REVIEW: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO DRAWING COMICS
4/5 While not truly all-encompassing, and sometimes a little inconsistent in the tutorial sections, this how-to guide does cover a variety of comic book styles and serves as both a great starting point for those learning to draw cool characters, vehicles, and scenes as well as a valuable reference for those who are simply trying improve upon the skills they've already started to develop.
This book can definitely service two different types of artists-in-training:
Each section contains a number of great step-by-step tutorials that walk through how to create characters, vehicles, and scenes. If you follow along from start to finish, you will gradually accumulate a basic understanding of anatomy and posing, creature design, vehicle drawing, coloring, and composition of different types of images. It's not all encompassing, and is quite light on environment/background design, but there's a lot here to get your study of comic art off the ground.
(2) Intermediate to advanced artists
There aren't really any advanced techniques shared here or even anything all that spectacular in the way of character design. As someone who's been drawing for a while, but am by no means an expert, the real value in this book is revisiting some of the fundamentals for comic art and taking the chance to re-evaluate your artistic workflow. For me, I was most interested in the fact that this book covers five different genres/styles: Super Hero, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Manga, and Horror. I've been trying to diversify what I can do a bit, and this is serving as a great reference for me.
I've already mentioned this a couple of times, but the best thing about this book really is that it covers so many styles and comic art concepts. It also does a fantastic job of ordering it all in such a way that covering so much ground doesn't feel overwhelming. The basics of anatomy and posing along with line work, coloring, and shading are introduced in the Super Hero section. It wraps up with showing how you can compose a basic action scene. These concepts are continually reinforced throughout the book, but each section introduces a few new ones. The Sci Fi section brings in more complicated costume design, vehicles, aliens, and machines along with a tutorial for creating a comic book cover. Fantasy incorporates weapons and the importance of how those influence posing. It also details how to handle different types of non-human anatomy and pulls in some special effects as well as some perspective work. Manga shows off the more stylized and brightly colored art form that comes from Japan. This section retreads some of what's already been covered, but from a different lens. The Horror section covers more of what you might think of when it comes to actually composing a comic book. Visual storytelling, heavier lighting, and a greater emphasis on facial expression. By the end of it all, you'd have to basically be a comics veteran not to have picked up something new for your artist toolbox and if your coming in brand new, you would have learned to draw lots of different characters, pose them, compose them into a scene, color it, and light it to your needs. You'll have just about everything you need to create a simple comic of your own or just create some neat stills. Another great thing is that the artists featured didn't really demo anything too extravagant. Most of the art looks pretty simple and I don't mean that in a condescending way at all, it's actually very positive. All of it looks professionally done, but it's not so good that it's discouraging to look at while you're following along - I've had this issue with other learn-to draw-books. I think this was a smart publishing decision that will probably just make this that much more valuable of a purchase for those looking to learn from it.
While the tutorials are all very accessible to follow along with regardless of your skill level, there are some inconsistencies between steps in some of the more complicated walkthroughs that anyone will probably find confusing/distracting/annoying. There's nothing so drastic that it will ruin the whole experience of that exercise, but it happens at least three times which just feels a little sloppy and the text never calls out the design changes which feels like a missed opportunity to explain how your vision for a piece can change over time. The writing also indicates that all of the inking and coloring is done via physical medium, but I felt like most of that was actually done digitally. It's all just a little too clean unless they are using some high-end supplies and even if they really were just using markers and pens, it would have been nice to have them call out exactly what their process was for those later stages in the tutorials.
This isn't a perfect production, but it's by far one of the most helpful learn-to-draw books I've ever picked up in spite of some of it's shortcomings. The annotations are generally very helpful and the tutorials are handled well enough that most will be able to create something pretty close to what the artists have demoed. Going forward, I will continue to use it as a reference for different things and there are some posing and workflow tricks I will be using in my future work. Whether you're looking to get started in the world of comic art, hoping to sharpen your current skills, or just add some new artistic tools to your toolbox, this one is definitely worth picking up.