March 6, 2014

Albany Middle School | Berkeley, CA

April 11-14, 2014

Fumetto International Comics Festival | Luzern, Switzerland

October 4-5, 2014

Alternative Press Expo | San Francisco, CA


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Switzerland Fumetto Comics Festival Report
by Jason Shiga | April 15, 2014, 4:19 am

For those of you wondering why there hasn’t been a blog post here in a while, it’s because I’ve been out of the country. I thought about filing a report from Luzern but for whatever reason my hotel limited me to 1 hour of internet access per day. Also if you are in Luzern, do not stay at the Alpha Hotel.

To make a long story short, I was invited to the Fumetto International Comics Festival in Luzern Switzerland to speak with a panel on the subject of motion comics. Maybe I made that story too short, because even as I write that sentence, I realize it makes no sense. To explain a little more especially for folks who have never been to a European comics festival, they’re quite a different beast from their American comic convention counterparts. Instead of being set in one convention hall, European comics festivals are composed of a collection of galleries, exhibitions, installation pieces and booths scattered around a city center. Obviously European geography with its medieval walkable cities lends itself to this style of festival in a way that would be difficult to pull off in LA for example.

Another difference is the amount of government arts funding that are poured into these events. Given that the festival flew in and provided lodging and food for 3 Americans, an Australian, a Dutch guy and 2 more local cartoonists from Geneva, I was expecting something more akin to a Ted talk or Hall H. But there were less than 50 people in that room! How can this be sustainable!? Well I guess it’s not my job to question these things. If the Swiss taxpayers choose to support and celebrate arts and artists instead of buying aircraft carriers who am I to object? In fact the Dutch guy mentioned previously, told me he was loving the Fumetto festival and appreciated how much less commercial it was to Angouleme (I wonder what he’d think if he ever went to comic-con).

As for the talk itself, it was one of the most inspiring and exhilarating panels I’ve been on. The festival had basically managed to collect a group of folks on the leading edge of interactive comics (or “motion comics”) from around the world, gather them in one room and let us go at it with presentations, discussions, and Q&A for 3 hours (with 2 intermissions). As a person who makes interactive comics, it’s often frustrating how few other cartoonists there are in my field. Getting so many of us into one spot was a really bonding experience for me. We ended up hanging out a lot outside the panel, taking day trips to Berne, hanging out till 1:00am eating Swiss pasta and of course… karaoke.

In terms of the panel itself and interactive comics in general, that’s a larger subject for another post. In the meantime, I’d encourage anyone here interested in the subject to check out my fellow panelist’s works…

http://www.nawlz.com/
http://opertoon.com/2012/06/upgrade-soul/
http://www.submarinechannel.com/author/remco/
http://www.cognitocomics.com/operationajax/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/binary-land-hello-world!/id641625680?mt=8
http://apelab.ch/

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Demon Subscriptions Now Available Via Patreon
by Jason Shiga | April 1, 2014, 1:30 am

Big news, everyone. Maybe you’ve heard the rumors. Well they’re true. Today, I launch my Patreon campaign!!! (www.patreon.com/shiga)

For those who don’t know, Patreon is a crowdfunding site similar to Kickstarter. But instead of funding one big project it’s meant for longer term or continuous projects like ongoing webcomics for example. The basic idea is, you essentially become a patron of the arts by donating a few dollars a month to support the artists you like. If enough people become patrons, the artists can use that money to make more art thus enriching the culture in which we live.

Yeah, I don’t get it either. Which is why I’ve hijacked the site to sell subscriptions to Demon. Honestly, you’d be better off buying a subscription from the store section of the site (which also just went up today). But I understand not everyone has an extra $120 floating around in their bank account. One really nice thing about Patreon is they figured out a way to charge people a few dollars per month safely, automatically and relatively painlessly.

The lowest pledge level for Demon is $1/month for the PDF subscription and probably gets you the most bang for your buck. But the one I’m really trying to push is the $5/month booklet subscription. The booklets are 2 color risographed little floppies and I’m only printing up a few hundred. There’s other reward levels too but you can go visit the site to learn about them. The two I really want people to get are the PDF and booklet subscriptions.

Anyway, I want to be clear that Demon will always be available for free from this site. The subscriptions are just a nice way to help support the project, the artist and enrich the culture in which we live.

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My Bucket List
by Jason Shiga | March 28, 2014, 3:41 pm

Yesterday marked my return to the bachelor life (wife and kid are in New Mexico for the week). Won’t have time to update the news section of the site too much this week because I’ll be using my time to eat liver, watch the Noah’s Arc movie, crash an open mic comedy club and all the other bachelor type activities I can cram into a week. Also going to try and knock some items off my life bucket list which I leave for you below. Wish me luck!

