Book Review: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

Publisher: Atria Paperback / Simon & Schuster

Year: 2019 (1978)

Pages: 160

Type: Softcover

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3013-8 (First Edition)

…the one book that Marvel fans everywhere always ask for.” – Stan Lee

I’ve wanted a copy of this book for a long time. But original printings from 1978, or later reprints, are sought after and expensive. And fairly hard to find. So when I saw this paperback edition for just $5.00 US at a flea market, I snapped it up!

As one might expect given the books main writer, Stan Lee, the pages are filled with humor and twit… er, wit. True Believers of the Marvel method for making comic books will enjoy how the information is presented.

For an example of the humor, check out the Dedication page:

The book is broken up into twelve chapters. They are as follows:

CHAPTER ONE – The Tools and the Talk of the Trade

Obviously, the tools you will need like pencils and illustration paper are laid out for you, and shown in picture form. Then you are given a crash course in comic book terminology, like ‘blurb’ and ‘thought balloon’ and ‘caption’. Next comic book panels are shown with more terminology describing the type of image being used, like ‘close-ups’ and ‘bird’s-eye view’.

Before we go on, I’d just like to share a side-by-side comparison of the above picture with a photograph taken of me when I was in my early 20s. It was taken for publication in the Campbellford Herald newspaper when I was hired on to do the artwork for the advertising department:

I thought the similarity was amusing! Okay, back to the review:

CHAPTER TWO – The Secrets of Form, Making an Object Look Real

In a nutshell, all you have to do is use simple geometric shapes and then flesh them out with detail and shading to create recognizable objects or characters.

CHAPTER THREE – The Power of Perspective

This is an informative lesson on grids and vanishing points and how they relate to making objects appear to recede into the distance or characters to appear like they are leaping off of the page.

CHAPTER FOUR – Let’s Study the Figure

This chapter reveals a basic premise every artist must know when drawing a human figure: That the average person is just over 6 heads tall, but the hero is nine heads tall and the average heroine is about eight heads tall. Also, the use of circles in creating the human form is discussed.

CHAPTER FIVE – Let’s Draw the Figure

No joke, you start with a stick figure! Then you build a body around the frame. Next, you flesh out the form. Keep in mind that this book was originally produced in 1978, so some of the ideas are definitely from that time and mindset. Artwork was highly exaggerated whereas now artists are using a more subtle approach, leaning towards ultra realism. Times, and styles, do change!

CHAPTER SIX – The Name of the Game is Action

Now doesn’t that look dynamic? From exaggerated action to using center lines to define the action of your figure, this chapter will make your drawings leap off the page!

CHAPTER SEVEN – Foreshortening, the Knack of Drawing the Figure in Perspective

Here’s where you start to combine what you’ve learned thus far. Now you use block figures with those vanishing point lines you used in Chapter Three. Foreshortening is the key!

CHAPTER EIGHT – Drawing the Human Head

Believe it or not, you start with a square. Not your drawing partner, an actual square shape! Information and mathematics are used to determine how wide a face is and how far apart eyes should be. Eyes, lips, and noses are also covered.

CHAPTER NINE – Composition

Composition involves both layout and design which are required to make a comic book panel interesting and easy to understand.

Note the image below. The page on the left is drawn without much thought to composition, while the page on the right redraws the scenes with composition foremost in mind:

CHAPTER TEN – Draw Your Own Comic Book Page

To do this, you follow a three-step process: First, you do a rough draft of the images you want. Stick figures suffice for this stage. Second, you build your figures on those stick figures. Third, you flesh out the characters. Easy, yes? Don’t worry, the book walks you through several tries!

CHAPTER ELEVEN – The Comic Book Cover

The cover must catch a readers eye and intrigue them enough that they buy the comic book. This is why many titles employ different more experienced artists to do the covers over the interior artist.

CHAPTER TWELVE – The Art of Inking

Pointillism, cross-hatching, and featuring are all techniques used by the accomplished inker. Using solid blacks can also be used if a certain mood is desired.

“Well, that wraps it up for now, gang.” And that’s how the book ends. In the conclusion, Stan Lee mentions that you have to have a love for drawing if you are to succeed. The other bit of parting advice is to draw, draw, draw! Practice makes… at least better.

Excelsior!”

I would give this book a 4 out of 5 Stars for budding artists hoping to find tips on how to learn the art of drawing. For the Marvel fan, it would likely rate higher! The information is well laid out and fairly easy to understand, but rather simple. More education would be necessary to truly succeed in the competitive world of comic book art.

That said, I did attend an institution for higher learning and studied all aspects of the arts, from drawing to painting, architecture to advertising, even pottery and photography. I can say that many of the tips and techniques found in this book were covered in my College courses.

You can see some of my Commercial Artwork and Caricatures that I did using many of the tips found in this book by clicking the link. I also have some Original Artwork of a Disney nature on this blog as well. I hope you like them!

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