Rowhouse Residency Report – Patrick Bonato

Patrick Bonato is an Austrian illustrator, graphic designer, and comics maker. He joined us in Pittsburgh for a Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency for the month of May 2017. Here are his thoughts about visiting the city and his Rowhouse Residency experience.

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Exploring Frank’s index card method

I owe one of my artistically most intense and helpful experiences to a moment of clarity, luck and just trying. I had been travelling and working abroad for half a year already, mainly to take a time-out from my client’s jobs as an illustrator and graphic designer and to focus on my personal work, which are comics. I hesitated on what to do next, but I knew what I wanted: an artist residency for comic artists especially. I tried my luck by just typing exactly that in Google.

One of the two (!) results to consider was the Rowhouse Residency, which appeared more and more fitting and interesting, the more I found out about it. I mailed them – the always helpful good soul Sally Ingraham to be more precise – and from then on everything went fast. Only two weeks later I found myself in Pittsburgh for a one month comics residency!

I arrived there in the middle of my Toubab story (above), and felt I needed some guidance and professional feedback on it, as in my education as a graphic designer and illustrator in Austria and Switzerland I never have experienced any training in comics. So the first two weeks I proceeded to create new pages of this story and showed them to Frank and Sally. Frank helped me a great deal to understand and analyze what I had been doing to that point mostly intuitively. He also revealed to me some influences of mine that I had not fully been aware of and partly even where the inspiration to my inspirations came from! So I basically got a crash course in comic’s history and traditions and left every conversation with Frank full of motivation and inspiration and a huge pile of comic books to read from his seemingly infinite library. I could have spent the whole month just reading comics and was thankful for the rainy days, making it easier just to dig in and lock the outside world away for a while.

In these first feedback sessions with Frank and in my conversations with Sally, we often talked about Frank’s “magical method” using index cards and about the online course he’s giving. At first, I adapted a modified version of the index cards to the ongoing Toubab comic and was already enthusiastic about the freedom and ease it unleashed in the drawing process. Therefore, as I felt ready to start a new story, one that had been on my mind for a long time already, I asked Frank and Sally to do the Comics Course in the second half of my stay. And that’s when I felt my residency was really taking off and getting intense. My goal was to accomplish an 8-week-course in two weeks!

I decided to simply follow instructions and completely trust my masters Frank and Sally. Which proved to be very helpful, because all I had to really think about were my drawings and the story, whereas any formal decision (format, grid, number of pages and so on) was already given. The first two assignments propelled me to a formerly unknown speed of creation, that I had not even thought to be possible. Although tough tasks, they allowed me to access a spontaneous, natural flow of my thoughts and ideas about the story. And I’ve finally realized how much more inspiring and fun that was, compared to planning everything in advance and then just executing the plan. I am not exaggerating when I say it was a revelation that really changed my ways of working.

A finished spread from the comic made during this residency

I managed to complete the 16-page comic just before the end of my residency (a teaser can be seen above!) and had accomplished something way more quickly and way better and more fluidly than anything I had worked on before. I really owe that to Frank’s method, and his and Sally’s guidance through the course. I appreciated a lot having the possibility to have real conversations during the process, being able to ask questions, discuss things further and pick the comic books that related to them.

Another very influential and unique experience to me was to see Frank work. While I was there, he was very occupied with his new book (which I hope will be available by spring 2018 as Frank assumed – learn French to read it, Americans!). So while it was not always easy to get to see him and catch some feedback on my work in this situation, at the same time it taught me how important it is, in the process of creation, to sometimes just retreat from the outside world and ignore it’s needs and wishes. I personally consider this a lesson for a lifetime, and one I constantly should remind myself of (i.e. thinking of how persistent and reckless some clients sometimes can be!). I had to travel for months and to three continents to finally get some peace and tranquility from clients, friends and family (no offense to you all, I like most of you clients and love you friends and family) – but I’ll need to find a way to just focus on my work when back to a more “normal” life.

Riding in one of Pittsburgh’s incline cars

A few more things I want to mention: the Rowhouse and Pittsburgh in general felt like a new home by the end of my stay. It’s a good place to work but also to take a break from it. I appreciated a lot that Sally introduced me to Bill Boichel and the Copacetic Comics store, to the monthly Pittsburgh Comics Salon and the lovely people who form that group. And that we had this fun ride around town and – of course one of the highlights – a canoe trip with her and Frank.

Exploring the Monongahela River

I am deeply thankful for this great experience and the many things I’ve learned about the art of comics and life, and I thank Sally and Frank in the first place for that, and everyone I had the luck to get to know during my month in Pittsburgh. I hope to be back soon!

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Check out work by Patrick on his website, and follow him on Tumblr and Instagram. For more information about the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency visit this page or email santoroschoolATgmail

Meter, Geometry and Comic Form

by Jackie Kirby

Above, I have taken the opening couplet of Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” (1681) scanned and annotated by Phillip Hobsbaum in Metre, Rhythm, and Verse Form (1996) and translated it into an 8-panel grid spread using values of red as a accentual tool. Approaching comics with the assumption that they are or can be included within the scope of poetic practice, one is brought to draw a connection between the formal structures through which time and meaning are manifested on the page: in the comic, geometry and the grid; and in the poem, meter and verse form. Here, I will present what could generously be called “notes” towards a theory of meter and geometry. I apologize now for the inevitable imperfection of the metaphor, but I find this to be an important and positive aspect of the connection between the two, rather than a caveat negating any use the metaphor may provide.

