How Comics Work

By Dave Gibbons & Tim Pilcher (Rotovision/Quarto)
ISBN: 978-2-88893-341-0

We haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and this recent release is one of the most comprehensive and rewarding I’ve seen in many a year.

Thus, Yet Again, in the interests of complete transparency: I must admit to having known Mr. Gibbons (Britain’s first Comics Laureate) since the days of Warrior Magazine in the early 1980s, and Tim for an equally lengthy time. The British Comics Scene is a small but affable one and it’s not like we get together once a month to drink beer, gossip or braid each other’s rapidly vanishing hair…

Since beginning his stellar professional career in the 1970s (as a letterer) Dave Gibbons has triumphed in every arena of comics production and all those hard-earned technical secrets and insights, as well as his incomparable philosophy of working has been distilled by him and his collaborator – author, editor and comics historian – Tim Pilcher into a handy, comprehensive and supremely accessible guide to every aspect of the visual storytelling business.

Never ones to hang about or dither, and following the delightful ‘Introduction: The Dave Gibbons Way’, the methodically efficient master class begins with Scriptwriting. This and every other category-chapter opens with a discussion and celebration of the ‘Early Influences’ on the creator and his process, swiftly followed by a guided discussion of ‘Ideas’; ‘Plotting and World Building’; ‘Pacing and Movement’; ‘Writing for Yourself’ and ‘Writing for Other Artists’ before concluding with ‘Writing Influences’ and a dissection of the work of Frank Miller.

Each individual section is heavily illustrated with sketches, visual examples and finished artwork from numerous projects such as Watchmen, Give Me Liberty, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Rogue Trooper, Dan Dare, Green Lantern, Superman, Batman vs. Predator, The Originals, Treatment, Aliens: Salvation, Kamandi, Batman: Year One and more.

Next up is the immensely fun subject and occupation of Visual Groundwork; divided – after another ‘Early Influences’ tribute – into ‘Character and Costume Design’; ‘Designing Superheroes’; ‘Character Style Guides’; ‘Redesigning Existing Characters’; ‘Landscapes, Sets and Locations’; ‘Vehicle Design’ and ‘Props’ after which ‘Creator Star: Frank Hampson’ is lovingly scrutinised.

The nuts and bolts of Sequential Storytelling comes next, subdivided into ‘Interpreting Scripts’; ‘Thumbnails and Visual Pacing’; ‘Page Layouts’; ‘Grid Structures’; ‘Page Designs’; ‘Panel Designs’; ‘Pencils’; ‘Inks’; ‘Digital Inking’, and ‘Outputting Digital Artwork’ precedes an appreciation of ‘Artistic Hero: Wally Wood’.

The “invisible” but crucial art of Lettering is tackled next, divided into the ever-popular ‘Early Influences’; and the technical but rewarding disciplines of ‘Page Mark-Up and Dead Space’; ‘Balloon Positioning and Flow’; ‘Balloon Variations’; ‘Kerning and Leading’; ‘Hand Lettering’; ‘Digital Lettering’ and ‘Sound Effects (SFX)’. This is bolstered by an appreciation of ‘Lettering King: Sam Rosen’.

Colouring is the next topic tackled with ‘Drawing for Colour’ backed up by hot tips on crafting ‘Colour Roughs’; ‘Fully Painted Artwork’; ‘Digital Colour’; ‘Digital Colour: Flats’; ‘Digital Colour: Rendering’ and ‘Digital Effects’ with an appropriate pictorial tribute in ‘Painter Focus: Frank Bellamy’.

The mysteries of Design comprise the last lesson-set and, after one last sharing of ‘Early Influences’, confronts the challenges of ‘Cover and Logo Design’; ‘Front Cover Design’; ‘Back Cover Design’; ‘Other Cover Considerations’; ‘Wrap-Arounds and Spine Designs’; ‘Interlinking Cover Design’; ‘Interior Book Design’; ‘Character and Title Logos’ and ‘Icons’ before highlighting ‘Design Star: Chip Kidd’.

Of course, just reading a book like this is worthwhile but not nearly enough, so the final chapter is all about getting involved with a selection of carefully concocted Exercises for fired-up neophytes and rusty old lags to hone their skills on…

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 others intended to foster and further the apparently innate and universal desire to simply make art and make it proficiently and well.

