How Comics Work

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Pub Date 02 Oct 2017 | Archive Date 07 Nov 2017


In Eisner Award–nominated How Comics Work, Dave Gibbons offers a class in creating comic books. Learn scriptwriting, page layouts, lettering, and more from the incredible artist behind Watchmen!

This “How It's Done” series reveals insider hints, tips, and tricks from one of the world’s greatest comic creators, all in his own words. The artist behind juggernauts like Watchmen and The Green Lantern, Dave Gibbons is here to teach you scriptwriting, page layouts, lettering, cover designs, and more, with scans of original artwork and rarely seen workings to illustrate his personal creative processes. 

How Comics Work covers both Gibbons' hand-drawn and digital design techniques in depth. An early adopter of computer design in comic creation, all his lettering is digital, and he even has his own “hand-lettered” font. This is your chance to gain insight to Gibbons' digital work, from his computer coloring and 3-D modelling with Angus McKie on Give Me Liberty, to his work on The Originals using digital grey tones. You’ll learn how he layers text for editing, creates effects such as flares and neon glows, and prepares artwork for print and online.
How Comics Work is everything you need to know to get started creating great comic books.

In Eisner Award–nominated How Comics Work, Dave Gibbons offers a class in creating comic books. Learn scriptwriting, page layouts, lettering, and more from the incredible artist behind Watchmen!


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ISBN 9781577151579
PRICE $24.99 (USD)

Average rating from 8 members

Featured Reviews

A little too design-based for my tastes, but this highly pictorial guide to Dave Gibbons' thoughts on his craft ranges successfully through everything - from lettering and logos to thinking of spine art, page composition and digital colouring. You name it, he's done it - it's just a shame the writing sections are so brief. Also, the samples in the captioned art (and the captions and art themselves) are a little scattershot, so you might not get a complete picture when you want.

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I love to create.

And I love books that make me want to create.

I was worried this might be a re-tread of other books, like Understanding Comics. But this book stands by itself.

It’s a study of the creative process in comics from the point of view of one comic creator. but it has enough info to be of interest to any comic fan or would-be creator.

Of course, the writing portion interested me the most, but it was good to get an overview of the whole process. A lot of things were completely new to me, though I’ve been reading comics all my life. From character structure, lighting, designing pages and panels, color theory, and all the <i>different types</i> of lettering - there’s a lot more that goes into this than I realize - even though I’ve thought about it a lot.

Plus a few pages of exercises at the back can make you put some of this into practice if you’re looking to be a comics creator.

The cool thing about this, I think, is that it can make a comic reader’s experience that much richer. And give us an appreciation for the work put into a comic. I think I’ll probably buy this book - a good add to any comic artist’s - and fan’s - shelf.

<i>Thanks to NetGalley and Wellfleet Press for a copy in return for an honest review.</i>

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Dave Gibbons is a living legend of the comic books world. He’s drawn pretty much everything that matters in the world of sequential art and his credits include Watchmen, Kingsman, 2000AD, Batman, Give Me Liberty and many, many more. What Gibbons doesn’t know about comics isn’t worth knowing and it’s safe to say that any advice the master can pass on should be seen as invaluable.

His book, How Comics Work, is an interesting and highly accessible overview into one of the world’s most powerful forms of media. It’s lushly presented; Gibbons has opened his many sketchbooks and folders to fill the pages with useful information. Drawings, tips and anecdote sprawl across each page and the whole thing is laid out in an eye-catching and easy to understand way.

Gibbons begins with the basics of storytelling and moves on to the various complexities of comic books. Sometimes these are simple pieces of advice, but often they are short anecdotes pulled from his substantial experience. Gibbons has worked with many of the best in the field and the information in these pages is invaluable. We learn much about the author’s heroes and creative influences, and gain a greater respect for the creator’s art.

This is not a definitive or comprehensive book; it aims to give a substantial overview of the methods used by someone at the height of a stellar career. It doesn’t walk you through how to draw or how to write a script. Instead it shows you how to use those skills effectively. It takes you through both simple and digital production techniques, talks about logo design, issues advice on lettering (and highlight master letterers) and so on. It does the same for pencils, inking, etc. Gibbons has produced a crucial work here; one that talks about process. It is essentially an easy to decipher ‘Master’s notebook’ and a worthy addition to any comic creator’s reference library.

It’s also filled with beautiful art and those of us who simply love comics will get a kick out of turning the page and learning how various iconic graphic novels were constructed. This is vital for fans of comics - both casual and professional.


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While best known as the artist on the landmark Watchmen series (though most commonly read as a graphic novel collection for years now), Dave Gibbons has had and continues to enjoy a decades-spanning career, not only as a comics artist, but as an accomplished writer. He's worked with and learned not only from the best writers the medium has known, but also from the best inkers, colorists, letterers and production people. So who better to guide readers through "how to" book on the craft of comics. The title of this paperback is a bit deceptive. While Gibbons and co-writer Tim Pilcher do touch on how the medium works overall, this book could have easily been titled How to Make Comics. From the first glimmer of an idea for a story to the printing press, Gibbons and Pilcher take us through the process. It should appeal not only to someone just starting out in the world of comics, but longtime fans of the medium.

Gibbons covers much more than comics scriptwriting and pencilling. Every facet of the creative process is covered here. One might expect to find plotting and panel layout here, and one does. But Gibbons covers so much more. He considers world-building and character guides. Honestly, I think he actually ends up covering in detail the massive amount of unpaid work that so many comics professionals do. While a writer is paid for a script and a penciller by the page, all of the character designs, unpublished backstory and pre-production processes are explored here. Gibbons makes is abundantly clear just how much work goes into building a successful career in this niche field.

How Comics Work actually ends up serving many other purposes than just a guide on the craft of comics. I was immediately struck by how it also stands as a wonderful retrospective on the artist's long career in the field. Yes, we hear a lot about Watchmen, as he cites his own work frequently to serve as examples of what he's talking about, but we see his early work in British comics publishing, his lesser-known, creator-owned stuff, and the books he wrote but didn't draw.

The book also works as an overview of some comics history, or, at least, comics history that’s important to Gibbons. Specifically, he spotlights creative “stars” and major creative influences on his art and his view of what constitutes good comics. The most interesting one to me was his tribute to and exploration of the work of Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson. While I’d heard of the Brit-comics space hero many times before, I wasn’t aware of Hampson. It shows that even if one is thoroughly familiar with a myriad of aspects of the comics industry, one will find something new here, if not information, than perspectives.

Speaking of history, Gibbons and Pilcher explore comics production of the past, how coloring and lettering and other processes worked in the pre-digital age. They also detail the many technological changes in the last couple of decades. They delve into digital linework and digital coloring and the like, but also the nitty gritty of uploading files and how to prepare digital work for the printing process. That’s really what’s most impressive about the book: how incredibly comprehensive it is. Gibbons and Pilcher leave no stone unturned, delving into digital coloring and flats, into book design, even how to deal with a wraparound cover and how the spine displays. 8/10

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”Every journey starts with a single step and every comic starts with a single idea.”

This is such an informative and educational book on comic writing and publishing processes so if you ever want to write a comic then I advise you read this book.

Equipped with instructions and advice on how to plot, build your world, how to pace your comic and even instructs down to colouring and designing.

Am not planning to write a comic anytime soon cause unfortunately, I don't have the knack for it and am a terrible artist too but I highly recommend this book to people hoping to write their own comic.

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Educational and inspiring. A great guide for anyone who wants to create their own comics. Me? I need to get some motivation!

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