Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2017


and thee Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency presents



1st place  – A week-long Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency (valued at $500 – travel and expenses not included)

2nd place – $250 credit at Copacetic Comics

3rd place  – $100 credit at Copacetic Comics

plus four $50 honorable mention prizes from Big Planet Comics


Create a 16 page signature comic book narrative to the specifications below


DEADLINE: Tuesday, September 5th 2017 at 11:59 pm NYC time


HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE are last four years if you haven’t heard of the contest. HERE are all of the 2016 contest entries. This isn’t a scam, silly.


Here are the 2017 composition competition specs:

Contest take 1 from Frank Santoro on Vimeo.


Watch the video above!

Take an 11×17 inch piece of paper and cut it down to 10 1/4 x 13 1/2 inches. Fold this piece of paper in half.

Measure in 3/8ths of an inch from the top and the sides, and 3/8ths of an inch in on both sides of the center fold. Measure in 3/4s of an inch from the bottom. This will make two 6 x 9 inch live areas on your 10 1/4 x 13 1/2 inch paper – as you can see in the example below. Watch the video for clarity.

Make three equal “landscape” oriented tiers on each live area. Make copies of this “spread”.

Do your layouts at this size.


***Draw your original artwork at 10 x 15 inches. Use 11×17 inch paper – make a 10×15 inch live area on the paper. Measure in 1/4 inch on each side and a 1/4 inch from the top to situate your 10×15 inch live area within the 11×17 inch paper. See video.

The top tier and the bottom tier must have two 5×5 panels. The center tier may be open completely to make one 5×10 inch panel or two 5×5 inch panels. Again see video for clarity.

The top tier and the bottom tier MUST have two panels. The center tier may have one panel or two. You may use the 6-panel grid throughout the entire 14-page story but one of the pages MUST have an open center panel. All of the pages may have an open center panel. Each page will have either 5 or 6 panels.

Watch THIS video and THIS video for context. Pay attention to the parts about opening up the center. Also read Layout Workbook 1 and 2 for more info about traditional North American comic book proportions.

You may break up your panels like this:

14 pages and two covers. Meaning seven spreads and a front and back cover. A 16 page signature.

Work may be in color OR black and white – OR – a combination of both.

International students must use the same specs. No complaining.

It is recommended that you draw the pages on 11×17 paper with a 10×15 inch live area. It is recommended that you print your comic at traditional North American comic book size – which is 6 3/4 x 10 1/4. Again, see video.


Consider this an exercise in short story writing. I think the 16 page signature is ideal to contain a short story. Adaptations of existing works are not eligible. Like, you can’t copy a sequence from a movie.

To submit your comic to the composition:

  • Photograph or scan your pages and post them on your tumblr AS SPREADS. If you don’t have a tumblr – make one just for this contest. No exceptions! No complaining! Post the front cover as the lead image and the back cover as the final image and put your name and the title of the work in the text field and that it is for the Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2017.
  • Email me – santoroschoolATgmailDOTcom – that you have posted your entry to your tumblr and give me a direct link to the post – and I will reblog it on to the comicsworkbook tumblr.

I will be posting them – reblogging them – on comicsworkbook as they come in. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I will, however, only be posting stories that stick to the RULES. If you don’t follow the rules, I will not reblog the story and you won’t be eligible for the prizes.

I will reblog them as quickly as I can and keep the list of entries updated – if you do not see your entry right away do not panic – I will make every effort to keep the list up to date but as long as you get your entry submitted correctly via email before the deadline your work will be in the competition. Last year we had over 100 entries and near the end things were hectic – so be patient.

Any questions about the competition – please email me – do not leave a comment on this post – I will not reply here. Just email me.

The competition is open to all. You do not have to be a former student of mine. Former students of mine ARE eligible to compete, as are winners of previous competitions.

Again, if you have any questions about the rules please ask. Better to ask and be safe than to be mad when I disqualify you over some missed detail. Seriously.

Work may be in color OR black and white – OR – a combination of both.

You MAY have panel gutters. You MAY work digitally. And you MAY work as a team.

Remember! Email me – santoroschoolATgmailDOTcom – that you have posted your entry to your tumblr – I will reblog it.

DEADLINE is Tuesday, September 5th 2017 at 11:59 pm NYC time

Winners will be announced the following week.

Please share this announcement


signed Frank Santoro

Quick Guide to Frank Santoro’s Grid Theories

On The Comics Journal, the Layout Workbook Series (from 2011):
Layout Workbook 1
Layout Workbook 2
Layout Workbook 3
Layout Workbook 4 This is the one where I first laid a grid on Tintin pages and people lost their minds.
Layout Workbook 5
Layout Workbook 6 I get into Poussin in this one.
Layout Workbook 7
Layout Workbook 8
Layout Workbook 9 Prince Valiant here.
Layout Workbook 10 Asterios Polyp
Layout Workbook 11
Layout Workbook 12 Beto vs. CF
The lecture notes that I usually riff on – they condense the ideas in the layout workbooks: Notes for Comics Symposium
Even better, video excerpts from some of my recent lectures:
Comics As Music (PIX 2016)
My old website is full of good riffs. Check out the Format Fever notes and thoughts on my Pompeii process. A lot of the stuff on this website is used as reference for my 8 week online correspondence course.
Here is the Santoro School Handbook, written with the help of Kurt Ankeny: Santoro School Handbook
Notes for my lecture with Aidan Koch and Connor Willumsen at LICAF 2016: LICAF Master Class

Connor Willumsen on LICAF 2016

LICAF 2016 report by Connor Willumsen.

