Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category.

Better Olympic Narratives

This post originally ran during the LAST Winter Olympics, in 2014. I think it’s STILL VERY RELEVANT.

Like lots of you perhaps, I’m watching bits of the Olympics, and it’s interesting to watch how the same basic narratives are played over and over in an attempt to add drama to the sports. Fundamentally, the Olympics is about world-class athletes competing with one another, so of course they’re all going to be dedicated, and the pride of their country.

But what if…THERE WAS MORE TO THE STORY???

i like twitter, twitter can be fun

Wondermark Valentine Cards!

I always forget to mention this early enough, but a reminder that Wondermark Valentine cards are available!

I’m not sure how long they take to ship outside the U.S., but within the U.S. there is definitely plenty of time to order them and receive them before February 14th. (Updated on 2/12 to add: If you live in Southern California.)

Just in case you’re interested! No new designs this year, but the classics are great.

[ Wondermark Greeting Cards ]

Wondermark in PREVIEWS, and a note on books!

I stopped by the ol’ comic shop last week and flipped through PREVIEWS, the Diamond Distributors catalog where most comic shops get most of their comics and related merchandise.

And I was surprised to see my very own face staring back at me from page 24:

It is apparently a promotional effort for webcomics-turned-print-collections:

Which is great! But still a bit surprising, considering that the specific Wondermark book being promoted there on page 24, Dapper Caps & Pedal-Copters, was released by Dark Horse Comics nearly eight years ago, everyone I know who worked there has since left the company, and I did not know they had copies left of the hardcover edition (I subsequently issued a paperback under my own imprint).

But apparently they do, and if you work at a comic shop, I encourage you to order Diamond item number DEC090040 and fill your shelves with Wondermark books and pitch them to everyone who enters your store!

This is a good excuse to talk about books more generally. As longtime readers know, after self-publishing an early Wondermark collection in 2005, I put out three volumes with Dark Horse, in 2008–2010 (Dapper Caps was the third; it went on to win the PubWest Gold Award for design excellence, and I have a lovely medal to show for it). They are handsome books that seemed to perform okay for Dark Horse.

But they are a comics publisher, and a decade ago especially, comic strip collections (usually sold in bookstores in the humor section) being sold through a distributor that catered primarily to superhero-book stores did not find the largest audience. These days comics distribution reaches into more mainstream stores, and many comic shops stock all kinds of stuff, but a decade ago it was a bit tougher.

So when Dark Horse decided they would do no more hardcovers, and let the editions they had done go out of print, the rights reverted to me and I issued my own editions in paperback:

I also went on to do a fourth hardcover, this time with TopatoCo: Emperor of the Food Chain, which was never distributed through Diamond, but which I believe is now newly available to bookstores and other retailers through the Consortium catalog (ISBN-13: 978-1-936561-93-3).

People often ask me, “What’s the best way to get your books?” And sometimes they mean in terms of availability and ease (in which case, Google will direct you to several different vendors from which you can choose), but other times they mean “Which method helps you the most?”

This is a very kind thing to ask, because it acknowledges that making and selling books can be a tough road, and if the person is going to spend basically the same amount of money no matter what, they might as well put that money where it will do the most good for the person they are trying to support!

The answer, however, is complicated, and the answer may be different for every different author, or for authors who have different relationships with the book trade. Some authors are vigorous vendors of their own work; others prefer to leave the filthy lucre-mongery to the pros and concentrate on the writing part.

From the perspective of being a small publisher, I mostly want you to order directly from me, because all your money comes to me, and then I personally put the book in an envelope and mail it to you (or hand it over the table at a convention).

However, you could also get it from my TopatoCo store, which is almost like getting it from me in that Jeffrey and the folks at TopatoCo only keep a small fee from the sale, plus while you’re there you might see other things you want to buy (from me or other artists on the site) — plus I don’t have to do anything, and can spend my time doing other useful things instead of putting a book into an envelope. That is a very acceptable choice.

Or, you could patronize a local bookstore (or comic book store), if they happen to carry the volume you want, because that money goes to your local community and supports that business, and some of it gets back to me eventually. Supporting bookstores means supporting the places that are, ideally, in the aggregate, able to sell many more copies of a given book than I myself as one dude driving you to my website will ever be able to do. So buying a book from them props up that ecosystem.

Or, you could order from Amazon, not because you have any particular need to support Amazon but because it will arrive quickly and cheaply and you can also get watch batteries and deodorant in the same order. It may help you enjoy the book more if you ended up saving a few bucks on the transaction. And keeping you solvent is good for me in the long run as well!

Of course, if frugality is your main concern, you can also look on eBay or Abebooks for used copies. Sales of used copies don’t result in me getting any money, but it keeps the books circulating (rather than moldering away in a box or on a shelf or in a landfill somewhere) and also makes you feel like a TREASURE HUNTER.

From my perspective as an author, I am happy if you get a book and enjoy it no matter where you get it from. Giving me your money directly is great, but supporting the institutions that support me and other authors is also a virtue.

Of course, stocking 100 copies in your store and upselling every customer you serve would be best of all.

Even moreso if you don’t work in a bookstore. I bet Dapper Caps would sell exceptionally well in a haberdashery.

