A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent


By Isabella Rotman with Luke B. Howard (Limerance Press/Oni Press-Lion Forge Publishing Group)
ISBN: 978-1-62010-794-2 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-62010-815-4

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Crucial Companion for Every Social Gathering of More Than 1 Person… 9/10

It’s going to be a seasonal holiday unlike any in living memory for most of us. In Britain, we’ve stringently locked down, been let loose to run rampant in dangerously close proximities and then locked down even harder and with more targeted complexity. For Christmas, as we’ve been not-so-good, the populace can now mix and mingle as we see fit, with no real curbing of contact. What could possibly go wrong?

All that preamble is my convoluted way of introducing what should the ideal accompaniment to the party season or any relationship…

I’ve frequently argued that comic strips are a matchless tool for education: rendering the most complex topics easily accessible and displaying a potent facility to inform, affect and alter behaviour. Here’s another superb example of the art form using its great powers for good…

The Quick & Easy Guide series has an admirable record of confronting uncomfortable issues with taste, sensitivity and breezy forthrightness: offering solutions as well as awareness or solidarity.

Here, Maine-based cartoonist Isabella Rotman (Wait What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies and Growing Up; You’re So Sexy When You Aren’t Transmitting STIs) and New Orleans colourist Luke Howard collaborate on a cogent and compelling primer covering the irrefutable basics When, Where, Why and most especially What can be taken as Consent.

This is such a charged issue that the light and informative lecture is preceded by a very clear and well thought out Content Warning defining terms and the specifics of situations, with firm regard to gender, scope and even an Informational Disclaimer… that’s how hot a topic this is …

Terms are examined and situations explored during a tenuous first encounter between two healthy young adults, but as things heat up, a phantasmal guide pops in to steer the participants and give voice to their suppressed concerns, through chapters such as ‘What is Consent?’, ‘Consent is Simple’, ‘What is Sex?’ and ‘Consent Must be Freely Given!’ all emphasised through sidebars like ‘Tell Them What Turns You On!’ and an enumeration of what definitively ‘Have Nothing to do With Consent!’

The dialogue and show-&-tells are punctuated by quotes from professional Sexual Consent Educators, augmented by role plays, quizzes and a section outlining and defining the current (US only) ‘Age of Consent’ laws, before asking ‘Is Everyone Fully Informed?’ This last is primarily about all the many factors – physical and emotional – potential partners should always be apprised of, but also broadmindedly enquires ‘What About Kink?’ and even tackles the ever-present ‘Fear of Rejection’

In closing, the convivial confrontation offers a list of potential faux pas in ‘So Don’t…’, a summation ‘In Review…’ before providing a ‘Yes. No. Maybe So Checklist’ as well as a selection of ‘Safer Sex: Contraception’, ‘…STI Risk Reduction’and ‘…Activities’ suggestions.

Being wise beyond her years and probably acutely aware of how inventive humans are, the author closes with sagacious questionnaire ‘Anything Else?’ plus a fulsome Bibliography and list of Resources to contact including Sex & Relationship Education, appropriate Hotlines and inline Checklists

I hail from a fabulous far-distant era where we happily ravaged the planet without a qualm and believed emotional understanding led to universal acceptance. At the same time, it seems most of us never really stopped being the greedy cave monkey obsessively snatching whatever it wanted with no consideration of others or even consequences. We’re apparently a little more in tune with the planet now, and finally learning to share and play well with others…

This witty, no-nonsense treatise offers sage advice on becoming our best selves by dealing with our selfish natures – something that really should have been bred out of humanity eons, if not centuries, ago. It should be made compulsory reading in every school and college (and pub, and nightclub, and scenic natural beauty spot, and cinema and waiting room and…)
A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent ™ & © 2020 Isabella Rotman. All rights reserved.

I’d Love to Draw


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

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: an old-school introduction to peace and recreation… 9/10

Got some time on your hands? Fancy taking up a new hobby or rekindling an old interest?

There are many 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 do so proficiently and well. There are however, precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm, delight and cunning craft as this recent 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 and grew up in Zanesville, Ohio during the period when almost all published illustration was crafted by talented hands rather than mechanical contrivances like cameras or computers.

