Category Archives: Webcomics

SKY KID! A Comic Strip I wrote @ ShiftyLook!

Hey readers (if any of you are still out there)! I wanted to let you know I wrote a comic strip for the webcomics portal SHIFTYLOOK that is nearing the end of its run this week. It’s called SKY KID, illustrated by the amazing Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz and lettered by top-notch letterer Marshall Dillon, and I’m really pleased with it. ūüôā

You can start reading my contribution to the series at¬†http://www.shiftylook.com/comics/skykid/war-zeppelin-air-fortress-quatro-z, which will introduce you pretty clearly to What’s Happening. Then click the little >> in the upper right hand corner to see the next strip.

My run on the story is 15 episodes long, and is a capper to the story begun by my very good friend Jim Zub (1, 2) who handed the reins over to me for a while. You can also read the whole kit’n’kaboodle starting at the very beginning at¬†http://www.shiftylook.com/comics/skykid/skykid-001. Thanks to Jim and the ShiftyLook team for allowing me the opportunity to play in their sandbox awhile… ūüôā

Best,

– Chris

 

No more gatekeepers

I feel pretty good about comics right now. This thought was spurred by the news that, the week after the Batman movie opened, the bestselling graphic novel in the country was Raina Telegemeier’s¬†Smile, a semi-autobiographical account of a young girl finding her way through middlegrade. It’s a full-colour graphic novel for kids, girls in particular, and it’s been on-and-off the top of the bestseller lists for the better part of the two years since it was released. Telegemeier’s next book,¬†Drama,¬†arrives at the end of next month and is likely going to do just as well.

Smile started out as mini-comics, and as web-comics, quite a while back. Raina has been making comics and putting them out there for people since before there was a ‘professional’ avenue for her to do so. She was like hundreds of other creators out there in that way, doing work that is (by every other measure) in a popular genre or mode, but where a professional delivery system for that work did not exist in the comics industry.

It does now.

I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t work to be done of course, but we’ve hit a point where the lie espoused by the industry gatekeepers, that “there isn’t an audience for kids comics” or “there isn’t an audience for girls or womens comics” has finally been put to rest. Oh, the gatekeepers hung onto it as long as they could, “webcomics aren’t comic books” or “manga aren’t comics” or whatever nonsense they dug up. They’re still espousing it to some degree or another–I particularly liked this article by Heidi MacDonald on why superhero publishers will never “get” women–but it’s demonstrably false. Comics for kids sell now, the Lego¬†Ninjago comic has a 425,000 copy first printing, a number that dwarfs most others in comics… and DC had that license at one point btw. Comics for girls (and boys) like¬†Smile¬†continue to sell very well. Despite the gleeful hand rubbing over the demise of manga, it still sells quite well, thanks. And the internet…? The internet is home to a fantastically diverse array of cartoonists either making their living or a significant chunk of it from the online serialization of their work–and they’re coming for print too. ¬†They are COMING FOR PRINT.

Basically, the gates are down. There are smart publishers, and they aren’t turning down projects by rote anymore. Projects with queer characters, for girls, for women, for kids, for people of colour. And where there aren’t publishers, there are now distribution systems for creators to put their work directly in the hands of readers. If your sole desire is to write/draw Spider-Man or Superman (or god help you Batgirl) then, yeah, the gates are tighter than ever. They probably aren’t going to loosen, either. But if your goal is to do¬†comics, and tell stories that reach people, then that’s at least¬†possible¬†now. There is an industry now, where there wasn’t 10 years ago.

It’s bogus to be denied access to the market do to age or gender or ethnicity or sexuality, and those are the gates that I feel have fallen. Now the challenges of these creators are the same, legitimate challenges that established creators have been facing for years–finding and connecting with your audience, digital, piracy, contracts, publishers, distribution, all of that. It’s not easy, and I doubt it ever will be, but I do finally feel that everyone can finally face those challenges together.

– Chris

What A Difference A Day Makes – Gay Graphic Novels Uncensored?