Meter is the method of measuring verse by counting elements of it. It is a primarily mathematical system; it was called “numbers” by the Classical poets. Most often, the poet is counting syllables, as many languages exist primarily as a succession of syllables. Through different uses of meter, different methods of counting and measuring, different patterns of arrangement, writers create prosody, or a system of language. Within each language there exist many theories of organization, each of which is catered to both the language the writer uses and the purpose for which she wishes to use it. English poetry uses an accentual-syllabic metrical system, where the units being counted are syllables, and their pattern is defined by the arrangement of more or less strongly emphasized, or accented, syllables. Other languages use different systems. Languages which do not accentuate as strongly, such as French, will use something more akin to a purely syllabic meter, where forms are defined by the counting of syllables and ordering of numbers. This was also used by Ancient Irish and Welsh poets. Classical Greek and Latin poets based their prosody on the number of syllables and the length of time it takes to speak each syllable, creating patterns by arranging longer and shorter syllables. This is all to say, meter is a tool that must be developed accounting for the idiosyncrasies of the language in which one wishes to write. By looking at the metrical forms used by poets across different languages, and restructuring them for use in the language of comics, one can produce comic forms with increased complexity without decreasing (and perhaps even increasing) their legibility.

In an initial attempt at translating verse form to comic form let us equate syllables with panels, and spreads with lines. Each row of panels will represent a metrical foot. Stress is produced relationally, and in comics one can use size, color, density, and a myriad of other visual techniques to “stress” a panel. The actual size of each panel per “foot” or row is up to your own discretion but I prefer to use a more qualitative than quantitative approach to my “comics scansion.”

The first verse form I’d like to look at is dactylic hexameter, or Homer’s verse. It is the verse used in the Iliad and Odyssey, and later in Latin by Ovid and Virgil. Its historical use has equated it with the most grandiose poetic narratives, and cues a reader that she is reading a grand epic. Dactylic refers to the primary foot pattern of the poem, a dactyl being a long or stressed syllable followed by 2 short or unstressed syllables, while hexameter refers to the number of feet per line, which is 6 in this case (as opposed to pentameter [5], tetrameter [4], etc.). Using the system of translation previously established, a “dactylic hexameter” comic, would consist of spreads with 6 rows of 3 panels each, with the primary pattern being to stress the first panel of each row. Visually, this can easily lead us to a spread of 2 pages using a 9-panel grid.

Another notable element of Homer’s verse is that the third and sixth feet may be spondees rather than dactyls. A spondee is a foot composed of 2 equally weighted syllables. This could provide a spread looking something like this.

Alternatively, one could equate the panel to a metrical foot, and the page to a line. This would produce 6-panel grids, with each spread serving as a couplet.

These are only a few different, relatively conservative, attempts at translating a single poetic verse form into comics. These are not prescriptions as to what certain meters must look like in comics, but demonstrations of the ways meter and verse form can be used to develop a prosody of comics. There is such a plethora of verse forms, all with their own particular uses that can be translated into comics. As shown in the Marvell scansion above, the 8-panel grid is quite suited for translating iambic tetrameter, which is used most commonly in the ballad form. This connection could lead to all sorts of comics practices or translated ballads.

The harmony of a metered line is based on the same mathematical principals that produce visual harmony in geometric patterns. For instance, the sonnet, one of the most commonly used poetic forms, consisted originally of an octave (8-line stanza) followed by a sestet (6-line stanza). Poetry scholars have connected this with the golden ratio (8/5) with an extra line added to complete an even-numbered rhyme scheme. I have annoyed (to say the least) a number of English department chairs by insisting that poetry is simply linguistic mathematics. Certainly it’s (a bit) more than that, but much of poetics is applied mathematics, just as comics are.

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Jackie Kirby is a poet and comics maker living in New York City. A recent graduate from The New School with a BA in Cultural Studies, she has been making comics and writing poetry seriously for three years. Check out work by Jackie on her website, and follow her on Instagram. Read Jackie’s Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency Report for more thoughts on comics and poetry.

On Philippe Druillet – by RM Rhodes

RM Rhodes presents commentary on the work of Philippe Druillet

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I feel like when someone like me asks a young artist “Have you ever heard of…?” the young artist is expecting to know why the person in question is important. Or, even more simply, why they should care.

Having said that, Philippe Druillet is important because he’s one of the founding members of Les Humanoïdes Associés, the group that created Metal Hurlant (which later became Heavy Metal in America). If you’re guessing all of that French indicates Druillet’s national origin, you’d be correct.

Of even more relevance, Druillet is an amazing visual artist whose work deserves to be looked at by anyone who has any affinity for color and the use of color in art. His work is clearly influenced by Jack Kirby, but it also harkens back to European engravings that have been colored from the mid-17th Century.

His early work is black and white, but when he got his first airbrush, his entire style changed. As far as I’m concerned, Druillet levelled up when he started working color into his compositions. He clearly spent a long time working on the underlying pen illustrations, but it’s his use of color as a major element of the composition that’s worthy of note.

Speaking of composition, Druillet’s works like Lone Sloane, Salammbô, and Gail gave him ample opportunities to create some really challenging page layouts. These layouts are so distinctive that Benoit Peeters’ Four Conceptions of a Page uses Druillet as the exemplar of Decorative pages.

