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Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond [Paperback]

by Jessica Abel, Matt Madden
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 10, 2008 1596431318 978-1596431317 First Edition

"A gold mine of essential information for every aspiring comics artist. Highly recommended." --Scott McCloud

Drawing Words and Writing Pictures is a course on comic creation – for college classes or for independent study – that centers on storytelling and concludes with making a finished comic.  With chapters on lettering, story structure, and panel layout, the fifteen lessons offered – each complete with homework, extra credit activities and supplementary reading suggestions – provide a solid introduction for people interested in making their own comics.  Additional resources, lessons, and after-class help are available on the accompanying website, 

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Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond + Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued + Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels
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Editorial Reviews Review

Learn to create your own comics with Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, a richly illustrated collection of 15 in-depth lessons that cover everything from crafting your story to lettering and laying out panels.

Take a Look Inside Drawing Words and Writing Pictures

Three Panels That Move Beyond the Grid

This page from Mike Mignola's Hellboy is a beautiful example of creating rhythm and mood. Read more... In Blankets, Craig Thompson tells his story through dramatic and unexpected page layouts. Read more... In David B.'s Epileptic, the shape and orientation of the panel reinforce the storytelling. Read more...



The passion for comics is surging worldwide, what with the popularity of manga and graphic novels and memoirs. Abel, whose graphic novels include La Perdida (2006) and Life Sucks (2008), and Madden, creator of the unusual 99 Ways to Tell a Story (2005), make learning the art of comics fun and exciting in this exceptionally well designed and friendly how-to. Present on the page as comic figures, Abel and Madden present expertly configured sequences of skill-building exercises and assignments, and encourage both novices whose drawing skills may be minimal but whose story ideas are compelling, and those adept at visual art but shaky on narrative. Numerous examples of comics rendered in a broad spectrum of styles and perspectives, and exploring a wide array of subjects and genres, accompany and reinforce detailed instructions. Lively, sophisticated, and comprehensive, Abel and Madden’s course in visual storytelling covers every narrative and graphic element, from drawing figures and character development to panel transitions, composition, lettering, depicting action, and penciling and inking techniques. Technically precise, zippy, and inspiring, this is an outstanding teaching book. — Donna Seaman

Review in Kirkus

Smartly designed and easy to understand, Abel and Madden’s text is an edifying course in creating comics. Comprised of 15 comprehensive lessons, readers are taught the basic elements necessary to conceptualize and produce their own comics. Assuming an audience range from individuals to a group, this pedagogical survey is written to serve a wide array of learners. The authors suggest everything from preferred brands of supplies to types of stretches to alleviate strain. Extensive backmatter, including helpful appendices on such topics as homework critiques, and a considerable bibliography round out the volume. This erudite study should leave its readers with a greater understanding and appreciation of the command one must possess to create graphic media. A valuable resource for all interested in the field and a natural companion to Scott McCloud’s quintessential texts Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. (appendices, index, bibliography) (Nonfiction. YA & adult)

Recommended Review in BCCB

Comics are increasingly appreciated as complex, sophisticated blends of illustration and text, and this volume is a timely, in-depth examination of the format.  This exhaustively comprehensive guide to creating comics features fifteen individual lessons that take readers from concept to finished product.  A landscape-formatted paperback chock-full of diagrammatic examples, the book looks every bit the sophisticated how-to, and the tone is encouraging, highlighting comic strips that have rudimentary artwork or simple concepts and encouraging readers to explore everything from formal, paneled comics to wildly imaginative freeform interpretations.  The authors offer guidelines on how the book can be used by individuals, by groups, and by classes; regardless of whether one goes it solo or uses the volume with a course, the accessible and highly detailed lessons on everything from penciling to structuring a story to selecting a title will engage and inform readers.  The first fourteen chapters include background information, activities, sidebars with related but not directly relevant information, a homework assignment, and an extra credit activity, with the final chapter being a challenge to create a full comic in one day.  Extensive end matter presents almost as much information as the guide itself: appendices offer hints about necessary supplies, book reports that can be done on comics, and the making of minicomics, and an extensive bibliography suggests both graphic novels or comics that emphasize points in the lessons as well as drawing handbooks.  Serious readers seeking information will be drawn by the witty, informal tone and casual narrative voice as much as the impeccably designed and accessible lessons. 

