The webcomics blog about webcomics

The Last Time A Celebrity Death Felt Like This, It Was Jim Henson


Jim Henson, or maybe Mr Rogers.

Leonard Nimoy died today. He cast a long shadow over the culture of the past 50 years or so, and as such was known to show up in webcomics from time to time with nary a word of explanation. Nobody needed to be told who Leonard Nimoy or Spock was, they’re ingrained in us, almost as birthright.

When the news came down the other day that he was ailing and admitted to the ER, I figured the end would not be far off; as such I took particular comfort in the last part of the first sentence of his obituary at the Times:

… died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.

I’m glad to hear it made it out of the hospital and back to his family, glad to hear that he didn’t run out his time attached to tubes and machines. We were better for the example you set for us, Mr Nimoy, and hopefully we’ll be wise enough to remember those lessons and their teacher. Thank you.

posted by Gary Tyrrell on 02.27.15 @ 1:53 pm | 0 Comments

Welcome Returns


  • Kickstarter’s back! That’s not the odd part, that sound of a million webcomickers sighing in relief. What’s odd is the progression I’m seeing on the TJ & Amal Omnibus, which I promised a prediction based on the Fleen Funding Formula (mark 2) today.

    I’ve been refining this thing through several revisions, and I think the current model based on the Kicktraq trend value at the 24 – 30 hour mark is as accurate as anything is going to be. I had to come up with the limitation that it’s not appropriate for low backer counts (under 200 in that 24 – 30 hour period, it just doesn’t work), and I think that TJ & Amal and another recent campaign are going to cause me to find some new limits.

    In the case of TJ & Amal, that’s a hell of a drop-off from day one to day two; granted, some of that is undoubtedly due to the Kickstarter outage yesterday, but still. In campaigns where the FFFmk2 has worked well, there’s a day two drop off that ranges from slight (ex: here and here) to about a third (ex: here or here). Where the dropoff is more severe, the formula doesn’t work well.

    Which brings us to TJ & Amal, where numbers have dropped heavily from day one (day two: barely 15% of day one) and new funding has essentially bottomed out. My thought process is as follows:

    • The TJ & Amal campaign launched as close to midnight EST, meaning day one was a full 24 hours. Had it launched later in the day, there may have been a more equitable division between the first two days; at 13 hours, it was at about U$29K, which would have made the day 1/day 2 split closer to 66%/33%. Still a steep drop, but not the 85%/15% split we saw.
    • But even that drop would have put this campaign at the outer band of confidence in the formula. I think we may have seen an unusually-strong early response, due to the limited nature of one of the rewards (creator EK Weaver is printing 750 copies of an epilogue for the strip; this likely provided an incentive for most everybody that might have backed gradually over the 30 day campaign to get in early and ensure they’d get a copy).
    • TJ & Amal doesn’t just have fans, it has superfans; my impression is that there aren’t any casual readers of this strip. It’s your absolute favorite, or you were never going to buy the collection anyway.

    Which I think is going to add another usability limitation on the FFFmk2: An excessive day two drop (let’s say more than 50%) will make it non-predictive. I suspect at this point that TJ & Amal will creep up slightly, maybe adding another US$10K to its present total of US$45K, but not cracking the range of US$175K +/- 35K that the math would have indicated.

    Then again, it may get a weird late bump and meet the predicated range after all, but what I’ll really need are another dozen or so campaigns that meet the 200 backer limit, have day 2 totals under 50% of day 1, and the classic Kickstarter bowl-shaped progress curve. I don’t know what I’m going to do with multi-peak campaigns¹, and other such strange curves.

    And as long as we’re on the topic, I’m not sure what to do with the Camp Weedonwantcha campaign: it launched just before the Kickstarter outage — no doubt affecting day 1 totals — and the day 2 totals are not likely to get above the 50% threshold. Then again, the Penny Arcade marketing machine has not yet been fully brought to bear, so while we could have another strange curve ahead of us, I think this one will be explained more by super-high tiers getting snapped up.

