Art School of Life

Unlike a lot of jobs, in comic books and comic strips, a college degree will not help your chances.  Someone with no schooling, but an understanding of visuals and designs and anatomy, along with solid drawing skills in general will get you more attention.

But some may want to continue to improve their visual story-telling abilities.  Now, today, there are schooling options.  But if you cannot afford MCAD or the Joe Kubert School, there are solid options.  There are a select few books out there from professionals that will help you understand visual storytelling.

Your most important place to start as an artist is Will Eisner.  No artist quite impacted visual storytelling or graphic novels and comic books quite like Eisner. He found unique ways to portray a story visually.  Without Eisner’s influence, comics would not have been more than a child’s medium.

Eisner’s first book, Comics and Sequential Art is a must have.  If the schools that teach making comics do not include this as a text book, I seriously wonder what they are teaching.  This book will teach an artist how to see beyond the simple exercise of pictures within a panel.  Instead, Eisner simply and effectively explains timing, movement and a host of other techniques.

Two more books followed (one posthumously).  Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative continues the principals taught previously and will be of a help to any aspiring graphic story teller.  Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative is the newest, creating a trilogy.  I confess, i do not own this one yet, but knowing the strengths of the two prior books, I do not doubt this is a must for the artist interested in comic book storytelling.

One’s next stop are a series of books that will help the artist grasp the history of visual storytelling and where it could be going.  Scott McCloud has produced 3 books, though the first is not exclusively aimed at creators.  Understanding Comics was a clever book that explored why visual storytelling has endured through the ages from cave paintings to modern comic books.  Reinventing Comics explores the future options of comics.  And finally Making Comics explores the process of making them.  All are in a comic book mode, which does not detract from the ability to impart knowledge, even to those who do not normally read comic books.

Peter David and Alan Moore have both written books aimed at the writing of comic books, an area that has been somewhat lacking in resources until now.  David, a writer of many classic tales and someone who has shown himself to have a solid grasp on the potentials of comic book storytelling wrote Writing for Comics a couple years back.  While it is mainly focused on the super-hero genre, the information in the book is easily applicable beyond writing for super-heroes.  It’s well written, easy to follow and worth owning.  The same can be said, sort of, about the Alan Moore article Writing For Comics.  Okay, it is a reprint of an essay Moore wrote in 1985, and Avatar collected it int a single book.  If you have read an Alan Moore script, you know his writing can actually be a bit tougher to follow.  It is easier to understand than one of his scripts, but it’s a bit more complex than David’s book.  This is not a slight against David at all, his book is educational and highly effective.  Here, Moore seeks to philosophize on the storytelling craft as it relates to comics.  It is a bit more work to wade through, but worth it to get glimpses into the wisdom of a master storyteller.  Moore explains that it is not a book on how to write just like Alan Moore, instead, Moore is just trying to help the reader become a stronger storyteller.

Just to make it easier, you can find all these books at my Amazon Store.

Posted in: Art, Comic Books

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