October 8, 2003 -- ORDER NOW!
It's Wednesday, and even though I screwed up and said I'd be taking orders on the 15th, I really meant this Wednesday, the 8th, so here we go. Click the link to go to the order page!

A couple of things...
People who placed orders last week when the order link was briefly active are wondering if they have to re-place their orders. They don't. Those orders that came in last week are fine; I've got the envelopes ready and everything. I just wanted to stem the flow for a few days to give myself some CCNow leeway. 

Also, a brief recap of all the stuff you get if you pre-order:
1. All books are signed and sketched in.
2. The first 50 orders get personalized signings.
3. I'm throwing stickers into the packages for as long as they hold out.
4. I'm dropping the price by $1 up until the books are actually shipping.
5. The first 50 orders get a folded Apostrophe poster in the package as well

Pretty hot stuff, huh? Now order, people, order! And don't forget, I'm offering a special 4-pack deal, all four books at a go, for a smoking $44 US! Check it out now now now!

October 3, 2003 -- Quick mini-update
This is gonna be real quick here folks, cuz I gotta take off to see an early screening of Kill Bill. I'll be back later today with details, and more stuff about the UBOPE, but I just wanted to throw the toon up real quick before I head out. Here it is.

Back from Kill Bill
Okay, I'm back. Great movie, I'm still digesting it, I'll have a review up at some point, I figure.

The UBOPE!!!
Well, the book is at the printers, and they say three weeks from last Monday. I started taking pre-orders on Tuesday, but I got a message from CCNow; seems they have a new wrinkle in their system that cancels orders not shipped within 25 days. That shouldn't be a problem with the orders I've taken so far, but just in case I'm gonna hold off taking any new pre-orders until next Wednesday, October 15 (*correction -- I meant Wednesday, October 8*).

I got an e-mail asking whether I was offering any special incentives for pre-ordering. Why, sure I am, I thought! What do you folks want? Here's what I've got. I'm gonna sign and sketch in all the pre-orders, of course, and the first 50 orders, I'll personalize it to you. Plus, I'm going to be cramming in stickers as long as they hold out, so act early and get some. I'm also gonna drop the price by a dollar for all the orders that come in before the books are actually ready and shipping. And, if you guys want, I can include Apostrophe posters in the first 50 orders, though I'm telling you now they'll be folded and included in the package instead of mailed separately in tubes. Any takers? Tune in on Wednesday to order your book! 

Movie Reviews
I haven't done Kill Bill yet, but I've totally done my School of Rock review! Find it in the reviews section! Find it now!

Links and links
I got an e-mail asking if the Jupiter Spores strip was in any inspired by the 17th entry on this Popular Science list of bad science jobs. It wasn't, but I might as well throw the link up anyway. Another reader sent in a link to a running flower that doesn't really look like Bob but goes to show how appealing cartoon flowers can be. And here's a peculiar one: The World Beard and Moustache Championships; the reader who sent me the link said it make him think of me. Uh... okay? Over at NeedCoffee.com they have a nice little promo for Bob swag, cool. A web-toonist named Ray wanted me to put a link to his Raytoons comic, though I warn you: apparently you have to sign onto a Yahoo Group to read it, and as somebody who can barely find the energy to wrestle through the Yahoo login in order to read posting in my own fan club, I don't know how strongly I can recommend it. And then I got a link to another webtoon, Death of the Party. Crazy.

Is that it?
For now, yeah, I think so. But you never know, you know... I could think of something at any time and put it up here! I probably won't, but I could!

October 1, 2003 -- Hang on, hang on...

Now NOT taking pre-orders!

Howdy folks. Yesterday I started taking pre-orders for the UBOPE, but I got a message from CCNOW saying there might be a problem if I can't ship the orders right away... something about credit card authorizations expiring. We're gonna figure something out tomorrow, but I just wanted to put a brief hold on incoming orders until this is sorted out. Soon, though, soon, and I'm sorry to pull a switcheroo on something so vital...

