How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips
by Alan McKenzie. The title may not impress you with its dazzle, but this is
one of the most well-grounded books in the field that Ive seen. Not thick enough
to cover absolutely everything in depth, it touches on all the important
technical areas, gives lots of very direct and helpful tips, and refers you elsewhere
for more info if needed. Also, this book is rare in that McKenzie is a comic writer
rather than a comic artist, so he gives more attention to writing than you usually get in
a how-to book. But his artist friends have chipped in to make sure that their side
of the process is covered accurately with lots of examples.|
Perspective! For Comic Book Artists by David Chelsea. Exactly what it says, this book covers perspective -- the art [and science] of suggesting three dimensions in a two-dimensional drawing -- thoroughly, accurately, and with an emphasis on the extremes of perspective that only comic books seem to use on a regular basis. Chelsea never fudges, does it right, and knows more about this topic than anyone else I know of. Even better, the whole book is itself a comic [like Understanding Comics] so whenever a perspective topic comes under discussion, you can also see it in action right there and then. [Makes a great case for the comic medium as a visual teaching tool.] Sometimes this true comic-book strains a little too hard to be cute, but no matter -- youre here to learn, and Chelsea sure teaches. You wont find another book on this subject better suited to your needs: grab this one!
How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema. [...sigh....] Okay. I originally wasnt gonna mention this one here, partly cuz Marvel certainly doesnt need the publicity, partly cuz my site is primarily intended for those interested in small press comics (of which Marvel is the complete and utter antithesis), partly cuz the way they create comics just goes against my grain.
But Im bitin the bullet here and thinking of whats best for you guys and for the field, not just my own preferences. And Im forced to admit that theres a couple of reasons that this book actually has some value. 1: No one can deny that Buscema is one of the fields leading experts in drawing the human face and body in its classical/ideal state. So if you want to draw idealized people, and want to do so solidly and expertly, Buscemas tips on drawing the figure and [especially] the face and head are some of the best you will find anywhere. 2: The concept of spotting blacks in inking is often thrown around in the comics biz, and being good at spotting blacks is evidently a good thing, but almost no one ever explains exactly what they mean by this. I confess, the clearest and best explanation Ive ever seen of how spotting blacks works is in this book. That alone makes it required reading, whether you want to draw the Marvel Way or not.
Still, if youre just getting started and superheroes are what youre into, How to Create Action, Fantasy and Adventure Comics by Tom Alvarez is another book Id recommend -- more highly than the Marvel book, in fact. But I really need to qualify that remark:
On the upside, this book is crammed with useful advice: tool talk I havent seen elsewhere [including a more affordable substitute for the Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes that all the pro inkers talk about], business tips about getting published, writing tips, lots of good exercises involving life drawing and art study and other sutff that will make you really good really fast if you actually listen and do the exercises ...
and The Best, Thorough-est Discussion of Clothing, Drapery and Folds Ive ever seen outside of Burne Hogarth! In fact, I prefer Alvarezs drapery lessons to Hogarths cuz Alvarez is clearer and easier to follow, and I personally find Hogarths drapery, like everything else Hogarth does, overdone. [But hey, thats just me... ]
On the downside, Alvarezs book is almost a dictionary definition of Ms Law: even the rankest beginner will find it hard to be impressed or excited about the authors art if hes seen the comics currently being published. Alvarez studied and worked in the studio with a number of artists whose names youd recognize if you were reading comics in the 60s -- i.e., his art has a definitely dated look. And some of his drawings... geez, no kidding, it looks like he doesnt even follow his own tips sometimes, thats how rough things get. Fortunately, he supplies examples by other artists as well, so he always ends up making his point clearly, which is the bottom line.
So be warned: do not judge this book by its cover! This is a really really solid book that will steer you right if you follow the words... but its a case of do as I say, not as I do, yknow?
The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History by Robert C. Harvey. Harveys articles about comic books, which appeared in The Comics Journal, were the most intense studies of the medium this side of Scott McCloud. This book compiles, expands and reorganizes that material with many new observations: the result is a study of the development of the comic book medium itself, where you can watch it be born and grow step by step, and learn exactly why the greats in the field are considered great.
[Of course, IMHO Harvey doesnt devote nearly enough space to praising Alex Toth, but still... ] And speaking of which...
Alex Toth by Alex Toth, edited by Manuel Auad. This sketchbook is one of the major collections of work by one of the major artists of all time. While Toth offers reams of insights on the creative process and the field of comics in his writings here [and perhaps offers unintended insights on his personality in the process?], the drawings are where you get your moneys worth. All in black-and-white [Toths forte], theres some of everything here: comic book pages, strips, model sheets, roughs, spot illos, from all five decades of his career to date. Toth is where you go to learn comics at the deepest and most abstract level: not to learn speed-line technique or how to draw eyes, but sutff like composition, economy, pacing, layout, spotting blacks, and his two most fundamental principles: Tell The Story and Never Stop Growing. This is a book thatll keep teaching you for years, if youre serious enough to keep digging.