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Raising the Geek Credibility Bar

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 5:22 pm

Bragging about how you still play games on your Dreamcast, or coming up with the 100,000th World of Warcraft-related punchline, doesn’t cut it anymore. The bar has been raised. True geek humor, truly good geek humor, is a lot geekier, a lot more poetic, and a lot smarter, than you may have allowed yourself to believe. I think I’ma buy me a “Science: It Works, Bitches” t-shirt. Yes, I do.


Comixpedia reviews Attitude 3

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 3:34 pm

Xerexes at Comixpedia reviews Attitude 3, which features comics by me, Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl), R. Stevens (Diesel Sweeties), David Hellman & Dale Beran (A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible), Nicholas Gurewitch (The Perry Bible Fellowship), Rob Balder (Partially Clips), Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics), and a bunch of other great artists.

“There is nothing quite like Fetus-X is there?” asks Xerexes. I don’t know; I’ve always considered Desperate Housewives to be live-action Fetus-X fan fiction.

You can buy Attitude 3 on Amazon or in your local bookstores.

TAC Podcast: Jay Carvajal

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 10:51 am

Today’s interview is with Jay Carvajal, proprietor of Cinema Comics, and creator of fine WCN features like Zero Hunters, The Last Warring Angel, ONE and The Misadventures of Clark & Jefferson. Check it out!

Download the MP3 or Subscribe to the feed!


Political Webcomics

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 7:02 pm

The U.S. Congress is about to pass legislation regarding the U.S. President’s ability to (as The New York Times puts it) “jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.”

I made a comic on the topic this week, and I wondered how other “political comics” on the web are handling this issue. Here are the comics I looked at:

Boy On A Stck and Slither has a general comment on the nature of Man’s civilzation that could be read as a criticism of any of civilization’s failures, from war to pollution to Americans torturing innocent people in secret prisons.

Fighting Words has Willy the Weasel inviting Fuzzy Bunny to the Magic Castle where they detain the Cartoonofascists.

Filibuster Cartoons is illustrating some sort of slippery slope between U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf’s appearance on the Daily Show leading to Axis of Evil leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appearing on Oprah.

D.C. Simpson’s I Drew This looks at four sides to the torture debate.

Matt Bors over at Idiot Box asks “What are you willing to sacrifice for safety?”

Neil Lisst was last updated Thursday, June 22nd, 2006 with a caricature of Bush with really big ears having trouble pronouncing “nuclear.”

Newshounds has a storyline about love and getting involved in local elections.

Tim Kreider’s The Pain has a comic from all the way back in April about torture. Maybe Tim gets sick of pointing out month after month that torturing innocent people in secret prisons is a bad thing to do.


WINTERVIEW #1: Featuring Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 1:00 pm

Video at Comic Book Resouces:

Join Winter McCloud (age 11) as she visits Queens, New York to interview cartoonist couple extraordinaire Raina Telgemeier (of “Smile” and “Babysitters Club” fame) and Dave Roman (associate editor at Nickelodeon and creator of “Astronaut Elementary” and “Agnes Quill”). The Winterview’s are produced and edited by Winter’s big sister Sky (age 13). An all-kid production!

Replacements for Boondocks?

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 11:59 am

Tom Spurgeon has a nice round up of news and views regarding Aaron McGruder’s “Boondocks” now being on an even more permananent vacation.

One thing I haven’t seen pointed out by anyone is that there is already an obvious replacement for Boondocks for everyone (like me) that enjoys newspaper comics about black dudes watching TV from a liberal perspective. That obvious replacement is Darrin Bell’s “Candorville.”

Think of it as the Boondocks kids all grown up.

Jax Epoch Arrives at Graphic Smash, Black Heart Irregulars Returns

Filed under: — timdemeter @ 9:21 am

Jax Epoch- Quicken Forbidden

Written by Dave Roman, art by John Green

Disappointed with the world around her, teenager Jacqueline "Jax" Epoch was always looking for a way out. She found it the day she accidentally fell through the Realmsend, a passageway into a different dimension. Upon finally returning home she realized that everything that was magic in the other realm had begun leaking into her own, causing her reality to fall apart. And now that a destructive force known as the Quicken has escaped into the NYC sewer system, Jax tries to make up for her past mistakes by using stolen magic to help out in this new world she is responsible for creating …

Jax Epoch has started on Graphic Smash and this is not a series to be missed, for any age.  With it’s youthful protagonist, mysteries, and magic, Jax Epoch is sure to please any fan of great comics, and I imagine people who read those books about the kid with the glasses and the broom may find a lot to enjoy as well.