In the interests of show vs tell, I’m going to stop talking about how awesome Druillet is and just show you a whole bunch of his artwork. It will either resonate with you or it won’t, but I have a feeling that if it does resonate, it will resonate strongly.

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RM Rhodes is the curator of the Heavy Metal Magazine tumblr. He lives and works in Washington, D.C. His current project is a weekly online anthology called The Rumor published on the Comics Workbook tumblr – see issues of it HERE. Check out more of his comics at Louis Deux.

M. S. Harkness – Rowhouse Residency Report

M. S. Harkness lives in Minneapolis, MN. A recent graduate of MCAD, she makes comics and is a personal trainer. She joined us in Pittsburgh for a Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency in July 2017. Here are her thoughts about visiting the city and her Rowhouse Residency experience.

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Part of M. S. Harkness’ crowdfund campaign for her comics residency!

I wanted to participate in the Rowhouse Residency as a grad present to myself after grinding for four years in art school, under the excellent tutelage of Kevin Huizenga. I’d never been to Pittsburgh before and I wanted to see Copacetic Comics. I wasn’t sure about what the experience was, but I wanted to make it my summer trip where I could get a lot of work done but still be on vacation. I think I messaged Frank something like “I’m working on Tinderella, I’m going to have like half the book inked so I just wanna grind on that.” So I crowdfunded and made plane tickets happen.

Detail from Tinderella

It was a really cool experience. I valued the time I had and the opportunity to wander through as a guest. I dunno what the typical residency is – I came in open to doing whatever I could to see the city and improve my craft, but I had a set goal of just churning out pages. So every day I played a lot of music and stretched the shit out of my wrists so I didn’t mess them up too bad with carpal tunnel.

I got to go to the Pittsburgh Comics Salon on the 5th and meet Juan Fernandez. Frank looked at my work and gave me good insight onto what he was seeing. But for the most part, I did a lot of drawing and talking with Sally Ingraham about cartooning and teaching, and how much we cared about what we were both doing. That sort of time is really invaluable, especially since I got to do it outside of the setting of a convention, or an expo, where you’re just stressed the fuck out and tired and not really hearing what anyone was saying. I got to watch fireworks and take nature walks with other cartoonists, which is really good after a day of being inside over a table.

M. S. Harkness and Sally Ingraham on the 4th of July

In total, I inked about 11 pages, so that felt good. I left a stack of Prizefighter’s and Floor Troll minis at Copacetic Comics, so cop those if you haven’t yet. The last night I was in town I got to hang out with my auto bio BFFL Nate McDonough who lived on the whole other side of town and I spent like 60 bucks on Lyft rides to see. He was worth it though, and we stayed up late as hell screaming about the comics we were going to make.

M. S. Harkness by Nate McDonough and Nate by M. S. Harkness

I want to do an anthology with him at some point but don’t tell him that!!!

Other than Frank telling me ways to improve my process, I did a lot of ‘why’ thinking while I was in Pittsburgh, sort of meditating on my own reasons for doing what I do in comics. It was all really constructive, not that sort of awful anxious shit, just a lot of thinking about what the next steps are going to be once I get this book done and how I want to live and portray my life. I’m only 24 so everything is really cool and exciting and not dumb (in regards to my career – the world itself is shit and awful). I always just want to make things that are entertaining and worth reading.

I highly recommend the Rowhouse Residency to all folks. If you make comics but haven’t had the chance to pick the brain of someone who thinks about comics as a language and a science, Frank will give your work the combing it needs to be understood and received. Sally’s a really good resource too – if you’re interested in integrating comics into a teaching curriculum, she’s a powerhouse.

Tinderella should be out some time next year, either when it gets picked up and thrown into a publisher’s kickstarter, or when you preorder it from me personally and I get it printed myself. Follow me on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram or better yet, buy my comics on Bigcartel!

Big shout outs to Bill Boichel, it was lovely meeting you <3

Also to Frank and Sally, I’m sorry I stole the keys on accident I hope they got back to you okay in the mail.

Frank Santoro and M. S. Harkness by M. S. Harkness

xoxo

M.S. HARKNESS

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For more information about the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency visit this page or email santoroschoolATgmail

Addley Walker’s Angle

Addley Walker is a comics and pattern maker from Los Angeles, CA. He joined us in Pittsburgh for a Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency in June 2017 (read about his experience HERE). While he was visiting, we realized that Addley was plugged into a different corner of the comics making community, and seeing work that we weren’t familiar with. His enthusiasm was catching, so we asked him to share with us some of the comics makers and artists that he follows and enjoys. Below is the “list” he sent. – Sally

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Crow Cillers – Cate Wurtz (http://lamezone.net/)

By far the best project of the already impressive body of work of queer webcomics wizard Cate Wurtz, Crow Cillers is an intense story about cute animal critters stuck in an oppressive world of cults and body horror. Presented in a faux-television manner where characters’ dialogue appears as closed captioning, stories change channels into others, and “episodes” in an arc are collected into season “box sets” (it, and individual episodes available monthly via her Patreon, are html documents that bring up navigable menus), Wurtz presents us casual talking sitcom characters forced to deal with increasingly violent situations while weaving in a metanarrative dealing with issues such as the absurd and often dark environment of the internet itself. Wurtz’s aesthetic and thematic odes to DeviantArt and Hot Topic not only serves as a coherent vehicle for her message, but asks the reader to re-evaluate their relationship with not only the corporate rebellion of Korn (most evident in her chopped ‘n screwed electronic music that is the suggested series soundtrack) and Shadow the Hedgehog (Sonic with GUNS), but the earnest reaction to these institutions by the fringes of internet art and fetish communities. Download the pilot and first season free on her website. Hail Gay Satan.

