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MT Interview: Steve Emond

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 2:41 pm

Steve Emond’s webcomic Steverino follows the relationship woes of the title character, a nerd with a romantic soul–maybe a little too romantic. Emond also draws the Slave Labor comic Emo Boy, a sendup of emo culture. He was kind enough to talk to me about the origins of Steverino, the Steverino movie, and BFFs.



Modern Tales and serializer outage today

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 12:31 pm

Modern Tales and serializer went down a few minutes ago, each reporting a different server-side error. Tech support at mosso is on the case, and they assure me they’ll have those two sites back up shortly. I hope this means “by the time I get back from lunch.” I’m going to lunch now.

Eric says: Serializer looks to be up, Modern Tales still down. It’s almost 2 p.m., so I’m going to have breakfast.

Joey says: Both sites are up now.


MT Interview: Box Brown

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 3:36 am

Today I’m talking to Box Brown, whose daily strip bellen! follows the relationship of significant others Ben and Ellen. Box was kind enough to talk to me about his comics, his influences, and that one fan who keeps writing to say his strip sucks.



MT Interview: Whitney June Robinson

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 3:11 am

Whitney June Robinson’s comic Alma Mater, about life at a private girls’ school, joins Modern Tales this week. Robinson was kind enough to talk to me about comics, girls’ schools, Shakespeare, and “Pinky and the Brain.”



Server Outage Today

The server where Modern Tales, Serializer, Graphic Smash, Girlamatic and AdultWebcomics are housed was having trouble earlier today, and returning a database error (”Could not connect”). This may have been caused by a traffic spike on AWC due to the launch of Lucy Luvbottom. The immediate problem has been taken care of (ignore the thingies here on TAC that still say “could not connect” when you mouse over any link to those sites– those are cached JPGs), and the sites are back online, but I am still looking at a longer-term solution. Thanks for your patience!


Narbonic Retrospective Commentary Podcast # 1

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 4:06 pm

This is it! Narbonic has ended, but, as promised, you can look forward to six more years’ worth of Narbonic: The Director’s Cut, with commentary and other DVD-like extras. This podcast is one of them — a weekly conversation between Narbonic creator Shaenon K. Garrity and myself, hopefully with some special guests along the way.

In this week’s edition, Shaenon talks about how she feels about finishing Narbonic; remembers things she forgot to put in the text-based commentary for the first week’s worth of expanded strips, and attempts to pursue and intensify her pathetic little feud with myself. Also, we discuss my fatness.

Download the MP3 or subscribe to the iTunes-compatible feed!


And Now It’s Time for Family Feud!

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 7:46 am

The public personae of Shaenon K. Garrity, editor of Modern Tales, and myself have apparently become inextricably linked in the mind of the webcomics community. This will become even more solidified in people’s minds once the Narbonic retrospective podcasts start airing. While I am happy to ride her coattails (she is, after all, the future President of All Comics), the experienced hype-monger in me says that, in order to get the most hype bang for our hype buck, it’s time for the two of us to have a feud. Nothing draws the attention of webcomics insiders like a fight between friends. Unfortunately, I can’t reasonably invent any beef with her — she’s just too damn friendly, too damn professional, too damn solid as a cartoonist and as an editor and as a human being. She did call me a “troublemaking redneck” recently — maybe I can make something of that … um. Nah. She’s right.


Shaenon Garrity Interviewed by The Comics Reporter

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 11:08 am

This morning, Tom Spurgeon posted an interview with Modern Tales editor and future President of All Comics, Shaenon K. Garrity

Garrity: These questions are kind of mean, aren’t they? “I notice that everyone thinks you suck. Have you ever considered not sucking?”

The Comics Reporter: I have a reputation.

… read more


MT Interview: Greg Beettam and Stephen Geigen-Miller

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 2:51 pm

Today I’m talking to Greg Beettam and Stephen Geigen-Miller, creators of Xeno’s Arrow, which launched this week on Modern Tales Longplay. Xeno’s Arrow is a longtime favorite of mine, and I’m thrilled to get to talk to Greg and Stephen about their work.

Shaenon Garrity: What was the inspiration for Xeno’s Arrow?

Stephen Geigen-Miller: I’m tempted to pull a writerly cop-out and say that the short answer is: everything. A longer, and more honest answer would be something like this…

It started with me reading Greg a story.

Now, that sounds a little weird, especially considering that we met in University, but it’s true.

It was 1993, and Greg and I were sharing a basement apartment. Greg was feeling tired and frustrated of the art chores he was facing on a mini-comics project he was working on at the time. He thought it might make the whole process easier, faster and more fun to have the verbal, word-processing part of his brain engaged at the same time as the visual, picture-making part. And he was bored of all his CDs. And I needed to practice the skills I was learning in my voice and speech class - I was a Theatre major at the time.

So he pulled out one of his favourite books from his childhood: one of Tove Jansson’s wonderful Moomin books, The Exploits of Moominpapa. And I read it aloud. It’s the story of an idealistic and very naive young hero who escapes a dreary and confining existence to find adventure with the help of a group of eccentric friends.

Readers who are already familiar with Xeno’s Arrow will be seeing some points of congruity, here.

