5 Books Aspiring Comics Creators Ought to Read

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Whether you’ve got a collection of long boxes in the basement or are just getting into sequential art through a tablet app, you might have aspirations of making comics of your own. Alas, the “how to” may seem a bit more complicated than it is for, say, writing a novel or painting a picture, though. Where can one find guidance in the journey from fan to creator? The handful of books listed below are all great resources to turn to.

Understanding Comics

Scott McCloud’s book works on many levels. Not only can it be revisited, time and again, by creators aiming to understand the theory of what they do; it’s also a handy instructional for comics neophytes who simply want to learn how to read one of these funny books. Yes, the title is that literal. Examining comics from Belgium to Tokyo, and looking at sequential art’s predecessors in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the illustrations of William Blake, McCloud offers accessible analysis of what exactly makes the tension of words and image work. Read this and walk away with useful terms-of-craft like “closure” and “masking” in your vocabulary.

Comics & Sequential Art

Comics’ equivalent of the Oscar isn’t named for Will Eisner without good reason. Called “the father of the graphic novel,” he was one of the earliest American cartoonists advocating for comics to be taken seriously as a literary medium capable of telling grown-up stories. Following that, this book was one of the first serious-minded publications on the theory and craft of making comics. Indeed, it predates the other books on this list by years-unto-decades. Part and parcel to that, it’s a very dense and scholarly tome that’s maybe meant more for creators who’ve been making comics a while. Yes, it’s the deepest dive into comics theory you can find.

Panel One

Unlike screenplays, there are actually no formalized rules on the style and formatting of comics scripts. Because of this, it can be hard for a lot of aspiring scribes to wrap their heads around the basic process of conveying their vision to an artist. How detailed should panel descriptions be? When writing dialog, what extra terms are required to address the design of word balloons and captions? And so on. In his book, Nat Gertler presents a diverse variety of scripts by top comics talent, and leaves it up to readers to decide which stylistic flourishes will work best for them as writers.

The Complete Guide To Self-Publishing Comics

Many how-to books focus on specific aspects of comics-making but, in this book, creators Comfort Love and Adam Withers cover all steps of the process in comprehensive detail. Their tips don’t just cover writing and drawing, but also get into the craft of coloring, lettering, and even the challenges of collaboration, with sidebars by a wide of variety of creators in the industry. The two also go beyond creative concerns and into nitty gritty of business, with chapters on marketing and (as the title promises) publishing. And to cover even more bases, the pair have advice, as well, for creators who might want to forgo print entirely and focus entirely on web comics.

Manga Art

Obviously, comics are an art, not a science. Techniques in the medium can vary significantly from creator to creator, and from country to country. Mark Crilley, of titles like Akiko, is an American creator who works primarily in the style of Japanese manga, and he shares loads of insights on crafting stories in that particular milieu with  this book. Following Penguin Random House’s series of highly-specific art instructionals, like David Chelsea’s Perspective in Action, as well as his own Mastering Manga series, Crilley gets in depth about specific areas of manga like character design, “styleplay,” and even choices in media.

Comic books have the power to put you in the shoes of any hero imaginable. Roundtable Season 2 invites various comic book creators in to discuss the ever-changing, ever-expanding world of one of the most popular forms of media – comic books.

Featured Image Credit: Comfort Love & Adam Withers

Image Credits: William Morrow Paperbacks, W. W. Norton & Company, About Comics, Comfort Love & Adam Withers, Penguin

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