The Black Heart Irregulars

Written by Neil Hendrick, art by Ulises Carpintero

In an Iraq of the near future, as America’s presence becomes more and more entrenched, elements of American culture have started to seep into the urban landscape of Baghdad. In the green zone, a coffee shop, ubiquitous in the United States, opens up, declaring itself a beacon of change. The proprietor, portraying an image of the American 1950’s caters to a clientele of expatriate contractors, intelligence operatives, and an emerging clique of modern Iraqi youth who are looking beyond Iraq for cultural cues from the world at large. Maybe they just like the chocolate malts.   Today, the door is locked, and the proprietor, the mysterious Mr. Fifty, is holding interviews for a very special job position: International Terrorist.

BHI has actually been with Graphic Smash for some time, but it is now officially re-launching, and I couldn’t be happier to see it. BHI takes place in a near future, but in one that seems a little too plausible, making for a tomorrow that could not be more relevant to today.  Couple this with fantastic craftsmanship, and hints of the war comics of days gone by and you’ve really got yourself something.

Don’t forget we still have four more news series in the coming weeks!

Oh- and did I mention there’s two more new series joining us after that?  More to come…


What’s Wrong With Boom Times?

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 9:44 am

Webcomics is heading for a boom, I kind of think.

Maybe, maybe not. What’s indisputable is that players from other parts of the comics industry have started to join the game. Some have been welcomed with open arms, others have been made into objects of ridicule, and most have been completely ignored by webcomics’ chattering classes. More are coming (DC had a post for “Online Editor” at a while back, though that’s gone now — presumably because they filled the position, and haven’t yet announced it). As a professional who works in the field on a full-time basis, I welcome the new players and wish them luck in their game (while, at the same time, I am gearing myself up to compete with them — of course I am).

Booms can be difficult to navigate for anybody. What happened in the dotcom boom, for example (which I experienced first-hand) was this: there were people building solid small entertainment businesses online — people like Joe Cartoon and Bob Cesca (full disclosure: I co-hosted a talk show with Bob for a couple of years). Corporateville heard about these moderate successes, and decided that they could do things better, by launching “similar” websites, but with multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns (spending very little, if anything, on the actual content that went onto these websites).

They failed, of course, which is fine.

But their failure also made life difficult for the small guys who were already succeeding, moderately, in the game, who, themselves, had just started to grow big enough to need a little investment capital. “If Steven Spielberg couldn’t succeed at online entertainment, what makes you think you could?” was pretty much what they heard. Never mind that they had already been succeeding at online entertainment before Spielberg had heard of web browsers: the failure of the famous names to capitalize successfully on their unrealistically large business models hurt everybody — even those who had been warning about the unrealistic nature of those business models all along. Nobody, but nobody, could say that their business was online entertainment without getting laughed at, ridiculed, even hated on — all because of the failures of a bunch of know-nothing newbs who were destined to fail all along, regardless of their deep pockets.

Will that happen in webcomics? I don’t know. I think it might. It won’t matter in the long haul: those who are on the web for the right reasons will still be on the web at the end of the day, no matter what happens. Here’s what I said about that at the tail end of the dotcom boom, and I’m repeating it now. And, yes, ultimately the dotcom boom did help me out a bit (I went from being a failed novelist making almost nothing as a computer instructor to being a failed novelist making more than I’d ever imagined I’d make as the Vice President of a technology conference company — back to making almost nothing as the owner of my own business, but, hey, I’m the owner of my own business), so I shouldn’t compain.

“It’s not the bubble you should fear, it’s the pop,” Bill Jemas, former president of Marvel, famously said.

But those of us who were floating inside the last bubble when it popped can’t help but remember the cataclysm we’ve already managed to live through once, and dread seeing it happen again. I came out fine, but a lot of people I knew and cared about got hurt, and badly.

What prompted these thoughts today was an online reprint of Gary Groth’s classic Jeremiad against the black and white comics boom. It’s well worth reading, particularly because some of the players mentioned in that piece are showing up, today, in the webcomics world.

We’ll see how it all turns out, I guess. Unless we won’t.


