What is Caitlin reading? Dec 15 2017

It's been awhile since I did one of these (holidays! family! work!) but as 2017 comes to an end I want to make sure I'm at least writing down what I've been digging lately.  In a few weeks here I've got a big chunk of time off and a huge to-read pile to get through, so there's gonna be a bunch more of these soon.  But! In the meantime, here's some of what I've been reading lately:

Mister Miracle, art by Mitch Gerads and writing by Tom King

Mister Miracle, art by Mitch Gerads and writing by Tom King

If you haven't already, check out the A.V. Club's Best of 2017 List, which I contributed to along with Oliver Sava and Shea Hennum.  (If you're interested, we also have a Best of 2017 So Far from June, too.)  My picks, in no particular order, are below.  You should definitely go check out Oliver and Shea's recommendations, too.  We all have very different taste, but that's part of what I love about working with them.

  • All Star Batman (Scott Snyder, Raphael Albuquerque)
  • Batman/The Shadow (Steve Orlando, Scott Snyder, Riley Rossmo)
  • "The War of Jokes and Riddles" Batman arc (Tom King, Mikel Janin)
  • Mister Miracle (Tom King, Mitch Gerads)
  • Shipwreck (Warren Ellis, Phil Hester)
  • Redlands (Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey)
  • Not Drunk Enough (Tess Stone)
  • Wilde Life (Pascalle Lepas)
  • Letters for Lucardo (Noora Heikkilä)
  • Dinosaur Empire: Earth Before Us (Abby Howard)
I always do it alphabetically, like a nerd.

I always do it alphabetically, like a nerd.

About once a year at Ladies' Night at my LCS (Graham Crackers Comics in the Loop), we do something we call the Attack the Stack challenge.  It's aimed at getting people to really try to get through their to-read pile.  Whenever you catch up on a series or finish a graphic novel, you post a picture on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter and tag it with the #AttackTheStack hashtag, which means we all act as eachother's accountability buddies (and we try to have a prize for someone to win in a random drawing of folks who posted).  I knew I wasn't going to completely finish my stack, but you can see what I read over on my Instagram.  I did make a pretty big dent, and then immediately turned around and bought some more, because that's how book addiction works.  Some standouts:

  • I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino was a serious highlight for me.  It's a beautiful, arty romance manga about two young men slowly falling for each other.  One of them is hard of hearing, and the characterization is really wonderful.  It scratches all the same itches that really well written fanfiction does, a little angsty with a lot of fluff and genuine emotional depth.  I'm also bummed that books like that aren't really supported in western comics, while they're relatively easy to find in manga.
  • The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld.  This was a rough, slow-going read, mostly because there was so much information to get through.  Gladstone (of NPR fame, she's one of the hosts of WNYC's On the Media) lays out the historical ways that media has been manipulated and done the manipulating since the beginning of the United States.  It's a really info-heavy book, but excellently done, and Neufeld's art is great.  The thing is, I'm not sure I'd call it a graphic novel so much as an illustrated novel.  It's laid out like a comic, but it's incredibly text heavy and it feels like the illustrations were done after the prose was written.  In fact, Neufeld is credited as an illustrator instead of the artist, so while I whole heartedly recommend the book, I'm not sure I'd call it a comic.
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  • Land of the Lustrous 1 by Haruko Ichikawa is sort of like Steven Universe, but leaning a bit harder into the magical girl tropes and a lot darker.  Maybe Steven Universe meets Magical Girl Madoka/Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  I'll admit that while I really liked the story, I found the art difficult to parse sometimes.  One of the hardest things about reading manga is that it is almost always in grayscale, and because of the scope and ambition of the action sequences in particular, it was hard to tell exactly what was going on , particularly because it really does plop you right down in the middle without a lot of explanation.  As a cartoon, or a full color comic, I think it would look absolutely stunning (and thankfully there is an anime that aired just a few months ago).  It does leave me with the impression that this was always planned to be a show instead of a comic, and I'm not really a fan of that.  As it is, it's pretty but I probably won't be picking it up as much and as often as I do stuff like Princess Jellyfish or Ōoku.
  • My Brother's Husband Vol 1 by Gengoroh Tagame (translated by Anne Ishii).  Tears.  Tears streaming down my face the whole time.  It's about a Japanese man struggling with meeting his dead brother's husband, and trying to understand how someone can love someone the same gender they are.  It's sweet and beautiful and really heartbreaking and happy-making all at the same time.
Ōoku by Fumi Yoshinaga

Ōoku by Fumi Yoshinaga

  • Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Vol 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga is one of the most beautiful mangas I've ever read, and it's all down to the fabric.  Set in a universe where men are a commodity thanks to an illness that kills many of them, the (female) ruler of Japan has created what amounts to a harem for herself.  Ōoku is largely set inside the confines of this space, telling the story of the shogun and her dozens of male companions, and it's lush with detail and fascinating characters.  Plus, there's the added benefit of essentially getting a history lesson while you read, because besides the gender reversal it's fairly accurate to the period, as far as I can tell.  It's basically clothing porn set in feudal Japan, it's super subversive and pretty queer and I love it.
  • Taproot by Keezy Young.  If there's one theme you can take from this list, it's that I needed some awesome LGBTQ+ love stories and boy did comics deliver.  Taproot is, a lot like I Hear the Sunspot, the love story of two gay young men that gives me all of the same emotional investment as the best fanfiction does.  Young's art is colorful and sweet and soft, just like the story, and it's one of the few times I thought I was going to get a sad ending for a gay couple and didn't.  This book warmed my cold dead heart in the best ways.

