It's been 12 years since the release Scott McCloud's eye-opening bible on sequential art, Understanding Comics, and 6 since his follow up, Reinventing Comics. Since its release, Understanding Comics had achieved much acclaim for helping bring understanding to the comic world. Not so much for people who are already creating comics, but more as an argument for comics as an art form, directed towards people maybe unfamiliar with the subject. McCloud was able to put into simple terms how comics work, why they work, and why they should be regarded as more than just kiddy funny papers. He writes in a style instantly relatable to people, he is an explainer in the highest sense of the word. The ultimate teacher. In Making Comics, McCloud is able to express exactly what you need to know in order to make a comic work. Hit the jump for my full review, and to find out why not only is this an essential book for any aspiring (or currently successful) comic artist's collection, but an essential book for the art form as a whole.
I remember getting my first library card and running to the art section of my local book repository. Something jumped out at me right away: a well-worn copy of How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way. Being a young human of the male persuasion, of course I wanted to know how to draw comics, because I was obsessed with 'em. From this meaty tome, I learned basic anatomy, how to draw eyebrows for a lady and how to draw eyebrows for a man. I learned how to sketch out 3d shapes for action poses, everything I needed to know to draw EXACTLY like Jack Kirby in the 60's and 70's (yay?). I found a lot of books on the subject of drawing comic and cartoon art, but none of them actually covered the subject of making your own comics. They tended to be instructional only in regards to artistic technique and tracing existing characters. In this they were quite narrow. They left a huge chunk of information out! If anything, they just trained a generation of notebook doodlers, left to their own devices if they wanted to make anything of themselves as comic artists.
McCloud fills in all the gaps with Making Comics, explaining to you the ingredients that make up composition, writing and more - all in an actual comic book. He illustrates his ideas by illustrating his ideas. You absorb this arcane knowledge with ease because not only are you reading about it, but you are looking at it in progress.
In the same way that, say, Alton Brown doesn't just show you a recipe on Good Eats, he shows you why things cook, Scott McCloud shows you how to make a great comic. He gives you all the ingredients, the background, the reasons why things are important. He doesn't shove a step by step process on how to draw a face at you, he shows you different emotions, and how those emotions can best be illustrated, and which emotions combine to form other emotions. He talks about using pauses, margins, different styles of writing in conjunction with different styles of art. He gives you all the tools you need in an incredibly unique way.
It's amazing that few people have touched on this subject. McCloud has touched on something incredibly useful to today's webcomic infested world. He has created a manual for being a better artist. His chapters are detailed and annotated, and it's such an easy read you'll never suspect you were basically reading a textbook.
What strikes me about the book is how much McCloud has grown as an artist and writer. The little jokes he inserts are funnier, his style is more refined, and you can really tell that writing this book was a learning experience for him, as well.
If you are at all interested in comics as a medium, or you are a comic artist yourself, you should pick up Making Comics. It is easy enough to pick up and read for beginners, while still having enough meaty information and insight to satisfy even the most jaded of successful comic artists. I learned a lot from it, and I think that you stand to learn a lot too.