Review: ‘Drawing Words and Writing Pictures’ by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
If you pay much attention to news about comic books, you know that the industry is seeing a boost in popularity that’s translated into comics becoming an accepted field of study at venerated institutions like Stanford and elsewhere.
As comics make the transition into classrooms it only makes sense that a formal textbook would soon follow. Fittingly enough, it’s a pair of comics creators and instructors — Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, who are also married — that created the first textbook, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures (First Second, $29.95).
The 280 pages of advice on creating your own comic is largely an introduction to comics newcomers, with explainers on basic concepts and terms. From there it progresses into fundamental skills, from page layouts to creating characters to creating finished quality art.
There’s a world of information the book never gets to, but then it’s essentially a course book for Comics 101. It does have tons of references to more advanced learning materials, though, which comes in handy.
While the book is designed to be used in the classroom, Abel and Madden have crafted it so that anyone getting into comics can gain a lot from it. Just on my own, I had a lot of fun going through their exercises and picked up more than a few new tricks. It’s also very well designed and exceptionally visual-friendly.
I wouldn’t call Drawing Words the Holy Grail of comics, but it’s an excellent place to start, a great primer on a terribly complex medium.
Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book journalist. Every Wednesday, he braves Atlanta traffic to visit Oxford Comics, where he reads a whole mess of books for his weekly reviews. Van’s blog can be found at graphicfiction.wordpress.com.
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