I also stumbled upon a new (to me) webcomic last week: Banquet by A. Szabla.  Like Wilde Life, it's an example of me feeling like a dummy for not recognizing a webcomic creator I already follow.  Szabla also makes Bird Boy, but the styles on these two comics are really quite different so I don't feel too much like an idiot.  Banquet is like if Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) and Jim Henson (especially Labyrinth) had a love child in Pacific Rim.  Without giving away too much, it is about a toddler that falls into a world populated by massive monsters with a strict hierarchy.  I'm a sucker for big monsters and stolen children stories (thanks, too many stories about changelings as a kid) and I'm an extra sucker for a gay love story, which Banquet also includes.  There's only a couple dozen pages up so far and it's really fun.

Banquet by A. Szabla

Banquet by A. Szabla

What is Caitlin reading? Oct 13 2017

I've been listening to Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue once I'm done with my podcasts and really enjoying it.  It's a bit weird because I've met Mary Robinette Kowal, the voice talent narrating the book, before, but the voices and accents she does are just spot on and really elevate the experience.

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  • Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas.  I just this second realized that Lepas made one of my favorite webcomics that I started reading in college (Zap!) and I'm really embarrassed I didn't recognize her art, but that's a testament to her skill, I think.  Wilde Life is VERY different than Zap! in a lot of ways, and I can appreciate that.  It's very kind, but without being soft, and I know that's not super helpful.  I find myself lately really needing to read (and watch) things that are full of people who care about each other, even if they can't always show it in productive, gentle ways.  There's a lot of crazy stuff and danger in Wilde Life, but the overwhelming sense is that the main characters are kind to one another, even when they're teasing.  It's a classic fish out of water story, a writer moves to a small town and gets caught up in a bunch of supernatural shenanigans, including the most wonderful petulant teenage werewolf in the world (the ginger up there).  Three's ghosts and witches and all sorts of fun stuff, and it's funny without being mean.  I love that.  Binged the whole thing in two sittings.
  • Heartstopper by Alice Oseman is just a very sweet webcomic about two boys in school in England playing rugby and struggling with their identities and falling in love.  It's the perfect way to combat all the worst parts of watching the news right now, and Oseman's art is so soft and expressive.
  • Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa.  I know Anissa and she is not only super skilled but also super sweet, so I was super stoked to check out this book.  Her art has gotten so strong and expressive in the five years (holy shit) since I first met her, so Cast No Shadow is an absolute joy to look at.  But honestly, the story was...a bummer?  For really nuanced reasons that an editor at First Second should have put a stop to right off the bat.  I'm still sorting through my feelings on the book.  I still think people should pick it up and check it out, the central idea is neat and the art is freaking delectable.
  • Batman: White Knight #1 by Sean (Gordon) Murphy).  I liked this book a lot more than other people I think, which isn't a huge surprise given that I'm a sucker for anything about Batman, anything about the GCPD, and anything about social justice.  My full review of the comic is up on the A.V Club this week, but one thing I didn't get a lot of time to dig into was the idea that the Joker isn't actually the best character to tell this story.  The central idea isn't "what if Joker was a good guy" but more "let's talk about the ways Batman (and the GCPD) are the bad guys" and I would be super interested in seeing that story told without the Joker being the protagonist.  What if the residents of the infamous Narrows filed a class action suit against Batman and the GCPD?  There aren't many famous lawyers in the DC universe, but Harvey Dent might still have his license, and it'd be neat to see one of the Manhunters back in the courtroom.  Even MORE compelling to me would be if the law suit coincided with a Justice Department investigation of the GCPD led by Amanda Waller and Jim Corrigan.  Can you imagine what would happen if Batman was confronted by Spectre?  Especially if it was the pants-shittingly terrifying version from Gotham by Midnight, I would pay good money to see that.
Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with Gotham By Midnight.

Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with Gotham By Midnight.

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I also re-caught up with much of the same list of monthly comics from September, with a couple of additions:

  • American Gods
  • Black Magick
  • Black Monday Murders

I was really doubtful they were going to be able to pull off getting American Gods to work as a comic.  It's way too wordy, but it's a really solid book that I'm enjoying the heck out of.  Black Monday Murders continues to be one of the most thinky comics I'm ready (it's basically Wolf of Wall Street + Cthulhu) and I love the art by Tomm Cocker so much.

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What's really blowing me away this week is Tom King's 'War of Jokes and Riddles' arc in Batman.  I really like King's work generally, but I'm not a fan of Mikel Janin (I know) so I've been waffling a lot about how I feel.  Especially since I hate Bruce and Selina as a couple, and their romantic relationship has been at the center of so much of this story.  But King did an incredible job with this arc, and he really pushed Riddler in particular to entirely new, and super fascinating, limits.  He's digging deep into the psyches of some really messed up characters (Batman included) and showing me things about them that I never even considered.  So even though Janin's art distracts me when it gets weirdly and inopportunely stiff, I loved this arc to pieces.  King somehow made me care about Kite Man, which is just...bonkers.

I'm gonna leave it there and go back to knitting and watching murder mysteries because it's finally fall and I feel like a new creature.

