How Comics Work by Dave Gibbons & Tim Pilcher (book review)

October 26, 2017 | By | Reply More

The dividing line between the way the writing was done in this book, ‘How Comics Work’, is defined in the introduction as Tim Pilcher and Dave Gibbons talked a lot about the comicbook process. This drew (sic) Gibbons thoughts out and which he put to paper and what you have here. As Pilcher also explains, this book isn’t supposed to be about aspects of anatomy or art but the structure how Dave Gibbons’ own experience of putting a comicbook together. In that respect, I do hope Quarto consider doing this with other comicbook creators for the insight it can give.

Some of the basics of coming up with an idea and develop into a plot and breakdowns is pretty straightforward for all creators. I like the way Gibbons points out the dividing ground between letting the visuals do most of the work and the text and dialogue should be used to cover what isn’t shown. It’s also useful to know how the breakdowns would work out against page adverts and turning the page, the latter being useful to surprising the reader where there’s an explosion or something equally revealing. To the learning artist, it can often seem like unnecessary repetition of work but understanding the pace of the story is good preparation and looking for the story flaws when it comes to pacing the story out. It’s also good preparation should you every get into doing storyboards for film directors. It was also rather interesting where although he compared working with Alan Moore to Frank Miller, he only detailed the latter. From the special edition of ‘Watchmen’, I know he had to dilute a lot of the material Alan Moore sent him. I wish there had been more comparisons with other writers, if only to show the various MOs and the need to be flexible with how they work and the need to communicate but that would probably have taken many more pages.

Seeing the preparation Gibbons goes through for designing his realities has a direct parallel to how I do it with writing some of my stories. Only detailing what you need is very true but I tend to broadstroke the rest, so not to have anything contradictory in case I need to follow up on it. All apprentice comicbook artists make note: do at least take a course in technical drawing as part of your self-training. You’re going to need it for city scenes.

Years ago I bought an Ames Lettering Guide and assumed that it was only used to mark the page for the relative line widths. Until now, when Gibbons shows how you slide it across a ruler, I hadn’t realised it could be used like that. He spends a lot of time explaining lettering techniques so if you weren’t knowledgeable before reading that chapter, you are after.

He also spends some time on how to do inking and colouring on a computer so if you are choosing that direction this will help enormously in sorting out what to do and how layers become your best friend. Something I should add to those intending to pick up the Clip Art Studio software, the X version includes animation software which you probably don’t want, so here cheaper is often best.

Finally, at the end, there are some practice exercises to try out. I’ve never thought of the 5 dot approach before for figure positioning but have added to my list if only to work on my perspective.

There is a lot to learn from this book if you’re a comicbook artist or writer. I suspect that if you just love Dave Gibbons’ art, the opportunity to see it sans inking or in the design stages will make it a worthwhile investment for the rest. There are samples from all books he’s worked on so some of your favourites should be here.

As you should always tell from the length of some of my reviews, I had a thoroughly enjoyable read and added to my own knowledge which is no bad thing.

GF Willmetts

October 2017

(pub: Rotovision/Quarto Publishing. 192 page illustrated softcover. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-2-88893-341-0)

check out website: www.quartobooks.com

Category: Books, Comics, Illustration, Superheroes

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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