Contemplating what makes a good comic convention.

I am sitting in a hotel room in San Jose, contemplating the con I came down here for after awakening from a dream of Cthulhoid entities draining many of the better characteristics from my friends in the furry scene.

APE was too big. I want to give it a little slack for just having moved from San Francisco to San Jose and needing to attract a local audience. But to be honest, it was too big last year. The number of people I saw passing by my booth never really approached feeling like a bustling con.

I want to contrast it to SPX, since that’s fresh in my memory and I did much better than I normally do – I sold out of my usual pile of Rita 1 on the first day, while not even selling a dozen copies of it over APE.

In terms of vendors, one thing I realized was super unusual about SPX was its tight focus. There was nobody with a wall of unlicensed prints of Marvel and DC characters. Nobody with a bunch of still images. Every single table had comics on it. In most comics shows I go to these days, there’s a dilution from “people selling comics” to “people selling art”. (And to “corporations promoting their movies” but we’ll stay away from that issue.) I was across from a couple of people selling prints of super flat, cute art. I saw one person at APE whose booth was filled entirely with drawings of corporate superheros crying, all drawn in the style of a FunkoPop figure, all in pretty much the same pose.


Seriously, their whole booth was this. There was also someone with a print wall of corporate characters as Minions. I wish I was making that up, but I am not.

That person also had several people in front of their booth when I passed by, so I guess that shit sells, but geez. That is like the Platonic ideal of an SDCC artist alley booth. What’s that doing at the “Alternative Press Expo”? It’s spreading the money thinner, and increasing the cultural footprint of stuff owned by Warners and Disney. I’d say maybe a quarter to two fifths of the booths at APE were selling prints, rather than comics, with a lot of them having no small amount of corporate stuff.

If APE was stripped down to about, oh, two-thirds of its size, by removing everyone not selling comics, with the same attendance, I think it’d be a much healthier show. Of course all the people who were disinvited by doing this would bitch a blue streak! But really I think it needs to be stripped down to about two-thirds of its size anyway to better distribute the amount of money its attendees are willing to spend.

(I am, of course, biased. There is a part of me that wants to go to every single person with a wall of prints and say WHERE IS YOUR COMIC WHAT IS ALL THIS OTHER CRAP. Especially when they are someone doing flat art; seriously I am pretty much the only person I have ever seen with a flat, no-lines sign who actually has a comic for sale instead of a lot of standalone drawings. I really want to go shake those people because I want to read more comics that make my eyes happy.)

Anyway. I didn’t make enough money at APE to even pay my hotel, much less my other expenses. I don’t think I’ll be back for a few years until I hear it’s got a much better ratio of attendees to booths.

(There are also rumors that Disney is going to start cracking down on people selling unlicensed Marvel stuff at the big cons, which might have an overall cascade effect on the entire comic convention scene. It’d be nice. But I’m not going to hold my breath.)

But let’s contemplate some numbers and see if they match my intuition: ~200 exhibitors at APE2015; no attendance numbers yet. The only numbers I can find is 6100 in 2013. Although interestingly enough, SPX2015 had about 200 exhibitors as well, and the only attendance numbers I can find are “over 3000” in 2012. I’m pretty sure they had more in 2015, the place was pretty damn full, but I wish I had some actual numbers to compare. Because holy shit SPX sure is doing something right and I would love to see more non-megacons doing the same thing.

(Actually I think it would be pretty interesting to see what happens if a medium-sized comic con made the explicit rule of “no megacorp character stuff”. If your table has that stuff you’ll be asked to take it down. If you’ve got nothing but you’ll be asked to leave, with no refund. Again, I have an obvious bias here, what with having all of two prints of corporate properties in my body of largely original work.)

My verdict on APE: show there if you can drive in and stay at a friend’s place.

I drew a comic about some music.


So one of my comics idols, Matt Howarth, did this thing where he’d draw these little comic strips about music he was listening to, and stuck them in the back of his comics. He called them “Sonic Curiosity”, and these things got me to try out a lot of music I wouldn’t have ever heard of otherwise. (He’s still doing this now and then online, as a matter of fact.)

This is me sitting down with the latest album by one of those musicians and doing my take on the idea.

Dead Planet is the second side of a double album. The first side is “Human Upgrade”, in which the alien wants you to have an awesome high-energy dance party. The whole package is ten pounds – about sixteen bucks American – on Bandcamp. I liked it enough to draw this while listening to the second half.


A while back – I think something like a year ago, maybe longer – I got pointed to a call for submissions for an academic journal. The “Transgender Studies Quarterly” was doing an issue called “Tranimalities”, themed around, well, honestly, teh furreh. And even teh postfurreh.

So on a whim I submitted a short B&W comic Nick and I had done a while back for the Anthrocon conbook. I gave it a pseudo-academic title. They accepted it.

And I got my contributor copy today.



I briefly flipped through it after opening the package. Holy cow is it full of academia. I will need to sit down with a stiff drink before trying to actually read most of the articles in this thing.

If you want a physical copy of this sucker, you can order one here.

If you’re just interested in my comic, it’s right here on my site.

I got a comic about a catgirl turning into a robot spider into a serious academic journal. I can’t help but feel like this means I am winning at life.


So you want to do a graphic novel. That’s great! And you think you have the writing and drawing chops to do it all by yourself. That’s great too!

But if you want it to be entirely painted, and your only idea of how to write is to throw a few characters into a situation and see what they do, you’ll probably never finish it.

Because comics take a lot of time. And comics don’t pay very well. And shit happens.

