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: 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 as Batman (batman)
To keep track of minor characters through DC crossovers drawn by several different artists it would be really helpful, if each character kept the same appearance, hair color, and general skin tone through out. I mean for example in Robin #86 Vincent Del Arrazzio has sometimes brown sometimes blond hair, not black though, in Detective Comics #754 definitely black hair. Which so far isn't problematic, since in both issues he's called by name. However, I'm trying to figure out who the blond detective in Gotham Knights #13 is (with a vaguely similar haircut to the black haired detective), and I would have figured this to be Tommy Burke, however in Batman #587, the black haired guy is called Burke. I mean, I have a number of names and a number of members of the M.C.U. and I'm trying to match them consistently, and it doesn't work. I tried to look them up in other issues, and I have found one other instance of Del Arazzio, in Joker Last Laugh #6, where he is called by name and definitely has blond hair and the looks close to the blond guy in Batman #587 and Gotham Knights #13. I've found another one in Detective Comics #765, but there he's not looking much like anyone familiar, and the whole hue of the scene is mostly greenish, so no reliable color reference is possible. My best guess is that the black hair in Detective Comics #754 is a mistake. That's just one example, I could continue this griping for a couple of others too.

I know people don't always wear the same type of clothes in RL, but it would really help, if the M.C.U. detectives were drawn somewhat more consistently. Like, you can almost always recognize Eric Cohen because of his skullcap (though why he doesn't always wears glasses remains a mystery), Crispus Allen almost always wears an impeccable three piece suit, glasses and is bald, and has a beard (that he's black also helps somewhat, though skin color really isn't a reliable indicator, since it can change quite a lot depending on who's doing the coloring and what the color scheme of the scene is), Harvey Bullock is easily recognizable because he's disheveled, not clean shaven and always wears a loose striped tie etc. But some others are much harder to recognize.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
In an earlier entry I already mentioned that I like the current team better than Scott McDaniel's art. And now reading them in contrast brought home the main reason why that is: McDaniel's art is very dynamic, and I like the way he draws some of the action sequences and Nightwing's movements even a bit better than Lenonardi/Delperdang's version of the same sequences, however it really grates on me that he never uses a panel grid, not even in relatively calm sequences. The constant barrage of irregular shapes, splash panels, crossed panel borders etc. blunts the impact of those effects, so that in those moments when they really are supposed to indicate action and fast pacing, I hardly register them anymore.

I mean, the panel grid is such a powerful tool, and even subtle balance variations register, without the reader really being aware of it, yet in McDaniel's art it's as if a sledgehammer is used constantly to bring home the fact that's supposed to be dynamic! full of action! fast! BTW, last year I heard a fascinating talk by Bryan Talbot at a comic con about this subject (it was called The Use of Style and Storytelling Technique), where he explained and illustrated his points with examples from his work, e.g. from Batman, Sandman, The Tale Of One Bad Rat, and various others of his original comics, and really Talbot's range of panel and page design is much broader, understated when it needs to be, and only using special effects when it's called for. For huge stretches in his Nightwing comics McDaniel doesn't seem to have any particular reason for the page designs besides "it looks cool."

The page design of the current Nightwing team isn't especially original or awe inspiring, it lacks the special "punch" (and with that I don't mean necessarily effects, but just ingenious design, which can look very plain too), but at least I can read their work for long stretches without getting a headache.

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