A Quick Note
by Jason Shiga | April 29, 2016, 9:29 am
Hey everyone, sorry about the ads that started popping up on the comments section of my site this week. I didn’t realize that those really tacky target ads are basically the revenue model for Disqus. I know I pledged to keep this site ad free for all of you and I’m working on a way to try and either pay a fee to have them removed or replace the commenting system altogether!
If anyone here has any good leads on good commenting software, feel free to let me know in the now ad laden comments.0 Comments
by Jason Shiga | April 23, 2016, 8:45 pm
That’s all folks! Hard to believe it was just over 2 years ago that we started our journey together. But here we are at the end. I guess I knew going in that 720 pages would be a push but I really had no idea. Too many times, I wanted to call it quits and run away screaming. I probably would have too if it weren’t for the continual encouragement from my friends, family and most of all YOOOUUUU. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Right now I feel Demon’s got the most supportive, smartest audience on the entire internet. You taught me to never underestimate my readers’ intelligence and gave me the courage to reach for some of the nervyest ideas of my career.
Everyone told me it was insane to spend half a decade of my life on this project only to give it away online for free when I could just go with a traditional publisher. The analogy I always hear is that I wouldn’t go volunteer to work at Wallmart for five years for free. But I guess I don’t see it that way. The webcomics and blogs I’ve read have given me so much I feel it’s the least I could do to give a little something back. Thanks to YOU, my readers building a fan base for me, tweeting, promoting the comic and even generously giving direct financial support, it’s worked out for me beyond my expectations. But even more importantly, I’m hoping Demon will be seen as a worthy addition to the great heap of pop culture, to be enjoyed for generations and maybe even inspire someone else to make their own comic one day.
More on that in a sec. But first some business. If you’re wondering what will happen to this website, I’m planning to leave the entirety of Demon up for a couple more months. When the collected volumes start to come out from First Second, I’m removing everything but the first chapter. So if you want to read the webcomic one last time, do it before July. After that it’s gone, but only in webcomic form. If you want a permanent way to relive some highlights of Demon such as Jimmy being born or Sweetpea kidnapping a boy band and forcing them to perform at gunpoint, I have exciting news for you. You can now preorder Demon on amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Demon-1-Jason-Shiga/dp/1626724520)!!! I’ve been working on this book for a year and it’s a gorgeous 2-color printing. We set out to try and replicate the aesthetic of old 2 tone manga from the 30’s and it’s succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. As for shigabooks.com, I’m planning to keep the blog section of this site going. Even though there won’t be new pages of Demon, feel free to come back here for news about future projects, behind the scenes trivia about the making of Demon, cartooning advice and when I might be coming to a city near you!
Looking back on all of it now, I can say that Demon has been the most rewarding experience of my career. When I started, I knew almost nothing about webcomics or crowdfunding. As my wife can attest, my business sense was below nonexistent. It still is. But nowadays I feel like I’ve discovered the secret elixir to the universe. I want to shout the recipe from the rooftops and tell every creator I know that for about $5 in raw materials, some very rudimentary drawing skills and a solid idea or two, they can start to earn a living from their work too. To that end, I’m planning to write up a 2 or 3 part blog post on everything I learned about making webcomics so stick around.
Right now, I just want to thank everyone here once more. Demon has been the journey of a lifetime and I couldn’t have done it without you!0 Comments
Comics Squad: Lunch
by Jason Shiga | March 7, 2016, 3:20 pm
Those of you who know me only through Demon may be surprised to learn that I also have a not-so-secret life as a popular children’s author. I’ve drawn dozens of comics for Youth Outlook and Nickelodeon Magazine but my most successful project has been a Choose Your Own Adventure style children’s comic called “Meanwhile…” Creating interactive narratives has been a passion of mine since I first started drawing comics 15 years ago and really satisfies my dual interests of mathematics and comics in a way almost nothing else does.
I thought that drawing Demon might mean an end to my days as a children’s author (in retrospect, maybe recycling Jimmy’s character design AND name for the cum knife wielding protagonist of Demon wasn’t the smartest career move). However, I was overjoyed last year when I was contacted by the editors of Comics Squad, with an invite to contribute to their anthology. For those unfamiliar with Comics Squad, I feel it’s one of the best overlooked anthologies in comics today. Just reading the list of the contributors is like going through a who’s who of alt comics and children’s comics MVPs: Gene Yang, Raina Telgemeier, Dav Pilky, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Matt Holm to start.
I admit it. I was a little reluctant at first. The schedule of a daily webcomic has been all consuming and adding a baby to the mix just about did me in. And of course there was the very real prospect of choking, embarrassing myself publicly next to some of my favorite cartoonists of all time. But opportunities like this just don’t come along every day. They pay by the piece (not by the page) so if I was smart, I’d have just knocked out a 12 page story and called it a day. But being an egomaniac with delusions of grandeur of course I had to max it out with a 20 page interactive comic, almost a third of the length of Meanwhile. It was rough. I had to sneak back to my studio after Kazuo went to sleep almost every night for months. But in the end, the piece is something I’m really proud of.
For me the challenge was two fold. Part of it was personal. Seven years after Meanwhile, I wanted to prove to myself and the world that I still had it in me to make an interactive comic. It meant getting all the math and design right. It meant hours of sitting around and concentrating with nothing to show for it but stacks of indecipherable diagrams. It was hard pushing my brain to the edge of its abilities but in the end, I’m really proud of the design of this comic.
Secondly, in the years since starting Demon 2 years ago, I had a baby, which can turn your mind into mush. I gotta say when an artist has their target demographic right there in the house stuffing panana pancakes into their face, there’s an almost irresistible impulse to pander to their basest interests. Just ask George Lucas. Having a baby has changed the way I see the world and see what good children’s comic should offer. But I also want my preserve that sharp existentialist edge that I feel made Meanwhile popular (see some of the endings below).
In the end I can say that I’m really proud of my contribution, “Little Jimmy, Kid Detective”. Call me sentimental but what makes me most proud of all is that it’s my kid, Kazuo’s favorite story (after Snoopy Lunchtime Beagle). These days, I can’t help but feel like an over the hill boxer that just stepped into the ring with Nathan Hale, Jeffrey Brown and Cece Bell. But I did it. I lasted all 10 rounds! Comics Squad is an amazing anthology. You should check it out whether you’ve got kids, you were once a kid or are currently a kid yourself. And if you are currently a kid yourself, please don’t read the Demon comic above this blog post.
You can order Comics Squad via amazon or better yet, support your local bookstore or library!0 Comments
BOB vs. Niel Degrasse Tyson
by Jason Shiga | February 23, 2016, 11:04 am
I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial subjects here at this blog and today’s no exception. For those who haven’t been paying attention there’s been a raging debate on the forefront of modern science. On one side you’ve got BOB, rapper and amateur astronomer, who has been claiming the world is flat in a series of tweets and raps. On the other side, you’ve got humanity. It’s hard to believe that anyone in this day and age could believe that the earth is flat. Is BOB doing this for attention (or trolling as the kids these days like to say)? After hours of exhaustive research, I’ve concluded that nope, BOB is in fact the real deal.
