Thursday, December 1, 2011

Best Thing Today: Opinioncat Lady

See, this is why I love diary comics. Sometimes you get these lovely peeks into other people's brains. Also, I am completely using opinioncat as a real world from now on. It will be a nice complement to my constant use of faildog.

Someone is Wrong on the Internet [Today Nothing Happened]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Best Thing Today: Cyber Monday

'Tis the season to get your holiday shopping done (if you haven't already), and it's the perfect time to support your favorite webcomics artist. Even if the folks on your holiday list aren't into webcomics (or comics at all) there are plenty of t-shirts, tote bags, mugs, and toys out there that are perfect for readers and non-readers alike.

Planning to do a little online shopping today? Here's what you need to know:

TopatoCo has posted its holiday shipping deadlines. Take note and get your orders in early.

Danielle Corsetto has posted original Girls with Slingshots artwork in her store (squee!), and it's very reasonably priced. If you're looking to buy GWS jewelry, there's free shipping in the jewelry shop until 11:59 ET tonight.

PvP is having a Cyber Monday sale on all the items in its store, including the big hulking PvP Awesomology.

Narbonic and Skin Horse fans should wander on over to the Couscous Collective store for their Cyber Monday deals, including free sketches in all Narbonic and Skin Horse books ordered today.

Penny Arcade has free shipping on all domestic orders over $50 until December 15th, as well as a bunch of items still on Black Friday sale.

I'll probably have a more comprehensive webcomic gift guide up at a later date, so keep your eyes peeled. And post any Cyber Monday deals I've missed in the comments.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Achewood Returns

It appears Chris Onstad's Achewood is back, updating for the first time since February. That is all.


Best Thing Today: Happy Snakesgiving!

Light on the posting this week since I'm home with the fam. In the meantime, enjoy Gunshow's first Thankssssssssssgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Best Thing Today: xkcd Visualizes Money

I admit, I get kind of frustrated when people treat xkcd as the platonic ideal of webcomics. For one thing, people, there are tons of amazing webcomics out there once you dig past Top Ten lists (which seem frozen in amber at this point). For another, xkcd simply isn't one of the strongest webcomics of the moment (although, let's face it, Randall Munroe has much more important things on his mind). But when Munroe nails it, he nails it. Some of his most powerful comics aren't really comics at all, but striking infographics, such as his radiation chart, his height map of the observable universe, the gravity wells of different celestial bodies, and his epic movie narrative chart. Now, he's added a timely new data visualization to his collection: Money. There's been a great deal of talk about money lately, with the budget crisis and the Occupy protests, but it's hard for us to picture relative spending and cost when the numbers get so big. Munroe breaks down everything from campaign spending to the net worth of professional rappers to how much it costs to raise a child to age 17.

Naturally, the entire chart is huge. See the whole zoomable, scrollable thing here.

Money [xkcd]

Dinosaur Comics' Ryan North Writing Adventure Time Comics

Between Netflix and Hulu, there are few reasons to be a cable subscriber these days, but it meant I was a latecomer to the awesome absurdity that is Cartoon Network's Adventure Time. But after a trip to Comic-Con where no one was talking about anything else, I was won over by the charms of the happiest post-apocalyptic TV show on the planet. And Boom Studios has just announced that Adventure Time is coming to comics, written by Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North!

Now that North is taking on the beloved Jake and Finn and Dr. McNinja's Chris Hastings has done the rounds on Deadpool, could we start seeing a trend of print publishers looking more and more to online talent?

'Adventure Time' Comic Series Coming from Boom! in February [ComicsAlliance]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tomorrow: Narbonic Release Party at Borderlands in San Francisco

If you live in the Bay Area and are a fan of Narbonic (or cupcakes, or wine), get yourself down to Borderlands Books in the San Francisco Mission District. After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Shaenon Garrity released Narbonic: The Perfect Collection, the complete collected Narbonic in two volumes. She'll be at Borderlands from 5-7pm tomorrow (Saturday), signing books amidst cupcakes and glasses of wine. Come celebrate the sweet, sweet evil.

Even if you can't make it to Borderlands, you can still pick up the two-volume collection at the Couscous Collective store.

Narbonic Release Party [Shaenon's LiveJournal]

Best Thing Today: My Cardboard Life Sleepover Diorama

My Cardboard Life is perhaps the craftiest comic out there, with its cardboard, fabric, and paper characters, and if you've ever seen creator Philippa Rice at a convention, you may have seen her adorable dioramas. Rice is attending Thought Bubble in Leeds this weekend, and she's made this cozy diorama for the occasion. It makes me want to curl up in a pair of flannel pajamas with my cardboard dog, get under the covers, and read a good comic book.

Sleepover Diorama [My Cardboard Life]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Best Thing Today: Menage a 3's Yuki Crotch-Attacks Giz's Characters

In Gisèle Lagacé's manga-inspired sex comedy Ménage à 3, the virginal Gary quite nearly got it on with the phallophobic Yuki -- until Yuki's tentacle delusions kicked in. Now Yuki is on a quest to save the world from the evil tentacle monsters in men's pants, and her rage is bleeding across Giz's earlier comics, with characters from Penny and Aggie and Cool Cat Studio feeling the force of Yuki's tiny but powerful foot.