That story was our touchstone when we decided to work together on a comics project. It provided the aesthetic that our other shared passions–elaborate world-building, comedy, social and political commentary, using science fiction to up the stakes and provide the biggest possible backdrop for a story–could be attached to.

Greg Beettam: I think one of the oddball things about Xeno’s Arrow (and the thing that has always made it kind of hard to categorize when promoting it!) is that it takes its inspiration from both classic children’s fantasy and sophisticated science fiction. That’s a weird paring, but it all made some kind of sense to us at the time. I think in the beginning we intended it to be just this wide-open, Wizard of Oz-like romp through outer space, nothing too complicated, just very silly and whimsical, full of childlike wonder and eccentric alien characters with goofy-looking designs.

And then the politics started creeping in. “How does their political system work?” one of us would ask. And then the other would answer, “I think it works like this.” Or… “What kind of food do they eat?” Or…”What was the belief system on this planet before the Lizards showed up?” Eventually, we had this really complicated world and the whole thing had grown totally out of control. So while it still owes a lot in tone to authors like Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, and Tove Janson, you could say it’s just as equally the godchild of Ursula LeGuin and J. Michael Strazinski.

SG: What made you decide to start self-publishing a comic?

SGM: Wanting to be masters of our own destines. Ha! We really didn’t understand what it meant to be self-employed.

GB: Speaking for myself, I always hated the idea of having to put together a proposal and pitch something to an editor, because I never expected someone in that position to understand my ideas or want to bank on them. (This is me back in my early twenties–the 35-year-old I am now probably wouldn’t find it quite so daunting.) So, although I had been a total comics junkie since the age of twelve and basically lived and breathed the medium, by the end of high school I had begun to doubt the idea that I could actually break into comics. I just didn’t fancy the idea of writing or drawing Iron Man, or whatever, for five years while hoping vaguely for the chance to do my own material, and even then somebody other than me would own the characters, under the terms of a work-for-hire contract. Then one day somebody plopped a copy of Cerebus into my hands and explained, “This guy publishes his own comic. He owns and controls the whole thing.” I just blinked and said, “…you can DO that?” I think from there on the course was pretty much set.

I did a little monkeying around in the minicomic format over my first couple of years in university, but it wasn’t until I had been rooming with Stephen for about a year that one of us said, “we should write a comic together.” It just made sense–we knew that we had very similar sensibilities and influences, and I had already been using Stephen as a sounding board for my own writing ideas for some time, so we knew that a good working chemistry existed there. From there it was just a matter of cooking up the basic concept and running with it.

SG: How did you divide the writing and art chores on the series?

SGM: Xeno’s Arrow was entirely co-created, co-plotted, and co-written, to the degree that neither of us remembers who came up with 90% of any of it. Greg handled all the art.

GB: We went through several iterations of the writing process. For the first six years, we employed a method I call “shouting at the typewriter,” where basically two people crowd around a keyboard arguing about what happens next, and someone is always saying, “You type too slow, let ME have the keyboard!” …and yet somehow it all finally gets written down in script form. Years later, we realized that it was much less stressful to just brainstorm the plot outline together, take turns writing the actual scenes in private, and then take turns revising what each other had written.

The art was all me. Stephen doesn’t draw. I suppose that entitles him to be both jealous and relieved, and he’d be right on both counts. Our issue-to-issue cycle would generally start with a really frenetic weekend where one of us would crash at the other’s place for the whole weekend and by the end of it we’d have a working script for the issue. Then Stephen would have to spend the next two months being as patient as he could, periodically calling me up and asking, “So, uh…how’s it coming along?” This would be met with a series of grumbles and vague reassurances, followed by, “Gotta go–the Boss says I have to get back to work.” (When you work for yourself, I find it helps to pretend there’s an invisible Boss in the room–one armed with a shotgun and an electric cattle-prod.) Then, at the end of the two-month process, Stephen would finally get to see the pages, and I would get to bask in his “ooohs” and “ahhs,” and be all cool and give nonchalant, breezy responses like, “Oh, do you really think so?” and “That’s nice of you to say,” and things like that.

SG: Why did you stop self-publishing?

SGM: Exhaustion. Financial exhaustion, personal exhaustion–especially on Greg’s part; it’s very hard to have any kind of life while drawing and self-publishing a comic that isn’t breaking even. And that led to creative exhaustion too.

GB: Money. We ran out of it. The book was always poised just on the knife-edge of breaking even but never quite made it there. So eventually we packed up our tent and headed down to the San Diego ComicCon (this was in 2000) and spent a good portion of the show running around trying to chat up potential publishers. This was almost a complete flop as tactical operations go, but luckily Wayne Markley of FM took pity on us and introduced us to the folks at Radio Comics, who it turns out were already Xeno’s Arrow fans. They adopted the book and gave it another year of life. Unfortunately, this still didn’t boost our sales, so after 6 issues they had to let us go. Then the book just kind of languished in limbo for about–geez, has it been five years already? I feel old.

SG: Why have you decided to run Xeno’s Arrow as a webcomic?

SGM: Well, it’s been about 5 years–that’s a long time to be letting something as important to both of us as Xeno’s Arrow is lie fallow. We had all this story, and it was just sitting there!

We felt it was time to use the new opportunities that the web provides to get the story out in front of readers again, to reach a new audience. That’s why we’re so excited to be joining the Modern Tales family.

