So You Wanna Be a Comics Big Shot?

Make Comics Like the Pros

comics-make-comicsAuthor: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Source: Bloggingforbooks.org
Genre(s): How-To

Rating: ★★★★☆
GoodReads | Amazon

Well, do ya? Then now’s the chance to get some advice straight from the big shots themselves! In cinema there’s the well documented history of two movies with eerily similar premises releasing in close proximity. The Armageddon and Deep Impacts of the world. Well, it just so happens a similar event has occurred in the book market with two titles on how to make comics dropping by big name writers in the biz. This review is covering Make Comics Like the Pros by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, the creative team behind one of my favorite books in all of existence The Incredible Hercules over at Marvel, which if you have not read, add that to your Amazon shopping cart along with this. We’ve previously reviewed the other, Words with Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis,  and you can check out our review here to see how it stacks up against Make Comics Like the Pros.

I chose this one because I have faith in Van Lente and Pak. These are two pros whose work I’ve always enjoyed. Their runs on the various books, especially Hercules, gave me assurance that they had the goods they were advertising and who better to learn from than guys you admire?

As well as most comic readers, I harbor the secret desire to create some of my own. I have ideas and I want to see them come to fruition. But how? Thinking I should probably tackle the aspect of writing it first I thought this book would help. My thinking was correct, if underestimated. This book does discuss writing comics but also so much more. Van Lente and Pak discuss each role that brings the work together, the writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, and almighty editor. They discuss the steps in the workflow from writer/editor to the artists on down and back to illuminate the process and offer up key advice then move on to discuss how to actually get the completed piece into the hands of readers, and they do this by example, creating their own eight page comic from scratch to solicitations. All of this from a book I expected to just give me a few tips on how to be a better writer.

Broken down into six chapters, Make Comics Like the Pros, covers every step from idea to presentation, in detail. In chapter one, ‘Writing for Pictures’ Pak and Van Lente go over the process of generating a story and how to collaborate with the editor to make this process the best it can be. Alongside that there are several pages of actual formatting tips, the authors both come from film school so use similar formats to screen plays but they give you the steps on setting up a template in Word or Final Draft, legitimate, concrete help!

Moving on to the artwork, the two offer help on setting up panels, how to visually address plot points, a stable of solid standard shots that are effective and when to use them. The nuts and bolts are presented and then they instruct you on their necessity. Again, nothing but helpful. While I am no artist, this chapter as well as all the others, offers me tips and tricks on how to collaborate with everybody else involved to get the best result. Things like turning your work in on time to give the artists that extra slack(an obvious one you’d think,) or specifying time of day in each scene so the colorists can adjust the palettes they want to use to further their own artistic vision (less obvious!)

Here's an example of the shot list. [Craveonline.com]

Here’s an example of the shot list. [Craveonline.com]


Really, I gotta say that’s what makes this book great in my eyes. Specifics and clarity. Inside this book you’ll get instructions for formatting the document itself or proper ways to lay out speech bubbles. And while these specific trade tips are great, the guys go past just the creation and into the business aspect. One chapter even covers example number crunching for costs and profits when the book gets ready to ship! A time frame for when to send in solicitations, get them printed, and when they will end up on the shelf. Tips on how and when to start cultivating the audience for upcoming projects and how to utilize interviews for maximum effect also find their place in the final chapter of the book.

All in all, Make Comics Like the Pros goes way past just the creation and breaking in of the industry to those next steps to get your book sold and sticking around. The only point I could make against the book is in fact barely one at all. At first the number of example pages and how they’re slapped into the text can be a little off, taking you out of the rhythm of reading but as you get further in and see how they refer to those full pages regularly, this quibble is quickly overcome.

Final Thoughts
If you have any interest in trying to create comics professionally, no matter what role you think you’ll end up in, I cannot recommend this book enough. At $22.99 (or less, Amazon ahoy!) the specific knowledge offered in this is a steal. Get it, put it to use, and let’s go make some magic!

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