There are, however, precious few that do either with as much style, enthusiasm or perspicacity as this captivating, picture-packed tome. From 1984 to the late 1990s I taught comics scripting, design, production and other useful foundation skills at the London College of Printing, London Cartoon Centre and other forward-thinking centres of Further Education. If these guys had released this book back then I would have just stayed home and read comics instead…
© 2017 Quarto Publishing, plc. All rights reserved.

Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala

By Heidi MacDonald & Phillip Dana Yeh with art by Alfredo Alcala (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-486-80041-7

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: A Perfect, Old-School Craft-Book Prezzie… 9/10

We haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and this is one of the most intriguing and rewarding I’ve seen in many a year.

There is 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 others intended to foster and further the apparently innate and universal desire to simply make art and make it proficiently and well (see for example the superb and lengthy list of Dover Books on Art Instruction and Anatomy at the back of this particular tome).

There are, however, precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm or perspicacity as this latest re-release from the culture-preserving heroes at Dover.

As much biography and philosophical treatise on work-ethic as training manual, Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala resurrects a slim and informative monochrome package from 1994 compiled from the thoughts and especially a vast selection of gorgeous illustrations and examples from one of the most influential and meritorious masters of illustration Comics ever produced.

Following an effusive ‘Introduction by Gil Kane’ and passionate exhortations in ‘A is For Alfredo – a Personal Reminiscence by Roy Thomas’ the real meat of this tome is presented in ‘On the Road with a Real Artist by Phil Yeh’ wherein scribes Heidi McDonald and Yeh repackage the wit, wisdom and sheer gracious enthusiasm of the man we in the English-speaking world think of mostly as a superb inker, but who was so much more.

Alfredo P. Alcala (1925-2000) was born in Talisay, Negros Occidental: part of the chain of islands known as the Philippines. He lived through the Japanese Occupation of WWII (playing a small part in their defeat) and the years following when America supervised the country. An obsessed autodidact and self-taught artistic prodigy, he held a number of creative jobs before joining the extremely popular Philippines “Komiks” industry in 1948.

A phenomenal talent – and lightning fast – he quickly rose to prominence and started his own publishing house. When his period adventure serial Ukala was made into a hugely successful movie he was already at the peak of his powers, but he followed that with the groundbreaking Sword-&-Sorcery series Voltar and became influential on the world stage.

At the beginning of the 1970s horror boom he moved with a number of other Filipino stars to America where their florid illustrative styles and broad genre experience defined the look of US comicbooks for a decade.

Although he was a superbly versatile draughtsman and storyteller, Alcala’s most beloved and well-known contributions were made during sustained runs as inker on Conan, Batman, Swamp Thing and others and, when the industry moved away from the Filipino style, he and his compatriots moved to California and began excelling in the voracious, talent-consuming animation business…

Taken from memories of shared train journeys, this section offers insights and anecdotes interspersed with Alfredo’s real Secret Teachings of How to be an Artist as recalled by fellow traveller and creative fellow spirit Phil Yeh, packed with illustrative examples from published comics as well as intimate sketches and studies from a man who simply never stopped drawing…

The remainder of this evocative bible from a sublimely classicist illustrator and self-made wonder breaks down into a potent series of tutorials beginning with ‘The Art of Observation’ which is neatly subdivided into helpful guides to ‘Discovering Your Style’, the proper use of the correct ‘Tools’, the crucial mastery of ‘Anatomy and Proportion’ and the truth about ‘Composition’, all thoroughly backed up and supported by examples from Alcala’s vast back catalogue.

Next comes a most crucial treatise on the disciplines specific to graphic narrative entitled ‘Thinking About Comics’, again augmented with cogent and beautiful visual back-up and biographical minutiae from ‘Ukala’, ‘Conan’ and the superbly impressive historical commemoration The Gift.

This is followed by an in-depth 20-page reiteration of all that’s gone before, using Alcala’s groundbreaking Voltar as model and exemplar, complete with critical deconstruction by the master himself, and everything wraps up a with quick lesson on ‘Painting’, using one of Alcala’s own murals as the basis for a stringent and informative Q & A session.

