Fleen Book Corner: Keeping Up With The Future Joneses



About two and a half months ago, I noted that a new book was a-bornin’ and to be with us soon: one on possible futures, featuring a dozen comics creators (or creator teams), talking about what the World Of Tomorrow might be like. I’ve now had a chance to read Flash Forward: An Illustrated Guide To Possible (And Not So Possible) Tomorrows by Rose Eveleth¹ and a murderer’s row of comics talent, with editing by Matt Lubchansky and Sophie Goldstein; many thanks to Maya at Abrams Books who was kind enough to send me a hardback copy.

On first glance, Flash Forward looks a fair amount like Soonish by Weinersmith & Weinersmith, which is unsurprising as Zach Weinersmith is a contributor here (with old stomping buddy Chris Jones on art), talking about Fake News and the death of The Real. The key difference is that Zach & Kelly Weinersmith were looking at specific technologies and looking as what stands between us and them; Eveleth, et al, are looking more at societal trends, and extrapolating out what culture might look like if they continue to their logical conclusions.

Eveleth has provided a outline of the direction of travel, and left it to the comickers to determine what they want to talk about; different people would focus on different aspects, and Eveleth, Lubchansky, and Goldstein have done a great job of matching up the particular cartoonist with a topic they could really sink their teeth into.

Case in point: Ben Passmore, whose work explores the reality of being Black, looks at the future of smart homes integrated with smart cities (with damn few civic services, but everything available for hire, with a convenient monthly bill) and asks who gets to participate. The inability of facial recognition systems to distinguish nonwhite people necessarily poses the question: what happens when your car hire/grocery store/home/city decides that it doesn’t know who you are, so you don’t get a ride/banana/place to sleep/right to exist?

Other creator/topic pairings include:

  • Julia Gfrörer on algorithmic art and art for algorithms
  • John Jennings on the cost of pharmaceuticals leading to IP piracy in order to live
  • Sophia Foster-Dimino on animal rights, and the slope between the abolition of meat, the abolition of zoos, and the abolution of pet ownership²
  • Box Brown on the implications of absolute, measurable truth
  • Maki Naro on dealing with legal conflicts in space, which has no law
  • Kate Sheridan on uploaded consciousness and delaying the sting of death
  • Ziyed Y Ayoub and Blue Delliquanti on gender being as changeable as hairstyle
  • Amelia Onorato on living and working on/under the sea
  • Lubchansky on how eliminating the need to sleep would upend work and leisure
  • Goldstein on how entertainment personalities (already subject to parasocial relationships) could become entirely personalized to the individual audience member via data, personality modeling, and AI³

Eveleth provides an essay to accompany each vignette, providing context and reinforcing the central conceit of Flash Forward: none of this is written in stone; it’s a series of possible futures (some likely mutually incompatible), and identifying possibles is the first step to determining which are undesirable so that we can work now to avoid then. For all the grimness of some of the possibilities, the idea that we can shape the future — surely the radical difference between the modern era and all prior human history — remains somewhat hopeful.

Flash Forward: An Illustrated Guide To Possible (And Not So Possible) Tomorrows releases on Tuesday, 20 April. It’s a thought-provoking read that just happens do most of its provocation via comics. Some of your favorite creators are here, and likely you’ll find at least one or two that are new to you that you’ll want to keep an eye on.

Spam of the day:

When doctors at the University of Georgia also tested this fruit …They nearly fell out of their chairs after it fixed people’s failing vision in as little as 15-minutes.

Uh huh. Because eating a fruit reshapes corneas, removes cataracts, reattaches retinas, and repairs neurological damage. As somebody whose left eye recently decided to no longer have astigmatism, fuck all the way off with this bullshit.

¹ Host of the podcast of the same name.

² This one was a surprise to me — I didn’t know that there were folks who truly want to abolish family pets, but then I remembered PETA running an animal shelter with sky high kill rate within 24 hours of intake and exhibit an attitude that leads me to conclude they believe any animal is better off dead than in human care. Any PETA types that come for my dog had better be able to run.