Jason’s Bucket List

Bicycle to LA
Walk to San Francisco
use the word “ontological” and “epistemological” in a sentence
Attend Burning Man
Be an extra in a Bollywood movie
Be an extra in a Hollywood movie
Get lost in the woods
Walk to New York
Perform at the Stork Club
Learn another language
Write a video game
Write a text adventure game
Build a robot
climb a mountain
Do a chin-up
Learn to breakdance
Learn to tapdance
Complete a marathon
Complete a D+D campaign (as player and DM)
Drink milk directly from the nipple of a cow
Go to London
smoke a bong
shake hands with someone who’s shaken hands with the president
give a $100 bill as a tip
Read Grapes of Wrath
perform at an open mic standup comedy
Build a fire
Solve a math olympiad level problem
learn 10 knots

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On the Challanges of Raising a Baby While Being a Cartoonist
by Jason Shiga | March 25, 2014, 4:11 pm

And now for a little peek into my personal life… As I write this, my wife Alina is preparing to head off to a memorial in New Mexico with our son, Kazuo. I won’t see my baby for a week and he doesn’t even know what’s coming. When I look into his eyes, all I can think is, “Zippideedoodah! What a wonderful day!” The thought of a week without my baby fills me with such glee and euphoria it’s hard to hide the smile I have when I tell my wife how much I will miss them. There’s been so many times since the birth of my baby that I wanted to scream in frustration, gently hand Kazuo to a stranger and leap in front of a garbage truck. But I can’t even do that! I can’t even die!!! When Kazuo poos in his bath water or tries to pee on my head or starts licking band aides he find on the ground I just want to grab the little guy by his lapels and shout, “I wish the king of goblins would take you away.” But in the end, all I can do is vent on twitter (by the way, sorry twitter friends for having to put up with these tweets for the past year and a half). I realize it must be even harder for all the Mom’s out there. I feel as a woman, if you aren’t smiling and laughing as your baby vomits down the front of your shirt then society deems you a failure as a mammal.

I know so many cartoonists who just barely cling on to their lives. Living with 4 roommates in some hovel, eating warmed up cream of mushroom and spaghetti every night all so they can work some crappy job at a cafe that gives them the time to draw their comics. Then they have a kid and it’s over. I feel every comic I read from a new Mom or Dad could be their last. Lauren Weinstein wrote an amazing piece about the obstacles of being a Mom and cartoonist for “The Big Feminist But”. But most parent/cartoonists can’t even do that because they’re too busy wiping poo off the wall or more generally busy with the task of trying to keep a human life from perishing.

Sometimes I’ll meet a bachelor cartoonist who tells me they’re having writer’s block or not feeling inspired and I just want to strangle the life out of them. But really I’d be strangling myself. I was once that bachelor and it’s the cruelest joke that a sadistic god has played on humanity: to give us time when we’re stupid and waste it watching hours of The Price is Right and then snatch it away from us right when we’re wise enough to figure out exactly how we want to spend it.

Anyway, maybe it’s one of those “grass is greener lessons” I have to learn. When I imagine the bachelor life, I think of George Clooney living it up in his Italian villa. But when I think about what my own bachelor life was actually like, it’s kinda pathetic: Endless walking around Oakland and eating beans out of a can so I wouldn’t have to wash a dish. I’m pretty sure George Clooney doesn’t do that.

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Bill Watterson Speaks
by Jason Shiga | March 20, 2014, 11:29 am

Just finished reading the Bill Waterson interview in Mental Floss. Honestly it’s more of a profile; if you really want to hear what Bill Waterson has to say in his own words, you’re better off reading the snippet they put online. Given that he gives so few public appearences or interviews, I felt it was a bit of a wasted opportunity on the part of Mental Floss. They asked him a lot of questions about why he quit Calvin and Hobbes and other stuff he’s already gone on the record about. It was nice to hear he enjoys Pixar movies but dude, ask him about contemporary graphic novels. Has he read Chris Ware or Chester Brown? The world may never know. Also they failed to ask him if he’s been making comics!!!

Anyway, the piece got me thinking about comics, strips and the business side of this industry. There’s so much to unpack about the guy, I could really go on all day.

Firstly, the strip only ran for 10 years!!! It’s been not running twice as long as it ran. I guess you could say the Beattles were only together 6 years but they were 6 very important years for a generation of baby boomers. The 10 years that Calvin and Hobbes ran covered my formative years: 5th grade through university. At age 10, they were the gateway drug that eventually got me into reading the newspaper. At age 20, when I made my first comic book, it served as a model to aspire towards. For a lot of cartoonists my age, Bill Watterson is one of their earliest and biggest influences.

