Frank Santoro Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
This week is pretty packed, as we have news, reviews, a con recap and a whole year’s worth of announcements from one publisher. So buckle your seat belts and hold on tight as we aim our DeLorean at the last seven days …
Last week, when I was packing my bags to go to the Angoulême International Comics Festival, I kept having to explain to people — even comics people — what it was.
Now that I’m back, it’s not a problem any more.
This year’s selection of Bill Watterson as the winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême, and the president of next year’s festival, has put Angoulême on the map for more U.S. readers — or at least, it has sent the cartoonist’s fans scurrying to the map to see where it is.
What follows is a series of first impressions from my first trip to Angoulême; check out Publishers Weekly (which provided me with a press badge) for more solid coverage, and of course no one can capture an event like Heidi MacDonald.
There are a lot of reasons to go to Angoulême — the international array of creators and publishers who are there, the opportunity to get the hottest new BDs and of course, French food, scenery and wine all spring to mind — but to me, the most impressive thing about it was that I was in a place where comics really mattered. Comics aren’t a niche product in France; they are available everywhere, they are widely read, and they are taken seriously. In my previous sojourns in France, long before I was a comics journalist, I was accustomed to seeing a rack of hardcover, full-color comics at the grocery store, train station, and bookstore.
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Retailing | Fans of the Fall River, Massachusetts, retailer StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games kicked in $5,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to keep the store in business. The shop, which opened in 1997, had to close for 10 days last month after its power was shut off. [The Herald News]
Publishing | Following confirmation last month of a Space Mountain graphic novel series, Heidi MacDonald talks with executives from Disney Publishing Worldwide about the expansion of the new Disney Comics imprint. [Publishers Weekly]
Events | Sean Kleefeld reports on Day 1 of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, Ohio. [Kleefeld on Comics]
Conventions | Brian Howe looks at the rivalry between Comic Book City Con, which debuted two weekends ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, and NC Comicon, which returns Saturday in Durham. The latter, which is now co-owned by artist Tommy Lee Edwards, drew 4,000 attendees last year (its first at the Durham Convention Center), and this year doubled its exhibit space and ramped up its programming. The conflict, which manifested in a flier for Comic Book City Con that one party considers playful but the other calls “bullying,” seems to be rooted in the proximity of the dates and a perceived lack of communication. However, it’s not simply a rivalry between nearby conventions; it’s one between retailers: Durham’s Ultimate Comics organizes NC Comicon, while Greensboro’s Acme Comics operates Comic Book City Con. [Indy Week]
His work might have a rushed, “dashed-off” look to it at times, but don’t kid yourself: Frank Santoro puts a lot of time and consideration into his comics. In fact, it’s safe to say he puts more thought into the overall structure and design of his pages than a lot of his contemporaries, as anyone who has read his “Layout Workbook” series of posts on TCJ.com can attest.
Santoro’s latest comic, the stand-alone graphic novel Pompeii, deals quite overtly with issues of art and craft, as it follows the story of aspiring ancient Roman artist Marcus who’s slaving away as an assistant to the more established painter Flavius (who has his own problems). Marcus is at something of a crossroads, frustrated by his slow progress under Flavius’ tutelage, but unwilling to move back home or reconsider his options, despite the pleadings of his girlfriend, Lucia. As you might expect given the book’s title, things come to a head quite violently with the eruption of a nearby volcano.
Overall Pompeii is a fast-paced but moving, almost tender at times, work, that begins almost as a sex farce but quickly turns into a more considered and elegiac consideration of careers, youth, love and the purpose of art and artistry in our lives.
I talked with Santoro recently about his new book and its conception.
Digital comics | The Chernin Group, headed by former News Corp Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, has acquired a controlling stake in Crunchyroll, the streaming anime site that just launched a digital comics service. [All Things D]
Digital comics | Rob McMonigal takes a look at Believed Behavior, a website where subscribers can read comics by five different creators for $8 (there’s a free component as well) and then get them in print form. [Panel Patter]
Manga | Dark Horse announced Tuesday that there are 750,000 copies of the various volumes of Berserk in print; that number is about to increase, as the publisher is about to release new printings of the volumes that are low in stock, which is pretty much all of them. Volume 37 is due out later this month. [Anime News Network]
Digital comics | Viz Media announced Wednesday it has brought its entire library to iBooks. Viz manga are already available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and its own app, so this pretty much completes the set. [ICv2]
Crime | Manga creator Takaaki Kubo was arrested Tuesday on charges of threatening a city councilor in the town of Amagasaki. Kubo, whose series Bakune Young was published in North America in the early 2000s by Viz Media, was arrested after police traced a threatening e-mail message to his home computer. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Art Spiegelman has been the subject of four retrospectives so far this year, the latest at the Jewish Museum in New York. Charles McGrath talks to him about what he calls “The Great Retrospection,” as well as his tobacco addiction and, oh yeah, comics. [The New York Times]
Batwoman Vol. 3: World’s Finest (DC Comics): It’s difficult to talk about this comic without also discussing the announced departure of its creative team which, like several others that have worked on DC’s New 52, left amid quite public complaints of editorial interference.
As an auteur-driven book starring a relatively new character that’s barely been drawn by anyone other than artist and co-writer J.H. Williams III, the whole affair strikes me as strange, as Williams seems to be at least as big a factor in the book’s continued existence as the word “Bat” in its title. And it’s stranger still he and co-writer W. Haden Blackman are only now reaching the breaking point, as from a reader’s perspective, DC appeared to have pretty much left them alone to do their own thing; like Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated and the Geoff Johns-written portions of Green Lantern, this book seems set in its own universe and is sort of impossible to integrate into the New 52 if one thinks about it for too long (with “too long” being “about 45 seconds”).
