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So you want to make a Webcomic...?

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Required Reading?

Thom Revor

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I've been asked numerous times if there are any books that I would recommend for those getting into the webcomic world.

Again, please note that I come from this from a writer's aspect.  So, some of these may shock and surprise.

Also, I didn't include in things that should already be sitting on your desk, whether you be writer or artist, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, Bartlett's quotations, 

 


 

The Chicago Manual of Style -- This is one of the definitive works on the style of writing.  Yes, this is one of those books that should already be on your desk, but it is surprising how few newcomers know about it.  

Successful Script Writing -- Written by Jurgen Wolff & Kerry Cox.  Why would I include in a book on writing scripts for movies or TV?  Because, like movies and television, comics are a visual medium.  A good script can let an artist (be they  yourself or someone else) in definitive terms what it should be.  A lot of the terminology used in the movie/TV industry carries over to the comic world and it's good practice to not only use it, but just to know what it is.

The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics -- Dennis (Denny) O'Neil has written some of the most memorable stories in DC Comics history.  From the Hard Travelling Heroes of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, to a certain Dark Knight, to so much else.  With this book, O'Neil lets you peer behind the curtain into not only his methodology, but also that of some of his fellow writers and editors.  The chapter on concurrent arcs (where he draws upon the skills of Paul Levitz and his time writing for the Legion of Super-Heroes) is one of those things that I still go back and read.

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way -- This is the Granddaddy of all the "How To" draw comic books, a book that I've owned since I was a kid in the 1970s.  With the writing skills of the venerable Stan Lee and the artwork of the multitalented John Buscema, this isn't a book on how to draw Marvel Characters.  Rather this is how to draw Comics -- the positioning of the art, the perspective of the characters and the background, and so much more.  As a writer, I've always felt it important to know how to communicate to an artist.  This book allowed me -- a guy who can not draw -- to view into the mind of a terrific and long time comic artist.

Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels -- This slice of genius is brought to us by (in my opinion) one of the greatest comic writers ever, Peter David.  Not just one of the best "How To" books for those who wish to get into the comic industry, but also rife with stories and "behind the scene" views of both happy and sad incidents behind the creation of some of the greatest comics ever published (I still love the origin of the "craggy face" of an oncoming asteroid in The Atlantis Chronicles!).  I actually own three copies of this book -- the original Writing for  Comics, a very word and well read current edition, and one that I had signed by PAD himself.  It's that good.

Anything from Scott McCloud.  McCloud could be considered the Comic Historian.  But not just that, he's delivered several terrific books on both the theory and application of writing and art in comics.  Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics are some of the best books ever about the process and possibilities of comics, showing them to be a LOT more than just "funny books" for kids.  I like to consider myself a teacher of comics.  McCloud is the Dean of that school.

Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991 -- Okay, okay.  I'm cheating a little bit.  Another Scott McCloud book.  But unlike the three previously mentioned, this is a collection of the comic McCloud wrote back in the late 80s.  But more than that, it's annotated.  The insight McCloud gives into what he did, why he did it, and what he'd do differently now gives a whole different perspective on the creation of a comic series than his other works.

Comics and Sequential ArtGraphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative, and anything else from Will Eisner -- If Scott McCloud is the Dean of the school of Comics, Eisner is it's founder.  Almost everything that we use nowadays about the Graphic Storytelling Medium that we simply call "Comics" we owe to Will Eisner.   If you don't get any of the other books on this list, get yourself something from Eisner.  There's a reason why the comic industries highest award was named after him...  And don't just limit yourself to his "How To"'s.  There are many other books (whether they be the collection of his slice-of-life stories, or the collection of his "superhero", The Spirit) from him that need to be not just read, but experienced.

How to Make Webcomics -- In my opinion, the title is a little misleading.  It does cover a good portion about the business of webcomics.  But in the actual content, I feel like it's directed more towards the "gag-a-day" strips (such as those seen in newspapers) and kind of leaves the other types of webcomics out in the cold.  It's still a good book to own.

 


 

There are so many more books out there on the subject of creating comics.  I've limited this list to the ones I personally either own or have read.  

When looking up the subject on a popular Internet Book Selling site, there were a lot more than came up that looked very interesting -- "The Webcomics Handbook" by Brad Guigar (lilke the radiation meter...), Will Eisner's Shop Talk (Eisner chats with some of the other greasts in the Comic Industry, such as Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Jack Davis, Neal Adams, C.C. Beck, Milton Caniff, Gill Fox, and Harvey Kurtzman -- and if any of those names don't sound familiar to  you, go research them.... Now!!!), Alan Moore's Writing for Comics Volume 1 (Yes...  That Alan Moore -- The man who took detailed scripts and multiplied it exponentially...), and others.  But there were also a lot that came up that struck me as far inferior.

 


 

And like with everything else, these should be read and studied, but don't let them limit you.  Everything Will Eisner or Jack Kirby did was a new thing at one time.  

And maybe you'll be the first to do something that catches everybody's eye, too.

 



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If you want to get into webcomics in particular, it might be valuable to read Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics.  I mean, I haven't even read the book myself yet (I'm planning to!), and it's rather outdated, but it might get you thinking about the possibilities of the infinite canvas and all that. I've read his I Can't Stop Thinking webcomic blog and I really enjoyed it.

... I only just now noticed that you had already brought up McCloud and he simply didn't pop up in my search due to a typo. Oh well. I'm just a bit annoyed at how few of these books are particularly aimed at webcomics, as it's a difference I think is vital. I'm actually not interested at all in comics, but webcomics as a medium really fascinates me. It's an entirely new thing ^_^

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