The slam dunk evidence he presents is a picture he took from high atop a mountain. “The cities in the background are approx. 16miles apart…” he tweeted, “Where is the curve ?” This was followed by his adoring fans retweeting and encouraging him to keep spreading the truth and not believe NASA’s lies. As a response Niel Degrasse Tyson, recorded a rebuttal rap with his nephew. I was rooting for Niel Degrass Tyson. But sadly, the rap isn’t very good. I’ve layed down a rap track or two myself in my youth and I gotta say that in terms of everything from production to the singing to the lyrics themselves, BOB’s rap is superior in almost every regard. Luckily, scientific consensus isn’t generally decided by rap battle.
I think most people reading about this on their facebook thought it was a funny story. But to me, I came away a little more sympathetic to BOB. He happens to be wrong, in my opinion, but he seems like a genuinely curious dude, not content to just sit around and read facts about the world from his armchair. On the contrary, BOB seems willing to go out into the world to climb the highest mountain or take pictures from airplane windows, looking for evidence to overturn the status quo theory. In other words science. Again, he happens to be wrong, but I don’t think it’s ignorant to ask questions about why people on the equator don’t just fly off when the earth spins. I’d call it a good question. By contrast, Niel Degrasse Tyson in his rap never mentions anything about time zones, constellations, or how crow’s nests and lighthouses work. Instead he called BOB “mentally enslaved” and then dropped a $600 mic on the floor.
It drives me up the frickin’ wall when people use science as a cudgel to shame other people. Science should be about the process of people actively seeking to learn about the world that we live in rather than a collection of truths. I hate to say it but when it comes to one of the more divisive political issues of our day, teaching evolution in the schools, half the people on my “side” don’t even understand the theory themselves. It’s really a lot weirder than you think it is, peoples, but I guess folks are happy to just slap a picture of Darwin on their bumper and call it a day. I had a creationist friend once who said that Darwin was actually a known philanderer. To which my liberal friend rebutted that those were lies created by a right wing conspiracy determined to smear Darwin’s good name. To me, the correct rebuttal is, “So what!?” He could have strangled a million kittens with his bare hands for all I care. That has no bearing on anything!!! I don’t believe in evolution because Darwin said it to be so like he’s some prophet walking down off a mountain top. The theory of evolution makes me proud to be a human. And unlike something difficult like the theory of gravity for example (how many of us can derive Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from Newton’s laws of motion) the theory of evolution is easy enough for any 9th grader to understand fully in its entirety. Not a simplified version of it with analogies but the actual thing in its whole. The idea of someone living their life from birth to death and never having been introduced to this idea is such a bummer, it makes me want to pick up my mic again and return to the stage. If evolution is taught properly, I think every kid should have that moment where they think, “But what about eyeballs!!??” (or blood clotting or sonar, etc. etc.) When I hear someone intelligent like John McWhorter saying that the existence of skunks disproves evolution, my first instinct isn’t to shun him and any website he’s ever appeared on, but to figure out some way to get in a room with him for 10 minutes to make sure he knows what the theory of evolution is actually saying.
But I digress. Getting back to the flat earth rap battle, I guess I expected more from our nation’s foremost science communicator. Science isn’t just a bunch of facts that you can hold over someone’s head like some annoying Lord of the Rings fan. It’s a process, a way of posing questions about the world in an answerable way. Relatedly, can someone get BOB to draw a map of what he thinks the world looks like?
Update: Although not covered in his rap, Niel Degrasse Tyson actually did mention southern constellations in a tweet to BOB.0 Comments
Movie Review: The Hateful Eight
by Jason Shiga | January 13, 2016, 10:00 am
Like many folks my age, I had a Dad who was a bit of a western junkie. Any time I’d see a box at the video store with a cowboy hat or a horse on it, I knew we’d be watching it that night. His love extended to things like “Bridges of Madison Country” (because it had Clint Eastwood in it) and “Brokeback Mountain” (cause he was convinced there’d be a gunfight at the end). As a kid, I never really understood why he liked them so much. But as I grew up I came to appreciate them more. Just when I think I’m out, someone figures out some new twist on the genre to make them relevant to me again: making the US Cavalry the bad guys, incorporating existentialist philosophy, setting one in India (Sholay), etc. Since my Dad died, I actually love going to westerns and imagining what my Dad would think.
Honestly, I don’t think my Dad would have liked this one. There weren’t enough mountains. But personally, I thought it was one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. “The Hatefull Eight” stars Samuel L Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, a civil war vet turned bounty hunter. While transporting his bounty over some mountain pass to Redrock, he gets hit by a blizzard and has to take shelter with 8 other strangers. They’re all trapped in this lodge for a few days. One guy’s a competing bounty hunter transporting his own ward, one guy’s a war vet too but from the other side, one guy claims to be the new Mayor of Redrock but who knows if he’s lying or not, etc, etc. It’s a great setup and all very suspenseful too. By the end of it, Samuel L Jackson is solving his own personal tea cozy mystery like he’s Miss Marple, uncovering blood stains, doing forensics on the stew and trying to trip up suspects in their lies. I was really on the edge of my seat for most of the movie which is impressive considering the majority of it is just people talking in one room. It’s a cracking yarn as they say but I thought it had a lot of philosophical meat to chew on afterwards as well.
One of the major themes of this movie was the idea of justice versus revenge. Kurt Russel is like the moral center of the movie. He has a strong sense of justice and instead of just killing his bounty, he wants to bring Daisy Domergue to Redrock to be hanged. Samuel Jackson, not so much. Our introduction to his character occurs right before the camera pans down to a pile of corpses he’s sitting on. And so on down the line. All the characters represent some point on the spectrum between complete nihilistic lawlessness as embodied by Domergue, to an enlightenment era ideal of civilized society as represented by the hangman (or so we think) with his posh British accent. I guess if I were holed up in this shack with these characters, I’d be on Kurt Russel’s side. I like to think I’m a modern civilized human who believes in rules and order. If we all went around killing people we didn’t like, society would just collapse. For example, I was very sympathetic towards Major Marquis Warren when he shot up those hillbillies in “A Time to Kill”. But I don’t think he should be let off scott free despite Mathew Maconohey’s powerful and unintentionally racist closing argument.
The best scene in “The Hatefull Eight” is the showdown between Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Dern. Bruce Dern plays an old racist confederate general on his way to visit his son’s gravestone. Samuel Jackson wants to kill him (revenge) but can’t just pick up his gun and shoot the old man in the chest. So he tells Bruce Dern this long involved story about killing his son, hoping to rile him up. It doesn’t really do the trick so he keeps going piling on crazier and more insane details. Then it takes this surreal left turn and the next thing you know Samuel Jackson is laughing like a maniac about having gay fellatio with Bruce Dern’s son. And it works! Bruce Dern shoots at Samuel L Jackson who returns fire and wins the gunfight. Pretty cool trick. Except now everyone’s wondering if Samuel Jackson is gay. Anyway, this is kind’ve an old ploy I’ve seen before. You can’t just sucker punch a guy. But if you brag about having sex with their Mom and you take one punch from him, then you and your friends have free reign to kick the crap out of him for hours. So I guess the moral of the story is sometimes you just have to let people call you a worthless shit and brag about their gay sex relations with your family all day long, unless you’re one punch man. At least that’s what I’m telling my kid when he gets old enough.
