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Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond Paperback – June 10, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1596431317 ISBN-10: 1596431318 Edition: First Edition

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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: 12 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

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Customer Reviews

It is packed with information and has a nice clear lay-out.
I would recommend this for anyone who likes comics and likes to know how to draw a comic and tell a story in pictures.
I brought an advance copy of this book into a college illustration class I teach.
Kevin McCloskey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Kevin McCloskey on 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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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Dietrich Adonis on 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 By Tommy J. King on September 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brian Diskin on 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Werneck on September 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I collect books about making comics, and this one was a great surprise. It is very different from its predecessors (Eisner's and McCloud's) in the sense that 1. it really feels like a course, with plenty of exercises and 2. the deepness of the technical information is just amazing. They go so far as to tell you how many mm you can use for gutters, and which brands and sizes of nibs and brushes certain artists use. Extremely through, a manual to keep at hand at all times!
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