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Frank Santoro gets back on the grid with Watchmen

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:

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Do your comics live off the grid?

Frank Santoro's grid layouts

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.

Frank Santoro contributes Silver Surfer story to Strange Tales II

Silver Surfer by Frank Santoro

Silver Surfer by Frank Santoro

Our own Sean T. Collins interviewed Cold Heat creator Frank Santoro about his story in the upcoming sequel to Marvel’s Strange Tales anthology for Marvel.com, and with it came the above artwork. As you can see, Santoro did an airbrushed Silver Surfer story, which is included in the book’s first issue, due in shops Oct. 6.

The end of Buenaventura Press: a reaction round-up

(L-R) Robert Crumb, Kramers Ergot 7 contributors Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine, and publisher Alvin Buenaventura; photo by Melissa P. Coats

(L-R) Robert Crumb, Kramers Ergot 7 contributors Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine, and publisher Alvin Buenaventura; photo by Melissa P. Coats

On Friday, publisher Alvin Buenaventura announced he had shut down his imprint Buenaventura Press as of this past January, due to a single knockout legal/financial blow. Publicly available details are few, in keeping with the private way the move has been handled for the past six months. But comics creators and critics en masse are mourning BP’s demise and reading the tea leaves as to where its publisher, artists, and entire brand of comics will land.

Robot 6 reached out to several of the artists published by Buenaventura, as well as a few of his fellow publishers, for their reaction:

Working with Alvin over the years has been really amazing. He has introduced me to a lot of magical and influential artists and hooked me up with tons of inspiring and perverted books. His place has awesome shit scattered all over- mountains of crazy books, toys, memorabilia, gigantic figures, artwork- it’s like a bomb went off. Now that he’ll be taking a break from the business we’ll finally have more time to play Rock Band and trip out on weird TV shows.

–Matt Furie, writer/artist, Boy’s Club

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Straight for the shopping | PictureBox fundraiser

Cold Heat print by Jim Rugg

Cold Heat print by Jim Rugg

Want to exchange your money for rad things? Jim Rugg, Dash Shaw, Johnny Ryan and Frank Santoro are but a few of the cartoonists who are willing to take you up on that offer right now on behalf of a fundraiser for Comics Comics, the fine magazine-cum-blog of comics and criticism. Edited by Dan Nadel, Tim Hodler, and Frank Santoro and published by Nadel’s PictureBox Inc., the mag’s in the red, and it needs your help.

You can check out their eBay listings for original art from Rugg, Shaw, Santoro, and even Gasoline Alley‘s Frank King, or drop them a line and commission a portrait of yourself being “erotically violated” by Johnny Ryan. (The portrait’s by Johnny Ryan, not the erotic violation. Not necessarily, I mean.)

And if you’ve never checked out Comics Comics before, you can’t go wrong with the $10 three-issue Comics Comics Fun Pack. Where else can you find serious, stimulating writing on topics like Steve Gerber, Paper Rad, Guy Davis, Dick Ayers, Berserk and the Masters of American Comics exhibit, by everyone from top-notch critics like Tim Hodler, Joe McCulloch, and Jeet Heer to cartoonist-critics like Santoro and Shaw to guest stars like Peter Bagge, Kim Deitch, Brian Chippendale, and Mark Newgarden?

You can also purchase a hand-selected pack of five books from Santoro’s infamous back-issue bin, featuring some of the best indie and mainstream hidden gems of the ’80s, or snag a pair of deluxe art books from Led Zeppelin/Pink Floyd album artists Hipgnosis and the ’70s-tastic West Coast airbrush art scene for $25 total. I’m telling you, it’s tough to go wrong here. But act quickly, because a lot of these offers end within hours!

Rock out to the music of the ’60s Spider-Man cartoon

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Move over, Bono and the Edge: Now this is the musical Spider-Man I’m interested in! Cold Heat cartoonist Frank Santoro and retailer Bill Boichel of Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics bring our attention to a pair of posts on the blog of free-form radio station WFMU, in which the secrets of the groovy background music from 1967-1970 Spider-Man animated series are revealed at long last. Here’s part one, here’s part two.

Everyone knows the famous “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can” theme music, but the jazzy, freaky tunes that soundtracked Spidey’s fight scenes and swings through the city have always been a bit of a mystery. WFMU’s Kliph Nesteroff tracked them down to an English stock-music library, which is where shows ranging from Doctor Who to Dallas bought them and used them as well. Nesteroff put together an awesomely long podcast comparing the music as heard in the episodes themselves to the crystal-clear original recordings. At the speed of light, they’ve arrived just in time to make your Monday a lot more fun-sounding.

The Comics Reporter & The Cool Kids Table look back on the ’00s

from Blankets by Craig Thompson

from Blankets by Craig Thompson

As 2009 draws to a close we’re practically awash in Best Comics of the Year and/or Decade lists. But when it comes to breaking down the books that made a difference this decade, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and a pair of sites have developed novel approaches to the traditional decade-ender.

First up is Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter. This year he’s aiming his annual Holiday Interview Series squarely at “emblematic” books from 2000-2009 — “by which we mean favorite, representative or just plain great” — by hosting discussions with a series of critics, each one focusing on one particular book. So far he’s tackled Mat Brinkman’s monster-mash Multiforce with writer/artist/critic/bon vivant Frank Santoro, and Craig Thompson’s rapturous romance ‘n’ religion memoir Blankets with me. Further installments will roll out on (I believe) a daily basis until the New Year. If you’re the sort of person who loves to really dig into what makes a great graphic novel tick, these are for you.

