A month ago I made my way to a small, one-day comic convention in New York: the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. It’s a pretty new con – this was only its second year – but it attracted a great variety of talent.
I drove part of the way there, but parked in Connecticut and took the train into NYC. I noticed that there was a book rack placed in the train station by the local public library:
A closer look revealed that all the books on the rack were romance novels:
Perhaps that’s what the library expects train riders will want to read. I did not pick one up, myself.
I rode the train into Grand Central, then took a couple of subways to get to Williamsburg. While walking to the convention site, I saw an interesting Orthodox church:
And also this graffito beyond a freeway overpass:
I wonder where Eggyolk was, then…
Here’s the venue that the show was held in, another church:
Specifically, the event took place in the church’s gymnasium and cafeteria. Here’s the exhibit/signing floor in the gym:
There were a couple of tables on the stage at the far end. I took another picture from the stage:
It’s a bit hard to see the layout of tables in these pics, partly because the place was so crowded. Attendees filled the room all day.
There were a few people I wanted (and got) to see there, starting with Jason Little:
I had picked up the first book of his comic “Bee” back in 2003, and then had lost track of the comic. It turns out, he had only just published the second book, so I picked up a copy from him. Haven’t read it yet, but I really enjoyed the first book, Shutterbug Follies, which is about a woman working in a photo lab who stumbles on a crime plot from clues in negatives that are dropped off.
Also there was Kate Beaton, whose archives I have now read. I was going to buy the book collection of her strips from her, but she didn’t have copies with her. Instead, she had a minicomic containing newer strips, which I bought.
Yes, I seem to have taken pictures of the tops of people’s heads.
Kate said I looked familiar, and I mentioned that I had volunteered at NEWW the previous month. On the back of the minicomic she sketched me and wrote a thank you for volunteering! She may not remember that I messed up her line management, but she probably wouldn’t dwell on it anyway.
The always funky Lynda Barry was there, so I got to meet her for a second time:
She has a new book out about creating art, to go with her previous one about writing. I now have both in my “to read” pile.
I got a few comics signed by Paul Pope, who I had met once before:
And then there was the one creator I most wanted to meet there: someone whose work I’ve been reading for more than 2 decades, but whom I’d never gotten to meet before. My main reason for attending BCGF was to see:
Bill Griffith. If you aren’t familiar with Zippy the Pinhead, well, it’s probably the most surreal strip you’ll find on the newspaper comics page, and one of the most satirical.
Down in the cafeteria, below the gym, they had a section with food being sold and a separate panel area. I went to 3 panels during the day. The first was basically a conversation between Lynda Barry and Charles Burns, who were classmates in high school and college.
My favorite moment from this panel was Barry being asked about a lot of recent collage work she’s done, and her anecdote from her childhood about that. She said she spent a lot of time cutting pictures out of magazines her mother (who worked in a hospital) brought home from work. When she was bored or feeling bad, she would do things like cutting slits in a picture of Beefaroni and then have cut-outs of different famous people rise up from the pasta and slide back down into it. It never failed to amuse her, and I can see why.
The second panel I went to featured Evan Dorkin and Paul Pope, and they were supposed to be joined by an old industry veteran Irwin Hasen to discuss his and other artists’ comic work from earlier decades. Hasen was unable to make the con because of illness, and though I’m a fan of the two remaining panelists, they failed to hold my attention much.
Look, I was so bored, I couldn’t be bothered to hold the camera still! 😉
The third panel had Bill Griffith on it, so I wanted to hear him speak, though the subject was the comic strip “Nancy”, which I’ve never been a fan of.
It was okay, and though I’m still not convinced by the panelists that “Nancy” is one of the greatest strips ever, they did show some funny examples of it and other Ernie Bushmiller work.