Very nice [Menage a 3]

Octopus Pie and the Infinite Canvas

Okay, so I just linked to Octopus Pie a few days ago, but the most recent page is a must-read, especially if you're a subscriber to Scott McCloud's belief that webcomics should employ such Internet-specific forms like the infinite canvas. Also, there's a nice callback to the Duck of Enlightenment. Infinite Ducks!

You Should Call Him [Octopus Pie]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Redditers Also Ask James Kochalka Anything

Somehow I completely missed this until late last night, but Jeph Jacques wasn't the only webcomicker answering questions on Reddit yesterday. James Kochalka, rockstar, diarist, and Comic Laureate of Vermont also participated in an Ask Me Anything thread, talking monkeys, robots, and "Monkey Vs. Robot." It's been a banner couple of days for cartoonists on Reddit.

Also, I learned today that at least one publisher (Top Shelf) thinks AMAs are good for publicity. Huh. Go figure.

I am James Kochalka, Poet Laureate of Vermont. [Reddit]

Best Thing Today: Only Robots Can Read This Diesel Sweeties Punchline

Okay, technically the best thing from a couple of days ago, but it's not often that I find myself pointing my phone at my computer screen in order to understand a joke. Is Diesel Sweeties the first comic to tell a punchline via QR code? I knew those ugly things had to be good for something.

You can also buy a QRobot t-shirt if you're into people aiming their barcode scanners at your chest.

I'm Multi-Lingual, If Insults Count [Diesel Sweeties]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Best Thing Today: Shelley and Lottie Team Up in "Murder She Writes"

John Allison, I think I love you.

After Allison ended his quirky horror webcomic Scary Go Round, he picked up with a successor series Bad Machinery. This is actually the second time Allison has done this (Scary Go Round itself was a successor series to Allison's earlier webcomic Bobbins). Successor series are a handy notion; you get to draw in new readers with a fresh cast of characters while reserving the right to bring back your old favorites any time you please. And plenty of Scary Go Round regulars have popped up in Bad Machinery, now the quasi-responsible adults to Bad Machinery's mystery-solving tweens.

The official Bad Machinery storyline is on hiatus for the rest of the year, but readers get to spend November and December with a new story, "Murder She Writes," starring Scary Go Round's Shelley Winters. Today, we learned the identity of Shelley's intern and de facto sidekick for the inevitable coming shenanigans: Charlotte Grote, loud-mouthed grammar schooler and possibly the best thing about Bad Machinery. Our last Bad Machinery story was dreadfully light on Lottie (like much of the cast, she spent most of the arc brainwashed), so it's grand that we'll be getting some Shelley-Lottie quality time -- with a side of murder.

Incidentally, if anyone wants to order me up a Lottie drawing as a Christmas present, I wouldn't object.

Murder She Writes [Scary Go Round]

Ask Questionable Content's Jeph Jacques Anything

Questionable Content's Jeph Jacques is hanging out on the social bookmarking site Reddit right now, answering questions in the site's popular "Ask Me Anything" Subreddit. Got a question for Mr. Jacques? Go ask it now.

I am Jeph Jacques, AMA [Reddit]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Feed the Artist: Today Nothing Happened Volume 2

I can't explain what draws me to Shazzbaa Bennett. Maybe I just like typing her name: Shazzzzzzzzzzbaaaaaaaa. Try it. It's fun. Maybe it's because I'm not a generally happy person, but Shazzbaa comes off as relentlessly cheerful in the best way possible. Seriously, this lady makes Target seem like as magical a land as its Bull Terrier mascot would suggest, and she faces even the most WTF customer interactions with dorky grace.

Shazzbaa just released the second volume of her autographical webcomic, Today Nothing Happened. The book covers Shazzbaa's last few months at the Savannah College of Art and Design and her first few steps into the post-collegiate world. As fun as those SCAD comics are (Seriously, that Game Design class looks awesome; can I audit courses from the Bay Area?), the post-college months are where TNH really finds its voice. Amidst all the funny cat antics and teleconferenced D&D games, Today Nothing Happened is ultimately a comic about a (geeky and extraordinarily nice) young artist making her way in the world: moving back home, finding a day job, late nights spent drawing, keeping in touch with friends from school, and (a Shazzbaa bonus) learning to drive. After a few dozen strips, I just want to give her a big warm hug. (What was I saying last week about diary comics creating a false sense of intimacy?)

Also, there are pudgy cats who hate each other. Who doesn't love a good catfight?

Today Nothing Happened Volume 2 [Today Nothing Happened]

Kickstarter: A Fairy Tale Anthology from Sorcery 101's Kel McDonald

Kel McDonald of Sorcery 101 fame announced a while back that she was putting together an anthology of comic fairy tale adaptations. This weekend, the book (titled Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales) reached the all-important Kickstarter stage, with Miss McDonald hoping to raise $9,000 in the next two months. It looks like her book has lost a couple of contributors (it happens), and while I'm sad Evan Dahm and Amanda Lafrenias are off the project, at least we'll see what's sure to be an insane rendition of "The Singing Bone" from KC Green (incidentally, Mr. Green provides the lovely illustrations in the video above). McDonald's own contribution to the book, "Bisclavret," is already online. Sadly, it's not my favorite of McDonald's works; she's a lot stronger when she sticks to her own werewolves.