Voya: 4Q 2P

Abel and Madden write a concise textbook for people wanting to learn how to create coherent and marketable comics.  Lessons focus on panel design and comic layout with detailed illustrations demonstrating each concept.  In comics, writing is as important as images and the artist needs to make sure each component is conveying the correct meaning so as not to confuse or bore the reader with irrelevant dialogue.  Comics require a storyline not unlike a novel where the protagonist keeps the action moving until a situation or conflict is resolved.  How to create that story and design it into a comic format is outlined through fifteen chapters and several appendixes, from the formation of thumbnail sketches and character development to the production of the final comic copy through photocopying or scanning in Adobe Photoshop.  For those unfamiliar with Photoshop, simple step-by-step directions are given to assist in creating the final masterpiece.

The text, designed for classroom use by teachers or as an individual tutorial, comes with further reading suggestions, homework assignments, and extra credit projects at the end of each lesson.  The assignments are well formulated to reinforce the techniques taught in each section; however, students looking for drawing instruction on creating characters and backgrounds will be sorely disappointed.  This book is not designed to teach would-be artists how to draw but how to write and give dimension to drawings through penciling strategies, lettering techniques, and inking with pens or brushes.  Students looking to create their own mini comics for publication will welcome the design pointers.  – Laura Panter

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; First Edition edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431318
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431317
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 12.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wanna' Make Comics? Start Here... June 12, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I brought an advance copy of this book into a college illustration class I teach. The class was quite impressed. In fact, two students went onto Amazon online and bought it instantly. Usually I discourage shopping during class, but Drawing Words and Writing Pictures is an answered prayer for the aspiring comics artist.

This is an ideal text for a 15-week class in comics. It also has guidance for starting an informal collective class. It includes suggestions for the stereotypical solitary artist, who the authors are gracious enough to refer to as ronin. There is a wealth of info on the narrative process, page design, lettering, pens, and even Photoshop scanning advice.

The authors' individual web pages present a lot this DIY info, so search out their sites, see if their philosophies appeal to you. The book contains multiple perspectives from two remarkable artists. Matt Madden is into "formalist" styles, working within Houdini-like constraints. Jessica Abel's La Perdida is one of the great masterpieces of the long-form graphic novel.

From George Herriman to Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, to Kaz and John Porcillino, the book is crammed with a diversity of styles. Wide-ranging and inclusive, no matter what one's preferred comics style, from manga to superhero to alternative, you will find something to like here.

Instructors will find the bibliography alone is worth the price of admission, I teach a seven-week college comics course each fall. My plan is to email the students over the summer, tell them to get this book and get started on the exercises. The ronins will get a head start and their classmates will lose face.

Scott McCloud's Making Comics is also a valuable college course text for serious students, who have some background in reading comics and thinking critically about the artform. Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, however, has practical exercises for students at any level. Highly recommended.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Addition to Your Collection July 16, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a BIG fan of both Abel and Madden's work. I go to BOTH of their websites several times a month and "La Perdida" and "99 Ways To Tell A Story" are part of my collection of graphic novels.

This book is great for high school & college art teachers who want to teach sequential art to their classes. I believe the content is particularly suited for art majors that are interested in the finer points of visual narrative. And you can tailor your curriculum around the chapters if you so choose. If you want to use these for middle school kids I think simpler steps need to be added. I like the fact that people can form groups: "Nomads" OR go do it alone: "Ronins" and follow the lessons independently.

This book is NOT bad.

All the chapters and lessons are made to be studied in sequence and if you are an old timer to comic art you can easily skip to other chapters; which I did alot. A seasoned pro will probably go to the chapters that interest him/ her the most. One chapter that I REALLY like was called "Black Gold" the chapter on using and inking with a brush.