GB: Well, you see, the web, as I understand it, is very, very well-populated. We hope to introduce Xeno to a whole bunch of readers who never encountered him the last time around. And one of the nice things about web publishing is that there is really no one else standing between you and the reader. There’s no retailer you have to convince that this will sell and that’s why they should order your book, for instance. No offense to the retailers, they’ve had a lot to contend with over the last 10 years, but part and parcel of that big implosion that happened in the 90’s was that the willingness to experiment and try out independent books–especially oddball books like ours that don’t really fit a particular niche–really took a nosedive. So naturally we’re very interested in a venue where it’s really just up to the reader to decide what they want to read. We’re curious to see what the web can do for Xeno’s visibility and exposure. ( Psst! Everybody! Tell all your friends! Post links everywhere! Paint a mural on your van!!!)

SG: In addition to reprinting the archives, are you planning to create any new chapters of Xeno’s Arrow?

SGM: Absolutely. The material we’re reprinting on MT Longplay will comprise the 16 issues that made up Book One (10 issues) and Book Two (6 issues).

Book Two has a clear and I think dramatically satisfying conclusion, but was always intended to be open-ended. The Known Galaxy is a big place–there are many more adventures in store for Xeno and his friends.

As our storytelling skills have evolved over the years, our sense of how long the overall story of Xeno’s Arrow will be has changed dramatically, so I can’t predict exactly how many more “books” are to come, or how long they’d be. Those stories have yet to be written, although we’ve had at least a vague sense for some time now of how they’ll unfold.

As to when new chapters will be created? That’s going to depend on a few things, including the response we receive to the existing material through Modern Tales.

GB: Oh yes. Not this year. But yes.

Our sort of rough plan is to reprint the archived material on a monthly schedule, running approximately half an issue’s worth for each installment–which will mean we’re really publishing the material on the same schedule it originally followed as a bi-monthly comic. I mean, we could put it up there a lot faster, but after being out of circulation for five years we really need a bit of lead time before we can get the Xeno production machine up and running again, for a variety of reasons–financial, personal, and otherwise.

We also want to rebuild our own website again, after having allowed it to langish and then go offline as our doman name expired — and even, apparently, allowing some thrice-cursed domain squatter to snatch up and add it to his stash. (You’re not getting a penny from us, do you hear? We’ll be, so there!)

We also have some, ah…other plans for the material, if certain things work out…but which I don’t think we’re quite at liberty to talk about yet. Keep watching the skies.

SG: Any final thoughts?

GB: Yes, remember wash your hands before you read our comics. Even if we ARE online!

SGM: For the first time in a long time, I can say no. I’m going to let the work speak for itself!


Xeno’s Arrow Joins Modern Tales Longplay

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 2:25 pm

SAN FRANCISCO–Modern Tales (, one of the Internet’s premier webcomics sites, is proud to announce that the critically-acclaimed series Xeno’s Arrow, by Greg Beettam and Stephen Geigen-Miller, has joined the lineup of Modern Tales Longplay. Longplay features completed comics of 24 pages or longer, as well as regularly-updating chapters of ongoing graphic novels. Like the Modern Tales Strip Lounge, MT Longplay is free to all readers.

Xeno’s Arrow follows several residents of the Intergalactic Zoo, a massive institution run by the fastidious Lizards. Xeno, the only known member of his species, believes in the Lizards’ promise: when the uncivilized residents of the Zoo prove themselves worthy, theyll be freed and welcomed into Civilization. But when he meets some of the other aliens in the Zoo and gets involved in a breakout, Xeno begins to question everything the Lizards have taught him.

Xeno’s Arrow first ran as a print comic starting in 1993. Beettam and Geigen-Miller now plan to follow the print-to-web system established by cartoonists like Phil and Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius) and Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), serializing their comic online before releasing graphic-novel collections in print. The original 16 issues of Xeno’s Arrow will run in their entirety on Longplay, remastered and colored for the Web. They will be published in print as Xeno’s Arrow Books One and Two. Beettam and Geigen-Miller plan to follow these installments with new chapters, taking Xeno and his friends deeper into the Known Galaxy, which will also run on Longplay.

Greg McElhatton writes on, “Geigen-Miller’s and Beettam’s story is one of those books that can best be classified as just sheer fun.” Randy Lander of The Fourth Rail writes, “this book is too good to be flying under everyone’s radar.”

The first chapter of Xeno’s Arrow is available on Modern Tales Longplay now. New chapters will appear in the coming months.


MT Interview: Karen Ellis

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 1:19 am

Today I’m talking to Karen Ellis, whose dairy comic, Planet Karen, recently launched on Modern Tales. Planet Karen also runs on the website, which I highly recommend.

Shaenon Garrity: What made you decide to start drawing a diary strip?

Karen Ellis: It originally started out as a one-off gag. Andy Richmond, who publishes the small-press Scar Comics titles, was enthusing about a diary strip that was being done by Sally Anne Hickman, and got a little carried away. I couldn’t resist parodying the idea by reproducing the conversation in the very form under discussion, and did a one page diary strip entitled February 29th.