One key thing about that $9,000 McDonald is asking for: it's not just for the printing and shipping costs; it's also for paying the contributors. Personally, I'm all about seeing folks get paid for the art they do so well and too few anthologies pay their contributors. That peace of mind is just added incentive to kick in $20 for the book or even just $5 for the PDF.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Best Thing Today: Dumbing of Age, Now Sponsored by Pajama Jeans

I don't know why it took me so long to read a David Willis webcomic. There's no particular reason; it's just that some comics inevitably slip through the cracks and the It's Walky family of comics were among them. Dumbing of Age places many of the characters from Roomies/It's Walky/Shortpacked! in a parallel universe, but my unfamiliarity with the original characters hasn't hampered my enjoyment of Dumbing of Age whatsoever. It's such a charming ensemble comic, and I'm kind of in love with Dina. (Ooh! And I can pre-order her shirt! And maybe buy her adorable hat if Willis ever decides to make more!)

After the excitement of the creepy-but-ultimately-empowering-and-heartwarming attempted party rape storyline (yeeeeah, not nearly as awful as it sounds), Willis has slowed things down a bit with Walky's quest for pajama jeans. This has, lo and behold, resulted in contextual ads for pajama jeans. Wait, those are a real thing? Do they actually look like jeans? Do they pill horribly?

Also, why isn't Willis shilling for product placement like one Mr. Kurtz? Seriously, David, I think you've got a potential new income stream here.

Of course, Willis himself knows a thing or two about appropriate contextual ads.

Contextual ads work [Dumbing of Age]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Worst Thing Today: Hope Xinyuan Sells Bad Books to TopatoCo

This sad story comes via Fleen, your daily source of webcomics news. Check out Fleen and TopatoCo founder Jeffrey Rowland's Twitter for the full rundown, but the short version is that TopatoCo commission Hope Xinyuan to print Ryan North's latest Dinosaur Comics collection, and when the books arrived with pages falling out of their spines, Hope Xinyuan mysteriously vanished off the face of the earth, leaving Topatoco shy $25,000 with a stock of unsellable books. Oof.

If you've been thinking about making a purchase from TopatoCo, now might be a good time to do that. Also, with the inevitably holiday crunch upon us, consider adding some webcomical gifts to your shopping list.

As Regards Smoking Craters [Fleen]

Best Thing Today: Eve Ning Gets Manga Face

I love that Meredith Gran is an animator. I love that constantly stretches and squishes her Octopus Pie characters into new an fun emotional shapes. Behold "Eve Fails at Watching Porn," where Gran conveys so much emotion with the eyes and hands (and eventually bug eyes).

I'm also quite enjoying the latest storyline, in which Hanna's boyfriend camps out at the Occupy Wall Street protests, much to Hanna's chagrin. And I adore this panel from today's installment, where Eve is so drunk on bass (the music, not the beer) that she goes suddenly manga.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feed the Artist: Cat and Girl Fun Club

I'm always impressed by webcartoonists' ability to find new and creative ways to earn money, and none sound quite so mysterious and intriguing as the Cat and Girl Fun Club. Dorothy Gambrell has written a bit about how her income breaks down in the past, and recently she came up with an exciting new product for her fans. For $99, readers can become year-long members of the 2012 Fun Club, which gets them a special regular newsletter, tons of special Cat and Girl gifties (including a mystery CD and DVD), and discounts at Gambrell's store. It's a nice way to encourage readers to become patrons of the comic, and if you're a huge Cat and Girl fan (and I know many people who are), it sounds like you get some nice swag out of the deal.

Oh, and Gambrell has put a ticking clock on Fun Club membership (which I think is a pretty clever touch). If you want in on the ennui-filled grab bag, you'd better sign up by December 1st.

2012 Fun Club [Cat and Girl]

Best Thing Today: Augie, The Littlest Reaver

I can't believe I forgot to post this earlier in the week, but Mike Russell posted his short comic "Augie, The Littlest Reaver" from Patton Oswalt's Serenity one-shot "Float Out." It's face-eatingly adorable!

Augie, The Littlest Reaver [CulturePulp]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Best Thing Today: Action Athena Debates Diary Comics

Athena Currier is on my list of cool comic diarists I don't talk about enough. Her webcomic Action Athena traces her mainly post-collegiate life in the Twin Cities area, through crappy jobs, money woes, fun times with friends, and generally figuring out how to live her life. One of the things I love about Action Athena is Currier's apparent lack of posturing. She gets frustrated, but doesn't aim for snark. She revels in the simple pleasure of drawing with friends. She celebrates the wonderful mundanities of paying her student loan, failing to catch a customer's rude comment, and running in the rain.

In her latest installment, Currier tracks her evolving view of her diary comic and whether it is a wise thing for a twenty-something to do. There are downsides certainly to diary comics: they create a false sense of intimacy (which can make things uncomfortable for the cartoonist), they can make it difficult to get one of those fabled "real jobs," and they're not necessarily the key to success in the comics field. But Currier offers one undeniable argument in favor of continuing her illustrated diary: love.

Hasty Most-MIX Update [Action Athena]

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal App Delivers Funny Things to Your Phone

First, you could read Zach Weiner's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal on the interwebs. Then he had his comics printed on the guts of dead trees. Now, you can experience all the glory of SMBC and SMBC Theater on your iPhone with SMBC: The App!