Music: https://partydog.bandcamp.com/

Past Comic: https://lamezone.net/comics/asscastle

https://lamezone.net/comics/punc (not so explicit)

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Angel of a Rope – Adam Buttrick (http://www.adambuttrick.com)

There were some very good stories in Kramer’s 9, but Adam Buttrick’s entry really made the book for me. Adam’s making very peculiar and powerful work, with a literary influence that, while escaping my personal understanding, draws me deeper into the situations and characters that feel so familiar after a lifetime of cartoons and video games. His incredibly busy pages have a surprisingly minimal economy of shapes, making everything clear in the mess of action that make up his world. Angel of a Rope is another excellent entry into the ouvre of someone who I find to be one of the most exciting cartoonists working today.

Work in question:
http://dominobooks.org/angelrope.html

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Now Nowhere – Elevator Teeth (http://elevatorteeth.com/)

I’m generally very wary of artists who foster a branded presentation of their work, and Elevator Teeth definitely has that aspect. Scrolling on their website I watch art posts transform into shirts, a part of an image becomes a button or patch, an illustration becomes a record cover which becomes an object that gets waggled on a talk show. It helps that the work is rendered in such a clean and minimal style, which makes it very susceptible to duplication and modification. As such, words and images will come up again, re-arranged and colored differently. This shifting quality of Elevator Teeth’s work is part of it’s magic, though, and looking at one image after the other becomes very dreamlike and hypnotic. The objects in these images hold an internal charge and react in strange and interesting ways to new compositions. The zine Now Nowhere, which came out early last year, is a great example. With work originally presented as one pagers that work very well as statements by themselves, Elevator Teeth puts them together to reveal that side-by-side they form a coherent story that lasts 28 pages. Slick and fashionable as it looks, Elevator Teeth’s work is fundamentally about consciousness, and shows the way in which digital techniques can lend themselves to powerful forms of truth seeking.

Work in question:
http://elevatorteeth.storenvy.com/products/15662373-now-nowhere-riso-zine

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Warrior Pose – Leon Sadler (http://leonsadler.com/) + Yannick Val Gesto (http://www.yannickvalgesto.com/)

Omnipresent anthology contributor Leon Sadler and fellow fine art nerd Yannick Val Gesto are a dynamic duo whose collaborations I wish I knew more about. I do not know how I found this fabulous book in the first place, probably because I am great. Presenting itself as a gentle self help manual, Warrior Pose (which was consigned along with a video of the same name) might not be comics, but those literate to the form should have an entry into some joyful collages of anime, fanart, chan imagery, and other serene weirdness, along with drawings by both. Val Gesto’s quest in particular, revealing the beauty of internet ugliness, I find incredibly compelling, much like Cate Wurtz. Leon Sadler is pretty cool, too.

Work in question:
https://battcoop.org/en/produit/warrior-pose-2/

Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2zAoe8ShMw

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The Boys Are Back In Town – Mushbuh (http://mushbuh.com/)

This entry is a funeral for the self experience that I discovered will be forever unrealized by me not owning this zine of colorful haniwa frolics. Mushbuh is someone who initially caught me with their lively Illustrator art and comics, as well as a demo for their N64 love letter Burrito Galaxy. While Mushbuh seems to be on a more automatic, almost anti-aesthetic track today, evidence is still there of the tightly geometric, bouncy cartoon art I see still around in works of artists such as George Wysesol. Please contact me if you have evidence of rare sightings of these boys…

Work in question:
http://www.mushbuh.bigcartel.com/product/the-boys-are-back-in-town-ed-of-50

Examples:
Musbuh comics

George Wysesol
https://www.instagram.com/sassybluepanda/

George Wysesol web series(?)
https://www.instagram.com/ithinkimintrouble/

 

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Check out work by Addley Walker on his website, and follow him on Instagram

Addley Walker – Rowhouse Residency Report

Addley Walker is a comics and pattern maker from Los Angeles, CA. He joined us in Pittsburgh for a Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency in June 2017. Here are his thoughts about visiting the city and his Rowhouse Residency experience.

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Addley Walker digging through treasure at Copacetic Comics, June 2017

So I’ll go right into it:

There’s no way (no way!) I can really summarize the week I had at the Rowhouse – just that going in I had a vision of personal breakthroughs which my stay allowed me to achieve, and which put me in a mental state that I do not yet feel I have left, some days later.

It’s funny how it happened – a bit ago I went cruising on eBay for some spicy zine action when I came across a copy of CF’s Core of Caligula. I didn’t have it, I hadn’t read it, it was an instant purchase. When it showed up at my house later, I was surprised to find that in my consumer stupor that I had ordered from none other than Comics Workbook, and inside the packaging there was a slip of paper promoting the Correspondence Course and the Residency. I had taken Frank Santoro’s online course 2 years prior, and I had regretted that after graduating I never took advantage of the people and community that existed in that space, and overlapping ones, online. I found it hard to communicate while curating myself on Tumblr, and just overall couldn’t find a rhythm for myself in the community. So I took the slip’s advice and I reached out to Rowhouse Organizer and Overall Scene Badass Sally Ingraham, who heard me out, and with her encouragement I decided I needed to go to Pittsburgh.