I’ve heard criticisms that this movie might be misogynist and I guess I can see their point. Every time Daisy Domergue called Samuel Jackson the N-word and got smacked in the face, the theater started roaring with laughter. I guess there’s also the symbolism at the end when Walter Goggins has to “choose sides”. After hearing Daisy out, he decides to ultimately reject her and climb into bed with Samuel Jackson. But to me that wasn’t about rejecting women in favor of men. That was about rejecting lawlessness and nihilism. I thought it was great to see two men from opposite sides of the civil war teaming up together to honor a third man, their friend, who believed in law and order. Anyway, to me feminism means treating everyone equally. To paraphrase Mathew Macanahay, imagine how the movie would change if Daisy was a man. So instead of calling Rey (from Star Wars) a Mary Sue and Daisy Domergue a punching bag, how’s about we just treat them like any other movie character and call Rey a hero and Daisy Domergue a villain.
In conclusion, I really like this movie and how it used western tropes to explore larger themes. I saw the 3 hour 70mm print, but given the lack of mountains you could probably do with seeing the regular theatrical version.0 Comments
TV Review: Fresh Off the Boat
by Jason Shiga | December 1, 2015, 3:00 pm
I remember I once met a 50 year old woman on the bus who was very proud of her red fedora and how taboo it was to be wearing something so vibrant on her head. She was so proud that she joined a red hat club where she and her old lady friends commiserated over how naughty they were being. What was she talking about!? Why did this mean so much to her? Did she just step out of a cave? I’m sorry but I just couldn’t get worked up over her issue, especially since I’d just watched “Girl With a Dragon Tattoo” about a woman with bleached eyebrows and about 5 pounds of metal and rocks and feathers sticking out of her face. Welp, here I am. Now, I’m the old lady trying to explain to you why “Fresh Off the Boat” is the most awesome, edgy, revolutionary thing ever broadcast on TV.
Yeah, I know you just saw a thousand breasts on Game of Thrones. I know the kids today don’t even watch sitcoms any more. And in its bones, “Fresh Off the Boat” is just another generic ABC family sitcom, the kind they’ve been cranking out for decades. But people, it’s been 20 years since “All American Girl” premiered. That’s two decades. There are UCLA graduates who until this year have no living memory of seeing an Asian face on their TV set. I can still remember watching every single episode of “All American Girl” in college, even though I hated it. You might think Asians are a minority so of course most shows will be about white people. But, I don’t know man, Asians aren’t that minority. There have literally been 500 sitcoms over the course of history of television. “Fresh off the Boat” (ABC, Tuesdays 7:00pm) is number 2, thus bringing the percentage from 0.2% to 0.4%. There’s literally more shows about teenage vampires and teenage vampires are an even smaller minority than Asian Americans in my opinion.
Set in 1995 and modeled after Everybody Hates Chris, “Fresh Off the Boat” tells the story of a Taiwanese family who have just moved from DC to Orlando and are adjusting to culture shock and trying to fit into a mostly white suburb. Randall Park (the dude who played a dog daycare owner in that Chase commercial and Kim Jung Un) plays the Dad. Hudson Yang plays the son who grows up to become the famous chef Eddie Hwang and author of the memoir “Fresh Off the Boat” upon which the sitcom is based but then later disowns the sitcom. But the real breakout in my opinion is Constance Wu as the Mom, Jessica.
A lot of the best episodes are about Jessica trying to work her way into a white suburban housewife clique but never quite feeling like she belongs. The Dad owns a restaurant called “Cattleman’s Steakhouse” and a lot of his storylines revolve around him coming up with some goofy way to promote the restaurant. These episodes aren’t supposed to be as poignant but I relate to them even more since my Dad worked at a Hickory Pit BBQ when I was a kid in the 90’s and I remember always being excited when he’d come home with a giant garbage bag of ribs or a peanut butter pie.
As much of a kick as I get out of that Cattleman’s set, I’d say my favorite episodes are the ones where they deal with the subject of race in a fresh way. For example the best aspect of the pilot was Eddie’s relationship with the one other minority at school, a black kid named Walter. At first they eat lunch together but then Eddie abandons him the second he gains acceptance from the other white kids at school. It’s so cold blooded, almost like something you’d see an HBO character do. At the end of he episode, Walter calls Eddie a “chink” and they get into a fistfight. It was sad but also realistic. It was still 1995 so I guess they couldn’t have seen Rush Hour or Martial Law or that Jet Li Rza movie. If they had, they’d have known that Blacks and Asians should combine their powers to defeat whitey.
Another recent episode dealt with Louis, the Dad, living in the shadow of Long Duk Dong. After going on TV to promote the Steakhouse, joking around with the newscasters and doing some funny duck voices Louis comes home and Jessica mentions Long Duk Dong. The mere mention of his name, like Voldemort, brings up so many feelings of insecurity, judgement, and fear for Louis he has to cover his ears in denial before Jessica can even spit out the second syllable. Louis spends the remainder of the episode in a berserker rage intent on proving to the world that he’s a man. For those who haven’t seen “16 Candles” or are unfamiliar with Long Duk Dong, I feel this one character more than anyone has haunted the Asian male psyche, causing us to overcompensate in the other direction, leading to the existence of people like David Choe and coincidentally the real life Eddie Hwang. It’s hard to describe the joy I felt seeing this very specific issue dealt with on an ABC family sitcom.
Speaking of Eddie Hwang, he’s very publicly criticized the show for being too gentle. In real life his Dad punched his Mom in the neck and Eddie had to hide in the closet and call the cops. But I’m not exactly sure that tone would be a good fit for the show. Unlike Eddie, I don’t really want to see Randal Park slapping Constance Wu around the house. Maybe gritty isn’t always better.
Another complaint I’ve heard is that the parent’s accents are phony. I can see why folks would feel that way but I’m not even sure that it’s as phony as they think. In my experience, everyone who’s self taught in English learns to speak in their own jacked up way. My Dad’s accent was not the same as Ken Watanabe’s accent which was different from Ichiro’s accent. This is all to say there is no one single Taiwanese accept in my opinion.
