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2013 Eisner Awards judges announced

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.

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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).

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Chimera

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.

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Comics A.M. | Disney working to bring Marvel heroes to theme parks

Disney and Marvel

Theme parks | Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company has begun preliminary design work that will pave the way for Marvel superheroes to one day appear alongside familiar characters in Disney theme parks. Iger told shareholders attending the annual meeting Tuesday that the company has been working on some concepts, but hasn’t announced anything yet. Disney is currently developing attractions based on James Cameron’s Avatar film for its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, which are expected to be ready in 2015. [Los Angeles Times]

Comic strips | Alan Gardner counts 57 newspapers that aren’t carrying this week’s Doonesbury comics, which address a Texas law requiring women requesting an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound. But according to Universal UClick, no papers have dropped Garry Trudeau’s strip. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller discusses the Rule of Eight, which holds that independent publishers start to falter once they put out more than eight titles per month, and goes into the nuances of the theory with its originator of the idea, Marc Patten. [The Comichron]

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Your own private BCGF is now available at the PictureBox online store

Mould Map 2

Mould Map 2

Missed out on the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival? Want to check out new comics, zines, and prints from some of the show’s buzziest attendees and exhibitors? BCGF co-organizer PictureBox Inc. has you covered. Dan Nadel’s brainchild has stocked its online store with new books and art from a who’s who of folks at the show, including Frank Santoro, Anya Davidson, Matthew Thurber, CF, Sammy Harkham, and Leif Goldberg, and the anthologies Mould Map 2 (edited by Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler) and Weird (edited by Noel Freibert) from Landfill Editions and Closed Caption Comics respectively. Stuff your stockings, artcomics fans.

Everybody’s talking about Jaime Hernandez and Love and Rockets: New Stories #4

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.

Buy Frank Santoro’s Storeyville, shipped direct from his dad’s house!

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.

Comics A.M. | Alibi witnesses testify in Michael George trial

Legal

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]

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Read Dash Shaw and Jesse Moynihan’s Lost comic

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.

You must learn: Frank Santoro’s comics correspondence course

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.

Your Wednesday Sequence 19 | Frank Santoro

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.

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Quote of the day | Are comics like jazz, and not in a good way?

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?

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Comics A.M. | Farewell, United Media; comic-book twist in murder case

United Media

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]

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Finding the squares: Tintin snaps to the grid

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.

Page after glorious page of behind-the-scenes Strange Tales II art

line art for the Strange Tales II #1 cover by Rafael Grampa

line art for the Strange Tales II #1 cover by Rafael Grampa

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!


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