Work by Addley Walker made for Comics Workbook in 2015

Pittsburgh is definitely a very special place. It’s hard for me to describe (I don’t really get out of California very often!), and I was very taken with it. I spent most of my time in the cozy house that served as the Residency space, which I totally adored. As Sally had told me, just the time to spend alone focused totally on creating is radical in itself, a vacation from the distractions of your life. I really spread out all over the place, and lost myself in intense sessions of reading and drawing. Oh, and music listening, because there are some real stellar records hanging out amid a small but impressive collection of comics work.

Then there’s the matter of Frank Santoro. Frank’s sincere nature coupled with a deep love and understanding of the form was an oasis. I saw him a few times in the week for dinner, which were highly energizing times of comics discussion and discovery. Access to Frank’s library of knowledge and the most insane out-of-print shit you will ever see was just totally overwhelming in the best way possible. It was almost like he was playing a game, the way Frank just continually surprised me, which he ratcheted up all the way to my last night (you really got me, check mate dude). [Editor’s Note: Frank stunned Addley by inviting Blaise Larmee over for dinner and comics talk!]

At one time Frank and Sally talked about comics as an oral history, which I think is very important. So important! Before I had come to the Residency, while I kept up with the goings on of the internet (reading, exploring, learning) I had a very strong urge to participate in the conversations happening in comics that I feel are so vital, both as an artist and as a fan. I can learn and get work done noodling in my room while playing video games, surfing Instagram, and listening to Chapo Trap House, but there is no substitute to spending a day at Copacetic Comics as Sally fielded question after question I had about creators, and printing, and the culture at large. There is no substitute to going to Frank’s house and having a master of the form talk to you about your work. There is no substitute to meeting in person people you respect, and having them take you seriously.

The connections made between people, on the ground, are what propel things forward. On the walls of the kitchen there is evidence of the Residency’s past participants – sketches, a calendar, proofs of a zine cover. I wanted to see more. I felt that sense of community that I had lacked, and I wanted to see that community succeed.

I left the Rowhouse feeling validated, and motivated. I hope to see more drawings on the wall when I come back!

Addley Walker, 2015

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Check out work by Addley on his website, and follow him on Instagram. For more information about the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency visit this page or email santoroschoolATgmail

Jackie Kirby – Rowhouse Residency Report

(Memetics 0/1, Jackie Kirby 2017)

My name is Jackie Kirby. I am a poet and comics author. I am twenty-two years old, and live in New York City. Recently, I graduated from The New School with a BA in Cultural Studies. I have been making comics and writing poetry seriously for three years now. As my poetic and comics practices evolved, they became more and more intertwined. Now, the differences between what I publish as “poetry” versus “comics” has more to do with marketing and publishing than it does with genre or form—but then genre is the formal violence of marketing and publishing. But, “whatever.”

I spent a week in Pittsburgh at the Rowhouse Residency this June 2017. As recent graduate without the privilege of a future in plastics, I was anxious on how to proceed. If I was to call myself a “poet” and a “comics author,” what should I do to validate or realize those claims? Additionally, I had a bit of a foothold in the world of poetry, through school and time spent in and around the New York poetry cliques. I didn’t, however, have anything of the sort in the world of comics. Poets can often be easily impressed by the integration of visual arts into poetry, and don’t know anything of comics. I was excited, albeit nervous, to see how I could enter into the world of comics, and if my work was intelligible or interesting to comics readers in contrast to poetry readers.

With the time and space provided by the residency, I was able to develop a routine and work ethic that works for my particular habits and skills. Through my conversations with Frank Santoro, I was able to visualize a path going forward with my work, begin to feel grounded in the world of comics, affirm my beliefs in the value of my own aesthetic project, and gain valuable tools and modes of thought towards the furthering of my craft.

(Finding Eurydice: A Border Comic, Jackie Kirby 2017)

Frank’s approach to composition in comic books clicked with me as a way of connecting poetry and comics. Without sounding too prescriptive, I think poetics should seek to emancipate possibility and meaning from language, or at least restructure it. Frank and I spoke a lot about meter and geometry, but I think the integration of comics into poetry and vice versa has a greater political value. In comics, “language” as we know it is subverted through its integration with non-alphabetic symbols. The job of a poet is to keep language alive, and if poetry is to be relevant it must be written in the contemporary idiom. The integration of words and images in everyday life is increasing, and pictoral languages are becoming more common. The integration of comics and poetics is only logical considering.

(Finding Eurydice: A Border Comic, Jackie Kirby 2017)

Before coming to the residency I had spent the last year working on a set of works called Finding Eurydice. The first is a poetry chapbook subtitled “Transmissions from Orpheus,” and the second is a comic “translation” of the chapbook subtitled “A Border Comic.” In these works, I used the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as a way of expressing the experience of transfeminity, and experimented formally as a way of enacting that experience.

At risk of being too pretentious, I’ll quote the introduction from my reflection on A Border Comic:

Finding Eurydice is a comic. Finding Eurydice is a poem, or book of poems. It’s both, but it’s not quite one or the other. Words are often only images. Images are abstracted into words. Its “graphic narrative” is mostly formal, and moves associatively. Much of its “text” is illegible. It doesn’t fit right. Finding Eurydice is a hybrid work. It is a comic-poem which transgresses forms and signs. This formal transgression produces a new vocabulary for the enactment of transgender subjectivities and experiences historically made impossible to verbalize. Entering the project, I asked: If an artistic production is a body, or an extension of the body, and the body is always already gendered, how can the formal restructuring of and deployment of “trans-” trajectories of movement into a literary or artistic mode of production aide in the revelation of new possibilities of gender embodiments and transgender subjectivities?