For 99 cents, you get access to all the SMBC comics and videos (although at present, my version of the app is showing only one video) -- and we even get that fancy red button for bonus comics. But please, Mr. Weiner, could we get a full-sized app for the iPad as well?

SMBC: The App [iTunes]

Monday, November 7, 2011

Feed the Artist: Jen Oaks' Cheeky Pin-Ups Calendar

Jen Oaks isn't a webcartoonist -- she is, however, a contributor to my book The Comic Book Guide to the Mission and a kick-ass illustrator. I acquired one of her lovely pin-up drawings (this charming cyclist lady) at SF Zine Fest, and said pin-up is hanging on my wall as I type. Oaks has a bevy of busty beauties (in print form) at her Etsy store, but if you can't choose, consider purchasing her 2012 calendar, cheekily titled "Cheeky." It features 12 of Oaks' zaftig dames, including Kitty Bon Bon, who started life as an illustration in Fat Zine.

Also worth checking out is Fat Zine creator Laura Beck's interview with Oaks about the "Cheeky" babes and how they came into being.

"Cheeky" is available for $25 from Oaks' Etsy store. It's the perfect gift for the pin-up loving lady (or gent) in your life.

What Webcomics Should I Read? Lovecraft Is Missing

Lovecraft is Missing
by Larry Latham
Status: Ongoing
Synopsis: What if the works of HP Lovecraft were drawn from the writer's own life? Aspiring horror writer Win Battler leaves his home town of Tough Luck, Oklahoma, to visit Howard Lovecraft, with whom he's struck up a penpal friendship. But the moment he arrives in Providence, Lovecraft goes suddenly missing. It turns out that Win isn't the only one looking for the wayward author. Nan Mercy, a Brown University librarian with a dark past, believes Lovecraft stole several pages of plates from the university's occult collection, and both she and the Catholic priest Father Jackey are eager to get them back. Soon, the three of them are caught up in a conspiracy of Eldritch cults that stretches all the way back to Tough Luck.
Categories: Historical, Horror, Supernatural
Read it if you like: the works of HP Lovecraft, gun-toting librarians, and literary Easter eggs.

Kickstarter: Sarah Becan's Shuteye

Sarah Becan is one of those enviable cartoonists who is able to wring strong emotions from very simple ideas. Her Ouija Interviews, which are based on a series of conversations with a Ouija board, are strangely affecting, and her webcomic I think you're sauceome started as a quest for bodily self-acceptance, and has evolved into a celebration of food and being nicer to ourselves.

At present, Becan has a Kickstarter running to collect her Shuteye minicomic series. I love the pitch: each story in the series ends with the main character waking up as the protagonist of the next story, forming an interconnected loop of stories that sounds more Ouroboros than Inception. You can read the first two stories in the series, "Vea" and "The Liar," on Becan's website. The Kickstarter is to fund a shmancy print job with Pantone ink and an embossed felt cover, but if you're like me and you're more or less indifferent to the tactile sensation of books (sorry!), she's offering PDFs and ePubs of the book for a mere $1 donation.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Where Cartoonists Work: Lucy Knisley

Because I love peeking into other people's lives and because I'm a wee bit obsessed with Lucy Knisley, I was terribly excited when Knisley posted photos of her new New York live/work space, dubbed the HMS Tinytub. Her Flickr set has full annotations, detailing all you could want to know about her worldly possessions. And yes, I am sitting here reading them all when I should be working on my NaNoWriMo.

Lucy, could I please live in your apartment? Or alternatively, could you fill my office with warm, wonderful things?

HMS Tinytub [Flickr]

Other Best Thing Today: Gronk Pajamas!

Katie Cook is an astonishingly good illustrator as well as creator of the webcomic Gronk, about a sweet young monster who lives with her human friend. She also happens to be a mother. What does every mother/cartoonist need? A child-sized costume based on her own monster character, that's what. Crafty pal Patricia Brick whipped up this Halloween costume for Cook's daughter, which look like they could double as chilly weather pajamas.

Seriously, that thing makes me want to have a kid just so I could stuff her in something that adorable -- and take humiliating photos for later.

Halloween Gronk [Gronk]

Best Thing Today: Questionable Content Blackout Comics

Guest comics are one of the greatest things about webcomics. As terrible as it is that popular characters in the superhero industry are owned by increasingly large, faceless corporations, at least it means that multiple creators get a crack at those characters over time. Fortunately, webcartoonists understand that one of the great joys in having creator-owned characters is seeing them through the loving (and at time torturous) lens of other cartoonists.

Much of the East Coast lost power this week, and the great webcomicking town of Northampton, Massachusetts, was sans electricity for a few days (and right when I needed to put in an order with Topatoco. Harrumph). Among the stranded cartoonists was Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content. Not one to miss an update, Jacques enlisted the help of those cartoonist pals not felled by a freak October snowstorm. The result: guest comics from Unshelved's Bill Barnes, Shortpacked and Dumbing of Age's Dave Willis, and HIJInks Ensue's Joel Watson. Plus, Jacques timed in with a very on-point comic where his own characters get blacked out -- both metaphorically and visually.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Comic: Penny and Aggie Spins Off into Quiltbag

T Campbell skipped over Penny and Aggie's senior year, bypassed college, and went straight for the five-year high school reunion. The ending was actually quite sweet, leaving the door open to a new, mature relationship between our titular heroines. But at the same time, it was a bit disappointing that we missed the big moments on their journey to adulthood.