September 30, 2003 -- Finally!
Now taking pre-orders!
Yes, the damn thing's finally at the printers, so I'm taking orders as of now. Plus, I'm offering a special 4-pack deal, all four books at a go, for a smoking $45 US! Check it out now now now!
September 26, 2003 -- Older than Jesus
Or at least the same age as Jesus, now. Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. Your wishes came true.

Sooooo... here's a new cartoon:

**mini-update Friday afternoon**
Attitude 2
I just wanted to take a second to plug and express glee about Ted Rall's upcoming collection Attitude2: The New Subversive Social Commentary Cartoonists. Here's the cover:

I'm in it, along with a bunch of cartoonists I'm too busy to link right now, people like Alison Bechdel, Jennifer Berman, Max Cannon, Barry Deutsch, Emily S. Flake, Marian Henley, Justin Jones, Keith Knight, Tim Kreider, Aaron McGruder, Kevin Moore, Eric Orner, Greg Peters, David Rees, Mikhaela Blake Reid, Neil Swaab, Brian Sendelbach, Tak Toyoshima, Shannon Wheeler and Jason Yungbluth. Yep. It's comin' out in February 2004, and it looks to be incredibly great.

Not quite ready to take UBOPE orders
Next week, though, I'm almost 100% sure. I'd like to thank everybody who went to their local comic stores to bug them to order some copies; most stores do their ordering in the next few days, so there's still time to mention that it'd be a good book to bring in. Remember: p. 360 in Previews, in the Book section!

SMAX reference
Last week I posted a panel from Alan Moore's SMAX comic that seemed to feature a little Bob-like flower in the corner. A mini-flurry of e-mails was the result, and I eventually heard from SMAX artist Zander Cannon who put the reference in cuz he's a Bob fan. Sweet beyond measure!

Bob's Quick Guide to the Apostrophe, You Idiots posters
Yep, just takin' the time to mention there are still lots of posters to buy, and you should, y'know... buy 'em.

Toronto Comicon
Hell, I didn't even know there was such a thing, but I got an e-mail mentioning it yesterday and, like a flash, I signed up and got plane tickets. With flights so cheap, it'd be crazy not to go! So, yeah, I expect to be showing off my wares in Toronto on Nov. 7-9. Click this Torontocomicon.com link for more details n' stuff.

Movie reviews
Yeah, I've got a couple for y'all this week. Let's see, I did Underworld last week, so this week should be Woody Allen's latest Anything Else and The Rock's The Rundown. Check 'em out in the review section.

Other links
Somebody sent me a link to a cartoon on the web, Imitation of Life, and the current strip seems to depict a disturbingly plausible interaction with a Steve-Notley-like cartoonist at SPX. You be the judge.

September 19, 2003 -- Almost there...
Oh, I can feel the UBOPE, it's so close. All the content is finished, and now I'm just waiting for my stalwart design man to lay out the text pages and it's off to the printer. My plan is to start taking pre-orders once I deliver it, and my dream is to be doing that by the next update, though I've got a stinky feeling it'll have to wait for the update after that. But rest assured, soon enough it will be impossible to come to this web site without knowing that an exciting new product is being sold.

Okay, this week's cartoon:

Previews, folks, Previews! Time's runnin' out!
The window of doom is swiftly closing, so I must take this opportunity to urge all you folks one more time to go to your comic store and ask them to place some UBOPE orders. It's in the September Previews, it's on pg. 360, it's in the Book Section. I have this terrible vision of talking to the Diamond people and finding out they only got, like, 20 orders over all of North America. Let it not be so!

It's my birthday!
Well, not yet, but soon. Monday, to be precise, which I am happy to see is marked on my Futurama calendar as "Hobbit Day". Why? Well, sillies, it's because September 22 is birthday to both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, so it's like Bilbo's big birthday party at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring is also my birthday party! How old will I be? With the witheringly honest self-revelation I hope you've all come to recognize and appreciate, I must confess that I will be 33 years old. So much for my "Hollywood" career.