    As of this writing, Katie Rice has 10 (of 20 max) backers at the US$250 level, 5 (of 5 max) at the US$500 level, and 3 (of 5 max) at the US$1000 level. Fewer than 5% of her backers acted quickly to get those high-value rewards, and contributed a full 26% of her funding total; that skew can’t be maintained, which means I may need to add a consideration for super-high tiers to the formula. It’s getting tougher and tougher to come up with a single calculation to predict Kickstarter success, but hey — all of these projects met their goals several times over, and that’s something to celebrate right there.

  • Also something to celebrate? The long-awaited return of the Goats website, with strips running from November 2003 to April 2010, six and a half years of glorious madness rescued from the aether, missing only the story guide I penned for Jon Rosenberg about the time he bought my soul. And just in case you wonder if Goats is still relevant, given that the last of the 1100+ strips here is nearly five years old, I will point out that just last week I saw a Republicans for Voldemort bumper sticker in the wild.

    And remember: the appearance of this revived website — like unto the breaking of the seven seals the the blowing of the final trump — is the harbinger of a resurgence in the very finest of beer-driven webcomics². Five years of bouncing around the multiverse won’t have made the story that Rosenberg still wants to finish any less weird. The End Times are a’coming³, and we get to go along for the ride. Testify.

Spam of the day:

… I am the sales manager at ******* Marketing. I was just looking at your Fleen: Try Our Thick, Creamy Shakes » I Would Vote For History’s Greatest Villain¹ If She Could Break The Spine Of This Winter website and see that your site has the potential to get a lot of visitors.

Wow. Wow. That was just pathetic. Try again.

¹ See also: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which would have been predicated to hit US$32.5K +/- 6.5K, and actually achieved US$61K thanks to a last-week surge. Multi-peak campaigns play hell with the predictions.

² And in case you’re wondering where the black and white strips back to 1997 are, they’re still there at the Wayback Machine. Start here.

³ Okay, fine, The End Times were a’coming in the past and must have been successfully averted because check it out: we’re still here!, is that better? Rosenberg can still tell the story of how the end of the universe was resolved. Sheesh.

posted by Gary Tyrrell on 02.26.15 @ 2:50 pm | 0 Comments

Well, This Is Unfortunate


There were going to be some Kickstarter stories — like the launch of a campaign to fund Camp Weedonwantcha’s first print collection, or the FFFmk2 on the TJ & Amal Omnibus — but it appears that Kickstarter itself is having a bit of a wobbly.

It’s not clear at this time how the failure of access is going to affect projects; TJ & Amal has a project page that loads very slowly, but shows no activity (likewise, the Kicktraq page countdown timer is stuck at 28 days, 9 hours, 53 minutes), the Camp page doesn’t want to load at all, and I’ve had no luck connecting to my account’s current activity. My best guess is that KS will offer to extend all campaigns by an amount of time equal to the outage, but that’s just a guess. Likewise, the cause of the outage is not known publicly at this time, but I think we all know it’s due to too many awesome ladies making webcomics collections.

  • So what can we talk about today? How about an already-funded project that was on a different site? The first collection of Stand Still, Stay Silent funded out in October, and it was known that the books would not be shipping for a while because they would be including Chapter 4, which Minna Sundberg didn’t complete until the end of November. As it turns out, the books are going to be a bit later than originally expected, for the very best of reasons:

    I didn’t want to promise anything until I knew just how long chapter 5 would end up being, because if it ran too long I simply couldn’t include it due to the added weight/shipping cost. But now I know the final page count, and with the book clocking out at around 320 pages (instead of the previous 260) I have made the informed decision to throw in this fifth chapter too.

    So instead of a 260+ page book, Sundberg is giving us a 320+ page book, making your contribution a full 25% more valuable. Yay!

  • I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up, but there have been two updates to Boy On A Stick And Slither this week, on Monday and today. I am cautiously optimistically that these strips — apparently the first since the June of 2011 — represent a return of Steven Cloud to cartooning, and as such I’m removing the indefinite hiatus annotation from the blogroll over there to the right. Everybody feel good for Cloudy!

