How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way

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When I realized How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way existed I couldn’t think of a better way to get started on my journey to improve. I’d always been a big fan of the Marvel characters although I found that I gravitated more towards the movies and cartoons rather than the comic books. As a young boy I remember collecting and trading Marvel cards and was blown away at the color and collectible nature of each card I owned.

When I received How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way in my hands it felt like I’d been taken back in time due to the old school nature of the artwork within. The book was first produced in 1984 which, funny enough, is the same year that I was born, does this make me old school too? The book is published completely in black and white, apart from the front cover, which can be a shock after the vibrant color of Mastering Manga by Mark Crilley.

I got started on How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way shortly after receiving it in the mail and I was keen as a bean to start consuming everything within it’s pages. Could I be the next Marvel comic artist just by reading this book? We all know the answer to that, so let’s be realistic. I understand that I wouldn’t be fielding too many offers from Marvel any time soon.

Throughout this review I’ll be placing videos from the associated YouTube videos that Stan Lee produced along with the book. This will give you a feel for the kind of content that you’ll find within the pages.

 

Book Sections

How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way has twelve sections within and almost everything you’ll want to learn about as a beginner. As I went through and highlighted the titles of each section I realized that it’s taken a period of time, as a beginner artist, before I’ve understood the importance of the items I’ve listed in bold (below).

Each of the following links point to the corresponding YouTube video. Make sure you check them out as the videos cover a great deal of content within the book. The videos will provides you with a solid breakdown of what the book is about and will help you decide whether How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way is right for you.

  1. The Tools and The Talk Of The Trade
  2. The Secrets of Form. Making an Object Look Real
  3. The Power of Perspective
  4. Let’s Study The Figure!
  5. Let’s Draw The Figure!
  6. The Name of the Game is Action!
  7. Foreshortening! The Knack of Perspective
  8. Drawing The Human Head!
  9. Composition
  10. Draw Your Own Comic book Page
  11. The Comicbook Cover!
  12. The Art of Inking

 

Perspective & Figure

Let’s start with the single biggest reason for why I loved How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way. In the perspective and figure sections we are taught, by Stan and Jon the authors, that the human body has depth and how as a beginner it’s easy to forget this simple fact. The book teaches you how to craft characters using basic stick figures which anybody can do right?

Once you have the stick figure thing figured out, and you can create any pose you can think of, we then learn how to add depth by using cubes, cylinders and spheres. When using these objects together, and drawing through those objects, we start to gain a better understand of perspective and how the elements of the anatomy will look for our particular character and pose.

The problem I have with sections 3 & 4 is that How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way doesn’t provide you with any real steps to follow and try for yourself. Sure, you can draw the artwork within the book, and the instructions provide you with basic information you need to get started, however this may still feel overwhelming for a beginner looking to pick this content up easily.

For example the section on studying the figure provides you with four dot point instructions on how to draw a male marvel character as well as providing two reference images. Stan discusses the height in terms of how many “head” sizes tall but doesn’t break down the steps to show exactly how you’d draw each part of the anatomy.

I would have preferred more detail on each part of the anatomy including a greater understanding of how each part of the human figure looks from different angles. Keep in mind that any rules that Stan and Jon provide you are applied to the Marvel figure of the 80′s and since 1984 both the figure and current day look of Marvel figures has changed significantly.

Overall learning how to break down characters was a huge help for my own drawings and it’s something I continue to think about in my current artwork. Understanding how to get the pose, shape and perspective correct will assist you with adding greater detail to finish your artwork.

 

 Action, Foreshortening & The Human Head

The Action and Foreshortening sections were again two areas that I didn’t provide much thought as a beginner, I mean seriously what the hell is Foreshortening? However understanding the affect that capturing character motion, while applying foreshortening, will give your artwork a drastic improvement. I had no choice but to return to this book after I was disappointed with my own artwork.

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way discusses character poses on a scale of weak, not bad and best. As beginner I’ve found that my poses typically lay within the weak and not bad categories and it may take many years of practice before I reach the best category. This book will teach you it’s just as important to be able to capture the action within your character as it is to draw the character perfectly.

This is especially important in comics where you’re telling a story at the same time. If the action you capture in your pose does not translate to the scene and action you will find yourself disconnected from the overall story. While I found this section helpful, once again, you’ll need additional training such as life drawing classes to gain a better understanding of how human anatomy looks from different angles or perspective.

The section on drawing the head is once again focused on the old school Marvel head and depending on the type of style you wish to draw you may or may not find it useful. In terms of perspective, and overall position of the features of the face, I still found it to be of some value. If you simply learn the basic rules for the Marvel face you’ll be able to warp them in the future to suit your own style.

 

The Final Sections

For those of you who wish to create your own comic or manga panels you might find the remaining three sections highly valuable. The book speaks about how you create the basic page composition while keeping in mind the angle that each panel and scene will be viewed. How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way provides you with examples of how the exact same scene can look when using different viewing angles.

The problem with the panel type structure is that times have changed significantly since the book was introduced. In today’s comics you’ll find that panels are no longer six identical squares on the page but instead the panels are formed in a way that will best suit the story. It’s not only the character pose that captures the action but also the panel layout which cab assist an artist with telling the story.

Finally the book applies the principles from the initial chapters and uses them to break down each of the panels to simplify the process for drawing your artwork. The inking section of the book applies to the old school inking, with a pen or brush, and although this may seem out of date similar principles still apply to techniques with in the digital tablet world or modern day inking pens.

 

Summary

Overall I thought How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way was awesome it did take me some time to appreciate it fully. At times I found myself frustrated that it didn’t provide me with enough steps to be able to reproduce with my own characters. However in saying that I found that what How to Draw Comics The Marvel way does really well is to provide you with is a solid foundation of the basics.

Once you understand those basics it’s up you to practice that until it becomes natural in your own artwork. Gaining a more natural ability within your own artwork can only come from years of practice for which a step by step guide will most likely never provide you.

What would you add to my review on How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and be sure you fill out your own review of the book in the comments below.

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