Review: the Snowman

As I prepare for my trip to Manchester tomorrow, I thought I’d share another book review today. This book is one that I believe has much potential for those out there who want to learn how to make comics, especially small press comics. So what do I have here? Is it another “how to draw” book? No. Is it a new book on how to use the latest, cutting-edge computer software? No. What is it then? It’s a book from 1978 that is a big boon for those who want to know how to make comics. It’s the famous picture book by Raymond Briggs titled the Snowman.

Some of you out there probably just went “What the” or “How can some kid’s book help me learn how to make comics”. I’ll explain that. The Snowman (Raymond Briggs, Random House, 1978) is a picture book that spawned a famous animated TV special (which has some significant changes from said book) and is hands down Raymond Briggs’ best known work. But it’s much more than a children’s picture book.

This picture book is also A GRAPHIC NOVEL!! Yes, this counts as comics. The book itself tells the story of a young boy who goes out one snowy day and builds a snowman. That night, he gets out of bed and goes to take a look at his snowman. The snowman comes to life and the two have a couple of escapades in and around the boy’s house that night.

The artwork of the Snowman is gorgeous, consisting of individual panels rendered in colored pencil. While it stands as quality entertainment and superb artwork, there’s another reason why it’s handy for how to make comics. How’s that?

This graphic novel is entirely silent. There’s no dialogue or sound effects. Without words, it depends on both the pictures therein and their sequence to tell the story. This can be a big help to those of you who want to practice your storytelling. Slowly look through the book. Inspect each panel. What sort of angle is being used? Does it work? Is the story flowing smoothly? Would another view work? Why or why not?

A careful examination of the Snowman and its storytelling will definitely benefit you. If you want to learn how to make comics, you MUST know storytelling. This classic picture book & graphic novel by Raymond Briggs can be a valuable lesson in design, layout, and pacing. Plus the book is dirt cheap so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t run out and get a copy today!

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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