Where’s Aptitude Test?

A fair question!

So, first of all, an apology. It’s been… quite a while! I should really have updated the comic’s status a while ago, but I never quite knew for sure, so I never really knew what to say.

So… what’s up? After finishing Issue 12, I had planned on just taking a short break (I actually went on a vacation right after! I’ve never done that!), but it turned into longer. After doing this comic (mostly) regularly for quite a few years now, I guess I got a little burnt out. I actually started in on it, and got a few pages of 13, but needed a break. Also, I’ve been busy with other stuff.

The Other Stuff

1) I’ve been working with a friend/co-worker on developing a pitch for a cartoon series, in which I’m the writer. We’ve put a  fair bit of work into it, pitched it in a few forms, and are still actively working on it. So that’s a pretty big deal. Wish us luck, obviously. That might have not have prevented AT from updating, but I also…

2) Started working on another pitch! This one for a graphic novel! And this one all by myself! So that’s way more work! I’ve been writing, designing a gaggle (scientific term) of characters, and I’m now in the middle of drawing a sample scene. Once done that, I’ll start looking at shopping that around too. It’s a brand new thing, but is based in the AT universe, because that’s the kind of brain I have. Again, wish me luck.

 

So where does this leave Aptitude? Well, after I didn’t get back to it when I’d hoped, I figured I’d let myself just take a purposeful sabbatical, as opposed to just not doing it and feeling bad. So as of right now, I’m gonna say it’ll come back in 2015. I’ll get more specific when I’m sure, but January seems doable. I’ve had to face the fact that I’ll probably have to end this comic someday, but not yet dammit! I’ve got plenty more to do with this thing! And by god I will! So follow me on twitter and tumblr and tniddle and trufo or whatever to keep up with me, and I’ll be back soon enough! Promise.

If you have any questions, or just want to yell at me, go for it!


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Top 10 Comics of 2013!

It’s that time again! As I upload this, it’s December 31st, and  I’m the last person to upload a “best of” list”. Even Tim did one! I’m afraid I couldn’t do a video game list this year, as I’ve been a little behind in some stuff, and am only now playing a few things that came out this year. But as a quick note, I’ll just say my favorite game was Saints Row 4. Besides being a pure piece of fun when it come to playing, it’s also deceptively brilliant in it’s commentary on the industry as well as it’s own previous entries. Play at least 3 first if you haven’t, but boy. What a way to end a console generation.

But enough of all that! Let’s get to comics! I’m a little disappointed in myself that no… I don’t know, “indy” or “creator-owned” or whatever we might want to call it made my list this year. “Saga” was probably a close 11, and “Sex Criminals” wowed me, but only a few issues were released right at the end of the year. Buy hey, I like to think it really speaks to how the big companies (by which I mean Marvel… ah heh) is letting it’s creatives really let their specific voices come through. Plus, they relaunched like every book with new teams, so there was a lot of chances for fresh feeling books.

 

FF_6#10 – FF – Marvel Comics  

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Mike Allred/Laura Allred

It was a hell of a year for Matt Fraction. Among his various big projects, both at Marvel and creator owned, there was a lot of great stuff, but FF may have been the most pleasant surprise. The companion book to Fantastic Four (also written by Fraction), FF is all about the substitute heroes filling in while the Four are on vacation, and the Future Foundation, the think tank of gifted kids that have been brought together within the Baxter Building.

What FF ended up being was a fascinating tribute to the modern family. In wonderful harmony with the main title’s more nuclear family, FF became a collection of outcasts and lonely souls come together to create something that none of them quite expected.

Also it’s super weird. An artist like Mike Allred isn’t chosen at random, and the stories give him everything it can for him to play with. From the Negative Zone to the Impossible Man’s planet, Allred stretches his surrealist muscles all over while still bringing a charming spark to the gigantic cast.


daredevil28-cover#9 – Daredevil
 – Marvel Comics

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Chris Samnee

Daredevil came just short of my number one pick back on my list from 2011, and it’s been going strong ever since. After artist Chris Samnee joined on as the regular artist, he and writer Mark Waid have become one of the most impressive teams in comics (even teaming up for an incredible Rocketeer mini at the same time they were doing this book). They became full collaborators, with their credits on the book changing to “co-storytellers”, which speaks to what they became as a unit.

