ratcreature: RatCreature is buried in comics, with the text: There's no such thing as too many comics.  (comics)
I liked Scott McCloud's Making Comics a lot better than the previous Reinventing Comics. I didn't find it as cool as I did Understanding Comics way back in the mid-90s, though that's probably also because I hadn't read a lot of other comic meta yet, and also the format was really unusual then.

Anyway, I didn't learn anything really great or new about comics, but I did have several of those moments were you find yourself nodding along, and things become a bit clearer while you read something laid out in a certain way. While I don't quite agree with him completely on a number of points, I mostly liked his practical illustrations of certain techniques. Overall he's more of a manga fan than I am, and sees manga influence in Western comics differently, not just the adoption of a really manga-like style, but how for example he credits a number of general narrative techniques (e.g. slow and wordless scene setting by showing details of the surroundings in close-up in favor of an establishing shot) and their proliferation in comics mainly to manga popularity even when the comics in question aren't much like manga in the end, whereas I'm pretty sure I've read a bunch of comics whose artists weren't influenced by Japanese stuff, but for example by movies, and in the end used similar kinds of panel transitions, if not in exactly the same style.

I mean, obviously it's hard to tell where exactly influences are coming from unless you know through artists interviews or whatever, and I don't doubt that manga influences are present in some comics that don't look like manga, but seriously, if you imitate a camera and start in a closeup, roam silently over your location before zooming out you may end up with establishing sequences like that without having ever opened any manga doing the same kind of thing.

Overall the comic was a good read. Even in the chapters where he mostly summarizes from other sources and I was already familiar with those, like in the section on facial expressions that heavily relies on Gary Faigin's book The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression (which I talked about here), I still wasn't bored. I also liked his idea of exercise suggestion at the end of the chapters and I may do some of them, since several seem like they could be fun.

As in the previous books I found the more "philosophical" parts about his views on artists' motivations and comic community rather more boring than the analysis of comics and how to make them, but there was a lot more of the latter than the former, so I didn't mind much.

If you've already read a lot about comics, most will seem familiar to you in one way or another, but I really liked how he played his examples through to show the effects of graphic storytelling choices in a kind of variable by variable way. For example in the section of what he calls "clarity vs. intensity" of graphic choices (with "intensity" being graphic effects like extreme perspectives and depth cues, breaking of panel borders and unusual panel shapes, lots of diagonals in composition, exaggerated poses and facial expressions, etc.) he shows varying degrees of these added dramatic choices for the same page, and how it affects the narrative, its readability, emotional impact and such.

Throughout the book I found several good ideas that I hadn't seen quite like this, like for example to add typical gestures, expression and body language to your model sheets for a character not just different perspectives. I liked his section on character design in general, though again I had several seen several suggestions before, because I've read the books he refers to, like for example Eisner's. I mean, I know from experience how difficult it is to make your characters look recognizable and different from each other, but too often, especially in some superhero comics, artists don't even bother to try and you end up with Oracle looking like Black Canary only with a different hair color and in a wheelchair. It certainly couldn't hurt for example Greg Land any to do some character design and expression/body language exercises. I'm just saying.

I also thought the section on body language was useful. It made me understand stances and how you can vary them a lot better, because it broke aspects down into several variable factors, and again showed the effects. Like similar stances, but one symmetrical one asymmetrical and how that changes things, open and closed stances, distances and gestures etc. and he illustration these principles with an example narration of adding gestures and body language to a conversation.

Other parts were a bit of repetition from what I remember from Understanding Comics, though from a more practical viewpoint. For example in the first chapter Writing with Pictures he revisits his classification of different kinds of panel to panel transitions and in the third chapter The Power of Words his categories of word/picture combinations, but you don't have to have read the former to follow his storytelling examples.

Overall I think it's well worth reading.