The strange thing was that I found I enjoyed the immediacy of the format, and started doing my own comic diary. I had been a bit blocked as an artist and had started but not finished half a dozen projects in the previous year. Here was something that was simple and focused: one page to say something about one day, to be completed in that day. No agonising about getting it perfect, no time to redraw or rewrite, at the end of the day you let it go and move on to the next page. It’s art therapy.

The goal I set myself was to do it for a year. Actually, my initial goal was if I could keep it going for a month I’d have a neat mini-comic, but the year was always my ultimate goal. I just didn’t have much expectation I could keep going that long. Now I’m six months in and “the year” is now becoming “the first year” when I think about the future. The plan was to produce a minicomic each month and at the end of the year collect them together to make a book. The webcomic was an afterthought. How things change.

SG: What are your main artistic influences?

KE: I’m influenced by all the art I see, so it’s hard to be specific. Even bad art teaches important lessons on what not to do. I have a book of illustrations by Franklin Booth, who did the most amazing pen-and-ink magazine illustrations in the early years of the last century, but no one remembers him now. My page for 20th May is an homage based very loosely on his picture “The Dream”.

Although a self-contained four-panel daily strip is usually closest in style to a newspaper strip, the design of Planet Karen is much closer to the page of a comic book. I see the layout of the four-panel grid as my starting point rather than my limitation. I learned a lot from Will Eisner, and his Comics and Sequential Art is probably the biggest single influence on the way I tell stories. There’s also an obvious manga influence, though I make no effort to work in a specific manga style–it’s just part of the visual language I picked up along the way.

SG: How do you come up with something out of your life to draw each day? Do you ever get stuck?

KE: The one small problem that didn’t occur to me when I started this project was that a comic about someone who draws comics all day does not make for a very visually exciting narrative. But then if I lived an adventurous lifestyle, I would never have the time to do a comic about it. It was also important to me that part of what I was writing about was the creation of the comic itself. That might seem a little introspective, but it is this weird special thing that I do, and to ignore it would mean to lose that part of my life.

The other thing that’s hard is to guess how things will develop. You never know what small thing will become important later, and several times I’ve written about what seemed to be the start of something, only for it to go nowhere. My life would be so much better plotted if it were fiction.

It is difficult to write something interesting or witty every single day. It’s not like a gag strip that can milk the same scene for a week of comics; I get one comic for each twenty-four hour period, so I can only revisit the same notion if it reappears in my life (which does happen quite a lot). And I can’t plan ahead. Sure, if I have an interesting event planned I can guess it might feature, but I won’t know exactly what the strip will be until it occurs. To cope with that I sometimes try things that I wouldn’t otherwise, and some of the more experimental results are among my favourite strips.

But it is draining to come up with something new all the time, and a couple of weeks ago I did reach burnout point and ended up not drawing anything for a few days. It’s hard to work a break into a diary, but I realise now that I am going to have to take some time off now and again.

SG: What materials do you use to draw the comic?

KE: I sketch it out on A5 paper with a 0.5 mechanical pen on my ancient drawing board, which is probably my oldest and ugliest possession, then redraw it on a light box, and ink with a fountain Pentel, and a 0.1 fibretip for the fine details. It’s then scanned into Photoshop where I add grey tones and generally polish it up.

SG: I notice from the strip that you play a lot of World of Warcraft. Is that your main form of relaxation?

KE: It’s one of the things I do, but these games are so limiting. I mean, there’s no way you can stage a revolution in Teldrassil, set up a puppet government in Darnassus, and make the elf lands secede from the Alliance and form an independent state. You can’t even stage a rock concert. It’s all about the fighting, with a little commerce on the side. I mean, okay, a fashion show might be possible, but your models would all have to be level 60 just to be able to wear half the costumes.

I’m also still learning how to rollerskate, but there are only so many strips you can do about falling over. My poor bass guitar hasn’t seen much love in a while either. If I had money I’d make dolls. And go to the movies more often. I’m very taken with Bollywood musicals at the moment but I have no clue where to start.

SG: Since the strips are drawn ten days ahead of time, you can actually look into the future of your own diary comic. What’s coming up in the world of Planet Karen?

KE: The long-term goal is the book that collects a year of comics. It’s probably just as well 52 didn’t start until later, or I might well have called my comic 365. But that’s a ways off still, so I’m thinking about doing a six-month book in the meantime. I’d also like to do some T-shirts and things.

And somewhere in amongst it all I’d like to find the space to do some other comics. I’ve scripted an eight-page story called “Refrigerator Girl” which parodies the infamous “girlfriends in refrigerators” issue of Green Lantern, but haven’t had time to draw it. And I’d like to develop some ideas that have come out of Planet Karen, like Necromonica, the obsessively tidy zombie, and maybe even do something with my manga alter ego, Magical Goth Princess Pretty Karen.

SG: Any final thoughts?

KE: I’ve given some pages of Planet Karen original art to be auctioned to raise money for Lea Hernandez, and one of them is a special favourite of Gail Simone’s, so I’m counting on everyone to make her pay big to get it…


Webcomics Extravaganza at Meltdown Sat Sept 23

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 1:03 am

According to this post on TCJ’s message board, David Malki of wondermark , Amy Kim Ganter of Sorcerers & Secretaries, Kazu Kibuishi of Copper, and others will be at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. this Saturday.