The peak was likely the end of the massive conspiracy story they’d built up, in particular issue #25, which is rightfully being often talked about as one of the most intense fight scenes in modern comics. Expect at every turn of it’s telling, and capped off with one of the best twists you can imagine.

Plus, there was an issue where Daredevil teamed up with a mummy and a frankenstein.

 

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#8 – Those 2 Spider-Man Books That Do Not Feature Spider-Man – Marvel Comics

Superior- Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Ultimate: Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Sara Pichelli, David Marquez

 

I’ve talked about Miles Morales and Ultimate Spider-man before, and how the character was a fantastic replacement to the departed Peter Parker. And that continued into this year. Between a devastating tragedy early in the year, to the far more fun story of him fashioning a makeshift team of teen heroes to take down Roxxon. It’s got a great cast and incredible art.

But with that, we still have good old Peter Parker in the regular Marvel Universe, right? Nope! He’s dead too! And Doc Ock took over his body and is now Spider-man. And that’s…. also great! You’d expect Superior Spider-man to be a redemption story about a bad guy learning to be good…. but that’s not quite it. He’s learning some lessons, sure, but usually for the wrong reasons. He does the right thing, but in the wrong way. Otto’s journey in becoming what he thinks Spider-man should be has been strange and surprising. While he’s remained kind of an awful guy, every now and then you kind of see the world though his eyes, and he becomes sympathetic for these little moments that add together to equate to what I assume is going to have to be a surprisingly tough moment when Peter comes back and it might not be the victory I thought it might be.

You know, Ultimate has female Peter Parker clone Spider-Woman, and Superior has Spider-man 2099 in it, so between the 2 books, there are actually 4 Spider-mans, none of which are actually Spider-man. Impressive!

 

SU-053#7 – Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man – Archie Comics

Writer: Ian Flynn
Artists: Tracy Yardley, Jamal Peppers, Ben Bates, others

Sometimes books are written just for you. This book was written for me. Both these books have been doing well. Mega Man had been broaching some very interesting subject matter for it’s age range before the crossover, and Sonic has been keeping me equal parts interested and nervous with it’s quasi-reboot after the crossover. But the crossover itself? The 3 title, 12 issue massive event book that it was? Fantastic.

There’s no point in denying that this is entirely a fan service choice. I’m not here to tell you that “World’s Collide” was incredible piece of literature. It was fairly typical as comic book crossovers go. The villains team up, and they trick the heroes into fighting each other, the heroes team up, the villains turn on each other. You’ve seen it before. Where it excels however, is how much they lean into just doing everything you’d ever want to see happen with this premise. All of Sonic’s allies are turned into robot masters. Mega Man has to defeat them, both restoring them to normal and copying their powers. All the Sonic characters are carefully matched up against their most thematically appropriate Mega Man bosses. The third act opens with the heroes facing down every single robot master at once, because why not!? There is half an issue joking about how they wound up with 2 characters named “Shadow Man”. It is indulgent. And I appreciate the complete embrace of that indulgence.

 

Uncanny-X-Men-3ANXMEN2012015_DC11_LR-1#6 – Uncanny/All-New X-men – Marvel Comics

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Stuart Immonen, Chris Bachalo, others

2013 was the year of X-men for me. For the first time in my life I have drank the Kool-Aid. The whole bowl. Let’s do this thing. Let’s read old Paul Smith books and build a spaceship in a barn.

The centerpoint for the X-men this year was Brain Michal Bendis starting his two ongoing series. In All-New X-men the time-displaced original team deal with the horrible future (present?) they have in store for them, or Cyclops’ team of radical mutants trying to figure out how to be heroes and criminals all at once, the X-books provided a swath of great content all year.

Of real note was “Battle of the Atom”, the big summer crossover between 4 different X-books, including these 2. The big 50th anniversary of the X-men came with all the over the top time travel and betrayal turns and Colossus mustaches you could ask for. In a franchise so built around melodrama, it’s nice that they know that silly fun has just as much of a place.