Thankfully, we're going a bit backwards in time with Campbell's latest project, Quiltbag. The new comic follows two P&A secondary characters, Sara and Lisa, as they adjust to life in college and the new (LGBTA-friendly) relationships that come with it. I'll admit, while I've always liked Sara, I find Lisa a bit irritating (which I suppose is kind of the point). But there are hints that Campbell and artist Jason Waltrip (who collaborates with Campbell on Fans! and took over Penny and Aggie after Gisele LaGace's departure) might explore Lisa's vulnerable side and not have her constantly sound like the Creature from the Internet.

Another interesting aspect of Quiltbag is that some of the supporting cast members are based on P&A readers (and reader suggestions). Campbell and Waltrip invited readers to send in their photos and self-descriptions (factual or otherwise), and we've already met some of the resulting coeds.

My one beef with Quiltbag: how had Lisa, who has the attention span of a mayfly, kept that same labor-intensive hairdo since junior year of high school?

Quiltbag [Penny and Aggie]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Feed the Artist: McPedro Cross-Stitch

You know what your house/apartment/dorm room needs? More hallucinatory cacti. Even if you're already the proud owner of a McPedro plushie, you  can add to your tequila-filled madness with this McPedro cross-stich sampler from Girls With Slingshots -- also available as a DIY kit (for considerably less moolah), or just a plain-old downloadable pattern.

I'm sort of surprised other webcomics haven't gone the cross-stitch route, especially given how crafty many cartoonists are. To be honest, I have enough funny t-shirts; I might be more willing to invest in a couple of cross-stitch patterns -- provided cross-stitching is one of those activities one can do on BART.

Girls With Slingshots Etsy Shop [Etsy]

Curvy's Sexy Comics Support Planned Parenthood

Lately, I've been spending an awful lot of time yelling at Herman Cain. Well, actually, I've been yelling at my radio when Herman Cain's voice is coming out of it, but you get the picture. I know, I know, yelling at Herman Cain in absentia only makes him stronger, but when he starts railing against Planned Parenthood, I feel the word bile rising up from my gut. In my post-law school days, before I got myself onto RomneyCare (and during those times when I was abruptly dropped from RomneyCare -- grumble, grumble), Planned Parenthood was my primary health care provider. Planned Parenthood was key to keeping all of my bits -- not just my lady bits -- happy and functioning. Without Planned Parenthood, getting routine medical care would have been a pricy proposition.

This month, Sylvan Migdal is offering her readers a chance to donate to Planned Parenthood and get some sexy sci-fi comics in return. During November, all proceeds from Curvy book sales go to Planned Parenthood. So, if you're a proponent of Planned Parenthood, grab your Curvy books now, and maybe buy a couple to gift to your porn-loving pals. And if you love multiversal sexy times but aren't so keen on Planned Parenthood, you can a) wait until December to make your purchases or b) take a deep breath, and think of all the annual physicals your dollars will fund.

Curvy Store [Curvy]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dresden Codak Lays Down Some Orwellian Dark Science

Dresden Codak is one of those comics without a regular update schedule, so if you've been itching to see the next full-color chapter in the life of Kimiko Ross, here it is. Kim has traveled to Nephilopolis, a place where her estranged father was revered as intellectual giant, and bureaucrats license all scientists.

In the latest installment, Kim's father looms large over the city, and we see that Nephilopolis's bureaucracy extends even to insomnia brought on by existential despair.

Dark Science #12 [Dresden Codak]

Kate Beaton on NPR's Sound of Young America

With a new, highly acclaimed book from Drawn & Quarterly out, it's no surprise that Kate Beaton is everywhere these days. Her latest guest appearance is on PRI's The Sound of Young America, where she talks about her evolution from autobio cartoonist to historical lampooner, why she set her sights on drawing a New Yorker cartoon, and how she, Carly Monardo, and Meredith Gran came up with their Strong Female Characters.

I do love all the Beaton love of late, but I can't help but feel a twinge of frustration at some of these press outlets. Beaton is awesome, true, but couldn't they take her mainstream success as a signal to pay more attention to the wider, wackier world of webcomics? I'm sure they could find plenty of equally talented, accessible creators to fawn over.

The show is available in digital form at The Sound of Young America's website, or through the iTunes store.

Kate Beaton, Author of Hark, A Vagrant Interview [Maximum Fun]

Best Thing Today: Lovelace and Babbage vs. The Vampire Poets

If you prefer your ahead-of-their time Victorian geniuses heavy on the humor and light on the steampunk, you'd do well to check out Sydney Padua's 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage starring Charles "Father of the Computer" Babbage and proto-programmer Ada Lovelace. The mathematically inclined pair battle the evils of street music and economic collapse while occasionally pausing to debug their difference engine.

Now Babbage and Lovelace face their greatest foe -- the Vampire Poets. They're an apt enemy at least for Miss Lovelace, the sole legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron, who was himself the inspiration for the titular bloodsucking nobleman in John William Polidori's novella "The Vampyre" (which, in turn, greatly influenced Bram Stoker's Dracula). Padua has released the introduction to the newest Lovelace/Babbage tale, which is, appropriately, written in verse.

