Comic Project Presents: Climate Change. The 34 page book is available now through Lulu for the low, low price of $6.00 (or $0.50 for a download). Oh, and he drew a strip for the CCP, too.

Okay, you know the drill — let me know what I missed in the comments, I’ll add ‘em to the bullets above in groups of five, and we’ll do it all again next year. We all know I’ve missed a zillion strips, but I can’t spend all day hunting them down.

In completely unrelated news: non-Estrada shake-it-up strip at Octopie, and a good, old-fashioned bidding war for an original strip. Neat.

Updated to add: As several people have pointed out, Ryan Estrada has called the total at 70, but discovered he only had 69, so he did an extra strip of Aki Alliance to bring it up to 70, then VG Cats ran its strip from last year, so we’re going to call it 70 + a comic book as the official total. Which means that as of this writing, we’re still about 17 sightings short — get cracking, people!

Dr McDrivethrough

Items of some note:

  • When I think awesome, one of the first things that pops to my mind is insane webcomics experiments. And the current gravitational center of insane webcomics experimenters may be found at a commune in Mexico where Ryan Estrada and John Campbell cackle with glee each time they come up with a new mad scheme:

    hi gary!

    john campbell here, from the cartoon commune, pictures for sad children, etc. i’m starting my third year of hourly comics, which is this thing where i make a little journal comic every hour i’m awake for a month. they’re going up at hourlycomic.com. i’m wanting to see what journal comics look like if they are kind of preposterously detailed. because with daily journal comics i rarely feel like i get a grasp of what the author’s average day is like. the comics go up each hour i’m awake with a 24 hour lag time. which is part of this thing where i was wondering what if a website updated hourly is that something that is interesting (it is not all that interesting).

    On my first reading, I actually thought that Campbell would be trying to stay awake for a month, and a new comic in every hour would provide us with documentation of his descent into madness. Alas for my sense of schadenfreude but luckily for Campbell, a more careful reading reveals he’s actually doing a comic for every hour that he would be awake anyway. But there is an upside!

    the important thing is that you will get to see ryan estrada say and do what i am sure will be all sorts of dumb things.

    I am so there.

  • Chris Hastings, abetting the beffudlement of through-drivers everywhere.
  • An epic story started here (or possibly here), ended here, and now offers a jumping-on point for new readers here.
  • Looks like 500 strips on January 3rd 2008 wasn’t just a Karenic Phenomenon. Behold.
  • Finally, Friend O’ Webcomics Brian Warmoth has finished his escape from the Den of Satan Wizard‘s website to a different sort of diabolical situation. As of yesterday, Warmoth is now the new Marketing Manager of Devil’s Due Publishing, and will handle marketing, publicity and convention responsibilities. We at Fleen hope to see Warmoth on the convention circuit, and urge all reading to drop by the DDP booth to say “thanks” for all the great interviews he did.

The Long And Short Of It

Short Things:

Longer Thing: John Campbell, who took The Long Walk Into Mexico with Ryan Estrada to establish a comics commune has sent us a progress report:

dear fleen: john campbell here–i’m the dude who moved to mexico with ryan estrada. i’ve started a webcomic called pictures for sad children that updates monday-friday. i figured you guys should know about the first online output of the cartoon commune. it’s somewhere between silly and sad, like most of the things i make.

i made stevie might be a bear maybe and i also make hourly journal comics every january that culminate in hourly comic day. here are some other comics i’ve made so you know the sort of things that are in store.

i doubt a comic with a week of archives is cause for CELEBRATION, but i thought i’d make you aware! thanks.

Thank you, John Campbell! And you’re wrong about one thing — this experiment you’re running makes this particular comic with one week’s worth of archives of great interest and a cause for MEMETIC CELEBRATION. Good luck keeping the Internet running (or Buena suerte que guarda el funcionamiento del Internet, if Babelfish can be relied upon), and keep us in the loop with the big adventures.

