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Between the Panels: Comic Craft
By Lance Victor Eaton (February 2007)

How-to guides get a lot of grief. They never seem to live up to expectations and never have the almighty secret that will open up all the doors that the reader has in mind when picking one up. So let me assure you, neither of the books discussed herein will in itself launch your career as a world-renowned comic artist. They most likely won't directly lead to a paying gig, even. But, they will give you keen ideas and insights as to how professionals craft stories, along with great tips on style and detail.

How To Create ComicsHow to Create Comics: From Script to Print is the child of a crossover between Write Now and Draw!, magazines focusing on the story and art within comic books. Danny Fingeroth and Mike Manley collaborated to produce a short how-to guide and then expanded it into this book, escorting readers through each phase of the process. Rather than giving examples of different stories, the two develop a short comic story that they continually tweak and discuss throughout the book.

The light mood and at times conversational style gives way to discussions about personal preferences, professional expectations (such as what Marvel might expect compared to other publishers), and even the conception phase and coloring. Additionally, the book includes all sorts of workshops or mini-lessons that provide insider tips about pitching ideas to publishers, character development, and much more. The authors include the final product of their collaboration and a great appendix filled with resources for every comic artist.

Crime NoirDrawing Crime Noir for Comics and Graphic Novels seems a different beast entirely. Christopher Hart provides great examples on shading, angling, and how to provide that dark and brooding aesthetic in comics. With crime noir being so popular in the last twenty years, he wants to help aspiring artists understand the techniques and subtleties of the genre. But it's Hart's delivery style that is most memorable and appealing. The ideas and commentary throughout come from a hard-boiled detective-like narrator, whose conversational manner embodies the language of crime noir.

Hart goes beyond the typical how to draw guide and adds essential concepts, classic characters, and required plot devices. Whether it's the femme fatale, the street thug, or the vigilante, Hart provides great ideas on how to best present the subject matter in question. However, he fails to genuinely address color (beyond black and white) within the book, which proves disappointing.

How-to guides - even within the comic industry - are pretty common and one simply can't chase them all down. One needs to pick and choose books, based on one's own perceived weaknesses and needs. Both books here provide readers with great insights - that may not land them their own monthly title but will introduce them to new styles and techniques that can only help their craft.
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