Monday, April 20, 2015

Frank Santoro's Pompeii

Frank Santoro's Pompeii is definitely different than any comics I've ever seen.

On the cover of Pompeii, Frank Santoro sets the theme of the book not only by showing 3 of the main characters in the book but also by the way he divides the page which is how every page in the book is divided. 
Frank Santoro is renowned for his analysis of the comic page that he wrote for the Comics Journal. He has theories about how a page of comic art can be broken down.

In this case Frank religiously uses a three tiered page layout, the way he has the cover devided.

All the pages in the book are broken up into a three tiered pattern like this one though some pages are divided into two panels or one panel, but the pages are always divided on one of these lines. 
Frank also designs two pages at a time to work together. You often see a mirroring of the opposite page in Pompeii.

Here we can see the mirroring that Frank does. One side has two panels while the other side has three but the painting in the center and on the bottom are mirrored on each page. Also notice that the panel boarder is in the same place on the left and right page. 
Frank does the drawings in what looks like an ocher crayon, and often chooses not to finish the drawings but leave them looking like rough sketches. At first it's a bit odd but you get use to it pretty fast and don't even think about it in the end which is interesting.
Frank said, "I kept a damper on being obsessive about details. I often feel that period pieces suffer from attempting to make everything correct." So he keeps things loose in order to let your imagination fill in the details rather than spoiling it with too much detail.

In this love making scene Frank chooses to just use a bare minimum of detail in order to keep the freshness and energy of the scene. We all know what is going on and can relate without having to have too much more detail. And again we can see the mirroring going on in this set of pages. 
Though when it suits him, Frank does wonderfully detailed drawings.

Here Frank captures the cityscape of Pompeii with it's villas with their wonderful red clay tiled roofs in glorious detail with the ominous Vesuvius looming above it ready to blow. 
On the story side, it's a tragic romance about a successful artists and his apprentice and their relationships with their significant others and mistresses. Of coarse we know that the book ends with Vesuvius blowing up though we don't know how that effects the people of the story. It was interesting to see what life might have been like at that time. Frank did a good job of transporting us to this time with it's dress and lifestyle. I can see them in my minds eye nibbling on strange little Roman treats or having their large orgies that they are famous for and yet Frank keeps it real by keeping the relationships in the dimensions that we often see them today.

It's an interesting work both story wise and art wise and one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys alternative comics or historical dramas.

Interview with Frank Santoro

Frank Santoro's Layout Workbook for the Comics Journal

Frank Santoro's Cold Heat web comic

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