Spam of the day:

Monoplex lignarius is a species of predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Ranellidae

Congratulations, random spammer! You have lifted text from perhaps the most content-free Wikipedia page ever, lacking even basic copy for nearly four years.

posted by Gary Tyrrell on 02.25.15 @ 1:51 pm | 0 Comments

Y’all Sure Are Upholding Roddenberry’s Vision Of A Better Society, Good Job


Apart from the garbage people coming up from out of the floorboards to tell Jon Rosenberg that he’s a blasphemer, heretic, apostate, and filthy SJW¹ for his extremely mild jab at Star Trek, is it a good day to for good news about webcomics creators? I believe that yes, yes it is.

  • For starters, the invaluable Jim Zub has posted another in his series of studies of the economics of creator-owned comics; the key takeaway from this one is how much the market has changed in the couple of years that he’s been sharing data. Zub’s gracious enough to talk about the work that Image (his publisher for creator-owned work) has put into building up the market, identifying it as the second of six key factors for the relatively greater success of Wayward over Skullkickers.

    In fact, if we take the ordering of his factors as significant, he cites Image as being more important than his own efforts in three areas: his higher career profile, retailer outreach, and press outreach. I think he’s being too modest here, as even the best company — and by all indicators Zub clearly thinks of Image as being a near-ideal fit for him — will never care about your career success more than you do. Choosing to work with Image is one of many things that Zub has done right, and I am hammering on this point because I don’t want (and I suspect strong that Zub doesn’t either) anybody to read his piece and conclude The secret to success is getting in at Image.

    It’s not. The secret to success is hard work, improving skills, becoming a known quantity (not the least, becoming known for meeting deadlines and publication dates), and a hell of a lot of luck. If the secret to success was landing at Image, we’d have seen issue #2 of Nonplayer by now. The success of Zub in comics is 90% attributable to Zub; or as he puts it for those who read the entire thing:

    In the end, I think that’s what creator-owned comics are all about – charting your own destiny and growing creatively with each new project.

  • Speaking of building success on past success, Spike is doing well with her plan to turn Iron Circus Comics from the company that publishes her comics and the anthologies that she leads into a publisher of other creators. Case in point: the Kickstarter for ICC’s first non-Spike project, an omnibus edition of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by EK Weaver, has been … well, let’s let Spike tell us in real time:

    the TJ & A omnibus Kickstarter project will launch in five minutes! Just putting in the media credits.

    Jesus Christ Whisper Grass [a 20-backer limited reward at the US$75 level] didn’t last FIVE MINTUES

    Jesus it’s at over 5k and I haven’t even told tumblr yet


    Four backer levels sold out within a half-hour of a Kickstarter’s launch” is a new record for me.

    50% funded in an hour good lord

    This Kickstarter is funding faster than the original Smut Peddler KS!


    Please note: this campaign launched at midnight East Coast time, and funded entirely by 6:00am; a lot of people went to bed before funding launched and woke up to find it already over goal. As of this writing, some 13 hours after launch, the omnibus is sitting at a hair under US$29K (call it 156% of goal) and 565 backers. Yeah, it’s not going to be the next Exploding Kittens², but come back tomorrow and we’ll see what the Fleen Funding Formula (mark 2)³ has to say.

  • How about a simple story, something with no math or numbers? The Bram Stoker Awards (from the Horror Writers Association) have announced their nominees for 2014, and in the comics category (or more officially, Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel) we find one web/indy creator competing against the likes of Joe Hill and Paul Tobin. I speak, naturally, of Emily Carroll, recognized for Through The Woods, described on this site as the most frightening book I’ve ever read, and for good reason, too.

    Here’s hoping that the HWA members are diligent about reading the nominated works and here’s hoping that Carroll wins, because if there’s something out there more spooktastic than Through The Woods I’m not sure I want to know about it. We’ll find out on Saturday, 9 May, when the Bram Stoker Awards are handed out in conjunction with the World Horror Convention in Atlanta. Try to remain calm until then, and remember — there are things that lurk under the bed, in the closet, and behind the walls.

Spam of the day:

This is the place where I started out also it would have been a great start for you as well.