A year ago Frank Santoro, having just returned from The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 (LICAF), suddenly called me and spoke to me for an hour to interest me in an ambitious plan he had for a touring workshop that would broadly function like a campaign for inclusive visual literacy. I agreed because my first experience of Frank was of him thoroughly terrifying students in a “Business of Comics” class at SVA in 2009, which he did by raving about, among other things, the misguided and stunted influence of Alex Ross on the medium.

LICAF 2016, after about a year of planning, was Frank’s experimental initial step to these ends, which have an unknown and expanding scope.

Me, Frank, and Aidan Koch met up in NY to fly together to Manchester. The rest of the CW crew met us there.

Here is my report:

It is a struggle to reflect on anything without first commenting on the unfathomable number of sheep abstractly pacing between an ancient network of low stone walls up in the Lake District of northern England. I guess I saw, by virtue of my eyes being open, over a thousand sheep over the weekend. I became self conscious and learned to be discreet about my developing preoccupation with photographing them.


Recently it was pointed out to me that children rarely marvel at vistas, which suggests it’s a learned adult concept – a needless excuse for hiking and travel, but yes the scenery was beautiful, etc.

Kendal is known for Beatrix Potter and the Kendal Mint Cake, which is no cake at all. All guests received at least one. Mine was an anti-freeze indigo blue. I am not aware of anyone who tasted one. Here are the ingredients:


Kendal is also known for it’s precocious adolescents of the Middle Ages who had an obligatory devotion to the laborious longbow discipline in order to slaughter the French under a carpet of arrows, which they very much did in Crécy and Agincourt. These archers were cloaked in “Kendal Green”, a wool fabric, not to be confused with the over-hyped “Lincoln Green” worn by Robin Hood.

Frank made an attempt to charm the mayor of Kendal, in my presence, by telling him that I practiced Longbow in Canada, a misleading truth. The Mayor could not have cared less, and I respected his appropriate reaction. He then told me not to jaywalk.


At a gallery displaying beautiful comic pages from Hanneriina Moisseinen’s recent work Kannas – The Isthmus, described as a book about cows and other animals during World War 2, the mayor (Stephen) and his wife (Sarah) struck up a conversation with Aidan Koch, Frank and myself. He was wearing a massive piece of gold jewelry around his neck that sort of resembled an ammunition belt. I didn’t understand why this was happening, and any time I say “I didn’t understand why this was happening” in regards to my time in Kendal, it’s because in terms of comics culture, I am more used to experiencing a disinterested glazed pessimism, often from the likes of it’s own tribe, to say nothing of relatively high ranking civil servants. The mayor and his wife came to hang out and meet cartoonists, him and the rest of the town were genuinely enthusiastic. As our conversation progressed I fell into a light panic from wondering who was supposed to end this conversation and how. The implied pressure of civility and politeness is real in England. My contrary reaction to this was a suppressed and sadistic urge to stretch the length of the conversation beyond comfort. Sarah was chill and doodled a map on a scrap of paper towards other towns we could check out in our rental car.

We were mercifully spared this trial of mannered courtliness by being interrupted with an announcement that there would be an interpretive dance piece performed by the local students which had been inspired by Hanneriina’s book. They walked right in among us and danced in black tights.

The easiest way to impress me is with a casually presented dance performance. I didn’t understand what was happening. It was great and we applauded and the students sort of unceremoniously vanished while we were ushered to a dinner.

what other comics festival has interpretive dance on it’s opening night? LICAF 2016

A photo posted by @santoro.frank on

Throughout the weekend, not once was I left wanting for a hot meal (and alcohol, if necessary), generously provided by the LICAF organizers or Frank, who was acting as a professional host. This concept is so otherwise foreign in my experiences that it triggered in me the alert paranoia of theft. This might seem like a trivial detail but I appreciate it deeply. It’s a simple concept that cites by way of action the insufficiently discussed problematic nucleus of the comic industry and culture: food money. At the last MoCCA everyone knew to meet at the Society of Illustrators simply because it was known that they were serving free pasta salad.

At dinner it became apparent how varied the guest list was in terms of audience. I only recognized a few names and nobody knew me. Almost every time a name was announced, with the exception of a few nabobs, there would be an audible “who?” A musician in the corner entertained us by playing a saw and DJing with phonographs. My jaw dropped when I heard that otherwise there was a nearly successful booking of something like a Jim Steranko nude escape artist routine. I’m not sure if I misheard but I got the impression that it wasn’t a joke. We played a UK game called Pub Quiz, and our table tied for the lowest score even though we cheated.