Timeline:

May 24th: Zan Christiensen posts a great article about possible censorship concerns against gay-centric graphic novels at Apple’s App Store, for the iPad and iPhone.
http://prismcomics.org/display.php?id=1858

June 13th: The New York Times covers the case of ULYSSES SEEN, a graphic novel adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses that had non-sexual nudity edited out after demands by the appstore people. Rage.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/technology/14ulysses.html

June 14th, 1:40am: I post a link to Zan’s article at Prism, add a little bit of commentary and additional thinking, call for comment. I feel bad for being behind the times…

June 14th, 10:40am: Tech blog Gizmodo picks up on the story of ULYSSES SEEN and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST censorship.
http://gizmodo.com/5562802/the-latest-examples-of-apples-stupid-editorial-censorship

June 14th, 12:30pm: Awesome Gay Blog JoeMyGod publishes a story on the same issue, based on a reader tip.
http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2010/06/apple-censors-gay-graphic-novels-but.html

June 14th, 4pm: Gizmodo updates that Apple has apparently reversed its decision and has asked the creators of both ULYSSES SEEN and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST to resubmit the unedited works for approval.

While it shouldn’t have taken a public, multi-site shaming to get Apple’s act together, I’m quite pleased that both sets of creators will get their work to be presented in the format they’d originally intended, and hopefully get a nice little sales boost from all of the attention. I’m glad that whatever small part I played in bringing the story to people’s attention helped resolve the situation, and kudos again to Zan for writing a great article and highlighting an obvious injustice. I hope the Yaoi Press people aren’t similarly left behind…

Which brings us to another issue, as mentioned by my friend Andrew Wheeler this morning:

@Wheeler: Given Apple’s censorship, shouldn’t intelligent liberals adamantly reject it as a publishing platform? Where’d our ethics go?¬†I refer in part to the censorship of comic adaptations of Wilde http://tinyurl.com/37j3q3b and Joyce http://nyti.ms/9HzgFE

Where indeed? Are we really prepared to hand over the keys to the digital kingdom to a company that has to be aggressively shamed into behaving well?
Or should we count our blessings, because there are companies that don’t know the definition of shame who might be in the same position soon (rhymes with Amazon).
– Christopher

Continued “Censorship” on the iPad – Gay books a no-go

Too racy for Apple? Apparently so... The Importance of Being Ernest, by Tom Bouden.

While I was on my little hiatus, one of the things I did make a point to read was Zan Christiensen’s excellent and lengthy essay on the difficulties that queer creators and queer-themed comics works have had getting accepted into Apple’s iPad app store. I recommend that you go and read it for yourself over at The Prism Comics website, a thriving c0mmunity for queer comics and comics-fans.

In case you don’t make it over there I’ll sum it up for you: There’s a very definite class-system at work in the app-store, and it’s looking very much like queer comics are at the bottom of the heap. The panel to the right there, from Tom Bouden’s adaptation of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest (featuring, naturally, an all-male cast!), was considered too sexy for an 18+ app, and is one of 6 or 7 panels in the book that got it denied from the app-store, all similarly tame (a bare bum, an embrace).

There are lots of examples, plenty of pictures to show just how ‘edgy’ the banned material is (not very much at all), and plenty of the standard Apple denials and non-denials (The Sports Illustrated quote is particularly telling).

The pragmatist in me believes that this isn’t a free speech issue, that this is simply a business making business decisions for itself that I don’t happen to like. But if gay-themed material is being held to a different standard than straight material, particularly if it’s systematic, then it’s both unfair discrimination and quite happily illegal (in most of the world anyway). Looking at the situation, I’d be inclined to start leaning towards the latter. I don’t know why a business would set themselves up as a censor, but if they’re going to, they better start being more transparent and accountable… or it’ll only be a matter of time before they find themselves in a great deal of legal trouble.

Edit: As a brief aside, I would love to hear from publishers if the approval process is the same (or easier) when it comes to getting your comic/graphic novel published through iBooks (Apple’s online bookstore) as getting a stand-alone app published…

– Chris

Your Daily Dose Of FUN! An Introduction.

Dork Volume 2: Circling the Drain

I really like Evan Dorkin.