This glorious paperback is aimed squarely at the progressing cartoonist, rather than total neophyte, and provides as much a philosophy of creativity as strict instruction, but the sheer profusion of Alcala’s magnificent monochrome will satisfy comics fans as well as budding artists and storytellers.

If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this wonderful celebration will offer a steadying hand and all the support you could dream of.
© 2015 Dover Publications, Ltd. Introduction © 1994 Elain Kane. Introduction © 1994 Roy Thomas. Conan the Barbarian art © 1994 Marvel Entertainment Group. All rights reserved.

Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala will be released November 27th 2015 and is available for pre-order now. Check out, your internet retailer or local comic or bookshop.

I’d Love to Draw!

By Andrew Loomis (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-920-9

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: a superb, old-school introduction to peace and recreation… 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 far more intended to foster and further the apparently innate and universal desire to simply make art and make it proficiently and well. There are however, precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm, delight and cunning craft as this latest re-release by one of the most influential and meritorious masters of illustration America ever produced.

William Andrew Loomis was born in Syracuse, New York in 1892. He grew up in Zanesville, Ohio during the period when almost all published illustration was crafted by talented hands rather than mechanical contrivances like cameras.

Aged 19, he moved back to New York to study under George Bridgman and Frank DuMond at the Art Students League before enlisting to fight in The Great War.

On returning to America Loomis studied at the Art Institute of Chicago whilst setting up his own agency as a jobbing illustrator. Successful from the start, he began supplementing his income during the 1930s by teaching at the American Academy of Art and eventually started compiling his lecture and class material into such popular and effective instructional tomes as Fun With a Pencil and Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth.

His many beautiful and inspirational books influenced generations of artists before eventually slipping out of print, but in recent years Titan Books have been gradually resurrecting them.

This latest tome (with an Introduction and a lavishly informative commentary by comics legend and grateful fan Alex Ross) continues the master’s good works in an epic-scaled (315 x 235mm) luxuriously sturdy monochrome hardback which is a treasure to behold. Even when demonstrating the simplest stance or construction shape, Loomis’ utter joy in putting lines or shapes or shades on paper shines through…

This deeply idiosyncratic, wonderfully expansive and copiously illustrated collection begins with ‘Getting Started’: explaining the theory of ‘Basic Forms’ whilst offering page after page of illuminating examples before carefully and enthusiastically getting to grips with the thorny discipline of ‘Perspective’ in all its daunting forms.

The third pillar of artistic accomplishment is tackled head-on in ‘Light’ with a plethora of examples and exercises explaining all the necessities and useful tricks before the comfortable crash-course gravitates to Part Two and ‘Getting the Fun Out of It!’

Here the first port of call is perfecting ‘The Head’ which incorporates basic construction, carriage, positions and techniques before moving on to caricature and portraiture, after which ‘The Figure’ meticulously traces body form and development from stick-skeletons and sketch layouts to varieties of rendering, fast action visual notation, The Nude and the fundamentals of full illustration.

The foundation course concludes with the third and most important part: ‘The Fun of Sketching’: opening with an effusive overview of the practice of ‘Sketching’ incorporating Line and Form Combined, Exaggeration to Project Character, Solid or Tonal Caricature, Portrait Sketching and much, much more.

Everything ends in an enthralling and enthusiastic ‘Closing Chat’ from the great man encouraging everyone to pick up a pencil and get on with it…

Loomis died in 1959 with one last art manual – Eye of the Painter & Elements of Beauty – published posthumously, yet his professional artistic philosophy, folksy wit and great personal charm still shine throughout this book. His gentle yet thorough instruction of the eternal unchanging verities of visual creation still makes the rewarding act of drawing not only achievable but desirable for everyone.

Perhaps this splendid volume is aimed more squarely at the progressing cartoonist, rather than at utter neophytes, and provides as much a philosophy of creativity as strict instruction, but I’d Love to Draw! will well serve any budding artists and storytellers whilst keeping idle hands and minds amused, absorbed and entertained for hours. If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this marvellous manual will offer a steadying hand and all the support you could dream of.

© Andrew Loomis, The Estate of Andrew Loomis 2014. All rights reserved.

Introduction and additional text © Alex Ross 2014.

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.

© 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.
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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.