What is Caitlin reading? Sept 29 2017

From Abby Howard's Last Halloween

From Abby Howard's Last Halloween

  • Though it wasn't this week, I also read the first volume of The Last Halloween and Dinosaur Empire! Earth Before Us, both by Abby Howard.  Howard is a really talented artist and she managed to write what to me was the perfect spooky Halloween story, with humor and heart and real risk.  It's actually the printed volume of her webcomic with the same name, which you can check out hereDinosaur Empire! reminded me of the best parts of The Magic School Bus and Connections with James Burke.  (Random aside: my favorite computer game of all time was based on this show, and I wish someone would make it work on my phone because I'd play it constantly.) For an entire weekend I was 7 years old again and super stoked about dinosaurs.  I'll be buying several copies of this to give to kiddos in my life as Christmas presents.
  • Pockets, a bonus comic from Melanie Gillman (creator of the webcomic As the Crow Flies).  I have really complicated feelings about camp, because I didn't always have great camp experiences and I think a lot of that was rooted in the fact that I was a very anxious kid that had a very tough time socializing.  I wanted to read and be with horses, and camp involved a lot of things that weren't hose.  So Melanie Gillman's As the Crow Flies is the first thing about camp that I can read without being really knotted up in my own feelings, and I had the immense pleasure of meeting them (and moderating a panel where they shared their awesomeness) this past May at WisCon.  Pockets is a short bonus comic they made that's in the same vein as As the Crow Flies and it made me have a good cathartic cry this morning.  It's very sweet and very real and very full of love, which is all the words I would use to describe Gillman's work in general.
  • Jane by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer/produce Aline Brosh McKenna and Ramon Perez.  It's a terrible book written by someone who I sincerely doubt ever actually read the book it's supposedly based on (Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which is one of my favorites.  You can read my review for the A.V. Club here and listen to me and the amazing Lauren Burke discuss it on her Bronte/Austin podcast, Bonnets at Dawn.
  • Angelic #1 by Simon Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard.  It's a super fun looking book with a good visual sense of humor and some fun details, but it's got notes from Animal Farm and A Handmaid's Tale in it.  You can read a full review at the A.V. Club here.
Gaze upon my shame.

Gaze upon my shame.

Here's where I make a confession that I alluded to previously: I am super behind on print comics.  SUPER behind.  Like...there's stuff from the beginning of Rebirth last summer I haven't gotten to yet behind.  So I'm calling myself out.  This picture?  That's three short boxes of "to read" comics.  To steal a phrase from Ladies' Night at Graham Crackers, It's time for me to attack the stack, so I'm going to show my progress here.  Recently I've caught up (or partially caught up) on a couple of different titles:

  • Batgirl
  • Batgirl and the Birds of Prey
  • Batman
  • All Star Batman
  • Batman and the Shadow
  • Batwoman
  • Bitch Planet
  • Black Cloud
  • Black Panther

When left to my own devices, I tend to tackle things alphabetically.  It keep sme from skipping to only the stuff I'm really excited about, which makes it harder to gauge what I should be dropping off my pull list.  To be honest, I have really freaking enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, all of the titles I just listed.  I'd probably put Batman and the Shadow and Batgirl up at the top; the former because I grew up on radio dramas like The Shadow and absolutely adore Riley Rossmo's art, the latter because Hope Larson is telling a great story that feels appropriate for Babs, her age, and her role in the DC universe.  Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is a bit uneven, but I love seeing Batgirl, Black Canary, and the Huntress working together.

So there's the truth.  I don't read nearly as many comics as I get, and I really should do something about that.  But there's just so much great TV happening.  And knitting.  And friends.  And other books.  So I'll just be perpetually behind, and constanly trying to catch up.

What is Caitlin reading? Ladies' Night Anthology

The covers for all five volumes of Ladies' Night Anthology: Chicago, Death & Prom, How to Magic, Eat It Up!, and Sisters.

The covers for all five volumes of Ladies' Night Anthology: Chicago, Death & Prom, How to Magic, Eat It Up!, and Sisters.

Not everyone who knows I love comics knows that I also help to edit an annually published anthology that grew up out of the Ladies' Night I go to at my local comic shop (shout out to Graham Crackers in the Loop!).  Back in 2012, I realized that I'd missed the deadline to apply to be a writer for the first volume, and volunteered to help edit.  I was, at the time, woefully unprepared to take on the responsibility of being an editor and had basically no clue what I was doing, but both my fellow editors and the creative teams I worked with were patient with me.

Five years later, I'm still one of the editors for LNA, and I also sort of operate as the COO, managing our inventory and finances.  I love this gig, really and truly, and it's  a natural growth from my love for comics.  LNA works mostly with people who've never made comics before, or have never collaborated before, or both.  It's open to women, non-binary, and gender non conforming creators from all over the world, though we do try to keep some folks local to Chicago, where all of the editors are based.

Enamel pins designed by Elizabeth Perez, a perk for Volume 5.

Enamel pins designed by Elizabeth Perez, a perk for Volume 5.

The thing about LNA is that we are involved in every step of the process as editors.  A lot of anthologies don't teach you how to make a comic, and that's great because you get a lot of really polished, professional people making dozens of incredible comics and collecting them.  But LNA is different, we walk our creators through the process from pitch to character design to script, thumbnails to art to lettering.  We host workshops, help people tackle new skills, and manage most of the promotion and marketing for the book.

We don't pay our participants, which can be a struggle sometimes.  We know we've lost out on some really great folks because of that, but for the last five years we've really wanted to focus on the people that have never done this before, and help them get their foot in the door.  We've had a couple of participants in past books go on to professional jobs as story boarders, writers, inkers, artists, and colorists.  It's incredibly gratifying to be able to pick up a comic at Graham Crackers and see the names of people I worked with on LNA on the cover of a comic from a big publisher.