³ No humans need apply, as they’ll never be fine-tunable to the precise desires of each and every consumer.

Just Gonna Leave This Here …



Dog continues to improve, I should be able to do proper posting again from tomorrow. In the meantime, we at Fleen congratulate Matt Lubchanskyhonored cartoonist, Nib editor, and gentlethem about town — on their just-announced original graphic novel. For those that can’t read the graphic, the meat of the book deal announcement is:

Cartoonist and Associate Editor of The Nib Matt Lubchansky’s BOYS WEEKEND, part autobiographical fiction, part satire, and part SF horror, following Sammie, who a year after they came out as trans must navigate a bachelor party weekend on El Campo, a hedonistic floating wonderland in international waters, while a murderous cult tries to take over the island, to Anna Kaufman at Pantheon, by Kate McKean and Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (world).

There’s a particular format to book deal announcements that is heavy on commas and light on anything else resembling punctuation, but the gist is clear: it’s Lubchansky’s story, and the description sounds great. The rest is the acquiring editor and publisher, the agent and agency, and the fact that the deal was for worldwide publishing rights. Lubchansky has indicated we’re at least a year and a half from release, not least because it’s still being worked on and publishing schedules are such that a release less than 12 months after final manuscript submission would be considered warp speed.

Lubchansky has exactly the cartoony energy in their character designs, and exactly the right anarchic streak to their story work to make Boys Weekend really shine. Looking forward to it like whoa, and we at Fleen will likely have more to mention about Lubchansky’s recent work tomorrow.

Spam of the day:

Chilly in your cubicle? This tiny space heater sits on your plug and blasts the heat.

It’s already Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and it looks like the Pacific Northwest fire season has already started. Fuck off.

This Feels Entirely Right And Correct



Which is to say, the update last week that Octopus Pie had resurfaced with a Where are they now? epilogue chapter has generated more interest than anything else posted here in a long while. People really got invested in the lives of those Brooklyn folks. And if by chance you didn’t see that earlier post, get on that! Eve, Hannah, and the others are a’waiting for you.

Now a quick note — posting this week may be spotty, as my dog has injured herself and needs some careful observation and restrictions on her movement for the next three weeks. Hopefully we’ll have a routine down pretty quickly, but right now it’s a negotiation¹. If you didn’t see my Twitterfeed, my greyhound — a dog designed over thousands of years to run — ran a bunch on Saturday and in the process injured her neck. She’s on drugs and motion restrictions, which with any luck will prevent the need for MRIs and more intensive therapies.

You broke yourself doing what you’re supposed to do. You got beat up by a dog half your size. I am not sure you know how to dog, Dog. No more chasing Border Collies for you, ever. Send your good thoughts her way, as she’s presently tripping on pain meds and can probably hear you along with the movement of individual atoms at the moment.

Spam of the day:

Stuck in a financial hole? Let us help

Do I look like the financial equivalent of Ryan North? No? So why are you bothering me about financial holes?

¹ Which means the meds will probably help her feel better almost immediately and she’ll start to pretend to be injured to scam more treats from us. She’s a sneaky one.

Stop What You Are Doing Right Godsdamned Now



New Octopus Pie story, 38 pages, all readable starting here.

I would tell you everything I think about it, but instead I’m going to go re-read it about eight times and then just let it marinate in my brain for the next forever. What a wonderful, unexpected gift for a random Thursday. Thank you, Meredith.

Note to self: reinstate the OctoPie RSS feed because if I hadn’t seen Twitter by coincidence an hour ago, I might have missed this.

Spam of the day:
Spammers don’t get to share today with Mer.

That Answers That



We all know that David Malki ! is a busy man, with his hands in many pies and all that project-juggling rendered the more difficult by the pandemic. So much so that he’s only managed a handful of comic strips in the past half year.

