The Phoenix Presents How to Make Awesome Comics (With Professor Panels & Art Monkey!)


By Neill Cameron (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-910200-03-2

Ah, Summer Holidays!

Are your kids driving you crazy yet?

I haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and as this one’s entertaining, wonderfully fit for purpose, cheap and readily available there’s clearly no time like the present. This new release would well serve any budding artists and storytellers and will keep idle hands and minds amused, absorbed and entertained for hours…

There are a host of books, both academic and/or instructional, designed to inculcate a love of comics whilst offering tips, secrets and an education in how to make your own sequential narratives. There are precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm and cunning craft as this beguiling release from Neill Cameron under the all-ages aegis of The Phoenix.

In January 2012 Oxford-based family publisher David Fickling Books launched a traditional-seeming anthology comic weekly aimed at girls and boys between 6 and 12 which revelled in reviving the good old days of picture-story entertainment intent whilst embracing the full force of modernity in style and content.

Each issue offers humour, adventure, quizzes, puzzles and educational material in a joyous parade of cartoon fun and fantasy and, in the years since its premiere, The Phoenix has gone from strength to strength, winning praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the only people who really count – the astoundingly engaged kids and parents who read it…

The Phoenix was recently voted No.2 in Time Magazine’s global list of Top Comics and Graphic Novels and is the only strip publication started in the UK in the last forty years to have passed the 100 issue mark. The magazine celebrated its first anniversary by developing a digital edition available globally as an app and is continually expanding its horizons.

It is, most importantly, big and bold and tremendous fun.

The publishers are also a fantastically inclusive bunch, always eager to get kids involved. ‘How to Make Awesome Comics’ by Neill Cameron has featured intermittently since issue #0, offering enticing insights and practical tips through the auspices of the know-it-all Professor Panels and his long-suffering collaborator Art Monkey.

Now as part of the company’s new line of graphic albums those invaluable observations and exercises have been superbly repackaged into a lexicon of hands-on instruction: a not-so-serious foundation course in cartoon wonder-making no aspiring comicbook genius can afford to be without.

Broken down into 21 easily assimilated lessons the book also makes full use of modern technologies, with exercises, cartoon cheats and spare drawing pages all downloadable from the internet.

Leaping straight in the tuition opens in Chapter 1 with Lessons 1 and 2: Anyone Can Make Awesome Comics and Awesome Comics can be about Anything; offering education from the Prof ranging from stick-figure first-concepts to fully inked and coloured final work, augmented by chances to create your own strips in the first of many Art Monkey Challenges.

Chapter 2 covers Lessons 3 through 6 and How to Have Awesome Ideas, How to Have Awesomer Ideas, How to Have Awesomest Ideas and ends with a treatise on Real Life Awesome (biographical comics) all accompanied by Art Monkey Challenges of increasing fun and complexity…

With the work-philosophy fully engaged, Chapter 3 then focuses on the basics with How Awesome Comics Work, How to Make Funny Comics Which are Awesome and some sound lettering tips in Awesome Words + Awesome Pictures before a welcome pause in which students can peruse a batch of bonus comic strips such as ‘Mecha Monkey Meltdown’, ‘Triceracop’, ‘Kung Fu Banana Squad’ and more…

Returning to learning, Chapter 4 deals with How to Draw Anything Awesomely, How to Draw Cartoons Awesomely, How to Draw Awesome Faces, How to Draw Awesome Robots, How to Draw Awesome Pirates and, of course How to Draw Awesome Monsters.

The truly important stuff is covered in Chapter 5 with How to Tell Awesome Stories, How to Create Awesome Heroes, How to Create Awesome Villains, Creating Awesome Drama and culminating with the big secret, Awesome Endings

Finally the practicalities of production and dissemination are revealed in Chapter 6 with How to Make Your Very Own Comics (…Which are Awesome), covering such arcane but crucial topics as folding, pagination and layout, copying and reproduction and getting your work into the hands of your readers…

Packed with superb examples, handy breakdown & layout tips, lots of practical exercises and offering tons of cool ideas plus a library of inspirational examples, this magical primer even includes a wealth of Awesome Appendices comprising a gallery of stock characters, Cool Robot Accessories, an Inventory of Pirate Moustachery, How to Draw Dinosaurs, Creepy Creatures and Penguins – all Step-by-Step – and ending with More Fun Comics and Pinups for the now-adept student to complete…

This bright and breezy album perfectly highlights all the core skills necessary to crafting picture-stories and cleverly doses them with an aura of rambunctious, addictive fun. With such a boost how can any prospective or neophyte storyteller fail to be galvanised into making their own magic?