ETA: Does anyone else keep loosing icon and tag choices after doing a spellcheck and/or preview in the LJ update editor? This is annoying.
ratcreature: Like a spork between the eyes. (spork)
...i.e. reading Frank Cho's chapter on how to draw effective covers from Wizard's "How To Draw: Advanced Techniques". To quote one of the many great pearls of wisdom (emphasis not mine, btw):
You also can't use the same pose for guys and women--and women are much harder to draw covers for. With guys you just have to convey power to make the figure work, while with women, you have to emphasize their, y'know, curvaceous nature. It's almost like a swimsuit-issue pose--you have to emphasize their curves, yet at the same time reflect their power as well.
Drawing a cover is mostly just trying to come up with a strong pose and trying to build upon it. It's kinda hard when you're drawing girls, because you're trying to come up with a strong, dominant pose, yet at the same time make it very sensual and sexy. I was just playing around with various poses, and for whatever reason none of 'em were sexy enough for me."

I don't have the pages scanned right now, but looking at the sketches illustrating that last bit I'm really wondering why anyone would consider sitting with spread legs and a "flirty" look towards the reader to be a "strong, dominant pose" for women. BTW, the solution for why the first ones weren't "sexy enough" becomes apparent when you look at the sketches, since the first ones are not showing the woman sitting with her legs spread. You'd think the cover example for "dominant + sexy" would show something like that Wonder Woman cover where her boot grinds down on Batman's head, but apparently not....
ratcreature: Say no to creatures (& women) in refrigerators. (refrigerator)
[livejournal.com profile] brown_betty asked for examples "to illustrate the exactly how and why female comic characters are illustrated differently than the male." And I thought, really, what's better to illustrate these things than the books teaching the style in the first place?

A while ago I posted some scans from Wizard How To Draw series on drawing female superheroes (here and here), and I thought I'd post a bunch more from the first book of the series on "How To Draw: Heroic Anatomy".

There's 19 large page scans behind the cut... )
ratcreature: grumpy (grumpy)
A while back I posted about women characters in the Wizard How To Draw: Character Creation, however what I didn't really notice at the time (and that says a lot about my own blind spots), but which leapt out to me today when I happened to leaf through it, is that once again there are no non-white characters in the whole thing. Okay, that is not quite true, there is one black guy in Gene Ha's chapter on "Brutes", and in Scott McDaniel's chapter on "Costumed Vigilantes" a bunch of gang members could conceivably be non-white, though with McDaniel's stylized drawings it's hard to tell for sure without coloring. But otherwise, nothing.

Seriously, wtf? I mean, as I have noted in an earlier rant it's not that unusual to find drawing books that show only white people, but most of the "classics" have at least the excuse that they're reprints from some time between 1920 and 1960, this book has been published in 2006. And worse, it's not just about anatomy, but about character creation for comics, and not even mainstream comics are that bad. I suspect that unlike with the women characters (see my post linked above), they might have been reluctant to include the most cringe-worthy cliches and thus ended up with sticking just with white characters, but I think even an Asian ninja guy would have been better than this.
ratcreature: Say no to creatures (& women) in refrigerators. (refrigerator)
This is a scan from Wizard How To Draw: Character Creation, from the chapter Super Women

one scan, about 85k )
WTF? That woman on the left looks freakishly disproportionate, not attractive, not even if you like larger breasts. And that thing with the ashamed body language of the normal woman left me speechless. To be fair to the book as a whole a few chapters onward in another section on female archetypes titled appropriately "Vixens" (sic!) the same approach to drawing breasts is actually mocked, so strangely enough the example "vixen" drawings have thus smaller breasts than usual for superhero comics. Go figure. Anyway, so it's not consistently advocating freakish balloon boobs.

