Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pompeii process post

Pompeii started as me wanting to tell this story about working for Francesco Clemente. But that was too complicated. Too many modern details. Dash had been telling me I should make a romance and I had always wanted to do a riff on the genre. So I mashed up my classical influences - many learned from Clemente - and set the whole thing in Pompeii at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Working for Clemente had that feeling of going into another world - so it felt right. Plus I could play out the narrative without explaining too much. Pompeii is like a genre in itself - like stories set around the sinking of the Titanic.

Publishing history - Pompeii was originally going to be four 32 page books. But we scrapped that idea when the first book sold out quickly and the response was good. Dan and I just wanted to take the momentum and present the book as complete instead of as issues.

riso edition on left (below) was a little too dark - it washed out a lot of detail:

                           New edition right (below) is closer to the original drawings:

new edition on top - riso on bottom (below)

original drawing on top - new edition in the middle - riso edition on the bottom (below)

origiginal drawing on left - new edition on right (below)

original drawing on top - new edition on bottom - I'm very pleased with the reproduction

I want to address drawing - make drawing the subject matter. I made an artist who makes portraits my focus. I could play around with representation. This is the back cover of the completed edition (below)

I drew the back cover on tracing paper - the pencil flows across the paper because it is so smooth (below)

I want to make comics that look good at the scale they are made - this spread (below) was drawn the same size it is printed here in the book. This would be a small drawing - 11 x 17 inches total for the two pages

The original drawing for the spread (below) - drawn the same size as it was reproduced

I want my narrative to read very easily, almost effortlessly - I'm going for openess and clarity here:

I maintain a basic timing device and I never give up the center of the page

The drawing changes - the feeling of the scene is reflected in the drawing

Some spreads have thick lines and washes

Some spreads have thin pencil lines and little or no wash

They look really different when you put a thin line pages next to thick line pages:

I'm trying to frontload the making, the drawing has to have life -
and I'm changing scale and tools in order to create a tension between the different approaches

original drawing on left - printed page on right

mostly I am thinking about scale, about value and about tone - about drawing


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back at TCJ

I'm doing my weekly column again over at TCJ (The Comics Journal)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pencil Fight 8

Working at Copacetic Comics today in Pittsburgh. Bill has an impressive selection of mini-comics and zines from the last 20 years or so on sale. What's amazing to me is how many of these folks are no longer making work. I mean, it takes so much effort *just* to draw a comic book - let alone publish it - and then push it along so that it finds it's way to this store. Some of the folks in the small press section are still making work - some very successfully - but most are not doing any work at all anymore. The ratio must be about 100 to 1. It's kind of depressing. What's more depressing is the other day this woman came in who works for a big newspaper in town. "I'm doing a story on so and so who does the mini-comic called such and such", she said "and I want to talk to people who have read it." She explained to me that this person was a friend of hers and that she wanted to write about this friend's work for the paper. A big local newspaper. I told her that no one has bought that particular small press endeavor. Zero sales. She seemed surprised. I said "do you know who Shia LaBeouf is? Young Indiana Jones? Well, he makes comic books and they don't sell either. Just saying."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pencil Fight 7

My current favorite "forward thinking" cartoonists. This list is by no means complete - just thinking out loud.

Connor Willumsen
Joe Kessler
Warren Craghead
Angie Wang
Jocelyn Gravot
Michael Olivo
Dash Shaw
Andrew White
Bill Boichel
Derik Badman
Oliver East
Simon Moreton
Blaise Larmee
Jason Overby
Aidan Koch
Julie DelPorte
Lala Albert

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pencil Fight 6

Tired of rebel origin stories - the beats - the hippies - hollywood in early 70s - punk rock in america in early 80s - comic books aren't for kids anymore mid 80s - small press revolution in comics in 90s - fort thunder/kramers paradigm shift in 00s - let's stop celebrating the same touchdown over and over again - "we were young and now we're old"  - Tell me a new story - 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pencil Fight 5

Narrative Collapse
The bits and pieces era

Lisa Hanawalt new book
Michael Deforge collection
Jim Rugg Supermag
CF Mere, Sediment