Aged 19, Loomis 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, he 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 began 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. Titan Books began resurrecting them a few years ago and this tome (with an Introduction and a lavishly informative commentary by comics legend and grateful fan Alex Ross) continues the master’s 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.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities


By Mady G & J.R. Zuckerberg (Limerance Press/Oni Press)
ISBN: 978-1-62010-586-3 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-62010-587-0

Here’s a handy rule of thumb for getting along. People get to decide what to call themselves. You get to accept and agree with them, as long as no one is being actually harmed. That assessment is to be made by Law, not personal belief or some higher calling. If you can’t accept their definitions of themselves, you have the right to leave people alone and never interact with them.

Okay?

We are the naming primate. If we encounter something unknown and/or scary, we give it a description, definition and title and accept it into our ever-expanding understanding of Reality. It’s what enabled us to take over this world. Naming things is generally a good thing and allows us to navigate our universe.

Some people, however, use the power of naming to isolate, ostracise and wound. They are not doing it right. People like us have plenty of really fitting names for people like them when they abuse our gift…

Seriously though, it seems like every time we make a move towards greater inclusivity, some faction of retrograde, regressive backwards-looking churl and biological luddite manufactures a reason why we can’t all get along.

I personally favour retaliation, but the only way to truly counter them is with understanding, so here’s a book that offers plenty of names and definitions we should all be adding to our lexicons…

I’ve frequently argued that comic strips are a matchless tool for education: rendering the most complex topics easily accessible and displaying a potent facility to inform, affect and alter behaviour. Here’s a splendid example of the art form using its great powers for good…

The Quick & Easy Guide series has an admirable record of confronting uncomfortable issues with taste, sensitivity and breezy forthrightness: offering solutions as well as awareness or solidarity.

Here, coast-to-coast cartoonists Mady G. and J. R. Zuckerberg collaborate on a bright and breezy primer covering the irrefutable basics on establishing one’s own sexual and gender identity (including the difference between those terms), safely navigating all manner of relationship and exploring the spectrum of experiences available to consenting adults.

A major aspect of us People Primates is that we spend a lot of our lives trying to work out who we are. It takes varying amounts of time for every individual and lots of honesty.

It’s like most work. It can be unwelcome, laborious, painful and even dangerous and nobody should attempt it too soon or alone.

Moreover, all too often, assistance and advice offered can be unwelcome and stemming from somebody else’s agenda. In my own limited experience for example, any sexual guidance offered by anybody with a religious background is immediately suspect and a waste of breath. Perhaps your experience is different. That’s pretty much the point here. In the end, you have make up your own mind and be your own judge…

Unlike me, A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities takes no sides and offers no bias as it runs through the fundamentals, but only after a Foreword from cartoonist and author Roz Chast and an Intro by Mady lay out the rules of engagement on the attaching and utilisation of the labels and roles gradually becoming common modern parlance…

The micro lectures are set during a wilderness trek where an agglomeration of troubled humans have a group teaching encounter under the supervision of a “Queer Educator” endeavouring to define for them the nature of ‘Queerness’

The useful commentary, educational asides and plentiful laughs are generated by a colony of snails avidly observing proceedings like a raucous and bewildered Greek Chorus. Such gastropods, as I’m sure you recall from school, are either male, female, hermaphroditic or something else entirely, depending on what time it is. Now that’s perspective…

Subjects covered with forthright verve, clarity and – crucially – wry wit begin with ‘What is Queer?’, proffering terms for defining Sexuality and Gender as subdivided into Bisexuality, Asexuality, Pansexuality amongst other permutations. These and later lessons are illustrated with examples starring primarily neutral vegetable critters dubbed The Sproutlingswho are conveniently pliable and malleable…

‘What is Gender Identity?’ digs deeper, discussing Gender vs Sex via a little biology tutorial before ‘Now… What’s Gender Expression?’ expands the debate, determining modern manners and ways of signalling the world what one has decided is a person’s (current, but not necessarily permanent) status. The lecture comes with carefully curated real-world examples…

This is all fine in an ideal world, but contentious, often life changing problems that can occur are tackled head-on in ‘What Does Dysphoria Mean?’, detailing examples of the traumas accompanying the realisation of not being how you believe you ought to be. Divided into Physical, Social and non-binary Dysphoria, the examination includes ways of combatting the problems and more case histories courtesy of the human wilderness students…

In swift succession ‘So, what is Asexuality?’ and ‘What does it mean to Come Out?’ offer further practical thoughts and prospective coping tactics before vital life lessons are covered in ‘Here are some Relationship Basics’.