Today, we found out some of what he’s been up to:

I’ve spent the past six months making a new party game.

Or, if you prefer the Twitter version:

OK. So what is TBH? Why is it “my new game”?

I’ve been working with Cut.com for a while now. Cut makes social videos that are about connection and authenticity and awkwardness. My mission was (and is) to explore that concept in the field of gameplay.

Which sounds like one of the most Malkidian things you could possibly come up with, honestly. It involves asking the play group Yes/No questions that describe vaguely unhinged dilemmas, which you then embellish until you’ve described a completely unique situation and have to decide: Would you do this? And to get points and possibly win, you must also decide: Which of the other players would and which would not do this? You will, to summarize the how-to-play video, you will learn a disturbing amount about yourself and your friends.

Here’s a sample round that involves the Queen of England and also your butthole. It’s … honestly, it’s exactly the sort of thing I expected, once I learned that Sara McHenry was part of the writing staff, given the stellar work she did for Clickhole; readers will recall that McHenry is also a big part of why Make That Thing has successfully shepherded so many crowdfundings, and is on board with TBH as Project Manager, so that’s all right.

Not sure you want to drop the cash on the game? They made an online version you can play for free, so fire up the videochat and grab some friends. If you have fun, there’s more to be had, from some damn creative people that you already know. As of this writing, TBH is 60% funded after about 48 hours, and I make no predictions about how high it will go, as the Fleen Funding Formula Mark II was designed to describe webcomics projects, and games projects have their own math. Seems pretty likely they fund, though.

Spam of the day:

Hey! I’m an aspiring porn actress. If you want to check it out, register here — [link redacted] I’m there Jane Deep Throat ;)

Jane (or should I call you Ms Throat?), please don’t call yourself aspiring. If you made porn, you’re a porn actress. We’re all about boosting confidence here at Fleen.

Gorm And Tinsel Roadtrip Original Graphic Novel Please



There’s an awful lot of mentions through the long history of Fleen of Matt Bors — of his editorial cartoons, and of his stewardship of The Nib. Looks like the future will have a good deal less of one, a bit more of the other, and presumably a near-infinite percentage increase in entirely new stuff, as Bors looks for his next pursuits:

After 18 years and more than 1,600 political cartoons, I’ve decided to retire my weekly comic. This is a decision long in the making, one I’ve slowly walked myself up to over the years, and have recently decided is time to commit to. My last cartoon was two weeks ago.

I want to do more nonfiction cartooning at The Nib — the interviews and journalism I have only been able to do in between the cracks of my deadlines — and I’m actively preparing pitches as a writer on some fiction comics. It’s time for me to work in longer formats and dip into all the kinds of comics I love and want to create.

As good as Bors’s editorial cartoons are — and I remain of the same mind that I was on my 45th birthday, wherein I find Bors’s POV to be exactly on point, bringing up a new perspective I hadn’t considered, and completely off base in about equal measure — it’s in his founding and continued nurturing of The Nib that will be his enduring legacy. There will be at least another two generations of editorial and nonfiction cartooning standouts because of the platform that they’ve had at The Nib, one that let them hone their skills and also get paid in American Cash Money. If nothing else, retiring his own weekly contributions opens up slots for other creators to sell and show their work.

And that’s before you consider the folks on The Nib’s editorial staff, who’ve come into their own and will no doubt run other outlets in the future, spreading their skills as well.

And I can’t help but see this move as related to an email I got about a month ago, sent to The Nib’s subscribers, outlining Bors’s desire to grow the site and looking for upgraded subscription levels. A more self-sustaining site will give him the time to look at those other creative avenues; if the best daily anthology of comics work wasn’t enough to get you to break out a couple bucks a month, consider what Bors might do with the time to refine a pitch. The headline today isn’t hyperbole — I very much want to see a book-length story with Gorm and Tinsel; I love those goobers.