 

Hawkeye_Vol_4_9#5 – Hawkeye – Marvel Comics

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: David Aja, Annie Wu

Hawkeye has been one of the biggest success stories in comics for the past couple years. It’s the most fiercely “must-read” book on any stack. It was almost much lower on this list because I somehow thought there were very few issues released this year. I guess a combination of not coming out twice a month like some books, and the fact that even 30 days seemed like an eternity to wait. 9 issues came out in total, so I wasn’t totally crazy.

Regardless, Hawkeye might have made the list even if it only had one issue released. Presuming that was issue 11. Maybe my single favorite issue of the year. It’s a detective story starring a dog. I’d say something snarky like “it’s that kind of book”, but what the hell would that even mean?

 

Superior-Foes-6#4 – Superior Foes of Spider-Man – Marvel Comics

Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber

Superior Foes was instantly a book I was interested in. My favorite type of villain is the third rung, more average joe types, so a whole book about that type of guy was right up my alley. That it turned out to be one of the best (and funniest) books to come along in a while was just a bonus.

Revolving around 2-bit supervillain Boomerang and his new team of Sinister Six (which consists of 4-5 people, depending), the book is one part heist adventure, part crime drama, and part wacky sitcom. The book’s cast are all played to their personal extremes, and the plot continues to spin twist after twist into it’s overarching web until it’s become a fantastical farce.

Spencer and Lieber are pushing their own boundaries every issue, seeing just how weird they can get with these guys. Extended fantasy sequences, drunk Dr Dooms, cyborg heads attached to toy cars.

 

detail#3 – Journey Into Mystery – Marvel Comics

Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artists: Valerio Schiti

The Lady Sif era of Journey Into Mystery was sadly short lived, but was pound for pound one of my favorite things to read month in, month out. We simply don’t get enough books by Kathryn Immonen, who’s one of the best writers there is at comedy heavy superhero books. She’s in top form here, infusing the typical Asgardian fantasy stories of JiM with hilarious character dynamics, and spot on comedic timing.

Comedy in comics can be tanked by the wrong artist, but Immonen’s collaborator Valerio Schiti brings it on his end. Every joke is timed so expertly I was in constant awe of the sheer skill. Facial expression, body language, and impeccable paneling all combined to sell every page as a perfect piece of comics. It was short lived, but I’m glad we got what we did.

 

TMNT22#2 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – IDW

Writer: Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, others
Artists: Ben Bates, Mateus Santolouco, Ross Campbell, others

Something has been building the last few years, ever since IDW launched a new modern Ninja Turtles series. Starting from scratch, my favorite part of the whole endeavor was how they were planting seeds to draw from every previous incarnation of the franchise. It’s a very exciting proposition to a lifelong fan. While the series started out a little slow, booth those seeds and the series quality as a whole exploded this year.

From their fully original exploration of the history of the Foot Clan in it’s own incredible mini series, to the modernization to 80’s characters like Bebop and Rocksteady, or the Nutronians, to the fantastic twists on 2000’s characters like Karai or Hun, it’s all handled to the best possible ends.

All of these threads and potential all came together in the “City Fall” story. At the same time a sort of retelling to the older “City at War” storyline from the Mirage comics and 2000’s toon, and at the same time a wholly new story, as a selection of the more modern characters change the setup of the telling to create something totally unique. The drawn out element of Leonardo being brainwashed into a dark apprentice to Shedder feels completely new, and sort of amazing in that, as it seems like such and obviously great concept.

I don’t always expect the most top tier art from a smaller publisher like IDW, but TMNT has had maybe the strongest art teams in comics this year. Artists like Ben Bates (remember him from before?), Mateus Santolouco, and Ross Campbell rotating through various books in the series has made for the most varied but consistently amazing art around.

 

Young_Avengers_Vol_2_5#1 – Young Avengers – Marvel Comics

Writer: Kieron Gillien
Artists: Jamie McKelvie & Others

I had to make my number one choice for a podcast a few weeks back, before I did the rest of this list. So under the duress of having to make a gut decision on my top book of 2013, I was actually a little surprised when I came up with Young Avengers.