Secondly, two of Bill Watterson’s hobbyhorses that I’ve always admired have been his anti-consumerist stance and his constant rallying against shrinking comics space in the newspaper. Given the influence on my generation of cartoonists, why the heck are 70% of webcomics black and white 3 panel gag strips held afloat by T-Shirt and coffee mug slaes? You don’t have to run some McCloudian infinite canvas funded by bitcoin micropayments. But c’mon, just a little splash of color, people!

Lastly, why the hell doesn’t Bill Waterson write a graphic novel or just print up a book of original Sunday strips? The collections do gangbusters. I can only imagine what a new book of original Sunday comics would do. For someone who doesn’t seem like he craves external validation, he’s really letting the newspaper syndicates torpedo his artistic ambition. As a cartoonist myself, it’s hard to imagine anything like a format adjustment causing me to throw up my hands, and say “I quit”, put down my pen forever and walk away. And I’m not even a great cartoonist; I don’t have a 10 year run of Calvin and Hobbes in my file cabinet. I’d like to think Bill Waterson has been secretly working on some magnum opus that he’ll drop on the world when he’s ready. But who knows. Maybe he’s just watching Pixar movies and calling it a life.

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More on why Demon is a Webcomic
by Jason Shiga | March 4, 2014, 3:43 pm

I remember having endless debates in the 90′s with my friend Derek Kirk Kim about webcomics. For those who don’t know, Derek Kirk Kim was somewhat of a webcomics pioneer. His comic “Same Difference” debuted online and over the course of 2 years garnered a huge fanbase culminating in a million page views the week it reached its finale. Scott McCloud listed it as one of the 5 reasons people will pay for online comics content in the coming decades. The popularity of the story eventually went on to win all three industry awards and launch Derek’s career in alternative comics. All to which I said, “Phooey!”

My argument at the time was that webcomics will never have a future because 1) they cannot be read on the toilet and 2) buying a $2 comic is cheaper than buying a $1500 computer so people will always buy the comic. I think Derek’s rebuttal was that someone could sign up for computer time at the library and read the webcomic for free. So there.

I guess a lot has changed in the past 15 years. You can read webcomics on the toilet with a $500 tablet. Physical comics now cost $20. And someone (Penny Arcade maybe?) eventually cracked the code to making money from online webcomics. There were a lot of really noble experiments with micropayments and subscription based sites but at the end, it really just came down to slight variants on selling adspace and merchandise. In a way, it’s a shame; it’s hard to imagine a young Bill Waterson having the stomach to print Calvin and Hobbes as a webcomic today. But at the same time, I’m really hopeful about the future.

One wake up call for me was seeing a lot of my friends run successful kickstarter campaigns. I remember getting a $5,000 Xeric grant when I was first starting out in comics. It was literally a life changing amount of money for me and reshaped my entire career and life trajectory. To think we live in an age where a cartoonist starting out can essentially use kickstarter as a modern Xeric grant, applying for $5,000 every year in perpetuity. Printing has also gotten a lot cheaper. Risographs and print on demand publishers are now covering the gap of print runs ranges over 100 and under 2,000 in a really elegant way.

All this convergence couldn’t have happened at a better time for me. Demon is in a word, insanity. Right now you’re thinking, “What? No big deal, Jimmy shot himself in the face. What evs’s.” But trust me. You will not believe some of the bananas shit Jimmy gets up to in future pages. Your heart will beat and you will scream a primal scream of rage and confusion and maybe pee in your pants! Something the Xeric grant instilled in me and that I hold to this day is the self-publishing DIY ethos. I knew getting a larger publisher to even look at Demon was a long shot. And I was right! Demon has been designed as a self-published project from the get go. And I’m really grateful some of these trends in webcomics and publishing have crested right as I launched.

I’m even more optimistic about the future of webcomic. But as I learned from the 90′s making predictions about the future is really hard and you end up looking ridiculous. So let us just enjoy this present for now.

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Webcomics Review – Haunter by Sam Alden
by Jason Shiga | February 25, 2014, 10:26 am

Haunter (http://studygroupcomics.com/main/haunter-part-1-by-sam-alden/) was one of my 3 Ignatz picks for best webcomic of 2013. The man being haunted in this case is an unnamed boar hunter who steals a bunch of sacred BBQ skewers from an ancient temple (I woulda taken the gun but that’s me). This pisses off some guardian of the temple at which point all hell breaks loose. It’s a very short story. You can read it in the time it takes to watch the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Arc which I feel it might have been based on. By the way I heard Steven Spielberg took the giant boulder sequence from a Scrooge McDuck comic so I guess it’s only fair.

