As one of the few artists who write for this site, comic book art has always held a special fascination for me. And in my efforts to further my understanding of this “Great Pencil and Ink Mystery”, I have searched endlessly for that ONE book that will serve as a Rosetta Stone ( of sorts ) on the subject. Growing up, there was really only one book that served as a glimpse behind the curtain of this mysterious occupation….How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way ( written by comic legends Stan Lee and artist John Buscema ). Looking back, however, I realize now that the book ( and no offense to its impressive authors ) barely scratched the surface of this art form. As time went on, I found more books that advanced my knowledge of anatomy and perspective. And other books were eventually written on the subject of creating comics. Still…the art technique section of Barnes and Nobles did not yield up a book that I can truly say fully explained the penciled page process to me. Until DC Comics Inc. released “The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics: Inside the Art of Visual Storytelling”.
What sets this how-to-book apart from others of its kind is that it has the distinction of being written not only by an artist and a writer… but by an editor, as well. The author, Carl Potts, served as editor on such classic titles as the Incredible Hulk, Dr. Strange, Alpha Flight, and Power Pack. He also shepherded the early Marvel careers of artists Whilce Portacio, Scott Williams, Art Adams, and Jim Lee ( who provides this guide’s foreword ). So, what ground can an editor cover on the creation of comics that an artist and a writer couldn’t do alone? As I have learned thumbing through this book? Oh God….PLENTY.
The value of this book does not hinge on what it can teach us regarding anatomy or perspective, but what it teaches us about the comic panel itself. Pott’s extensive experience comes to the fore when he expands upon area’s including pacing, transitioning between panels, spotting blacks, establishing shots, close-ups, bleed pages, borders, angles, and caption and balloon placement. This is not a cursory view but an in-depth examination into this important aspect of comic book art. Not only does Potts describe each section in detail, but provides illustrated examples ( utilizing the art of Jim Lee, J.H. Williams III, Greg Capullo, and Will Rosado, among others ).
In the last two sections, Chapters Eleven and Twelve, Potts guides us through a step by step creation of a comic page. He provides not only three artistic interpretations of a single written scene ( courtesy of artists Whilce Portacio, Bill Reinhold, and Phil Jimenez ), but his own version as well. It’s one thing to see how one artist approaches an empty page, but quite another to see how four stylistically distinct artists reason through it. It’s an effective method in teaching. And for the artists who are serious about making comics their career, this book belongs in a place of honor among others in their personal libraries.
The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics: Inside the Art of Visual Storytelling
by Carl Potts (Author) , Jim Lee (Foreword)
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill (October 8, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 7.5 x 0.6 inches
Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces