Sunday, December 22, 2013

Framing It: Drawing Out the Story: Ten Secrets to Creating Your own Comics by Brian McLachlan

Comics are all about telling stories.

Just like music, films, and novels, comics are a way to share a message. How you draw, use word balloons, and design characters are all important, but they're not the main thing. What matters is whether each element helps tell your story.

Comics can tell any kind of story. Whether you want to create horror or comedy, biography, or fantasy, all comics use the same building blocks to move the story from your mind to the page.

Telling stories in comic form has a visual language all its own, and for kids who dream of creating the next superhero or the next Wimpy Kid series, Brian McLachlan's Draw Out the Story: Ten Secrets to Creating Your Own Comics (OwlKids Books, 2013) unpacks the visual language of comics, beginning with the simplest concept  (time passes from left to right in cartoon strips) to the most complex literary allusions (teen vampires go to Bram Stoker High).  McLachlan's slim book, divided into easily assimilated sections, is aimed at the young adult novice and is packed with  a lot of information that the casual comics reader scarcely notices.

Take format for example: Comics can consist of one panel (think The Far Side), with or without caption, a vignette, or strip of several panels (think Calvin and Hobbes, or For Better or Worse), manga and graphic novels (think Dogs of War) and hybrid comic/novel (think Big Nate or Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

The author takes the reader through the cartoonist's toolkit: the panel, frame, thought and speech balloons, sound effects, movement marks, and use of icons as visual shorthand. Then he leads the reader through the sources of plot inspiration: McLachlan advocates keeping an original brainstormed list of accumulated story ideas until the mood strikes. Lacking that, he also reminds readers that there is a relatively short list of story topics that make up most of the world's literature. For example, the orphan who makes his way in the world, the core of Jane Eyre and Harry Potter, not to mention Annie, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Oliver Twist, and Huckleberry Finn, is a story line that, unlike its setting, never grows old. Similarly, McLachlan also turns would-be cartoonists on to the venerable trope, (viz., a magical item--ring and coins are big--which alone can defeat evil), inviting the young artist to use imagination to twist or tweak the trope to his or her own ends.

Illustrated throughout with humorous cartoons, black-and-white and full color, single panel or full story, Draw Out the Story: Ten Secrets to Creating Your Own Comics is a highly readable book with lots of ideas that may inspire young artists to put the book down and try out a suggestion, such as playing with the concept of letting comic characters escape from their confines of their frames, right away. While young readers will recognize each of McLachlan's ten secrets from their own experience, their eyes will be opened to the many possibilities of the cartoon to tell a story. For kids who have gone through the many how-to-draw books, this one is a great jumping-off place for the next step in using art to tell a story.   "... A useful and accessible primer for the next generation of comics artists and writers," says Publishers Weekly.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home