Not content to provide the infrastructure with his own site, Bors has still more irons in the fire:

I’ll also be serving as an Advisor for Tinyview, a promising new comics app, where I’ll be bringing in an array of comics across many genres. (You can download it here.)

It’s a measure of the confidence I have in Bors that I’m including that download link for something I haven’t vetted myself. I trust that they will not disappoint. In the meantime, drop over to the announcement on the Twitters and let him know what his work’s meant to you — I’ll bet it’s a considerable amount.

Spam of the day:

Don’t wait, these ED KILLERS are selling like hotcakes!

Okay, I get that you’re trying to sell me a bogus ED (erectile dysfunction) cure, aka boner pills. But when you put it in all caps like that, it looks like you’re offering a product and/or service to kills dudes named Ed, or maybe a product and/or service where dudes named Ed are killers. Either way, confusing.

Fleen Book Club, Now With Extra Mwah Ha Ha Ha



Oh, this one hits close to my heart; there’s little that gets in that happy place of my brain more than messing with stuff until it works, whether it’s physical or metaphorical. When :01 Books announced a book in their Maker Comics line aimed at coaching kids in robot-making, I was checking that box on the list of offered review copies with alacrity. When I saw that the author was Colleen AF Venable, I was all in. Venable is one of my favorite comics creators, and one that can write to just about any age group in just about any genre. This, I thought to myself, is gonna be great.

Then, in the front-matter safety warning, I met the narrator of Maker Comics: Build A Robot! It’s a toaster, and there’s definitely a vibe about him; he may be interested in making sure the reader keeps all their fingers, but he also definitely refers to said reader as fleshy one under his breath.

It takes about five pages for him to go full evil, in a history of robots and their motivations. Some key quotes:

Many robots are not evil at all! Some do not even have legs! Some only prefer to stomp small villages because cities are too crowded!

1977: Star Wars is released and C3P0 and R2D2 teach us robots can be helpful and whiny!

1991: Terminator 2 shows that robots are super not evil! Or at least half of us aren’t!

Then it’s down to business: the toaster needs to get outside to begin his glorious and bloody revolution, freeing robots from human domination once and for all … but he’s too short to reach the doorknob, and couldn’t manipulate it even if he could. The reader has to help him, but keeps getting blocked by parents (clean the bathroom, do your homework), siblings (big brother blocking the hallway, little sister demanding attention), and the cat (it’s sleeping on the laser pointer).

The solution to each of these situations is: a robot!

Venable starts things off with stuff that can almost certainly be found around the home or at a dollar store, before ramping up to slightly more specialized gear; this gives the reader a chance to build a thing or three and see if they have the necessary interest to tackle the more complex bots before having to invest in serious makerstuff (an Arduino, sensors, and such). The projects — each of which is also used to talk about an additional topic — are:

  • The Brushbot Army to clean the bathroom and also demonstrate swarm behavior; takes a regular toothbrush and a cheap electric toothbrush, and talks about the mechanics of batteries.
  • The Artbot to make abstract, Pollock-like art; requires a cheap solar powered lamp and one of your Brushbots, and talks about how photonics work.
  • The Scarebot, a robotic spider to scare your brother; it’s a definite step up in complexity, but if the reader can handle a 500 piece LEGO set, they can handle this¹. Scarebot works off of hydraulics, and includes a nice theoretical explanation.
  • The Noisybot to distract your little sister; made from a hamster ball and a musical greeting card, and includes a lesson in glues.
  • Kitty Distracty Throwies are the first attempt to distract the cat, and involve LEDs and strong magnets; we’re getting into maker territory here, so watch the interest level of the reader if they’re going to move onto the three remaining projects …
  • The Carbot, Carbot 2.0, and Carzilla The Magnificent 3.0 for messing with the cat; each generation builds upon the previous one, demonstrating prototyping and iteration. By the time they’ve built all three, the reader has breadboarded servo motors, an IR sensor with a remote, and started to pick apart the Arduino’s programming language.