Getting back to Haunter, I haven’t read a comic that packs this much punch into such a short sequence since Sammy Harkham’s Poor Sailor. The story really draws you in right from the first panel and doesn’t let you go until the last. The colors are vibrant without being garish and literally glow in my hands when I read it on my tablet (a really excellent use of the web format). To sum up, it’s a masterpiece.

Not to get too zen but the best part of the story is the story that’s not in the story. After I read Haunter I spent quite a lot of time trying to imagine the series of events that would lead to the existence of this temple. In a few wordless panels, we get a huge freakin’ backstory about the fall of civilizations, the building of new ones followed by their eventual demise as well, who knows how many times over. Art Spielgelman famously said that comics is what happens between the panels. Haunter shows sometimes the best comics can take place before the first panel too.

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Is the Golden Age of Webcomics Behind Us?
by Jason Shiga | February 19, 2014, 9:20 am

If you ever read those essays in Cerebus, you learn a lot about Dave Sim. One thing I learned is that we actually have something in common. Like him, I don’t really enjoy listening to music. My brain is missing that thing, whatever it is that can transform an abstract series of bleeps and bloops into a melody. I remember at age 25 asking my friend Jesse Fuchs to just burn me a CD of all his 5 star rated mp3s. My goal was to sit and force myself to listen until something in my brain clicked. But it never did. Perhaps part of the problem was I ordered them chronologically in itunes and I had to give up some time around the late 1940′s (I later learned that in general most people acquire their musical tastes in the exact opposite order).

When presented with any huge body of knowledge be it literature, music, film, etc., the most beneficial order to acquire said body of knowledge remains an interesting question for me. The Dewey decimal system was famously conceived on the premise that you could take the most primitive society on earth and present all of humanity’s knowledge in Dewey order and by the end, they’d be modern Victorians. I remember taking a film class in college where all the films we watched over the course of a semester were presented chronologically. That order actually made sense because film is so closely tied to technology. It was completely mindblowing to hear dialogue, see color for the first time, or appreciate Citizen Kane as a special effects movie.

All these thoughts have been coming up again as I’ve been working my way through the wikipedia list of notable webcomics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_webcomics). I figure it’s a good a starting place as any. I decided to go in reverse chronological order this time. Before jumping in, just looking at the list caused one thing to pop out at me. It starts off slow in the early 90′s with a notable webcomic debuting ever couple years or so. By 2003-2005 around 30 or so notable webcomics debut every year. Then they drop off to where by the time 2013 rolls around, wikipedia only lists one notable webcomic debut. Huh? Did I miss some golden age of webcomics? What’s going on? Maybe people’s plates are full by this point. Maybe instead of 30 T-Rexes, the field has been dispersed amongst hundred of little rodents. Maybe everyone who wanted to start a webcomic did it already. I don’t know!

At this point, I imagine I must sound like Andy Rooney but less coherent. I promise, this will be the last post where I meander from thought to thought about the confusing and overwhelming nature of modern webcomics. I’ll be back soon with some actual reviews of webcomics I’ve enjoyed and opinions about what webcomics can be. See you then!

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Welcome to Demon
by Jason Shiga | February 13, 2014, 9:39 am

Being the first Asian guy selected to judge the Ignatz Awards since Frank Cho 14 years ago, I felt a particular pressure not to screw it up. I didn’t want to just nominate all my friends and call it a day. My goal was to honestly evaluate

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Demon is here!
by Jason Shiga | February 10, 2014, 9:49 am

Welp, it’s official. Demon has launched! I’m sure you’ve got a million questions about this project. What’s it about? How can I buy it? My child loved Meanwhile; should they read Demon next? To answer briefly: a demon, an online store will be coming soon and NOOOOOOO!!!!!!

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Demon is Coming…
by Jason Shiga | January 31, 2014, 4:12 pm

Hi everyone! I’ve got some big news coming soon…

Can’t talk too much about it yet but if you’re wondering why I haven’t put out a new book out in a while, it’s because I’ve been hard at work on a top secret project for the past 3 years.

I’ll start posting pages every weekday starting Monday. Check back here for more info about the project itself. And in the meantime, enjoy the poster.

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Start at the Beginning
Demon: Page 1

Latest Demon Chapters
Demon: Chapter 1
Demon: Chapter 2
Demon: Chapter 3

Latest Demon Pages
Demon: Page 53
Demon: Page 54
Demon: Page 55
Demon: Page 56
Demon: Page 57
Demon: Page 58 (most recent)

Other Comics
Bookhunter
Fleep
Deadlock
Meanwhile
Empire State