At the dinner and throughout the weekend, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and fans reminisced about Darwyn Cooke, who passed away in May of this year. He was a special guest at LICAF 2015, which I’m told was his first time out of North America. I’m also told that, by all accounts, the experience had a profoundly positive effect on him.**

The next day, part of the Comics Workbook crew presented a sort of lecture together. It was Frank as MC, commanding the room, and me and Aidan in a couple chairs playing off his questions and AV ephemera. We had a full audience but I suspected we were unknown entities to the majority.


Frank had already earned my trust in terms of leading us through public and educational presentation by showing me the John Berger clips he would prep the audience with, and he cemented that trust in practice. He intuitively understands how to keep it from becoming a condescending Ted Talk, a thinly veiled advertisement, or, most common in the comics scene, a painfully reluctant reading and slide show.

Berger 2 from Frank Santoro on Vimeo.

The John Berger clips, serving a foundation of accessible art theory, were used to establish a context for the audience which would envelope our disparate work and leave no person unequipped to understand where each of us were coming from.

While each of us spoke, a video played showcasing one of our works. The camera behaved like a patiently mobilized reading eye, with which the audience could passively and fluidly empathize if they chose, while listening to us speak or reading the overlaid excerpted quotes. It lacked the the dead rhythm of a normal slide show, and the content and conversation worked harmoniously together. As always, Frank was emphasizing timing. We didn’t plan it strictly or stick to a script, so what Frank and Aidan were saying felt fresh to me, and I became a part of the audience whenever I wasn’t speaking. The direction of conversation between us and the rest of room was guided by curiosity. (all the videos are HERE)


We all retreated to a group Workshop with local students. Frank’s teaching style was like an energetic performance. He was literally running down a hallway between two rooms, simultaneously teaching two groups of students, with me and Aidan in the wings for assistance. It was telling to watch the students take the limited premise and engage with wild variation. The personal associations they were forming were evident in the drawings.

Then we got to see Kendal. I liked walking the town with Aidan because we had a similar height and silhouette. I looked like a grown-up version of the blueberry girl from Willy Wonka, and she had a good kind of a bleached Mick Jagger thing going on. We were both devastated to discover that we had missed out on some local owls that had been hanging out in the town center, supposedly happily available for head-patting.

Late that night, outside the Ring of Bells Pub, a quiet old man with a muzzled dog read my mind and gave me elaborate directions to a urinal I would access through the alley. The man using that urinal loudly grumbled at me about his having long hair in the 1970s.


I had been told that two of our crew had experienced a sort of hallucinatory waking nightmare sleep paralysis at the hotel all the guests were staying at. While I was taking flash photos of sheep in the middle of the night, Craig Thompson approached suddenly out of the darkness and gently explained to me and Aidan that he had experienced the same thing. That night it happened to me. That makes 4 people, that I am aware of.

Me and Naomi Nowak walked through the local castle ruins in the middle of the night under the light of a full moon. To access it we had to traverse a cemetery, a moat, and a cricket club. I was too afraid to fully enter a dungeon which had lacked any light or visibility. I returned during the day to learn it was a toilet.

The temptation to watch TV in the hotel at night was itself an existential horror. The content was comprised mostly of Gordon Ramsay, Bradley Cooper movies, and a British version of Maury that had a Euro flavor to it.


The next afternoon I gave my own workshop. I walked the audience through a basic conceptual approach to making a comic page that I might use, one that allows for speed and discourages the common trepidation or burden of the ‘next image’. While they drew I shared from my mixed bag of cautionary tales, which, for instance, described how division of labour and editorial hierarchy in mainstream comic books discourages communication and often prohibits the artist from making creative decisions in terms of layout and sequencing, which for me is the essence of cartooning, and limits most of it’s craftspeople to being dependent storyboard artists under a constant threat of replacement, as it meanwhile postures as a pseudo-auteur culture. We talked about arbitrarily contrary but equally valid systems of visual perspective. Unstructured composition. Web programming. I struggle to remember most of it, but had the impression it was well heard.

Here’s me paraphrasing a conversation I read between Paul Joyce and David Hockney in on the subject of western and Chinese visual perspective.

I would have liked to have seen Aidan’s workshop but it was going on at the same time in the next room. It encouraged me to hear that she had people drawing their own feet in silence.

When I learned that Jordi Bernet was at the festival I decided that I would try to meet him. There was a man walking around the festival who resembled an aged and weathered Torpedo. I lightly shadowed this man until discovering that I was completely wrong in assuming it was Jordi Bernet. Eventually, at the hotel, Frank pointed out the back of Jordi Bernet’s head from a distance, which was disappointingly unremarkable and un-gangster-like. I think I expected him to be a sort of evil Euro-Seth.


However, I did happen across Gilbert Shelton in a carpeted hallway. He explained that he was there to “bullshit about the past”, which struck me as an appropriate sub-header for most comic festivals and literature. Frank repeatedly reminded me that Gilbert laid essential groundwork for the American underground comic scene, and further on through his example to Crumb and then to Moebius, and marveled that he was simply walking around undisturbed. He stressed that the important moments at festivals like this are when you run into people between two places, which Kendal was ideally suited for given that the festivities truly encompassed the entire space of the town.