Dorkin is the creator of the endeering enduring characters Milk & Cheese, perhaps the work he’s best known for. But Dorkin’s had a fairly long and varied career, starting out as a cartoonist in the late 80s/early 90s doing short comics and gag strips for a variety of magazines before his one-man anthology comics DORK and MILK & CHEESE (from SLG Publishing) became comic-shop mainstays throughout the nineties and early ‘aughts. He’s been doing a ton of animation work for the past few years, he’ll put out a new issue of his humour stuff every year or two, and he’s currently writing the upcoming BEASTS OF BURDEN mini-series (with Jill Thompson painting) for Dark Horse. There’s a ton of work out there, check it out.

I actually first encountered Dorkin’s work in Marvel’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures comic book series, which he wrote and drew, featuring the further adventures of the two dudes whose two movies I greatly enjoyed. I didn’t really follow “creators” at that point in my comics career, but I thought that series was hilarious and bought every issue. Years later I discovered Dorkin’s¬†Milk & Cheese and Dork through the vagaries of the direct market distribution system, and I loved the hell out of them right off the bat. All the same manic cartooning energy of the Bill & Ted stuff, but blown up into transgressive subjects like The Murder Family, The Devil Puppet, and those two murderous dairy products.

He also created “FUN”.

Dork Volume 1: Who's Laughing Now?

The “FUN” pages (which ran in Dork) consisted of oten-vicious 3 Panel gag strips that made you feel bad for chuckling, packed 7 to a page to create 21 panels of the funniest stuff in comics. I know, I know, it’s the internet now and the whole www is chock-full of transgressive, violent, sexual comics, and some of them are even funny, but Dorkin was doing that stuff back when the internet generation was playing with their Transformers. What I’m saying is, you should pick up Evan Dorkin’s work: It’s great and I’m gonna prove it to you.

I’ve thought for years now that of all of the “traditional” indy comics guys in the biz (or even out of the biz I guess…), Evan Dorkin was maybe the best-positioned to take advantage of that gleaming spire of promise, the internet. He’s got hundreds and hundreds of strips, gag illustrations, short stories, and general hilarious muck-raking mayhem already done. The net is desparate for content and he’s got tons of it… and he’s all mine, so back the fuck off.

Starting today and until we run out, I’m very pleased to announce that comics212.net is going to be running one of Mr. Evan Dorkin’s FUN comic strips every weekday, Monday to Friday, for your viewing pleasure. I was happy to be able to put this together with Evan, because despite the fact he’s an Eisner-award winning humour cartoonist with a ton of comics and animation credits under his belt, he maybe hasn’t gotten his due these past few years. Anything I can do to send more eyeballs his way is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned, and for my part the blog will get updated every day for a year…! Everyone wins, hopefully.

A couple things before we’re done here:

1) I’m doing this entirely with Evan Dorkin’s permission.
2) This is going to run for more-or-less a year, barring incident, and even then this will only equal about 40 pages out of the more than 300 pages of material that you can find in Evan Dorkin’s Dork Volume 1: Who’s Laughing Now?, Dork Volume 2: Circiling The Drain, and Fun with Milk & Cheese trade paperback collections, so this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick them up.
3) For more Evan Dorkin, you can check out¬†Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer’s HOUSE OF FUN,¬†Evan Dorkin’s always entertaining and acerbic LiveJournal, and¬†SLG Publishing–Fine Publishers of DORK, MILK & CHEESE, and more.
4) I know I have timeliness issues; I’m saying daily cuz I mean daily but fingers crossed. If you gotta send hate-mail if I miss a day, go right ahead.

So! Thanks to Evan Dorkin for allowing this to happen, for Sarah Dyer for the majority of the strip scans, and to you for reading the site. And now as The Devil Puppet said in Dork #5

fun-000

– Christopher

Move to Toronto: We have comics!