Check out: My segment on the language radio show ‘A Way with Words’

I’m a big fan of the public radio show A Way with Words, produced in San Diego and airing on KPBS radio there & elsewhere (though it’s produced independently).

I listen to it as a podcast! (The show has a Facebook page too.)

In the show, callers ask about weird words they’ve heard or (often) that members of their family use, and hosts Grant and Martha share whatever etymologies and regional histories they can dredge up about that term.

Recently I called in and asked a language question of my own! It is about a thing my mom always says, which is “piffle”. She uses this word in place of a swear word.

Mom, I can feel you preparing to write a response to me right now, and yes, I already told them the thing you are about to tell me, which is that you like the reaction it gets out of people when they hear you say it. It’s all part of the conversation I had on the show!

My call aired on the most recent episode, “Happy as Larry,” from January 20.

If you want to listen to the whole episode, here it is (my segment starts just before minute 40), or, they also have it posted as a separate segment of just my bit.

I could also have asked my mom directly about the origin of her use of the term, but this way, I got to be on a radio show. Mom, you can call in and fill them in with all the details if you like, and I will hear it on some later episode!

2017 Errata

Embed from Getty Images

Occasionally here at Wondermark, our crack team of japists are made aware of a factual error in one of our comic strips. Here is our annual attempt to set the record straight. (Previous years’ entries.)

#1299; The Ever-Watchful Eye of Everyone
The YouTube video shown in the final panel has its slider all the way almost to the end of the video, but the counter displays the current time as “0:00”. The correct time should be “2:57”.

#1321; My Dad’s Salad
This is a biggie, considering this comic originally ran in 2011 at Saveur.

The salad recipe in the comic, which has now been corrected, originally called for various ingredients including “about a cup of olive oil.” I have since realized that is way too much olive oil.

I have never actually measured how much to use! I always just drizzled it over the salad before tossing. It’s about 4–5 seconds of drizzling, which probably comes out closer to 4–5 tablespoons. Please update your handwritten index cards in their recipe box accordingly.

#1301; In which a Gänger is doppeled
Dukey actually borrowed the twenty bucks in question in 1994, not 1993. It was to buy a ticket to see D2: The Mighty Ducks at the Ferblangville Cineplace 13.

#1314; Home Among the Primitives (Part 2)
While not an error per se, it may be unclear in the final panel whether time traveler Jordal Bumpskern, when describing mailing an epithet-filled envelope to “the sun”, is referring to:

  • Sol, the star at the center of the eponymous Solar System,
  • The Sun, the British tabloid,
  • The Sun, the American literary magazine, or
  • The Sun (previously Sun-Telegram), the daily newspaper serving San Bernardino, California.

It is the first of these.

#1336; In which Much remains Unheard Of
A better punchline in the final panel would be: “Well…I listen at 2x speed, so”

#1285; In which Tax is a Team Sport
The comic posits a clever way to make federal tax collection comport with the human desire to not be forced to monetarily support policies that one opposes.

In doing so, the characters describe how their tax money is collected and then used to fund certain programs. While this is a popular conception of the role of taxation, and while it is indeed true for state and local taxes, it may be incorrect with respect to federal income tax.

As explained by economist Stephanie Kelton, “Modern Money Theory” posits that a more useful way to think of national monetary policy is that the federal government issues its sovereign currency into the economy when it spends its budget, thus creating that money by fiat, and then removes currency from the economy when it taxes citizens.

That money “collected” by taxation doesn’t exist in any real sense once the government instructs banks to deduct it from your bank account. As the issuer of the currency, the Fed is the stadium, not a player, and it simply increments the scoreboard.

And the money spent by the government does not come from a pool of taxpayer dollars; those specific dollars did not actually exist before they were spent — a government check here being the equivalent of an instruction to a bank to increment an account to the positive.

Thus the purpose of taxation is to create a demand for sovereign currency (since you have to pay taxes, you have to work to earn dollars, which are the only thing the government accepts as payment) as well as control the overall money supply to limit inflation.

Under this theory, budget “deficits” do not represent a shortage of spending money available to the government; rather, any budget deficit on the government’s part is a surplus on the part of the recipients of that spending, i.e. individuals, companies, or state and local governments.

And under this theory, the question of spending priorities thus should not be driven by deficit concerns, but rather by choices in social policy — i.e., which injections into the economy will result in greater well-being and prosperity among the citizenry.

So if that is true, then the premise posited by the comic is incorrect. Taxation does not “pay for” anything; in fact, any taxation at all begins to seem like a waste, because those dollars are just being deleted. The grudging sacrifice for the greater good the comic takes for granted is thus a misapprehension.

Taking all this as a matter of economic fact, the comic’s premise is therefore wrong (at least with respect to the federal government).

But as a behavioral economic concept, to get people to feel like they are active participants in and have a stake in the government, I think the “allocation” checkboxes are still a good idea. In fact, in the last panel the Congressman outright admits that the allocations would be simply a useful fiction.

JUST LIKE MONEY ITSELF, AM I RIGHT

#1288; A Real Stand-Up Friend
The rhinoceros is definitely not going to stop doing that.

Wondermark regrets the errors.