Brilliantly colourful and with clear concise instructions covering the undeniable basics that every artist of any age needs to master, this book is an indispensable aid and a tremendously inspiring introduction for the aspiring Artist of Tomorrow.

Text and illustrations © 2014 Neill Cameron. All rights reserved.

Mark Shultz: Carbon volume 1


By Mark Shultz (Flesk)
ISBN: 978-1-933865-54-6

After everything is said and done the most immediate response to narrative art is inevitably visceral and visual.

We take and tell our stories in picture form, and the sheer ability to express emotion and put the impossible on paper always captivates and leaves us wondering “how did he/she do that”?

It’s the reason why collections of comics art always have such amazing impact. We get to marvel at spectacular pretty pictures whilst stealing a furtive glimpse behind the curtain at the working of wonderment.

One maestro more than happy to share his secrets is Mark Shultz. The writer/artist shot to stardom after his 1986 EC Comics-inspired Xenozoic Tales (a magnificent blend of pulp fiction, Fifties automobile chic and honking great dinosaurs) hit an instantly addictive chord with the comics-buying public.

The publication spawned an animated TV series, assorted arcade, video and role-playing games, trading cards, action figures, candy bars and a succession of reprints (comics and graphic novel collections) from Kitchen Sink, Marvel and Dark Horse – mostly under its showbiz title Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.

Since then Schultz has become one of the industry’s biggest stars: tackling Superman, Batman and high-profile movie properties such as Aliens and Predator whilst always pursuing his great love: classic adventure archetypes like Tarzan, Conan and Doc Savage. Since 2004 he has been the writer of the Prince Valiant Sunday strip.

This particular oversized (305 x 232mm) collection of sketches, working drawings and finished pieces concentrates on a procession of his most pulchritudinous pulp princesses, lusty he-men and fantastic beasts in incredible unworldly locations: offering astounding insight into his creative process through breathtaking gatefolds displaying the progression from idea to full-painted finished art.

This compelling compendium of captivating heroines, bombastic barbarians, jungle kings and queens, space heroes, Martian Princesses, savage beasts, two-fisted types, what looks to me like DC’s iconic war heroes The Losers and so many wonderful dinosaurs also includes many scenes from Xenozoic Tales, sketches from forthcoming works and a tremendous informative bonus feature.

Schultz is as much science buff as fantasy aficionado and kicks off this book with the heavily illustrated inside story of how he was asked by pal and top bone-boffin Dr. Michael J. Ryan to produce the first visual representations of a newly-discovered dinosaur in ‘Introducing Xenoceratops’ (or Xenoceratops Foremostensis, to give it the full formal title)…

Flesk Publications specialises in art books and the lavish tomes they produce are dedicated to the greats of our industry, with volumes on sequential narrative and fantasy illustration starring Steve Rude, Al Williamson, James Bama, Gary Gianni, Franklin Booth, William Stout and Joseph Clement Coll and many, many more.

The beautifully intimate glimpses of a master at work, with full-colour reproduction capturing every nuance of those gorgeous pencil or brushstrokes, make this a book a vital primer for anybody dreaming of drawing for a living, and the stirring lavish material revealed here will enthral and entice every fan of wondrous worlds and fantastic forgotten realms.

© 2013 Mark Schultz. All Rights Reserved. All artworks, features and properties © 2013 the individual creators, owners or copyright holders.

The Brain Eaters Bible – Sound Advice for the Newly Reanimated Zombie


By J. D. McGhoul with Pat Kilbane, Brian Ulrich, Dean Jones, Neil D’Monte & others (St. Martin’sGriffin)
ISBN: 978-1-250-02401-5

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: an ideal antidote for adult over-indulgence… 8/10