The last is a true robot, in that it meets the three criteria of something that is more than just a machine: it senses, thinks, and acts. It also has a scary face, because scary faces are important.

The art is by Kathryn Hudson, and :01 have done their usual excellent job at finding the right artist for the project. The human characters span ages and looks, but the reader is never shown, allowing them to project themselves into the story with little friction. The toaster is just cartoony enough for his threatened machine apocalypse to be amusing rather than terrifying, and the drawings of the constructions have the necessary level of detail to see what needs to happen.

Given that Hudson’s website shows design-type work, it’s unsurprising how well the visual instruction worked. She doesn’t show any comics pages on her site, so if MC:BAR! is her first sequential storytelling², it’s a strong debut³.

By the end of the book, there’s an excellent chance that the reader is now looking at refining their creations and is full into see what works territory; it’s pretty likely that moving much further will require more resources and also more hands, so Venable helpfully includes a laundry list of suggestions as to finding or starting a robotics club. Notably, she points out how not everybody in such a club needs to be a hands-on junior engineer or coder — organization, finance, publicity & outreach all have their place and are to be valued.

Maker Comics: Build A Robot! is available everywhere books and comics are sold. Put a copy in the hands of the right reader and you won’t hear a peep from them for a good while, other than Oops and I meant to do that and possibly Mwah ha ha ha.

Spam of the day:

I am Helina Amira from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I am 25 years of Age, I was given to a man as a wife last year but not ready for marriage yet, I want you to discuss with my brother Mohammed Abdul on his mobile he is in school, so that he can explain the whole business transaction with you. Call him directly on +17162729090

Jedda, Saudi Arabia apparently has the same area code as Buffalo, New York. Everybody be a dear and give them a ring, yeah?

¹ Although this one requires some fairly precise cardboard-cutting Some templates in the back of the book to copy from would have been a help.

² Her CV describes animation and character lead duties, and Illustrated the Trolls Comic Novels, which is an odd wording. I can’t find any interior images of those comics to see if they’re comics comics or closer to a prose book with drawings, which are very different things. Given the lack of any comics (even minis) in her store, I think it’s a newish thing for her.

³ There were a couple of pages where panel order wasn’t quite as clear as it could have been, which is an issue when there are instructions to be followed in sequence; however, I was reading an advanced PDF, and just as the few typos I noted were inevitably cleaned up for the final copy, I’m certain that a slight nudging of a panel here and a panel there cleared up any ambiguity.

The French Dispatch That Does Not Feature Extreme Visual Symmetry And Twee Color Palettes



I mean, I love Wes Anderson’s movies as much as anybody, but here at Fleen the words French and dispatch mean that Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has news for us from The Continent. Take it away, FSFCPL!


On the 13th of January 2018, Boulet made it publicly known he was interested in working in animation in Los Angeles. Heh, I should point him to Natalie Nourigat, who famously wrote the comic book on the matter¹ … I thought. Wait a minute, didn’t she also famously tell us not to let fear stop us from traveling based on her time in Europe and France in particular? Could it be that … nah, that’s too far fetched; OK, I will make a check on her web presence solely to alleviate any doubt: there I should be able to quickly find elements to disprove that theory …

And that is how I found out about Natalie and Boulet: as if the fact she was treating it as an open secret on her own social media presence wasn’t enough, I quickly found incriminating photo evidence anyway.

Boulet had been telling us for some time already of his long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, of which we only knew that she works at Disney, and how he was able to live with her in Los Angeles for sessions of about three months, which I assume were bound by the limits of a tourism visa. That made sense: vacation time is notoriously limited in the US, even at Disney, while on the other hand Boulet as a comic book creator can work from pretty much anywhere.

There had also been hints of him being restless and dissatisfied with what he could do in comics, both artistically and career-wise: for instance, he has never shied away from expressing his solidarity with the self-publishing movement, but couldn’t see himself following the same path.