However that in the archetype section the chapters are Super Men, Super Women, Acrobats, Costumed Vigilantes, Brutes, Vixens, Armored Villains and Sidekicks, and the only chapter with examples from both genders is the one about acrobats (by Adrian Alphona, who draws Runaways), is quite telling. I mean, talking about archetypes I kind of get why they wouldn't think of women as typical examples for brutes or even armored villains, but no sidekicks and costumed vigilantes either? *grumble*
ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
Since there seemed to be interest, I scanned a few more pages, i.e. the sections on dramatic tension, on emotional impact and on tension & pacing.

there are ten fairly large page scans behind the cut )

Also from the noise outside I guess Germany won against Poland?
ratcreature: RatCreature as a (science) geek. (geek)
A couple of people expressed interest in taking a look at the Wizard How To Draw: Storytelling book I mentioned, so I scanned two sections which I found quite interesting and which also might be useful as background for comic meta and such, i.e. Pacing a Scene and Pacing an Issue.

there are eight fairly large page scans behind the cut )

Obviously it's not so much analytical as examples demonstrating techniques. So what do you think, is this kind of thing helpful for your comic meta/analysis/whatever?
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
I vaguely remember hearing from several people in comic discussions that they didn't really know how to talk about graphic storytelling or how to pin down what elements have which effects and why, when trying to analyze comics, or do comic meta.

I love reading comic meta that goes into detail, but I'm far too lazy to do anything like that myself. However, since I've been interested in comics for as long as I can remember, I have over time read/listened to/participated in a whole bunch of books/talks/lectures/workshops on comics and graphic storytelling, anything from the often quite convoluted academic analyzes of comic pages to how-tos for aspiring artists, and occasionally acquire books on that subject. For example, most recently I have picked up the Wizard How To Draw volume on Storytelling when I got my comics today. As is usual for this series there's lots of examples with little text, in particular of course focused on superhero comics, and paging through it, some seems quite interesting.

Now I'm wondering whether anybody of those who feel they're lacking the vocabulary or whatever to analyze comics would be interested in scans from books about it, like for example from that Wizard volume. Also, if you are thinking it might be useful, I'm obviously curious what you'd find particularly interesting to know about.

Like for example the chapters in that Wizard book (each only about 2-5 pages and by different authors) on the graphical aspect of storytelling are: fundamentals of page design, panel sequence, laying out a page, panel layout, advanced layout, splash pages, evolution of a page, pacing a scene, pacing an issue, dramatic tension, emotional impact, tension & pacing, settings, settings at work, backgrounds, background details, group shots, group dynamics, shadows, silhouettes, negative space, sound effects, master storytelling, and then there's the last part with example scripts and the authors and artists talking bout a particular aspect of the realization, though they didn't reprint the actual comic pages which makes it a bit harder to imagine, unless you own them, in particular Bendis, Bagley and Finch talk about Drama & Action with the example of an Ultimate Spider-Man issue, Kirkman and Ottley about Fight Scenes with an Invincible issue and Brubaker, Epting and Lark about Flashbacks with a Captain America issue.

Any opinions?
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
Remember a while ago back when I posted this scan of a kind of terrifying smiling Wolverine that was an example in the Wizard How to Draw: Heroic Anatomy book? Well, back when I first leafed through the book I was also pissed off at the chapters on drawing women (at some chapters more than others), but I couldn't quite figure out what exactly annoyed me so much, since it wasn't just straightforward sexism bothered me.

Not that that is absent, but it is a Wizard publication, and those chapters are explaining how to draw conventionally "beautiful" and "attractive" women for comic books, so it's not like I expected much in the way of feminist consciousness or anything. The mere fact that there are four chapters in the anatomy section on drawing women that have no equivalent for drawing men in their book is quite telling. The chapters in question are "Women" (by Joe Linsner), "Sultry Women" (by Adam Hughes), "Realistic Women" (by Terry Moore) and "Sex Appeal" (by Michael Turner). And yes, the one on sex appeal doesn't mention men at all. There's another one called "Superheroic Women" but there's also a chapter "Superheroic Men". Since the book is actually not that bad with including women as examples in the other chapters dealing with "regular" anatomy (hand, feet, faces, muscles, etc) compared to some other drawing books I've seen (like I mentioned in an earlier entry), it's unsurprising that the "special" chapters deal with women as sex objects.