Yes! All my efforts have come to fruition, people are starting here and then going out into the world to spread my word.

¹ Social Jew Warrior.

² That already launched today: the new version of the Pebble Watch, which is at $4.5million (or #8 most-funded of all time) and climbing a few hours in. In a month, we seem certain to have a new #1, although the relatively high price of entry means it probably won’t displace the Kittens from most-backed.

³ Which, because I just realized I never followed up on my prediction for funding: Exploding Kittens closed with US$8.782 million in funding, just inside the range of US$6 to 9 million that the FFFmk2 gave us. As a reminder, the FFFmk2 states you take the Predicted Value of a project at the 24-30 hour mark from Kicktraq and call that PV. The range at close will be PV/4 +/- PV/20, but has only shown to be valid for project with at least 200 backers at calculation time.

Yes, something like Exploding Kittens produces a fairly wide range, but US$7.5 million +/- US$1.5 million is as tight as we can make it with current Day One technology.

posted by Gary Tyrrell on 02.24.15 @ 1:55 pm | 1 Comment



I am having a serious amount of creator-love for Abby Howard these days.

In the past couple of weeks she has posted (by my count) five comics, all of which are certain to have made people uncomfortable. Two of them were updates to The Last Halloween, which is always unsettling and creepy, the fun way that being scared and then coming out the other side is entertaining.

The other three — two updates of the mostly-autobio Junior Scientist Power Hour, one guest update at Oh Joy, Sex Toy [there’s going to be a link below, which may or may not be safe for work] — are likely to have unsettled people more, because they aren’t about ghosts and ghouls and creepy things that don’t really exist.

They’re about things that we, as a society, try to pretend don’t exist, things that are getting right up in our faces and saying Shhh, shhh, it’s time to be quiet now. They’re about how fat women exist, in defiance of cultural norms and desire of people to correct their flawed existence, and how some of them have sex. The fact that that last link is actually about explaining BDSM best practices is going to be less shocking to a lot of people than the fact that it features a woman who is not model-thin.

Howard has done a huge service to a bunch of people who never would have thought twice about these issues¹, and she’s done it by sharing herself with the world. Or, to put it another way, but making herself a target for the trolls and assholes of the entire damn internet. I suspect that the trolls and assholes will have difficulty dissuading Howard from continuing to exist as she does. To quote:

And don’t worry guys, I wouldn’t be making these comics if I was super miserable. I am feeling great about myself right now, so there’s no need to send me cheer-up messages or anything, I know I am rad and beautiful.

I don’t know how many people will change behaviors or attitudes based on what Howard’s shared, but she’s given me a lot to think about. As the token skinny-ass member of a family that tends towards the definitely chubby, I’m probably better than most about not regarding fat people — especially fat women — as inherently disgusting and worthy of shame-slash-disregard. Which is to say, nowhere near as good as I should be; it’s still too easy to fall back into denigration patterns when I don’t know somebody personally¹.

As somebody with a bit of medical training, I’m also aware that despite the fact that in terms of population and probability, the correlations of obesity and some pretty terrible health problems are well established, the weight:healthiness relationship is very much particular to the individual. There are people who need to drop a vast amount of weight or they are going to stroke out, soon. There are people who are carrying extra mass and are perfectly healthy.

That being said, I have not always done a good job of avoiding uncharitable thoughts about those who I have to carry down staircases and around tight corners when they are on the higher end of the weight scale. In my defense, when it’s just your 60kg (130 pounds) ass and one partner at three in the morning and the stretcher that’s rated for patients up to 160kg (350 pounds) is audibly groaning with metal fatigue, you are naturally going to think of the 50kg (110 pounds) patient from earlier that night as your very best friend. I try to channel my feelings into a dislike of gravity rather than people.

Or to finally get to the point: thanks, Abby. You’ve very generously given the world a lot to think about, and I suspect your radness and beauty will cause some people to change for the better.

Spam of the day:

Oprah, Kill Starch Absorption. Drop 22lbs in 4 weeks.

Your spam looks even stupider for being sent today than it would have otherwise. Try again.

