Paying off thirty years of continuity and character development. Delivering shocks, gasps, cheers, and tears in equal measure, seemingly at the author’s whim. Offering a master class in everything from laying out a double-page spread to drawing clothes. Telling a story about beloved characters so emotionally engaging that even their most ardent fans wouldn’t mind if this were the last one ever told. Any way you slice it, Jaime Hernandez’s “The Love Bunglers” — his contribution to the recently released Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 and the conclusion to the already wildly acclaimed “The Love Bunglers”/”Browntown” suite from last year’s issue — is a hell of a comic. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
Dan Nadel, editor of The Comics Journal, has posted his own appreciation, and invited cartoonists Frank Santoro (Storeyville) and Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve) to do the same. (SPOILER WARNINGS in effect at those links, folks.) Nadel (like Jordan Crane on the first part of Jaime’s tale in issue #3 before him) minces no words: “This is not just Jaime’s finest work, but one of the best (at this moment I’d rank it in my top five of all time) works ever created in the medium.” Santoro calls Jaime “the greatest cartoonist of all time,” saying “No art moves me the way the work of Jaime Hernandez moves me.” Tomine talks of picking the issue up at a signing event for Jaime and being so moved by a two-page spread he encountered while randomly flipping through that he actually had to leave.
I posted my review at the beginning of August, after the book had started circulating at cons but long before it hit stores, but weeks and even months later people would still post comments on the review, like they’d been hungrily seeking out anything anyone had written about this remarkable comic. I’ve got a feeling that as more and more critics read this comic, they’ll never go hungry again.
Okay, not exactly — they’ll be shipped from Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics. But still, the source of this secret stash of Frank Santoro’s long-out-of-print newspaper-format comic about a young man’s journey through the down-and-out America of the early 20th century was a long-forgotten box found in his dad’s house.
“All the others were destroyed in the fire at my mom’s house. No joke,” Santoro writes of the discovery.
So once this box is gone, so too is your opportunity to read a pretty stunning comic in its original format. Santoro’s visual shifts between realism and impressionism, and what they say about his protagonist Will’s tormented mental state, are a master class in establishing and controlling tone in comics. Order now, but if you miss out, don’t worry — you can always spring for the hardcover edition from PictureBox.
Legal | Defense testimony began in the Michael George trial Monday after the judge denied a motion by the defense to order an acquittal. George’s daughter Tracie testified that she remembers her father sleeping on the couch in his mother’s house the night in 1990 when his first wife Barbara was shot and killed in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Another defense witness, Douglas Kenyon, told the jury he saw a “suspicious person” in the store that evening and that Barbara George, who waited on him, seemed nervous. [Detroit Free Press]
Conventions | Last weekend’s Alternative Press Expo inspired Deb Aoki to offer a burst of suggestions on Twitter as to how it could be made better. Heidi MacDonald collected the tweets into a single post, and the commenters add some worthwhile points (including not scheduling it opposite the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which attracts much of the same audience and is free). [Deb Aoki's Twitter, The Beat]
Awards | Ian Culbard’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness won the British Fantasy Award for best comic/graphic novel, presented Saturday by the British Fantasy Society. [The British Fantasy Society]
Previously on Lost: Dash Shaw, author of Body World and Bottomless Bellybutton, and Jesse Moynihan, storyboard artist for Adventure Time and author of Forming, teamed up a couple years ago to create an innovatively formatted fold-out comic for an issue of the literary magazine The Believer. Titled “Spiritual Dad,” the strip told a multi-generational story of fathers, sons and significant others struggling to find their destinies via various chemical and/or mystical means … leading one of them to a dreamlike vision of a plane crash, an island, a mysterious bald man on a vision quest, and other events that years later would become the subject matter of a little cultural phenomenon called Lost.
Flash forward to today, when cartoonist and commentator Frank Santoro hid the never-before-digitized comic, hatch-style, at the bottom of his long and compelling interview with Moynihan for The Comics Journal. Read the whole thing and marvel at the dense meta-magic performed by Shaw and Moynihan as they weave Lost into the tapestry of their own tale. Just be sure to dig into that interview, and Moynihan’s gorgeously colored Forming art, as you scroll down toward the comic itself.
Cartoonist Frank Santoro (Cold Heat, Storeyville, Kramers Ergot) has long taken his knowledge about comics and cartooning straight to the masses. From his curated longboxes, whose hand-selected ’80s genre-comic treasures bring a touch of the back-issue bin to the alternative comics conventions he attends, to his popular columns on page and layout for The Comics Journal, he’s brought idiosyncratic intensity to the study of making comics. Now, from his Tattooinesque wind-and-solar-powered redoubt in New Mexico, Santoro’s offering an eight-week correspondence course for more in-depth study.
