Creating Comics From Start to Finish

This how-to-create-comics book is definitely aimed at the old-school, “I wanna make superheroes” aspiring creator, from the big back-cover headline “You can work professionally in comics!” to the list of those interviewed, which includes Batman editor Mike Marts, Mark Waid, Darick Robertson, Joe Quesada, and Stan Lee.

Creating Comics From Start to Finish cover
Creating Comics From Start to Finish
Buy this book

The biggest giveaway, though, is how it’s organized. The chapters are based on the traditional assembly-line corporate breakdown: writing, pencilling, inking, lettering, coloring, and most significantly, editing — which starts the book off, reminding readers that today’s superhero comics are heavily editorial-driven.

That structure isn’t a bad thing — there’s always been an audience for this kind of material, those who love the comics they read and dream of working on their favorite superheroes in some way. I can’t explain the creepy bondage girl on the cover, though, other than the idea that cleavage always attracts the superhero fanboys. And starting an introduction with a Matrix quote about the rabbit hole and learning the “real” story was terribly cliched, I thought.

The introduction does reiterate that a significant part of this book will be about different ways to break in — again, this is an old-fashioned approach, especially Buddy Scalera’s lengthy autobiography section about all the work he did with Wizard magazine, now departed. That’s the reasoning behind including the interviews, to share others’ stories of how they built careers. It actually sounded like Scalera wanted to write more of that, less of the advice, but maybe it has to be positioned as a how-to in order to get published, even if that’s rather misleading to the customer, since the book is more “here’s what they did” than “here’s what to do”. The lessons imparted here are simple: be reliable, especially with schedules, and build connections.

The book feels to me like an instant time capsule of how things used to be. The modern way to build a career in comics is to make your own, self-publish or post them on the web, and drive your own future instead of waiting to be selected by an editor or company. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who still work this way and even more who dream of working this way, but it just seems so … irrelevant to all the comic creators I know and follow. That “on the wrong side of changing history” feel is reinforced by two things: the number of pro stories that involve “before the internet was as much a part of the process” (which couldn’t be avoided, since Scalera was going for big, known names, which means lengthy careers) and the lack of any women mentioned.

There’s very little art in this book, and much of what there is is from Scalera’s self-published books, which will be unfamiliar to most readers. (The rest are a few photos of each person interviewed.) The bright yellow pages can be difficult to stick with over a long period, so don’t plan to read the whole book at once. Missing details, like putting the chapter name in the otherwise blank page footer, make it difficult to navigate the book quickly or to find what you’re looking for when you return to it later. Also tacky: the book references extras found at a companion website, but when you visit the link, all you get is a request to sign up for the publisher’s newsletter.

A few chapters at the end of the volume cover bits’n’pieces. Seven pages are dedicated to alternative jobs, including internship, comic shop clerk, production, marketing, and “fan press”. Quesada and Lee each get a chapter. (Their positions make them not very useful to advise aspiring pros, but the name value for sales to the intended audience is immense.) The very last chapter is actual advice on breaking in. The tips are good, and the cautionary tale of how easy it is to lose money self-publishing is a great object lesson.

Overall, I would have been much more interested in this book if it had more emphasis on the interviews with the focus of how comic craft has changed over the years due to technology, kind of a “then and now” comparison. As it is, I’m not sure there are enough positions left in this traditional assembly-line breakdown for the old-school fanboys who want to break in to make Creating Comics From Start to Finish relevant. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

One Response to “Creating Comics From Start to Finish”

  1. RD Says:

    And what better way to reinforce that women have no place in comics but as scantily clad characters than by putting gratuitous T&A on the cover of a “how-to” book?




Most Recent Posts: