The Sequential Artists Workshop Guide to Creating Professional Comic Strips
Out later this spring is a specialized guide of value to those interested in what some consider a nostalgic craft. The Sequential Artists Workshop Guide to Creating Professional Comic Strips is by Tom Hart (Hutch Owen), who founded and runs the Florida art school whose name this appears under. He also co-created (with Marguerite Dabaie) the former syndicated strip Ali’s House (2008), about an Arab-American family.
Although the background of this book is the traditional newspaper strip, in the introduction, Hart notes the other options for comic strips, including webcomics, weekly comics, and self-publishing. The book combines technical tips — such as drawing ratios, devising a scenario, creating characters, generating ideas, using humor, character and art design, tools (both traditional and computer), and lettering guidelines — with examples of historical context to put it all together.
It’s a short book, easily read and direct in tone, but that makes it useful, without much fluff. There are plenty of visual examples throughout, many taken from Ali’s House. (Given how generic the content of that comic seems from the samples here, it’s a good teaching example.) The organization, in clearly denoted sections, also makes it easy to pick up and put down the book or find tips on just one specific area. Some of the topics covered are short, but a bibliography gives references for further reading and study.
I’m unclear on how much of this will make it into the finished book, but the version I saw had a large number of assignment pages, exercises for readers to put into practice what they’ve read about. Many reference sending in the assignments if you’ve subscribed to the course.
My favorite elements were where Hart talks about how he and Dabaie worked together making Ali’s House, as a real-life case study. An interview with an editor from King Features Syndicate discusses some of the business aspects of selling a strip, but going the self-published route is only covered in cursory fashion. One appendix shows the creation of a particular strip from beginning to end; another has a list of ideas to shake up the process of making a strip.
The Sequential Artists Workshop Guide to Creating Professional Comic Strips is currently due out in April. If that’s too long for you to wait, you can get a self-published version now. It’s cheaper, but it also has a slightly lower page count. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)