I found the presentation somewhat bizarre in places, because clearly a lot of those sections were intended to come across as a bit self-mocking, only, well... I think an example will show what I mean. Here's a page from the chapter "Women" with the subsection for some reason called "The Triple Threat" (threat? wtf?!?), pointing out that main areas of interest in the blunt approach to creating attractiveness (from the heterosexual male POV) would be breasts, ass (they printed "butt" of course *eyeroll*) and legs. Duh. Who would have thought. I mean, that paragraph doesn't even explain anything about drawing any of these, so why include this? Actually Linsner explains at the beginning of the chapter that he's just going to explain what features he finds attractive in women, and is not actually going to talk about, you know, drawing these features. He continues for two more pages in a similar way, pointing out that eyes, hands, lips and hips were also attractive, and at the end I was mostly "whatever", but not all that aggravated.

That changed with the next chapter "Sultry Women", in particular with this page. The point this is trying to make about breast size and that larger breasts won't necessarily look better is fair enough, however it could have been done in a less offensive manner, that doesn't point to the example that fat women also have large breasts and of course "fat=ugly" is assumed as a given. I mean, in his chapter Terry Moore managed to draw examples that exaggerate the same problem (unrealistic breasts) along with some others, like here and here, and show how it doesn't really look good to draw women this way, without being that offensive.

But I realized that what aggravated me so much wasn't just the "fat is obviously ugly" aspect of that picture. While I'm not into the anorexic look and also think that what looks good in terms of weight, build, curves... whatever, depends a lot on the individual woman (or man), I'm not above conventional ideas of attractiveness either. I think what got to me is that she's a) eating and from the litter around her and the fact that it's not like she's sitting down for a meal it seems implied that she does so constantly (going with the cliche that fat people are fat because they have no self-control etc) and b) she's not even enjoying to eat, but looks very much unhappy. Combine that with the image that mocked the fanboy on the earlier page from Linsner's chapter which used "fat" among other things to evoke the impression of "ungroomed" and "unattractive" (though OTOH it also shows definite similarities with the artist, except for the hair-length, so there's the element of irony again), and you get this thread that fat is not just ugly, but comes with undesirable personality traits as well. Meh.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how bodies in general are depicted in drawing books, and I think often too little attention is paid to how different bodies look, when bodies are conceptualized in books on drawing humans. I mean, the obvious thing every drawing book will tell you is to study humans, draw from life, carry a sketchbook with you, blablablah, which is of course as true as it is supremely unhelpful. Nobody needs a book to know that to draw and study real people is good practice, OTOH drawing from life has also limitations, which is most likely the reason why you got the drawing book in the first place. Maybe the sketches from RL just won't turn out right and you want to figure out what you're doing wrong, or maybe you're at at a point when you need to "construct" and arrange a bunch of humans without direct reference to get the picture you want with reasonable effort. (Obviously you could try to convince a friend to crouch and jump with a fake sword while you study this or take pictures with a motion sensitive camera from exactly the angle you want, but you probably end up quickly with friends who get suspicious when you invite them over for "dinner".)

Depending on the focus of the drawing book it will more about the first or the second scenario, but in any case they usually break down humans in easier shapes, point out underlying functions, give a general sense of proportions, the usual, and as a part of that a more or less "generic human" tends to figure rather prominently in this. and unsurprisingly that "generic" human is usually a young(ish), white man, though young, white women appear too, and they are usually drawn in a way that is considered "well-proportioned" at the time, which fluctuates a bit, e.g in Georg Bridgeman's books (written in the first half of the 20th century) women are quite likely to have bellies that curve slightly outward, and are generally curvy (they'd probably count as "plump" these days).