With the world in the dry, dusty grip of a Zombie Apocalypse and at least oneAmericanUniversityoffering Zombie Studies as part of its curriculum, it was only a matter of time before the perhaps misunderstood flesh-addicted revenants gained their own advocate for their particular post-lifestyle.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of zombie stories but occasionally something really tasty comes along and I’m forced to re-evaluate my position. Such an item is this wryly outrageous almanac from comedian, author and actor Pat Kilbane (Mad TV, Seinfeld, Semi-Pro, My Name Is Earl), a vast production team of artists, designers, photographers, make-up and FX folk, actors, models, martial artists, stuntmen and armourers, and ex-lab technician J.D. McGhoul who, since his passing, has worked tirelessly as an activist and educator for the burgeoning population of meat-seeking martyrs whose only hope is for a little piece – preferably of frontal, temporal or parietal lobe…

Together this dedicated group have merrily compiled a deliciously morbid foundation class in everything the newly-infected but so much more than brain-dead “walker” needs to keep unfit, unwell and full…

Although nobody living really knows the origins of the PACE (Postmortem Ambulation with Cannibalistic Encephalophilia) virus – the unsavoury savant here attributes it to stem-cell research gone wonky – the effects are obvious, apparent and permanent.

Thus there are plenty of sagacious asides about the worthlessness of moisturisers but extreme necessity of Febreze™, the commonsense of keeping your head covered, the pros and cons of working in groups and the necessity of never, ever underestimating the cunning and nastiness of the “Freshies” who constitute your preferred fodder…

Following the introspective Introduction and ‘Mouthful of Mud’ – the first of seven insightful Journal Entries about the unlife of the undead from Mr. McGhoul – the first comprehensive chapter Eat Brains describes in piercing detail ‘A Way of Life’, the ‘Reasons for Eating Brains’, ‘Only Live Brains; Only Human’, mind you, and then advises ‘Listen to your Cravings’, ‘Types of Brains’, ‘A Tough Nut’, ‘Brain Bits for the Connoisseur’ and ‘Health Concerns’ before discoursing ‘On Cannibalism’ and recommending ‘Just Love It’

Know Your Body deals with ‘A New You’, ‘The PACE Infection’, how ‘A Plague is Born’, ‘Infection’, ‘Zombie Organs’, ‘Bodily Capacities’ and ‘Other Anatomical Facts’ whilst Hunt deals with ‘Brain Acquisition’, ‘Our Right to Make People Extinct’, ‘Pack Hunting’, ‘Ambush Hunting’, ‘New Principles of Combat’, ‘Close Combat Attack Techniques’, ‘Using Firearms’, ‘Using Other Weapons’ and offers some ‘Final Thoughts on Hunting & Combat’.

Interspersed with and following more plangent Journal Entries‘Hell’s Ragged Edge’, ‘Bitter and Raw’ and ‘Headhunter Laureate’, chapter 4 details how to Know Your Enemy: categorising the types and tactics of ‘Your Opposition in War’, ‘Sizing Them Up’ and pictorially detailing ‘Human Weaponry’‘Handguns’, ‘Submachine Guns’, ‘Rifles and Carbines’, ‘Shotguns’, ‘Bows and Arrows’, ‘Thrown Weapons’, ‘Swung Weapons’ and ‘Thrusting Weapons’, before demonstrating ‘Human Combat Training’, ‘The Human Fear Response’, ‘Human Vulnerabilities’ and how in the end they are ‘Their Own Worst Enemy’.

‘Whom Shall I Fear’ is another inspiring extract from the author’s Journal Entries after which Move Your Head offers ‘A Defensive Mantra’, ‘Protective Stances’, ‘Self-Defense Techniques’, what is best when ‘Fighting Multiple Foes’, the merits of ‘Zombie Headgear’, ‘Serpentining’, ‘The Invisible Hunter’, how to be ‘The Elusive Traveller’ and why one must learn to ‘Stop, Look, Listen, Smell’, ‘Destroy Captured Assets’ and ‘Leave No Witnesses’

From the Journal Entries comes the philosophy of ‘Self-Knowledge’ whilst the spiritual aspect and overarching mission of the Zombie Way is detailed in Infect Others as ‘The Four I’s’‘Ingest’, ‘Infect’, ‘Inject’ and ‘Instruct’ before the final Journal Entry‘My Brother’s Maker’ reveals the aspirational hope that one day the world can be theirs…

Ostensibly written by erudite undead philosopher J.D. McGhoul, and with a savagely detached tongue firmly embedded in a torn and ragged cheek, this tome delivers a devilishly sly and hilarious fresh take on the undead, told with devastating, deadpan delivery and Goriously illustrated with photos, diagrams and drawings: a uproarious, marvellously authentic treat for every mordantly shambling horror fanatic and bleakly black humourist…

And if you can’t sleep at night just wear a steel crash helmet and keep telling yourself “Zombies don’t exist”.  You’ll be fine.

