As production draws near and my fingernails get reduced to nibbled down stumps I’ve made an effort to read more in the way of instructional texts in order to address some of the project’s more practical concerns. Having been recommended Scott McCloud’s Making Comics on several occasions I sought it out and gave it a read, only to be surprised at how little instruction it actually contains.
Before you jump to conclusions and assume this is a spiteful condemnation, let me set things straight: it’s not, at the same time though I will stress that this is not a do or die rule book. Refreshingly, McCloud is more concerned with channeling his readers efforts and giving them pointers on what to look out for than telling them exactly what to do. To use his own words ‘There are no rules’. Which is not to say he doesn’t lay out some specific dont’s and principles to work by, but the text offers an open minded view on the medium remaining considerate of the diverse approaches and working methods it encompasses.
There’s a substantial amount of depth to these considerations too, with each chapter breaking down an area of the comic making process before exploring further subdivisions of each. I’d previously been reading Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative which I will not devalue in any way – Eisner’s reputation speaks for itself after all – but was more concerned with the general approach taken than the details of graphic production. By comparison Making Comics carefully addressed these aspects, forcing me to rethink most areas of my project while also alerting me to some I hadn’t even considered (the height chart from a few posts back was a near direct result of this).
It’s also a genuine pleasure to read thanks to the comic presentation McCloud uses. For this type of book there’s a remarkable amount of entertainment and humour along the way; it’s never dull or preachy while the author isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself or the contrivances of the medium – in a sense it’s less an instructional book and more an instructional graphic novel. The images serve a more important purpose though of illustrating the concepts discussed, not just telling you how something might be done but showing it as well. There’s no confusion or real difficulty involved in reading, everything is always clearly explained and demonstrated.
It has certainly been a valuable addition to my research and given me greater confidence and understanding as to how I’ll go about the terrifying prospect of production. Just about anyone starting out in comics or graphic novels would do well to give it a look: it’s more enjoyable than a ‘how to‘ book should have any right to be and may just surprise you in what it makes you realise about your own work.