Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Watson-Guptill
Reviewed by Marc Mason
I’m not one for hyperbole; just the opposite, really. So when I make a statement like “THE DC COMICS GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS: INSIDE THE ART OF VISUAL STORYTELLING is the best how-to book I’ve seen in the past five years,” you can trust me on it.
This is the book that should be supplied to every wannabe comics artist, and they shouldn’t be given work until they demonstrate that they understand what’s being said in these pages.
Veteran writer/editor/artist/mentor Carl Potts steps into the author’s chair here, and what he produces is a masterwork on how to tell a story through sequential art. He covers panel structure, creating a sense of place, producing movement on the page, how to get the reader to fill in information the artist doesn’t, transitions on the page, juxtaposition, how to write for narrative storytelling, and much more, creating a comprehensive course in making great comics. Why listen to Potts? Well, the man served as mentor for both Jim Lee and Mike Mignola in their early careers, and those guys have done well beyond “okay.”
The sample art that accompanies the text is extremely effective in illustrating the points Potts is trying to get across, and seeing practical examples of his concepts only enhances the learning objectives the book is trying to get across. Folks, if you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for that young artist in your life, this is the one.
If you have someone who prefers manga instead, Camilla D’Errico and Stephen W. Martin’s POP MANGA: HOW TO DRAW THE COOLEST, CUTEST CHARACTERS, ANIMALS, MASCOTS, AND MORE would fit that bill nicely. Unlike a lot of how-to manga books, this one is actively produced by a working manga artist in D’Errico, and that makes a huge difference. Her approach has some slight differences to it, and the book also steers away from some of the sexism and fan service nonsense you’ll come across in those other books.
The text here is simple and direct, and it has a way of making the concepts seem simple enough that anyone can do what is being talked about. You want practicality in a how-to book, and this one delivers; the basics must be mastered before moving forward, and you definitely get a sense of just how important that is as you read. Terrific stuff.
If all how-to books were as good as these, my job would be much, much easier.