Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga & Graphic Novels
by Scott McCloud (HarperCollins, 2006)

Scott McCloud, creator of Zot! and author of Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics, returns to his favorite subject, this time turning his laser-like insight on the actual business of creating comics.

"This is very much about what happens on the page," says McCloud, "but this time with a practical bent to it, and a focus on the act of actually creating comics." In other words, it's about putting theory (first explored in his previous books) into practice.

McCloud has lots to say about the art of creating comics, all of it quite fascinating. More than anyone else since Kirby and Eisner, he has actually gotten the word "art" close to the word "comics" without receiving a single condescending guffaw. McCloud's skill is in making the concept of comic/graphic art more palatable for those who don't understand what the field truly has to offer, and offering helpful advice to those who want to draw and write comics but aren't sure where or how to begin. McCloud provides the basic principles and lets the reader/artist do the rest.

Making Comics leaves no stone unturned. From the type of brush to the sort of computer, from the paper stock to the possible plot devices: the building blocks, the tools, the techniques, and the choices available to a beginning artist are laid out in concise instruction. The (animist) art is wonderful and easy to follow, with the graphic examples matching the text perfectly.

McCloud makes it clear that creating comics is much less about drawing muscular bodies in action poses and a bit more like filming a movie. Creating a visual story encompasses everything from framing action, to using certain facial expressions to broadcast emotions, to choice of words. When and how do you transition from one scene to another? What size panel should you use for each scene? How do you create empathy? Close-up or pan shot? Dialogue or monologue? Realism or expressionism? Each weighty chapter is detailed and annotated like a textbook, which it is.

McCloud is dead on target with the future of comics. The field is expanding at the speed of light. Rich, new horizons await those who want to explore the possibilities, which McCloud urges the reader to do on almost every page. The demand has never been higher, as graphic novels continue to receive widespread mainstream acceptance. McCloud does a fantastic job acknowledging the new formats available for those who have a story to tell. But some things never change, and the best guides through the future creative labyrinth are the basic principles of storytelling. Making Comics will help you to read comics better, while providing enough material for a beginning artist to work with.

review by
Mary Harvey

15 November 2008

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