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Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: Success in 2016

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: Environmental Origins?

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Communication Channels

Kleefeld on Comics: On -isms: Jurying Philosophy

Kleefeld on Comics: On Strips: Catharsis

One of the "problems" with newspaper comics is a lack of immediacy. That is, because of the lead time needed to get the comics from a cartoonist to seeing print in a newspaper, there's at least a minimum of two weeks before a cartoonist can comment on current events. (Although, frankly, with today's technology, I strongly suspect that could be cut down considerably if any cartoonist or syndicate really was interested in doing so.) But that's why so many strips avoid the issues altogether and fall back on relatively innocuous and staid gags.

Interestingly, though, with President-elect Trump's almost daily bouts of absurdities, he's quickly becoming a figure cartoonists can rely on for ongoing parody. It seems like he's been nominating another racist for yet another cabinet post every other day, and making absurd, unproveable claims just as frequently.

Since I, like so many others, are still processing how so many racist fucktards are willing to send this country to hell for the increasingly futile-looking hope of "draining the swamp", it's refreshing to be able to see some catharsis through newspaper strips, a venue not normally associated with processing the daily news. To that end, I've collected a minor sampling of this week's newspaper strips commenting on some of this political bullshit.

I may have modified the caption on Family Circus to hurry my own catharsis along.
The original deadline to apply for CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comic Expo) was originally November 28, but it was recently extended to December 12. I want to highlight that this week, in part because it's just a really good show in my neck of the woods, but also because it has a tendency to be a very inclusive show. (Which is actually part of the reason why it's so good in the first place.)
The official description of the show, from their website, reads...
The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) is a weekend-long celebration of independent comics, inspired by Chicago’s rich legacy as home to many of underground and alternative comics’ most talented artists– past, present and future. Featuring comics for sale, workshops, exhibitions, panel discussions and more, CAKE is dedicated to fostering community and dialogue amongst independent artists, small presses, publishers and readers.
That doesn't do the inclusive angle justice, though. If you've attended the show in the past, you know what I mean.

The show is actually a curated one, meaning that every application to table at CAKE is assessed individually and scored and only the top scoring folks get in. Last year, they had a little shy of 600 applicants for about 100 slots. But rather than limiting the decisioning of who gets in and who doesn't to a small handful, the number of jurors scoring those applications is around 150. And because they have so many jurors, they have a formal, written Jurying Philosophy. It reads, in part...
We hold ourselves to a broader standard than personal aesthetics in order to create the diverse and representative festival for which CAKE has become known. Additionally, CAKE strives to be a demographically inclusive show that reflects, encourages and advances the full diversity of artists working in our community.
The appreciation of diversity and inclusiveness is baked into CAKE. It's part of the formal recipe of how to bring creators in. (Don't worry; I'll stop with the puns now.)

The organizers at CAKE have done a fantastic job over the years. I wasn't able to attend until its third year, but they clearly had things down really well by that point, and it's only improved every time I've went since. It's very evident that they really just want to put on a great convention for folks who like independent comics. The only real complaint I've heard is that attendees don't have enough money to buy all the cool stuff they want.

But making a concerted effort to make the show a diverse one on top of that adds to the impressiveness of the show. I've noted several times before that I want to read stories that provide a viewpoint other than that of a cishetereo white male, and because of their deliberate focus on bringing in diverse creators, there is plenty of that at CAKE. And while I know that's not the express goal of every convention, I'd love to see more shows take a more formal approach to inclusion and draw in a wider array of creators.

So, hey, any con organizers out there wanting to do that? Talk to these people!
A lot of what we experience as kids impacts us as adults. I sometimes find myself wondering why I like or dislike a particular thing, or why I grew up to think a certain way -- what did I experience as a child that impacted me in a way that would cause me to think/feel as I do today? When I stumbled across my old copy of Justice League of America #90 the other day, I realized that probably was the first major encounter I had with environmentalism. I probably haven't cracked it open in thirty, maybe thirty-five years, so I decided to re-read it to see what exactly may have struck a chord with me.

As it turns out, I must have totally mis-read the issue as a kid. It wasn't really an environmental story at all, despite my recollection of it being one. Probably due in large part to the cover. The gist of the actual story is the military (it's never specified which branch) dumped a bunch of "obsolete" poisonous gas into the ocean just to get rid of it. The dumping happens to crush the sacred "Proof Rock" of the underwater Pale People, and one of them takes that as a sign to use the gas to conquer Aquaman's Atlantis. They quickly take over, but the death of an Atlantean found on the shore alerts Batman, Superman, Hawkman, Green Lantern, and Atom to a potential problem. The heroes go save Aquaman and take back Atlantis. Hawkman then instructs the Pale People how they might use the broken Proof Rock in a different manner than before.