¹ I’m trying, but habits die hard; it’s taken me most of the past year to limit my criticisms of my governor vis-a-vis his weight. He’s a bully, a hypocrite, morally bankrupt, and probably criminally corrupt, but those things have nothing to do with being a fat guy. If I slip up, call me on it.

posted by Gary Tyrrell on 02.23.15 @ 1:39 pm | 0 Comments

Wow. Just Wow.


When I pointed out yesterday that it was possible for Exploding Kittens to pick up some US$600K in seven hours to become the #3 most funded Kickstarter of all time, I wasn’t entirely convinced. But there it is¹, and with just shy of 220,000 backers (Heck there were more than 200,000 in one reward tier) it has set a support record that is not likely to be broken for a long damn time. Now let’s just hope it’s as fun to play as we’re all betting.

But first, let’s let the team of principals — Elan Lee, Matthew Inman, and Shane Small — have the weekend to not think about this project, its enormous community, and the immense task they’ve taken on of making sure everybody’s happy². Lee estimates that will take him the next two years.

  • Hey look at that — the Nebula Award nominations are out and Ursula Vernon recognized the Short Story category for Jackalope Wives, a cracker of a tale about skin-walking and Vernon’s latest excellent take on a feisty wise old woman (cross reference here). I haven’t read the other nominees in the category so I can’t say that Jackalope Wives is the best story in the bunch, but it is damn good and worthy of your time.
  • Uh-oh. Howard³ is planning something. Take care around your wallets, whatever he makes is going to look alway appealing, and it’ll no doubt regular readers & book buyers to make new purchases, and then he’ll do the I got paid three times dance. Last time that happened, I had to buy him a smoothie while we dodged a massive zombie walk snarling the Gaslamp district of San Diego.

Spam of the day:

Online Married Ladies Seek Immediate Offline Boinking*.

I do not want to know what kind of clarification is hiding in that footnote.

¹ And there’s still a week or so before the final figure gets adjusted due to failed payments.

² Which may be considerable. How many people in the world do you figure are complete and utter dicks about the smallest things, the ones who will complain and whine and make your life miserable, particularly if they figure that you’re faceless and remote and have infinite resources and why are you oppressing them? One in a thousand? One in two thousand?

By those extremely optimistic projections, Lee & Company will have to deal with literally hundreds of miserable sumbitches on the internet. Delivery delayed by a day? Box a little dented? Color scheme not perfectly as imagined? They’re going to be dealing with that for potentially years, so it is my sincere hope that the EK team spends at least 10% of the funds raised on whatever they find pleasurable and distracting.

³ Evil twin, etc.

posted by Gary Tyrrell on 02.20.15 @ 2:39 pm | 0 Comments

Developing Stories


It’s Thursday. We could all use a little uplift today, so let’s look at some critical and popular successes.

  • Following up on yesterday’s story about The Sculptor becoming a movie, we have the closest thing we’re going to get to an insider view of what happens when your creative child gets adopted by the studio system.

    Lucy Bellwood has a unique point of view on Hollywood — her mother is a script analyst, and her father one the screenwriters of Highlander¹, so she can tell you from long experience what Hollywood bought your thing and now it’s going to be a movie! is like, and she shares it in comic form at The Nib. It’s not pretty.

    Don’t get me wrong; should a movie of The Sculptor actually ever be made — and that’s years down the road at the very least — I will be there on opening night, happy to see what got made. But unlike a big-screen version of characters defined with broad strokes and a few zillion plotlines to mine (see: any superhero movie), a story with a beginning, middle, and end is far more likely to end up significantly changed². I’m cautiously optimistic, and overwhelmingly glad that the movie version won’t ever cause the print copy to disappear from my bookshelf.

  • In about eight hours, we’ll find out exactly how huge a success the Exploding Kittens Kickstarter has been. As of this writing, they are probably going to cross the US$8 million mark in the next hour, and are about 500 backers from the 200,000 threshold. To put those numbers in perspective no wait scratch that, in the time I took to write that sentence things have changed. Literally in the two minutes that I looked away from the campaign page, the funding level jumped by about US$40,000 and the backer level by more than 800. They’re now over eight actual megabucks and 200K backers.