At the closing reception Hanneriina Moisseinen outlined some of the ways in which she has been directly and practically supported as an artist by her own country, the likes of which were unheard of to me. I asked her about notable pop-cultural offerings from Finland, and she immediately and excitedly described a TV show called The Horny Police Officer, which has proved difficult to search for.

Frank rented a car for the pleasure of it, and he kindly offered to tour us through the countryside once we finished our duties. His driving was intuitive, confident, and frightening, the experience marked by a constant terror that we were on the wrong side of the road, which at times we actually were. Frank reassured us by describing an incident at the last LICAF wherein he wrecked a rental car and a belligerent man screamed at him for ruining his vacation. When concerns were raised about us scraping along the side of parked cars on the left, he said this:

It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Our crew, with Frank behind the wheel, left Kendal at 5 am to catch a plane in Manchester. That’s a little over one hour of high speed driving through torrential rain on a slippery highway with low visibility, navigated through disorienting traffic circles and a condescending GPS, making it at times one of the hairiest drives of my life. Each of us personally had to reach a peaceful acceptance of the possibility of a gruesome death out of a desire to catch our plane on time. I am retrospectively grateful for this moment, which was essential to our bonding and had a satisfying narrative conclusiveness to it. As Frank eloquently put it, it felt like we were leaving the scene of a bank heist.

At airport security we were obligated to go through a bizarre cultural interrogation. They asked Aidan what her favorite TV shows were, and what my high school principal’s name was.

We made it back in one piece from England #comicsworkbook #beautiesandthebeast

A photo posted by @santoro.frank on

Aidan was dropped off in Brooklyn, and me and Frank eventually parted ways at a turnstile in a subway station in Manhattan. Through the gate, I watched him return back up to ground level, passing 5 cops performing “random” bag checks. As he passed them, he let loose a loud Transylvania laugh which lasted and echoed until he was on the street and out of sight. I saw that this made the police laugh nervously, glancing at each-other.

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Shout out to people I met, conversationalists, and new friends. Aidan, Naomi, Niall, Oliver, Jack, Craig, Ollie, Joe, Joe, Chris, Tony Baba Ganoush, the Finnish crew, and those who’s names I forgot or forgot to mention. You can all crash on my couch.

And additional, privileged, special thanks to Frank Santoro, Julie Tait, Carole Tait, Aileen McEvoy, other festival organizers, and all the volunteers for their generosity.



(Check out more LICAF coverage HERE! and Check out a 20 minute video of Connor’s workshop HERE!)

(**Editor’s note: RE thee late great Darwyn Cooke – See Seth’s touching eulogy of sorts from The Doug Wright Awards from this year HERE where he describes the scene at the hotel bar at last year’s LICAF.)



Connor Willumsen makes comics in Montreal, Canada. His newest works are Portraits and SwinespritzenFind more of his work HERE.

Aidan Koch’s LICAF 2016 Report

LICAF opening night #licaf

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Editor’s note: Aidan Koch participated in a lecture to an “academic conference” on Friday at The Box Theatre at Kendal College (see Frank’s report here) and in the “Comics Workbook Composition Competition LIVE” on Saturday in addition to her on workshop on “the poetics of comics” later that day. Sunday, she signed some books at the Clock Tower and talked shop with the rest of the CW gang at our table there.


Aidan Koch and Conner Willumsen presenting at the academic conference at Kendal College

Aidan Koch’s LICAF 2016 Report

Apart from having read Frank’s report on The Lakes International Comic Art Festival from last year, I really didn’t know what to expect from this relatively small festival in northern England. My Fall had already consisted of opening a solo show in New York, tabling the NYABF, and spending 10 days down in Colombia for the wonderful Entrevinetas. I only looked at the map to even see where Kendal, England was located the night before I left and was pleased to find it nowhere close to the area of England I’d been before. There’s very little I enjoy more than personally investigating new landscapes.

Coming from New York, I was immediately relieved and relaxed by the town. Its nestled amid rolling green hills speckled in little white sheep, loosely piled rock walls, and thin deciduous forests. The air was fresh and misty everyday with a slight ‘farmy’ smell, which may also translate to ‘sheep poop,’ but in the most pleasant way. Within our first hours I visited the town castle, a short walk from the Castle Green Hotel, and had a .35p >_< energy drink in order make it to the inaugural dinner. I felt fabulous.


Our first event of the festival combined the latest work of the wonderful Finnish artist Hanneriina Moisseinen and interpretive dance presented by the students of Kendal College. While I greatly neglect dance in my artistic life, I enjoy it and found this piece very impressive. It definitely seemed like a promising sign that they took it upon themselves to encourage such cross-discipline examination within a ‘comics’ festival. As I discovered over the weekend, the scope of the festival, both in the creators present, and the outreach within the town was incredibly inclusive and broad. One of my favorite elements was simply the window displays in the town which were all comics-themed including Moomin interpretations, Deadpool cut outs, and a re-imagining/mash-up of Beatrix Potter narratives.



