Testing a new type of learning institution for comic book making. Commodity form as community form.
Comics Workbook is a training school and residency program based in Pittsburgh, PA. It is an online correspondence course, and an international network of cartoonists. It is a world-wide composition competition, monthly comics salons, daily news blasts, backyard masterclasses, and a library of rare minicomics. It is a community, a team, a house on the corner.
Frank Santoro has been making and writing about comics since 1988. His work has been exhibited at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. He’s considered to be a good egg and one of the most passionate proselytizers for comic books and visual literacy that you will ever meet.
For decades now he has been distilling his ideas about comic book making into a potent mixture of methods. His training techniques have been utilized by the likes of Connor Willumsen, Michael DeForge, and Simon Hanselmann (quote “I consider Frank Santoro to be my L. Ron Hubbard”) among many others. Frank has had an international influence on many up-and-coming cartoonists through the online correspondence course he has taught since 2011 (which carries on the tradition of correspondence courses for cartoonists that stretches back over a century.)
With the Rowhouse Residency – a project that has inspired the support of Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, the Hernandez brothers, and Charles Burns – Frank and the Comics Workbook team have created a dojo for students much like a martial arts academy, in the heart of Pittsburgh, PA. The school is run like a sports clinic. What’s wrong with your swing? We can fix it. We invite veterans and rookies to drop by to spar in the dojo, so to speak, making room for friendly competition in order to push the boundaries of what is possible in the art form. This is not your regular comic book crash course. This is a ninja academy, a samurai school – we’re training Jedi’s here. (Frank can do a really good Yoda impression.)
School has officially been in session since spring of 2016, and the Rowhouse hasn’t been quiet a day since. We’ve hosted students who have never made a comic before, as well as true samurais of the comics medium like Lale Westvind, Kevin Huizenga, and Sammy Harkham. Correspondence course alums Audra Stang, Gabriella Tito, and Caleb Orecchio have come to the Rowhouse to really sharpen their swords. Juan Fernandez and Sally Ingraham, the Comics Workbook “coaching staff”, are constantly working on projects at the CW headquarters.
Beyond the walls of the Rowhouse, Comics Workbook is taking the comics dojo to the streets through the Pittsburgh Comics Salons, and workshops and lectures in Pittsburgh and beyond. These workshops are the distilled essence of the comics ninja training school, and also one of the truest embodiment’s of the idea that Comics Workbook is founded on – commodity form as community form.
Whether it is through the avenue of the Rowhouse Residency, or the Salons, or these international workshops, this is the idea (which originated with Bill Boichel, Frank’s own Yoda) that is radically in play. How do you transition comics from a commodity form to a community form? How do you facilitate the growth of the medium past the needs of the market?
We’re figuring that out one comic, one student, one cartooning samurai at a time. Join us!
How to get involved with Comics Workbook –
Apply for a Rowhouse Residency: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Take the Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers
: email email@example.com
Get the official Comics Workbook Handbook
MOVE TO PITTSBURGH!
Sally is a cartoonist, educator, and journalist based in Pittsburgh, PA. She makes comics about Pittsburgh and bird watching, and co-writes the "Suzy and Cecil" daily strip (with Gabriella Tito). She facilitates the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency, is a managing editor of the CW Daily News, and runs the CW Roller Derby "of the mind" League. She is focused on documenting the current and historic place of women in the comics industry, is working to build the Women's Comics Library, and is developing a comics curriculum by and for girls.
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