From "Do you kiss your sister with that mouth?" by Jade Armstrong and Ellen Linzer

From "Do you kiss your sister with that mouth?" by Jade Armstrong and Ellen Linzer

We're almost 3/4 of the way through our Kickstarter for Volume 5, and almost halfway to our goal.  Next week, the other editors (Lauren Burke, Megan Byrd, Kris Mackenzie, and Summer Sparacin) and I will take on the daunting task of putting the pages in order and starting prepress.  So a lot of my free-reading time has been dedicated to LNA lately, doing copyediting and checking things over.

So what I'm reading this week is the work of 24 amazing female and non-binary creators, most of whom have never been published before.  And I want you to be reading it too, so please check out our Kickstarter, get yourself an awesome book.  If you can part with $20, you'll get a book and the matching pins, which to be honest are a huge draw for me.  It's not an addiction if you don't admit it's a problem, right?

Please help us get this book to the printer and into the hands of hundreds of people.  I've read the pages as they come in, and you'd never guess that most of these creators have never made a comic before.  

LNA Vol 5: Sisters (cover by Elizabeth Perez) and the companion zine (cover by Abby Shaffer)

LNA Vol 5: Sisters (cover by Elizabeth Perez) and the companion zine (cover by Abby Shaffer)

What is Caitlin Reading: Webcomics!

Ok so I caught a nasty cold this week and didn't do the normal "What is Caitlin reading?" because Caitlin just slept and drank NyQuil a lot.  Instead, I compiled info about all of the webcomics I'm currently reading (and two that are finished that I think you should check out).

While webcomics aren't technically the first comics I ever read, they are near and dear to my heart, and for many years the only comics that blessed my eyeballs.  Needless to say, I read a big slew of them.

Webcomics:

At the moment, I read all of the below comics regularly.  with the exception of xkcd, they all have an overarching plot that means I do check them as they come out, using my webcomic system.

From Der-shing Helmer's The Meek (I spent 20 minutes deciding which panel to use and I'm still not sure I made the right choice because her art is THAT GOOD.)

From Der-shing Helmer's The Meek (I spent 20 minutes deciding which panel to use and I'm still not sure I made the right choice because her art is THAT GOOD.)

  • Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis - Super queer, college-aged magical girls with real problems and the best fucking facial expressions. Plus magical girl outfits that are cute without being hyper-femme or objectifying.
  • Barbarous by Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh - Flawed female protagonist trying to be an adult...with magic.  As someone who's been following both the creators for...15ish years, Barbarous and Lucky Penny are worth every second spent reading them.
  • Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu - Gay hockey boys in love and the most amazing cast of supportive characters ever.  Super active online fandom community. Cute art, plus pie and hilarious hockey lingo.
  • Dumbing of Age by David Willis - Freshmen at major midwestern university deal with love, assault, bigotry, violence, addiction, and dating.  I swear it's cute and funny, but it's also very socially aware.
  • Eth's Skin by Sfé R. Monster (currently on hiatus) - Queer (and gender non conforming) friendly magic journey with lots of neat animals (a selkie!) and gentle, beautiful art (TREES!).
  • Full Circle by Taneka Stotts and Christianne Goudreau, colored by Genue Revuelta - Epic high fantasy story with siblings and actual people of color and all sorts of breathtaking backgrounds.  Some of the characters have wings, and I'm always fascinated by how humanoids with wings work.  (Are their bones hollow?  Is it all magic??)
  • Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell - Harry Potter but better, about girls and gods, and with technology, too.  Seeing Siddell's art mature and grow is fascinating.
  • Library Comic by Chris Hallbeck - A look behind the curtain of what it's like to work at a library: great jokes, lots of weirdos with a lot of personality.
  • The Lonely Vincent Bellingham by Diana Huh (currently on hiatus?)- This one is really hard to describe, in part because it's pretty short so far.  The posting schedule is a little irregular (creators have lives! they're giving me content for free! I'm blessed!).  So far, think Jane Austen male protagonist runs away and winds up at a witch's house, sorta trapped in the basement.
  • Love Circuits by Taneka Stotts and Genue Revuelta - Adorable love story with ROBOTS.  And cute ROBOT service dog!  Genue's art is just so soft and curvey and I want to touch it all the time. 
  • M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder (currently on hiatus, soon out in print form) - Young woman travels through a sprawling fantasy landscape so she can scatter her mom's ashes. ART SO LUSH. Winner of the 2015 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity (first winner ever!).
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things by Kelly Turnbull - A lot of these comics can be read without the context of the archive, but Turnbull has created a couple beautiful original characters that exist in the middle of a sprawling cast of macho video game protagonists. Beefcake and Mad Max jokes for days. (Turnbull posts the backstory of her main character on her Patreon, which is 100% worth it. Like Ender's Game, but LGBTQ+ friendly and also fuzzy mini velociraptors.)
  • Mare Internum by Der-Shing Helmer - Did you enjoy Moon (that movie with Sam Rockwell that was totally unexpectedly awesome)?  Do you like Alien?  Are you a fan of all sorts of creatures from outer space and also existential dread?  This is 100% the comic for you, plus Der-Shing's art is as fresh and crisp and layered and rich as key lime pie.  I wanna eat it.
  • The Meek by Der-Shing Helmer - So not only does The Meek live up to the art from Mare Internum, it also has a big cast of incredible characters, sprawling political intrigue, amazing world building and a giant freaking tiger god/monster thing?  Just freaking read it so I can shout at you about Soli and Phe.
  • Meaty Yogurt by Rosalarian - I love slice of life comics (and TV shows, and movies) but one of my biggest beefs is when everybody is just nice.  All the time.  And this comic gets me.  The characters aren't cruel to one another for the sake of being cruel, but there is the sort of blind self centeredness that just comes with being human, and a lot of the comic confronts the fallout of that.  Plus a lot of the ladies are drawn thick in a way most artists don't dare.  There's a dry, morbid sense of humor to Meaty Yogurt that I really appreciate.
  • Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter - All the best parts of Digimon plus some really classic and beautiful YA love stories and evolving art that just continues to get better.  Magnolia's Twitter is also aces and she does fun journal comics sometimes.
  • Not Drunk Enough by Tess Stone - Think Resident Evil meets Parks & Rec, but better.  Tess's art is kinda sketchy, but that makes is super kinetic and really fun to read, because it's all about motion and movement.  These characters are stuck in an office building overrun by evil monsters, and the story of HOW the monsters came to be unfolds slowly and it's unexpectedly emotional and awesome.
  • O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti - I included OHS in my "Best of 2015" list over at the A.V. Club.  It's quite literally some of the best, kindest, most emotional sci fi I've ever read.  There's robots and AI and a love story (that's not always about love) and family affection and it's very queer friendly.  Please read it and come cry with me.
  • Power Nap by Maritza Campos & Bachan - What happens when we stop sleeping?  What if you're one of the few people in the world that can't just stop sleeping when humans push past the need for rest? You get recruited to a team of terrifying weirdos that do amazing (horrible) things in their dreams.
  • Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques - QC is one of the few webcomics that I started reading in college and I'm still sticking with.  It's always been a slice of life story, but as Jeph's talent and interests have shifted, so has the story.  The characters are nuanced and interesting, the stories are at once universal and pretty unique.  It's very bingeable, and it's neat to see how Jeph's art has grown.
  • Saint for Rent by Ru Xu (on prolonged hiatus) - When time travel is possible, there are places that need to be stable, and Saint for Rent is about an inn where time travellers stop to rest before moving on to their next destination.  It's a lot about people, and especially about the people who get left behind.  Plus it's cute.
  • Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida - Full review here.  This one is really hard to explain, in part because it's got over a decade and a half of backmatter.  But ultimately, it's a sprawling cast of characters that are not always good, and what keeps me coming back is the raw, unflinching social commentary tempered with jokes.
  • Sleepless Domain by Mary Cagle - Mary Cagle did a bunch of journal comics called "Let's Speak English!" while she was teaching English in Japan, and I was so charmed by them that I not only backed the Kickstarter to get a printed copy, I also started reading her webcomic.  There are monsters and magical girls and it's very adorable.  I love the way she draws expressions of shock/disbelief in particular.
  • xkcd by Randall Munroe - I really shouldn't have to explain this one.
FLUFFY RAPTORS from Kelly Turnbull's MGDMT