Kendal College workshop LICAF UK 2016 #comicsworkbook #licaf

A photo posted by @santoro.frank on

I suppose with an all star team like Connor Willumsen, Oliver East, Jack Brougham and Naomi Nowak, organized by Frank Santoro, it would be difficult to not have a nice time, but really, I had a very nice time. My obligations were rather minimal, the most directed being a workshop I led on ‘poetic’ comics which included some serious life drawing, collaboration, and imagination, all of which turned out beautifully. Most who attended were not exactly familiar with my work, so it was a treat to introduce them and engage so intimately on something creative. The rest of my time was generally spent socializing with fellow creators, organizers, and attendees, eating cookies, drinking plenty of tea, sheep gazing, and attempting to get a normal night’s sleep. All in all A+



Aidan Koch lives in New York City. Her most recent book is After Nothing Comes (Koyama Press, May 2016). Find more of her work HERE.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 report


Frank Santoro here – reporting from Kendal, England. If you are only hearing about “The Lakes Festival” or “LICAF”, please read last year’s report. This is my second year of going to “The Lakes” and I hope to make it back every year. Why? Frankly, it’s because this show has Mr. Chris “TCAF” Butcher’s stamp of approval, and anything Mr. Butcher touches is gold, so I’m sold. Meaning LICAF and TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) have some cross-cultural curation going on with the great Julie Tait, who steers the fleet of LICAF activities and who was at TCAF’s 2016 show, helping with the expansion of that festival’s venues. So, I see the big picture. A comics festival that appeals to just about everyone – not just the “mainstream” or the “alternative” crowd. LICAF, like TCAF, has something for everyone.

Indeed, this year’s LICAF hosted Gilbert Shelton and Bryan Lee O’Malley and Tillie Walden and Jordi Bernet (amongst many other greats, see the full list here). That’s about four major demographics in my comics world. Plus, ahem, Aidan Koch, Connor Willumsen and l’il ole me representing some other, uh, demographic.

Kendal is a small town on the northwest coast of England, above Manchester. The whole surrounding area is absolutely beautiful and up the road is where Beatrix Potter called home. What I like about it is how pleasantly unique this show is because of the way the show is embedded in the town.

The festival takes place, primarily, at a few different venues spread within walking distance to each other. It is a Saturday/Sunday type of show, however, one can feel it expanding. The Comics Workbook crew arrived a day early  to present at an academic conference at The Kendal Museum and The Box Theatre on Friday. Then over the weekend we hosted workshops at The Brewery Arts Centre and sold our wares at The Clock Tower. And then had a closing party at Ruskin’s Bar.

The Comics Workbook crew at LICAF: Aidan Koch, Connor Willumsen, Oliver East, Jack Brougham and myself – with a special appearances by Naomi Nowak.

A number of students from Kendal College and the University of Cumbria participated in Comics Workbook workshops after the presentation to “the academics” at The Box Theatre. The great comics scholar and author Paul Gravett was in the audience, so you can be sure, loyal reader, that the Comics Workbook team “slayed them”, as the saying goes.

Here is a link to my “notes” for our presentation on Friday. I like to have a long rambling blog post of inspirational videos and rough notes to refer to during a presentation. I find that it allows the audience to revisit the material later or even during the talk.

My basic argument that afternoon is, as Geoff Dyer says of D.H. Lawrence, an inversion of the “traditional hierarchy of genre” has occurred – in comics – and more importantly for those associated with Comics Workbook. Aidan Koch spoke of how she rejects the idea of “the great American Graphic Novel” or even telling stories. She spoke eloquently of how she is concerned mostly with “the poetics of comics”. Connor Willumsen talked about genre being merely a raincoat and umbrella under which to make comics. He even lovingly compared it to a sport where performing under pressure to “do it right the first time” was valued. I riffed on my modular notecard method. A lively and valuable discussion followed within the question and answer period. It was, for me, one of the best received presentations I’ve been a part of and I would like to thank Aileen McEvoy for helping myself and my team feel so welcomed.


Oliver East and Jack Brougham – the UK CW representatives – worked the table at the Clock Tower. Generally, there are tables selling comics like a traditional comics show at the Clock Tower. And “programming” is at The Brewery Arts Centre, however, there is programming and signings at The Clock Tower. For example, the great Jordi Bernet was signing in the same room as our table on Sunday. Actually, the signing area was behind us on an elevated stage which helped ease the flow of traffic at busy times. Also, hats off to Ollie and Jack who stuck to CW’s number one rule at shows, which is, of course: “sitting is not selling”!

One of the current riffs about comics festivals is that many different shows exist within the show. Meaning, you can go to SPX and not even see everything or miss your friends completely – whereas in years past you could lap the room each hour and see everything and everyone there. LICAF is different insomuch as it is not situated centrally in a hotel or a convention center. So what happens is that one has their interactions in the town of Kendal itself. The Brewery Arts Centre provides ample space to host everyone and the short walk to the Clock Tower is where I found myself most often running into friendly faces – friends and strangers alike. It was very pleasant, I thought, especially because it was so unlike what we are used to in the States and specific to the town of Kendal.