Anyway, obviously when you look at this from a critical viewpoint this set-up is problematic to say the least, though considering the publication date of a lot of the "classics" I have in mind it's not surprising, but if you just want to use the book it's not that bothersome as long as your main "construction problem" is to arrage a body in space. A great example for this is Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Figure Drawing, which I own in a German edition (I don't think there are significant differences to the English one, but I'm not certain) and which is basically 170 pages explaining techniques how to arrange this "generic" human (obviously he's nude though not with detailed genitals, still some might consider the scans NWS) in space with the help of geometric constructions/visualizations like this one (it's kind of like virtually moving a ken doll). A couple of times a woman's body makes an appearance (while he has no distinctive face, she doesn't get a head at all in the bunch of drawings explaining how structures with women are different, mostly in the section on reclining poses, some in the sitting poses, none in the action poses...), but it's a negligible number of drawings compared to the male ones.

I actually like Hogarth's book quite a bit, like IMO he explains foreshortening really well, he explains how to draw humans from unusual perspectives, how you can draw human motion, and a bunch of other stuff that causes this book to be so widely recced. What it falls short on is the step to turn the ken doll you arranged in space into an actual human being with a distinct body. To be fair, I don't think it's the topic of the book, and I've never actually read all the text beyond that what was necessary to make sense of the constructions, so I have no idea whether or not he points out the issues of making bodies real.

A lot of drawing books seem to assume that that step, to make the human distinct isn't one that benefits from the same "constructionist" approach as the spatial arrangement, and that just observing enough different humans will work well enough to make the underlying principles clear. However, I found it rather helpful to have the ways in which bodies gain individuality laid out to me, because while that won't cover everybody either, it helps to make sense of the common variations. E.g. I wasn't aware that the area between the shoulderblades was all that noticeable in terms of body fat before reading this page (from Figure Drawing Without a Model by Ron Tiner).

OTOH with that book I frequently ran into the problem that rather dubious (or at least highly controversial) "scientific" classification systems from the 19th/early 20th century were turned into artistic tools without any reflection, for example the craniometry with its cephalic index (I didn't scan the pages applying those). I mean, it didn't bother me to read a chapter explaining about height/width characteristics of the human face and if he wants to use the terms "dolichocephalic", "mesocephalic" and "brachycephalic", okay, whatever, but considering that the book was first published 1992, it bothered me a lot that from just reading those paragraphs you'd think it was it was just an "neutral" anthropological measuring and classification tool, not invented to be central for a multitude of more or less racist theories, which construed skull measurements into all kinds of things. The same goes for the fact that he uses William Sheldon's somatotypes system (that was the basis for his strange anthropometry psychology, with things like predicting criminals from their body types and such) without finding it problematic at all. It's not that I didn't find the examples of body types somewhat useful (like here and here), and while I find it mostly silly to call them "endomorphic mesomorph" and such, I wouldn't care about that and just appreciate it that in this book not all bodies look the same, if there was some brief reflection that these body types weren't created to merely describe bodies, but that the system was created in a much more problematic context.

I mean, I like Tiner's book, it has a bunch of insightful observations and useful stuff, but as it was, my reaction was WTF? a lot as well, only over more complicated issues than say in the Wizard How To book. Clearly drawing books are bound to be aggravating in one way or another.
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
Okay, so maybe flipping through Wizard's "How to Draw: Heroic Anatomy" while reading LJ discussions on feminism isn't the best idea. You just notice stuff more than usual. That said, I'd like to share this fun quote from Brian Bolland in his section on eyes:

"Slightly different principles apply to the female face. We assume automatically in the world of comics (unless otherwise instructed) that she's young and beautiful and wearing false eyelashes. Emphasizing the eyes in this way makes it easier to show them from a distance when you're having to draw a small figure."

Reading this, I realized that it's true of course, and that I have done this (especially the false eyelashes thing) when drawing female comic faces, whether human or anthropomorphic animals, without even thinking about it.

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