Daunted and Freed by the Script
Every month I’ve been putting together a recap of the Comics Salon happenings for supporters of the Comics Salon Patreon. I’d like to start sharing those thoughts here with you. Let me know what you think, comes to mind while you read in the comments. If you’d like to support the ongoing efforts of the Pittsburgh Comics Salon, take a look at the Patreon page I’ve set up. Be a patron of the arts in Pittsburgh, whydontcha?
The goal of the salon is to build solidarity, get new conversations started between cartoonists and comics makers in the area and to push the frontiers of comics making in an intimate and welcoming setting here in Pittsburgh, PA.
August saw Allison Strejlau, take the floor to lead an exercise in the handling of translating a tight comedy script to rough pencils. Allison has been the series illustrator for Boom!Studios‘ Regular Show comics and illustrates for Papercutz’ Nickelodeon Magazine Breadwinners series, and has had work with the Adventure Time and Uncle Grandpa comics from KaBoom!Studios. Oof, has she got comedy and narrative chops! The idea here was to give local comics makers a very structured comics prompt where they were primarily encouraged to flex their visual sequencing muscle.
The structure that one usually gets when working a work-for-hire artist can be daunting and hard to describe. Nevertheless for some cartoonists this can be an extremely freeing comics making opportunity. The “what” of the comic is already determined by the writers. The comics maker then gets to focus exclusively on the “how” of the comic. We wanted the Salon to have experience with this mode of creation.
The page that was handled happened to be the page that Allison had to draw when she applied to the open call to be the main artist on the series for BOOM! Comics.
Allison explained the demeanors of the characters Rigby and Muscle Man but did not give away what the characters looked like in the series. As a result, the characters look similar, but vastly different from page to page. It was funny to see everyone’s reaction when Allison revealed that Rigby was a racoon!
The nuts and bolts of this exercise revolved around how the panels would sit on the comics page. How many panels in the first tier? How about the second and third tiers? Seven panels on a page provided an interesting challenge in that it asked the tiers of the page to have unequal numbers of panels. The meter of the page would therefore have to deal with that AND be sure to provide a good rhythm for the visual gags.
This was Allison’s final page. For BOOM!
Be sure to compare the convergences between the pages made during the Salon and Allison’s inks. Take note of where comics makers put the three tiers and which tiers they clumped together. What effect does that have on the reading experience? What differences do you notice from comic to comic?
Needless to say, a great time was had.
P.S. Check out these pages made with children using the same script. The children who made these pages were aware of what the characters looked like.
dear diary, I want to fill you in on what’s happened since the last time we talked.
I moved back to Pittsburgh to be by Jenn’s side. We’ve been making lots of little books and spending lots of time together.
As I type this I’m settled in Pittsburgh, I live and work here again. But something big happened before I moved back.
That’s right, I finished my studies at the Center for Cartoon Studies with this fine crew of cartoonists.
Aaron Shrewsbury, Simon Reinhardt, Ben Evans, Josh Lees, Eleri Harris, Allison Banister, Will Payne, Mathew New, Tom O’Brien, Ben Gowen, Steven Krall, Luke Healy and Sara Sarmiento. (Not picture, but adored : Iris Yan)
So how did I graduate? My studies culminated in what you see below.
I challenged myself to make a book every month. and wouldn’t you know it from November through the month of May I churned 6 books. Every month I explored different terrain, but for the most part I held on tight to the 4 panel grid. I wanted to use my time at CCS to learn my comics scales. I wanted to learn first hand how rich a world of comics I could create on my own with only four panels. I’m really proud of the result. (I built 12 of these little drawer boxes.)
These comics ended up being ruminations on love, fantasy, and moments both big and small. I collaged, watercolored, doodled, and digital painted my way to my deadlines. I was hoping to create a work situation where I could blend playful experimentation with a committed publication schedule. I feel I succeeded in that.
The time at CCS was balanced between my thesis, two part time jobs and lots and lots of talking to Jenn over the phone. I missed her. I was extremely focused, but it’ll come as no surprise that by March I was getting worn down. A monthly deadline is nothing to sneeze. It can drain you. When my spirits were low I had friends and family that blew rejuvenating winds in my sails. I couldn’t have done this without you.