During the fantastic opening night ceremony for, ahem, VIPs, I was lucky enough to meet the Mayor of Kendal, Mr. Stephen Coleman, and his wife, Sarah. Mrs. Coleman was kind enough to give me some driving directions up to see the beautiful countryside around Kendal. On Friday and Saturday after our obligations at the festival concluded, myself and the CW gang piled into our hired car and I drove us up as far as Ambleside and Windemere. Believe me when I tell you that everyone in the car was startled at how beautiful this part of the world really is – you gotta see it to believe it, folks. Book your tickets in advance for next year and head to LICAF and “The Lakes”, you won’t be disappointed.

Aidan Koch, Connor Willumsen and I have just returned Stateside as I type this on the plane now. I will try and fill out this report a little bit more as the jetlag wears off. (I gotta tell you about talking shop with Gilbert Shelton.) Until then, I’d like to thank Julie Tait, Carole Tait, Aileen McEvoy, and everyone who believed in the Comics Workbook programme and helped us make it to LICAF 2016.

For additional reading:

Connor Willumsen on Mint Cakes, sheep photography, his LICAF workshop experiences, and Frank’s “intuitive” driving.

Aidan Koch shares some of her LICAF experiences HERE.

My student Niall Breen’s thoughts on LICAF – he came from Ireland to hang out with us.

Jack Brougham sent his thoughts on tabling with Comics Workbook at the festival – HERE.

LICAF opening night #licaf

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Ambleside UK

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Connor Willumsen talking about working with colorists #comicsworkbook #licaf LICAF UK 2016

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

LICAF 2016 master workshop post


thee Comics Workbook crew from the USA

Aidan Koch, Frank Santoro, and Connor Willumsen at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016

presentation notes and videos

During this presentation I will be referring to this master blog post – please open it in a separate window:


Watch these videos later –


watch the above and consider that “comic books” are the intersection of art and commerce

and watch at the end for the doodle by Michelangelo



1:02 inversion of the traditional hierachy of art – where the doodle, so to speak, is the height of the craft



1:04 on becoming a writer incrementally




watch the above and draw a loved one from memory –  in your sketchbook – or on a scrap of paper – but it has to be a drawing made with real effort – as if you had someone like a parent or respected elder or friend who knew the loved one and were judging if it looked like the person or not



Aidan’s work connects to what Dyer speaks of–the inversion of the traditional hierarchy. She isn’t so interested in the “graphic novel” as a proving ground for being a cartoonist in 2016 – the fragments expand the conversation of what is possible within the form and much like Lawrence’s most poetic and mysterious works, like his travel diaries, expand what the idea of a novel is or can be.


Connor’s work connects to Berger’s idea of fighting disappearance

Connor’s drawings of loved ones are done “in real life” and through video phone calls and his sequential narratives are often presented “unbound” and exist as numbered drawings and not necessarily as a book at all



Berger on Storytelling as a space time that exists like music




I read a Guy Davenport essay about a Eudora Welty novel which used a very clear symbolism of the Persephone myth and I adapted that symbolism into a “melody” with a 4/4 time signature – I was also thinking about the 8 of an octave–or at least humbly attempting to draw a myth in 8 panels without the normal sequencing–I want a more “all at once” reading. The panels are numbered and it can be read “across the spread” or in a traditional zig-zag or even out of order and I believe the “song” is still heard; the melody is clear and the symbolism there to peel away like an onion. In the Welty novel the symbolism is spread through the characters and the period drama of a southern American wedding in the early 20th century. A sprawling literary use of the symbolism. I wanted to see if I could distill it down to the most core “notes” or “sounds” by using words and pictures (color and line) in the most simple and (i hope) clear way possible to present the symbolism with drawing.


Watch the above “Berger 4” video and then watch the video of Aidan’s “original” drawings made for her books (below)


I feel that Aidan’s work, like Connor’s, and my own, is rooted in the belief that drawing is a language. Letters and words are symbols after all. Lines. Shapes. Words written are but lines drawn, aren’t they? Even the printed word or the word on a computer screen is an image. Comic books are simply words and images together. Comic books and graphic novels and even comic strips have been overly concerned with character serial narrative “soap operas” than they have been with the poetry and mystery of visual literacy.







Click on the below and then click back.


Layout Workbook 3

Back? Great.

