Today Debbie Glade reviews an extraordinary book that teaches impressive techniques to professional and budding comic artists.

I’ll start by confessing that one of the many reasons I’ve been excited about reviewing Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued, ($34.99, First Second Books, ages 14 and up) is that I am a (very amateur) comic strip artist myself. And with graphic novels and new comics exploding, I’m certainly not the only one who wants learn more about visual storytelling.

Mastering Comics is a follow up book to Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels and Beyond by comic artists Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. The first book is essentially an introduction course on comic creation, while this new book is a continuation of that course, offering advanced tips to help serious comic artists really hone their skills and to give teachers a great textbook for their students.

This beautiful book is a meaty 318 pages of detailed technique and creative homework assignments. The book starts with lessons about building stories by drawing pictures and working through the challenges of facing blank pages to come up with original ideas. In the section called Writing Words, there are detailed instructions on how to develop a story and write a script while thinking visually.

Readers will also learn how to create visual relationships with their comic panels, create comics for books vs. screens and choose the right style to tell their story. In addition, there’s essential information on lettering and web comics and even an incredible section about using ink and making your own paint tools. The last sections of the book deal with gray scales, color, book covers and getting your comic ready for the printer. There are also a couple of vital chapters dedicated to selling your comics, whether on your own or through a publisher.

Reading this book is a reminder that being a true professional comic artist requires great skill and technique, which take time and hard work to develop. Mastering Comics is like having a private mentor guiding you through the learning process and challenging you to think in wonderful ways you never thought you could.

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