In Review: How Comics Work by Dave Gibbons & Tim Pilcher

How Comics Work - Cover

How Comics Work
By Dave Gibbons, Tim Pilcher
Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group – Wellfleet Press

The Book: This “How It’s Done” series reveals insider hints, tips, and tricks from one of the world’s greatest comic creators in his own words. The artist behind juggernauts like Watchmen and Green Lantern, Dave Gibbons is here to teach you scriptwriting, page layouts, lettering, cover designs, and more, and he’s doing it 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 colouring and 3D modelling with Angus McKie on Give Me Liberty, to his work on The Originals using digital greytones. You’ll learn how he layers text for editing, creates effects such as flares and neon glows, and prepares artwork for print and online.

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The Review: There are several books on comics many creators swear by, titles that offer useful tips on honing your creative talent and giving your work an edge over the slush pile most editors dread to trawl through, or try to hide their grimace as a badly-presented portfolio is thrust in front of them at a comic convention.

Dave Gibbons and Tim Pilcher‘s How Comics Work is definitely one of those titles that should be added to a clutch of “must have” How To books about working in the comics medium.

Taking a conversational tone, How Comics Work is a walkthrough guide from your early plans for a comic story through to completion, with both artist and writer Dave taking you carefully through every stage of the comic creation process. This helpful guide is complemented by a great selection of original art, and Tim Pilcher’s input as a “sounding board” for Dave’s advice.

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Even if you’re not planning to start writing or drawing a comic any time soon, How Comics Work is worth buying for the terrific art it includes – not just Dave’s best known work such as Give Me Liberty, The Originals, Rogue Trooper and Watchmen, but his designs for 2000AD‘s take on Dan Dare, for example, as well as The Incredible Hulk and Doctor Who for Marvel UK.

The advice on how to create comics – everything from early plotting through to colouring and logo design and lettering – is invaluable, but it’s also wonderful to read how Dave was influenced in his career by others in the business, with some smashing spotlights on creators such as Frank Bellamy, Harvey Kurtzman, Sam Rosen and Wally Wood – commentary which will no doubt lead some (myself included) to head off onto the web to track down more of their work in print. Revealing the comics and creators that helped shape his career simply lends weight to the advice on offer in this book – it’s a veritable gold mine of tips and tricks. (Some of his colouring advice recently came in handy for me, even before the book was published!)

I would have liked a chapter on that difficult art of actually selling your story once you’ve put in so much hard work – I have to wonder how many conversations Dave and Tim have had on that subject, given how hard it can be to get momentum behind even the best of projects, but to be fair right from the get go, the pair declare this isn’t intended to be a definitive comic creating guide (but it’s darn close!).

But How Comics Work is an excellent reference work for any aspiring, or indeed established comic creator and fully deserves to be added to your bookshelf as soon as possible. Highly recommended.

• There’s a preview of How Comics Work here on Issuu for those of you who still need to be convinced about buying this book (using this amazon link helps support downthetubes)

Follow Dave Gibbons on Twitter @davegibbons90

Dave Gibbons is one of the most famous comic creators working today, with over 40 years’ experience. He is most famous for his collaborations with Alan Moore, including Watchmen, and was Britain’s first Comics Laureate. All of the examples in How Comics Work are scanned from original artwork, sketches, and preparatory designs, many of which have never been published before.

Follow Tim Pilcher on Twitter @Tim_Pilcher | Follow his blog (note, adult-oriented)

Tim Pilcher is a pop culture expert who has worked in and around the comics industry for over 20 years. Tim initially started as an assistant editor at DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint and he has written comics for the BBC, DeAgostini, Weldon Owen, and the Young Telegraph. Tim has written over 16 books on comics and has lectured at UCL, Dublin Trinity College, The Imperial War Museum, and The British Library.

Tim talks about the How Comics Work project here on Geek Syndicate

Tim and Dave talked to Podcapers Podcast about How Comics Work – listen here

• Creating Comics: My Recommended Reading

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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