Figure out where your story is going, and how to get there in about 200 pages, and find an art process that won’t take too much longer than the pencil and inks of the B&W days. Or you will never finish your story.

(Me? I’m 10-20 pages away from finishing Decrypting Rita. It’ll be 200-210 pages, depending on if I decide to do the epilogue I’ve been debating the need for. But my mother dying kinda took the wind out of my sails for a bit. I’ll probably get back to it soon; I’ve been working on it fairly frequently for four and a half years now, and comics are kind of my day job thanks to Patreon.)

Ozymandias (again)


I’m still working on this adaptation of ‘Ozymandias’ as a dry run for ‘Drowning City’. The script font may need to be a little larger to be legible, and I’m not as sold on the sans-serif font for less floridly-delivered dialogue as I was in my initial doodles. That’s why I’m experimenting!

The painterly tricks, however, are definitely holding up. This takes a lot less time to draw than you think it does.



Bayeux: horizontally scrolling comics for Comic Easel.

I have decided to package the custom theme I use on Decrypting Rita into something that other people can hopefully use.

This is the first release, and still has a few things hardwired for my comic – if you’re afraid of editing a few bits of text in a PHP file, and poking at some CSS, this theme is not yet for you. Check out the readme.txt in the archive for more details.

The name, of course, comes from the Bayeux Tapestry, which presents the story of William the Conqueror in the form of one very long horizontal scroll. Scott McCloud cites it as one of the precursors to what we call “comics” in his book Understanding Comics; it’s arguable whether something lacking the modern innovations of “panels” and “dialogue balloons” qualifies as “comics” but it’s definitely “sequential art”!

Anyway. Good luck; let me know if you get it working on your site. If you can’t then I may try to help you out but no promises – those pages of Rita ain’t gonna draw themselves!

(And if you add in controls for the stuff I didn’t, please toss me a copy of your modifications – I like it when other people do my work for me!)

“manga” vs “comics”

I was looking at a thread on DA started by a girl who wants to make manga. Someone was saying “geeze, you're Western, use the Western word, call them comics”. Which I personally tend to agree with. But I started thinking about who tends to say “I want to make manga!” Instead of “I want to make comics!” and why. This is the response I wrote…

To American kids who grew up reading imported manga, “comics” means “those superhero things sold in those weird shops full of creepy old dudes”, while “manga” means “stories about things I can actually give a shit about”. Especially if that kid is a girl. American comics are really not friendly to women; manga are. You can get manga with female protagonists very easily; this is incredibly rare in American comics, and finding one who doesn't look like a twelve year old boy's porn fantasy is even rarer. I think it is very telling that most of the kids I see saying they want to make manga rather than comics are girls.

And while there are certainly Western creators who are Asian-influenced, if your work looks pretty much exactly like Asian comics, you're not going to have any luck getting published by anyone but a publisher who specializes in amerimanga. Publishers have limited resources, and often tend to focus on a specific sort of work – it's not just “is this great” but “is this something we actually know how to market” and “is this something we, personally, love enough to put our time into”.

That said, it grates on my ears to see American creators calling their work “manga” instead of “comics” too. And if an American who comes from a manga-reading background wants to sell their work outside of anime cons, they'll want to start calling it “comics” eventually. Or maybe a “graphic novel”, which is free of a lot of the superheros-for-little-boys stigma. But then again I formed my opinions in the 80s B&W boom, when “comics” meant more than just “creepy superhero stuff”.

anyway they both suck bandes dessinėes are where it's at :)



Stuff I doed this weekend:

Worked on the roughs for my contribution to my anthology. What I outlined as 8 pages currently occupies 19 pages of rough layouts, and will probably end up being 21-22pp. Working in a digest size just throws off my calculations! I might try to edit it down a little in the process of going from roughs to finished pages; I’ll see how it reads. It’s only a rough draft of the dialogue right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there end up being panel rearrangements along with reworking the words.

Went to Jason’s and talked about his plans for the future of Foolscap, a somewhat moribund little Seattle con he’s going to be the chairman of for next year. Then we played “Netrunner” a couple of times. The first time I died after the second time I threw myself at his ice; the second time came down to some very tense headgames when we were both one point away from the win and he had two systems that may have been traps and may have been points. He won – but then again I’d gotten to a point where I was spending several turns just taking money from having the “Great Work” card in play, and had all but maybe 10 of the money tokens available in the game! I declared that this meant I’d basically retired from console cowgirling after my startup went big, and was keeping a hand in for amusement. (I also had fun spinning tales of what taking money from a “day job” card entailed.)

Went to an actual concom meeting for said con.

Went to a Metafilter meetup. Got there late, joined in on the tail end of a game of “Cards Against Humanity” which… wow. I think that game loses you purity test points. Good stuff for playing over a few intoxicants, and one of the very few games where having art on the cards would probably hurt it. I think Erin was threatening to bring a copy to Rainfurrest or something?

Also I need to remember to get Nick to take a reference photo of me for one tough pose in that anthology story when he’s over here this weekend,

and also

After wallowing mindlessly in a pit of Gantz, I grabbed a smaller sketchbook and started roughing out pages for my contribution to the anthology I’m doing. Which is why I made the post about the Andrew Lang [COLOR] Fairy Books; I was skimming through them looking for inspiration for the title, based on the half-remembered fairy story I’d cross-bred with a setup swiped from Xxxenophile. So far I’m up to the end of page 2 of my 8-page outline, which is turning out to mean I’m up to page 4 of my actual thumbnails. Not surprising, really, given that I’m using a small format.