More and more "bits and pieces" books. Is it because of twitter and reduced attention spans, both in the readers and in the creators? Is era of 300 page single story graphic novel sort of over? Was that Blankets era just an attempt to gain respect for comics? Ten years after Blankets it seems like the opposite - everyone doing less long form works and instead doing "bits and pieces" books.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pencil Fight 4

Read this essay first and then come back http://comixcube.com/2013/06/17/i-cant-fold-i-need-gold-i-reup-i-reload-product-must-be-sold-to-you/

In the comments Dan Morris wrote this:
"This bring me to my next point, I think a lot of that has to do with lack of a wall between critics and cartoonists in this scene. Now granted there is a lot of great writing writing on comics right now. I can’t deny that. To me though, there’s a lot of suspect writing on comics because of the close relationships between critics, publishers, and cartoonists. I don’t think that its healthy when the major voice of comics criticism owned by one of the two biggest publishers in alt/art comics and whose editor in chief is a publisher for a smaller art/alt comics boutique. Ultimately, publishers are going to put out the work that they most believe in deserves publishing and eventually that work will have to stand on its own. Yet having the publisher put out the reviews of this work doesn’t say “We’re trying to be an honest critical voice here”. It says promotional piece to me. Same with when critics are friends with cartoonists and vice versa. That’s seems even more even more incestuous to me. How are critics supposed to provide honest and through analysis of material when they’re buddies with the person making it? No one wants to speak poorly of friends so how is an art form supposed to grow when there is glowing praise coming from every direction?"

I agree with this. However, I have been thinking recently that I'm most interested in writing about the FORM of comics by specifically writing about my friends who make comics precisely because through knowing them and knowing their intentions and through what we talk about I might be able to provide insights that the casual reader or even interested fan may not pick up on. So, for me, it is less about "speaking poorly" about friends who are cartoonists and more about speaking enthusiastically and from a sincere place in an attempt to further discussion of the FORM.

(I left this as a comment on the original blogpost - just posting it here for myself)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pencil Fight 3

List to give to friends who don't read comics - stand alone works only - were not serialized first

Asterios Polyp
Fun Home
City of Glass
Marble Season
Storeyville (of course I'm gonna recommend myself)
New School
Bottomless Bellybutton
The Whale
The Blonde Woman (was serialized online - but was composed as a complete work)

Watchmen, Maus, Love and Rockets, Jimmy Corrigan, Dark Knight Returns, Batman Year One, Kings in Disguise, From Hell, It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken, Ed The Happy Clown, David Boring, Like a Velvet Glove, Glorianna - most well known classics of North American comics were serialized or appeared as single issues in a continuing series. This makes it hard for the new reader to jump in if there are recurring characters - like Love and Rockets. I also think serialization changes the work - the planned story breaks - the issue breaks - the work is different if it is released all at once. I think it's very tough to come up with a list of "stand alone" comics to recommend to new readers. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pencil Fight 2

Another hang up I have about starting my column again is how comic books are seen in the mainstream press. The revolving door of "comics aren't for kids anymore" articles and such. This time it is more about Marvel's movies. What's my hang up about it? Just how to sidestep the issue like Chun in Remo Williams dodging bullets. I mean, I don't have to write about mainstream comics. Maybe it was judging the Eisners this year. I just never want to participate in a convo about mainstream comics ever again in my lifetime. Luckily, Beto shows me how it's done.

Gilbert Hernandez recently answered a question for a "mainstream" interview that made me think of this revolving door - it's not good or bad - it just is how "alternative"comics makers have to deal with questions about comics in general in 2013. 

Interviewer: What's your take on mainstream comics now? Is there generally more diversity of characters and how they are portrayed?

Hernandez: Well, there can be - but I'm not interested because it ends up being more dazzling superhroics and stuff and I'm not interested in that, I've outgrown it. I mean, I'll go see Iron Man 3 or something just like everybody else but I'm not really interested in what's going on in mainstream comics - with just the storytelling, their concerns in the story just aren't interesting to me. I'm more a, y'know -

Interviewer: Are they interesting to kids? Comics are now an adult niche market - a fact noted in the afterword in your book - that stands in contrast to ten year old Huey in this book, in your book Marble Season. Comics are a common language for him and the kids in his neighborhood - we get this, I'm a little younger [than you] but I remember the same thing - that's the way it was with you and your friends growing up. What is your take on that? Do you think comics are still meaningful for kids today?

