Robot 6

Santoro’s Comics Workbook highlights stronger creator community

"The Great" by Alyssa Berg, a comics-in-progress at Comics Workbook

A generation ago, becoming a comic book creator was usually a solitary and self-guided process. Sure, there was How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, The Kubert School (still going strong), and a few other tools, but for the most part you were on your own. Today there is a blossoming variety of resources that are building a smarter and more skilled community of tomorrow’s comics makers.

One of the most recent additions is Comics Workbook, a new web magazine set up by cartoonist Frank Santoro (Storeyville, Kramer’s Ergot). As he explained on his own Tumblr, Santoro intentionally set out to put together a team of contributors that consisted of more girls than boys to “flip the script on this comics magazine thing”. Instead of looking to other comics sites, he turned to girls roller derby and the supportive community those teams create, and is trying to “copy their model.” The results are a rough yet immediate DIY vibe that displays comics and minicomics in-progress (such as “The Great” by Alyssa Berg, pictured here), brief yet hilariously brash reviews in comics form, a series of reflections on Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, links to interviews and reviews, and more.

Santoro is in the middle of teaching an eight-week correspondence course for comic book makers, and has written a series of columns examining layouts and color for The Comics Journal. So the guy definitely knows his stuff and has some interesting theories (even if they are beyond me as a non-artist).

Another recent addition is (No) Pain!: A Guide to Injury Prevention for Cartoonists by massage therapist and anatomy teacher Kriota Willberg. She has made the first comic to address the physical health challenges associated with drawing all day long. Yes, despite the stereotype of overweight slobs sitting around on cushy chairs and lightly doodling, the physical act of drawing comics hours upon hours can actually result in injury to nerves, muscles and joints. Willberg’s 60-page minicomic provides exercises and tips to reduce pain and fatigue.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in what is becoming a growing sector to help foster the future voices in comics. Jessica Abel and Matt Madden’s website and Facebook page serve as excellent supplements to their Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, and its recent sequel Mastering Comics (and in fact were what tipped me off to the above items). The Center for Cartoon Studies has fast become the premier school for comics artists. Andy Schmidt’s Comics Experience provides online courses and workshops for writers, artists, colorists, letterers and more. And Brad Guigar’s Webcomics.com continues to offer tutorials, a podcast, and a membership with added resources and perks. Some local comic book stores have also gotten in on the act, like Jim HigginsMeltdown University at LA’s Meltdown Comics., which recently added classes for webcomics and for kids aged 7-10. There are also tons of art and process blogs, Tumblrs, DeviantArt pages and more. And if all that fails, there’s always #makingcomics on Twitter.

That’s still not everything (post your favorites in the comments), but it shows that a spirit of sharing hard-won wisdom is alive and well, and that the future of comics can’t help but be bright as that collective wisdom grows. Regardless of what happens with print or what publisher is or isn’t doing what, the creative spirit of comics will always survive.

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In Toronto we have the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop, Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Bootcamp, the Maxx the Mutt school, plus various cartooning classes offered at George Brown College, OCAD and U of T.

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