In Finding Eurydice, the comic, the poem, and Orpheus are all made trans, opening up new space for transness to exist in language.

Both works can be read online:

Finding Eurydice: Transmissions from Orpheus
Finding Eurydice: A Border Comic

(Finding Eurydice: Transmissions from Orpheus, Jackie Kirby 2017)

My conversations with Frank were thoughtful, engaging, and exciting. Among the most interesting aspects of our discussions was comparing analogies of music and poetry to comics. I know very little when it comes to music. Half-kidding – it’s one of the few popular art forms I’m not a snob about, and I’ve tried to keep it like that. Frank, on the other hand, is a total music nerd. I came into his house for espresso one afternoon and he presented me with a piece of scrap paper on which he had written “2/3 3/4 rectangle riff seen from a poet’s pov in relation to ‘meter’ / and relation to ‘the Breath’ or Dylan’s ‘long line of spit.’ 

Frank and I chatted for hours regarding this. He would riff for fifteen minutes or so about music and I would respond with a riff on poetics. Forty five minutes could go by without comics being explicitly mentioned once, but the composition and formal techniques of comics practice underlaid every moment. When I brought this up, Frank brushed it off, saying “Of course we could talk about how Robert Crumb is this or that but we both know that.” What’s interesting is what we can learn from each other.

In conclusion, I will list a few highlights of my time at the residency:

– Frank took a class with Kathy Acker and said “She was so mean! In the best way.” This is exactly what I want to hear about Kathy Acker.
– Kathy Acker chose her pen name from her husband’s last name (Acker) and a nickname extracted from her birth-name (Karen) and not because the titular character from the comic-strip Cathy says “Ack!” as her catchphrase, and is therefore a Cathy “Ack!”-er. This is exactly what I don’t want to hear about Kathy Acker.
– I fell down all the stairs at the residency. In all fairness, however, wearing slippery socks, a maxi-skirt that’s hanging too low, and carrying forty things in your arms while descending a steep wooden staircase is the set-up to a punchline involving falling down all the stairs, and Frank provided excellent first-aid.
– When Sally picked me up from the train station, we went to a bar for dinner where Anthony Bourdain had recently shot an episode of some show he does where he pretends he’s in a scene in Coffee & Cigarettes and I find Anthony Bourdain conceptually hilarious (I believe Hayes Davenport called him “the misanthrope of food television”) but realized I don’t have any solid jokes to make and ended up asking a lot of questions about the ins and outs of Anthony Bourdain’s TV production.

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Check out more work by Jackie on her website, and follow her on Instagram. For more information about the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency visit this page or email santoroschoolATgmail

TCAF 2017 Recap – by Tyler Landry

Tyler Landry here: The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) is the only comics show I’ve ever attended, except for our local small-town con (held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada) which I did for the very first time this year. There are a couple of reasons for this, and they all fall into the realm of “excuses”, but, that’s how my cookie crumbles. I have, however, been to TCAF every year since 2013, and have been told by con-hoppers of all stripes that it’s one of the best, if not THE best show of its type. To me, it’s always felt huge, diverse, and rewarding in a thousand ways – so I take those observations with considerable weight. I’ve met (and bought comics from) a huge majority of my favorite cartoonists, made loads of new comics friends, and tabled – both independently and with publishers.

I always like to arrive in Toronto early on Friday, settle in, walk around the city, have an eat and/or a drink with friends – and get comfortable before the chaos on Saturday morning.

Spent a veritable stack of cash on comics right away. Exciting new work from Anya Davidson, Ben Passmore, Connor Willumsen, and Sophie Yanow – to name only a few.

This year I spent time tabling with two publishers – signing some of last year’s comics with Study Group (The Coward’s Hole, and Lonesome), and with Retrofit, signing copies of the collected Shit and Piss, which debuted this year at TCAF. It was cool to meet some people who follow my work, and to see others discover it for the first time. This is why I attend TCAF. To participate in a significant way in the comics community, as a cartoonist, an enthusiast, and more recently as a (new) community leader and educator.

With that in mind, in addition to signing, I did something sorta new – I ran a Comics Workbook workshop on composing a comic spread. The workshop made use of a standardized 6-panel grid, a quick idea gathering on story cards, and heavy panel-by-panel editing with a printed spread in mind. It was geared towards beginners, but the process we explored is the basis for how I make comics, and can be useful to anyone telling stories in a visual medium.

Some of the essential materials I’d requested were missing from the room when we started (index cards, guys!), but we did have a fat stack of copy paper, and before long I had everyone in the (very full) room folding and tearing it into manageable chunks. I brought along some comics I’ve done, a few in-progress spreads, and the associated story cards as examples of the process from beginning to end. After a bit of discussion everyone began to get a sense of modular structure, the importance of editing oneself early, and some basic notions of pacing, dynamics thru motion, tone, and directionality across panels/the spread.

Because of our slightly later start, we didn’t delve as deep into the spread as I’d have liked – but everyone got a taste of quick drawing and editing, and at least the beginnings of controlling the flow of information across the spread. By the time we were being kicked out of the room, we were having huge open discussions about the different participants’ comics, talking in terms of pacing, making switcheroos for clarity, capitalizing on directional flow, etc. We could’ve easily spent another 2 hours together as a group and accomplished even more.