Also, keep an eye on your buddy — I heard that Ryans are genetically predisposed to gettin’ whacked out on tequila and running off into the jungle, never to be heard from again. Either that, or Estradas are predisposed to unnaturally shiny teeth, I forget. Whatever, just take care of him.

He Keeps Belying The “Horrible People” Part

Every time I read about something that Max Temkin does, I’m impressed; yesterday he may have set the bar impossibly high for future impressions, though.

Let me back up a little.

Temkin is one of the creators of Cards Against Humanity, the party game for horrible people. In his spare time, Temkin has been involved in things like the Twelve Days of Holiday Bullshit sampler pack of joy, one day of which involved Temkin and R Stevens wrangling two dozen webcomickers to produce a Funnies Section for the modern age¹. More recently, he teamed up with Kris Straub to bring PWNMEAL (the extreeeeme gaming oatmeal) to PAX East. What I’m saying is, Temkin is all about surprising people with unexpected things that will bring them joy.

Now you may recall that about three months ago, John Campbell hit a very bad place in life and engaged in behavior that caused a lot of concern for Campbell’s immediate safety². Specifically, Campbell announced publicly that unfulfilled Kickstarter pledges for Sad Picture For Children would never be fulfilled, and that inquiries would result in books being destroyed.

That’s not the sort of place that you bounce back from in twelve weeks or so, but Campbell has been showing signs of improvement, with a backers-only announcement at the end of April titled If you’d like a book you can have one. Most recently, Temkin³ appears to have successfully reached out to Campbell and … well, read it yourself:

An update from Max Temkin

Hello! My name is Max Temkin. I’m a designer from Chicago.

I am a great fan of John Campbell’s work and a backer of Sad Pictures for Children, and it’s been really hard for me to see this amazing book create so much trouble for both John and its backers.

Over the last few months, I’ve been talking to John about helping to close out this project, and I’ve agreed to take over the project and fulfill the remaining books to backers. On Monday, I picked up the remaining 100 books from John’s apartment, and I’m going to work with you to distribute them fairly to people who haven’t gotten their project rewards yet.

In just a moment, you’ll receive a backer-only update with a link to a form to fill out if you didn’t get your copy of Sad Pictures for Children. We’ll do this on the honor system; there are only 100 books left, so please only fill out the survey if you didn’t get yours.

To close out this project quickly, I’m going to pay out of pocket to deliver the remaining books. All I would ask of you in return is to continue to support John’s art in the future, and continue to take risks on Kickstarter to help make new art.

Thanks for your patience, and I look forward to getting the rest of these books out to you,

- Max

P.S. I will do my best to keep up with Kickstarter backer comments, but if you need to reach me quickly with any questions or comments, I am @MaxTemkin on Twitter, my email is max.temkin@gmail.com, you can text me at (312) 857-[removed to prevent spam harvesting]. [emphasis, links original]

I don’t know that you could ever say it often enough: Max Temkin is one of the good ones. Here’s hoping that recognizing the value in distributing the remaining books is the corner that Campbell needed to turn to get back to a good place, and that a trend of improving safety and stability (mental and physical) is the result.


In lighter news, Drive is back and Dave Kellett is taunting his readers for not picking up the “hiding in plain sight” secret in today’s update. Dammit, Dave — you have a critically-lauded movie and you get all sassy.

I have some ideas about this strip, but I don’t want to spoiler anything, so I’ve placed it below the cut, below the footnotes. Drivenauts, have at it.

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¹ Another involved giving $US100,000 to various small projects that affected the lives of more than 38,000 students across the country.

² And, this being the internet, more than a little shit-flinging and casual cruelty. You know who you were.

³ Who worked with Campbell on a comic for the aforementioned Twelve Days.

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Toldja

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.

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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.