Speaking of "Hollywood"...
I've got a review for you cats, Underworld. I just wish I had nicer things to say.

Is that all?
Well, I suppose I could bug y'all to buy books, but at this point, as I advised an eager e-mailer, it's probably worth it to hang on until the UBOPE comes out, especially since I suspect I'll be offering some kind of 4-book super-pack deal. But that doesn't mean you should refrain from buying posters; if anything, it probably helps!

I got a couple of e-mails pointing me towards the most recent issue (#2) of Alan Moore's SMAX. Specifically, I was directed towards a panel that seems to feature an awfully Bob-like flower. Here, I'll toss up an image of it:

I dunno... it sure looks like Bob. And I gotta say, if it is, that would be pretty damn cool. I adore Alan Moore's stuff, and I've been ripping off his narrative approach like crazy (especially in LoveBot Conquers All). From what I understand he provides his artists with exhaustive scripts that lay out all the little details that appear in each panel, so if this maybe-Bob is there through his agency, I'm a-tremble with glee. And if it wasn't Moore's idea, but simply a little detail thrown in by artist Zander Cannon, that would also be highly cool. And if it has nothing to do with Bob, well, that's less cool, but at least I knew for an instant that heaven would be the cruelest of places.

I almost feel like a jerk going on about my maybe-cameo in this issue without going on about how good the comic itself is. Let's remedy that. If you're not reading SMAX, and by extension Top 10, the series of which SMAX is an offshoot, and thus by further extension all of Alan Moore's work, then you're missing simply the best comics going. This most recent issue takes SMAX's cute fantasy world and, in true Moore style, spins it into stuff that's so real it hurts. Plus, this week also sees the sensational final issue of Volume 2 of Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, praise Allah. If you've only seen the movie, please disregard it. The comic series is one of the greats, and this capper does what Moore always does, which is pay absolutely everything off as well as it could while simultaneously confounding expectations and keeping secrets that shouldn't, couldn't, have held as long as they did. 

Anything Else?
A couple of odd links for y'all. First is a link you've probably seen already --it was on Fark.com-- but I'll mention it: a TV that actually projects its image onto thin air. And then, an article about blobs of gaseous plasma that can grow, replicate and communicate - fulfilling most of the traditional requirements for biological cells. Hot!

Oop! One more thing!
I'm also happy to announce that I'm now a proud member of the Moderntales family, or at least an affiliated cousin or something. For those not in the know (as I was not short weeks ago) Moderntales.com is a subscription-based online cartoon web site, and it seems to be doing pretty well. So well, in fact, that they're starting, or indeed have started, a couple of subsidiary sites, one of which is GraphicSmash.com. Starting sometime next week, it looks as though LoveBot Conquers All will be appearing there for your digital enjoyment. Yeah! All right! You still gotta buy the UBOPE, though.

September 12, 2003 -- 2 years and counting...
Whew! Kind of a late, Friday-morning-instead-of-Thursday-night kinda update for y'all this week, brought to you with all the electronic speed of the Internet. So, a new cartoon:

All September is duly declared to be "Previews Freakout Month", in that this is the one, slender month in which my listing and ad for the UBOPE appears within its pages, like so:

Comic store owners place their orders this month, and man, it sure would help my cause if you went to your local store and bugged them to order some. And while you were at it, you could let them know that they can order copies of the first three books from Cold Cut Distributors or Last Gasp Distributors.

Ah, another yearly convention cycle grinds to a close. SPX was okay, not awesome, not terrible. I sold enough stuff to cover my hotel bill, which was my main worry. LoveBot was a moderate success, and the big surprise this time was how well the posters sold. Man, those things are the best -- easy to take to the show, easy to bring back from the show, I can sell 'em for $10 or give them away free to get people to buy more of the books... ah, I love posters. Still, I tell you, it's weird. I take 3 boxes of books to San Diego and sell out in two days. Then I take three boxes to SPX and end up having to bring a box home with me after three days. CAN ANYBODY EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT KIND OF MAD INVERTED FUNHOUSE LOGIC MAKES THIS POSSIBLE? ANYONE?