So I was counting up all of the events that The Beguiling either hosted or sponsored in 2008, in order to prepare our TCAF wrap-up. Just info I wanted to have at hand. The results were a little surprising; on average we put together a comics event every two weeks in 2008. The total number of participating comics creators we worked with topped 50, and was probably closer to 80 if we figure in The 2008 Doug Wright Awards. I’m fairly proud of this, for an “off year”, or what we thought would be a “quiet year” between TCAF’s, we probably had the busiest year for comics events since the store opened in 1987.¬†

Anyway, if you want to see what went down in 2008, the list is below. Thanks again to all of the great artists, writers, authors, and organizations we were fortunate enough to work with last year… and this year. 2009 is already off to a pretty solid start, if I do say so!

Author Events at The Beguiling, 2008

janesinlove.jpgCecil Castellucci (Janes In Love), The Beguiling, January 30th
Scott Hepburn (Star Wars: VECTOR), The Beguiling, January 30th

Kean Soo (Jellaby Volume 1), Keep Toronto Reading, February 5th
Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet Volume 1), Keep Toronto Reading, February 5th
In Association with Toronto Public Library 

Kean Soo (Jellaby Volume 1), The Beguiling, February 6th
Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet Volume 1), The Beguiling, February 6th

rabagliati-signing-5701.jpgMichel Rabagilati (Paul Goes Fishing), Lillian H. Smith Library, March 15th

R.G. Taylor (Growing Up With Comics), Industry Night, March 26th
Ron Kasman (Growing Up With Comics), Industry Night, March 26th
Mark Innes (Comic Eye), Industry Night, March 26th

Jillian Tamaki Art Show, The Beguiling, April 14th-May 30th

Free Comic Book Day For Kids! @ Palmerston Library, May 3rd
Featuring: Michael Cho (Max Finder Mysteries), Steven Manale (You Crack Me Up!), Brian McLachlan (Owl Magazine), and Jeremy Tankard (Grumpy Bird).
Presented in association with Toronto Public Library, Scholastic Books, and Owlkids. Image shown below, featuring Jeremy Tankard.

tankard-fcbd.jpg

Free Comic Book Day at The Beguiling, May 3rd
Featuring J. Korim (Penciler, Atomic Robo FCBD Edition), Jessie Lam (Colorist, Neozoic), Tyrone McCarthy (Creator, Corduroy High), Alana McCarthy (Illustrator), Tara Talan (Galaxion), Willow Dawson (Violet Miranda), Nick Mandaag (Artist and self-publisher), Chip Zdarsky (Monster Cops).

Stuart Immonen, The Beguiling, May 28th

Luminato Arts Festival, June 8th
Featuring Spain Rodriguez (Che: A Graphic Biography), Dan Goldman (Shooting War), and Bernice Eisenstein (I Was A Child Of Holocaust Survivors). 
Presented in association with Luminato. 

560-ditko-webcard.jpgBlake Bell (Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko), Lillian H. Smith Library, June 18th

Jason (Low Moon, Pocket Full of Rain), The Beguiling, June 10th 

Ray Fawkes (Apocalipstix), Revival Bar, August 6th
Cameron Stewart (Apocalipstix), Revival Bar, August 6th

The Doug Wright Awards, August 10th
Official Bookseller

Russel Lissau (The Batman Strikes!), The Beguiling, August 29th

Matthew Forsythe (Ojingogo), The Beguiling, September 27th
Pat Shechuk (Pohadky), The Beguiling, September 27th
Marek Colek (Pohadky), The Beguiling, September 27th

The Word On The Street, Graphic Novel Tent Official Sponsor, September 28th
Featuring: D.J. Steinberg, Steve Manale, Brian McLachlan, Jim Zubkavich, Matt Moylan, Jeremy Tankard, Matt Hammill, Steve Murray, Mariko Tamaki, Ray Fawkes, Cameron Stewart, Jim Munroe, Ramon Perez, Ray Fenwick, Susan Hughes, Willow Dawson, Pat Shewchuck, Marek Colek, Matt Forsythe, Andy Bellanger, Joey Comeau, Emily Horne, Matt Forsythe, Ryan North, Kate Beaton, Ramon Perez.