Probably.
© 2010 Mythodrome Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adventures in Cartooning Christmas Special!


By James Sturm, Andrew Arnold & Alexis Frederick-Frost (First Second Books)
ISBN: 978-1-59643-730-2

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: a superb, truly interactive introduction to parental peace and perfect happiness – and no need for batteries to be included… 9/10

There are a host of books both academic and/or instructional, designed to inculcate a love of comics whilst offering tips, secrets and an education in how to make your own sequential narratives. There are precious few that do it with such style, enthusiasm and cunning craft as the far-too-occasional releases by the meritorious masters of the Adventures in Cartooning crowd.

Prolific and prestigious James Sturm has created a wealth of superb comics and graphic novels, worked for Raw, founded alternative news-mag The Stranger, established his own publishing house Bear Bones Press, and in 1997 he became a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. In 2004, with Michelle Ollie, he set up the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont; an educational institution dedicated to excellence in the narrative arts and current custodian of The Schulz Library (an American repository of rare comics, strips, books graphic arts and cartoons honouring the legendary creator of Peanuts).

In conjunction with Center graduates Andrew Arnold & Alexis Frederick-Frost in 2009, Sturm began a series of captivatingly bright and breezy books, cunningly contrived to lure youngsters into a life of line-drawing and full-colour story-making by making the lessons part-and-parcel of a fabulous magical excursion.

Now with the season of giving and kids bored-to-death-by-lunchtime upon us again, the quick-on-the-draw cartoon elf, his fractious friend the Princess Knight, their dragon and an overly sturdy steed return to help out Santa Claus in his darkest moment of existential doubt…

The stout Samaritan is wistfully pining for the good old days as his legion of diminutive helpers switches from crafting trusty toys and good old gadgets to writing code and packaging the electronic games, video clips, digital downloads and ubiquitous iWants Apps that modern children keep crying out for.

Convinced that this modern fascination is insubstantial and insufficient, Santa seconds the Magical Cartooning Elf and together they craft and construct a solid storybook for children to enjoy over and over again.

The crafty contributors assemble a torrent of tales all in rhyme so the readers will have the best of times.

There’s a snowman abominable and that valiant knight, plus kids who are giants and their tree of great height.

There’s a trip into space to capture a star and secrets of printing and distributing afar…

Once Santa’s happy that the book’s in the bag he assembles his team but hits a great snag.

Since the Yule’s now electric the Reindeer have retired, until enter the Dragon and that tubby old nag…

Zapped with Elf magic they deliver the books which are greeted with wonder not petulant looks.

All over the world kids are engrossed, and soon send their own comics back to Santa by post…

Seriously though: this book does include a handy “how-to” section, a selection of kid’s own creations and readers and purchasers are invited to send their works to Kris Kringle’s newest recruits in Vermont at the Center for Cartoon Studies…

Aimed at ages 6 and above, this delightful, inspiring, inclusive and just plain fun book is a cheap, cheerful and potentially life-altering tome that could stop your youngsters from scribbling on walls and redirect that raw creativity onto safe, rewarding pages where we can all enjoy the fruits of their labours…
© 2012 James Sturm, Andrew Arnold & Alexis Frederick-Frost. All rights reserved.

Beano: How to Draw


By anonymous (Beano Books/Parragon Book Service Ltd)
ISBN: 978-1-40548-745-0

I haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and as this one’s entertaining, wonderfully fit for purpose, still cheap and readily available and even comes with the appropriate toolkit (a set of coloured pencils), it would well serve any budding artists and prospective animators to seek it out and absorb…

This large-scale, slim yet sturdy book gives away the visual secrets behind the anarchic stars of Britain’s best loved comic; offering Getting Started and Basics, assorted Character Profiles and, divided into Faces, Heads and Bodies, the nuts and bolts of how you too can craft the antics of the scurrilous stars of the show in action.

Said scamps include Dennis the Menace, faithful, frightful Gnasher, Minnie the Minx, terrible toddler and arch-rival Ivy the Terrible, weedy Walter the Softy and Baby Bea – the Menace’s sinister baby sister.

