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Between the Panels: Comics Methods
By Lance Victor Eaton (August 2007)

Competition can be fierce in the comics industry, with budding artists trying to get a foot in the door while the big publishers turn time and time again to the accomplished and established. Learning the tricks of any trade can be hard enough, but artists must not only learn to draw their work but to script it as well, for the medium builds on both text and graphics.

Working MethodsIn Working Methods: Comic Creators Detail Their Storytelling and Artistic Process John Lowe interviews artists, who guide him through a step by step process to develop a story. As in 99 Ways to Tell a Story, Lowe uses one script and has each artist come up with their own sequence. In total, he uses three different scripts and interviews eight artists. The stories prove entertaining and it's intriguing to compare styles, while the interviews offer aspiring artists (as well as comic connoisseurs) nuggets of wisdom on how artists go about their work. The book's biggest shortcoming is that readers will want to see more of how different artists conceptualize the same script in their own style.

For those who would rather watch Grey's Anatomy than read the classic medical book depicting the elements of the human body, Christopher Hart's Simplified Anatomy for the Comic Book Artist: How to Draw the New Streamlined Look of Action-Adventure Comics may prove a useful guide to creating characters who look like more than glorified stick figures. Starting with the basics and working from the head down to the feet, Hart breaks down the parts of the body, often using entire sections to delineate differences (at least stylistically or stereotypically, some might say) between men and women. He also looks at types, poses, and close-ups of particular people and body parts. In Drawing Sketches from the Simplified Skeleton, he instructs readers on how to draw the stereotypical teen goth, inventor, super-sized villain, and much more. Most of his examples illustrate progress in three to four simple steps and each section has a brief introduction explaining the relevance of that particular body feature. While fun and useful for the budding artist, this book is at best an introduction piece.

Hi-YahBy contrast, Steven Miller's Hi-Yah!: How to Draw Fantastic Martial Arts Comics goes beyond the simplistic style of Hart's book to present detailed explanations of certain weapons, fighting styles, body features, and poses. While in the earlier half of the book, readers receive decent instruction on generic body elements, the rest dives into extreme settings and characters that artists may develop in the course of their action comic. Readers will learn how to draw and position weaponry, as well as typical martial art characters such as stone ninjas, Shaolin monks, and anthropomorphic fighters. If Hart's book is considered the how, then Miller's can best be understood as the why. Readers won't necessarily get a big helping of drawing instruction, but will find a large pool of tools to draw from the next time they create a new world.

None of these books will open new doors for aspiring artists, but they will help them to think more broadly about the medium and hopefully see their work through others' eyes. For the rest of us incapable artists, these books entertain us with new ways to further enjoy the artistic work in a medium we already enjoy and appreciate.
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