Yet another complaint I heard is that Randall Park is Korean but he’s playing a Taiwanese immigrant. I’m always kinda weary of these types of criticisms too. This isn’t the 1940’s. I don’t hear white people throwing a fit when Sean Connery plays some Russian submarine commander. I think what makes these types of criticisms stick is that a lot of Asians hate other types of Asians. Malaysians hate Singaporeans, Chinese hate Taiwanese, Vietnamese hate communist Vietnamese. Also everybody hates the Japanese. But whatever. It’s 2015! Why squabble over these old tribal conflicts. If you notice all these complaints about the show are coming from other Asians. But I feel Asians should unite together instead of fighting among ourselves like Eddie and Walter, criticizing the show for not being perfect and getting it taken off the air, because seriously it might be 20 more years before we get another chance, folks, and I don’t know about you but I’d like my son Kazuo to see an Asian face on TV sometime before he graduates college. And even if we do get our act together, the truth of it is every Asian in the country could watch the show it could still get cancelled. So I hope white people like the show too.0 Comments
Manhou Shounen Breakfast Club
by Jason Shiga | September 23, 2015, 11:32 am
So I know this is a little old but I thought I’d weigh in on the latest webcomics controversy surrounding Manhou Shounen Breakfast Club. For those who haven’t heard, Manhou Shounen Breakfast Club by Katie O’Neill and Toril Orlesky was a webcomic about a group of aspiring voice actors living in Tokyo. It doesn’t seem that controversial but right out of the gate, the comic was criticized for crooked kanji and fetishizing Japanese people. Due to increasing criticism from anonymous twitter people, the authors decided to end the series a mere 2 weeks after its debut.
I guess there’s a few issues wrapped up in this. The first is the subject of cultural appropriation in comics. I’m pretty sympathetic to this critique in general. Who the hell doesn’t root against Bobby Flay when he challenges some 80 year old abuela to a tortilla making contest? But I don’t know, man, this isn’t really a competition. I feel there’s enough storage space on the internet for hundreds, maybe even thousands of webcomics. It’s not like Hollywood where there can only be one Avatar and it goes to some white kid. If you come at the culture with respect and knowledge, and if there are already healthy opportunities for that culture to portray themselves as well, then what’s the big freakin’ deal?
America is a melting pot of hundreds of different cultures. If you’re completely against the cultural appropriation of Asian culture, then you probably shouldn’t watch Star Wars, Reservoir Dogs, The Matrix or American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. You probably shouldn’t eat pasta or ketchup or dan tats either. Can you seriously make a case that American pop culture would be richer if white people are only allowed to write about white people and Asians are only allowed to write about Asians? If Asians weren’t allowed to write about white people, Frank Cho and Kazu Kibuishi wouldn’t have careers.
In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say it: I, Jason Shiga, speaking for all Asians everywhere hereby grant all white people permission to write comics about us. If you get twitter people criticizing you, just send them a link to this post.
Another issue that this controversy brought up is the subject of internet bullying of cartoonists. I’ve heard people say that criticism is just an unavoidable consequence of putting art out into the world and that Katie O’Neill and Toril Orlesky shouldn’t have given up on their comic so easily. But dude, I don’t know if you read some of these tumblr tweets. They weren’t just criticizing the comic; they were criticizing Katie and Toril as people. Not only is that Ad Hominem. In my opinion, it veers into bullying territory. I guess it’s easy to say that a webcartoonist needs to have a thicker skin but really we can’t all be Paul Pope. Some of the best cartoonists I know are thin skinned, sensitive and take criticism really personally. They have beautiful and meaningful things to say which is continually at odds with their belief that they have no talent and they’re a fraud. I know a cartoonist who literally had to delete her facebook account due to people making fun of her comic online. So who the hell am I to look these folks in the eye and tell them that sorry, the thin skinned need not apply. Go find work in a basement away from the public.
I’d go even further and say that not only are many cartoonists insecure. The best cartoonists I know are the most insecure. It’s probably how they got good in the first place and it might even be part of the cartoonist personality. I can speak to this personally, too. I know this is hard to believe, but I was not always the confident cartoonist you’ve come to know and love. When I got started making comics in my teens, I was but a delicate flower. It was only through the nurturing and gentle encouragement from my readers and friends that I’ve become the arrogant megalomaniac I am today.
One of my commenters recently threatened to punch me in the genitals unless I change my comic to his liking. I admit it. It freaked me out a little. I shouldn’t have to walk around APE this year in fear of genital punching from some random anonymous stranger. I dunno, maybe he was joking but, dude, sexualized violence is not a laughing matter (unless it’s Hunter cum farting into Jimmy’s face, spoiler). Anyway, I was able to delete his comment and get on with my day. But I can only imagine what it’s like for some sensitive teenager just starting off in this field. It’s a sad truth that the internet can be a hostile place, especially for women where threats of assault are just par for the course.
So as not to end on such a downer, I should probably add that for what it’s worth, I Jason Shiga, a man of Asian descent, quite enjoyed the first 13 pages of Manhou Shounen Breakfast Club. It had a really engaging style, synthesizing the best of manga and webcomics aesthetics. I don’t know what Katie O’Neill and Toril Orlesky are working on now, but I am greatly looking forward to reading what they do next (which will probably be some story about white people).0 Comments
The Big News
by Jason Shiga | August 18, 2015, 12:48 pm
Welp, after teasing it 4 months ago, I can finally reveal the big news… First Second, the publisher who brought you “American Born Chinese”, “Anya’s Ghost” and “Zita the Spacegirl” has decided to completely immolate any reputation it’s built up over the years and publish Demon!!!
For those not familiar with Demon’s fraught publishing history, this is amazing news. When I started Demon several years ago, I knew it would be a hard sell. But I had no idea how hard. At my lowest point, I was sitting on 720 penciled pages of insane depraved filth that no publisher wanted to touch with a 10 foot pole. Having just spent the previous three years on the project, I decided to double down, throw a few more years into the project and start tossing the book up on the web for free. I hadn’t self published since the beginning of my career and getting back into it was tougher than I’d remembered. Keeping up with a daily webcomics schedule, mailings, and the convention circuit almost broke my will and spirit as a human. I’d always been somewhat skeptical of webcomics to boot, but the last couple years have been the most rewarding years of my career. Thanks to YOU, Demon went from an unknown webcomic with a daily readership in the double digits to one of the most successful comics in my career. Your tweets and facebook recommendations and patreon pledges turned the project around to the point where not just one but multiple publishers were interested in it again. Reading the comments, fan art, jokes and criticism have been a daily highlight for me too. And now, it’s come full circle. Demon will be a published book after all.
For those curious about the details of the collection, Fist Second is planning to publish it in 4 volumes. The first one comes out in the fall of 2016 with a new volume every 4 months over the next year. I’ve been talking with the designer and I’m genuinely excited about the production. We’re breaking with the standard graphic novel format and going for these really nice wide, softcover, volumes with 2 color printing on this wonderfully rough paper stock. Think of those old 1960’s paperbacks you’d find in used bookstores.