    To again attempt to put that in perspective, Exploding Kittens has the #4 all-time highest funds raised record on Kickstarter (and it’s not inconceivable it might raise the US$600K to become #3) and is by far the most-backed project ever. Right now, Exploding Kittens has eclipsed the Reading Rainbow (formerly #1) backer count by not quite 95,000 people, and has an even shot of outright doubling the onetime record.

    Here’s hoping that whole West Coast port-worker slowdown thing is resolved by the time that Exploding Kittens gets put on a container ship (I am presuming it will be printed in China, but with this kind of money, stateside manufacture might actually be economically possible), because otherwise a few hundred thousand pissed-off nerds are gonna be looking for some longshoremen and stevedores to beat up until their rewards fall out.

Spam of the day:

Oprah prevents carbs

I’m speechless. Who knew that Oprah could operate at a metabolic level?

¹ The good one. Also, sadly, the sequel which was … yeesh, not good.

² Please, and I say this as somebody who enjoys his movies for what they are, don’t let Peter Jackson anywhere near The Sculptor.

posted by Gary Tyrrell on 02.19.15 @ 1:31 pm | 0 Comments

If I Were Him, I’d Be Shopping For Helicopters And A Better Class Of Friends


Of course, I’m not Scott McCloud (for which I think we can all be grateful), and he is a far nicer person than I am. And lets face it: with the byzantine practices of Hollywood accounting, it’s unlikely (and that’s a damn shame) McCloud will be be joining the ranks of the super-rich anytime soon.

But I may be getting ahead of myself. There’s going to be a movie made of The Sculptor.

When I saw McCloud’s talk at the 92nd Street Y, he did mention in passing from the stage that he wouldn’t mind a movie being made of The Sculptor¹, should that ever happen. He didn’t give any indication that a deal was in the works, but I find it doubtful that negotiations took place and everything approved in the two weeks since, especially since he’s been on the road. Doubly especially because this looks to be an actual movie deal.

Everything I am about to say should come with the obvious disclaimer that I’m not an agent, a lawyer, a studio head, or in anyway knowledgeable about how the entertainment industry works, apart from what I’ve read in Brian Bendis’s autobiographical Fortune & Glory. To wit: studios spend time and money to lock down story rights, both because they might want to make a movie, but also to prevent others from doing so. Snagging the rights is known has an option, and it doesn’t mean that anything will ever be made. In fact, people have had a tidy income sustain over decades because some studio or other keeps paying out occasionally to renew an option, but never actually goes to production.

How long ago did we hear about the right to BONE and Amulet being sold? Answer: a little shy of seven years. That’s the way the entertainment industry works, and more power to Smith and Kibuishi for getting checks and not seeing a butchered-up version hit the big screen that looks terrible (cf: The Last Airbender). A’course, it’s possible for good adaptations to hit, and sometimes even in a timely fashion, when the right combo of studio desire, director, and idea converge (cf: Scott Pilgrim vs The World).

What I am saying here is that The Sculptor looks like it may be more the latter than the former, because that story doesn’t talk about Sony just picking up the rights; it talks about Sony picking up the rights with specific producers attached. And while these things take time and The Sculptor does not have a director, a script, a cast, or an IMDB page yet², it has cleared more hurdles than most would-be movies ever will. What do you think? Joseph-Gordon Levitt as David (alternately: Jason Schwartzman), Ellen Page as Meg (alternately: Anna Kendrick), Donald Sutherland as Uncle Harry (alternately: Stephen Root)? And if we could get Kenneth Branagh to direct? That’s worth my twelve bucks.

In other news:

  • Ryan North gets meta.
  • I thought for sure that I’d previously mentioned that the makers of the Dr McNinja’s Legendary Showdown game had announced last year that they’d be making an expansion pack with Girl Genius and Gunnerkrigg Court as the themes, but it appears that I did not. Well, the Kickstarter campaign has launched for what may be played either as an expansion or a standalone game, by nam is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.