Street Fighter Tribute Launch, The Beguiling, September 28th
Featuring nearly two-dozen different comics creators including Cameron Stewart, Bobby Chiu, Kei Acedera, Scott Hepburn, Alex Milne, Arthur Dela Cruz, Eric Kim, Alvin Lee, Omar Dogan, Joe Ng, Christine Choi, Eric Vedder, Joe Vriens, Matt Moylan, Jim Zubkavich, Saejin Oh, and many more.

bat_manga_hc_565.jpg

Lynda Barry (What It Is!), IFOA/Writing The Unthinkable, October 23rd-26th
Chip Kidd (Bat-Manga), IFOA, October 25th-26th

shauntan1.jpg

Shaun Tan (The Arrival), The Beguiling, October 28th

achewood_poster_500.jpgChris Onstad (Achewood, The Great Outdoor Fight), The Beguiling, November 4th

Igort (Baobab, Ignatz Line), The Beguiling, November 15th
David B. (Epileptic, Nocturnal Emissions), The Beguiling, November 15th

Maurice Vellekoop (Pin-Ups), Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, November 25th

Dave Lapp (Drop-In), The Beguiling, December 3rd

Kramers Ergot World Tour, The Beguiling, December 11th
Featuring Sammy Harkham, Seth, Shary Boyle, Souther Salazar, Kevin Huizenga, John Pham

Faith Erin Hicks (The War At Ellsmere), The Beguiling, December 17th

So, yeah. Come to Toronto. We are doing awesome things here, we’d love for you to be a part of it.

– Chris

Achewood: Chuckles Smuckles in the land before indoor plumbing.

charlie_smuckles_nacho

So a few months ago when Achewood creator Chris Onstad came to Toronto, I had the pleasure of a sharing a meal with Mr. Onstad and Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North. They discussed important, world-altering subjects about the future of the internet, and I, for my part, asked “Hey what’s up with Charlie Smuckles? Didn’t he go back in time with Molly’s family after the wedding?”

I’m usually pretty good about not being a nerd around comics people I admire, but Onstad is a bit mythical at the best of times, and he’s the creator of characters that I occasionally forget aren’t real. So yeah, I nerded out, and the reward for my nerditry was a casual brush-off. “He’s fine. I’m sure I’ll get to it,” or something similar, before he returned to his discussion with Mr. North about whether to invest their vast web-fortunes, or instead keep them in their current gold-krugerrand form.

Now, months later, the terrifying story behind a petulant 14 year old caught in the past is being rolled out at Achewood, as we all witness the power of the toilet, nacho chip, and brassiere. Oh, and 1800s freestyle puritan rap.

It’s quite good, I suggest moseying over and reading it. And if you’ve never read Achewood before, you’ve got no real excuse. The whole thing is up online and there’s even a print-version out now, with another on the way soonish.

– Christopher

Bonus: Since Spurgeon likes it when I describe the comics industry using Achewood as a metaphor: In the comic strip above Charlie Smuckles is webcomics and the puritans are every print cartoonist in a Daily Cartoonist comments thread ever, especially Wiley. Only the commenters at the Daily Cartoonist don’t have the excuse of being literally hundreds of years in the past, only metaphorically and only 30-40 years, but that’s why this is a metaphor. And a surprisingly apt one.

Reviewing Comics With Comics – Mark Siegel on Scott Pilgrim

mark_siegel_scott_pilgrim_cut

The webcomic Unshelved¬†is about life working in a library. It’s a huge hit online and in the library market, though relatively unknown in comic book stores. Well they’ve got this neat little feature called Unshelved Book Club (I believe it runs every Sunday), where they invite cartoonists to contribute guest comic strips in the form of book recommendations. Kind of like a book club!

The newest entry into the series? First Second Editor In Chief Mark Siegel recommends the hell out of Scott Pilgrim. 

I’m friends (or at least friendly) with all of the people involved in this strip, which makes the whole thing just that much more amazing… and from what I remember I think Gina told me that at least the first part of this strip Actually Happened. Hehe.

¬†Go check it out, it’s pretty darned neat. And browse the archives while you’re there.

– Chris

On whether or not single issue comics are a good idea.