Since I’ve been back I’ve been up to a lot of things.
We’ve been going to a couple of little comics expositions.
We even got a chance to go back to Assemble to facilitate another comics making Crafternoon!
I’m so proud of everyone’s work in this box. It has been an honor to bring this work into the world.
We brought this issue into the world in style by celebrating its release at Copacetic Comics, along with the release of the third issue of Maple Key Comics!
I started organizing the Pittsburgh comics salon with Frank Santoro.
We meet up every month to do drawing and comics sequencing exercises, catch up with each others’ comics making, share what we’re reading/watching and drink hearty amounts of coffee. The goal of these salons is to help build solidarity across Pittsburgh’s fertile comics making community. I want to make a welcoming space where experimentation and playfulness in comics making are encouraged and fostered.
So, it’s been 8 months what are we up to now round these parts?
Well, I’m transitioning into new work teaching in the city. I’m focusing on linguistic explorations of visual language, using comics as the basis for those studies, soaking up all the work of Neil Cohn, planning some book making projects for PIX, the Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo, traveling back and forth between Ohio and Pennsylvania to see my family and staying cozy by Jenn’s side.
That’s about it for now.
How about you, what are you up to?
A couple of weeks ago, Carl Antonowicz who writes for the Schulz Library Blog sat down with me and the Dog City boys to chat about what we’ve published in the past year as Dog City Press. The interview is now up on the blog. We talk about the editorial process, our philosophies and our aims for the future.
If you want to learn more about what we’ve been up to, this is as good a time as any!
Big ups to Carl for taking the time to interview us about this. It means so much!
My friend Sean Knickerbocker has just put out a new 3-color risograph 28 page comics ‘zine! It’s called AWESOME SOUND. This is the beginning of a beautiful, beautiful thing.
If you’d like to pick up a copy, hop on over to Sean’s online shop. They’re just $5!
Chinese opera character drawn by a child (Chen Keyan) for this 1935 cover.
In a more historical vein, I’d like to share with you an amazing cartooning resource that I came across recently, Modern Sketch. I recommend you take a moment to acquaint yourself with this classic Chinese cartooning and illustration magazine!
Published in Shanghai monthly from January 1934 to June 1937, Modern Sketch conveyed a range of political and social commentary through lively and sophisticated graphics. Topics included eroticized women, foreign aggression—particularly the rise of fascism in Europe and militarized Japan, domestic politics and exploitation, and modernity-at-large as envisioned through both the cosmopolitan “Modern Girl/Modern Boy” and the modernist grotesque.
I urge you to take a moment out of your day to read John A. Crespi’s essay “China’s Modern Sketch: The Golden Era of Cartoon Art, 1934-1937” at MIT Visualizing Cultures. There’s a lot to soak up.
Every issue can be seen in high resolution at Colgate Digital Collections. What a treat!
Hu Kao, “Swimsuits of 1934” (issue 7, July 1934)
Crespi highlights a few comics of the era. Be sure to have a look!
Jin Mo “Smoking,” “Quitting,” “After Quitting”
Liao Bingxiong “A Wise Man” January 1936
It was awesome. I’ll be doing a write up soon, so that you can get all of the juicy details. Obviously, you can expect some pictures so that you can be bummed out that you didn’t come by.
I organized the event in under two weeks, so there sure was a lot anxiety on my part as to whether or not Pittsburgh cartoonists were going to be willing to take a leap of faith with me in changing up the notions of what a independent press expo could be like. Not to mention, whether or not anyone was going to show up!
I’m so grateful for everyone that helped out and participated.
Your favorite freeform radio station WRCT Pittsburgh has been duking it out with the finest non-commercial radio stations from around the world these past two weeks. We’ve been participating in Soundtap.com’s Madness competition. A march madness style competition between noncommercial radio stations.
We’ve been advancing round by round thanks to the support of our regular listeners and now we’re about to be in the final four. Nevertheless, if WRCT is to come out victorious in the next round, we need your help. Help us out by listening in and discover some new music along the way!