Also included are supporting cast members such as the long-suffering Colonel, Police Sgt. Slipper and willing accomplice-in-mischief Curly, precisely broken down into easy to follow graphic steps and supplemented by a gallery of model sheets and handy stock poses to get you started: everything you need to create your own comics once you’ve read, re-read and re-reread the splendid weekly adventures of all concerned.

Brilliantly colourful and with clear concise instructions covering the undeniable basics that every pictorial storyteller – whatever their age – needs to master, this is an indispensable and tremendously inspiring introduction for the aspiring Artist of Tomorrow.
“The Beano” ® © and associated characters ™© D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd 2007. All Rights Reserved.

The Art of Sketch Theatre volume 1


By various (Baby Tattoo Books)
ISBN: 978-1-61404-003-3

“Sketch Theatre exists for one express purpose – to expose you to the myriad career opportunities available for creative individuals. Whether you’re interested in comics, tattooing, painting, illustration, graphic design, fashion, animation, creating films or making music, there are more opportunities for artists today than there have ever been in history.

Through Sketch Theatre, we hope to inspire you to the realisation that if you are an artist, that it is more than ok – it is a gift that holds no shame in being fulfilled.”

Sketch Theatre is an online forum and showcase where creators post works plus those so-crucial intervening stages of development for the inspiration, encouragement and edification of others touched by the hunger to make art and this superb oversized hardback compilation offers four pages each to 57 of the many contributors who are part of the experiment.

The philosophies and efforts of the many painters, illustrators, animators, games designers, film industry Creatives and other less definable professional imaginers combine to form a stunning and beguiling catalogue of fantasy and facility that is both breathtaking and powerfully galvanising.

This staggeringly impressive collection and celebration of modernist imagery, craft, skill and imagination blends a broad array of artistic techniques and styles with the iconography and memories of cartoons, comics, television, toys, movies, street culture, music, body art and a million other unforgettable creative delights into a high gloss, stunningly lavish exploration of modern culture.

The sketches, designs and finished works here range from the horrific and bizarre to the disturbingly lovely and the creators responsible are understandably proud of their work…

Contained in this first volume are the efforts of Aaron Sims, Aimée Kuester, Alex Alvarez, Alvin Lee, Amy Botello, Ana Bagayan, Apricot Mantle, Axel #13, Brandi Milne, Brian Smith, Cameron Davis, Charles Hu, Chet Zar, Chris Ryniak, Christian Lorenz-Scheurer, The Chung!!, Corey Miller, Daphne Yap, Dave Dorman, Dave Hill, Fred Harper, Gene Guynn, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Gris Grimly, Jeff McMillan, Jessica Ward, Jon Beinart, Jon Schnepp, Jordu Schell, Kali Fontecchio, Lola, Luke Chueh, Mark Gabbana, Mari Inukai, Marshall Vandruff, Meats Meier, Michael Broom, Michael Hussar, Miss Mindy, Molly Crabapple, Munk One, Nat Jones, Nate Frizzell, Nick Baxter, Nicholas Villareal, Rick O’Brien, Ron English, S. Fisher Williams, Sam Shearon, Shawn Barber, Steven Daily, Sze Jones, Tara McPherson, Terryl Whitlatch, Tom Baxa, Travis Louie and Wayne Barlowe.

These astonishingly compelling confections (skewed heavily towards the scary, phantasmagorical and chillingly seductive) are presented in a deluxe, wonderfully large (305x229mm) 240-page tome format in eye-popping colour and this exquisite compendium is a fabulous goad for anybody who’s ever regretted growing up, putting away their toys and pencils a little too soon or recently felt the guilty sting of unrequited unadulterated artistic frustration…

All artworks © 2011 by their respective artists; their respective representative(s) and/or their respective copyright/trademark holders. All rights reserved.
For more see sketchtheatre.com

Manga Mania Shonen – Drawing Action-Style Japanese Comics


By Chris Hart (Sixth&Spring)
ISBN: 978-1-933027-69-2

Even though the global craze for Japanese comics and cartoons seems to have partially abated the popularity of Manga and Anime style storytelling is pretty much unquenchable, and with Annual Gift-Giving Season rapidly bearing down on us it might be worthwhile to take a look at one of the better “How-to” reference volumes still available to the budding exponent of Japanese comic making.

