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Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels    by Scott McCloud order for
Making Comics
by Scott McCloud
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Scott McCloud is a comic book deconstructing genius. No one who has ever argued for a lack of intelligence and quality in comic books would ever be capable of debating McCloud. His first popular work on comics, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, is a primer for anyone having anything to do with comic books. His second work, Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form, may not have had as high an impact but is just as intense and analytical as his first. And now his new one builds off the previous two, creating this amazing trilogy on the Art of Comics. While Will Eisner may have created the Declaration of Independence in his work, Comics & Sequential Art, which attempted to legitimate comics as its own art, McCloud has created the Constitution of comic and sequential art.

The intent of Making Comics is to help aspiring artists to hone their abilities and craft their storytelling by better understanding the subtleties of what goes on between the panels. Many might see the cover and subtitle and think it is another How To guide on comic books (which currently flood the market). They would be wrong in this presumption. McCloud explores the nuances of telling stories in this medium. He breaks down and builds up how the audience perceives the different presentation formats within the printed page. All the while, McCloud has fun and makes jokes when appropriate to keep the mood light and to engage his own audience.

Most intriguing about McCloud is that he unloads lots of information in this book, using the medium he is discussing. That is, this isn't a book filled with pages upon pages of words with a few pictures to support it, but rather he presents his entire discussion in comic art format, thereby applying a great deal of what he is explaining in very literal terms. The only places one finds full pages of text are in his annotated notes and recommended exercises at the end of each chapter and the preface.

Above all else, McCloud's goal is to keep the reader engaged in the story; just as any author or director would want. Distractions, stunted progress, or overuse of gimmicks can take the reader out of the story and McCloud encourages artists to remember that this above all else is key to great storytelling, which he models effectively throughout his work. As he says, 'This book is about how to tell the stories you already have in mind, regardless of where those stories come from.'

His work builds from introducing the medium at a very basic level (that some may take for granted) but still finds new ways of understanding sequential art. From there, he considers the people, the settings, word usage and placing, as well as more technical considerations such as materials and equipment for physically making comics, and where an artist should consider his or her specialty to be. He covers a lot in this 264 page graphic novel, but he handles it effectively and impressively.

The term comic scholar could best describe McCloud in every sense of the words. Comic in the art sense, comic in the humor sense. His self-mocking humor lurks behind every panel, if one looks close enough. Yet, this is indeed a very serious academic work, performed by someone with a solid grasp of the material and an uncanny ability to present it in the form he is discussing. The work is directed to aspiring artists, but in all honesty, anyone can take a great deal from this book. One would be hard pressed to find anything of superior value when it comes to understanding and appreciating comics.

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