FLUFFY RAPTORS from Kelly Turnbull's MGDMT

Webtoons:

It took me a while to warm up to Webtoons (the mobile app that allows creators to upload strips and create community).  I'm generally really skeptical of any service that's free to creators and readers and hosts other people's IP, and as Tapastic proved, for good reason.  You can read stuff on Webtoons on a desktop, but it's a much better mobile experience.  90% of what I read there is slice of life or one-and-done joke comics, like the newspaper funny pages.  (Gosh I'm old.)

  • Average Adventures of Average Girl
  • As Per Usual
  • Bluechair
  • Girls Have a Blog
  • Live With Yourself by Shen - A man wakes up to find that his future self is now living alongside him, displaying the long term impacts of his current decision making.  It's great slapstick comedy, plus some fascinating philosophy about the power of choice.
  • Lunarbaboon
  • Lore Olympus by Rachel Smyth - Greek mythology meets Real World.  That's really the best way to describe it.  Like the best modernized Shakespeare, it's funny and ridiculous, and the art is quiet pretty.
  • Murrz
  • My Giant Nerd Boyfriend
  • Safely Endangered
  • Saphie: The One-Eyed Cat
  • The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn by Tri Vuong - An undead supernatural hunter that has to go into what might be purgatory to save souls that are stuck.  And he's a dude with a floating skull.  And it's very Mike Mignola, both in art style and tone.  Kinda steampunky?  It's good, read it.

Occasional comics:

These are a "go and binge a few weeks worth now and then" category, with no real overarching story, but good one-and-done jokes.

  • Our Valued Customers by Tim Chamberlain (currently publishing reruns) - Ridiculous things that comic book customers have said in front of employees.
  • PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) Comics by Jorge Cham - If you've ever been to grad school, this will make you laugh/cry.  If you haven't, this will convince you that maybe you shouldn't.  Also lots of fascinating science.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith - Funny and punny pop culture references with sidelong nihilism and philosophy.
  • Three Panel Soul by Matt Boyd and Ian McConville, creators of Mac Hall - I started reading this when Mac Hall ended, and I keep up with it now and then partially out of nostalgia and partially because it's comforting knowing that folks who make stuff I like are going through some of the same adulthood bullshit I am.  Their sense of humor never disappoints.

