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Tom Heintjes‏ recently alerted me to the existence of The Strange World of Mr. Mum, a comic strip by Irv Phillips from 1958 to 1974. It's largely a pantomime strip (hence the "Mr. Mum" part of the title) in which the protagonist witnesses strange and humorous things as he goes about his daily business. The bizarre, sometimes downright surreal, happenings are sometimes credited as a predecessor to the likes of Gary Larson's The Far Side and Dan Piraro's Bizarro, although personally, I find Phillips' style of humor more in line with Charles Addams, albeit without the macabre elements. The character of Mr. Mum consistently bears passive witness to whatever events are unfolding, whereas Larson's and Piraro's characters tend to be more actively involved.

Prior to cartooning, Phillips was actually a relatively busy author, writing for motion pictures and television, perhaps his most notable work being Song of the Open Road which featured W.C. Fields and the film debut of Jane Powell. Perhaps presciently, in 1955 he also penned a play called The Funnyman in which a cartoonist who elects to discontinue a comic, much to the chagrin of the lead character in the comic itself!

In any event, I thought I'd share a few of the strips, given that most everyone under 45 probably hasn't seen these at all. They seem to have largely aged pretty well, and there seem to be a couple not-terribly-hard-to-find collections from within the past decade, so it might be something you find worth hunting for.
Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag have been working on Strong Female Protagonist since 2012. As the title suggests, the comic has a heavy feminist bent, but it never struck me as an over-powering one, just some really solid characterization with a lot of three-dimensional heroes. Derek Royal and I discussed it in depth over at Comics Alternative back in 2015, and we both liked it a lot.

And evidently a lot of other people do too. They launched a Kickstarter for the second book earlier this week, and blew past their $12,000 goal inside of one day. As of this writing, barely two days into the campaign, they're at nearly three times that amount.

This isn't a huge surprise, really. Their Kickstarter for book one back in 2014 was funded in nine hours, and ultimately brought in a little shy of eight times their $8,000 goal. Clearly there's a desire for this material.

So let's see... we've got a story about this superheroine. But she's not just saving people from burning buildings and nabbing bad guys, she's got a strong social justice warrior streak to her. The story has frank discussions about body shaming and other forms of discrimination. It's basically the storified embodiment of all those liberal ideals that conservatives seem to be railing against these days.

Which, by itself, makes the project worth looking at! :)

But the real beauty of this is that the execution is brilliant as well. It's not just someone spouting off feminist ideologies or something; everything is organic to the story. It's not preachy, it doesn't hold up conservative straw men just to knock them down; the whole thing is essentially: here's where all these liberal ideas might take us. (Wrapped up with some superhero window dressing.) And all these ideas don't take us to some perfect Utopia, but it basically shows that they're good ideas. Not just "good" as in "useful" or "beneficial" but "good" as in "ethical" and "just." And that's all presented with great writing and great art makes it that much more enjoyable to boot.

There was a meme floating around a few weeks back about "This is the future liberals want." While there were a lot of jokes circulating with that, Strong Female Protagonist really does unironically embody the future liberals want and damn if it doesn't look fantastic! Will we ever get a society that progresses the way it does in SFP? It sure as hell doesn't look like it these days, which is all the more reason to check their Kickstarter out and see where we could go!
Lonnie Blevins
Back in 1967, Wham-O set aside their frisbees and hula hoops long enough to try publishing a comic book. They produced Wham-O Giant Comics with the intention of it being an ongoing title, but it was cancelled after the first issue (probably in large part due to their inexperience with publishing, I expect). Despite it's only single issue run, it does hold a unique place in comics history.

The book clocks in at 52 pages, giving it a lower page count than the "80-Page Giants" that DC had been publishing. However the "Giant" part of the Wham-O comic's name refers instead to the page dimensions: a whopping 14" x 21"! That's larger than most of IDW's Artist's Edition books. It includes work by comic legends like Wally Wood, Lou Fine, Ernie Colon, and John Stanley, and is billed as the "world's largest comic book" with "over 1500 action panels!" Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men, is listed as "faculty advisor" and contributed a short piece as well.

What I was hoping to discover in digging around with this was why? Why would a toy manufacturer try their hand a comic book, and do one so obnoxiously large? As far as I can tell, none of the editorial staff had any previous (or subsequent for that matter) experience with comics. I've seen a couple suggestions online that posit, Wham-O was trying to cash in on the Batman craze instigated by the Adam West TV show, but I don't see any evidence of that frankly. The various comics included here are either gag strips or straight-up adventure stories; there's nothing reflective of the campy attitude from the show.

Why the series wasn't continued seems obvious. In the first place, most comics in 1967 cost 12¢ -- Wham-O Giant Comics #1 has a 98¢ price tag. Additionally, it's sheer size meant that it couldn't be displayed alongside other comics. I understand that Wham-O had to send out a custom display stand in order to hold these. Which was placed next to their frisbees and hula hoops, instead of anywhere near a newsstand.

They also spent a good chunk of money on advertising, running both radio and TV spots in at least some areas. I found copies of two virtually identical commercials...


It would seem that retailers weren't willing to work with Wham-O on this at all, and a good many of them sat in a warehouse and were eventually sold off as bulk, to be sold in discount stores for half price. I had to pay $9.00 plus shipping for mine last year.

