Books on Becoming a Better Cartoonist

I know school is out for summer, but if you’ve got some spare time and are lounging by the pool soaking in the sun and sipping on a cold beverage, consider reading one of these books while you’re relaxing. I’ve compiled this short list of some of the KEY resource books you must have on your journey to become a better cartoonist. I’ve read them and I have benefited greatly from their explanations, commentary and information. Each book has been written by a big name in the business, so the sources are all credible and come from knowledgeable experts in the field.

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner

Known as the Bible of comics creation and development, Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art has influenced a majority of North American and European comics storytellers for years. This is a compilation of a series of essays he wrote in “The Spirit” magazine. These essays were then developed into lessons which were created for a sequential art curriculum taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The book is a guide for artists on developing the principles and practices of visual narratives. Eisner’s own comics are used to illustrate his points, so you get to see first-hand how one of the masters applies his teachings into visual media. Comics and Sequential Art still stands as one of the best resources for anyone wanting to learn the intricacies of crafting comis. I highly recommend this above many of the other guides out there – give it  a read and you’ll understand why.

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

The third installment in the critically acclaimed series by Author/Artist Scott McCloud, Making Comics explains the fundamentals of comic art from the perspective of an artist. If you’ve ever read any of McCloud’s works, you’ll be happy to know that this installment follows the same presentation of an illustrated comic book/graphic novel to further explain the versatility and importance of visual storytelling in everyday media. It’s heavily influenced by Eisner’s school of thinking in comics, but there are a number of interesting points of discussion raised within this book, which is typical of McCloud’s previous works (Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics.)

Making Comics will serve as a challenge to the conventional views of comics in general. This book demonstrates simpler, hand-on approaches in its explanations and tends to categorize a variety of ideas into smaller bite size chunks for the rookie cartoonist. Whether you buy into McCloud’s teachings or not, Making Comics is definitely worth a read.

The Insider’s Guide to Creating Comic Books and Graphic Novels by Andy Schmidt

I picked this up on a whim one day, and I was pleasantly surprised after reading it. If you don’t know who Andy Schmidt is, he was an editor for Marvel Comics and worked with a number of familiar names in the business – John Romita Jr., Brian Michael Bendis, Klaus Janson, Chris Sotomayor and John Byrne to name a few. His book is a compilation of insider tips from the folks working for the Big Two (Marvel/DC.)

There are a number of sections, and each one is skilfully interpreted by a professional in that particular field – writing, drawing, inking, coloring, and publishing are all described in detail. This book doesn’t teach you how to draw, but it does teach you what to expect in comics (when working for a large company) and how to prepare yourself both mentally and physically when you’re going to present your portfolio. The Insider’s Guide… is an interesting read on the do’s and don’ts of the creative process. It’s not as technically descriptive as the previous books I mentioned, but it’s still a must-read in on how to sharpen your skills and wit when you’re planning on tackling the industry giants for work.

The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics by Freddie Williams II

Another impulse buy and pleasant surprise, this book released by DC Comics is part of their updated series of how-to books, showing artists how to effectively set up and follow principles & protocols in the name of efficiency and production. The Digital Drawing guide by Freddie Williams II is a step-by-step look at the process involved in creating a comic from scratch, and focuses on just digital platform.

It was Freddie’s efficiency and creativity with technology that caught the attention of DC Comics. His skills were so good, Freddie was given the license to produce this stellar how-to guide on the ins and outs of digitally drawing comics. For those of you wanting to learn how to do all your work on the computer, and how to be the most efficient at doing so, you have to pick up this book. It will open doors to a new world in the production of your own comics.

There you have it – four MUST-READ resource books for drawing comics. I suggest you pick up at least one of these books this summer, read it over and study it well. Put everything you’ve learned into practice, and you’ll see your graphic storytelling improve dramatically.

 Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the author of the modern noir Online Graphic Novel entitled El Cuervo. You can catch the latest updates three times a week. He is also the editor of idrawdigital, an information site with tutorials and tips for comic artists using digital tools, with links to a ton of other great resources. You can follow him on Twitter at @ElCuervoComic

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  1. As a beginning cartoonist, the best books for cartooning that I’ve found are Jack Hamm’s Cartooning the Head and Figure, Robin Hall’s The Cartoonist’s Workbook, and Bruce Blitz’s Big Book of Cartooning. They all take similar approaches, but each has unique advice to offer. Making Comics and Understanding Comics are of course essential as well.

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