Then, of course, there is the idea and the reality of genre narratives, like a vampire story or a science-fiction story. These comic books are very different than the “poetic comics” we are discussing here today. HOWEVER, I think that as Berger says “Metaphor is our guide” and so the super-hero escapism of many mainstream comics reflects our 2016 world me thinks (like a Black guy who wants to be bulletproof). In cartooning circles, how one draws is like how one speaks or writes. Connor’s “digressive” drawn line offers a type of “familiar” language that comics are often phrased. The digressiveness is disciplined in service of the genre. Genre and style are just raincoats, umbrellas under which to play within convention and to stretch the idea of what is familiar–the time in the narrative is experienced through the space depicted on the page with such stylized lines—a language unto itself within complex, many drawer-d toolbox that is the craft of comics. (said with a straight face – comic book drawing and this type of pen and ink drawing is often impenetrable by non-initiates)



Dyer talks about metaphor and the fictive below (:48) and I think his ideas connect to how cartoonists can use style like a jazz musician and metaphor and invented scenes to serve the wild heights of style – even Aidan can engage in the style game, the dynamism of comics and the space, the glimpse, between the “genre” of western art’s depiction of the figure and how the figure is depicted in *most mainstream comic books









Clowes Auction

Here 8-10-16 to 8-17-16

HERE is auction on ebay




















































any questions pls email santoroschoolATgmail

What do we call the house?

When we were making the crowdfund video we had yet to figure out a name for the house before settling on Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency. I like long titles as opposed to the constant shortening of names / titles.

Video by Michael Pisano |

Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2013

I just wanted to write something the composition competition I ran over at Comics Workbook on Tumblr. 

Tumblr is an interesting phenomenon. It’s sort of like Facebook, sort of like Twitter, and sort of like Instagram. But it’s different. It feels perfect for sharing short comics. You can “reblog” a post similarly to how on Twitter you can “retweet”. So the post that you reblog shows up on your own Tumblr homepage. Forgive me if you know all this.

I’ve been surprised how Tumblr has taken off within indie comics. And I’m surprised how many comics makers I have gotten to know all over the world simply from following different people’s Tumblrs. It’s really widened my eyes to how many different kinds of comics are out there. For example, I became aware of Simon Hanselmann, the Australian cartoonist, because I was seeing some of his comics being reblogged. I think Tumblr has really changed the indie comics landscape for the better.

The thing about Tumblr though is that if someone posts something on the other side of the world while I am sleeping I may just miss it entirely. Posts just seem to disappear. There are specific url links of course that you can locate – however when you go back to look through someone’s Tumblr usually they have added so many new posts since the last time you visited their homepage that it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

So, I wanted to share the amazing comics that poured into the Comics Workbook Composition Competition with the TCJ audience who may not be on Tumblr.

Now that the Xeric Foundation no longer exists there are very few institutions that offer cash rewards for making comics. The Xeric grants also provided something for makers to aim for on the calendar. Having a deadline is often the thing that really kicks one in the ass to MAKE something; to finish something.

I was truly humbled by the response. There were, in the end, over 70 entries. I thought there would be about a dozen. I was surprised when it went over 20. In fact, with only two weeks to go before the deadline there were under 30 entries. Then the floodgates opened. Deadlines work wonders apparently. (Add smiley face icon here)

Myself and the other judges (three women and three men) crafted this response when we announced the winners:

“The evidence is piling up:  comics is THE ascendant art form. The sheer amount of energy and talent that poured into this competition during its relatively brief window provides ample testimony to this. It is our belief that artistic creation is a two way street. An artist, or any other creator, grows in the process of creating; the greater the efforts, the greater the growth. By this measure, comics creators in general – and those who submitted work to this competition in particular – are growing by leaps and bounds, and so, by definition, is the comics form; as in the final analysis, the value of a form is coincident with the work that it contains.  It is our hope that all of the makers who participated in this contest have been TRANSFORMED in some way – artistically, personally, spiritually, and/or physically (improved eye-hand coordination?  yes!) – by the time and energy dedicated to the creation of their submissions. Everyone who took part in this exercise has completed a hero’s journey.”

When I took part in the Eisner Award judging this year, I learned that everyone has different tastes (duh). For some judges on the Eisner Awards, the art in the comic book is the most important factor. For other judges it seemed that the story was the most important thing. Obviously, the combination of great art and great writing makes for great comics. However, I was very surprised for example when a fellow judge didn’t care for a comic that I thought was brilliant. I asked why and the response was,”I just don’t like the art style.”

The same thing happened when judging the Comics Workbook contest. Certain comics that I thought were stunning registered a “meh” by some of the other judges. And vice versa. It was a very difficult process. Everyone has different tastes.

So, with that in mind I hope that the TCJ audience will sift through these wonderful comics and discuss them in the comments section. Feel free to “vote” for your favorites. However, please refrain from taking the time to bitch about the ones that you don’t like. Cool? Cool!

The requirements for the competition were that each entry had to use the same page size and panel arrangement. Each comic had to be 14 pages in length plus a front and back cover. This, of course, creates a 16 page “signature” which can easily be made into a comic book. The requirements, I believe, leveled the playing field and allowed the maker to easily print the comic up when complete.