TTT

Or, TCAF Turns Ten, as the press release I’ve just received informs me. Reliably one of the best showrunners each year, Chris Butcher has put together a stellar lineup for this year’s iteration (to be held 11 and 12 May), including headliners Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly, Taiyo Matsumoto, Raina Telgemeier, Blutch, Gengoroh Tagame, Dash Shaw, Maurice Vellekoop¹, plus the crème de la crème of webcomics (pick ‘em out from the list here, there’s too many for me to hunt ‘em all down).

Quick shots:

  • Kazu Kibuishi (Daisy Kutter, Copper, the Flight anthology, and a little thing called Amulet) announced yesterday that he’ll be one of the judges (along with some guy named “Pendleton”, which is surely not an actual name people give their kids) for this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition for schoolkids. The idea of art contests often brings up hard feelings in the independent arts, but the terms for the D4G contest seem pretty reasonable:

    11. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS: As between Google and the Entrant, the Entrant retains ownership of all intellectual and industrial property rights (including moral rights) in and to the Doodle (excluding Google’s rights in the Google logo/trademark). As a condition of entry, Entrant grants Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, transferable, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, adapt, modify, publish, distribute, publicly perform, create a derivative work from, and publicly display the Doodle for any purpose, including display on the Google website, without any attribution or compensation to Entrant. Entries will not be returned. [boldface original]

    Google can use your Doodle, but it’s still yours, and I’ll note that the prizes are far more fabulous than for any art contest when I was in school. The top 50 winners get a trip to New York City and a Wacom digital tablet; places 2 through 5 get US$5000 scholarships, and the overall winner gets a Chromebook, a US$30,000 scholarship, plus a US$50,000 technology grant for their school².

  • Courtesy of John Campbell, michaelkeaton.net for all your Michael Keaton needs, with special guest appearance by Mister Rogers.
  • As promised, you can now make your own Ryan North.

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¹ Of whom, Matsumoto, Blutch, and Tagame are making North American debuts.

² If homeschooled, they get a US$5000 grant for home, and get to designate a local library or public school to receive the remaining US$45,000.

Mostly Followups But Also A Little Looking Forward

Faster your seatbelt, got some weird stuff for you today.

  • Following up on yesterday #1: I was trying to avoid giving unnecessary weight to the issue, but my obliqueness confused some people, so for anybody wondering what the hell I was on about, read this, imagine the reaction from people who live to be angrily offended¹, and take it in the context of this. Thankfully this little blowup has had a relatively brief half-life.
  • Following up on yesterday #2: Rich Stevens, as of this writing, is alive and triumphant over bacon in the battle of man vs delicious, cured meats. KC Green got a good portion of the ordeal on video for those that want to see the 32-slice battle in motion.
  • Following up on yesterday #3: Not found in the NYCC session schedule (because it’s not a session), news that Anthony Clark, Chris Hastings, and a cardboard cutout of Ryan North, will have a major announcement at the ShiftyLook booth regarding a secret project. Before you ask, I already tried to obtain the cardboard cutout of Ryan for myself, and according to Hastings there are “plans” for it². Booth 3374, Thursday at 5:00pm, y’all.

New stuff:

  • I’ve got my copy of the Bucko collection, do you? Maybe I can convince you with a peek at the extra-special bonus material! Namely, the full story of Queen Teri Hurricane Bluray-Devastatah d’Gresham, a thing of power and beauty, but tragically omitted from the online serial. Okay, yeah, you also get the promised three, er four-way, which (spoilers!) turns into a six-way. Dudes, it is so hot.
  • Since we’ve previously established that Questionable Content is the locus of all webcomics crossovers and thus exists in all their realities, today’s revelation has … disturbing implications. Namely, that Hannelore Ellicott-Chatham is just another way of spelling Tommy Westphall and webcomics don’t exist. Sorry.
  • Speaking of sorry, I’m not sure how many of you might have seen the latest update to the Order of the Stick Kickstarter, where we find out that Rich Burlew had a bad encounter between the tendons of his drawing hand and some broken glass. His wife reports that the surgeries went well and he’s expected to recover all function, but for the moment is pretty hepped up on goofballs, delaying both his strip and the Kickstarter rewards that he’s been producing. We at Fleen wish Burlew a speedy recovery and all the goofballs he needs to hepped up on in the meantime.
  • Ordinarily, I’d be wishing a happy birthday to several people active in the [web]comics orbit today, including David Malki ! and K. Sekelsky, but I’m afraid that I can’t today. That’s because today marks the 100th anniversary of Chuck Jones, one of the most formative influences on who I am, and today he’s the only one I can wish a happy birthday despite the fact that he’s not around to hear them. Sorry, everybody else, today is Chuck’s day; feel free to insert a paraphrase of the Saint Crispin’s Day speech here if you like.

