It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book review. You’ve probably read some of the basic books on comics theory like the works of Scott McCloud and Will Eisner. But there are those of you who want a more thorough text on how to make comics. Well, look no further. If you want to know how to make comics, then you have a strong option in the book Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
Now some of you may have taken a look at the books on comics and cartooning at your local library or friendly neighborhood bookstore. More of you may have looked over the author names and wonder “who are these people”. It was John MacLeod of the Small Press Comics FAQ who talks about a concept called “M’s Law” and that is this: any substantial book on how to draw cartoons will be written by an artist you never heard of before, whose own art is particularly average and uninspiring.
However, that is definitely NOT the case with Abel and Madden. Both definitely have much skill and they know that they’re talking about. I can personally vouch for Matt Madden. It was he who had got me started on using brushes and nib pens (more on that in a bit). Plus I learned much about storytelling through his seminars. Anyway, how does this book stack up?
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures is a book that’s essentially intended as a textbook on how to create your own comics. They actually say so in the preface so you know that they have a strong intent here. The book is divided up into fifteen chapters with various illustrations containing cartoon versions of our fearless authors plus two helpers: a bookish African-American kid named Clay and a manga-style Japanese schoolgirl named Junko. These characters appear throughout the book to explain concepts behind how to make comics.
The lessons in this book run from the very basic definition of what comics are, the gag cartoon, the multi-panel comic strip, transitions between panels, penciling, page layouts, lettering, inking with a nib pen, story structure, characters, panel designs and titles, world building, inking with a brush, reproducing your work, and how to do a 24-hour comic.
I have only one problem with Drawing Words and Writing Pictures – that problem is that I actually can’t find anything to complain about! This book is a boon to those of you who want to know how to make comics, but are unimpressed with many of the books that discuss drawing and little else. So be sure to get a copy of this right now!
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, First Second, 2008