I left the convention shortly after that last panel, and went in search of dinner. That ended up being at a little Turkish restaurant where I got some decent (but not great) falafel, hummus, and grape leaves. On the way, I was asked if I was Jewish by a man handing out literature (I admitted that I’m not). It appeared that the local Chabad organization was doing this as part of Chanukah, and they had a large menorah on one street corner:
After dinner, it was back on the subway, back on the train to CT, and then back in the car to home. In between subway trains, someone in front of me on the platform noticed a rat crawling around on the tracks, and declared that she had now had the full NYC tourist experience. Indeed.
Another comic review tonight: for several years I had heard of, and had recommended to me, the comic Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio. I finally started reading it about a year ago.
Like Runners, this started out as a print comic, and later moved to the web. For some time now it’s been posted a page at a time, three times per week. Both of the Foglios write the script, with Phil pencilling and inking the art, and colors by a third person (the colorist has changed over time – currently it is Cheyenne Wright).
One could maybe call this a science fiction comic, though I think fantasy would be a better way to put it (the creators use the term “Gaslamp Fantasy”, in fact). It falls into the subgenre known as Steampunk, though to my recollection there’s a lot more devices in the story that are powered by wind-up clockworks than by steam power, but that’s neither here nor there. What makes it not so sci-fi for me is that there is little attempt to explain how any technology works, or to make it at all realistic (it’s more ‘mad science’ than anything else).
That said, it is a very enjoyable story. It takes place in a fictional 19th century Europe, much of which is unified under the rule of one Baron Wulfenbach. The main character of the series (the titular smart woman) is Agatha Heterodyne, who has grown up thinking she’s an ordinary citizen, only to discover that she is what is referred to as a Spark (basically, a somewhat unhinged savant), and that she comes from a rather infamous family. What ensues are her attempts to stay alive and out of the Baron’s custody while figuring out more about her past and her abilities.
The series is a nice blend of high adventure with really goofy humor, and the particular cartoony style of the art lends itself well to the humor. The comic has an almost epic scope, with a lot of characters, but even when things are fairly serious, some of the characters provide good comic relief (especially the Jaegers, a breed of humanoid soldiers who place particular importance on hats). This comic, like Galaxion, features a large cast of strong female characters, but there has been a tendency to draw them in a somewhat more revealing or cheesecakey way some of the time (though I think that tendency has lessened over the years).
Most readers of this blog probably already read Girl Genius, but I certainly recommend it for those who haven’t checked it out.
Here’s another review of a sci-fi webcomic. This one is Spacetrawler, by Chris Baldwin. I’ve been reading Baldwin’s comics for darn near a decade, and he’s one of my favorite cartoonists. (as an aside, I got to meet him for the first time this past weekend at NEWW, but the details of that event will be in a different post).
Chris has done a number of comic strips in the past, the two major ones being Bruno and Little Dee (which are each currently being rerun with commentary). Spacetrawler is different in that it’s a graphic novel being posted one page at a time rather than a single strip each day (which can stand alone even if part of a longer storyline). The plot in Spacetrawler concerns a half dozen Earthlings who are enlisted (kidnapped, really) by aliens to help free an exploited species known as the Eebs. Nogg, the captain of the ship and leader of this mission, has an elaborate plan – with which things keep going wrong.
This is another comic in which I really enjoy the alien designs. Some of them are patterned after Earth animals, but others are imaginative. What’s also great about Spacetrawler is that Baldwin infuses it with serious politics and conflict, as well as with wacky humor (the sense of humor here is similar to that in Little Dee, though aimed at a more adult audience). He’s always been able to mix comedy, drama, and tragedy in effective ways in his comics.
This is another series with very distinct characters – humans, other species, and robots – with one of the neat (and very funny) things being the different ways in which each human reacts to their newly expanded reality.
If you read only one of the comics I’ve recommended so far this month, I’d advise that it be Spacetrawler.
Here’s another sci-fi webcomic review. Galaxion, by Tara Tallan, concerns space exploration and a mission to test an experimental interstellar drive (after 2 previous experiments met with failure).
This comic is one that was first published as a print comic series in the 1990’s, but Tallan relaunched it on the web a few years ago, rewriting much of it and redrawing it from the beginning. I’ve read both, and it’s interesting to see some of the plot points she changed, but I won’t get into spoilers here.