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¹ AKA, “Tumblr”.

² Dang.

This One Is Mostly About Books

At least half. Look, it’s got books in it, okay?

For instance, there’s a comic book that’s been making the twitterrounds with its Kickstarter the thing is, Tomorrow Jones looks like it’s got an interesting story hook, as Joey Softerworld pointed out:

The “updates” section on this comic kick-starter have some thoughtful posts about the depiction of women in the comic.

The section in question:

I was faced with the decision of how her universe was going to work. Would everyone, or at least most characters, also be less sexualized? I ultimately decided it would serve the story better if Tomorrow were unique amongst the heroes and heroines in her world. Her mother wears a revealing costume, most female heroes will. But Tomorrow doesn’t. Tomorrow is bucking tradition and trying to do things her own way. She will face pressure to conform and act like everyone else. That is going to be an active conflict in the series, but more so, it makes Tomorrow unique in her own story as well.

So, a strong (literally) female character that’s not a Strong Female Character — very laudable. But Tomorrow Jones is less than a week from closing, and (as of this writing) only at 31% of its (very modest) goal. It’s doing better than in March, when an extremely similar pitch closed unsuccessfully, and with less funding than the current attempt.

I can’t repeat this enough times — no matter how enticing the project sounds, unless it fulfills a need that nobody knew they needed before (there are numerous examples in the Design section of Kickstarter), the most clear indication of a successful fund-raise is going to be the built-in audience and credibility of the creator based on past work.

Brian Daniel seems like a perfectly capable creator, but for somebody to plunk down money on a perfectly capable creator that they don’t know, there needs to be more than a few art samples, a decent story description, and ten bucks burning a hole in their pocket. I’ll go so far as to say that the convenience that Kickstarter offers probably works against Mr Daniel here, as many, many people would fork over that ten bucks for a mini comic or sketch book of developmental work at a show, following a quick flip through something physical.

The end effect of operating at a distance from the creator, one that doesn’t have an existing audience, a pent-up demand, or a positive word of mouth from people who’ve actually seen the book (or all three), is that many perfectly worthy projects are going to be non-starters¹.

The only thing that might help an unknown in this situation is the recommendation of a trusted authority; for instance, I’ll wager a lot of people that haven’t heard of Ryan Pequin’s Three Word Phrase would be willing to splash out for his new book because it carries the TopatoCo Seal of Approval². And that’s where we have the classic Catch-22: Daniel needs the money to finish the book so the has something to show you that will convince you (or convince me to convince you) to fund the book, which doesn’t exist yet. I hope he raises the money because I suspect Tomorrow Jones would be a decent comic book. If my suspicion is enough to convince you, the Kickstarter page is thataway.

Other things:

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¹ Not to mention the fact that the reward structure for Tomorrow Jones goes up to US$150 without actually including a copy of the comic. Ten bucks gets you a signed physical copy of Poorcraft, fifteen for a copy of Daisy Kutter, and US$20 for Sad Pictures for Children, each of which are actual book books in the hundreds of pages. The Kickstarter free money machine never existed except in myth, and you aren’t getting that free money now.

² Oddly enough for a company that regularly deals with the Better Business Burro, there are no comics documenting the existence of a Seal of Approval up in TopatoCo World Domination Headquarters, and I for one think that’s a damn shame.