Conducted over email, snail mail, and phone, the class will begin on Oct. 28 and cost $500 per student. Each student’s instruction will vary, designed with Santoro to be tailored to their specific needs and the kinds of comics they want to make. In the announcement, Santoro sets up his course as an alternative to schools like CCS, SVA, and SCAD: “You don’t have to move to a different city to attend one of the few schools that exist for making comic books. Put your money directly towards training – not living expenses.” But act fast: The course is only open to ten students.
Find more details, including the application requirements, at The Comics Journal.
Incanto (2006), pages 11 and 12. Frank Santoro.
One of the main problems all visual art has to deal with (comics very much included) is the fact that it’s completely impossible to create an artistic representation of the world that matches the fullness of visual experience we get by simply keeping our eyes open in daily life. Instead, art becomes a lens through which we focus on particular details of the visual world at the expense of others, a process of selective simplifications. The cartoon drawing that nearly all comics art engages in to some extent or another is a form in which art’s move out of reality toward a place of greater simplicity is put right on display. Cartooning is basically a rigorous form of abstraction, in which the world’s every shape and form is put through the funnel of an individual drawing style, coming out the other end as a readable system of pared down two-dimensional symbols.
Put simply, cartooning is a type of figurative drawing, a way to approach the making of representative marks. However, it’s interesting to note that cartooning’s process differs from the basic idea behind figurative drawing fairly significantly. More or less, drawing is an attempt to create a convincing facsimile of the real world, to approximate it by creating a sense of visual reality even if complete duplication is impossible. Cartooning, on the other hand, is more often about creating something solidly other than what surrounds us. The best cartoonists are the best stylists, less concerned with the realism of their work and more with its internal logic, making shapes and lines that have more to do with stylistic consistency than the look of reality. Cartooning jettisons fidelity to the way things really are for a uniformity of appearance: under the brushes of the best, it’s always apparent that everything, from clouds to cars to clothes to characters, have come from the same unmistakable hand.
This week on Thursday’s Jazz Alternatives [on New York radio station WKCR] there was an interview with a member of the New York Jazz Initiative, an organization that holds workshops in New York area high schools to get kids interested in jazz. The idea is to have them play with professional musicians, and in doing so create a new audience for the music. Their plan is “to educate and inspire the next generation of performers and listeners.”
During the interview there was a lot of talk about how the golden age of jazz has passed and now schools are churning out jazz musicians with nowhere to play. There are more players than listeners, really, so a new audience for the music has to be created lest it become “museum music.”
I couldn’t help but think about comics while I was listening to the interview. This might be a new “golden age” of comics but what if the audience just dries up in the next decade or so? Jazz was dominant on the radio and in nightclubs in 1960, but by 1970 jazz musicians were running out of places to play. I thought, “What’s going to happen when all the comics shops close?” That won’t happen, you say? Well, they said that about record shops, too, and now they are just about all gone.
–Cartoonist and critic Frank Santoro, writing on the future of comics for The Comics Journal. Santoro is writing as a partisan of independent/small press/alternative/art comics published by entities other than large corporations, and as such I wonder if his concern is a valid one. From Peter Laird shutting down the Xeric grants for self-published comics to DC going same-day digital for its entire line, the assumption made by people all across comics is that the replacement of print by digital is a difference in degree, but what if it’s a difference in kind?
Comic strips | After outsourcing all editorial, production, sales, marketing and distribution functions for its 150 comics and other features to Universal Uclick earlier this year, United Media closed the doors on its Madison Avenue office in New York on Friday. [Comic Riffs]
Comic Books | A copy of Detective Comics #27 owned by multimillionaire hotel heir Ben Novack Jr., who was murdered in 2009, could go up for auction and end up paying to defend his widow Narcy Novack. Narcy is facing charges that she had the comic fan and his mother murdered, plundered his bank accounts, then tried to pin the crimes on her own daughter. Narcy’s daughter, May Abad, has persuaded a Broward County judge to hold off on the auction and give her at least 14 days to find suitable storage and insurance for Novack’s massive collection. [Miami Herald]
In his latest post at The Comics Journal, Frank Santoro engages in a little bit of compositional analysis, explaining how an artist determines where the eye will fall, and what are the static and dynamic areas of the page, using a page from a Tintin comic, King Otokar’s Sceptre, to demonstrate the ideas in action. In this case, the components of the drawn comic line up so neatly with Santoro’s diagram that it’s hard to believe Herge wasn’t doing it deliberately.