Patreon or pay-to-read comics:

Deja Brew art by Sara DuVall

Deja Brew art by Sara DuVall

  • Avialae by Lucid (available for free on Tumblr, with delay) - Boy grows wings, boy falls in love with next door neighbor, drama ensues.  NSFW bits.
  • Deja Brew by Taneka Stotts and Sara DuVall (available via Stēla, first chapter free at link) - Eisner nominated!  Tea shop with monsters and adorable LGBTQ+ characters and magic!
  • Neighbor by Slashpalooza (available for free on Tumblr, with delay) - This is pretty much Teen Wolf fanfiction with the serial numbers rubbed off, but i don't care because it's cute and I like high school drama.  It's basically a CW show.  NSFW bits, and translated from author's native Spanish.
  • This Vacant Body by Reapersun - Still too early on this one to know more than "mystery with lotsa violence", but Reapersun's character designs and penchant for angst will suck me in every time.

Finished comics to check out:

  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by EK Weaver (Full review at The A.V. Club here, also included in the "Best of 2015" list here.) - If I try to explain how good this is, I'm just gonna screech like a pterodactyl at you.  I've literally made significant others read this because if they don't understand it (they don't have to enjoy it) I know we're not going to work out.  It's a road trip not-quite-love-story and EK Weaver is a MASTER at the craft.
  • Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran (Included in the "Best of 2015" list on the A.V. Club here.) - Another "please don't make me articulate my thoughts I'll just cry" title.  Like QC, it's a slice of life comic, but it grew past that?  And Gran's art grew so much since she started, and the characters did, too.  It's what I thought Scott Pilgrim was supposed to be, but better.

What is Caitlin reading? Sept 1 2017

It has been A Week for a variety of reasons, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

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  1. I finished Princess Jellyfish Volume 5 from last week!  It was good!  It always is.  
  2. I read Mage: The Hero Denied #1 and did a full review over at the A.V. Club.  It was bad, and you should definitely not bother.
  3. Clueless: Senior Year by Amber Benson, Sarah Kuhn, and Siobhan Keenan.  This was freaking cute as hell, in the same way Princess Jellyfish is.  I love books where people are, at the heart of things, supportive and loving, and not afraid to show that.  Having met Amber and Sarah (they're both adorable and kind and charming!) I'm not surprised I loved this book.  But maybe maybe more importantly, this book addresses some of the things that annoyed me in the movie (there are LGBTQ+ couples!) and is beautiful to boot.  It did make me miss Brittany Murphy a bunch, and miss my own innocence when I didn't know anything about Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash as people.  Go buy it immediately.  Then go buy Sarah's Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship because they're both awesome.
  4. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi.  Technically I listened to the audiobook (narrated by Zachary Quinto, who does a good job) of this novella this week in an attempt to avoid the news for a little while.  It's a good speculative fiction story set in Chicago, and unlike a lot of books it actually feels like it.  The "what if" is a fascinating one, and I don't feel like I can say much without spoiling it, but it's a solid little mystery with a compelling core idea.
  5. Jonesy Vol 1-3 by Sam Humphries, Caitlin Rose Boyle, and Brittany Peer.  This was actually a re-read because I've been buying the individual issues of Jonesy as they come out but the arrival of the trade paperbacks made me crave it.  Another bright, poppy story about a young woman and female friendship and embracing your weird.  Clearly I was on a roll this week, between this, Clueless, and Princess Jellyfish.  Sam is awesome and knows how to write flawed characters that are still sympathetic.  Caitlin's art is fun and evokes all sorts of zine memories for me.  And Brittany (who participated in Ladies' Night Anthology years ago) makes the whole book pop off the page.  I really love this book and I'm so glad I have extra copies to lend out now.
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Full disclosure, I did get the copies of Clueless and Jonesy from BOOM!, but honestly I was planning on buying them.

Let's talk about how 16 year old me would be horrified by what I read this week, and how 32 year old me really does not give a crap and would tell 16 year old me to lighten up and have fun sometimes.

I started compiling a list of all the webcomics I read regularly and honestly ever 45 minutes I was only about half done.  I wanted to make sure every single one had a working link in it and also 1-2 sentences describing it, and hopefully I'll be able to finish up soon...I read a lot of webcomics, folks.

What is Caitlin reading?

So I won an Eisner.  That's a thing that happened.  And, as with many life events that are both hugely impactful and also really do nothing to change my day to day life (e.g. getting married) this win made me kinda thinky for a bit.

One of the things that I wonder about a lot is what critics and reviewers read in their spare time, when they're not getting paid to read.  I don't know about anybody else, but I have pretty specific tactics when it comes to stuff I write reviews on: I don't care if it's popular or well known, but I do care if I think it's well made.  I've reviewed plenty of stuff that didn't align with my personal tastes, but it was well executed enough that I could give an honest review of it.  I don't like giving reviews of stuff I just plain don't like.  I have an easier time articulating the good parts of something in a mostly objective way...but if I dislike something, I struggle to not say just that.

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So, a few days ago I put up a Twitter poll asking what folks might want to read from me...and the results were a bit surprising? (At least to me they were.)  Given people's responses to "how do you keep up with webcomics?" I thought more folks would be interested in how I keep up with print comics (hint: I don't).

But! This does mean I have some insight into something I can try to maintain for a while.  I'm notoriously bad at personal blogging, and have been for...well, since I made my first Livejournal in college.  I'm just not consistent with writing unless it's a job, I guess.

So!  New semi-regular feature!  What is Caitlin reading right now?

This week I read a couple of TPBs and stared balefully at the three (3!!) short boxes of floppies I have waiting for me to read them.  (Told you I don't keep up.)