Platinum Studios Buys Drunk Duck

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 7:08 am

This morning, Dirk Deppey links to a newspaper article about Platinum Studios (you know, the “DJ Coffman guys”) that calmly, in passing, mentions that they bought the free webcomics portal Drunk Duck last month, and will be relaunching it as “Drunk Duck 2.0.” It’s been obvious to me for a while that Platinum was on the verge of entering the webcomics world: this is one of the best moves they could have made. Drunk Duck could use the infrastructure and stability represented by a corporate benefactor, and Platinum could use the goodwill and playful image represented by Drunk Duck, whose strong communal spirit has managed to carry it through some deadly serious technical problems in the recent past. There is nothing wrong with Drunk Duck that a little money (and better hosting) can’t fix, and there’s a lot that’s right with it. I’ll be watching this closely! Congrats to all concerned.

[EDIT: while I approached the story from the Drunk Duck angle, and what this means for them might mean for them, Heidi has another perspective, when she looks at it from the Platinum side of things, and what it means for them: “We’ll just note that this effectively make Platinum the latest ‘we’re going to the web’ publisher, after years of development heck for their properties,” says she.]

[EDIT AGAIN: fixed link to Gregory’s forum post about the crash. That’ll teach me to blog before coffee!]


Helping Lea Hernandez with Art Auctions

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 11:42 pm

Pictured above is one of many pieces of original art and other comics related program activities being auctioned off on ebay to raise money to help get Lea Hernandez back to some semblance of pre-house-burning-down normalcy.

Many of them end within the next 20 hours (so you might wanna act fast); others end in just under 5 days.


We can all retire now

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 10:48 pm

Newsarama: “Leading up to the November 2006 release of the Spawn 30 action figures, McFarlane’s Web site, is releasing an online feature, beginning with an evolving online comic, The Adventures of Spawn.”

I think the best part about this online comic is that it will be evolving.


Another Print 2 Web Story Today

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 12:03 pm

Colleen Doran has decided to serialize the next story in her long-running A Distant Soil series online, as a free webcomic, following in the footsteps of Print 2 Web pioneers like James Kochalka, Lea Hernandez, and the Foglios. This one is apparantly a prequel to the existing trade paperbacks, so no prior knowledge of the work is required. Info here.

Print 2 Web Heating Up

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 10:37 am

DriveThruComics is a new ecommerce site offering PDF downloads of high quality independent comic books from smaller Direct Market publishers, legally, for a small fee. From the Blog@Newsarama post where I learned about this:

Publishers signed up for the launch include Dabel Brothers Productions, Shi, About Comics, Arcana, Archaia, NBM, UDON, Heroic Publishing, and Kenzer and Company, plus a number of others, including some publishers of adult material. Publishers expected to make content available soon include Antarctic, Heavy Metal, and Markosia. Around 250 products are available on the site now.

This is great news, in my opinion, and I wish them luck in their endeavors!

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…


How to Draw Comics the FBOFW way

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 1:02 pm

No, not the Fabulous Babes Of Finland Wrestling. Tom Spurgeon points out this guide from Lynn Johnston of For Better or for Worse on how she makes her comic strips. Along with her editors and assistants.

She writes “It takes you about ten seconds to read one strip? … Generating one complete week of comic art (six dailies and one Sunday) from start to finish requires about 55 hours!”

Sheldon: Up in the Air

Filed under: — kevinmoore @ 3:45 am

A new story line begins today for Sheldon the pig: “Up in the Air.” You’ll notice a couple changes. The format is no longer horizontal but a standard 6 x 9 comic book size. When the story is complete, I intend to publish it as a regular B&W comic book.

Which raises the second more noteworthy change. No color, all in glorious black and white. As much as I love working in color, grad school and family obligations have forced me to take a few shortcuts. However, wunna these daze I’m gonna colorize those pages. I graduate with my MLS in a year. I intend to return to color then.

MT Interview: Wes Molebash

Filed under: — Shaenon @ 3:04 am

Today I’m talking to Wes Molebash, creator of the daily strip You’ll Have That, one of the newest additions to the Modern Tales lineup.

Shaenon Garrity: How much of YHT is autobiographical?

Wes Molebash: A good chunk of it is drawn from personal experience. I mix and match some things to fit the characters and serve the storylines, but a large part of the strip is autobiographical. A lot of the stand-alone gags are drawn from actual conversations I’ve had with my wife.