Also included here are an “Outro” by Zuckerberg and a section of activities including ‘Design a Pair of Friendship Jackets’, ‘Create Your Own Sprout-sona!’ and ‘How to make a Mini Zine!!’ as well as information on ‘More Resources!’and Creator Biographies.

I hail from a fabulous far-distant era where we happily ravaged the planet without a qualm but believed emotional understanding led to universal acceptance. We’re apparently smarter about the planet now, and it’s wonderful to see that the quest to destroy intolerance and ignorance still continues. This witty, welcoming treatise offers superb strategies for fixing a pernicious issue that really should have been done and dusted decades ago.

Hopefully, when we all share appropriate, non-evocative and un-charged terms for discussing human sexuality and gender – such as seen here – we can all make decisions and assessments that will build a fairer, gentler world for everybody…
A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities ™ & © 2019 Mady G & J.R. Zuckerberg. All rights reserved.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability


By A. Andrews (Limerance/Oni Press)
ISBN: 978-1-62010-694-5 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-62010-706-5

Comic strips are an incredibly powerful tool for education, rendering the trickiest or most complex topics easily accessible. They also have an overwhelming ability to affect and change behaviour and have been used for centuries by politicians, religions, the military and commercial concerns to modify how we live our lives. Here’s a splendid example of the art form using its great powers for good…

The Quick & Easy Guide series has an admirable record of confronting uncomfortable issues with taste, sensitivity and breezy forthrightness: offering solutions as much as awareness or solidarity. Here, disabled cartoonist A. Andrews (Oh, Hey! It’s Alyssa!) shares experiences and highlights situations too many people would prefer never having to think about…

Before we go any further though, let’s just state something that ought to be obvious. Most human beings want and have sex.

Even amongst the majority, that encompasses a variety of preferences, techniques and practices generally undertaken in a spirit of cooperation and carried out on a sliding scale of satisfaction and success for (at least one of) those taking part. The goal however, surely must be mutual gratification for all involved, right?

Sadly, for a large section of humanity, this fundamental function presents many difficulties. Most have been previously addressed in many learned clinical tracts and therapeutically-themed sources but this welcomingly frank cartoon lecture isn’t one of those. It’s a chat session led by a person who’s lived some of those difficulties and who uses passion, humour, common sense and earnest language to cope. Think here not about achieving sex, but rather making your version of sex better, if not best…

After starting out with some daunting statistics from the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization to establish the state of play for disabled people (Earth’s largest minority group, accounting for 15% of global adult population), Andrews quickly moves to the meat of the matter in ‘Disability Sexuality’.

Defining different forms of disability – congenital, acquired, intellectual and invisible – and outlining intersecting impacts on individuals as well as tackling the differences between sexuality and gender, naturally leads to an examination of ‘Myths About Disabled Bodies’ before revealing the big secret… ‘Communication’

Following short and pertinent questionnaire ‘Activity Time’, the talk about talking resumes with ‘Instead of … Try This…’ and more sage advice, plus a fascinating ‘Self-Care Plan’ and the value of preparedness and tools, enhancements and toys in ‘Getting Down’, ‘Positioning’ and ‘Aftercare’

Also included is a listing of additional information and resources in print, podcast and web formats.

I hail from a distant era when we believed understanding led to acceptance, so it’s wonderful to see that the quest to destroy intolerance and ignorance still continues. This witty, welcoming comics guide tackles an issue that really should have been done and dusted decades ago, but until disability (and race and gender and sexuality and body size and even bloody hair colour) lose every shade of meaning and connotation except purely descriptive, books like this one will remain a necessity and utterly welcome…
A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability ™ & © 2020 A. Andrews. All rights reserved.

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns


By Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson (Limerance/Oni Press)
ISBN: 978-1-62010-499-6 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-62010-500-9

Comic strips have long been acknowledged as an incredibly powerful tool to educate, rendering tricky or complex issues easily accessible. They also have an overwhelming ability to affect and change behaviour and have been used for centuries by politicians, religions, the military and commercial concerns to modify how we live our lives.