Regularly cited as one of the best of DC’s current crop of comics, Batwoman is definitely the company’s best-looking, and most intricately, even baroquely designed and illustrated. As for the word half of the story equation, I found Batwoman — and this volume in particular — to be extremely strange, even weird, more than I found it to be good.
A bit of a firestorm erupted in the comments section of Frank Santoro’s most recent Riff Raff column at The Comics Journal. Closing with six pictures from the most recent issue of the self-published series Fukitor #9 by Jason Karns, Santoro praised the book for its use of colors on two different types of paper within the same issue, calling it “one of the most interesting print jobs out there.” Indeed, the art is visceral and eye-catching, judging by the photos of Santoro holding the comic.
The sticky part is that three of the images are from a “Special Forces Attack Squad” story that contains what could be considered as racially insensitive. Santoro also described Karns’ work as being “almost ‘too real’ to be part of the contemporary comics conversation.” He also said, “Just about everything compared to his work seems ‘pretentious.’ Karns is not trying to do a throwback style or appropriate ‘bad comics’ in order to make some sort of art comic. This is the real deal. This shit is SERIOUS!”
I’m not sure what most of that description even means. In what way is his work “too real”? Karns certainly isn’t doing journalism comics a la Joe Sacco. Santoro later admitted he could’ve done a better job of presenting Karns’ work, and the ensuing comments to his column appear to have caused him to reassess his appreciation, at least as it pertains to the subject matter. Right off the bat, the first commenter asked whether Fukitor is racist. Karns himself quickly showed up with a strange response that’s boils down to, “They’re just cartoons.” It reads as though he’s claiming the comic book form is somehow incapable of depicting racist imagery, which is pretty easily disputed by any cursory survey of World War II-era comics. Karns goes on to dig a rather big hole for himself.
A heated Twitter conversation that began Wednesday with Jimmy Palmiotti saying it was “a crime” Amanda Conner didn’t receive an Eisner Award nomination for her work on Silk Spectre took an unexpected turn when Landry Walker pointed to a blog post by Eisner judge Frank Santoro in which he lists all the creators who contributed to Before Watchmen and says, “I refuse to buy or read anything by these folks.”
“HOLY SHIT… how could he be a judge then??” Palmiotti replied.
The easy answer is that if everyone who expressed an opinion was eliminated from consideration, there would be no one left to be an Eisner judge. However, Josh Flanagan of iFanboy went straight to Santoro for a response:
Digital comics | So, your $3.99 comic comes bundled with a download code for a free digital copy, but you’re strictly a paper person. What to do? Todd Allen has a fascinating article about the secondary market in unused download codes, not just the fact that they are being sold fairly openly but also what that market tells us about the true value of comics: “Outside of eBay it’s relatively easy to use Google to find somewhere to swap or purchase Ultraviolet codes. The Home Theater Forum’s classified ad section has codes sprinkled in, with a low $2-$3 looking like a common price. Codes are also easy to find on Reddit, including a dedicated subreddit, though codes on Reddit are swapped or given away, not sold.” [The Next Web]
Conventions| Small Press Expo announced its first round of guests for the Sept.14-15 convention: Seth, Gary Panter, Lisa Hanawalt, Gene Yang and Frank Santoro. [SPX]
Legal | A federal judge this week made final his Oct. 17 decision that the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with DC Comics, triggering an almost-immediate appeal to the 9th Circuit by Shuster estate lawyer Marc Toberoff. Jeff Trexler delves into the legal strategy behind the attorney’s motion for final judgment. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Todd McFarlane has settled his lawsuit against former employee Al Simmons, who earlier this year released a book in which he claimed to be the inspiration for Spawn. McFarlane had accused Simmons of violating the terms of his employment pact and breaching his duty of loyalty. Settlement terms weren’t disclosed. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Being an Eisner Awards judge has to be one of the coolest gigs in comics—I know this because I was one last year. Comic-Con International has just announced the names of the 2013 judges, and as always, they represent a mix of the different sectors of the business — creation, criticism, retailing, journalism, and of course, Comic-Con itself. Here’s the lineup:
Michael Cavna, a writer, editor and artist for The Washington Post and the man behind the newspaper’s Comic Riffs blog, which is an important part of my daily reading.
Charles Hatfield, professor of English at California State University, Northridge and the author of Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby, which won an Eisner Award last year, and Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, as well as a contributor to The Comics Journal and a member of the Modern Language Association’s Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives.
Adam Healy, co-owner of Cosmic Monkey Comics in Portland, Oregon.
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).
The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves. They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…
Chimera, by Frank Santoro. Cover-dated Summer 2005. Published by Picturebox Inc.
How acquired: The best way you can get a comic — across the table from the person who made it. Specifically, Frank brought a few copies of Chimera along to his similarly classical art/Greek myths-themed painting show New Values in Los Angeles a few winters back. “These are already starting to look a little different,” he said as he handed one over to me. Even five years and change on, the newsprint broadsheets the comic is printed on were turning brown and brittle, its searing yellow and pink tones bleeding through the pages onto one another. This is a comic whose individual panels and single drawings are constantly in the process of losing their identities as separate from what surrounds them, a whole whose parts are engaged in losing themselves. Which, as we’ll see, is perfect.