Anyway, I wasn't the only one complaining about slow sales this time around, so I know it wasn't just me. I gotta give the SPX folks credit for trying some new stuff, and for responding to people's suggestions (chief of which being that Sunday should be a sell day), but it's clear there are still some bugs that need workin' out. The key thing to remember seems to be that a lot of people leave on Sunday, whether or not there's a softball game or the Ignatz awards, and the programming should take that into account. But there aren't any easy solutions. What seems to be very clear, however, is that the center of gravity for East Coast comics conventions has decisively shifted to MoCCA in New York. Pretty easy to understand; given the choice of going to Bethesda, MD or New York, NY, I think most people are more interested in going to New York, even if it means giving up the everybody's-trapped-in-the-same-hotel chuminess of SPX.

On a different note, I face an unusual turning point in the coming week or so. Y'see, the cartoon I draw this coming Sunday will be the last one for the UBOPE; all strips after that will end up in the mysterious fifth book two years from now. So I've got about a week to decide: should I switch formats? That is, right now Bob is done in a double-strip format, 2 wide by 1 high, like a Sunday strip in a newspaper. While this is my preferred format, it creates several severe problems. One, a strip that's wider than it is high makes it extra-difficult to find space for it in a magazine; it's like slotting one of those long Tetris pieces horizontally, there aren't a lot of options for layout. Two, the wider-than-it-is-tall format eats up shelf space in a bookstore; displaying a Bob book pretty much means it has to take up two spots instead of one. 

The alternative is to switch to a vertical format, something closer to that used by Tom the Dancing Bug, something that's, like 1 wide by 1.5 high. Suddenly it becomes easier to find space for the strip and the eventual next book. The downside is that the fifth book would be weirdly out of shape compared to the first four. A more mysterious downside is that I'd have to rearrange my writing style away from "top line of panels = setup, bottom line = payoff" over to some strange new thing, where I'd be working with three rows of panels rather than just two. Tricky. If any of you folks have opinions, let me know. I'm curious to hear what you think.

Movie Reviews
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I've got two movie reviews for y'all, The Order and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Tearful Sept. 11 Restrospective
Well, here we are, two years later, and everybody who died that day is still dead, never knowing the world they created.  The rest of us, we still gotta live here. 

So how are we doing, two years on? Well, shockingly, the "make peace through war" plan seems to be stumbling a bit; for some reason, all war seems to make is more war. Oh, I know, I know, it's only been a few months, we gotta give this war a little time to mature and magically invert its nature to become peace. But still, I can't help wondering... is it possible that war isn't the answer?

Steve Notley's Thumbnail solutions
For the record, here's a quick summary of what we should have instead of attacking Iraq, and then a quick note about what to do now.

If creating a stable, secular, democratic Iraq is what we were trying to accomplish, our best shot at doing that was, of course, before the war. The UN weapons inspectors were busily declaring Iraq clear of weapons, and if they'd been left to their work, eventually it would have become possible to start talking about dropping the sanctions and allowing Iraq's middle class (smashed after Gulf War 1 and a 90s full of sanctions) to reconstitute itself. Since Iraq actually already had a secular state, if we'd been patient we could have allowed some prosperity to kick in and drain sympathy for radical fundamentalism.

Now, admittedly, the drawback is that this leaves Saddam in power, so all those people in mass graves from ten years ago go unavenged. But still, if we're actually trying to help the still-living people of Iraq, isn't it a good trade if we don't have to wage war on them, killing tens of thousands of them (cuz hey, Iraqi soldiers are people too) and wrecking billions of dollars worth of their stuff? 