Not that I haven’t loved the book. I have, obviously. It just wasn’t what I would have assumed would hit number one. It wasn’t necessarily the book I was constantly raving to people about, like TMNT or JiM. What it was, however, was the book I was most constantly impressed with. Every issue of this series had at least one, if not multiple “wow” moments. Moments that knocked me on my ass in amazement of the craft on display. Gillain and McKelvie are long time collaborators, and it shows. These guys are on their game every damn issue. Every month they pulled off some incredibly inventive piece of comicing. Every issue had at least one big trick up it’s sleeve, and they all worked. The cutaway floorplan fight that was like a combo of flight safety manuals and Family Circus. A dimension that controls the comic panels to trap people. Wiccan escaping time and walking across page layouts from across the story. You never saw these coming, and they all killed.

With 14 of it’s total 15 issues released since January, it’s also easy to single this out as a particular success story for 2013. In this first full year of the “Marvel NOW” era, where Marvel is seeing more and more success letting creators bring their very unique visions to books, YA can be held up as a mission statement.


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RP Profiles – Mona Lisa

In which I explain all the dumb RPG characters in issue 12.

 

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“Mona Lisa” is maybe my favorite character that only got used for one game. She was made for a rare instance of me playing D’n’D. It was also a game in which we attempted to teach my younger brother to play an RPG. He was 13 or so at the time, and it…. uh… well it could’ve gone better. Regardless, the game was short lived. Which is a bit of a shame for Mona’s sake.

Mona was created while I was tearing through reading the original Full Metal Alchemist comics for the first time. I like them quite a lot. Mona is an alchemist, and abides by the FMA rules of needing to draw symbols in order to use her rune-priest type magics. She does this by using the huge spool of paper on her back there. She reaches back, wraps a bunch around an arm, and then paints a quick symbol, and unleashes hell. Since she has to do this every time, she quickly builds up thick sleeves of paper on each arm.

I made her a bandit princess, which might have better suited a more specific game, since she was very chaotic in nature. She was fun to play, since I just went full “Jesse from Team Rocket” style anime villainess with her. Yes, I did the laugh.

 


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RP Profiles – Doh’ Ranna

In which I explain all the dumb RPG characters in issue 12.

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Or “Doe Rhanna” as it was originally. What’s up with that, me who changed the name a few weeks ago? Whatever. From 2011 by that signature.

 

So Doh’ Ranna was very real character I made a few years back. Unlike Angela though, I did it on purpose. The meta-game was “How long until the other players figure out I’m Dora the Explorer?” The answer was a couple sessions. I basically kept introducing more and more elements that would give it away. I think the monkey’s name was “Boo-tah” or something close to that. Magic backpack. I think it was when I got to some sort of magic map that they got wise.

I’m easily amused is the point I guess.

It was in a game of Exalted, and she was part of a group trapped in some kind of weird valley with a mysterious tower. My memory for the specifics is pretty bad. But at some point she got shoes that gave her super-speed, and there was some sort of siege of bad guys on the valley?

The joy here was playing a serious fantasy-RPG but just keeping up the plucky, overly chipper preschool attitude the entire damn time. Try it sometime! It’s super fun. Just a lot of:

“Dear god! There’s a legion of orcs about to kill us all! Get ready for the final battle!”

“Don’t worry everyone! We can do it! Just believe in yourselves!”


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ISP: For the Week of 19/06/13

In which your erstwhile cartoonist talks about recent comics.

Sonic Saga Series :Vol 3 -Eggman Empire (Archie)

by Flynn/Yardley!/Amash/Others

 

Spoilers for a comic from 2007

I’m going to let you guys in on something. It’s going to rock your world, unless you already know me, or have followed me on the internet in any capacity for any length of time:

I really like Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s like my favorite thing. Which can be rough, as there’s been, let’s say periods of time where there hasn’t always been high quality products associated with that brand. But sometimes there is, and this is one of those times.

This week saw the release of Sonic Saga Series : Vol 3, which contains a number of quality issues of the Archie Comics series (#170-176), but in particular it contains issue #175, which is my ALL TIME FAVORITE ISSUE of this book. A book I’ve been reading most of my life, mind you.

