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For the Comic Artist in All of Us

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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Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, a Graphic Novel For Kids Worth Exploring

Reinterpreting the Anthology For a New Generation

Reviewed today by Jason Carpenter

Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone’s enduring legacy has been the impact it’s had on short form storytelling and the generation-spanning celebration of the paranormal-infused science fiction/fantasy genre.  But, alas, for the demographic born after 1990, television has failed to deliver the next culture-defining anthology program.  Perhaps with Explorer: The Mystery Boxes ($10.95 paperback, $19.95 hardcover, Amulet Books, ages 9 and up), as edited by Amulet creator Kazu Kibuishi, with stories by a host of other artists and writers, the graphic novel format will carry the torch of those well-told– often replete with  jaw-dropping, gut-punching finales– morality plays that possess more than a touch of the bizarre.

Explorer holds seven short tales, including one by Kibuishi himself, connected thematically by one element: each work has its own manifestation of a magical, mystical, or otherwise pedestrian-seeming box.  The boxes, whether harboring treasure or inciting mischief, are really the crystal pools in which the true nature of the protagonists are reflected.  The seven stories vary in tone and atmosphere, from the comic to the otherworldly, and, as is wont with anthology compendiums, they achieve varying levels of success.

Chief among the standouts are Emily Carroll’s “Under the Floorboards”; in it, a young girl discovers a duty-bound wax doll that may be evolving (or devolving) into a spiteful doppelgänger.  Carroll’s grim fairy tale plays out like a minimalist hybrid of the gothic whimsy of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time series and the psychological interior of Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning graphic novel Persepolis.  It’s also the closest in spirit to Serling’s odes to the macabre. Rad Sechrist’s “The Butter Thief” adopts an outline-free aesthetic reminiscent of Genndy Tartakovsky’s elegant Samurai Jack animated series, and is the most action-packed and oddly moving of the bunch.

The scope and spiritual ambition of the Explorer: The Mystery Boxes compilation is admirable– the mystery is why it isn’t attempted more often.

To learn more about Jason, please visit About Our Reviewers page by clicking here.

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I’m Just a Singer In A Rock ‘n’ Roll Band

cvr9781416995258_9781416995258Hi! I’m Coleman and I am almost 10 years old. I’d like to tell you about a book I liked SO much, I read it twice. The book is called Zebrafish by FableVision and is illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds ($16.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 10-14). You can read an excerpt from the book by visiting their cool website so just click here.  The book came out last May, but I only just found the review in my backpack and my mom said she loved it, so, yeah, here goes …

Basically the book is about how an online band is formed (even though no one plays an instrument). It also deals with leukemia (which is why this book is recommended for Grade 5 and up) because a main character in the band Zebrafish gets this disease. There are five main characters in Zebrafish. They are called Plinko, Jay, Tanya, Vita and Walt. When I read about these people, they felt very life-like to me and also very nice. I think the author makes you care about everyone which is probably why I went back and read the book a second time.  Because the story is told in comic-book form (a graphic novel according to my mom), with 19 short chapters, it is quick, entertaining reading.  But don’t just take my word for it, read it for yourself and tell me what you think!

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Prepare for Pokémon Battle Dimension


My son, Coleman, is obsessed with all things Bakugan and Pokémon and perhaps your son is too. If your home is anything like mine, not a day goes by POKEMON: SINNOH READER #4: TRIPLwithout one or the other being mentioned over dinner or at bedtime and honestly, I cannot follow or keep up with it all. On the other hand, my husband and my dad have had to learn all the different names involved in addition to the characters’ respective powers in order to bond over various DS, Wii and card games along with the television show. It’s at times like these that I am grateful for being the mom because, were you to ask me to name a Pokémon besides Pikachu, I would lose that battle hands down! And speaking of battles, this is what Coleman had to say about Scholastic’s latest release …

The book I just finished is called Pokémon Battle Dimension: Triple Trouble (available from bookstores nationwide) based on the T.V. episode, “The Thief That Keeps on Thieving.” This book was very exciting because it shows how teamwork is better than just a single person fighting evil. The bad guys are Jessie, James and a talking Pokémon, Meowth. The good guys (and girl) are Ash, Dawn, Brock and Tyler. Tyler is trying to catch a Yanma, but team Rocket (a.k.a. the bad guys) catch it. If I say any more I will spoil the story for you. But I can truly tell you it’s a good book if you are a Pokémon fan like me!

NOTE:  This a Reader 2 level book.

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Comics to Go!

9781934706381_normDo you have a child, like mine, who loves to draw, invent wild and wacky characters and create little hand made books? Then I have the ideal book for you. It’s called Comics To Go! by Mike Herrod from Blue Apple Books, a wonderful publishing house with lots of unique books out of Maplewood, New Jersey.

Here’s a sample of what my son Coleman did when he discovered the book last week. This design is the last cell for a comic strip called Rodrigo The Magnificent. The book contains 19 ronna-book2stories for children (or adults if you are so inclined) to complete and then color in. What is even more exciting is that at their web site more comic panels can be downloaded! Kids will love Super Squirrel, The Dog Walker, Duck Amok and so many others. When all the strips have been completed, kids will find some blank comics at the book’s end so they can flex some more creative muscle. I suggest keeping the book in your car so that when you go out for a meal you have something with which to entertain the kids which in turn will surely entertain you! The clever, colorful book will appeal to many age groups and would make a most welcome gift for any occasion.

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