Hernandez: Hardly. Except for the characters that are [associated] with them - like I said before - video games, cartoons, y'know, the movies, y'know, I think for kids they're more interested in Captain America in the movies or in the cartoons than reading a Captain America comic book. That's what it seems like to me. My daughter, she's 12, and she has absolutely no interest to read comic books except for a few indy comics, some manga and she likes to go see the superhero movies with me, y'know, but she has no interest at all in comic books.

Here is the interview - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l3CHXk5CCY - it happens around the 14 minute mark. taken from cbc's Q - http://www.cbc.ca/q/

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pencil Fight 1

I'm going to start writing my column again for The Comics Journal, I mean, tcj.com - so I need to practice writing regularly - in public. Writing this for the few of my fans who are still following along.

Do you think there is a new era of the internet happening now? I can't stop thinking about it when I think about doing my column again. I feel like the conversation in comics moved from blogs and message boards to facebook and twitter -  away from "long form" posts to the bulletin board style flyering of tumblr today. I know, I know, just like everything else, right? I'm still a fan of "long form" comics essays - even if I never read them anymore. I bookmark them and look at them later. I might even read the whole thing. I scroll down to the comments. There aren't any usually or it's just people reblogging it or hearting it. I think I'm nostalgic for an older era of the internet and I know that's bad - like people talking passionately about compuserve boards or something - but I can't help it.

So, I'm writing this to get these ideas out of my system. I always set up these black and white arguments in my mind: "Do this" - "Don't do this". I want to write short posts about comics I've read recently or write about "color in comics" for my comicsworkbook tumblr, but I think, I know, that they'll just get lost, that they'll just disappear. On tumblr, if you miss something on the first go round, and no one reblogs it - then you miss it. The post is just gone. I don't ever look at someone's tumblr like looking at someone's blog or website. Do I ever look at blogs or websites anymore?

I like writing for tcj because it is searchable. I think that's a valuable part of the platform. I like writing a weekly column however it feels like I'm more tuned into the daily bite size bulletin board approach of tumblr. I know I can do both - this is where I set up the black and white argument in my mind - but I keep getting snagged on this "new era of the internet" idea.

I miss ComicsComics. I feel like the end of ComicsComics coincided with the move to facebook and tumblr. So I have this weird sealed off, preserved in amber memory of that time. That blog was all Tim Hodler's idea. We had already been doing the print version- and Tim set up the blog and suggested that we could use the blog to promote the magazine. I remember thinking that it was a waste of time, that we should concentrate on the print version. That was a "new era of the internet" idea.

Forgive my mess. Just riffing. More soon.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Summer School!

I’m going to be doing a summer correspondence course. The focus will be on advancing your understanding of layouts, color, contour line drawing, and printmaking for producing comic books. The 8-week class is $500. Payment plans available. This class is limited: only ten students will be accepted. 

Who the hell am I? I’ve been drawing comics since 1988 – and writing about comics since 1995. I’ve taught drawing at Parsons. My work has been exhibited at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. I have worked as an assistant to fine arts painters such as Francesco Clemente, Dorothea Rockburne and Gary Panter. Many of my paintings are in the collection of Bruno Bischofberger. My comic Storeyville is, allegedly, one of Chris Ware’s favorites. I’ve collaborated with Ben Jones. I was in a drawing contest against the French master Blutch – and it was deemed a tie! I have appeared in two volumes of Kramers Ergot. I am working with Dash Shaw on an animation project. I worked for the silkscreen wizard Frank Kozik. I am friends with Yuichi Yokoyama. I got into a yelling match with Brian Chippendale because I’m against photo-referencing. Jaime Hernandez taught me where all the freeways meet in Los Angeles. Gilbert Hernandez said my comic Pompeii was "pretty good".

Application guidelines:
-3 figure drawings done on 3 x 5 index cards
-3 landscape drawings done on 3 x 5 index cards
-3 still life drawings done on 3 x 5 cards 
-specific url links to any comics work you have done.

Applications due by June 1st. Email me - capneasyATgmailDOTcom - and I will send you an invite to the course blog so you see what it's like. Check out my "Layout Workbook" series over at The Comics Journal. Overseas students welcome. Payment plans available - I will work with you to make it affordable. Thanks! -Frank Santoro