Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Be

Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Be

Jessica Abel, Matt Madden
For ages 14 and up
First Second Books, 2008   ISBN: 978-1596431317

For many years, comics were what people read for light entertainment, or they were a way in which people offered up political and social commentary. These days’ comics have become much more mainstream. Complex stories are being told in graphic novels, great works of literature are appearing in a comic style format, and children are even learning how to read using books that have speech bubbles and large eyed characters.

Where once people were laughed at when they said that they wanted to learn how to draw comics, nowadays comic and graphic novel artists are admired and win prestigious prizes for their work. Now, more than ever before, people are actually being taught - in schools and art centers - how to be a comic book/graphic novel artist.

This book was written for people how dream of becoming such an artist. It is not a how-to-become-an-artist-in-ten-easy-steps kind of book. Instead, it is a textbook of sorts that will help an artist who is serious about this subject to learn how to create comics and graphic novels in a systematic way. Artists who use this book will find that it is presented in such a way that they will feel as if they are in a classroom, with later chapters building on skills learned in earlier ones. This means that the book can be used in a classroom, for independent study by an individual, or for groups of individuals who share a passion for comics and want to learn together.

The authors begin by explaining how the book is organized and how to use it to gain maximum benefit from it. Then in section 1 they go on to explore the basics of comics, explaining what comics are, and comic book terminology. Section 2 explains how words and images are paired to tell a story, and section 3 looks at how single pictures are put in a row to create the comic strip, and how thumbnails work. In each section, students will find class and homework assignments to do, lists of books for “Further Reading,” and more.

Section 3 is followed by chapters that look at panel transitions, the basics of pencil drawing, one page comics, lettering, inking, narrative arcs, characters, panel composition, creating worlds, brush techniques, how to reproduce comics, and more.

Though this is basically a textbook, it does not read like or look like a textbook. Artists will find the information interesting, the teaching methods easy to follow, and the assignments challenging and motivating. This book would make a great gift for someone who has a serious interest in learning how to understand this challenging yet rewarding art form.