Publishing is an old business, but First Second is one of the few publishers who are smart and courageous about the web and social media. They’ve been extremely sympathetic to my argument that this site not only doesn’t compete with book sales but can add to and supplement them. And in an almost unprecedented move, they’re allowing me to continue running the series in its entirety to the very end, with no paywalls, ads, missing last chapters, or other bullshit. Of course it’s easy for me to crow about how hard I fought for this but I’m not the one risking millions of dollars on this new business model. It’s an incredibly risky gamble to offer the entire content of a future release for free online, but I’m hoping it pays off for them, for me and for you!
Perhaps even more incredibly, First Second is letting me finish up the run of booklets I’ve been printing for my patronis. I’ve never heard of this happening anywhere in any business either. I’ve only got 20 or so left, to be honest, so once they’re sold, that’s it. If you want to be one of the lucky few who own a complete run of hand crafted riso printed Demon booklets, you can get them on patreon for a few more days anyway. Speaking of things that aren’t long for this world, the majority of the Demon archives will be taken down a couple months after the story wraps up on my site. I’m working on a way to try and preserve the comments, since I know some of you have put a lot of time and thought into them. Stay tuned for more info on that.
Thanks once again to everyone who gave me their support, my friends, my agent who I’m sure I drove to the edge of insanity several times over the course of this project, my family but most of all YOUUUUUUUU my readers. I’ve said it before but this project would not be possible without you.0 Comments
Ask Shiga: Dating Advice and My Thoughts on Signing
by Jason Shiga | August 3, 2015, 2:09 pm
How can I get a girl I like and am friends with to see me as potential boyfriend material???
First you should find out if she likes you too! One way to find out is that you tell her a really bad joke that isn’t funny. If she laughs, then that means she might like you and you should ask her to go and see Trainwreck with you. When you get to the ticket booth, offer to pay. If she says, “Thank you” or “I’ll get you back next time.” then that means you’re on a date. After the movie, go get some dessert or coffee. On the walk home, make a joke about how small her hands are. If she puts hers up to yours for comparison, then make a joke about how small her lips are (I stole this move from Baz Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet). You can also make a joke about how you bet she has really small genitals.
I didn’t understand it when I was younger but you can think of flirting and dating as ways of hedging. Either of you can abort mission at any time and both have plausible deniability and go back to being friends. Also if she doesn’t like you, you shouldn’t try to figure out a way to get her to like you. That way madness lies.
A year or so ago I was at an Ursula LeGuin reading and was horrified by the signature frenzy afterward, a crowd of people she didn’t know each with a stack of books and no remorse for the physical drain on her. The impersonal greed of that event left me reluctant to request signatures — which I realize is at odds with my liking the individual touch and bit of connection which an inscription brings. I’d like to learn your thoughts on the whole inscription business
I LOVE signing books. It’s very touching that anyone would think of my signature as having any sort of value. To me, the utilitarian calculus on this is pretty simple. Furthermore, any cartoonist or author who doesn’t like signing their books, I hereby deem a self important wimp. By comparison, when I was at Angouleme last year, the woman next to me had brought a watercolor set and was doing full on 20 minute illustrations for anyone who bought her book.
I especially love signing books for children. At signings for Meanwhile, I always told kids that if they hold onto my signature for 15 years, they can sell it on ebay for $1,000,000. At one event, a kid came up and asked if he could have 2 signatures.
PS: The big announcement is coming soon…0 Comments
Ask Shiga: The Big Announcement, Flastical Physics and Angels
by Jason Shiga | June 18, 2015, 1:00 pm
Q: Have you made your announcement yet?
A: Sorry Burt. I know you’ve been waiting patiently for months for the big announcement I hinted at earlier. Unfortunately, it’s still under wraps. I should be able to tell you something within a month or so. Until then, keep enjoying the story and I’ll let you folks know as soon as I can.
Q: Can the flastical simply move extraordinarily fast such that it seems instantaneous? …why wouldn’t light reflecting off a demon’s flastical affect a photograph taken of a demon?
A: It’s funny that you ask! I’ve actually given a lot of thought to these two issues. Chapter 11 was originally going to be a lot longer but thought readers would get bored with 12 pages of the professor explaining flastical. In any case, I would think that like anything, a flastical’s speed would be limited by the speed of light. But since a flastical is actually outside the plane of our universe and all it’s luminiferous ether, there’s no reason it couldn’t travel faster. The fact that flasticals are in another dimension also would affect how photons interact with it. In fact above the plane of the universe, it could be some completely different particle or wave altogether with its own set of physics. Since photographic plates or CCD detectors are really only built to interact with photons coming at it within the plane of our universe, they shouldn’t be able to pick up any flasticals in other dimensions.
A: I love it! But if there are angels, what if Jimmy isn’t even a Demon? Maybe he’s just a normal human and everyone else on earth is an angel.0 Comments
Comics Review: The Sculptor – by Scott McCloud
by Jason Shiga | April 28, 2015, 11:10 pm
The Sculptor is the latest work from Scott McCloud (Destroy, New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln). And I’m not gonna lie. As square as this makes me sound, I thought the book was a fuckin’ ride. I loved it; I can’t remember the last time I read a 500 page graphic novel that was actually fun and enjoyable. I feel most graphic novels that size can be a bit of a slog due to the burden of proving the literary potential of the medium. Sometimes I just want a engine that’ll pull me through 500 pages, maybe slip in a big idea or two and get out.
The big idea in the case of The Sculptor is something I think a lot of cartoonists can relate to. It’s a question I ponder every year, walking around APE and thinking about all these people following their stupid dreams. Namely, why are we doing this!!!??? Why are we all throwing away our lives, our youth and vitality all for some pile of shitty comics!!??? This is crazy!!!
The story begins when a sculptor decides to make a bargain with death. He will die in 200 days in exchange for the ability to sculpt anything. Did I mention this book has a really simple premise? Anyway, he goes around trying to get noticed in the art world. When that doesn’t work out, he takes it to the street, and eventually works his way to transforming a skyscraper into giant statue of his dead girlfriend. I was moved but I dunno. I woulda taken a day or two to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. I guess I’m a sucker for well executed action in comics, but for me, the scenes of the character molding giant blocks of granite like it was silly putty was a highlight of the book. It reminded me of 90’s comics when cartoonists were just figuring out that the medium could be about anything but still hadn’t quite figured out how to shed their work of all the superhero influences yet. I’ve heard criticism that the sculptures were banal. But seriously, dude? If you walked out your front door and saw a giant 50 story tall sculpture of a woman holding a baby, you wouldn’t be impressed!? Well I hope you’re happy, ’cause they’re probably gonna get the city to label it seismically unsafe, knock it down and build some condos for some billionaires.
As much as I enjoyed all the sculpting, the best parts of the book in my opinion were the ones where the main character dealt with his girlfriend’s depression. I guess I’ve heard readers complaining that she should have taken her meds. But as she explains, her medication dulls her experience of the world. Maybe it causes constipation or something too. I’ve known mentally ill people in my life and it’s so frustrating; I feel like I’m being sucked into a vortex. All I want to do is end the relationship and move on with my life and breathe fresh air again. The book really captured that relationship in a way I’ve never seen before. It rang so true and honest, it was almost embarrassing to read. I also found it really moving how the main character sticks it out with her. I can say I really wanted this couple to make it. This, despite the main character being something of an douchebag.