Yes, Saddam was (and presumably still is) evil. But to those who get choked with outrage at the idea of allowing Saddam to live and hold power after all he's done, I merely point at our buddies in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Israel. If we're gonna get all realpolitik with these people, why not with Saddam? Or, to turn it around, since we hold a fair bit of responsibility for making Saddam the dictator he is, maybe we should rethink our whole "propping up repressive regimes" policy today.

Everyone assumed that the only way to deal with Saddam was with the stick, becaue he was such an inveterate liar (he kept denying he had any WMDs, for Pete's sake!), such a mad dog, that the only thing we could do was, y'know  --GET 'IM! Now, with a little hindsight, we can maybe note the fact that all through the UN phase of the runup to the war, Iraq was as compliant as they possibly could have been. They allowed the insepctors, they allowed them in the "presidential sites", they allowed scientists to be removed for questioning, they destroyed missiles that violated a UN limit on the flimsiest technicality, etc, etc, etc. Clearly, they were willing to do whatever they could to avert the war.

If we'd added the carrot (phased-in benchmarked dropping of sanctions), who knows hat we could have done? There's no reason the weapons inspectors couldn't have stayed in the country for years, however long we liked, making sure Saddam wasn't cooking up some kind of superweapon in a basement somewhere. Hell, the UN could have even established political benchmarks for sanctions, and could have applied pressure to Saddam that way. 

Post War
Of course, we didn't do that. Instead, we went ahead and killed those thousands and wrecked those billions, and didn't think, really at all it seems, about what was going to happen next.

A brief aside -- I find it amazing that when people ask "Why wasn't the Pentagon better prepared for post-war Iraq?", the given answer seems to be, "Oh, well, our sources led us to believe that the Iraqi people would love us and everything would be easy." And for some reason, people seem to accept that answer. I mean, excuse me --isn't it your job to not be incredibly wrong about stuff like that?

Well, wrong they were, and now we're stuck with it. Now the problem is that the American occupation is itself the problem. The longer we're there, the more we're going to anger and radicalize the population. The harder we hit out at "terrorists", the more people we sweep up off the streets (hundreds of innocents for every few actual enemy soldiers we catch) in "raids", the more civilians we kill through twitchy trigger fingers, the worse everything is gonna get. But at the same time, if we pull out, the whole place is going to fall apart. So what do we do?

First, I think we have to face the fact that since the war, the whole place may fall apart  no matter what we do. We had a shot, described above, at holding Iraq together and moving it and us forward, but we blew it, so shit will probably go down no matter what.

Given that, if we went into this thing for the sake of democracy, then let's let democracy help us out and, oh  I don't know... hold an election? It's pretty simple, really. The UN takes over and monitors the election, with no restrictions on which parties can run, and whoever gets elected, the US Army in Iraq does what they say. If a pro-American government is elected, maybe they ask for the soldiers to stay on and help out. If a Shiite theocratic party wants all the soldiers gone yesterday, then get 'em out. 

Now, does that mean I think that all we have to do is hold an election and everybody will suddenly learn to get along? No, not at all. In fact, there's probably a good chance that everything would start falling apart during or right after the election. But since there's a better-than-good chance that that's going to happen anyway, we might as well take a stab at doing the right thing, see if it helps at all.

Of course, the US still has a fair bit of responsibility to shoulder. I know it'll never happen, but the sensible thing is for the UN or the World Court to find the US guilty of waging an unprovoked war of aggression, and awarding reparations to Iraq. This sounds bad for the US, but it's actually good for both parties. If the US pulls out of Iraq, then it doesn't have to spend most of the $87 billion a year on maintaining troops who are, ultimately, causing the problem. Instead, you just award reparations, say $50 billion, and the US spends less and more goes directly to the Iraqis.

Admittedly, that's more pride than I think America is willing to swallow. But y'know, after screwing things up as bad as this, I think a little pride-swallowing is in order.