I actually found this copy whilst browsing the shelves of my local library so your creative impulses might not even have to wait ‘till December comes…

Manga Mania Shonen is the part of an extensive series of art-instruction books by prolific graphic guru Chris Hart which includes manga titles such as a Beginner’s Guides and more specialised tomes devoted to Girl Power, Bishoujo, Occult and Horror, Romance and many others as well as other art “genres” such as Wizards Witches and Warlocks or Drawing The New Adventure Cartoons

This perky volume focuses on the Shonen or action story characters: lavishly illustrated from stick-figure first concept to fully inked and coloured final work, and opens with a section on Shonen Basics: Drawing the Head, generically broken down further into Action Boy, Teen Enemy, Girl With Crush and Dark Beauty with attention paid to Drawing Eyes For Action Characters, Young Teen Boy, Young Teen Girl, Bishie Boy, Bishijo Girl, Male Villain and Female Villain before rounding off with Craaaazy Eyes!, Intense Expressions and Shading Faces.

Swiftly following is Shonen Basics: Drawing the Body divided into Brave Fighter Kid, Powerful Foe, The Hero’s Girl, Alluring Nemesis, Younger Vs. Older Teens, The Fighting Team, The Character Lineup and Action Tattoos whilst Action! provides timeless, educative and extremely useful truths on Action and Balance, Do’s and Don’ts for Drawing Action, defined as Classic Run (side vs. ¾ view), Fast and Furious Run, The Big Windup and the Big Punch, The Punch and Making Contact; examines Forced Perspective through Flying Kick, Standing Kick and Leaping Forward; depicts Extreme Fight Scenes via Running Start and Impact (both with side and ¾ views) and concludes with a variety of Panel Designs For Action Comics, featuring a four-panel page redrawn numerous ways for different effects.

Samurai Characters and how to construct them follows with model sheet “turnarounds” (the drawing rotated through five positions – Front, ¾ front, side, ¾ rear and Rear views) for a Samurai Boy, plus Girl Samurai, Bad Samurai!, Street Warrior and Evil Samurai Grandmaster as well as sidebars on Uncommon Weapons and Samurai Fantasy Fighters.

Fighter Girls is divided into Flying Ninja, Spy Girl, Sharpshooter, Evil Enchantress, Fantasy Fighter and Karate Girl, Supporting Characters into Teen Punk, Evil Kid, Yakuza, Knife Fighter, Big Buddy, The Blockhead, Motorcycle Rider, The Cursed Hand, Sci-Fi Fighter, Costume Makes the Character and The Dramatic Trench Coat after which Monsters and Creepy Creatures covers such popular standards as Rock Monster, Devil Creature, Ogre, Monsters with Special Powers, Monster Fighter! and such Animal-Based Spirits and Demons as Tiger Girl, Scorpion Boy, Wolf Demon and Bear Spirit.

The final chapter checks out Battle-Ready Robots with Drawing the Robot’s Head, Round-Type Robot, Classic Colossal Robot, Elegant but Deadly Robot and Hyper-Mechanized Robot before Robots and Their Human Pals – sectioned off as A Boy and His Robot, Female Robot, All-Firepower Robot, Villainous Robot and The Mecha Team – finishes up the drawing lessons. The book concludes with a very basic four-page introduction to Sketching a Sequential Story.

By applying a “Time-and-Motion”, mechanistically deconstructive approach Hart has isolated those cool facets ardent newcomers always fixate upon and has perfectly described how to become fully facile in their use. After that, it’s up to the neophyte storyteller to progress at their own pace and inclination…

The whole book is pretty much the equivalent of a set of manga “cheat-sheets” detailing how to produce generic action actors, but as I can certainly attest after years of teaching comics-production, scripting and art to kids from age 4 to 60+, that’s most often the initial alluring spark which can kick off the drive to practise, improve and eventually find a uniquely personal creative path…

Created specifically for the American sector of the global marketplace and targeting younger fans, there’s no time spent here on the harder, less fun and downright laborious aspects such as constructing a plot, shaping narrative, designing believable backgrounds, building scenarios, page composition and copy/balloon placement, and the slavish pigeon-holing of the manga/anime phenomenon into basic construction-line “models” may annoy more advanced students, but if the goal is simply to inspire interested parties into making their own people and stories this book does the job affably and enthusiastically…

© 2008 Star Fire, LCC. All rights reserved.

