Make Comics Like the Pros

Make Comics Like the Pros

These days, a comic guidebook doesn’t get published without including business advice. That’s a good thing — artists should learn more than they were traditionally taught about how to make a living (just as businesspeople should learn more about valuing creativity, but that’s a different post) — but with so many different formats and industry paths available to people these days, a lot of books aren’t clear enough about their target audience. (See, for example, Brian Michael Bendis’ Words for Pictures, which assumes that everyone reading it wants to make comics for a big superhero publishing company. Which might be true.)

Anyway, Greg Pak (Hulk, Storm) and Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, The Comic Book History of Comics) are the authors of Make Comics Like the Pros: The Inside Scoop on How to Write, Draw, and Sell Your Comic Books and Graphic Novels. They’re both writers, so the book reads well, and they do something really smart and obvious and rarely done in these kinds of volumes: they create an original comic book as we move through the text. Swordmaids is drawn by Colleen Coover (Bandette, Banana Sunday).

Make Comics Like the Pros

Their advice emphasis is two-fold: practical tips (and lots of them!) and the importance of true collaboration. This isn’t a book for the “I have a computer! I can do everything myself!” type (and if you want that level of control, more power to you). This is a book for the person that realizes that, even if they’re writing and drawing a comic themselves, they might benefit from someone else coloring, or editing, or marketing their work. Or co-writing, as these two have done.

Pak and Van Lente open with the stories of how they became writers and how they began working together, at Marvel, illustrating how creative paths rarely run smoothly or as intended. They also get advice from other pros in specialized fields when needed. Sections cover

  • concept and character design
  • storytelling and scripting
  • visual storytelling, including an illustrated glossary of panel types that’s an excellent resource
  • additional crafts (inking, coloring, lettering, editing)
  • how to pitch, including cover design
  • the basics of marketing in today’s industry, with attention paid to the many distribution options available
  • publicity and promotion

Each chapter ends with the next step in the eight-page Swordmaids comic, so readers can compare the script to the rough layout to finished pages. There’s also a corresponding pitch document, a sample profit-and-loss statement to figure out which way to go (digital, print, self-publishing), and some online marketing ideas.

Make Comics Like the Pros is a terrific read with plenty of useful advice for anyone thinking about trying to make a comic, regardless of what methods you’ll be using or role you’ll be playing. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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