I think one of the most valuable things a writer can do is listen to other people tell personal stories. Then you can take snippets of their experiences and fuse it into your own work. There’s been a few things that have occurred in the strip that I have never experienced. Those instances are usually based on stories I’ve heard from my friends and family, but some of them are totally fabricated.

SG: Can you give an example?

WM: Sure. I did a storyline early on involving Andy’s best friend, Steve, meeting a girl while spending a semester of college abroad in London. That was based on two separate stories from two friends of mine. I know a girl who spent a semester in London taking an English class, and I thought that was really cool. The other story involves one of my buddies who met a girl at an out-of-state military training seminar, and it turned out she lived twenty minutes south of where we live in Ohio. They ended up spending the whole summer together before going back to their separate colleges. So I took those two separate accounts and combined them to tell the story of how Steve and Emaline met.

In a sense, it’s not fair to say the strip is a “pure” autobiography. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t based on my real life experiences.

SG: YHT also runs on Viper Comics. How did you get involved with Viper?

WM: In October of 2004, I was prepping my fifth submission for newspaper syndication when I noticed Viper was having an open call for webcomic submissions. I sent them one of my submissions, and four days later they called me up and asked if I’d like to join the team. In December of that year, YHT debuted at the Viper website.

SG: Are you still submitting to newspaper syndicates?

WM: Not currently. I’m not sure if/when I’ll ever submit to syndicates again, but I won’t totally rule it out. I had an offer from United Features Syndicate last year to be a part of, but they weren’t offering me anything I didn’t already have with Viper. In fact, they were offering me *less*. While I haven’t made any money yet drawing comics, I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before things take off. Viper is a great company, and the people who’ve read my book have been very surprised by the quality of both the book and the company.

SG: How do you manage to stick to a daily schedule?

WM: It can be tough sometimes. I’m farther behind than I’d like to be right now, but I’m still getting them updated on time. I guess that’s all that counts.

The secret for me is to keep writing. I try to draw my strips a week in advance, but I like to have strips written at least two months in advance. Writing is the hardest part. So I try to sit down and write as many gags as I can, especially when I’m on a roll with a storyline or I’m just in a “funny” mood.

SG: What are your major cartooning influences?

WM: I’d have to say Bill Watterson and Scott Kurtz. I don’t know if those influences come through in my strip, but when I see these guys’ work it fuels me to be a better cartoonist.

SG: Any upcoming events in YHT you can tell us about?

WM: Ummm…I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ve got a cool storyline coming up that I’m pretty excited about. I’m going to be introducing a couple of new characters, so that should be cool. I’ve had these characters simmering on the back burner, and I’ve been waiting for the right time to unleash them on the world. They won’t be major characters, but they’ll be popping up in Andy and Katie’s life for a long time coming. That’s all I’m gonna say, though.

SG: Who’s hotter: you or Matthew McConaughey?

WM: That’s a tough one. Matthew McConaughey definitely has the advantage when it comes to physique, but I think I’d take him down in a good, old-fashioned “cartoon off”. So, I’d say it’s pretty even. Just depends on what the ladies are looking for, I guess. I mean, do they want an extremely handsome man who acts in movies, or a struggling cartoonist? It’s like comparing apples to oranges, really.

SG: Any final thoughts?

WM: I’m really excited about the new relationship I have with ModernTales! I’m hoping we can help get YHT introduced to a new audience, and I’m looking forward to making contact with the readers and the great cartoonists here at MT!


Totally Bomb Ass web design

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 11:15 am

Rocket Pirates editor Warren Ellis linked up these two great web site designs here and here. The Rocket Pirates web site is still being designed. Coincidence?

Maybe. Maybe not. But Joey, this is how I think TalkAboutComics ought to be redesigned. No problem, right?

K. Thor Jensen posting up free webcomics

Filed under: — Eric Millikin @ 11:00 am

Once (and future?) serializerist K. Thor Jensen is rolling out free comics. the first is “The Last Kiss, originally published in Roctober #36. Long-time Portal of Evil visitors will recognize the story of Edward Przyzdial, aka ‘Bernard Edwards,’ and his KISS-fueled one-man rampage to rock & roll stardom. Kidnapping, suicide, and mail fraud all under a thick coat of greasepaint.”

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.

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