Being so busy during both days, I didn’t get to take in any additional programming, but Idid have a chance to share a few pints and meals with friends old and new. TCAF definitely does a great job of bringing us all together once a year to gush like fools about the things we love in comics.

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Check out more of Tyler’s work HERE and pick up a copy of his new book HERE.

The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen

RM Rhodes presents commentary on The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen by Jorge Zentner and Ruben Pellejero

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Jargon is awesome. Comics has a lot of it. One of the more interesting terms is the artistic technique of spotting black areas. This is often shortened to “spotted blacks”. That is, determining what areas of a given page and/or panel should be inked in before color is applied. It’s one of many artistic techniques one can pick up while making comics. To date, I haven’t picked it up.

But I know what to look for, which means I can appreciate it when I see it. There’s an entire group of arguments whose style relies heavily on spotted blacks, if you want to look for examples. The most obvious is Hugo Pratt, whose Corto Maltese series is a masterwork of the style. Milo Manara, who worked with Pratt, has a much more elegant line, but the blacks give his linework its characteristic solidity. Frank Miller was inspired by Pratt and even named an island in Dark Knight Returns after Corto Maltese.

Tim Sale provided the forward for the recent collection of The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen by Jorge Zentner (writer) and Ruben Pellejero (artist). To bring the whole thing around full circle, Pellejero was recently chosen to be the artist on a reboot of Corto Maltese.

The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen is the best series of stories I’ve read in Heavy Metal, by far. I was very excited when IDW announced that they were printing a collection, including material never printed in English before. For the record, that’s three short stories – Time Bomb, His Master’s Voice, and A Question of Skin – and the long story The Reaper’s Price. All of the other stories were printed in Heavy Metal between 1987 and 1990.

One story – Games of Chance – was only printed in black and white in Heavy Metal and is printed in color in the collection. Reading that story in black and white helped me see how good Pellejero’s spotted blacks are. He relies very heavily on shadow and profile to add drama.

Heavy Metal issue #113, Fall 1987 – Page 67 The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen: A Game of Chance by Zentner and Pellejero

After the initial batch of short stories, there are three longer ones. The short stories are clearly written to be serialized in anthologies – the staple serialization format in European comics markets. The longer stories could be printed in standalone albums, which drives the tone and complexity of the series. The shorts are wrapped around a single location or idea and the longer ones have much more complex themes because they have room to breathe and stretch out.

Pellejero uses color and a confident line to build on top of a very solid foundation. The real appeal of the series are the settings. The premise is that shortly after the war, a German named Dieter Lumpen gets a job as a chauffeur and the first page of the first story finds him being chased through an Istanbul market by a man with a gun. From there, he travels to the Agean, Haifa, India, Sri Lanka, Paris, Manaus, Tunisia and the Caribbean.

The appeal of these destinations is Pellejero’s ability to render them almost like a documentary film maker, matter of fact about amazing sights, which adds verisimilitude. The amount of detail on each page means that every time you return to a page, you notice something new. And the stories are very rereadable.

To be sure, these are the adventures of a white European wandering through the wreckage of a post-war world. The nationality of the main character isn’t really brought up, and the backstory is never explored. He was clearly old enough to serve in the war and somehow managed to walk away without any physical injuries. He’s now wandering the back corners of the non-white portion of the world, somehow miraculously encountering the only white people in the area. It’s a world that’s right on the cusp of post-colonialism and the tensions are on the page.

Heavy Metal issue #129, November 1990 – Page 22 Dieter Lumpen: Enemies in Common by Ruben and Zentner

Not everyone is ready to stop fighting – Lumpen finds himself caught up in revolutionary actions in Palestine, India and Tunisia. In almost every story, he (or a companion) are looking for something. And, almost inevitably, there is some kind of violence along the way. In every case, Lumpen is a reluctant hero, mostly running away from confrontation whenever possible.

Even the most peaceful story, Caribbean, has some violence. We find Lumpen living in relative obscurity in the Caribbean (duh), only to have his peace shattered by the arrival of a film crew. He agrees to act as the lead actor in the pirate movie they are there to shoot.

The entire process of making a film is wonderfully compressed into two pages. In Heavy Metal, these were printed as a two page spread. In the collection, they are back-to-back, which somewhat ruins the effect.

Heavy Metal issue #121, July 1989 – Pages 34&35 Caribe: Dieter Lumpen by Ruben and Zentner

It’s easily the best story in the collection. It’s the second of the longer stories and it is very much about a man giving away a chance at fame. As a mediation on celebrity and stardom, it’s very effective. There is a mix of action and pensiveness through the whole series and this story rests on the search for a quiet place to grow old in peace.

The Reaper’s Price, the final story in the collection, is a real beast. It’s longer than any of the other stories and is a distinct departure from the rest of the series. Most obviously, every other story is about a specific place. This one features Lumpen travelling to multiple locations. It’s also presented in such a way that leaves the reader unclear if the story is real or some kind of dream.

There are elements that could be described as supernatural or mystical throughout the series, and at least one of the shorts is a ghost story. But all of those genre elements were grounded in a distinctly real narrative. This story contains a number of deeply allegorical elements. And the art style changes to suit the situation, making it the most complex story in the collection artistically and conceptually.