Next we have Marvel’s Ben Morse, DC’s Rickey Purdin, and CBR’s own Kiel Phegley, who collectively park their online presence at The Cool Kids Table. In their ongoing look back entitled “Our Comics Decade,” the trio take a look at one comic per year that impacted their view of the medium. So far they’ve covered 2000, 2001, and 2002, and recounted their experiences with books ranging from Scott Lobdell’s Uncanny X-Men to Jeffrey Brown’s Clumsy. Personal and aesthetic history have a tendency to mix and match in unexpected and interesting ways, and it’s fascinating to watch these guys spill the beans on how it happened in their lives in such a methodical way.

So go, click the links and curl up with (a good post on) a good book…

The Cold Heat Universe continues to expand

"Cold Heat" art by Jon Vermilyea, from Mome Vol. 16

"Cold Heat" art by Jon Vermilyea, from Mome Vol. 16

For a title that was originally rejected for inclusion in the Previews catalog by Diamond on the grounds that its format was “unpopular with collectors and retailers,” Frank Santoro and Ben Jones’s psychedelic sci-fi action-adventure teen-angst punk-rock extravaganza Cold Heat sure is generating enough prequels, sequels and spin-offs to satisfy even the most dedicated fan of front-of-Previews mega-events.

At the Cold Heat Comics blog, co-creator Frank Santoro reveals that the upcoming Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, will see the release of three new CH titles, featuring the continuing adventures of sword-wielding teenage heroine Castle, resurrected rock god Joel Cannon, and their cosmic alien allies and evil government enemies. First up is Cold Heat 7/8, an omnibus edition of the PictureBox-published series’ next two issues. Next is Fantagraphics’ ongoing anthology series Mome Vol. 16, which like Vol. 14 will include a Cold Heat prequel story — two, actually, one of them featuring art by Jon Vermilyea. (A preview of the Santoro/BJ contribution, and the rest of the issue, can be found here.) And finally, another Cold Heat Special is on the way, the latest in a series of limited-run comics made by Santoro in collaboration with such artists as Dash Shaw, Jim Rugg, Lane Milburn, and Ryan Cecil Smith.

Cold Heat has been at the crest a new wave of unabashed alternative genre comics, including C.F.’s Powr Mastrs, Kazimir Strzepek’s The Mourning Star, Brian Ralph’s Daybreak, and Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit. Readers who like their science-fiction slugfests thought-provoking as well as pulse-pounding would do well to check it out.

iPictureBox?

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PictureBox Inc.

It’s not exactly Mickey Mouse buying Spider-Man, but it’s fascinating news nonetheless: Indie publisher PictureBox Inc. will be selling digital versions of its comics and graphic novels through the iPhone comics app Panelfly. Available titles include C.F.’s Powr Mastrs Vols. 1 & 2, Frank Santoro’s Storeyville, Lauren Weinstein’s The Goddess of War #1, and Yuichi Yokoyama’s Travel. Panelfly‘s other publishers include indie outfits NBM and SLG.

That even PictureBox — the artiest of the artcomix publishers, known for envelope-pushing material, extremely high production values, and a publishing line that straddles the comics and fine-art worlds — is going digital says a whole lot about the industry’s perceived need to get a foot in that particular door, not to mention about PictureBox’s willingness to seek out an audience outside of the traditional art/alt/underground comics venues.

Cold Heat is back and there’s going to be trouble

Cold Heat #5 & 6

Cold Heat #5 & 6

Attentive readers may remember that I mentioned that the first several issues of Cold Heat, the comic book series by Ben Jones and Frank Santoro, were available for free online. Now, the duo have released chapters five and six of their ongoing saga in honest-to-god paper comic book  form after a lengthy hiatus. Santoro explains:

This is a big climax issue. We decided that after the long wait we would put the story arc that unfolds over issues 5 and 6 together. I think it reads extremely well as a double issue. It’s a megablast of raw power and I’m proud of what Ben and I have crafted for you. We know it’s been two years almost to the day since the last issue came out. Please forgive us. The complete collection will be out sometime but until then we are releasing the series as it was originally intended to be released: as serialized installments. We like how the issues, the page counts CONTAIN the story and want to retain that for the remainder of the series. It’s a formal choice. We want to make comic books. Comic books are 24 pages usually. There’s an inherent “pace” that we’re playing with and in this double issue we really turn up the volume, quicken the pace and exploit the arc of the standard comic book. It’s a thrilling ride. I promise: these issues live up to the hype. We killed it.

Interested parties can get a copy of the comic through PictureBox. If you need further inducement, Derik Badman raves about the issue here.

Cold Heat: now online and free

Cold Heat #2

Cold Heat #2

The first four issues of Cold Heat, the hallucinatory comic, written by Ben Jones and drawn by Frank Santoro, is now available online for free. What is Cold Heat you ask? I’ll let the creators answer that question:

Cold Heat is the story of Castle, an 18 year old girl who embarks on a life altering adventure through anti-depressants, corporate rock’n'roll, globalization and sex.

Cold Heat is a hypnotically tranced out, maximum volume take on the action/adventure genre that stays out all night and doesn’t come home until the party’s over and it’s time to crash.

Cold Heat is a ten issue comic book series. Issue 5 will be available to read online in March 2009, with new issues to follow each month.

Originally serialized in 2006-07 by PictureBox, publication had to be halted due to poor sales, though an eventual trade collection was planned (the Web site doesn’t seem to have any news on that front). Seriously, if you haven’t had the chance to read this amazing and highly original work yet, this is a fantastic opportunity to do so.


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