Be sure to read the notes at the bottom for actual Victorian poetry featuring Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.

Lovelace and Babbage vs. The Vampire Poets [2D Goggles]

Monday, October 31, 2011

Feed the Artist: Sabertooth Vampire Unleashed

Just in time for Halloween, Mike Russell has released the second print comic of his Sabertooth Vampire webcomic. I can't get enough of these hilariously silly comics about a vamp who is literally long in the tooth.

You can grab the latest set of Sabertooth Vampire comics for just $6, or get both comics for $10. Woo!

Sabertooth Vampire Unleashed [CulturePulp]

Best Thing Today: Halloween Webcomics!

I heart Halloween. I love the creativity, the festivity, the gentle scares, the macabre fun. And I love when webcomics get in the mood.

Girls with Slingshots has an awesomely fun story arc on how Halloween brings out both the little kid and the boozewolf adult in all of us.

Evil Inc. has a face-to-face meeting with the Great Pumpkin -- and he's out to avenge his smashed brethren.

Jack Scully has a freaky guest comic at Love Me Nice, starring everyone's favorite uncannily cute 'toon, Carolina.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal celebrates Halloween with, oddly enough, an old people on the Internet joke.

Each year, R. Stevens dresses his Diesel Sweeties characters in Halloween costumes for a series of spooky, sexy comics. This year, expect Sexy Magneto, Sexy Harley Quinn, a Star Trek/Arrested Development mashup, and a chicken in a Chicken Walker.

At My Cardboard Life, Philippa Rice had readers vote on Cardboard Colin's Halloween costume. A walking, talking piece of toast may not sound scary, but for Colin, it ends in screams.

John Allison dressed his Bad Machinery ladies in costume -- each gal as her favorite British queen.

Dresden Codak has a costumed donation wallpaper available: the entire cast dressed as the crew from Team Fortress 2.

But my personal favorite of this year's webcomic crop is this supersized installment of Ellie on Planet X featuring zombie jack o'lantern Ellie!

And, as I mentioned earlier, Something Positive's Randy Milholland running his kid-killing watercolor series "The Last Trick-Or-Treaters," and Lucy Knisley's latest essay "Scaredcited" examines the role of horror in our lives.

What did I miss?

Is Kukuburi back for real?

So this was a nice surprise when I fired up my RSS reader this morning. Kukuburi, Ramon Perez's dreamlike adventure comic updated for the first time in well over a year.

I have a soft spot for all the comics to come out of the Transmission X studio (including Sin Titulo and The Abominable Charles Christopher), but Kukuburi has always been the Pokey Little Puppy of the group. The infrequent updates have been particularly damning because it's such a visual story. By the time I see a new page, I've forgotten Nadia's trek through Perez's candy-colored fantasy world. I've forgotten her skull-faced nemesis and why he pursues her. I've forgotten (I'm ashamed to admit) La Brigade du Chapeau and their haberdasher conspiracy. Each update requires an archive binge, and my heart has already been toyed with so many times.

So I'm going to wait until I know Kukiburi is back for good before diving back into old comics. But Perez swears the next update is Wednesday. I'll keep my fingers crossed.


Friday, October 28, 2011

What Webcomics Should I Read? Family Man

Lately, when I meet a new person who knows I write about webcomics, I'm inevitably asked, "What webcomics should I read?" I find this a bit of an absurd question, like asking what books one should be reading, or what TV shows one should watch. It depends a lot on individual tastes. So, with that in mind, I've decided to start writing little capsule guides to various webcomics so folks can decide for themselves what webcomics they'd like to read.

Family Man
by Dylan Meconis
Status: Ongoing
Synopsis: In 18th-Century Germany, Luther Levy, son of a Jewish convert, has just returned home from the University of Gottingen, where he was supposed to receive his doctorate in theology. But after delivering a possibly atheistic dissertation, Luther finds himself back at home with no degree, no patron, and no faith in God. Just when he thinks he's doomed to a life tutoring upperclass brats, a mysterious academic offers Luther a lecture post at an unorthodox university. The University of Familienwald seems the answer to Luther's non-prayers: he is a respected lecturer, can continue his studies, and is drawn to the rector's daughter, the beautiful but cool university librarian Ariana Nolte. But not everything -- or everyone -- at Familienwald is precisely what it seems, least of all Ariana, who slips away from the university each month at the full moon...
Categories: History, Religion, Drama, Supernatural
Read it if you like: jokes about Christian theology, gorgeous sepia-toned artwork, the Age of Reason, and very subtle werewolves.

Best Thing Today: Hyperbole and a Half Battles Depression

*Deep breath*

My name is Lauren and I suffer from depression. Frequently. Burst-into-tears-at-the-slightest-provocation depression Hide-in-my-room-and-stop-talking-to-my-friends depression. Stop-updating-my-blog-for-months-on-end-because-oh-god-what's-the-point depression.

Allie Brosh, creator of the blog-punctuated-with-hilarious-MS-Paint-cartoons Hyperbole and a Half apparently shares my occasional serotonin deficiency. In her latest installment, she offers a window into her depressive episode, complete with the oh-so-helpful superego who walks around berating her for being depressed.

