A SAFARI FESTIVAL TIE-IN
With a minimum of formatting and simply subtitled ‘An online magazine for comic book makers’, Comics Workbook has become one of the more interesting online destinations for readers who like their preconceptions about the form to be given a bit of a workout.
Centred on a collaborative blog, curated by Frank Santoro, Comics Workbook has included work from a wide range of alternative/experimental comics luminaries, including Andrew White, Annie Mok, Simon Hanselmann, Warren Craghead and Oliver East.
And Comics Workbook will have a presence at this year’s Safari Festival, in the form of two of its UK-based contributors, Tom Kemp and Will Tempest (currently working with writer Ales Kot on Material for Image Comics). Together with collaborator Liam Cobb, they have published an anthology comic – Silica Burn – to mark the occasion.
We’ll be reviewing Silica Burn prior to the festival, but in the meantime Tom, Will and Liam were kind enough to answer a few questions about the shadowy world of Comics Workbook!
Three preview pages from Silica Burn:
L-R: Liam Cobb, Tom Kemp and Will Tempest
How would you describe Comics Workbook? How is the grouping structured?
Tom Kemp: Comics Workbook includes a blog, a print journal, a competition and a comics correspondence school – all set up and run out of Pittsburgh by Frank Santoro.
In a wider sense, it’s made up out of people that have taken Frank’s correspondence course and people he has invited to contribute to the journal and blog, so things like Simon Hanselman’s Truth Zone started on there.
I would say the structure is pretty organic; we’re running the table for him here by selling issues of the journal, and he’s helping us out by letting us use that as a platform for selling Silica Burn. Generally everything runs through Frank, but as the number of people involved grows I suppose that might change!
How did you become involved in Comics Workbook?
Tom: I found out about Frank Santoro from his composition posts on tcj.com ages ago, before I started making comics. Then in 2012 I did his summer correspondence course and learnt all the special handshakes.
Will Tempest: Pretty much the same as Tom – I stumbled across some of Frank’s tumblr posts, which got me into reading his layout and colour articles on The Comics Journal . I thought it was a really interesting way of approaching comics and wanted to learn more, so I did his January 2014 correspondence course and never looked back.
Liam Cobb: I’m not. I’ve just sneaked my way on the table through these two
Do you think Comics Workbook has an overarching aesthetic?
Will: I don’t think so, there’s quite an eclectic mix of styles on there.
Liam: From what I see on tumblr, the artists use different but natural methods of storytelling, which can end up feeling really organic. I enjoy a lot of what I see on that blog. I think that’s how I became aware of Will’s work.
Tom: I’m not sure if there are many aesthetic similarities, but I think from Frank’s course you do end up getting some shared sensibilities of composition and storytelling.
Three issues of Comics Workbook Magazine
What’s your main aim at shows like Safari: sales, exposure or seeing what your peers are up to?
Liam: I’m excited to see other cartoonist’s work. It’s one of the festivals I’ve been looking forward to; it’s a chance to see like-minded people’s comics.
Will was on the Comics Workbook table last year and that’s how we met! I went up to him and was like “Are you Will Tempest?”, and then got him to sign his comic for me, haha. We’d been chatting a bit on tumblr before that or something.
I bumped into Tom at the pub afterwards, too. We exchanged emails, met up a few times and eventually Will suggested what we we were all thinking, which was to make a little comic anthology.
It’s been a very organic process putting it together, especially considering we all have similar thoughts on comics. It feels only right that we debut Silica Burn at Safari a year later. Apart from that it’d be great to sell out and make loads of money.
Tom: I think meeting and being able to buy the work of people you might only know from online (ie Liam and Will last year) is pretty interesting. I do get a kind of post-tumblr vibe from Safari.
Do you think the proliferation of this kind of -CAF show indicates a widening audience for indie/art comics? Who seems to be the punters: the ‘Pick Me Up’ design and illustration crowd or more general comics readers?
Liam: I hope it does widen the audience. I’m not sure if Safari is going to be getting many citizens in and converting them – I think it’s aimed more towards to the DIY/ design and illustration crowd. I haven’t got anything against people who read superhero comics but this kind of festival, I believe, is where you go to escape that stuff.
Can you give us a quick rundown of the work you’ll be promoting at Safari?
Will: Silica Burn and some issues of the Comics Workbook Magazine.
Liam: I might have a few old comics I made knocking around.
Tom: I’m hoping to make a really sincere zine to sell on the side.
Did you decide on a connecting theme for Silica Burn in advance? It seems to me that the stories have quite a bit in common, regarding issues of technology and identity.
Tom: At the time that we decided to make a book together, we’d all been posting some stuff that was trying to engage formally with digital rendering of one kind or other (thinking specifically of the image below), so we agreed on having an aesthetic theme along those lines.
I guess that independently led us all to stories involving interfacing, and formally representing interfacing through interruption or intervention of the comics form – but we never set out any narrative themes to begin with!
Liam: We kept it pretty loose. Its because we were all working on similar ideas and visuals that this came about. We discussed what stories we wanted to tell or ideas we had, and each had a story that related to the other two. It didn’t feel forced at all.
L-R: Liam Cobb, Tom Kemp and Will Tempest
And what else do you have in the pipeline?
Will: I’ve got a couple of comics I’m slowly chipping away at. The one I’m mainly working on at the moment is Massive Crustacean (right), which I’m releasing online but will hopefully be getting printed once it’s finished.
Liam: I want to print at least one more comic this year, so we’ll see.
Tom: It would be great to do another anthology!