Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud is
the single most important work in the entire medium of comics. Rather
than tell you how to do anything, Scott lets you discover how the
medium works in a way that lets you see your own possibilities in it,
find your own niche, summon
up the courage to explore. A great, great work: one that youll be able to
reread throughout your life and it will grow along with you.
Get it now, log off and go read it.
[But remember to come back when youre done.]|
[... hum hm hmmm .... ]
[Oh, youre back! Excellent book, wasnt it? Okay, lets go on]:
How to Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book by Tony C. Caputo. Okay, I confess, Ive broken one of my own rules here, but I believe its for a good reason:
I have not read this book.... but I do know that Tony Caputo has actually run his own comic book company [he founded Now Comics in the late 1980s]. And I get so many people asking about big press publishing, selling in the direct market shops, etc., even though we dont really do big press here, eh? So if your dream is to compete for shelf space beside the Big Boys in the comic shops, here at least is a how-to book from someone with years of real experience. Im willing to bet this is a meaty and informative read.
Cartooning: The Art and the Business by Mort Gerberg has, for years, been one of the books most commonly recommended by other professional cartoonists, and its easy to see why. Gerberg is a rarity who has worked in pretty much every branch of the comics field [although his book admits it concentrates most heavily on magazine panel cartoons] and he shares his experience through lots of samples and tips from his fellow pros. One of the strangely appealing things about Cartooning is its kind of relaxed, floating structure: Gerberg conversationally makes his way from one point to the next, passing many other interesting bits and insights along the way. Theres also a lot of great tool talk here you wont see elsewhere. But perhaps the most striking thing about this book is the way that it (and each of the artists quoted within) stresses the pursuit of excellence and mastery of your craft, and of following your heart and drawing what is really inside you. Rather than offering tips on how to slant your approach for commercial success, they guide you towards being true to your art and yourself... with the implication that satisfaction and true success will naturally follow. This is a book packed full of inspiration and well-seasoned solid advice.
The Encyclopedia of Cartooning Techniques by Steve Whitaker. If anything, this book is even more comprehensive than the McKenzie book mentioned in the Realism section. [But hey: youd expect that from an encyclopedia, right? ] This book sports pros and cons just as any encyclopedia does. PRO: it offers instructions in every area of the field, organized, cross-referenced and easy to locate. And you never know what sort of gem you might stumble across [e.g., I picked up a tip on how to tape your paper to your drawing board from this book and it changed my life!]. CON: there are bound to be some areas where they just dont go into it deeply enough to meet all your needs. So while this is not a substitute for all other books on making comics, it does make a fine starting point, quick one-stop reference, and compendium of pointers --- which is what it intends to be.
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. A fat coffee-table book that actually has substance. [No wonder: Thomas and Johnston are two of Disneys all-time star animators.] Theres a lot of solid advice in here about how to pace and structure a narrative, how to build and reveal a character, how to draw an object with volume and weight, how to orchestrate mood through composition: good solid basic storytelling. Although the focus of this book is of course animation, theres a lot of advice that applies equally well to comics.
Another excellent book related to Disney animation is Preston Blairs Cartoon Animation. Blair worked for Disney, among other things on the infamous hippo ballet in Fantasia, so like Thomas and Johnston he obviously speaks from experience. Blairs book is much more technical- and training-oriented: it overflows with samples and step-by-step drawings, exactly the sort of thing you wanna study if youre trying to learn. And much of it emphasizes the production of figures with weight, solidity, movement and life: sutff that can be applied to still comic drawings every bit as much as animated film. Very useful!
Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics by Frederik L. Schodt is the definitive work in English on Japanese comics [manga]. Shocking, amusing, intriguing, enlightening: itll change the way you think about what can be done with this medium. Includes stories in English translation by masters Osamu Tezuka and Leiji Matsumoto!
The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History by Robert C. Harvey. Harveys articles about the classic comic strips, which appeared in The Comics Journal, were instrumental in directing my attention to what I had previously dismissed as a dusty, outdated artform, where I discovered true gems which I treasure more every day. This book compiles, expands and reorganizes that material with many new observations: the result is a study of the development of the comics 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, it doesnt hurt that Harvey devotes an entire chapter to praising Roy Crane...]
The Chef by Mai Tsurugina and Tadashi Kato is a popular manga translated into English, and the best single object-lesson in comics storytelling Ive ever experienced. Never before have I seen a comic that sucks readers in so hard and holds onto them so tight... and Ive seen it happen with everyone from confirmed fanboys to people who dont like comics. If you wanna learn how to connect with a reader, how to establish a scene, move an incident along, develop a character, etc., without being obvious or heavy-handed about it, study The Chef. [If you can find it: I suspect its out of print...]