Bryant Paul Johnson: Science Idol!

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 7:28 pm

Bryant Paul Johnson, creator of Teaching Baby Paranoia over on Modern Tales, is a finalist in the “Science Idol” competition, an editorial cartoon contest sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists revolving around the theme of government influence on science research and education.

You can see (and vote on) the twelve finalists here:


MT Interview: Jason Siebels

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 11:34 am

Today I’m talking to Jason Siebels, creator of the serial comic strip Anywhere But Here. ABH is set in a small, snowy Midwestern college town, where the nameless protagonist, his girlfriend Chris, and a large Greek chorus of ranch hands, jazz musicians, and demons all eke out a living. The current storyline is heating up, as Chris and the dude are thwarted in an effort to consummate their yet-unconsummated romance, prompting the dude to take a stand.

Shaenon Garrity: How did you come up with Anywhere But Here?

Jason Siebels: You live in North Dakota as long as I have and you’ll start coming up with some rather crazy stories to pass the time as well missy…especially after a three martini brunch.

SG: Are Chris and the dude based on anyone you know?

JS: Yes…No…er…mostly yes, with some no tossed in for plausable deniability.

SG: What are your biggest influences?

JS: Berkley Breathed and gin, in reverse order.

SG: Do you have any tricks for sticking to a daily schedule?

JS: Hemmingway always advised drinking heavily, and I’m not one to argue with Hemmingway, because even though he’s a corpse, the man’s got one hell of a right hook.

SG: You’ve gotten some great effects with spot color in ABH. How do you approach using color in a mostly black-and-white strip?

JS: I approach spot color very slowly and downwind, as it tends to spook easily.

SG: You’ve had the ending of ABH planned for a long time. Is everything laid out, or is the plot subject to change?

JS: No, what happens happens and could not happen any other way. Unless it happens differently. At which point that’s exactly how I ment it to happen.

SG: Are there any immediately upcoming plot developments you can reveal?

JS: Someone is going to have sex. Most likely Buddy, or maybe Robbie, or Amy. Most definitely Amy.

SG: Seriously, what’s the dude’s name?

JS: Stanley Kirk Burrell.

SG: Any final thoughts?

JS: You know, it’s customary to PAY me after I do these interviews…RIGHT?

Modern Tales Longplay Relaunches with “It’s About Girls”

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 2:33 am

SAN FRANCISCO—Modern Tales (, one of the Internet’s premier webcomics sites, is proud to announce the relaunch of its longform comics section, Modern Tales Longplay. Longplay will feature completed, self-contained comics of 24 pages or longer, as well as regularly-updating chapters of ongoing graphic novels. Like the Modern Tales Strip Lounge, MT Longplay will be free to all readers.

The first webcomic featured on the new Longplay is It’s About Girls, a serialized graphic novel by writer William G and artist Sahsha Andrade. A romantic comedy, It’s About Girls follows the protagonist, Icon, and his circle of friends, a group that includes a pro wrestler, a girl who runs a porn site, and a college freshman who sometimes fails to wear pants. Eric Burns of calls It’s About Girls “the kind of thing that makes me excited to be reading webcomics,” and the Webcomics Examiner notes, “G is building a body of work that promises to have enduring appeal.”

William G also writes and draws Bang Barstal on, one of the Modern Tales sister sites. Sahsha Andrade is the cocreator, with Raymond Andrade, of Neko and Joruba (

“I’ve been a fan of It’s About Girls for a long time, and I’m thrilled to be able to feature it on Modern Tales,” says Shaenon K. Garrity, editor of Modern Tales. “It’s the perfect way to debut the new MT Longplay section. Look forward to more amazing additions to Longplay in the months to come!”

The newest chapter of It’s About Girls is available now at Modern Tales.


American Born Chinese

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 11:46 am

This is for the old-school Modern Tales fans. Remember Gene Yang’s brilliant American Born Chinese strip?

Well, two things about that.

1). It’s set to be released in print — in the form of a full-color (!) hardback — by prestige publisher First Second Books. Pre-order your copy here!

2). There’s now a Flash game based on the popular “Monkey King” character.

So, there. That’s all.

Link via Newsarama


Long-awaited second Paradigm Shift graphic novel announced!

Filed under: — dirk @ 10:58 am

Chicago, August 29th 2006 – Dirk Tiede announces the completion of the artwork for Part Two: Agitation, the second volume of his series Paradigm Shift. This follows on the heels of moving the series to Modern Tales’ free section, the Strip Lounge, where the strip can be read in full without paying a subscription fee. He is now working to collect Part Two into a new printed edition and taking pre-orders for the book, which is expected to ship in September.

“It’s a big relief to have Part Two finished,” says Tiede, “The first book barely hinted at some of the major themes, so it’s great to finally get into some of the meat of the story.”

Paradigm Shift – Part Two: Agitation has been much anticipated after the self-published first volume, Part One: Equilibrium, made its debut at the San Diego Comic-Con in the summer of 2003. Tiede has begun to take pre-orders on his website,, and is offering original artwork and free shipping in addition to personalized, signed copies of the graphic novel itself. Pre-orders are capped at 200.