And it’s the issue when Sonic looses.

Issue #175 was the moment, just after about a year writing the book, Ian Flynn proved his worth for the rest of time. After 175 issues, he nailed the central conflict of the book, Sonic and Dr. Eggman, better than it had ever been. The issue opens innocuously, but suddenly explodes in tragedy and panic as Eggman’s entire armada appears from nowhere and completely and utterly destroys Knothole Village, Sonic’s home. It happens with no warning, and without a single chance of rebuttal. He wipes out the entire village, and for a second, it seems like everyone gets straight up killed (they don’t obviously). The only one left is Sonic, who you quickly realize was left alone on purpose.

Eggman strides out the fire in a massive battle suit, and proceeds to hand Sonic the most devastating beat-down he’s ever received. Physically, mentally and emotionally. The whole thing is really jarring, and pretty great.

There’s a certain satisfaction to seeing your favorite character utterly destroyed. Sonic is a character/series that rarely ever gets really dragged through the mud, as often happens with licensed books. This issue is probably his lowest point as a character, and I love it. LOVE it. The cool thing about the comic (and the cartoon it was largely based on), was that Robotnik had already taken over the world, and Sonic and his friends were trying to take it back. A big reversal of most kids entertainment. The big point Eggman makes in this issue is that after 175 issues of fighting him, Sonic has never really “won” in any real sense. They’ve won battles, but they still haven’t won the war. It’s a real harsh reality that he drops, made all the more brutal by the realization that Eggman has always known this, and has kind of just been toying with them for years.

Now, obviously Sonic comes back from this. Within the next issue even! But that’s fine. I want to see the hero win, but allowing this sort of loss makes those moments so much better. And there’s consequences! That village is still destroyed, requiring a full change to their base of operations. And at least two characters are massively impacted by these events. One crippled physically, one mentally. It’s pretty intense. Especially for a kids book.

Sonic Saga Series : Vol 3 can be bought online, or at your local comic shop.

Find your local comic book shop!:

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ISP: For the Week of 29/05/13

In which your erstwhile cartoonist talks about recent comics.

REVIEW: X-men #1 (Marvel)

by Wood/Coipel/Morales/Martin

I didn’t even read 1 X-men book a few years ago. Hardy ever really. Beyond the occasional foray into the giant ocean that is the X-men universe (the Whedon/Cassaday “Astonishing”, and stack of “Academy X” back issues, etc), I’d never really fallen into it. This is now the fifth X-men book I’m reading at the moment, after getting sucked into the insanely fun Wolverine and the X-men, and Bendis’ 2 on-goings, and an X-force picked up somewhere in there.

 

X-men is really cool you guys. Like, in general. But this book specifically, the relaunched “Adjective-less” X-men, is also pretty cool. So far at least.

 

Acting as one of the sort of sub-squads of X-men within the larger community residing at the Jean Grey school, this particular grouping of mutant heroines comes together when two surprising guests come knocking at the school. Villain John Sublime, and longtime member Jubilee, who shows up with a baby. Which is odd, as you might guess, as she did not have a kid last time anyone checked.

 

Coipel’s art was probably the biggest draw for me on this book, and he delivers his expected level of excellence that’s been seen in books like Thor or House of M in recent years. There’s a lot of superhero artists that might make female characters kind of “same-y”, but Coipel does a fabulous job making each member of the all-women team distinct from one another, in both face and body language.

The story starts off a nice clip. There’s a few elements introduced that get things moving in the story, although a few of them are sort of only half explained. I’m not familiar with John Sublime, and the baby is only sort of explained so far, but that all appears intentional. It’s easy to follow, just not in a huge rush to spell out the whole story up front. A brief scene near the start seems to be setting up some sub-plots with student characters as well, which I always like to see. The characters all have a nicely defined voice as well. Psylocke’s cold stare and Rouge’s devil-may-care attitude all ring nicely. I could maybe do without Kitty saying “OMG” out loud though (save that for Boom-Boom).

