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Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels Paperback – September 5, 2006
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Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics was published in 1993, just as "Comics Aren't Just for Kids Anymore!" articles were starting to appear and graphic novels were making their way into the mainstream, and it quickly gave the newly respectable medium the theoretical and practical manifesto it needed. With his clear-eyed and approachable analysis--done using the same comics tools he was describing--McCloud quickly gave "sequential art" a language to understand itself. McCloud made the simplest of drawing decisions seem deep with artistic potential.
Thirteen years later, following the Internet evangelizing of Reinventing Comics, McCloud has returned with Making Comics.
Designed as a craftsperson's overview of the drawing and storytelling decisions and possibilities available to comics artists, covering everything from facial expressions and page layout to the choice of tools and story construction, Making Comics, like its predecessors, is also an eye-opening trip behind the scenes of art-making, fascinating for anyone reading comics as well as those making them. Get a sense of the range of his lessons by clicking through to the opening pages of his book, including his (illustrated, of course) table of contents (warning: large file, recommended for high-bandwidth users):
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Every medium should be lucky enough to have a taxonomist as brilliant as McCloud. The follow-up to his pioneering Understanding Comics (and its flawed sequel Reinventing Comics) isn't really about how to draw comics: it's about how to make drawings become a story and how cartooning choices communicate meaning to readers. ("There are no rules," he says, "and here they are.") McCloud's cartoon analogue, now a little gray at the temples, walks us through a series of dazzlingly clear, witty explanations (in comics form) of character design, storytelling, words and their physical manifestation on the page, body language and other ideas cartoonists have to grapple with, with illustrative examples drawn from the history of the medium. If parts of his chapter on "Tools, Techniques and Technology" don't look like they'll age well, most of the rest of the book will be timelessly useful to aspiring cartoonists. McCloud likes to boil down complicated topics to a few neatly balanced principles; his claim that all facial expressions come from degrees and combinations of six universal basic emotions is weirdly reductive and unnerving, but it's also pretty convincing. And even the little ideas that he tosses off—like classifying cartoonists into four types—will be sparking productive arguments for years to come. (Sept.)
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Top customer reviews
I wasn't sure if this book would be good or not, but Scott McCloud really knows what he is talking about! It's super straightforward and easy to understand. He will show you what makes a good comic, and give you for components and formulas for being able to convey what you want graphically! I really like it. Even if you don't like reading or drawing your own comics (who doesn't!?) it's pretty interesting to know that there is an actual art to making comics (it sounds like a pun but I don't intend for it to be! haha).
Many people will have come to this book through Scott's earlier "Understanding Comics," and read it to further their understandings of comic book history and the evolution of the comic-book language. I do not come from that direction and can not offer a review on those grounds.
Where I come from is as a long-time scribbler trying to learn how to tell a story in comic-book format. I learned of this book through mention in the blogs of practicing story-board artists, and as I understand it, it is one of a very small number of books to deal in detail with that part of comic book are that is larger than a single panel (Will Eisner's book is one of, perhaps the one, standout.)
There are a lot of "how to draw comics/manga" books out there. The vast majority of them deal with what is inside the panel. (The vast majority of them, particularly the Americanized Manga ones, tend to be less "Here's how to draw" than "Here's something I drew. Now just draw like that!")
(Ben Edlund drew a marvellous satire of this in a filler strip titled "How to draw The Tick."; "First draw a sphere. Now draw a horizontal line bisecting the sphere. Now draw The Tick, holding a bisected sphere.")
Scott is dealing with the interaction between the panels. How you break a story into parts, how you organize, how to develop moods and settings, how to pace. I could only wish for more. Perhaps the format is a bit at fault. The illustrations are lovely but too often serve more as a supporting visual for what is basically talking-head commentary. And the commentary, the meat of what he is saying, is crammed into balloons and margins and perhaps ends up being less complete than it could be.
In many cases, though, the integration of text and picture is useful and elegant.
There are odd surprises in what he chooses to cover with what depth. The treatment of various panel arrangements that work (and don't work) is surprisingly brief (perhaps there wasn't much more to say?) But there is an absolutely wonderful section on drawing facial emotion that is almost long and detailed enough to be a book on its own.
Perhaps my greatest quibble with this book is Scott can not quite step away from a larger perspective of the evolution and purpose of sequential art. He ends too many thoughts with "But who knows what the future will bring?" How about a few more didactic pronouncements on good storytelling methods, and save the musings on Art with the leading capitalization for his other books.
Scott, wisely, spends very little time on tools and perspective, and essentially no time at all on basic anatomy and drawing. However, the pages on drawing backgrounds and character design -- among others -- are great little refresher courses. But you need to know how to draw before you go into this book. You need to look elsewhere for human anatomy -- even elsewhere to find out how to lay out that perspective grid Scott shows off to good effect in several drawings. In fact, that old standby "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" makes a pretty good companion piece to this book as it give a good basic orientation to comic book page terminology, simple linear perspective, comic-book anatomy, pencilling and inking.
All in all, not the best book there could be on figuring out how to go from a script to fifteen pages of little boxes -- but one of the best books you can find that goes into any detail on the subject.
And, of course, it is a delight to read. Marvelously illustrated, cleverly scripted -- and one of those books that will send you scurrying to your own drawing pad, eager to try out some of the things he suggests.