If you want a solid comic from a pair of European masters, The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen is highly recommended.

Heavy Metal issue #123, November 1989 – Page 90 Dieter Lumpen: Istanbul by Ruben and Zentner

Heavy Metal issue #121, July 1989 – Page 24 Caribe: Dieter Lumpen by Ruben and Zentner

Heavy Metal issue #118, Winter 1989 – Page 88 Dieter Lumpen by Ruben and Zentner

Heavy Metal issue #110, Winter 1987 – Page 76 The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen: The Bad Guy by Ruben and Zentner

Heavy Metal issue #129, November 1990 – Page 18 Dieter Lumpen: Enemies in Common by Ruben and Zentner

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RM Rhodes is the curator of the Heavy Metal Magazine tumblr. He lives and works in Washington, D.C. His current project is a weekly online anthology called The Rumor published on the Comics Workbook tumblr – see issues of it HERE. Check out more of his comics at Louis Deux.

Anthologies

RM Rhodes – curator of the Heavy Metal Magazine tumblr – brings some thoughts on the history of anthologies.

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Anthologies and episodic publishing arrived in Western Europe at more or less the same time, which makes sense. When you have four partial stories, it’s easier to bundle them together in a common publication and tell customers that the next installments will be available in a week or a month. And it’s less risky to convince a reader that has already bought the first part of a story to buy the next part than it is to convince a reader to buy a story they’ve never seen.

My point is that the anthology has been around for ages. It’s a very old, very versatile, very robust format. And that’s what makes the format interesting.

First, let’s talk terms. An anthology is a collection of short works. In this context, the works are comics, sequential art, visual narrative, comics-adjacent storytelling, informatics and some other lumpy labels for stuff that tells a story with pictures. The meaning of “short” varies greatly. Half and full page stories are common. As are stories that last dozens of pages.

Notice that there’s no requirement about whether the stories have to be complete. Nor is there one about whether the anthology is standalone. It is very common for anthologies to be released periodically over a pre-advertised schedule (usually weekly or monthly or some multiple thereof). And is also common for stories to be told episodically over the course of multiple sequential installments.

An anthology that met that criteria would then be an episodic periodical. But that term also fits the description of most magazines and publications – many of which are, in their own way, anthologies. If nothing else, precision of terminology will keep you from getting ripped off.

This highlights one of the most intriguing aspects of the anthology format – the flexibility. Everyone and his brother has put together an anthology, but there is always the comfort in knowing that anyone can put one together. It’s an easy choice for what to do with random bits and bobs that don’t fit anywhere else. It’s also a great way to spread the risk inherent in publication around a bit. The more people in an anthology, the more people have a vested interest in its success.

There are a huge number of decisions available to make: page size, page count, color vs b&w, binding, theme, creators, compensation, funding, printing, advertising, distribution. There is never a good reason to make an anthology, but every comics creator should try to organize one at least once in their life – it’s a very practical lesson in logistics, organization, motivation, and frustration.

The student of the anthology has a lot of examples to look to for inspiration.

Through the 1920s, there was a series of art journals and publications put out by various art groups in Europe: de Stilj, Dada, Cannibale, Le Couer, Cabaret Voltaire. Due to modern advances in printing technology, it is easier to self-publish zines with better production values. But it’s also interesting to note that the impulse to run an amateur publication of random stuff is perfectly normal.

There’s a certain amount of debate regarding how and when the cartooning tradition in Western Europe became the comics tradition of Western Europe. Some point to the broadsheets of the 17 century that introduced the twin concepts of anthologies and episodic storytelling as a precursor to modern sequential art. But it’s more likely that comics as we know them grew up during the 19th Century. And anthologies were an important part of that maturation.

The default format for professional episodic periodicals in American comics has been monthly comics of a set page length that may or may not have additional stories. Professional Franco-Belgian comics have been dominated by the weekly anthology format, featuring strips of half or full page in length. These were later collected into albums of 48 pages in length – which is how most English speakers have encountered this material. (If you’re wondering what was probably collected like this, flip through any album and look for a horizontal white gutter cutting straight across the book at the half-page mark.)

Probably the most famous anthology from this tradition in the English speaking market is Heavy Metal. It started as a monthly anthology that contained a mix of episodic and stand-alone stories. It sort of still does most of that. In the mid-80s, Heavy Metal shifted format and centered their publication around a single complete story with a variety of shorter stories as supplements. This influenced later anthologies and we can see that Island, for example, followed the same general model.

It is convenient to be able to read the more well-known stories in a mass market edition. However, it is also valuable to observe the original print runs of anthologies where- and when-ever possible. Reading material in the context that it was originally presented to the market in is very valuable. First and foremost, examining primary sources acknowledges the effort that was put into the anthology in the first place. Additionally, it highlights the kinds of commercial advertisements from the period printed next to the original material. Sometimes the juxtaposition is startling.

It also provides a sense of the flow of the reader through the book. Arguably, the order that the stories are presented in is important because it shapes the mood of the reader from cover to cover. Knowing that a story beat in a completely different story occurred directly before this story may have changed how this one was perceived.

Reading an issue of an anthology is like eating a club sandwich. There are a lot of different distinguishable flavors, but the combination is distinct. And that’s the whole point of producing an anthology.

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RM Rhodes lives and works in Washington, D.C. His current project is a weekly online anthology called The Rumor published on the Comics Workbook tumblr – see issues of it HERE. Check out more of his comics at Louis Deux.