Paradigm Shift chronicles the strange events surrounding detective Kate McAllister and her partner Mike Stuart in an intricately detailed comic version of Chicago. Part Two: Agitation has been featured on Modern Tales since its launch in 2002 and updates every Tuesday. It will continue to run new weekly online updates on Modern Tales until October 31st, after which the story will continue, as Tiede moves into the as-yet unnamed third volume.


MT Interviews: Chris Shadoian

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 1:16 pm

Today I’m interviewing Chris Shadoian, creator of Popcorn Picnic, a comic-strip commentary on movies and all things movie-related. Longtime Modern Tales readers may remember Chris’s previous webcomic, Streets of Northampton, which was one of the original MT launch titles. He also drew the bonus story in the second print collection of my comic strip Narbonic. I paid him in rocks. But he was a good sport about it, and he was kind enough to let me chat with him about Popcorn Picnic and the siren call of the silver screen.

Shaenon Garrity: What made you decide to draw a comic strip about movies?

Chris Shadoian: I know this is going to sound too simple, but I love comics and I love movies. Bam. There y’go.

Seriously, I wanted to draw something a little more accessible than my old Streets of Northampton comics, and considering that I think, talk, eat and drink movies the way the characters in Questionable Content breathe music, it was pretty much the only choice I could’ve made. What remains to be seen is if I actually created something more accessible. I’m kind a of a movie dork, so I’m usually concerned some of the subtleties I sneak into the strips are missed by everyone but me. But as long as people get stuff out of it–especially a laugh or two– hen I’ll be plenty happy.

SG: Do you watch a lot of movies to get inspiration for the strip?

CS: Yes. Tons. Movie-watching is pretty much my leisure-time activity of choice. I’ll see ‘em after work when I can, when I’m going to bed…I used to put ‘em on while I was drawing, but it became clear to me–after experimenting–that I’m way more productive with the TV off. Even though I would only look up occasionally and watch a few seconds at a time, having movies on in the background was adding a lot of extra time to my production schedule. So I’m forcing myself not to do it anymore. Sucks.

If I ever have my ride pimped, I think I should probably ask the mechanics to leave the big screen TVs out of the mix. I’d crash on my way out of their garage.

SG: What are your current favorite movie and all-time favorite movie?

CS: No fair! That’s too hard of a question, Shaenon! I dunno. I usually fall back on Chinatown, ’cause it’s almost too good, but I’ve been leaning toward bizarre character-driven movies lately. Harold and Maude, The Royal Tenenbaums, stuff like that. I love stories about weird, unique people who try like crazy to figure out their place in the world without ever realizing they’ll never manage it.

SG: In addition to Danny and Jonesy, the strip has developed some other recurring characters, like roommates Marlon Brando and E.T. Did you intend for these characters to become regulars, or has it just happened naturally?

CS: First of all, I want to point out that the character you’re referring to as E.T. isn’t actually E.T. He’s the actor who played E.T., Roger Johansson. He got surgery in order to play the role and no one’s hired him since. Duh. Fortunately, E.T. was a big hit, so he’s super rich. Unfortunately, he spends all his money on booze. But he probably owns stock in Jack Daniels or Mad Dog or something, so it evens out.

SG: If he’s so rich, why does he have to share a place with a deceased actor?

CS: You’ll find out. I have more plans for Roger than any other character. He’s pretty much the embodiment of the Hollywood life, Popcorn Picnic’s own little Gloria Swanson (the washed-up, love-starved actress from Sunset Boulevard), and that just seems like it’ll never really get tired. There’s too much potential material. He’s kind of a perfect little metaphor for Hollywood, and honestly? I’m not sure how that happened. It just did. Plus, his name cracks me up. “Roger Johansson.” Hee-hee! The monkey’s name does that, too. “Barry.” Ha!

Anyway, the progression of character growth has been kind of natural. I try not to plan too much out, ’cause I don’t want to trap myself in a place where I’m trying to squeeze a planned character development into a strip about Cars or Mission Impossible 3. I think it’s much more fun to have my characters’ traits be influenced by the movies that come out. Jonesy’s little sister wouldn’t be “evil,” for example, if I hadn’t been trying to come up with an Omen-related strip.

I’m always sort of torn on the characters. Sometimes I love the Jonesy, Danny and friends ones, and the opportunities to write ongoing stories; sometimes I prefer solo-harshing on celebrities. I think if I can get to a certain level of readership, I’ll bite the bullet, quit my job and switch to a daily update schedule so I can do both without feeling like I’m neglecting one or the other. I hope I can do that. They’re both so much fun to do.

I do want to avoid being directly associated with the feel of Penny Arcade, though. Not because that strip’s bad–it’s great!–but because people have pointed out similarities to PA in my setup, which I didn’t plan in the least. I actually hadn’t read much PA before starting Popcorn Picnic; a lot of the gaming humor goes over my head, ’cause although I play plenty of video games, I’m not into ‘em the way Gabe and Tycho are. I’m much more of a movie geek. It wasn’t until after I’d done a few strips that I realized my two main characters–Danny and Jonesy–were sorta similar to PA’s, so although I want to keep them around, I’m trying to make sure I walk a different path than they do–which is hard sometimes, ’cause the two-character humor thing is a well-trod path. There’s usually a smart character and a dopey character who just might be smarter than the smart character: Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield and Odie. Gabe and Tycho are great cartoonists, but they hardly discovered the two-character-which-one’s-really-the-sidekick interaction. But I definitely don’t want to do Movie Penny Arcade. They cover movies Penny Arcade-style well enough already.

