Superhero/“Realist” Creators

Remember: you can purchase these books online, at discount prices, direct from the excellent folks at Books, just by clicking on the title! As easy as that!
Okay, I can hear you realists and superhero artists now: “All I can find are these cartoony things! They don’t do me any good! Where’s something for me?!”
Well, here ya go:
  How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips by Alan McKenzie. The title may not impress you with its dazzle, but this is one of the most well-grounded books in the field that I’ve seen. Not thick enough to cover absolutely everything in depth, it touches on all the important technical areas, gives lots of very direct and helpful tips, and refers you elsewhere for more info if needed. Also, this book is rare in that McKenzie is a comic writer rather than a comic artist, so he gives more attention to writing than you usually get in a how-to book. But his artist friends have chipped in to make sure that their side of the process is covered accurately with lots of examples.
Perspective! For Comic Book Artists by David Chelsea. Exactly what it says, this book covers perspective -- the art [and science] of suggesting three dimensions in a two-dimensional drawing -- thoroughly, accurately, and with an emphasis on the extremes of perspective that only comic books seem to use on a regular basis. Chelsea never fudges, does it right, and knows more about this topic than anyone else I know of. Even better, the whole book is itself a comic [like Understanding Comics] so whenever a perspective topic comes under discussion, you can also see it in action right there and then. [Makes a great case for the comic medium as a visual teaching tool.] Sometimes this true comic-book strains a little too hard to be cute, but no matter -- you’re here to learn, and Chelsea sure teaches. You won’t find another book on this subject better suited to your needs: grab this one!
How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema. [...sigh....] Okay. I originally wasn’t gonna mention this one here, partly cuz Marvel certainly doesn’t need the publicity, partly cuz my site is primarily intended for those interested in small press comics (of which Marvel is the complete and utter antithesis), partly cuz the way they create comics just goes against my grain.
But I’m bitin’ the bullet here and thinking of what’s best for you guys and for the field, not just my own preferences. And I’m forced to admit that there’s a couple of reasons that this book actually has some value. 1: No one can deny that Buscema is one of the field’s leading experts in drawing the human face and body in its “classical/ideal” state. So if you want to draw idealized people, and want to do so solidly and expertly, Buscema’s tips on drawing the figure and [especially] the face and head are some of the best you will find anywhere. 2: The concept of “spotting blacks” in inking is often thrown around in the comics biz, and being “good” at “spotting blacks” is evidently a good thing, but almost no one ever explains exactly what they mean by this. I confess, the clearest and best explanation I’ve ever seen of how “spotting blacks” works is in this book. That alone makes it required reading, whether you want to draw “the Marvel Way” or not.
Still, if you’re just getting started and superheroes are what you’re into, How to Create Action, Fantasy and Adventure Comics by Tom Alvarez is another book I’d recommend -- more highly than the Marvel book, in fact. But I really need to qualify that remark:
On the upside, this book is crammed with useful advice: tool talk I haven’t seen elsewhere [including a more affordable substitute for the Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes that all the pro inkers talk about], business tips about getting published, writing tips, lots of good exercises involving life drawing and art study and other sutff that will make you really good really fast if you actually listen and do the exercises ... 
and The Best, Thorough-est Discussion of Clothing, Drapery and Folds I’ve ever seen outside of Burne Hogarth! In fact, I prefer Alvarez’s drapery lessons to Hogarth’s cuz Alvarez is clearer and easier to follow, and I personally find Hogarth’s drapery, like everything else Hogarth does, overdone. [But hey, that’s just me...  ]
On the downside, Alvarez’s book is almost a dictionary definition of M’s Law: even the rankest beginner will find it hard to be impressed or excited about the author’s art if he’s seen the comics currently being published. Alvarez studied and worked in the studio with a number of artists whose names you’d recognize if you were reading comics in the 60s -- i.e., his art has a definitely dated look. And some of his drawings...  geez, no kidding, it looks like he doesn’t even follow his own tips sometimes, that’s how rough things get. Fortunately, he supplies examples by other artists as well, so he always ends up making his point clearly, which is the bottom line.
So be warned: do not judge this book by its cover! This is a really really solid book that will steer you right if you follow the words...  but it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do”, y’know?
The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History by Robert C. Harvey. Harvey’s articles about comic books, which appeared in The Comics Journal, were the most intense studies of the medium this side of Scott McCloud. This book compiles, expands and reorganizes that material with many new observations: the result is a study of the development of the comic book 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, IMHO Harvey doesn’t devote nearly enough space to praising Alex Toth, but still... ] And speaking of which...
Alex Toth by Alex Toth, edited by Manuel Auad. This sketchbook is one of the major collections of work by one of the major artists of all time. While Toth offers reams of insights on the creative process and the field of comics in his writings here [and perhaps offers unintended insights on his personality in the process?], the drawings are where you get your money’s worth. All in black-and-white [Toth’s forte], there’s some of everything here: comic book pages, strips, model sheets, roughs, spot illos, from all five decades of his career to date. Toth is where you go to learn comics at the deepest and most abstract level: not to learn “speed-line technique” or “how to draw eyes”, but sutff like composition, economy, pacing, layout, spotting blacks, and his two most fundamental principles: Tell The Story and Never Stop Growing. This is a book that’ll keep teaching you for years, if you’re serious enough to keep digging.
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