Friday, December 01, 2023

Success Is 90% Spite by Jane Zei

I admit this is a weird thing I do: I read full books from webcomics that I don't follow. But I want to argue that it isn't weird.

First, why would I want to read a book of a comic where I've read all of the comics already? Well, OK, yes: if you like a thing, you like it, and often want to do it again. And I used to do this a lot in the years when print comics were powerful and dominant over the land: Doonesbury and Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side and plenty of others. All right, maybe that's not the convincing side of the argument. But, still: you can see not wanting to do the same thing again, right?

So, then: why not read a whole book of something that you think you'll like? Sure, you could find wherever it lives on-line, navigate back to the beginning of time (assuming you can figure out how to do that) and then one-day forward through it. But isn't the whole point of a book that it's just easier?

I always thought so. And that's why I read the first (and maybe only) collection of Jane Zei's "The Pigeon Gazette" (which seems to live in multiple places equally: Tumblr, Instagram, and Webtoon), Success Is 90% Spite.

Now, I do have to complain about the book format, too. At least in my library app, it's a reflowable "book" (I'm going to guess ePub; the system hides that) rather than a "comic" (in PDF, so each page displays as a page and can be pinched to expand/shrink). So each strip is a specific size, and if I want to view them slightly larger on my tablet, I have to turn the thing sideways, which has the knock-on affect of adding a blank page after each cartoon.

(The part of me that works with UX people is hanging his head, muttering darkly, and cursing the world.)

But enough blather about formatting!

Zei has a funny, cartoony style, which was solid right from the beginning of this strip, and a strong central character in the version of herself that she presents. You've probably seen her strips somewhere; they're the kind of thing that gets shared socially, usually with no attribution. Luckily, most of Zei's strips feature her avatar centrally, so random readers have a decent chance of realizing all these separate funny things are part of the same big funny thing, and finding it. (That's more or less how I did it.)

Of course, in the way of all good things, The Pigeon Gazette seems to have quietly ended last summer - like so many webcomics, it seems to have been tooling along at a comfortable pace and then just stopped. We may be at the point where we get a random "sorry it's been so long! I promise to get back to a regular pace!" strip every three months, or a flurry of things before another final silence, or that all the web presences just quietly disappear one fateful day.

But the book exists, which loops back to my original main point (and I do have one). It was published in 2020, by Andrews McMeel, a big name in the funny book biz, and Success will survive and be findable for a long time, no matter what happens online. And that's why I prefer books. This one is funny and zippy and - that horrible webcomics word - relatable, and I suspect a lot of you would like it roughly as much as I did.

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