Here’s a splendid example of the art form using its great powers for good…

Despite what the old adage might say, words are not only harmful, but also shape how people react to or regard… well, everything.

Semantic shading is prevalent in all aspects of human communication, and predisposes us to respond in certain manners; frequently in contradiction to all other data. I still have a scar on my finger from when I was nine and picked up a cute, cuddly, playfully welcoming kitten, clearly in a manner it found inappropriate and uncomfortable.

In the social contract we all live under, every person (and almost all of the animals and some complex machinery) should expect to be treated with courtesy and in terms they find comfortable and acceptable. I have used nine different pen-names in a long and undistinguished creative career and respond to them equally, as readily as my own name (no matter how badly mangled it might be by people I don’t expect to possess any facility or familiarity with the Eastern European pronunciation or syntax it stems from).

I don’t even care if people call me “madam” or late for dinner.

I’m somewhat less sanguine about rude or aggressive people using “oi, mate”, “baldy” or “hey you”. I have no patience at all for those who smugly tell me I’m saying my own name wrong…

At least I’m fortunate enough to fall into a broad category of cisgendered folk who unthinkingly share appropriately-gendered pronouns. That’s not a situation everybody enjoys, but is one that can and should be rectified. Misgendering (intentional or otherwise) is arrogant, lazy, impolite and selfish: It’s 2019 and we should all be accepted on our own terms by now.

All it takes is willingness and a little effort… and – if these concepts are new to you – this extremely engaging little paperback guide, crafted by two lifelong friends addressing the issue from the most different of positions.

Archie Bongiovanni is non-binary: identifying as a genderqueer artist who feels “Him” and “Her” are not pronouns that apply or are relevant. As part of a widely diverse and continually diversifying society, they (that was me doing the gender pronoun thing, there) feel those terms can – and should – be supplemented by other, neutral words: in this specific case “They” or “Them”.

Tristan Jimerson is a cisgendered man who works as a copywriter and runs a restaurant. As part of an inherited social majority he had no choice in originally defining, he is keen to adjust the way he refers to people so as be inclusive, polite and non-discriminatory.

The book they created together is inexpensive, informative, great fun and available in physical and digital editions (so you should get loads of copies and start giving them to everybody you know).

It also means the only terms you’re getting for free here are the aforementioned Non-Binary – meaning someone who does not identify as either male or female – and Cisgender – which translates as a person who agrees and accepts the gender they were assigned at birth. If you need clarification on terms like “gender” or “pronoun” that’s what books and search engines are for; and check back to what I just said about being lazy…

As well as simple, affable explanations, tips and hints, you’ll find here cartoon reference charts and lists clarifying what to say, to whom and when, with examples and suggestions for why you should rethink your viewpoint if you’re feeling reluctant, or recalcitrant. Readers will be gently introduced to concepts such as ‘YOLO’, ‘Why Pronouns Matter’ and ‘How to use They/Them pronouns in Everyday life: A Practical Guide!’ as well as profiting from sections ‘For Folks Identifying with Alternative Pronouns’ and much more…

A handy guide to simple courtesy and common human decency, this is a marvellous attempt to help us all get along a little more easily. Maybe we should find an equivalent publication dealing with climate change, commercial expediency and political short-termism…?
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns ™ & © 2018 Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson. 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: Truly Interactive Option for Parental Peace and Quiet – and no batteries! … 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. 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 (The Golem’s Mighty Swing, Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules) has created a wealth of superb comics and graphic novels, worked for Raw, founded alternative news-mag The Stranger and established his own publishing house – Bear Bones Press.

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 custodian of The Schulz Library (an American repository of rare comics, strips, books graphic arts and cartoons honouring the legendary creator of Peanuts).

In 2009, with Center graduates Andrew Arnold & Alexis Frederick-Frost, 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-telling 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 switch 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 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 youngsters’ 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 up, this delightful, inspiring, inclusive and just plain fun book is a cheap, cheerful and potentially life-altering tome (still readily available for parents and other gift-challenged adults) 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.

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 www.doverpublications.com, 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.