Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
What They Say
Do you want to break into the comics industry? There are many creative roles available—writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, editor, and more. Each creator serves a viatal function in the production of sequential art at companies such as DC, Marvel, Image, and Valiant. In Make Comics Like the Pros, veteran comics creators Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente team up with a who’s who of the modern comic book scene to lead you step-by-step through the development of a comic. With these two fan-favorite writers as your guides, you’ll learn everything from the script formatting to the importance of artistic collaboration to the best strategies for promoting and selling your own sequential art masterpiece. Pak and Van Lente even put their lessons into practice inside the pages of the book—pairing with Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Colleen Coover (Bandette) to produce the swashbuckling, adventure comic Swordmaids, and giving you front row seats to their creative process. Make Comics Like the Pros provides all the answers you’ve been seeking to take your comic book-making dreams all the way to professional-level reality.
I’m going to begin by addressing the elephant in the room: due in large part to the overwhelming financial success of Marvel Studios movies, comic books have reentered the public spotlight in a big way, creating a market for how-to books onto how one can break into the industry. While there were a few books in the past about how to draw, write, and even understand comics, this year there are three that are coming out in fairly quick succession: Brian Michael Bendis’ Words for Pictures, John Paul Lowe’s Foundations in Comic Book Art, and Pak and Van Lente’s Make Comics Like the Pros. Of these works, Bendis’ is possibly the one with the most heat given that he is probably the most recognizable name to those outside of the comic community, and because he has been teaching a course on the very subject at the University of Oregon. It is also the one that came out first and has garnered quite a few rave reviews (including one from myself). I fear that Words for Pictures will overshadow other worthy titles like Make Comics Like the Pros, because both of these books deserve a spot on the shelf.
Pak and Van Lente have been fan-favorite writers whose works include Action Comics, “Planet Hulk” and “World War Hulk,” Marvel Zombies, Incredible Hercules (my favorite), and Archer & Armstrong. Collectively they’ve worked for all of the big companies and they earned their spots through hard work, talent, and a genuine love of the medium. Their professionalism, love, and talent shine through in this work and they provide an excellent overview of what comics are, how to write them, how to collaborate in a meaningful and productive way, how to sell them, and how to promote them. Their advice is solid, constructive, and fun to read.
While the collective experience of these two authors would be enough to sell this book, they take it a step further and do two very smart things: they put their advice into practice and they look to other industry professionals for advice and insight. With the help of Eisner Award-winning artist Colleen Coover, Pak and Van Lente put together a short, eight page fantasy comic called Swordmaids. Eight-page comics like these operate as pitch documents within the business: they provide something short and easily readable that an editor can look at and see if you understand the basics of the medium. As Pak and Van Lente make very clear, these pitch comics will get your foot in the door and get you work, not your magnum opus Superman story. Seeing this comic come together not only reinforces their points about the industry, but they provide a glimpse into the work and the give-and-take that occurs behind the scenes that we are never privy to, helping establish that this is collaborative art form and a business.
The importance of collaboration is brought up time and again throughout the work. We are told that it is important, but we are also shown it through the pitch comic and through the inclusion of comments and insights by various comic professionals such as Jordie Bellaire, Cullen Bunn, and Brian Clevinger. These comments support the overall points that Pak and Van Lente make and serve to illustrate how collaborative and supportive the comic community can be.
Make Comics Like the Pros is an excellent resource for those wanting to break into writing comics. It is full of solid, constructive information that helps readers understand what the comics medium is all about and provide them with the basic tools to begin creating, selling, and promoting their work. The writing is engaging, entertaining, and informative, and the book is full of insights from other comic pros; however, the part that may be the most helpful is the comic that they create within the book with Colleen Coover. The book presents every step of the process, allowing the readers to see the work that goes into creating a work of sequential art. My only concern is that it might be overlooked in favor of Words for Pictures. This would be a shame because, while they both cover the same subject, they do so in different ways and one can learn quite a bit from both of these titles. If you are interested in writing comics or just would like to gain a better insight into the creative process that goes into making your favorite titles, then you should definitely check this book out. Highly recommended.
Content Grade: A+
Published By: Watson Guptill
Release Date: September 9, 2014