Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels

Every medium should be lucky enough to have a taxonomist as brilliant as McCloud. The follow-up to his pioneering Understanding Comics (and its flawed sequel Reinventing Comics) isn’t really about how to draw comics: it’s about how to make drawings become a story and how cartooning choices communicate meaning to readers. ("There are no rules," he says, "and here they are.") McCloud’s cartoon analogue walks us through a series of dazzlingly clear, witty explanations (in comics form) of character design, storytelling, words and their physical manifestation on the page, body language and other ideas cartoonists have to grapple with, with illustrative examples drawn from the history of the medium. If parts of his chapter on "Tools, Techniques and Technology" don’t look like they’ll age well, most of the rest of the book will be timelessly useful to aspiring cartoonists. - Publisher’s Weekly
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William Morrow Paperbacks
New York, NY
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Average: 4 (1 vote)


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Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels

Field of Interest/Specialty: East/SE Asia & Global Studies
Posted On: 01/04/2015

Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud is a very engaging “how to” book that reads like a graphic novel itself. It is the third in a trilogy of books McCloud wrote, the first two being Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. I like this one on its own because in order to make comics, there needs to be a great deal of understanding how one’s readers will read them, though there were points where Understanding was referenced in relation to manga and I was intrigued to look at that one, as well. McCloud walks the reader step by step through the process of each pencil and brush stroke to explain how ideas are communicated through images. He begins with an introduction to the five choices an artist makes: movement, frame, image, word, and flow. He also analyzes the delicate balance between clarity and intensity and gives examples of graphic novels that use each. Chapter Two focuses on drawing people and body language. One of my favorite parts of the book can be found from page 83-86, in which a range of emotions are drawn with only the slightest bit of change drawn on each face; it’s quite brilliant. In Chapter Three, McCloud introduces an impressive visual description of how to write the script for comics, graphic novels, and manga—how, what font, what direction, and where in the frame. The remaining three chapters discuss how to build worlds from a variety of perspectives, followed by tools to use (traditional and digital), and understanding the comic world. This latter chapter includes ten pages dedicated to understanding manga and comparing it to Western comics. The final chapter discusses the comic job market and what it is like to be a comic professional. The book concludes with a bibliography of sources and references.
As a teacher who utilizes a number of graphic novels in my classroom, I found this book very useful. I see this as a very helpful background resource for myself, as well as a resource to reference when students are reading a graphic novel, to help them make the most of the medium. If you are looking for a book focusing specifically on manga, then this is not the book. However, I could see sections of this book providing a good comparison and explanation of how styles have merged, as well as some tutorial for students about how to draw and interpret images in graphic novels or manga. I teach the book Barefoot Gen, the first Japanese manga translated into English, and the next time I teach that book I will definitely use pages 215-224 to give some background on manga style. I would also definitely recommend this for a high school library.