Dead Letters #2 by Ron Wimberly

Dead Letters #2 by Ron Wimberly

  1. Dead Inside (Vol 1) by John Arcudi, Toni Fejzula, and Andre May (Dark Horse).  So I'm addicted to police procedural shows and one of the things I never really considered or even occurred to me that there are cops that specialize in investigating crimes inside prisons and jails.  Like...wow.  Idea.  This is a really interesting story with an interesting, nuanced main female character and lot of interpersonal drama.  There's several POC characters that are just as nuanced, and it doesn't feel like anyone lacks agency.  It's a bit like Orange is the New Black plus Happy Valley (both are on Netflix, Happy Valley is must-watch).  
  2. Dead Letters (Vol 1) by Christopher Sabela and Chris Visions.  I'm pretty sure I got this from Oliver at some point?  Who knows.  My home is like a leaky ship filling with books.  It's good!  There are a lot of "what happens after you die" stories out there (please go watch The Good Place) but this one is different in tone and scope, which is nice.  It's closer to the Vertigo's version of Lucifer talking about people punishing themselves in hell than most other comics about the afterlife.  The characters are clearly based in some tried and true tropes, but they've got enough depth to start to break away.  The art is very...messy?  In a good way?  It often felt claustrophobic and completely overwhelming, with some moments of "Jesus where am I even supposed to be looking right now?" thrown in, but that was very fitting given the situation the main character is in.  I'm bummed I missed out on the floppies of these, Ron Wimberly's covers (which are in the back of the trade) are fantastic, as always.
  3. Princess Jellyfish (Vol 5) by Akiko Higashimura (Kodansha).  I fucking love this book so much.  I fell in love with the show when it was on Netflix and have been gobbling up the English translations of the manga as they come out.  Haven't finished this volume (and weirdly, it starts on page 6?) but I can say with no qualms if you like silly love triangles and gender fuckery and fashion you should definitely read this.

I'm also reading a prose novel called The Club Dumas which according to a blurb on the front "It's like Umberto Eco meets Anne Rice."  It certainly is obsessed enough with appearance and clothes to be Anne Rice, but it's very thick and pretty dense and these days I want to watch a lot of cartoons so I haven't made it very far.

That's it!  That's the first "What's Caitlin reading?" which hopefully will be a regular thing if I don't completely forget.  I'll make a completely separate post about what's on my pull list and what webcomics I read because honestly they're both long enough to warrant that.

How to never miss a webcomic update again (not guaranteed)

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My most excellent colleague J. A. Micheline tweeted what I thought to be a pretty straightforward question today, which led me to believe that I organize my online comics reading a little bit differently than most folks.  After sharing some screenshots on Twitter, I've decided that I'm gonna make a couple posts about how I keep my books in order, avoid buying duplicates, and do my best to not miss updates online.

I do use RSS feeds, Tumblr and Tapastic for a couple of webcomics: RSS feeds for those that update very intermittently and Tumblr or Tapastic for comics that live on those platforms comfortably.  Check, Please! is a great example of a Tumblr webcomic, and thankfully it's popular enough that I'm not likely to miss an update, but I do still have it my bookmarks folder.

For the past seven or eight years (maybe longer?), I've used a bookmarks folder to make sure I don't miss updates from my favorite webcomics.  I use Chrome despite the issues with it, so keep in mind your buttons might be in different spots, but the general principle is universal.

I've got nine webcomic bookmark folders, one for each day of the week, one for comics I want to start reading but haven't yet, and one for comics that have ended or are on long term pause.  I create new bookmarks for each URL and put them in the folder that corresponds to what day they update.  For example, Dumbing of Age updates every weekday, so it's in all five of those folders.  There's a bunch of comics that don't update on a set schedule, I chose to put them all in the Monday folder so that I check once a week to see if it's been updated.

<--- Here's what that looks like in the Bookmarks Manager.  Feel free to judge me based on what I read.

I won't lie: this will probably take you a while.  Remember that you can copy and paste bookmarks into those folders, so you shouldn't have to create a new bookmark for every folder it belongs in.  But once you have your system set up, adjusting things when a posting schedule changes or adding new comics is really easy!  Organize them however you want.  I happen to alphabetize them, because that's the way I roll.  I worship spreadsheets.  (If you're using Chrome, click on that little "Organize" button and the Bookmarks Manager can automatically alphabetize them for you.)

So first thing every day when I sit at my computer, I open the comics folder, right click on the day of the week, and click "Open all bookmarks."  And voila!  Every comic that updates that day is open, ready for me to read at my leisure.  I'm one of those bonkers people that always has a bunch of tabs open, so if you're like me you might prefer "Open all bookmarks in new window".

So, now you know how I manage to not miss any webcomic updates.  I'm moving next week, so as I get the storage set up in my new place I'll probably have some posts about how I organize my physical books and make sure I don't end up with four copies of the same book, because that used to happen way more than I'm comfortable admitting.

Bonus glimpse into just how far I take this organization thing: You may have noticed up there that I have a "GIFs" folder.  I have 500+ GIFs bookmarked in that folder.  They are all labelled with the same naming convention and alphabetized.  I'm that person.  There's like 25 Don Cheadle GIFs in there.

2017 Eisner Award Nominations

This year's Eisner Award nominations were posted today and, much to my surprise, the Comics Panel team at the A.V. Club was nominated in the category of Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism.  A huge kudos must go to our fearless leader Oliver Sava, as well as my colleagues Tegan O'Neil and Shea Hennum, not to mention our amazing editor Caity Penzey-Moog, who has been our champion all along.

We're up against some seriously stiff competition, especially Zainab Akhtar's Critical Chips zine, and Women Write About Comics which is edited by Megan Purdy and Claire Napier.  All of the amazing voices and minds featured in those works are incredibly smart and they love comics just as much as I do.  I'm honored to be included in the same field.