The story has a lot of elements of mystery/suspense to it, as there is much that’s unknown about what happened with one of the earlier drive experiments. What makes it compelling is the clash of different characters, especially as the captain of the ship being used for the experiment (the Galaxion) has to deal with her civilian crew of scientists and researchers being commandeered by the military.
There are a number of very different characters in the comic, many of them defined by their jobs on the ship. One of the neat things is getting to see some of the everyday life of the crew. Another interesting point is the ship’s survey contact team, who are trained in various aspects of contact with new life forms, though in the story’s history of human space exploration only one other form of sentient life has ever been encountered (and these folks haven’t gotten to meet those life forms).
I’d also call it a feminist comic, as most of the characters are strong female ones, including the main character (a contact team member), the ship’s captain, the general leading the mission, and the contact team leader.
If you like lightly techy sci-fi with a lot of interpersonal dynamics, occasional silliness, and a slowly unfolding puzzle, check out Galaxion. Plus, this week you can see Tallan’s blog entry about her kid’s Dalek costume. 🙂
It’s been quite a while since I last posted here about a webcomic that I read. Since the last time, there are a few I’ve picked up, and I’ll be posting about them this month.
Up today is Runners, by Sean Wang. It’s a sci-fi comic, with a partial adventure, partial comedy bent. The main characters are a group of freelance smugglers (known as “runners” because they run contraband around the galaxy), who find themselves getting somewhat in over their heads on what ought to be routine jobs.
The series was originally published as black and white print comics. There were 5 issues in the first storyline, which were then collected in a trade paperback. Wang made the decision around 2 years ago to make it into a webcomic, so he started republishing the original issues online, one page every weekday for several months. Once that completed, he started a second 5-issue story arc in full color, which is currently in issue 4 (it was 2 pages a week for a while, now down to 1).
The aspect of the strip that I think I like the best is Wang’s alien designs. He’s got a few humanoid characters in the mix, but most look very different, and he’s very careful to think about designing clothes, weapons, and other tools that fit well with the varying anatomy of his characters. It makes for a well-built world that sucks you in easily. It’s also refreshing that human types aren’t the main or even a main force in the galaxy. Almost anyone the reader meets who’s in charge is a non-human.
The writing is also strong, with characters having very distinct personalities (even the minor ones) and good chemistry. There’s also a really fun sense of humor pervading the series. It isn’t just funny, though, and Wang does still manage to have some emotional impact, and even some overarching menace lurking in the background.
I highly recommend Runners for anyone who likes humorous science fiction or adventure stories. Check it out.
Last month I attended the first ever New England Webcomics Weekend (NEWW).Â It was pretty fun.Â It was billed as the first comic convention (in the U.S anyway) that was all webcomic artists – nobody who works mainly or solely in the print realm.Â Given how popular webcomics have gotten this decade, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been an event like this before.Â What’s been interesting to me, in fact, is the way that webcomics have had a presence at various kinds of fan conventions.Â They’ve been at comic conventions, sci-fi cons, anime cons, and even some computer/software cons.Â They seem to appeal to a wider audience that comic books typically have reaching perhaps the kind of audience that newspaper comic strips have in the past (of course, as the newspaper industry seems to be dying a slow death, those strips’ audience is shrinking).Â Now a critical mass has been reached or passed, and webcomics fandom itself may spawn multiple gatherings (there’s already talk of doing something similar in the Pacific Northwest).
Check out the NEWW site to see who was there (it’s a long list).Â Don’t bother checking out the forum on the site – it was overrun by spammers just after the event happened.
I volunteered to videotape a few of the panels.Â Below are links to the stuff I recorded – 2 panels and the webcomics awards ceremony.Â Each video is broken into parts because of YouTube’s time limits.Â My apologies for the lighting in some cases – I had no control over it.
