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Despite the general assumption that all comics fans are also into movies and video games, I generally only maintain a passing awareness of either, mostly due to my social media feeds. Interestingly, I'd been seeing some renewed interest in Valerian (or Valerian and Laureline -- evidently, the name changed partway through the original series) going back at least several months. And the instances I'd caught of it were in reference to some of the similarities between that comic and the original Star Wars movies. I didn't pay much heed at the time since I'd seen the argument years earlier -- probably when the prequels first came out.

More recently, I'd seen the title surface again. I'd generally assumed it was from some recent reprintings of the material, and I'd started thinking maybe I should track a copy down sometime. It wasn't high on my list, but it was top of mind enough that when I was scanning through my bookshelves for something else last night, the title stuck out. (As it turns out, by the way, the real reason it's been getting more attention lately is that there's actual a feature film of Valerian due out next month! Like I said, I maintain only a passing awareness of movies.)

Apparently, I have in my collection the three volumes Dargaud published in the early 1980s. I presume these were books my father had in his collection before he passed it on to me, and I'd only noted them enough to get them alphabetized on my bookshelf.

I point this out for a couple reasons. First, it's a good example of why you should keep your collection organized! If my books were just in any old order, I probably would not have stumbled across them. Second, this is why I don't purge my collection, even though it takes up an increasing amount of room. I never know when and where my research will turn, and it makes it easier to follow up on research quickly and easily if you don't have to hunt through bargain bins looking for that one book that you didn't know you needed, and is now hard to come by because of renewed interest thanks to an impending movie.

I have no idea if the movie will be any good. I literally found out about it just before writing this post. But regardless, thanks to setting up my own collection as a working library, I can at least get the basic concept and judge for myself how much the Lucasfilm team were influenced by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières.
Many people have noted over the past couple years the wide array of great comics we're seeing these days. I talked to a couple people at CAKE who expressly said that the show has always had some excellent comics being shown, but this year, everybody seemed to have upped their game; there were now a bunch of really great comics in addition to the truly excellent ones.

I'd recognized this trend, but didn't give it much thought. What little thought I did afford the idea went to the internet; that is, the web has provided a lot more people the opportunity to showcase their talents, and social media has allowed others to quickly and easily share their discoveries. But yesterday, Derf Backderf pointed out another (in retrospect) blindingly obvious reason we're seeing so many great comics...
What he's saying is that having access to healthcare has allowed a number of people who were not creating comics before to start creating them now. Whether that's because they didn't have to hold a regular, 8-to-5 job they hated just to have healthcare, or they could now afford to have medical issues taken care of that had prevented them from creating comics previously, or some other comparable situation. Basically, having access to healthcare allowed a large number of potential comic creators become actual comic creators.

The American Health Care Act, if passed, will effectively dismantle Obamacare (and Medicaid and Planned Parenthood and...). There is literally no health care professional who has supported this because it will -- and I say this with no hyperbole -- cause people to die. Not to mention the untold thousands who will be thrown into bankruptcy.

You know, one of the arguments anti-abortionists use to try to bolster their case: what if an aborted fetus would have been the person to discover a cure for cancer? What about these people who can't get health insurance outside of Obamacare? What if one of those people has the cure for cancer? Or you know what, let's keep it within comics. What if one of those people is the next Jack Kirby? Or Will Eisner? Or Winsor McCay?

Contact your representatives, regardless of which party they're in. If they already oppose the AHCA, congratulate and say you support their efforts. If they're backing the AHCA, tell them how/why they'll be killing their constituents. Call them, fax them, go to their offices, do whatever you need to do to make sure this bill does not pass.

Even if you don't want to do it on moral grounds, do it for the selfish reason that you want to see more great comics.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: Make Work & Show It

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: When Did Ben Grimm Take Up Flying?

Patreon: MTV Geek Classic: Kleefeld on Webcomics #6: The Difference Between Webcomics and Digital Comics 

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Teaching Webcomics

Kleefeld on Comics: On -isms: KS Gold

Patreon: MTV Geek Classic: Kleefeld on Webcomics #7: Creating a Webcomic 

Kleefeld on Comics: On Strips: What a Crappy Thursday!
So here's what I caught in the news yesterday...This was all yesterday, and that's just the bullshit I happened to catch! I was stuck in meetings literally all day. I am so pissed at everything right now, I don't have any real capacity for cogent thoughts on comic strips. So instead, today, I'd like to share some of the day's strips that I tried to use to make me not feel like leaving the planet...

OK, I just went through the day's comics and didn't even crack a smile. Probably more reflective of my mood than the talents of the creators. So instead, I'll post those comics that I found interesting, clever, and/or insightful. Hopefully, the country won't have completely collapsed by Monday, and I'll be in a better frame of mind to talk about comics.

This week, Kickstarter launched a series of special "Kickstarter Gold" projects. Basically, they went back to the folks behind successful campaigns and asked if they wanted to revisit their projects. They run the gamut from comic books to music to technology to typography. Here's how Kickstarter describes their "Gold" concept...
From June 20 through July 31, we’re spotlighting new projects by exciting artists and makers who use Kickstarter to sustain their creative independence.

Why? Because repeat creators are an integral part of the Kickstarter ecosystem. In fact, a third of all pledges to successful projects —over $1 billion since 2009 — go toward projects by creators who have run two, three, four, or even 100+ projects.