Brosh's story has a happy(ish) ending, one that makes me a little jealous. Man, I wish my depression would eventually eat itself.

Adventures in Depression [Hyperbole and a Half]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feed the Artist: Pre-Order The Abominable Charles Christopher Softcover

When Karl Kerschl came out with that gorgeous hardcover of The Abominable Charles Christopher, it was a teensy bit out of my price range. But now that the hardcover is sold out (sad!), Kerschl is taking pre-orders for the much more wallet-friendly softcover edition.

Pre-order copies (which ship November 11) are available for $20 (US? Canadian?), which is a bargain when you consider how much adorableness is packed onto each page.

Pre-Order The Abominable Charles Christopher Softcover [Abominable CC]

Best Thing Today: The Last Trick-Or-Treaters

Okay, so I already linked to these on io9, but I can't help it, I just love Randy Milholland's "The Last Trick-Or-Treaters" comics. Yes, it's all about killing small children, but the way Milholland riffs on it, it's terribly funny. Plus, I particularly enjoy the way he uses his running watercolors to complement the gore.

The Last Trick-Or-Treaters [Rhymes With Witch]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Feed the Artist: Dinosaur Comics Magnetic Poetry

My first thought upon seeing Ryan North's new Dinosaur Comics magnet words set was that it's a shame that the Dinosaur Comics dry-erase board isn't magnetic. Then I realized that you could just print out a giant T-Rex and paste him to your fridge. In fact, everyone should do this anyway.

Dinosaur Comics Best Words Magnets [Topatoco]

Best Thing Today: Bad Machinery's Onions Come Home to Roost

Bad Machinery may well be my favorite webcomic running -- which, if you've seen the webcomics queue in my RSS reader, is saying quite a lot. It's full of bizarre but compelling mysteries and witty Britishisms. Plus, everyone from the mystery-solving teen protagonists to the  (often not terribly evil) antagonists to the dorky omega clique is just so darned likable.

And the full range of creator John Allison's oddball comic powers are on display in the current storyline, "The Case of the Lonely One." In their second year of grammar school, our junior sleuths are introduced to Lem, who at first seems your typical loner weird kid. He smells weird, has trouble making friends, and eats nothing but raw onions (hence, the weird smell). But gradually, more and more students are drawn to Lem until he's the most popular kid in school and, to paraphrase the good Doctor, "Everyone eats onions now. Onions are cool." Star mystery-solver Shauna finds herself alone amongst the Lem-zombies and must, for once, solve a case without her friends.

"The Case of the Lonely One" wraps November 11th, and is rolling toward its final crescendo. Now we know the truth behind Lem's onion-eating, friend-stealing ways -- which have proven at once wackier and less insidious than Shauna could have imagined. It's left me jonesing for each new update -- and something about today's page left me particularly in stitches.

The Case of the Lonely One [Bad Machinery]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Best Thing Today: Lucy Knisley's House of Horrors

Lucy Knisley's latest comic essay focuses on fears -- and the relationship between supernatural fears and our honest, earthly ones. Be sure to check out page two, where Knisley has laid out a beautifully executed, crowd-sourced page featuring her readers and their fears. (Although she didn't participate in said crowd-sourcing, your faithful blogger's greatest fear may or may not be pictured at left.)

I also rather like her take on the appeal of zombie movies. Personally, I've always suspected that people enjoy zombie movies more out of a perverse idealization of the apocalypse than fear of the roving undead. Then again, I tend to have zombie nightmares.

Scaredcited [Stop Paying Attention]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gisele spins off "Eerie Cuties" with "Magic Chicks"

Did you know Gisèle Lagacé and Dave Lumsdon (Dave Zero 1) have already launched the Eerie Cuties spinoff Magic Chicks? Because this somehow managed to slip beneath my radar. The trio of witches expelled from Charybdis Heights land at the posh monster hunting school Artemis Academy, but don't quite land on their feet. Mostly, I'm excited that we get to see more of ersatz Buffy Tiffany Winters, perhaps my favorite Eerie Cuties character.

[Magic Chicks]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Quantum Vibe," "Escape from Terra," and the Future of Hats

For the past several months, I've been spotlighting speculative fiction webcomics over at io9. The genre limitation can be frustrating at times -- there are so many non-genre comics that I'd love to share to with io9's readers -- but it happily forces me to keep casting my webcomic net ever wider.

One of the comics I came across that I might not have read otherwise was Scott Bieser's Quantum Vibe, a far-future comic about a young woman who takes a job with a surly but brilliant scientist, a job that takes her out of the stagnant familiarity of her orbital city and into the larger solar system. I like Quantum Vibe because it just feels to me like a futuristic sci-fi should: filled with visual details that give us a sense of the denizens of the future without too much explanation; packed with ideas, but not overly in love with any of them; and aware that life in the future might be radically different, but people will be the same.

The commenters pointed out a couple of things about Quantum Vibe: 1) the publisher, Big Head Press, is a libertarian comics collective (which had some folks dismissing their comics as distant cousins of Atlas Shrugged) and 2) Big Head has another ongoing comic, which I must read, called Escape From Terra.

So I've finally been reading Escape From Terra. Quantum Vibe may well be an individualist comic (and interviews with Bieser about Big Head would point to yes), but where Vibe is a science fiction comic with a probable libertarian bent, Terra is a anarcho-capitalist cowboy polemic set in space.