SG: You’re currently running a Samuel L. Jackson fill-in-the-blanks dialogue contest, inspired by Snakes on a Plane. Get any good entries?

CS: One really good entry. Ironically, it’s the only entry. I’m pretty surprised at the turnout, actually. I’m getting about 500 readers a day (prior to having the strip on MT), so I thought I’d get a bunch of entries. Maybe I still will–my deadline’s the 31st of August–but I’m wondering if I screwed up my supposed-to-be-easy PDF entry form and people can’t fill it out easily. I dunno! Can you tell people to go enter? It’d be pretty boring to announce that Joe Shmoe reader is the winner of both sections of the contest, and I’m TOTALLY looking forward to drawing people’s Sam Jackson characters of choice. Some of ‘em are so cool! (You can probably guess I’m secretly hoping for Mr. Glass, from Unbreakable.)

SG: I will tell them. Everyone! Enter Chris’s Samuel L. Jackson contest! Also, demand that he draw everyone from Unbreakable!

CS: Except the comic-shop guy who tries to kick Mr. Glass out of his shop by saying, “I gotta get some chicken in me, y’know what I’m saying?” Who talks like that? I mean, for reals? I was personally offended by that line, so I refuse to draw him.

SG: What movies are you looking forward to covering in the strip?

CS: ALL of them, and if I go daily, I absolutely will review as many movies as I can get my hands on. Of course, the bad ones make for much funnier strips. When a movie’s really good, and I still want to cover it, I usually have to rely on some other method of getting my point across. It’s also hard to cover some of the smaller, independent movies, ’cause I live in a pretty small town, and they take awhile to show up in our art theaters. So by the time I see ‘em, it’s usually stale material.

I know, I know, my strips aren’t usually reviews, and yes…I do strips about movies I haven’t seen. Guilty! But there’s no doubt in my mind that my best strips are about movies I HAVE seen, so I usually try to. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have enough clout to call up Universal and get myself preview copies of upcoming flicks. Maybe if Rotten Tomatoes decides to start running Popcorn Picnic or something.

SG: About how often do you see movies in the theater?

CS: Once or twice a week. More if I can manage it. Seeing movies in the theater is by far my number one leisure activity of choice. When I wasn’t working full-time-style, I’d go even more often. There’s nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen. Except maybe seeing a terrible movie on a big screen with a really good friend and you’re the only two people in the theater. That actually happened to me once. It was amazing. Francis Ford Coppola’s Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’ll never forget it. It was the only thing that could have made that movie enjoyable.

Except maybe Branagh’s washboard abs, ’cause, y’know, scientists are pretty well-known for their washboard abs.

SG: Popcorn Picnic also runs on Flak Magazine. How’d you land that gig?

CS: Y’know, everyone always says it’s hard to break into something–and it usually is–but honestly, I just wrote to them and asked. The Flak guys were a bit hesitant at first, ’cause I’d only done two strips at the time, but when they saw my next strip, for Red Eye (which may still be my favorite strip), they brought me on board.

What’s been much harder is getting people to link to PP. I’ve tried all the usual outlets a bunch of times–AintItCool and whatnot–but no one big’s bitten yet. I’m still too small, I guess, and webmasters are starting to get super choosy about handing out free links since so much revenue is generated by webvertising. Smaller sites keep linking to the review I did for Serenity for some reason. I like that strip a lot, but it’s not my personal fave. But it’s by far my most-read strip. It’s so far in front of all the others it’s kind of ridiculous, actually.

Hm. Maybe I should follow the formula I used in that strip more often and see what happens.

SG: Your series Streets of Northampton previously ran on Modern Tales. Any chance of bringing it back?

CS: Probably not. Maybe. I want to do a longer version of one of the Streets stories, “The Deserted Ernest Giles.” But, y’know, it all depends on the amount of time it’d take me to do it. The 30-40 page version is just one tiny segment of Giles’ life, and he was a pretty interesting guy, at least to me. If I can manage to scrape together enough cash to keep me afloat for awhile, I could head overseas and do the research I’d need to do to get the story right. if I do, you can be sure I’ll run it online.

SG: Have you looked into publishing “The Deserted Ernest Giles” or one of the other Streets comics in print?

CS: Yes, but no one’s bitten yet. They’ve all been interested enough not to laugh in my face, but they invariably want a detailed breakdown of where I intend to go with the story. Which is perfectly fair! Except most of the information about this guy is pretty obscure and has been collecting dust for over 100 years. In Australia.

SG: Any final thoughts?

CS: Um, would you consider not ending Narbonic? Or at least keeping it going for a few more years? I’m a big fan of ending stories before they get old and tired and predictable, but I’m not sure Narbonic’s gotten anywhere near that point yet.

How ’bout it, Shaenon: for me?

SG: Awwww. No.

CS: Poo. I can’t believe you won’t alter your master plan for me. You’ve changed, Garrity. God, how you’ve changed.

Don’t you just love dialogue like that? I wish life were a great big soap opera, so lines like that would actually make sense.