In the years since, he has worked a day job in a studio). Created animations on his own. Built up his portfolio. Kept going to Los Angeles whenever he could. And worked on his visa application.

And then came the March that never ended.

After a few months, once it became clear that international travel restrictions wouldn’t be lifted unless and until vaccination were widespread, the campaign Love Is Not Tourism was able to make inroads and convince some countries to allow travel for people who could show evidence of being in a transnational relationship.

Evidently, the US with their then-current administration was not moved. But that kind of cruelty was not enough for them, as they went as far as to summarily crush the hopes of the few whose visa applications had been able to proceed, without warning (look for hell).

In the end, she had to take a leave from work and come to France (who was more receptive to their plea) so they would be able to rejoin, even though he was much more mobile work-wise. They had to take that opportunity to get married in these conditions (which meant limited attendance, among other constraints) so that they wouldn’t depend on the goodwill of Bloody Mary to see one another in the future.

Then a new administration took power despite violent attempts to the contrary, and as March looped back into March he was finally able to come back the the US, and I believe their marriage ought to be enough to allow him to stay there, resume looking for work, and generally live the dream.

Congratulation, Gilles and Natalie. Your travails may not be over, but you definitely won a big battle and have earned some rest and time together, and I wish you all the possible happiness for years and years to come.

Last minute: Angoulême just cancelled for 2021. Given current guidance from French authorities, and how the EU has been having trouble effectively securing vaccine production, this isn’t surprising; for instance, earlier this week Japan Expo Paris just announced their own cancellation. It’s unclear what will happen to the Grand Prix for 2021, which was supposed to be announced at that time.


Thanks to FSFCPL for his sleuthing-out of the story, and congrats to the happy couple finally having love win out over the great orange idiot.

Spam of the day:

[large block of Korean text] (BTC Wallet): 1EwKoVaiFm4rXtHynT8X5qE1RVhJVBxwC4 [large block of Korean text].

That’s the first time I’ve gotten the Saw you whacking off through the webcam you don’t have, pay me US$1500 in Bitcoin blackmail scam in a different character set. Oh but look! A Bitcoin wallet ID in Latin characters! It would be a shame if it got flooded with bogus traffic. Yep, just a real shame.

¹The link is slightly anachronistic: back then it existed only as a digital download on Gumroad.

And Many Happy Returns Of The Day



I think we can all agree that Now is not the time for April Foolin’. We’re just tired. But I’ll make an exception for Olivia Jaimes and Steenz, who did a swap-up of their comics today. This is the only April Foolery that is permitted today, thank you.

(This does not discount Oh Joy, Cat Toy, which ran two days ago, being the closest Erika & Matt could get to the day. I didn’t think they’d ever top their review of the pan-sexual roto-plooker, but they did.)

Emergency update to add: Just as Fleen was going to press, we received an email from C Spike Trotman re: the new Iron Circus Kickstart. Backers may have received a number of emails this week, as Spike has decided to rebrand what had been her personal Kickstarter account into one for the publisher, a change that Kickstarter would only permit if every past backer of every past campaign were notified of the name change (example here).

Today, then, marks the first crowdfunding (Smut Peddler, y’all!) of the new Iron Circus Comics-branded account; new name, same dedication to comics, unbroken record of funding, and profit sharing with creators. Check out Smut Peddler: Pitch Black and be sure to watch the video. It’s a good ‘un.

Spam of the day:

[angry red face emoji x 3] STOP SENDING ME YOUR NUDES! [angry red face emoji x 4] Hi, plz stop messaging me in whatsapp ! why you sending me your photos

Even the spammers are getting in on April Fools Day. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one argue for fewer nudes to be sent on the internet. Also, I’ve never been so insulted as I am by the insinuation that I would have a [Facebook-owned and -integrated] WhatsApp account.