By Joey Gonzales, 09/07/20
We’ve all been there, I’m sure. You want to start something new, so you look up the top “how to” books on the topic or skill. I definitely did that, and I STILL do that. So if you read this list and see a few missing, let me know.
Here are the Top 5 books I’d recommend to anyone that wants to write comics, webtoons, or manga. These are the best I’ve read, and are not listed in any ranking.
#1: Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
This book was the first I picked up. I saw it recommended many times in online groups for comic creators. I found it at Barnes and Noble, luckily they had 1 copy in stock and I didn’t have to order it. It’s a larger book, about the size of a magazine in dimension with an easy 164 page count. Will Eisner is the namesake of the Eisner Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the world of comics. Packed inside are 8 chapters detailing the basics and core “rules” of making comics. The importance of Imagery, Timing, Paneling, Art, and… WRITING! It is a book that I read when I’m in a rut facing writer’s block or just taking a break. It’s always good to go to the basics.
#2: Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga by Hirohiko Araki
From the Mangaka of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure himself, this book teaches the core ideology behind the creative process of making Manga. With it’s wide reach of fans from around the world, and to several mediums such as movies, animated series, video games, toys, card games, and more, Manga is definitely a must study for the next generation of comic creators. This is a hardcover book that I ordered from Amazon. It was a quick read but I found myself often rereading chapters before I moved on. My biggest takeaway from the book as a writer was the paneling and pacing insight from Araki, using histories most acclaimed manga series such as Astro Boy and Dragon Ball as example. Another key lesson in this book is the importance of character. Not just in your main character, but the supporting cast, and the world around them.
#3: Making Comics by Scott McCloud
Scott McCloud is probably THE man on writing how to books for comics, having written two books prior to Making Comics in 2006. This book is almost 300 pages and is pretty large and awkward on my desk or bookshelf but it MUST. STAY. THERE. This book is unique on this list because it is an actual Comic Book! Scott McCloud illustrated this book fantastically, giving a fun way to learn! Seriously, I wonder how much I could have learned if my math books were comics. Wait, I should write that down… Chapters 2 and 3 are my favorites. Stories for Humans, and The Power of Words. They detail how to write believable, real characters, for comics of all genres and art styles. It taught me how to write my characters to say more with their body language, allowing for less words needing to be said. Show it, don’t say it.
#4: Ultimate Spider-Man Script Book by Brian Michael Bendis
If you want to write comics, you have to know how to write a script, and reading scripts is the best way to learn. Collecting several scripts from the Ultimate Spider-Man series, Bendis gives full scripts and commentary behind them. I had a few volumes of USM so I decided to read both books alongside each other and I was amazed at the teamwork it takes for a story to be transformed from words to images. I learned that scripts should be, at their core, similar to technical schematics. As a writer, your job is to write a story that can be read, as well as giving instructions for someone to draw. And before you mention Alan Moore, I’ll say this- There is no length a script should be. Scott Snyder gives Greg Capullo scripts that are 7 pages for stories that are 60+ pages long. This book will show you the format and terminology applied to writing full scripts. If you want to write comics, you have to read comic scripts.
#5: Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics
This was the FIRST book I picked up when I decided to write comics as a career, for better or worse. This book is large in dimension and a lengthly read. On page 54 Stan wrote his top ten tips for writers. This one page was worth the entire weight of this book. My favorite quote, “Keep writing! I figure writing is like any other activity –like jogging or sex. The more you do, the more you enjoy it, the easier it becomes, and more you improve. If you find yourself getting bored writing, or tired of it, there’s only one answer: Find another career.” This book helped me start my journey in writing comics. I hope it can help you start yours, or just help you along the way.
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