I said it. I won’t beat around the bush any longer. The main character is petulant, bratty and follows all these stupid rules he’s set out for himself. I guess I can see why he’d be a turn off to some folks, but being an artist myself and knowing other artists, I can also see how completely unflinchingly realistic this guy is. I knew an artist once who had a rule that he would be a virgin forever. It was funny when he was a teenager. But when he was in his 20’s and he’d be bragging about this fact to women on first dates, it just got weird. I too once filled my life with stupid rules. I used to have a rule that I would never eat fast food. Then I got stranded in Wyoming with no money and a stranger bought me a apple pie from McDonald’s and I told him I couldn’t accept it and he basically had to toss it into my lap and then I started crying while eating it.
So I’ll defend this character to the bitter end. And the fact that despite his flaws, I was still rooting for him was a pretty neat trick. If I did have one criticism of the book, it’s that I don’t understand why anyone would make that deal with death in the first place. Even at my youngest and stupidest, I probably would have given 30 years of my life for some awesome power to create art. But what kind of maniac would agree to die in 200 days!? I’m not a sculptor but if I apply it to comics, that power would basically translate to the power to create comics at infinite speed or maybe having a studio of assistants who could all draw like me. I calculated recently that over the rest of my life I’ll spend about 7 years sitting at my drawing desk so I guess 7 years seems like a good lower bound to trade for being Jim Davis. But yeah, all but 200 days is way too much.0 Comments
Big News Coming Soon
by Jason Shiga | April 16, 2015, 12:52 pm
Hey folks! Just wanted to let you know real quick that I’ve got some very exciting news concerning Demon. I can’t say too much more right now other than it’s big. Do stick around though and I’ll let you all know what it is as soon as I can. Sorry to be so cryptic but I promise when you hear what’s in the works, it will blow your mind!!!0 Comments
Ask Shiga: Original Art and A Naming Coincidence
by Jason Shiga | April 2, 2015, 10:01 am
Q: My son introduced me to Demon last month and we’ve both been following it obsessively ever since. He likes it even more than Meanwhile which was his introduction to your work. He turns 13 next week and is an aspiring cartoonist, and I think he’d love a page from Demon as a gift. Do you sell original pages and if so, for how much?
A: Ah, what every 13 year old dreams of… A drawing of Jimmy and a camel hanging on his bedroom wall. But seriously, thank you so much for the kind words! I’m glad to hear you and your son are both enjoying Demon.
I’ve been selling original art directly from my website for $300, but just this week I decided to set up a patreon level that includes original art as one of its rewards! I set the price at $20/mo and I’ve bundled it with a complete Demon subscription so it’s way more affordable than buying individual issues and art separately. Pages 007, 031, 98, 149, 153, 154, 244, 245 and 313 have already been sold, but incredibly, winking Hitler, extradited Thai midget, train explosion and Sweetpea reveal pages are still available!!! But there’s
Q: how did jimmy decided to call himsel “a demon” and the rest of the oss also thought about calling the whole ordeal “demonism”? he knew nothin’ about the proyect… OR DID HE?
A: There’s a ton of examples of bodily possession from mythology and pop culture. So you’re right that it’s a bit coincidental that they would both independently settle on the idea of Demons to frame the phenomenon. But in my opinion it might be preferable to a scene of Jimmy at the police station yelling “I’m Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap!”0 Comments
Ask Shiga: Light Yagami vs. Jimmy Yee
by Jason Shiga | March 28, 2015, 9:22 pm
Q: Can you kill a Demon’s host body with a Death Note?
A: This one is tricky. Deathnote assumes the existence of the supernatural whereas Demon is very materialist in its world view. So I’m not even sure how these two characters could even exist in the same universe. I suppose it comes down to whom the deathnote is actually killing, Jimmy or his current host’s body. Personally, I would feel that the deathnote acts upon one’s body, not their flastical or “soul”. For example, if the cause of death is not specified, the deathnote gives its victim a heart-attack. But as Jimmy’s heart already stopped beating 10 issues ago, I’m not sure writing the name “Jimmy Yee” would actually do anything. Writing “Lee Marsh” while Jimmy is possessing him might work to stop Lee Marsh’s heart but then Jimmy would just transfer on to his next host. All this is to say if Light Yagami and Jimmy Yee got into a fight, I think Jimmy would win.0 Comments
Ask Shiga: Deleted Scenes, Dualism and Demon’s Final Page Count
by Jason Shiga | March 17, 2015, 12:04 pm
Q: Are there any interesting ‘cutting room floor’ ideas you can share with us about Demon? Characters who would have been in the comic already, but didn’t make the cut?
A: Chapter 11 was originally about 25% longer. Most of it featured Hunter and his lab tech demonstrating the one way to kill a demon. Of course this entailed about 8 extra pages of rats being smushed and running around mazes. Real exciting stuff, right? Personally, my favorite part of any hard sci-fi story is when they take a break from the narrative and explain how some engine works for 15 pages. But for Demon, I realize chapter 11 had too much exposition as it was and readers probably want to get to get on with the story already.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on dualism and monism? I think that’s an interesting subtext to Demon, especially in light of recent pages – applying an analytic approach to dualism’s psuedo-supernatural ‘soul,’ and I’ve been really fascinated with how pervasive the idea of an external ethereal self is to even non-religious pop culture writing (the so-called ‘hard problem of consciousness,’ which generally strikes me as the last vestige of spirituality in this age of reason, but is used to great results in Demon).
A: This is a tough one for me. The thought of some array of matter arranged in such a way as to produce consciousness, free will or much less the memory of how my Kindergarten class smelled seems really silly. But it’s hard to imagine any alternate explanation being satisfying either. I’ve seen folks trying to tie it together using quantum mechanics or Godel’s theorem but that seems kinda silly too. If you talked to an actual neurologist it’s not like quantum electro dynamics plays an integral part in how neurons function. It doesn’t seem like humanity has made any progress on this one in the past couple thousand years so it’s tempting to just throw up my hands and say, one of life’s mysteries. But that strikes me as anti-intellectual and rubs me the wrong way too.
All that said, I thought the idea of a “flastical” would be a funny way to combine both viewpoints although I wouldn’t take it too seriously as a philosophical proposition.
Q: By the percentage bar on the comic, do you already have a layout/storyboard of how many pages is it going to be or how is that determined?