(Triangle Circle Square) by Alexander Tanazefti

A Cramped, Well Pressurized Place by Scott Kroll

A Kat, A Brick, A Mouse, A Dog or Comics: A Vast Waste Land by Paul

A Poorly Edited Ending by Alison Crofts

A Tender-Hearted Beheading by Nick Francis Potter

Arachnodacks by Rowan Tedge

Attempt 101 by MK Stangeland Jr

Baba’s Accordion by Jared Cullum

Bibo by Lauren Molina

Big Wheel  (AKA The Curse of Santoro) by Tyler Luetkehans 

Black Goo by Moonpulse

Blue Dusk by Mica Agregado

Boxes by Whit Taylor

Clangor by Derek Timm-Brock

Close One by Nick Alexander

Death of Spot by Bill Wehmann

Dog Dead Afternoon by Eva Houzard & Tarquin Pons

Escape to the Top by Andy Frederick

Exile from Cyclops Island by Pat Guppy

Freefall by Alexey Sokolin

Glory Trolls by Nicky Minus

Goldie Over There by Jeremy Sorese

Good Night Billy Moon by Ian Chachere and Jesse Dewyer

Hacienda by Dave Ortega

Hiccup by Mike Centeno

House of Bees by Jillian Fleck

JAS by Phillip Dokes

Joey by Melissa Mendes

July 99 by Suny Gao

Late Night by Jack Reese

Lesbian Sunrise by Rick Manlapig

Little Dreamers by Dan Tabata

Loner Anger by Mike Olson

Meet by Harrison G Prince

Molarhead by Mou

Moon Festival by Todd Webb

Moonling by Lydia Grace Henderson

Mouth by Tristan Wright

Object Memory Featuring Mother Koala and Mi the Yellow Dolphin by


Off the Grid by AT Pratt

Old Port by Evangelos Androutsopoulos

On The Way by Michael Fikaris

One Woods by Brad A

Post Fallout by Blake R. Sims

Problem Child by PR Gamlen

ProcrastiNation by Camilo Vieco

Prof Lewis by KL Ricks

Real Real Deep by Nick Jankowski

Red and the Wolf by Michelle LaPlante

Redneck Beach by Gabrielle Mulholland

Repetition is a Form of Change by RM Rhodes

Ringed Planets by Bob Schofield

Sea by Rosie Haghighi

Searching by Andrew Pannell

Shield by Zoe Coughlin

Stay Frosty by Ben Duncan

Strange Outpost by Pablo Selin

Swampy 93 by Bjorn

Symbolon by Lucas Teixeira

Temple by Jared Morgan

The Abridged History of a Moon by Patt Kelley

The Bad Unicorn by Yuliya Sobotyuk

The Green Fly Theater by James Dale

The Grid is the Thing by Derik A Badman

The Perfect Human by L. Nichols

The Quest by Kalen Knowles

The Secret Life of Steven Seagal by Mat Barton and Adam Cooper

The Steganographer’s Dream by Miranda

The Story So Far by Royce Icon

Then They Stand Stationary Again by Derik A Badman

They Live by Night by Cole Johnson

Thin Virtual Cloud Structure by Shawn Eisenach

Tides by Andrew White

Transaction by Joseph Lambert

Valley Post by Mark Wang

Vespers by Alexander Rothman



The winners, as chosen by the judges:

FIRST PLACE – $500 cash prize

Hacienda by Dave Ortega

Our decision to award “Hacienda” First Place recognizes Dave Ortega’s creation of an ambitious, multi-layered narrative that cuts through history, class, status and power in a deftly constructed story which takes the reader back and forth in time to reveal the conceit and illusion undergirding dominant paradigms in a way that only comics can.  This complex concoction of culture and character made for a winning combination.


SECOND PLACE – $250 gift certificate at Copacetic Comics

Shield by Zoe Coughlin

In Second Place, Zoe Choughlin’s “Shield” puts an inventive twist on the mutant superhero theme, and in so doing gives new meaning to the phrase, “prickly personality.”  Here is an adolescent power fantasy right where it’s needed most:  the hallways of high school.  Bullying takes many forms, some invisible to all but the victim.  By recognizing this in a convincing and dramatic fashion, Ms. Coughlin has effectively demonstrated the power of comics to contribute to the eventual remedying of this unfortunate human trait.


THIRD PLACE – $100 gift certificate at Copacetic Comics

Old Port by Evangelos Androutsopoulos

The Comics Workbook Competition’s Third Place, “Old Port”, clearly embodies excellence in both conception and execution.  In telling the story of youth’s first forays into independence and how the discovery of a nurturing space and mentorship can lead to creativity’s first flowering, the story provides an apt recapitulation of the very ideals powering this competition; its excellence in execution is plain for all to see.




HONORABLE MENTIONS – $50 gift (each) at Big Planet Comics

A Cramped, Well Pressurized Place by Scott Kroll

Prof. Lewis by K. L. Ricks

Goldie Over There by Jeremy Sorese

Arachnodacks by Rowan Tedge



SPECIAL MENTION – $25 gift certificate at PictureBox

The Perfect Human by L. Nichols





THANK YOU to everyone who participated. The plan is to make it a yearly event. I think it worked out to have the contest deadline so close to SPX. It seems like everyone in the small press community furiously makes comics over the summer to debut at SPX. So for those who can’t make it to SPX this contest and the deadline allowed them to join in that special mania. Many of the comics that were created for the contest will be on display at SPX, so check ’em out! Thanks again. This was a truly humbling experience for myself and the folks involved in making the contest possible. Cheers.