 

 

A nice catchy opening to the series. I expect the hook to come in the next few so this book can officially combine with all the other X-books into a giant Voltron of taking-my-money.

 

Find your local comic book shop!:

6489774726583710560


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ISP: For the Week of 25/05/13

POW_banner

In which your erstwhile cartoonist talks about recent comics.

Welcome! To “In Stores POW!”, a semi- weekly feature in which I plan to exposit on something that’s been released in comic shops during the week. Some reviews. Some recommendations. Some pointless whining. Wherever the wind take me.

(“POW” is both a comic book sound effect, and part of my name. These are the jokes.)

 

DCD527871For the inaugural installment, I’m gonna talk a little about the current run of Marvel’s “Journey Into Mystery”, because I am in LOVE with it. The old-school book that debuted and became “Thor”, it was brought back in recent years as a secondary Thor-themed title with a rotating focus. After a much-loved run about Kid Loki by writer Kieron Gillen, this newest version focuses on Sif, Asgardian warrior, and Thor’s wife (I think?).

Writer Kathryn Immonen (Runaways, Hellcat) and relative newcomer Valerio Schiti (Battle Beasts, Infestation 2) succeed in a relatively difficult thing: making me really like a fantasy book. It’s not impossible mind you, just a little rare. But JiM hits my buttons in much the same way “Incredible Hercules” did a few years back (which is high, high praise).

 

Immonen has been one of my favorite writers recently, as she’s one of the best around at taking the inherent silliness of superheroes and really playing it for all it’s worth. Applying the same theories to the fantasy lore of Asgard works wonders. It’s all the high fantasy you’d want of the genre, but then Sif just yells down a dragon cuz he’s a jerk. It’s great at shifting gears. It can jump from high action to Shakespearean drama, to giant norse-women sitting in a waiting room.

 

 

Valerio Schiti is going to be a damn star in a few years. If not, there is no justice. He’s a one-man master class in comic book storytelling and art. His facial expressions, action staging, and sheer draftsmanship; all top notch. And the pacing! My God the pacing. Along with the wonderful facial expressions, his pacing sells every joke perfectly. Just look at this thing:

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Also, there’s some blood. Mythology and all. My point here is, I love this book quite a lot. It’s one of my favorite books out right now, and I really hope people check it out. It’s kind of what people are always saying we need more of. It’s easy to jump into, it’s fun and lighthearted, it stars an awesome female hero, it’s great. This week saw the release of the trade paperback of the first arc “Stronger Than Monsters”, AND the first issue of it’s second arc with issue #652. In that issue Sif goes to space. As you do.

Now, can we talk about how this guy is just Moe from The Simpsons?

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Find your local comic book shop!:

6489774726583710560


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Aptitude Test T-shirts!

Aha! I did it! I said I would! You can now find Aptitude Test t-shirts at Zazzle.

For those that don’t know, Zazzle is a print-on-demand site. So if you buy one of my designs, they print it up and ship it right to you!

It’s a nice simple way for me to dip a toe into merch and see if anyone is interested. Also, if there’s anything else you’d want to see, like other designs or other kinds of merch, let me know!


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Welcome to “Aptitudetestcomic.com”!

At last! The new site is live! I am very excited about that! A big round of applause for internet wizard Lissa for this amazing looking site.

Also thanks to Colin for hosting the comic and managing the site for all those years. But Aptitude Test has grown up and moved out of the house. Got itself an apartment.

 

So here’s a quick rundown of the new things you should know about in this new website:

 

– Comments: Not only does the blog have proper spam-filtering comments, but now the comic posts themselves can be commented on! You can talk about the comic itself right there! Please don’t hurt my feelings!

– Archive: Is still just an archive, but now looks super awesome! Seriously, check it out. Looks great on mobile devices too.

– Gallery: All the old Halloween/X-mas/Guest Comics can now be found on the gallery page. Maybe other things? Eventually?

– RSS feed: There is one of those things now! People have asked for that for years now. I literally have never used one, so hopefully that works!

– Shop: COMING SOON. I should have this ready to go later this week. It’ll be a Zazzle store where you can get some cool AT t-shirts. Is there anything else you might want? Let me know!


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