How to Draw Disney’s Mulan


By uncredited (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-038-3

I haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and as this one’s entertaining, wonderfully fit for purpose and readily available it would well serve any budding artists and prospective animators to seek it out and absorb…

Following a brief précis of the story – involving a young girl who rose to prominence in the army of legendary Ancient China – the instructional portion begins with Equipment and Techniques, Designing Characters – animal and human, comedic, villainous and heroic. Costume Design, Staging the Action and Use of Props. This large scale, slim book concludes with a test – Creating a Scene: providing a chance to use the knowledge gained to have fun and practice.

Brilliantly colourful and with clear concise instructions covering the undeniable basics that every artist of any age needs to master, such as stylisation and basic anatomy, and including detailed step-by-step breakdowns and model sheet for every major character from the films this is an indispensable aid and a tremendously inspiring introduction for the aspiring Artist of Tomorrow.
© 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All and Sundry – Uncollected Work 2004-2009


By Paul Hornschemeier (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-285-2

In his relatively short artistic career Paul Hornschemeier has produced relatively little work, but all of it has been of phenomenal quality and boldly dedicated to deeper themes and compelling expansions of the medium of graphic narrative. Its also manages to be funny sad and pretty all at once. Don’t take my word for it: acquire The Collected Sequential, The Three Paradoxes. Let Us be Perfectly Clear and the incredible Mother, Come Home and see for yourself.

While you’re at it, the perfect accompaniment for that enviable investigation is this delicious collection of art and ideas ranging from the broadest sketches, prose and ideas to fully finished and coloured strips and stories gathered from such disparate sources as the experimental strip anthology Mome to the back up strips produced for Dark Horse’s comic interpretation of Michael Chabon’s brilliant novel The Escapist.

Also included are assorted commercial illustrations from magazines such as the Wall Street Journal, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and Nickelodeon Magazine, Penguin Books and many others, designs and typography for the numerous foreign editions of his creations and many other visual treats from this always enchanting and thought-provoking creator.

If you want – or need – a peek inside the head of a truly creative force, or just love great drawing and fine amusing, sad whimsy this is a book you must have.

© 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Paul Hornschemeier. All Rights Reserved. The Tick © & ™ Ben Edlund; The Worst Comic Book Heroes That Never Existed written by an © Michael Kupperman; The Escapist © & ™ Michael Chabon

Paper Dolls from the California Girls


By Trina Robbins (Eclipse Books)
ISBN: 0-913035-57-2

I haven’t looked at anything for the sheer fun of it for awhile so here’s a delightful peculiarity from the 1980s: an example of an old hobby that’s just crying out to become the next big fad. As a follow-up to her wacky, wise and wonderful Paper Dolls from the Comics (ISBN: 0-913035-20-3) cartoonist Trina Robbins turned her designing eye on her own strip: California Girls.

One of the last serious attempts at creating a fun comicbook for young girls, the series featured the everyday lives of Maxine and Maureen Muldoon, twins who attend Hollyhock High School with their gal-pals. While not to every fan’s taste the strip consisted of fashion, comedy and everyday adventure, carried out with Robbins’ slick wit and accessible style.

The newspaper comic strip was a powerful and ubiquitous tool used to raise circulation and promote customer loyalty in the first half of the twentieth century, and as well as laughs, thrills and escapism creators frequently added games, cut-out collectible premiums and paper toys to their output in their efforts to win and keep an audience that consisted of the entire family, not just adolescent males of all ages.

One of the most popular and effective – even to this day (don’t take my word for it, crank up that search engine and see for yourself), was the addition of favourite characters in their underwear, with additional clothes you could “dress” them in. You could even design your own outfits for them. The common belief was that young children and girls loved this kind of “dress-up” play, but I suspect many young men also joined in the fun.

This practise migrated to comicbooks, and every youngster and girl friendly title from Sugar and Spike to Millie the Model had their own paper-doll pages. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, even my exceptionally smart and utterly sensible wife is not immune to the seditious allure of these things.

So grab your crayons to decorate the monochrome pages (there’s a glorious full-colour centre section too), snag some scissors – don’t run! – and revel in the modes and fashions of the 1980s West Coast. And remember if you do come across a copy of this joyous little gem, with today’s scanning and reprographic advances you can easily duplicate all the pages and go mad without destroying this fun and funky little package…
© 1988 Trina Robbins. All Rights Reserved.