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on June 12, 2008
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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on July 16, 2008
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. They make a STRONG point in favor of HAND LETTERED comics; but it would have been nice if they address lettering on the computer as well.

My Suggestions:
A. Read the book cover to cover.
B. Do the Exercises. I am in a NOMAD group; plus I'm doing the RONIN thing as well.
C. Do the Homework.
D. Go back to your favorite chapters again and again.
E. Cross reference this with OTHER books on how to make comics.

This book is a welcome addition to any comic artist's arsenal of graphic narrative/ sequential art references. Use it along with books by Will Eisner & Scott McCloud and you'll be fully versed in the Language of Comic Art.
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on 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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on February 15, 2010
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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VINE VOICEon December 5, 2012
I've bought just about all the "How To Draw Comics" type books out there, and they are mostly pretty mediocre. They have some good info in them, but leave many more questions unanswered. This is definitely the best of the bunch, especially since it talks about much more than just the drawing part of comic creation. Panel design, inking, lettering, etc. is all in here. The presentation and writing style is nice and it flows well.

The only real complaints I have about this book, were mentioned by one of the other reviewers, and I have to agree: 1) there is a LOT of wasted space in this book, where the print and/or pictures take up like half or 2/3 of the page. And 2) the type face is a little small. This wouldn't be such a problem if the books dimensions didn't make it a little unwieldy and big. So, the impressive page count isn't as impressive as I previously thought. If they fixed those two problems, I'd most likely give it 5 stars.

Problems aside, this is definitely not a book you want to pass on. Check it out and I'm sure you'll be pleased.
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on September 5, 2010
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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on March 21, 2015
It's very meh.
Lots of unnecessary white space and explaining/elaborating on simple or obvious information. Good amount of info on inks and other traditional tools, but it's useless to people like me who do things digitally. Not nearly enough attention is given to the craft of storytelling and the art and methods of conveying narrative through the comic medium, and what there is does not elucidate.
I'm sure the absolute beginner will get something out of this, but I'd recommend Making Comics by Scott McCloud as an infinitely far more useful text—to people of all levels of skill, experience, or interest.
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on February 25, 2012
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. This book is absolutely remarkable, apparently the first legitimate collegiate-level textbook covering the entire process of making comic books. I read it straight through, as in the past couple of years I have discovered a dilection for reading history textbooks. This is not prescribed for adequate usage, however, as the book is structured around a surprisingly comprehensive fifteen-week lesson plan. It even includes detailed variations for outside the classroom, covering both independent study groups (referred to as 'nomads') as well as the solo flyers eager for knowledge (referred to as 'ronins').

Honestly, the research and technical knowledge that went into this work is inspiring, to say the least. Both Abel and Madden are evidently well-experienced art teachers (currently at NYC's School of Visual Arts), as well as cartoonists in their own respective rights. Although lushly packed with wide-ranging visuals, this is still a textbook, however, and should be neither overlooked or underestimated as such. Strongly affected by McCloud's "Understanding Comics", though with less philosophy and much more constructive methodologies, "Drawing WORDS & WRITING Pictures" is entirely too concise and wonderful to be relegated to the coffee table, or even to a spot on your shelf of Graphic Albums.

There already exists plenty of 'How to Draw'- type books out there; and this is far more than that. Equally, thankfully even- the medium has grown enough to warrant the curriculum of even non-art schools to having evolved enough for something like this. A fantastic sign of the times. I am now working my way back through the book, on my own still; and I have just finished week three, which deals with comic strips and thumbnails. I was fortunate enough to have interviewed Sam Henderson a few years ago, who reminded me of my own mini-comix obsession, and I praise Abel and Madden for reminding me again how much fun mini-comix really are to make. I can only imagine where their sections on typography and assorted inking techniques will take me.

The relevancy of this textbook as a whole is obvious. We live in a curious time now where very few can afford proper avenues of continued education, while virtually anyone with access to the internet can produce and publish their own web-comics. The very existence of this book serves as a fine testament to where our culture, our medium, can now be headed- logical steps that can walk anyone intelligent enough with the bug through to completion of a crafted work of their own. There is dignity in these pages. Explore it.
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on April 30, 2009
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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on January 26, 2011
Even if this was quite a big book and thus, hard to handle, it contained a lot of information starting from sketching, using pencils to sketch, making different sketches, how different artists do their work, how do you actually tell a story with pictures.
It is good for a beginner, someone who likes to learn how to do comics, and for someone who likes to see e.g. how to draw a character and how to use those little wooden helpers to do that etc.
I would recommend this for anyone who likes comics and likes to know how to draw a comic and tell a story in pictures.
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