A: At this point, I’ve penciled out the entire story and am inking, coloring and printing as I go along. My aim was originally 673 pages so that it would be one page longer than Habibi. But every time I ink a chapter I keep thinking of ways to add more pages. At the current rate I’m slipping in content, the story will end up totaling about 750 pages by the end!0 Comments
Anyone Still Here?
by Jason Shiga | March 12, 2015, 11:14 am
So it’s been a while since I last posted something up here. What can I say? Demon’s new daily schedule has turned out to be a little more time (and life) consuming than I thought it would be. As much as I enjoy sharing my opinions about the world, sitting down and taking the time to write a thoughtful piece about the latest movie I saw or ranting about the New Yorker cartoons turned out to be be the first thing I had to cut from my schedule. Once I’ve rebuilt my buffer, I’m hoping to write some longer blog posts about such pressing topics as the new ABC sitcom “Fresh Off The Boat” or those Caucasian webcartoonists who were bullied into dropping their comic due to crooked kanji. But for now, I’m basically in survival mode. Until this passes, I’m going to experiment with something new here…
Instead of longer posts, I’m going to try and use this space here to answer reader questions. And that’s where YOU come in, my loyal readers! If you’ve got any burning questions, please please please send them to me at email@example.com or just leave them in the comments section below. I’ll try and answer them all, but who knows. Depending on how many I get, this could end up taking even more time. I won’t give away any Demon spoilers but aside from that I’m more or less game for anything. Is Jimmy Yee the same character from Meanwhile? How do I find an agent? What do I use to draw with? Dating advice? Pretty much anything is on the table.
Anyway, thanks as always, fans of Demon, for your continued support both financial and psychic. I’ve said it before but YOU are the reason Demon exists. Looking forward to hearing from and interacting with you!0 Comments
Je Suis Charlie
by Jason Shiga | January 13, 2015, 11:01 am
It seems like every other week, we’re reading about another terrorist bombing. But I’ve gotta say this most recent one really hit home for me. For those who don’t know, last Tuesday, the offices of the humor publication Charlie Hebdo were attacked by three gunmen. They killed 12 people, including several cartoonists, and wounded 11 more, in retaliation for blasphemous comics that were being printed there. I know a lot of my readers here are cartoonists or publishers themselves or have close friends in the industry. I’ve never visited the Charlie Hebdo offices myself but a lot of us have walked into newspaper or comic book offices to drop off work, meet with editors or just have lunch with a friend. This is the world we live in. This most recent news story is just as bad as a lot of the terrorist massacres we read about but this one just seems so much more personal.
I was going to tweet “Je suis Charlie” the other day as a show of solidarity. But everything I’ve read about this magazine really puts into sharp relief the ways in which I am not Charlie. I like to do a lot of bragging in this blog about how depraved Demon is, and how brave I am for sticking to my guns and self publishing rather than change one panel. But the truth is, the folks at Charlie Hebdo were a completely different breed of cartoonist. It wasn’t just fringe radicals that were trying to shut them down. At one point the French government actually stepped in and told them that they needed to obey the terrorists and stop printing their comics. And they weren’t just dealing with threats either. They dealt with actual attacks. In 2011, their offices were bombed due to a blasphemous cartoon they had printed. Instead of fleeing for their lives like normal people, the next week, they doubled doubled down and printed up a special issue with a cartoon on the cover featuring Charlie Hebdo making out with Mohammad and a caption that read “Make Love, Not War”.
Not exactly a knee slapper in my opinion. Maybe something was lost in the translation. But what the hell!? These guys are on another level. I’m not Charlie. I wouldn’t ever draw a cartoon of Mohammad and it’s not because I have a deep respect for all the religions of the world. I’m not Charlie because I’m freakin’ scaredy cat. I don’t know if there was some dude in Paris who heard the gunshots, peed in his pants and started running for his life? If so, je suis that guy.
Another guy I’m not is Ahmed Merabet. I was reading that when this dude heard the gunfire, he actually ran towards the massacre to help. Ahmed Merabet was one of the two policemen who was shot and killed, a french Muslim man who literally died defending cartoonists right to satirize his religion. This dude has been conspicuously absent from a lot of the media coverage, I’m guessing because he doesn’t fit cleanly into the standard West vs. Islam narrative that people are making this to be about. For me, it’s hard for me to think of a human who so embodies Voltaire’s famous quote, “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Although often quoted, few actually put this into practice, not even Voltaire himself who probably died from syphilis or something.
It’s an inspiring standard of free speech so freakin’ high in the stratosphere, it’s almost incomprehensible to me. But in the end, I do believe that freedom of speech means freedom of all speech, not just the speech I like. We don’t get to pick and choose our first amendment test cases so of course it’s going to be end up being something weird like Larry Flynt and not something mainstream like Prairie Home Companion. But I’m happy to live in a world where they can both exist side by side in the marketplace of ideas even though one’s a nauseating stain on humanity and the other is Hustler. So when I hear criticisms that Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were tasteless and not funny, it just seems like a bit of a non sequitur. Also if you’re that much against stupid tasteless cartoons that aren’t funny, where were you when Family Guy got renewed for a 20th season!? Spray tans offend my aesthetic sensibility, but if the entire cast of Jersey shore was killed by a tragic bridge collapse I’d have to be kind’ve a douche bag to shout, “That’s really sad folks but it’s also wrong to get spray tanned.”
Ultimately though, I can’t even get too worked up over this issue. I’d want the freedom to criticize Charlie Hebdo defended as well. My overwhelming emotion this week has been sadness. It’s hard enough trying to make it in this world as a cartoonist without the fear that what we draw could get us killed. But seeing the reaction, the marches and the support from cartoonists and non-cartoonists alike has also made me hopeful. I like to imagine a day in the future when my son, Kazuo tells his granddaughter about this attack and she just looks at him incredulously and, after asking what a comic is, just sits dumbfounded, imagining how completely the world has transformed within her grandfather’s lifetime.0 Comments
$1,700 Patreon Goal Reached (for a few hours)!
by Jason Shiga | January 5, 2015, 4:48 pm
Welp, it happened. Yesterday at 5:24p, a patron (and cartoonist) by the name of Drew Weing upped his pledge from $1.00 to $1.30 to bring my total monthly patronage to $1,700.03!!! For followers of my patreon campaign, this is the level where I quit my day job, tell my boss to go to hell, do a little jig on my desk before skipping out of the office. Sadly, 7 hours later as I was buying my dancing shoes, a different patron lowered his pledge level bringing me back down to $1,640. This kicked off a chain of patrons lowering their pledge levels. As of now I’m back down to $1,593.
Let’s just say it was a very brief victory. But the good news for YOU, my loyal Demon readers, is I’m chalking this one up as a win. That means, starting today, I’ll be updating Demon seven days a week!
Although it was the most fleeting of triumphs, I want to truly thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for their generosity and support. All my patrons who put up with my overly complicated pledge levels, all my commenters who came and left the most thoughtful and gracious posts, my readers who’ve been spreading the word tweeting demon links to their tumblr mashups or whatever it is you do. A million thank yous from me. I like to tell folks that I have the best commenters, patrons and readers on the internet and Demon isn’t just a better comic because of you. It exists because of you. You’ve allowed me to turn this passion project into something resembling a career. A short career that has spanned 7 hours. But hey, it’s a start.0 Comments
This Month Only, $9.99 For a Full Subscription to Demon!!!
by Jason Shiga | January 1, 2015, 10:46 am
Happy New Years everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful year! 2014 has been a wild ride for me. It was exactly one year ago today that I decided to publish Demon on my own. It took about a month to build up my buffer and construct my website before launching on February 1 of 2014.