Remember those old episodes of Star Trek, where the Enterprise would visit a planet that was completely populated by gangsters or Nazis or Roman gods? TV Tropes has a handy term for that, a "Planet of Hats." Well, Escape From Terra is a Future of Hats, a time when the solar system can be broken down into government fascists and benevolent frontier anarchists. It opens with two Terran agents of the United World Revenue Service, a corrupt arm of a corrupt Terran-based government. The UWRS sends Guy Caillard and Stellina Fiorella to Ceres, the dwarf planet of  the asteroid belt, to bring it under the UW's heel (and bring its considerable wealth into the UW's coffers). After being feed anti-capitalist propaganda all their lives, the agents find the Belters' adamant refusal of government and emphasis on capitalist work and self-reliance has left them productive and fulfilled. Ceres is a place of no poverty and little crime. It's not your Randian Objectivist worldview, mind you. Terra is pro-religion (in fact, only it's the government stooges who hate religion) and the Belters believe in charity and at least one genius entrepreneur wants to disrupt government power by -- *gasp* -- giving away his inventions for free. There is no Dagny Taggert here talking about the morality of milking your customers for every dime. But, when it comes down to it, the Belters are each Han Solo battling the Galactic Empire.

Now, there is plenty of great libertarian science fiction (my dear friend Alasdair Wilkins recently wrote a great round-up of such stories), but Terra is obsessed with patting itself on the back for its political philosophy. The anarchist characters are constantly speaking of the evils of government, and nearly every government agent is a pervert or a tax dodger. It's a shame, because this is such a missed opportunity. Terra is rollicking fun when it gets going -- as cowboy stories usually are. There are dramatic standoffs, mining disasters, space pirates who don't follow the rules of polite anarchist society. But Terra had the opportunity to contrast a vibrant anarchist society with a failing nanny state by showing the challenges and bumps in the road -- then having its intelligent, hard-working frontierspeople problem-solve their way to success. As it stands, Terra is an inversion of one of the most tedious qualities of Star Trek, where instead of being rescued by a suspiciously perfect Federation, humanity is rescued by a suspiciously perfect group of totally self-sufficient individuals.

The strike against Terra as a successful science fiction story? The characters constantly reference 20th Century pop culture, to the exclusion of any other media. I mean, if nostalgia is in vogue, fine, but why is it confined to a single era? Will future peoples concoct such dull stories that everyone in human space must constantly replay Star Wars to get their kicks?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wondermark releases the nominally-essential guide to unnecessary crafts

As Wondermark embarks on its ninth year, David Malki! has launched "Wondermark's Nominally-Essential Tinkerers' Handbook," an eight-page goof on those popular magazines for people who like to unnecessarily use their hands to create substandard goods, with Wondermark's typical Victorian (Dare I say "steampunk"?) flavor.

Sure to be a favorite at Maker Faires for years to come.

Wondermark's Nominally-Essential Tinkerer's Handbook [Wondermark]

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ask Zach Weiner Anything

Despite my many issues with its community, I spend far more time on reddit than I should, especially the community interview "Ask Me Anything" section. At the moment, Zach Weiner of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is answering questions -- apt since his new book is being released by the reddit co-founder's publishing company, Breadpig.

Ask Zach Weiner Anything [reddit]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Bucko" tips its pen to Erika Moen's octopus art

If you haven't gotten a chance to check it out yet, Bucko is Erika Moen's collaboration with writer Jeff Parker, an offbeat, Portland-based murder mystery. As I've been reading it, I've been wondering to what extent Gypsy, the main character's partner in crime-solving, is based on Moen herself. Well, the latest installment offered a clue. A gal who sells octopus art on her Etsy store? Who does that sound like?

Apropos of nothing: What's the plural of "octopus?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Cartoonist's Self-Portrait Timeline

So, I might be a little obsessed with cartoonists' self-portraits. It probably has something to do with my own lack of artistic competence. (Those who can't do, blog?) So when Jess Fink, Kate Beaton, and Carly Monardo posted their self-portrait timelines, it got my little heart pumping. It's fascinating to see how the artists' styles have been refined over time. I especially enjoy Fink's explanation of why her style changed and evolved based on jobs she had and what she was trying to accomplish.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Overzealous Middle American Book Banners

First Second has really been putting some lovely comics online. At the moment, they're serializing MK Reed and Jonathan Hill's Americus, which is due out in print this August. Neil Barton is an Oklahoma teenager making the transition from junior high to high school, but he has little to be excited about. His best friend has just been sent away and he'll be facing high school alone. His divorcee mother means well, but is overwhelmed by her new single parenthood. And perhaps worst of all, a Christian activist group is trying to ban his favorite book series, The Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde, The Huntress Wytch , a high fantasy stand-in for Harry Potter.

The early chapters of Americus have a clear villain in Nancy Burns, the Bible-thumping mother of Neil's best friend Danny. But the comic is stronger when it focuses on Neil -- his burgeoning awareness of punk rock, his silent observations of his fellow high school students -- even if the town hall meetings to discuss banning Apathea Ravenchilde are great fun, especially when the revelation of a half-dragon character in the books prompts charges of bestiality.