I’m usually suspicious of after-the-fact dissections, because it’s easy to look at a completed work and see things the artist may not have put in deliberately. But Santoro says that Herge was probably aware of the technique, but that for some artists it just comes naturally, like playing music by ear. And just as the artist may use it unconsciously, the reader probably isn’t aware of it, observing only that some pages are more attractive or compelling than others. It’s useful to be reminded that such swift impressions are often born of painstaking planning. Sometimes you have to work hard to make it look easy.
Over at ComicsAlliance, Laura Hudson has a real treat for those of you who like your superhero comics with an alternative twist: 50-plus pages of sketches, thumbnails, pencils, inks, color studies and more from the Strange Tales II hardcover, which debuted this week. Click on over and get a glimpse at the creative process behind contributions from Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Farel Dalrymple, Rafael Grampa, Dean Haspiel, Jaime Hernandez, Paul Hornschemeier, Benjamin Marra, Edu Medeiros, Harvey Pekar, Frank Santoro, and Paul Vella. That’s hella Strange!
It started out in Tokyopop’s Original English Language, or OEL, line, became one of the most lamented casualties of the publisher’s contraction, and finally found new life as a giant-sized monthly comic at Image. Now Brandon Graham tells Comics Comics’ Frank Santoro that his acclaimed science-fiction series King City may be headed back to where it all began for its eventual collected edition, to which Tokyopop presumably still holds the rights.
Graham tells Santoro that Tokyopop is getting quotes from the printer for a collected King City, ideally to be printed at the size of the Image issues rather than the book’s original digest format. Graham expects the collection to be relatively modest, perhaps with a few layouts and deleted scenes. According to Santoro, Graham’s very understanding of the situation his once and potentially future publisher is in with regards to the collection and potential price points, saying “I just want to see it in print,” regardless of what it costs.
Click the link for the full story, and for Santoro’s thoughts on how collections and the lack thereof can influence readers’ understanding of a cartoonist’s career.
Wow: Cold Heat cartoonist and Comics Comics blogger Frank Santoro went to Los Angeles, and all he got was this wondrous photo of him and a gaggle of the greatest alternative comics creators on the West Coast. From left to right, you’re looking at Johnny Ryan (Prison Pit, Angry Youth Comix), Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Ron Regé Jr. (Yeast Hoist, Against Pain), Jordan Crane (Uptight, What Things Do), Sammy Harkham (Crickets, Kramers Ergot), and Santoro. I haven’t seen this kind of star power packed into one picture since Crumb, Ware, Clowes, Tomine, and Buenaventura straddled the cliffs of France like comic-book colossi.
Politics | Warren Ellis joins the list of creators who want nothing to do with Heavy Ink after Travis Corcoran’s inflammatory remarks. At The Daily Cartoonist, Ted Rall pushes back on the outrage, saying, “If I only bought from companies and individuals whose political beliefs I agreed with, I wouldn’t be buying much.” [Warren Ellis, The Daily Cartoonist]
Conventions | Now there’s even more of Fan Expo Canada to love: The self-proclaimed “largest combined gaming, horror, comic, science fiction and anime event in the country” is expanding from three to four days, Aug. 25-28, 2011. [Convention Scene]
Manga | A Chinese artist named Xiao Bai is this year’s winner of the Japanese government’s International Manga Award. The prizewinning entry, Si loin et si proche (So near and so far), was published in Belgium last year. [Monsters and Critics]
The great cartoonist and critic Frank Santoro is once again tackling grid-pattern panel layouts, and this time he’s talking about arguably the most famous nine-panel grids of all: Those used by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in their stone-classic superhero dissection Watchmen. Here’s a sample that includes an insight about the art in that book that had never occurred to me before:
Get ready for some serious comics wonkery: Cold Heat cartoonist Frank Santoro (he of those bitchin’ Strange Tales II Silver Surfer pages) is talkin’ grids — specifically, the grid panel layouts most frequently used in North American comics. Frank’s argument is that the common six-panel grid is a great framework for pacing the flow of images but “loses the center” of the page, to which your eye would naturally be drawn, since there’s basically nothing there but a gutter. Three- or nine-panel grids, on the other hand, have a big ol’ box smack dab in the center, which gives the page extra power on an almost unconscious level. Santoro goes on to discuss some tricks artists have used to create a “center” for a page that uses a two/four/six/eight-panel grid, even though the grid itself gets in the way. It’s an eye-opening post if you’ve ever made comics, that’s for sure — read the whole thing.