The comics themselves are a bit of mixed bag, as with most anthologies. Even though their largest talents were considered past the primes, and not really draws in the comic industry, they still clearly had some solid storytelling chops. Not all of the stories are by those legendary creators, though.

Still, it's a strangely curious artifact whose mere existence prompts any number of questions that I can't seem to find answers for.
One reason to go to conventions is to meet up with comic creators. For fans, it's often a matter of having some personal interaction with someone whose work they admire but for other creators, it's frequently a venue for exchanging ideas and best practices. While a lot of creators do talk to each other already, a convention -- particularly a larger one like C2E2 -- can spark a lot of casual dialogue that leads to solutions to problems a creator didn't even know they had! Here's a few random nuggets I happened to pick up this past weekend at C2E2...

For artists, bring a stand-up desk. Not a full table setup like you might have at home, but something small and portable. Nathan Lueth had a version not unlike the one I have pictured here (that's not him, by the way; I just forgot to take a picture) with a drawing tablet setting on top. This is useful/beneficial because it means that, as an artist, you can work on sketches, new pages, etc. while maintaining a more-or-less level eye contact with the crowd. Often, artists have their heads down in their sketchpads and barely notice when someone's standing in front of their table. This way, with your eyes up higher, you get a better sense of people walking past and you're not completely enmeshed in your drawing. Lueth is the first artist I've ever seen do that at a show, and he expressly noted that eye contact was his primary motivation for it.

Also for artists who take commissions, it can behoove you to bust your hump getting them lined up WELL in advance of a show. I spoke with Daniel Govar, and he noted that he filled up his commission plate months in advance. This amounts to guaranteed sales. So he had all of his convention expenses paid for before he left from home, and everything he sold at the convention itself was basically gravy. Granted, not every artist wants (or is able!) to take that type of work on and Govar is well-known enough that some people seek out his work (not to mention that he's very talented) but it makes for an easier show for him, knowing that he's got everything paid for and he doesn't have to hustle every single moment of the show.

Also, it's important to not only know the audience for any given show, but to know if that audience changes during the course of the convention. In the case of C2E2, Saturday was particularly busy (off-the-record guestimates I heard put it 15% higher than last year) at least in part because of the Stan Lee/Frank Miller panel that day. There were a lot of superhero fans in that day. Sunday, by contrast, was billed as "Family Day" and there were a larger-than-typical number of small kids around. Which might be problematic if you have material that might be rated PG-13 or higher. I know John Blevins mentioned that he had keep a close eye on his who was looking at his material and gently dissuade some kids from looking at it, because it's probably a little too violent for them.

By contrast, a vendor whose name I didn't catch went completely ape-shit on a parent who was letting his ten-ish year old daughter just randomly mess around with his display. I suspect screaming at the father and saying his kid was going to become a "trashy cocksucker" because he "let her do whatever the fuck she wanted" probably didn't go over well. Obviously, the parent quickly dragged his child away, but I wouldn't be surprised if a complaint was lodged with ReedPop who, in turn, might not let that vendor to any future events. I'm not suggesting you need a degree in psychology to deal with obnoxious children at a convention, but a modicum of tact might be the wiser course of action for the sake of your bank account.

More generally when it comes to setting up a table, don't build side-walls all the way to the end of the table. Some folks erect some kind of frame that stands at the very edge of their table, and hang merchandise on it, taking advantage of the extra vertical space. While this does provide more surface area to showcase work, it also creates a barrier to people seeing you until they're right in front of your booth. This limits the ability of people to scan an aisle from one end to try to get a sense of who's down that way.

Heidi MacDonald, Brigid Alverson, and I were debating why so many creators going to Kickstarter for the first time don't ask for help. Particularly those in webcomics, as it tends to be an open community when it comes to knowledge-sharing. We didn't come up with anything definitive, but I suggested that there may be some degree of intimidation? I saw a panel this weekend in which a new creator got up from the audience to ask a question, and basically just thanked Lucy Knisley for being a source of inspiration -- but had trouble doing so because she was fighting back tears the entire time. You could tell she was profoundly affected by Knisley's work, but she was embarrassed and scared to even acknowledge that to Knisley. That, to me, doesn't sound like the type of person who would be comfortable going to someone like Knisley and asking for advice.

Speaking of crowdfunding, the two biggest categories (in terms of dollars coming in) for Patreon are podcasts and webcomics. Make of that what you will. Also Patreon-related, breaking the $1000/month threshold catches Patreon's attention; they listen a lot more closely to those folks.

I'm sure there are tons of other business lessons to be learned just by keeping your eyes and ears open on the convention floor, but this is just a quick sampling of what I picked up while I was on the floor this weekend.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Recap
http://ift.tt/2oBNQ29

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: Try to Keep Up
http://ift.tt/2pJGusR

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: PvP
http://ift.tt/2oRzeOy

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links
http://ift.tt/2oUXUWf

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Inspiration
http://ift.tt/2pBIZ4b

Kleefeld on Comics: On -isms: Black Ink
http://ift.tt/2oOgeA9


Look, I've been travelling all week and will be rolling into C2E2 almost as soon as I step off the plane on the way home, so today let me just point you to Black Ink, a documentary that's being Kickstartered right now. The movie examines "the contributions to the comic book industry by people of color." But we're less than two days before the campaign is over and it's still a few thousand dollars shy of being funded. (At least as of this writing.) I put in $100 -- what can you chip in?