There are a number of problems with the story. The two beach-goers who find the dead Atlantean immediately recognize her as such, with no indication of how since she looks exactly like a human. How the Pale People go from having a boulder crushing their Proof Rock to using the gas weapons (which they'd never actually seen) to conquer Atlantis isn't really explained. How a gas weapon even works underwater is pretty murky as well. And somehow the Proof Rock becomes a Proof Rock Plant at the end of the story, and Hawkman seems to think that eating it is a sign of the faith they must have in their own souls. How do Hawkman's wings work underwater anyway? Batman is actually absent for most of the story because he's off searching for Flash, whose "special services" he suspects "will be needed on this case" -- um, since when does Flash have any powers that are unusually useful underwater? Not to mention a number of other smaller assumptions and leaps of logic writer Mike Friedrich seems to make.

But, hey, it was 1971. Comics were still considered kids stuff and not given a lot of thought. On the plus side, there's a moment of gravity and emotional realism towards the end. After the Pale People are defeated, Green Lantern notes, "Looks like everything's okay now!" to which Aquaman goes off about how 43 people died...
The next page shows Aquaman and much of Atlantis attending a mass funeral. So big props for including that sequence showing actual consequences.

But the various storytelling problems, I think, led to my thinking it was more actively an environmental story. I thought the Proof Rock had been destroyed by the gas itself after it had been dumped, not some boulders that had been knocked loose by the gas canisters. The couple panels later of the Pale People letting loose the gas were drawn in such a way that I didn't really make the connection that they had fully harnessed the gas as a weapon; I think I must have thought they were only redirecting the already exposed gas.

I suppose I must have read more into the cover, and made some assumptions about the story itself based on that. And I wonder if that's why I'm not more of an environmentalist. I got the basic message I think cover artist Carmine Infantino was trying to convey, but since it wasn't well reinforced by the contents, it only left me with a base level concern as opposed to being more activist about it.

Or else it had no impact at all, and I got whatever concerns I have from other sources entirely. Regardless, I do find these types of inquires interesting to explore, even if they don't turn up any conclusive proofs.
Back in September, Lucy Bellwood spoke at the XOXO in Oregon. It's a very powerful piece about what she was taught about success, what success feels like (to her), what success looks like from an outside point of view... Well worth your time to listen, in part for the courage she shows by talking so frankly.

One piece that stood out for me is that she considers 2016 to be a very successful year for her. In part because her latest book, Baggywrinkles, has been selling well but as a result of that, she's been able to get off food stamps. That was her big success. Success meant being able to make a living wage as a cartoonist.

Now, I don't know how many of you have been following Bellwood's career -- I first heard of her when she joined Helioscope Studio in 2014 -- but she's been kicking all sorts of ass* from a creative perspective. She's one of the most talented and hard-working young cartoonists I've seen in recent years. Easily the most enthusiastic! And it's still taken her several years of working as a dedicated cartoonist before she could get off food stamps. Basically just enough to earn a living.

How many creators do you know under 30 who can say that today? I can point to a number of webcomic artists who earn a living off their work, but they're all well into their 30s or beyond. I think Erika Moen may have been self-supporting before she got out of her 20s, but I'm guessing a bit there. I'm sure there are others, but my point is that it's not uncommon for a cartoonist, regardless of how financially successful they might appear from an outside point of view, to still hold a job as a barista or whatever throughout their 20s.

And what kind of shit is that? That people who love comics so much they want to dedicate their lives to them, and they have to struggle just to get enough to eat. Would Bellwood have been able to pursue her comics with as much conviction if she weren't able to rely on food stamps for so many years? How many comics aren't we seeing at all because a talented cartoonist can't even do that well?

That's comics makers too! How do you suppose comics news outlets fare? (Let's just say that there's a reason there aren't many dedicated comic news sites.)

Keep in mind, too, that during the past eight years, most economic indicators (GDP, job growth, unemployment rate, etc.) have improved far past what the hole the last recession threw the country into. By most accounts (certainly all the ones economists tend to look at) the economy is the best it's been in years. And yet, for a cartoonist, "success" is not needing food stamps.

I noted a couple weeks ago how I thought we'll see a gutting of social services like the food stamp program that helped keep Bellwood afloat. This is the thin line that cartoonists deal with on a daily basis -- how to get by while still creating comics. If one of those support structures gets pulled out before a cartoonist has stabilized their income as a cartoonist, they're going to switch to extra shifts at Starbucks. This is why those social programs are important. This is how close cartoonists have to skate to the edge to make art. This is why they're thankful for the two dollars you dropped on their minicomic.

No single individual can reasonably support ALL the cartoonists out there. But the few bucks you're able to send towards a cartoonist you like can make a world of difference because, yeah, despite how the world should work, things really are that tight for them.

* Perhaps I should use the more piratical "booty" to keep with her general appreciation of nautical themes.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

FreakSugar: Fanthropology: A Broadening Base?

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: Freelancer Suggestions

Jack Kirby Collector: Incidental Iconography

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: Bill Gaines, 1991

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Helping Others

Comics Alternative: Our Fourth Annual Thanksgiving Show

Kleefeld on Comics: Thanks, 2016 -- Bite Me!

Kleefeld on Comics: On Strips: Marketing Question