We selected Kickstarter Gold creators for their creativity, ingenuity, and success using the platform. They’ll be making new works inspired by their past projects, so backers can discover extra-amazing ideas, plus special rewards that aren’t available anywhere else.
Now, what I find interesting is that a number of the projects are the creation of traditionally sidelined groups, i.e. everybody except straight white men. What I don't know, but would be interested to discover, is how the demographics of these creators lines up with the demographics of all successful KS creators. That is, are POC (for example) more represented in the "Gold" category or is there simply a higher percentage of POC creators utilizing Kickstarter than the overall population.

Either way, the answer would be interesting and enlightening, I think. If there are more minorities represented in "Gold" than we typically see in Kickstarter, that would suggest the people at Kickstarter themselves are intentionally trying to foster inclusivity and diversity by selecting minority creators. If, on the other hand, the overall population of Kickstarter creators tends to favor minorities more than broader population demographics would suggest, this would imply that these minorities aren't finding other venues where their ideas might be accepted, and have turned to crowd-funding because traditional gatekeepers are keeping them out. This would further suggest that Kickstarter itself is a very agnostic platform; they don't care who you are, just do something cool.

Again, either way, the answers would be interesting, since Kickstarter is one of the top comic publishers these days.

The "Gold" projects seem to all be doing very well in general, but I'll end today with a specific plug for one of my favorite projects that, as of this writing, hasn't quite met it's goal yet.
The basic history of the Fantastic Four is relatively well-known. Four people, experimental starship, cosmic rays, super powers. Pretty simple and straight-forward. The story was fleshed out over the years. Reed Richards and Ben Grimm were revealed to have been college roommates. Dr. Doom was included in the mix later. Reed having met Sue Storm when he was boarding at her aunt's house came later still.

It was in Fantastic Four #11, though, that we first learned that Ben was an accomplished pilot before their fateful starship ride. Later stories would expand on the adventures he had in the Air Force and/or Marines (both have been cited at various times) and we've seen a pre-cosmic-rays Ben fighting alongside Logan, Carol Danvers, Nick Fury, and Capt. Savage at various points. By pretty much all accounts, Ben was a very talented and famous pilot. His adventures with Capt. Savage came about because he was specifically targeted and captured for his skill in shooting down enemy aircraft. So that Reed would come back to his friend years after college to fly this starship makes sense.

But it just dawned on me that there's a weird little wrinkle that was added back in 1983. In Thing #1, they elaborate on Ben's backstory considerably, going into detail about seeing his older brother killed and his time in the Yancy Street Gang before eventually getting to college. It then covers Reed and Ben's first meeting and, as they're introducing themselves to one another, we get this exchange...
So, I got to thinking: why suggest that he'd fly it? Of all the ways to respond that would provide some level of snark, why specifically "I'll fly your rocket ship"?

If someone tells you something you deem far-fetched, it's not uncommon to respond with something you might consider equally implausible. And typically, you'd want to keep your comeback thematically similar...

"I'm a Saudi prince."
"Yeah, well, I'm the king of Spain."

"I build car engines that run on water."
"And I make solar powered flashlights."

"I'm dating Chris Hemsworth."
"And my wife is Scarlett Johansson."

You keep the same idea in your retort. Whatever it is that you claim to do or be should follow the same line of thinking as the original statement. So if Reed says, "I'm going to build a rocket," a typical retort might be "And I'm going to build a Mars rover" or "I'm going to build a space station." (Bear in mind that both of these were still science fiction in 1983.)

The other likely response is to extrapolate and exaggerate your own self to the same extent that you think the other speaker is. If someone claimed they were going to be a first round draft pick in the NFL next season because they play high school football now, you might come back with the claim that you're going to win the Noble prize for literature because you got an "A" on that short story you wrote for Mr. Reynolds' English class last semester. Or if someone says they're going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because they play in a shitty bar band, your response might be that you're going to win an Olympic gold medal for figure skating because you're a pretty good player on the local ice hockey team.

It's the second concept that seems to be where Ben is coming from since he certainly isn't mimicking Reed's basic structure. But if Ben's suggestion that he fly a starship is an extrapolation/exaggeration of his current abilities, he must have some flying ability at this point, right? If you had zero experience flying anything at all, you wouldn't make that joke. Being a football player, he might've gone with, "You build that rocket an' I'll punt it into space myself!" Or maybe going back to his Yancy Street days, "You build that rocket an' I'll cut anyone who keeps ya from launchin' it!"

But, no, he went with the notion of piloting it. This would suggest Ben already knows how to fly a plane at this point. Perhaps he didn't have his actual pilot's license, but at least the basic knowledge and skill with only some additional flight time and/or a written test remaining.

Although Reed is later identified as being 18 when he met Ben, Ben's age is never expressly noted. Presumably, he's around that age as well, but given his problematic days as a youngster, he may have been held back a year or two in school. (It's also possible that he took some time off between high school and college, but given that he had a football scholarship, this strikes me as unlikely.) Ben's expressly noted as having a layabout father who didn't bring much money in, so flying lessons seem out of the question before his parents died and he was taken in by his Uncle Jake.

So was that something his Uncle Jake did for him then? Give him or pay for him to take flying lessons? Did Ben actually have a pilot's license as a teenager? Did years of experience flying before even getting into the armed forces help propel him up the ranks faster than others that entered around the same time?

It's an absurdly minor character point, and based off one line of dialogue that was probably written with more foreshadowing in mind than anything else, but an interesting notion to think about nonetheless. Well, interesting to me at any rate!