The Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency


Frank Santoro here. The noble editors of this digital publication have kindly allowed me to use my column to do a  "wrap-up piece" on my bid to buy the house next door and turn it into a comic book dojo.

First off, THANK YOU specifically to the 608 people who made a financial pledge which made the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency crowdfund a success. Thank you to all the people who just watched the video and passed along the info. And thank you to everyone for putting up with my marathon song and dance routine the last few months.

We can now move forward with confidence to build the foundation of the school. We are “in contract” with the building’s owner and will soon take possession of the house. Meanwhile, we will be hosting guinea pig residents in my house/studio early in the New Year. I’ll be staying up the street at my Mom’s. The idea is to maintain the momentum we’ve built from crowdfund and just do it NOW with the resources we have and NOT WAIT for everything to be perfect. It’s super exciting because the crowdfund allowed us to cross the threshold where the impossible is possible. Now we are building a solid foundation for the future of the school so we can scale up in a realistic fashion.

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While I can't afford to underplay the challenges of the project, especially with our shoestring budget, I can honestly say that it’s all within reach. It’s really exciting. This ain’t San Francisco or New York. It’s a small house in Pittsburgh. It’s a doable fixer-upper. A rowhouse. We start with the roof and work our way down. My buddy Ray was already up there the other week putting a “band-aid” on the spots where the roof's been leaking. And Sam, the original rowhouse owner’s nephew was over helping me figure out the furnace. If you don’t know or forgot, the house that will be the Residency hasn’t been lived in for some time and it needs a ton of work.


Still, I got the thing for 13K. It’s gonna take 20K to fix it up. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we got for the crowdfund (36K minus 3K of fees). So we have to watch every penny. I mean, Sam gave me the estimate for the new furnace and it’s 5K. Ray told me to save him 4K to fix the roof and repair all the damage done inside from the leaks. That's almost half of what we have to get it up to code. So, the money is already earmarked and while that is hard to swallow at this moment of victory—it’s not something I’m complaining about either. There’s no whining on the yacht here in Pittsburgh. Just put your head down and get to work—and that’s what we are doing. Ray’s got the roof. Sam’s got the basement. I’m clearing out the odds and ends in the middle.


Ray checking out the roof.




I’ve only been home really for a couple weeks. I like to say I was “on tour” but the truth is I would go away and come back home every other week for three months. Away for a week, home for a a few days or a week and then back out on the road. I like to call it “circuit season” and the season lasts from SPX to CAB. The season actually ended for me at Genghis Con this past weekend in Cleveland (Thanksgiving weekend).

So for the record it went like this: Days after Memorial Day I drove up to Dan Nadel’s wedding in NYC, then down to SPX in DC. That was early and mid-September. Came home for like a week and then in the first week in October I drove to CXC in Columbus and then a few days later flew to LICAF in the UK. I was in the UK for almost a week. Back in Pittsburgh, I was jetlagged and exhausted for a couple days and then I flew to Toronto (to visit family and for secret Comics Workbook “travel team” meetings) and stayed there for Halloween. Early November was CAB in Brooklyn and then a trip back to NYC again the next week with my Mom as an early Christmas and thank-you-putting-up-with-me-during-these-last-few-months present. She really likes that Eataly place. Mario Batali’s place. Ever been there? It’s right up from the Flatiron Building. Check it out. Pretty sweet spot. It’s this big Italian market with casual seating restaurants sort of built into the marketplace. It’s all mixed together and there is a really lively atmosphere.

And this might sound ridiculous but when we were sitting there eating while other people browsed around us and shopped for groceries — I imagined the schoolhouse to be this place where you could sit at the dinner table and eat while other people were there making comics or browsing comics or even buying comics. Like when I’m at any con and I’m behind the table I might as well be selling my mom’s meatball sandwiches or my neighbor’s awesome chocolate chip cookies in addition to comics. And at the Rowhouse Residency we can do that. I can have a comic book convention in my house (just like I used to have in my studio in NYC). Except we won’t have to go look for the food truck. The food truck is my stove and my mom’s cooking. Like it’s just a hangout. And then it morphs into a workshop. And then we all clear out and the resident student has the whole house to themselves and plays the music too loud and works on comics. It’s gonna be awesome. C’mon over!

Look for updates here and over at Comics Workbook. Check out the thank you videos I made hereFor those of you who missed the crowdfund and are interested in supporting the school by purchasing the items offered as rewards, "perks", please check out this placeholder for that blog here. We are in the process of making a dedicated website for Comics Workbook. Something to serve as a portal for the school and a way to archive content produced at the Rowhouse Residency. We want to have a broadcast booth of sorts where we would interview visiting artists, residents and that kind of thing. We are looking forward being part of the vast "eco-system" of Pittsburgh Arts organizations. Onwards!

Extra special thanks to Bill Boichel, Juan Fernandez, R.M. Rhodes, John Kelly, Michael Pisano, Annie Koyama, Ed Piskor, Jim Rugg, Connor Willumsen, Oliver East, Kurt Ankeny, Charles Burns, Chris Ware, Los Bros Hernandez, Sammy Harkham, Gregory Benton, Richmond Lewis and David Mazzucchelli, Michael DeForge, Jacq Cohen and Simon Hanselmann, Eric Reynolds and family, Gary Groth and everyone at Fantagraphics, Éditions çà et là, Breakdown Press, AdHouse Books, 2D Cloud, Fulgencio Pimentel, Chance Press, Gary Panter, Dan Nadel, Tim Hodler, Tom Spurgeon, Alexander Rothman, Pablo Guerra, Warren Bernard, Retrofit Comics, Big Planet Comics, Julie Tait, Gabe Fowler, Nicole Rudick, Brandon Graham, Robin McConnell, Michel Fiffe, Lala Albert, Dash Shaw, Vanesa R. Del Rey, Ron Wimberly, Aidan Koch, Andrew White, Zach Mason, Pablo Selin, Gabriella Tito, Audra Stang, Tyler Landry, Drew Alderfer, Sally Ingraham, Chris Diaz, Phil Dokes, Steve Stelling, Mieke Jensen, Bertrand Barre, and many others I am most likely forgetting. THANK YOU to everyone who supported the auction before the crowdfund. THANK YOU to all of my incredibly patient and forgiving current students. THANK YOU to all the course grads on the alumni blog for being there at the the very beginning of the house idea and sticking with me.  And, of course, thank you to my family, especially my Mom and Dad. Although they don’t speak to each other anymore, which is heart-breaking to me, they are still the same supportive and loving parents they always have been. These people are the ones who coached me through the whole process. Thank you. However there wouldn’t have been a victory lap if it wasn’t for you, True Believer. So THANK YOU. Thank you for tuning in and supporting our cause. (We are working our butts off to get out the “perks” people bought. If you haven’t gotten your “perk” yet, don’t worry, it’s on the way!) See you next time. Over and out!