Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Relevant Reviews: How To Make Webcomics and Comic Book Lettering

As I've mentioned before, we're trying to transition The Adventures of Wyatt Earp in 2999 from "unusually formatted book nobody wants to take a chance on" to "webcomic that's ideally composed for widescreen monitors and won't cost anyone anything to read."

In addition, I'd like to try my hand at lettering the strip. For one, I've always been fascinated with comic book lettering (but never quite had the patience or penmanship to do it by hand). But it would also divide up the actual manhours of work a little more evenly between Josh and me, and I could even redialogue at the last step in the process so's I could expand, contract, or move around dialogue as the art demands.

However, I hadn't the wherewithall to do either of those things yet, so I took my Borders giftcard and bought me some how-to books.

How To Make Webcomics ($12.95) is written by Brad Guigar of Evil, Inc., Scott Kurtz of PvP, Kris Straub of Starslip, and Dave Kellett of Sheldon. These are all popular webcomics, and I believe each of those strips is able to financially support its creator as a full-time job (which is not where my head is at right now, obviously, but it's good to know).

What's nice about the book is that they assume you can already draw, and while there's chapters on writing and character, this isn't Creative Writing 101. This book assumes you can basically put a comic together, which is fine and dandy because we already have (although I always enjoy hearing people talk about the craft and process of writing, even if the book focuses, understandably, on gag-a-day comic strips rather than something like Wyatt).

The book is mostly focused on what I needed to know about doing webcomics, which is basically everything else -- technical/business aspects like website design, advertising (from both sides), monetizing, branding and buliding, where to secure hosting and a domain name and how much you should expect to pay for them, and so on. There's also chapters for things that are still a ways off in the future (i.e. merchandising, and there's a really great chapter on putting together a book), but are still good to be thinking about now.

One thing I appreciated is that they tell you how to start out, but also how to expand and improve once the comic is established. They tell you how to run a startup, and how it's different than running an institution like Penny Arcade, and everything in between. They recommend product-on-demand services like CafePress when you're dipping your toes into merchandising, but suggest abandoning that as soon as it's feasible because the profit potential is so low. Forgive me if this is obvious, but I was entirely clueless about this sort of thing.

Because the book has four authors, they take turns doing individual chapters, but chime in with their thoughts and contradictions during. They're all chummy, so there's no rabid disagreements, but they lay out a bunch of different options and suggest you pick the one that works best for you. It really drives home that there's more than one way to do this.

I got the book because it was highly recommended, and I was not disappointed.

Comic Book Lettering the Comicraft Way by Richard Starkings and John "JG" Roshell ($9.95) is a little more of a letdown, though. They take you through very basic tutorials and a few short essays on lettering theory and method. There's a very nice bit about how word balloons should flow to draw the eye around the page.

To be honest, though, this book is really padded. There's two original short stories in it (one by Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill, and one by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen) that show you examples of Comicraft lettering in practice, but I mean, I read comics. I have hundreds around the house, many of them actually lettered by Comicraft, that I could use as reference. I'd have preferred more step-by-step instruction. Frankly, since Starkings writes a monthly comic with the characters used in the examples, it all just comes off like advertising to me.

It's a useful book, all right, and I don't regret the purchase. I just wish Starkings & Co. had put together a definitive book on the art and craft of lettering instead of a 64-page book of "tips and tricks" with ads for fonts and comics.

Also: This is a character who appears on the cover of the book as she is drawn by Brian Bolland...

...and that same character as drawn on the inside by Ian Churchill.

Bolland draws characters with character, while Churchill is a little unclear as to how pants and boobs work.

1 comment:

Mutuelle sante said...

It was a good help, thank you, now to make webcomics and comic book lettering is easy with your recommendations. Kudos