This is the users guide for students and teachers of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, the textbook, and where we’ll add notes for users of the second volume as well as any other books to come in the future.
Mastering Comics, the sequel to Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, is out and can be purchased directly from us or from your favorite vendor via this link.
Mastering Comics weaves together a number of inter-related streams, including:
- creating and developing stories
- coloring, both by hand and using the computer
- expanding your inking palette–incuding digital inking
- perspective basics: both linear perspective and other systems
- reviewing topics and techniques from volume one and taking them deeper
- making and publishing webcomics
- getting your work published, from agents to promotions.Mastering Comics is organized into four “units” that can be summed up as, more or less, creativity and generating stories; structuring work visually; advanced tools and techniques (i.e. inking, lettering, using tone and color, creating for digital platforms); and professional practice and getting your work into the world. There are a ton of topics covered under each heading, of course, but that’s the gist of it.
How is Mastering Comics different from Drawing Words and Writing Pictures?
In Mastering Comics, we return to all the topics covered in DWWP and work to not only deepen students’ understanding of things like pictorial composition and design, inking, and story structure, but more importantly, to broaden it. DWWP is a highly structured book, with 15 chapters that build carefully on one another, and it intentionally doesn’t offer a big palette of choices for how to make a comic. This is so that the tasks in the book can be achievable, and readers will come out of the book as cartoonists. But of course, we’re very aware that there are endless ways to make comics, and MC is where we try to open those floodgates and point students out in new directions. Mastering Comics also covers a lot of topics that aren’t mentioned in DWWP at all.
If you’re interested in the art of making comics—whether that means you plan to create comic strips, longer comics, graphic novels, or massive space operas spanning 20 volumes—Drawing Words & Writing Pictures is for you. We have structured this book following the model of a 15-week college semester in a studio classroom setting (typically a three- to six-hour session once a week). We have invested it with all the rigor and seriousness that we bring to our own classroom. Conceptually, it’s aimed at a college-level learner, but a sophisticated teenager or any adult could use the course equally well.
However, we know that it’s possible that you won’t be studying comics in a classroom with the benefit of an experienced teacher, so we’ve built in features and methods by which individual, independent learners (who we call Ronin, after the masterless samurai who roamed feudal Japan) can easily use the book as well. But because we do believe that there is a great inherent value to learning in a group situation, we have also built in resources for those of you who want to create your own independent groups, either in person or online, and share your insights and experiences with others (who we call the Nomads).
They will learn the essential skills and tools they need to make comics. We cover all the cardinal points of comics in some depth: drawing and use of technical tools, page and panel design, storytelling, and unique features of comics such as juxtaposition of images and even flying sweat beads. Learners really will finish this book prepared to make comics on their own.
Absolutely not. Drawing skills always help make comics easier to produce, and smooth the way, but we address this issue right in our first chapter. Lots of cartoonists start out with minimal—or no—drawing skills, and they do just fine. Comics is a language and a form of storytelling; drawing is just one aspect of the medium.
DWWP is not a drawing course per se. Our emphasis is on teaching the narrative language of comics, which, as we point out in Chapter 1, is not entirely dependent on drawing skills. That said, you will find plenty of material in the book that will help you develop or hone your drawing skills, from figure drawing mini-tutorials to notes on using sketchbooks and photo reference.
Unlike existing instructional books devoted to comics, this is a true textbook that has a cumulative and carefully systematized methodology. Each of the fifteen chapters focuses on a particular aspect of comics and comes complete with homework, extra credit activities, and supplementary reading suggestions. Illustrated extensively by the authors and with numerous examples of international masters of the medium, DWWP provides a comprehensive introduction to the form that will give students the tools to create their own works in this art on the rise.
The ideas and methods taught in DWWP apply equally to all kinds of long-form graphic narrative: whether one page or a thousand, whether superheroes, manga, memoir, or any other narrative approach. The authors do not discriminate based on style or story content. These tools will serve all.
Did we answer your question? If not, please get in touch.
If you’re here looking for examples of student art, critique notes, or other companion material to DWWP, you want the Book Guide.
Drawing Words & Writing Pictures is a textbook containing a systematic course that teaches the alchemical art of combining words and pictures to make comics. In it, authors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden have laid out a complete, structured syllabus that guides students from creating narrative in a single drawing to orchestrating all the skills involved in creating a multi-page, complex story.
This section of the website is the companion to that course. Please take a look around! And if you want to know more about the book, look here.
If you’re using DWWP in your classroom, whether as a complete course or as a supplement, you’ll find helpful notes on teaching the chapters, as well as examples of completed work, in the Teachers Lounge. Please note that these guides are intended to supplement what’s already in the book in the way of critique guides and so on, and need to be consulted alongside the chapters in question.
Whether you’re using DWWP to learn comics in a classroom, in an independent group, or on your own, the Student Union is where you’ll find prep guides that will help you get ready to start chapters, examples of other students’ work with critiques, and other goodies.