I have been on a bit of a graphic novel and comic reading kick lately, raiding the library collections for any titles that sound interesting and devouring them at a rather manic rate. Traditionally, I never really considered myself a comic fan, preferring prose, but something about the elegance of the “artful combination of words and pictures” has really intrigued me. Beginning with autobiographical and other small press comics, I’ve been enjoying more and more graphic novels. Then, thinking back on my childhood, in spite of my disinterest in “super heroes” I had long been a huge fan of comics like “Calvin and Hobbes” and other strips, realizing that I had always appreciated the form. Reading more widely, in the various styles and genres of the form has even inspired me to look into making a comic or graphic novel of my own (my own lack of artistic talent notwithstanding). This is where I picked up “Making Comics” by Scott McCloud.
A very interesting read, even for more than people looking for advice on working on their own graphic novel. McCloud details many insights that I had not thought about regarding the behind the scenes creation of comics, graphic novels, and other “pictures in sequence.” “Making Comics” is not a simple “how-to” book, but an examination of the creative processes unique to comic creation, told from McCloud’s own point of view and including examples from the diversity of the art form, from manga to edgy, experimental small press works. From choices of imagery, pacing, and composition to character design, to categories of word/picture combinations, McCloud details many aspects of creation I had not conceived of before. I will look for these various choices and differences when reading the work of other artists, even if I never begin work of my own. The chapter describing tools, techniques, and technology was particularly interesting for me, but it must be said that “Making Comics” is not really geared towards beginners looking for the basics of drawing and writing, though many such works are suggested by McCloud in the detailed notes and bibliography. However, it is also a unique guide to comics design that is useful for anyone interested in analyzing graphic novels, even if they are not artists or writers themselves. Throughout, I found the book entirely readable, even when discussing the vagaries of style and design. I particularly enjoyed McCloud’s essays about understanding genres and comic culture, which arranges all comics by their values; classicists, animists, formalists, and iconoclasts. I have not read any of Scott McCloud’s other works, but I will definitely look at them as well.