Because Fantagraphics’ FLOG RSS feed is kinda broken, I see the same blog posts by them 5-10 times in my feed reader. Because I saw this post by Eric Reynolds 5-10 times, I finally thought enough about it to post. Essentially, Eric found an interview with Chris Oliveros from 1996 that was about periodicals versus graphic novel collections. Here’s a quick quote:

Q: Do you think it’s possible that there could be more work in the future where the artist could sit and draw for two years, and release the entire story… [?]

Oliveros: I think the periodical approach is a good thing. In order for comics to be released in book form, where an author would take two or three or five years to complete this novel, the medium would have to attain this sort of popularity you have in general fiction…

Which is, you know, ha-ha, things are graphic novels now, and even with the popularity of the medium as compared to 10 years ago, very few people are getting those $50,000 advances. But the thing is, Oliveros wasn’t wrong. Like Eric says, it underscores a lot of the issues facing the market today:

1. Particularly with first- or second-time authors, the majority of graphic novels are being ordered by all retail outlets entirely blind, because serialization offered months and months of “previews” of the material to readers before it was in graphic novel format.

2. There are a ton of graphic novels being produced, and even if you read only stuff that’s, you know, good, I feel like that’s still 10+ graphic novels a month at this point. It’s very difficult for any work to stand out, let alone rise-above. It’s why you see people (like myself) getting behind books in such a strong way. STREET ANGEL or SCOTT PILGRIM or MONSTER or whatever really are solid books, but with 300+ graphic novel releases a month, you kind of have to keep banging the drum to make people aware of them before they get entirely buried—and those are three genre comics with mass-market appeal!

3. And that’s before we get to all the crap that’s being released. Unnecessary collections of superhero periodicals. Awful, awful fucking movie pitches masquerading as ‘graphic novels’ to give them an undeserved legitimacy. Self-involved, self-indulgent, pseudo-literary garbage. Vaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanity projects. The merely mediocre.

I’m just like ranting here, but yeah. It’s really, really hard for a graphic novelist to lock themselves up for a year or two, with little-to-no feedback and an ever-dwindling advance, and crank out a book. Back in the old days, the serialization of Louis Riel or Berlin¬†or Optic Nerve¬†provided feedback, interaction, and occasionally periodic injections of cash, all of which made it just a little bit easier to be a graphic novelist. Er, comic book artist. Cartoonist? Illustrator? What did people call themselves in 1996? I was still in highschool.

ANyway, it’s one of the things that I really like about the web, that a smart cartoonist can figure out a way to serialize their work (or even just produce it for the web), making money along the way, and then releasing collections (“graphic novels”) and enter a different market. I think the web is big enough for more comics… It was one of the things I wanted to get into a little bit more on the panel Tuesday, but that wasn’t really the place for it. I also really, really think that the current web-model doesn’t suit every creator.

But I think that, getting back to the point, a more consistent presence in the public eye before a graphic novel release is a very good, important thing. And if we’re really going to let the pamphlet-format comic die, then we need _something_ to take it’s place, and I don’t think we’ve seen it yet. ¬†I am happy to be proven wrong though. If the future of periodical comics is out there, please send a link my way.

– Christopher

Hey, it’s webcomics in Toronto!

KTR: Graphically Speaking. (L to R) Christopher Butcher, Kate Beaton, Willow Dawson, Emily Horne, Ryan North, and Brian McLachlan

 

KTR: Graphically Speaking. (L to R) Christopher Butcher, Kate Beaton, Willow Dawson, Emily Horne, Ryan North, and Brian McLachlan

 

Last night was our event Graphically Speaking: Webcomics, as part of Toronto’s Keep Toronto Reading month! We had a great turnout, well over 100 people (and I only knew like 10 of them!) including journalist Matthew Braga from Blog.T.O., who just put up a short article on the event:

“While the evening was a superb way to learn more about the burgeoning community of webcomics, both in Toronto and on the web, it won’t be the only chance for fans to interact with some of their favourite online authors and artists. Both the Toronto Public Library and The Beguiling will also be hosting the¬†Toronto Comic Arts Festival¬†(TCAF) this May, where most of Tuesday’s panelists should be in attendance.” – ¬†BlogT.O.

A superb evening AND a TCAF plug. Hoo-ray!

– Christopher