The other chapters on page layout, panel construction, character design,
facial features/ figure anatomy were VERY good.

My ONLY complaint was the layout of the book. My [web]comic artist collegues & I felt there was TOO much white space waisted on each page, the typeface was too small and that neon orange color used throughout the book distracting. It was hard to read and strained the eyes.

Plus being a webcomic artist myself I wanted to see MORE about using the computer for making comics. It covered scanning, re-sizing, adjusting your line art in PhotoShop, etc. The chapter on lettering was good; but they tended to downplay the use of COMPUTER LETTERING.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book September 29, 2008
I bought this book for a class titled "Human Satire and Caricature". All of the projects for our class came out of this book, or were somewhat derived from the lessons, and I must say, it's one of the best classes ever.

The text is a large contributor, but not the only one. My professor's an amazing guy as well.

Definitely a great buy if you're into anything dealing with comics, technical drawing, layout, storytelling, or any combination of those. It's structured really well, and a person with nearly no artistic talent can easily be turned into a decent comic artist by reading this book front to back and following the lessons in it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Draw Me Something I Don't Know About Comic Books February 15, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's similar to other how-to books but surpasses them with chapters on tools AND HOW TO USE THE TOOLS. Unless you happen to know an old-time cartoonist or renaissance cartoonist, there is no resource for learning how to use a brush and nib or how to buy them. Until now. I've always been curious how to properly use a dip pen for drawing cartoons. I have recommended this book to other artists and my students.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great step-by-step info April 30, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had checked this book out from the library, then decided to purchase it. Although this book is designed more for comic/graphic books,I'm doing storyboarding for a screenplay, and the step-by-step instructions are fantastic. It's helped get me back into the drawing "zone". Which is much needed since I've been procrastinating. It's an enjoyable read, and the homework assignments help with much needed drawing practice. Plus, it makes me do research. I would recommend this book as an asset for anyone that is serious about drawing, and adding to their personal library.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Resource
Just absolutely wonderful. I'm learning stuff I didn't even know I didn't know. Buy this, its sequel and McCloud's books and you will need no others.
Published 26 days ago by Liam F. Walsh
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book for those with the personal drive to learn and expand...
I quite liked this book. If you stick to their lesson plans you WILL become a better cartoonist. Art experience is obviously nice, but certainly not required as the authors will... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lansing O'Leary
5.0 out of 5 stars :) :) :) :)
SUPER HELPFUL BOOK!!!! INSPIRED ME TO GO TO INTO CARTOONING AND ART COLLEGE! Check out if you want to learn all the essentials of cartooning, including drawing it, inking, scanning... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ki Nane
4.0 out of 5 stars good information
I purchased this for class because the professor recommended it. It has good information and practice. There are techniques you can follow and interesting tips.
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommend
I am very pleased to have ordered this book. It calls itself definitive and leaves no stone unturned. It is packed with information and has a nice clear lay-out. Read more
Published 9 months ago by .fgd
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the novice and professional.
Bought this for a course I am teaching. Wanted something that delved into the basics of creating comics as well as some of the more complicated sequential concepts. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Christian Patchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the most functional book on comics on the market
I've bought a few of the books on making comics out there ranging from inking to simply covering sequential art, but this book is by far the most utilitarian and covers the most... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Matthew P. Forrestall
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this one.
I've bought just about all the "How To Draw Comics" type books out there, and they are mostly pretty mediocre. Read more
Published 16 months ago by J. FELLA
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Instructional Book
If they had graphic novel courses, this would be one of their textbooks! Great information, from writing and sketching work to publishing! Read more
Published 17 months ago by TheHP
5.0 out of 5 stars Comix FINALLY in the classroom?
So the postman came calling, with my brand new copy of "Drawing WORDS & WRITING Pictures", co-authored by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden and published just earlier this year. Read more
Published on February 25, 2012
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