Seeking to disprove stereotypes that comics are merely simplistic or juvenile entertainment for the uncultured; to enlighten the open-minded and encourage the broadening of one's horizons; to examine comics as a text; to deepen appreciation for comics, comic books, and graphic novels as a formidable form of art in all cultures.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review: Making Comics

Making Comics is Scott McCloud's third installment of graphic comics instruction, and a definite must-read for students of the form. Scott takes you through the basic artistic theories and guidelines that go into creating a comic. Mind you, this is NOT a step-by-step "how to draw" book -- while there is some instruction on the matter, the author largely assumes that the reader already has that skill and is ready for more tips on details that will bring his storytelling capabilities to the forefront.

In contrast to my somewhat harsh reaction to Reinventing Comics, I really, really enjoyed this book, probably because it relies less on giving debatable opinions on the future of comics and more on what already works, WHY it already works, HOW it works, and produces solid examples, both through McCloud's own drawings and published works of other noteworthy authors.

As a student of film, it was fun to find a lot of ideas in McCloud's book that I was familiar with already but applied to a different medium. For example, deciding how to frame a shot will have similar emotional implications in both forms (super low shot empowers the subject, super high empowers the viewer, etc.). The idea of producing an establishing shot in each new scene to give the reader an idea of spacial relationships is also prominent in each medium (and sometimes challenged).

One of the most insightful chapters deals with facial expression and the importance of really nailing it so the reader instantly understands what is being communicated. McCloud deconstructs the human face into its various muscle groups so the reader can understand how it functions, and then shows how different basic expressions combine to form more complex emotions that communicate more than one thought at a time (see excerpt included in this post). I've seen cartoonists draw a page of expressions of different characters as a guide for themselves, but never have I seen the mathematics behind them like McCloud so successfully shows here.

Understanding Comics showed us how comics are digested by the brain, their roots in history and the arts, and how to dissect them. Reinventing Comics showed us how comics have more potential than the popular world gives them credit and where the future should take them. Making Comics shows us the artistic implications in building a comic and what certain choices will mean for the reader's experience.

I highly recommend this book as another great demonstrator of comics' unique form and contributions to the artistic kingdom, and as an entertaining way to gain insights to the intricacies of the medium. Pick it up!

1 comment:

Cabeza said...

Good review. Now that I've read Understanding Comics twice, I need to get on top of the other two in the series. Keep this blog going, man. It's good stuff.