Panel: Print vs. Web vs. a Bear
Panel: Creative Partner Newlywed Game
Webcomics Awards Ceremony
Let me mention another online comic. Dicebox is a comic I’ve been reading for just over 5 years now, and it is a planned long-format story (it’s just about 25% of the way finished currently); you could call it an online graphic novel. As to genre, it might best be called anthropological science fiction. It follows 2 main characters, Molly and Griffen, who move from planet to planet in search of work but with seemingly no overarching plan for their lives. There are certainly interesting aspects to the worlds they find themselves on, as well as interesting technologies, but this comic is all about character development and interactions. 5+ year in the reader is still finding out stuff about the characters all the time, and the creator, Jenn Manley-Lee, is great at writing her characters, dialogue, and situations.
What I really love about Dicebox, though, is the art. It’s beautifully toned, as though it were painted. In fact, while she pencils the comic by hand, the coloring is all done in Photoshop.
This past December, she announced that she wouldn’t be updating for a few weeks, but offered that the first dozen or so people who e-mailed her could get custom watercolor
images of characters from the comic for a mere $15. I jumped at the chance, and actually got in under the wire.
I asked simply for Griffen wearing the long coat that can be seen on the comic’s front page and in the first chapter.Â The painting I got is below (click image for a high-res version):
I particularly like the flower petals.
This is a quiz I found via Kevin’s blog. The result is interesting, since I’ve never read the book.
You’re The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!
by C.S. Lewis
You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you’re re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
I’ve updated several pages on my website over the last few days, which included adding links to some webcomics that I hadn’t linked to before.Â I’ve also added links to these in the blog sidebar (over there on the left and scroll down a bit), but I thought it would be good to give them some explicit recommendations in an entry.
First up, I’ve had Shaenon Garrity’s comic Narbonic listed on my comics recommendation page for quite a while, but haven’t had her in the sidebar.Â She has several strips that she’s done online, som in collaboration with others.Â This seems like a good time to list her, as she has a new strip that started 2 weeks ago, called Skin Horse.Â I’d give a description of the strip here, but it’s a bit hard to categorize as yet.Â There’s certainly a sci-fi element, and it’s humorous like all her work, and this one is rather surreal so far as well.
Next, I had heard about Questionable Content for a while, but just started reading it about 4 months ago.Â It took about a month to get through the 1000 strips.Â Jeph Jacques (pronounced ‘jacks’) is the writer/artist, and he lives in Easthampton, an adjacent town to me.Â The strip is sort of romantic-comedy-slice-of-life-indie-music-fan type stuff, if that makes any sense. Â It also seems to take place in a world just a little different from our own, as there exist little sentient robots known as AnthroPCs.Â The strip has well-written characters and is often really funny.Â The strip also spawns various T-shirt designs, which Jeph sells on the site.
Last, but not least, is Templar, Arizona. Â Spike is the name of the artist, and she is wildly hilarious.Â This strips cracks me up to no end much of the time.Â The setting of the strip is a fictional city in a sort of alternate history Arizona.Â The rest of that world might resemble ours, but not so much Templar.Â This is another comic with excellent characters, whose personalities contrast withÂ each other greatly, but where details of the city and backgrounds are very important as well (so don’t just pay attention to the people).Â I actually discovered Spike a few years ago when she had a different strip running on Girlamatic, and have been following Templar almost since it began.Â Besides her wonderful writing, I love her art style – lots of heavy lines and subtle sepia tones over grayscale.
Another quiz, again discovered on Matt’s blog (and I like his result better than mine).Â My post title refers, of course, to this movie (hmm, which is actually from ’79 – oh, well).
Your Score: Ray Stantz
168 Heart, 154 Genius, 128 Cool, 156 Excitability
Dr. Raymond Stantz – (Dan Aykroyd)
You are Ray Stantz! The heart of the Ghostbusters. You’re well-meaning, smart, and you have a childlike sense of wonder about the world. You might get taken advantage of, every once in a while, but it’s okay… You’re doing your part to help save the world.
“Gozer the Gozerian… good evening. As a duly designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension.”
Other scientific possibilities:
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