On an even happier note, several of my favorite comics were nominated this year, including Princess Jellyfish (READ IT NOW) and Deja Brew.  Tankea Stotts and Sara Duvall created Deja Brew, which has been posting on the Stela comic app, and it's so sweet and beautiful.  The worldbuilding is just stellar, and I can say without hesitation Taneka is one of my favorite folks in comics right now.

Even better, the Eisners actually implemented a suggestion that I wrote about in my very first piece for Paste Magazine last year.  I doubt that my words were the thing that prompted the change, but I'm happy to see that webcomics and digital comics have their own categories this year, given the issues with combining them.

So yeah.  Pretty great Tuesday.

C2E2 Panels to Check Out

So all of a sudden C2E2 is this week.  The month of April completely disappeared on me.  But I wanted to make sure to share a couple of panels I think folks should check out this year.  (If you want to know where I'll be, it's on stage for three panels myself, or in the audience of a bunch of these.)

FRIDAY

Professional Geek: How to Turn Your Passion into A Career

  • April 21, 2017, 5:15 PM - 6:15 PM, S503
  • A panel of professional geeks from various industries, including video games, music composers, producers, podcasters, and journalists offer the audience sage advice for how to break into your chosen industry, and tell some funny stories of how they got into the jobs they’re in now. Includes a discussion on the different ways that being a geek can help you become a better professional, and advice on everything from copyright law to networking and turning your favorite thing into your career. (Keisha Howard, Devin Delaney, Mark Beers, Blare (Kleeman) Knight-Graves, Majdi Badri, and Keidra Chaney.)

You Have Died From Exposure: The Importance Of Compensating Geeky Marginalized Creators

  • April 21, 2017, 6:45 PM - 7:45 PM, S405a
  • “Do It for the Exposure!” “Aren’t you just grateful to have this opportunity?” Too often, marginalized creators are thrown these adages as compensation for their hard work and creativity in lieu of financial redress like their privileged counterparts. We will be discussing the importance of equal compensation for equal work, the benefit of outreach, and how it’s led to opening the geek culture markets for creators & consumers who don't look like or think in "mainstream". (Tanya DePass, Charlie Hawkins, Michi Trota, Suzanne Walker, and Jennifer Cross.)

More Than a Sidekick: Expanding Visibility for Asian American Characters and Creators in Comics

  • April 21 2017, 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm, S405a
  • Asian Americans are often relegated to the role of sidekicks in comics, but new generations of creators and characters are changing that narrative. This panel will examine the evolution of Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) representation in comics - both on and behind the page - and how these characters and their AAPI creators are fighting for wider recognition and opportunities in the industry. This panel is co-sponsored in part by Chicago Nerd Social Club. #MoreThanSidekicks. (Mary Anne Mohanraj, Draven Katayama, Mark Martell, Michi Trota, Natalia Roxas, and Gene Ha.)

 

SATURDAY

Geek Girls Unite: Finding Your Space in Fandom

  • April 22, 2017, 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM, S405a
  • Join some of your favorite women for a discussion on how to create your own space in geekdom – be that a book club, geek girl brunch, craft circle, or online group. This panel will address how female-identifying fans can find welcoming space in a convention setting and make the most of networking and making friends while there. Learn how fangirls find each other and inspire each other to create new media geared towards nerdy women. (Ashley Poston, Ivy Weir, and Christina Stewart.)

Racebending.com Presents Diverse Means for Diverse Works

  • April 22, 2017, 1:45 PM - 2:45 PM, S403
  • Racebending.com has assembled a mixture of independent publishers and creators who saw a lack of diverse content in their fields and began publishing to provide a home for those stories. We will tackle the issues and opportunities that independent publishing presents for creators and fans who support diverse representation and storytelling in comics. (Gabrial Canada, C. Spike Trotman, Professor Turtel Onli, Michi Trota, and Mary Anne Mohanraj.)

Behind The Parable And The Power: A Celebration Of The Black Women Creators Of The ‘Verse

  • April 22, 2017, 4:15 PM - 5:15 PM, S405a
  • The ladies from A Black Nerd Girl’s Journey and More Than Warriors And Weather Witches are back! This year, we’re going to celebrate the black women behind the pages and productions of our favorite stories from the ‘Verse. We will laud the history of their influence, analyze how far we still need to go, and hopefully hear from the audience how their favorite black women creators have inspired them to pursue their own geeky paths. (Tanya DePass, Jennifer Cross, Mikki Kendall, and Keidra Chaney.)

 

SUNDAY

Creating Kickass Characters

  • April 23, 2017, 1:15 PM -2:15 PM, S405a
  • Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel - how have female comics characters changed over the years and why? We analyze some of our favorite and not so favorite old character makeovers, and celebrate some new ones. Amy Chu (Poison Ivy, Red Sonja), Shawna Benson and Julie Benson (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, The 100), and Joelle Jones (Lady Killer, Mockingbird) talk about the trends in comic character development and where we are headed. (Shawna & Julie Benson, Amy Chu, and Joelle Jones.)

Reblog, Retweet, Resist! Hashtag Movement and Fan Activism presented by Racebending.com

  • April 23, 2017, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM, S405b
  • You reblog, retweet and resist! Social media has transformed pop culture fans into popular movements through fan activism and Hashtag campaigns(Gabrial Canada, Tanya DePass, Michi Trota, Mikki Kendall, and Mary Anne Mohanraj.)