MT Interviews: David Morgan-Mar

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 12:42 am

Today I’m interviewing David Morgan-Mar, creator of Irregular Webcomic! As my predecessor, Eric Burns, puts it, “Here’s a webcomic that’s deep, deep into cultures, styles and humor that Modern Tales just wasn’t known for, before.” It’s a four-panel photocomic created from miniatures and Lego minifigures, among other things. And it’s way funny.

Shaenon Garrity: For a comic that claims to be irregular, you manage to update amazingly regularly–you’ve barely missed a day since you started at the end of 2002. How do you manage to stick to a daily schedule?

David Morgan-Mar:Hard work! Actually, the hardest part is writing the scripts. I spend 2-4 hours every week just coming up with ideas; I do it on the bus on the way to work every morning. If I didn’t have a regular time set aside for this purely mental activity, there’s no way I could keep up with the pace. Once I have the ideas, the rest just requires manual labour. I try to make at least 8 strips over a weekend, which gives me a weekend off every two months. Let me amend my original answer: Hard work, and sticking like glue to a solid routine.

SG: So what’s your day job? I do most of my writing on the commute, too.

DM: I do camera lens R&D, which I really enjoy. It’s the first job since I left university (I’ve had a few) where I can really use my science knowledge on a daily basis, as well as being related to one of my hobbies: photography.

SG: Why so many Legos?

DM: I always enjoyed playing with Lego bricks when I was a kid. Unfortunately all my old sets were given away to younger cousins, and I went through the process of only rediscovering Lego later in life that seems to be a hallmark of the adult Lego fan. The one thing you learn when you rediscover Lego is that you can now afford to buy a lot more of it! There’s always more pieces or minifigures that could be useful, so the acquisition process doesn’t top out like when you’re a kid.

SG: There’s just so many Legos now. When I was a kid, we had a ton of the pirate and castle sets, but they pale in comparison to, say, the new Batcave set, which I just saw at a store today.

DM: Yeah, obviously I use the Star Wars and Harry Potter sets, and many others supply me with interesting parts or minifigure pieces that I can use to construct new characters. I haven’t picked up any Batman sets yet, though. The characters are a bit too specialised and reocgnisable for me to use in a non-Batman theme, and I have to admit I’m not enough of a Batman fan to feel comfortable sending it up.

SG: How do you create the dioramas for your comics?

DM: I have a few standard sets that are always built and ready. Others are standard but get pulled apart and rebuilt each time I need them, because they reuse a lot of the same pieces. I’ve created some modular chunks like walls and windows that I can recombine in different configurations to make things a bit quicker. And then of course sometimes I build one-off sets from scratch, but that takes a good deal of time so I try to avoid it where possible. I also make use of digital backgrounds that get pasted in to scenes–I use my own photos or royalty-free images from the web.

SG: You also do a version of Irregular Webcomic for Pyramid Magazine. What’s different about the print version?

DM: The Pyramid strips always have some sort of gaming theme to them, to fit into the magazine’s topic. They’re also always one-off strips, rather than ongoing storylines, and sometimes use discardable characters that haven’t been seen before. The other difference is that I don’t restrict myself to the same pixel size layout as in my daily strip; a recent one I did had 32 panels in it!

SG: You cover a lot of different fandoms in Irregular Webcomic. What has the most insane fans: Star Wars, Harry Potter, or D&D?

DM: Star Wars, easily. Whenever I run a Star Wars strip, I know I’ll get several e-mails concerning some bit of Star Wars trivia or something that readers think I got wrong in the strip. I think there are a lot of Star Wars fans out there who have their own personal ideas about all the little details in the universe that don’t get explicitly covered in the movies, and so want to make sure everything else that touches Star Wars either takes it into account or can somehow be made consistent with it. The good thing is most of the fans can recognise and have a laugh at the sillier aspects of the story while still liking it.

SG: Any upcoming plans for the comic that you can tell us?

DM: Nothing Earth-shattering. I’m always looking for incremental improvements to the website, my storytelling and humour, and the photography. There are a few little ideas I have in mind for implementation, but most of the changes I make nowadays are subtle and unlikely to be noticed consciously by most readers. As for the comics themselves, I always have ideas for future strips floating around, but I like to keep those to myself.

SG: Any final thoughts?

DM: Just that I’m excited about joining Modern Tales. This is one of the biggest things to happen to Irregular Webcomic since it began, and I’m not quite sure what impact to expect. Here’s hoping it’s all positive!


James Kochalka weekend mini-tour starts tonight

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 10:45 pm

Or tomorrow, depending on what side of the date line you’re on. Over in the TAC forums, American Elf and Fancy Froglin artist Kochalka breaks down his acoustic musical mini-tour:

Fri 8/25 CAMBRIDGE, MA — Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass. Ave. * w/ Neil Hamburger, Morgan Murphy, World’s Greatest Sinners * JKS on first @ 9pm!! *

Sat 8/26 PHILADELPHIA, PA — Tritone, 1508 South Street * other acts, set times TBA *

Sun 8/27 NEW YORK, NY — Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow St. (btwn Stanton & Rivington) * w/ Monsterface, Dream Bitches * show starts early !! 7pm *

I like the fact that after that first show James will be able to say he’s toured the Middle East.

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