For those that have been here through the highs and lows, thank you so much for sticking it out with me. It’s been wonderfully disorienting, getting back to the self publishing world after spending years away. Coming of age in the 90’s, the field is almost unrecognizable in its current form and half the fun of getting back in has been trying to familiarize myself with this new terrain. I’ve spent the past year reading too many webcomics to name and I still don’t have a good sense of the size and shape of it all.
Creating Demon has been an absolute thrill. Every aspect of it has been so completely inspiring and rejuvenating from the drawing to the printing to all the amazing feedback I’ve been getting from my readers. Even the business side of things like tweaking all the patreon levels has been pretty fun.
Speaking of which, for me the most exciting news of the new year is that I’m introducing a new pledge level on my patreon campaign: $9.99/mo for a complete subscription!!! That means I’ll send you all 11 back issues the first month and then a new issue every 38 days. This was actually a pricing model I was considering when I first started but figured I’d get too many cancellations. Instead I went with this weird system whereby patrons sign up at $50 for the first month and then drop back down to $5 after they get their back issues. This turned out to be all for naught as my cancellation rate as of today is exactly 0%.
You’re probably wondering what’s to stop someone from ordering the complete subscription and then cancelling after the first month and selling all their back issues on ebay for $5 each. I suppose I should be worried, especially since that sounds like something I would do. But if this past year has done anything, it’s restored my faith in humanity’s inherent laziness.
Hope you all had Happy New Year everyone and can’t wait to get out more Demon to you in 2015!0 Comments
My Thoughts On James Sturm’s New Sexist and Racist Comic
by Jason Shiga | December 5, 2014, 1:19 pm
I know this is old news already but I thought I’d weigh in James Strum’s newest comic that everyone’s been talking about.
To give a little back story, James Sturm posted this comic about an old mentor advising a younger cartoonist on how to deal with jealousy. Who is this person he’s jealous of? A young woman cartoonist who’s fucking killing it. She’s got a D+Q publishing deal, a profile in the Times, book signings with lines out the door. At the end, we find out she’s also successfully launched a $350,000 kickstarter campaign at which point the mentor cuts the meeting short and ends up calling his own mentor. Pretty funny stuff, right?
Colleen Frakes didn’t think so. She tweeted “…I have a lot of respect for James, but all I see here are two white dudes complaining about a woman in comics.” (there was actually a lot of talk amongst cartoonists about this comic but this tweet was the one that summed up the controversy most succinctly and launched the most discussion).
I’m not sure I follow her complaint about the guys being white. As an Asian guy and speaking for all Asian guys in the world, who freakin’ cares if there’s no minorities in this comic? It’s a thinly veiled parody about a CCS teacher talking with a student. Of course there aren’t any Asian people in it because they’ve got the good sense to go to Cal Arts. Also the joke isn’t dependent upon the races of the characters. I don’t even think it’s about gender specifically.
I don’t have a lot of direct experience with sexism in the industry but of course you see little things here and there. I remember buying a comic from a woman a APE and some loudmouth at the table next to her started grumbling, “Man, if I were a girl, I’d be selling hella comics.” The dude had not been doing well at the convention and when I looked at his table it was easy to see why. Let’s just say it probably had less to do with being an oppressed white dude and more to do with his comics being crappy. I walked away feeling sorry for this woman who had to sit next to him for 2 more days.
Another time, when I was just getting my start in minicomics, I met this guy who was convinced that the reason Gabrielle Bell was successful and he wasn’t was because he was male. He told me he was going to do a little experiment. His would release his next minicomic under a girl’s name and then sit back and watch the sales roll in. A few months later, I saw him and he reported his results back to me. His new minicomic was indeed published under a woman’s name. It was an “autobio” comic about some woman who loved masturbating, taking her shirt off and giving detailed accounts of her various lesbian threesomes. “I was right all along!” he said ” The industry is unfairly biased against men. I usually only sell 11 or 12 minicomics but under a woman’s name I sold 17!!!”
Anyway, I don’t have any personal experience with sexism, but as an Asian guy I can tell you it’s not one individual thing but the persistent, continuous nature of racial crap that can wear you down. If I saw Jeremy Lin flavored ice cream by itself, who the hell cares. But after a lifetime of wondering things like why did that publisher jokingly call me inscrutable? Why did that guy on Greyhound ask me what country I’m from? Why are those 5 dudes on the bus bench yelling “ching chong!!” Please don’t kill me. Why did that homeless guy call me a cheap Chinese bastard. Why did that Asian girl I was interested in tell me she prefers white dudes? That’s jacked up. My Dad got T-boned by some guy in Alameda and everyone thinks he’s the one at fault. And oooh, how come there’s no Asian people on HBO except that one Asian character on Girls who’s stealing Leena Dunham’s job? What, Ben and Jerry’s made a Jeremy Lin flavored ice cream with fortune cookies sprinkled in it!? Fuck them!!!!
The idea that every successful woman cartoonist unfairly traded on their sex appeal is really widespread and pernicious. So who knows what sort of shit Colleen Frakes had to put up with in life to bring her to the point where her first thought after reading that comic is “ugh, guys complaining about the success of women cartoonists.” I’m guessing she hasn’t found the comics community to be very supportive of women, which is a real bummer. And even though I disagree, I’m not going to say Colleen Frakes’ interpretation of the strip is wrong. As far as I’m concerned, she’s the world’s leading authority on how that comic made her feel.
All that being said, let me offer my own, more correct, interpretation of the comic. Which is that I don’t see sexism really being the point of it or the young woman being the target of the satire. And maybe this is an even more controversial thing to say, but man in my mind if something’s funny and it makes you laugh, ALL is forgiven. Laughter I feel is the body’s uncontrollable response to hearing a not commonly acknowledged truth. James Sturm has created a dark and brutally honest satire, the target of which was pretty clearly the older veteran in the strip. Here’s a professor who’s devoted his life to pep talks and hand holding insecure little weenies, suddenly realizing that he’s wasted his life and wondering what the hell he was thinking when he founded CCS.
That fictional girl’s kickstarter probably earned more than that older veteran did in 10 years of teaching or whatever he does. And in the last panel we’re left with the image of this sad sack who’s world has come crashing down, looking at the ruins of his life, a wasteland of shattered dreams, disappointment and bitterness. Or as I like to call it, hilarity. It’s funny because I think we can all relate. This field is freakin’ brutal. I’ve lost count the number of times I’m the sad sack who’d realized that my work is irrelevant, no one cares, and I look in the mirror and all I see is F Murray Abraham’s face from Amadeus. James Sturm’s comic is funny because it’s true. And the recasting of the Mozart character as a woman makes it funnier and truer.0 Comments
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