How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way is the closest thing that a comic artist has to a bible. In 1978, Stan Lee and John Buscema outlined the most pure and essential aspects of creating a comic with unprecedented grace and acuity. The secrets and techniques discussed and depicted in the original book are an essential starting point for anyone who takes comic creation seriously.
Of course, the materials and techniques of 1978 are not the same today, but any intelligent artist can extrapolate the pertinent details and evolve beyond the lessons of the masters. Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics doesn’t replace the original text, but updates it to reflect changing technology and aesthetics, and it does it excellently. Using examples that range from classic Jack Kirby art through manga influences and artists like Frank Cho, Stan Lee (and his editors) provide the most complete view of comics that I’ve ever seen collected into one instructional tome.
Sure, Stan Lee is a writer, so what does he know about drawing comics? Well, he might not be able to draw, but 70 years of experience in the comic industry allow him to understand what makes for a stellar comic. The book’s ability to appreciate the advances of technology and explain how to use them alongside (or in place of) the classic methods of comic creation is a refreshing departure from the many instructional books that hold one or the other as gospel. While references to Google Sketchup might prove to be more dated than a discussion about inking with a brush, the book is pertinent now, and poised to evolve alongside comics.
This is purely about drawing comic books. You won’t find anything about composing a compelling scrip, though I’d love to see Stan Lee’s take on writing comics, and you won’t find any answers about creating webcomics. There are other books that explore these things in such depth that it’s not necessary to explain it all here. What this book does explore is the process of submitting your completed comic to a publisher, and Stan Lee’s history as Marvel’s head honcho makes him an ideal figure to dispense this information.
You’re never going to get everything you need to know from one source, and it’s absolutely true that one can learn the most about art through keen observation and a sense of understanding. Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics is a gateway toward this understanding, and it tells us what to observe. Stan Lee himself, boisterous character that he is, would likely encourage you to learn all of the rules so that you can go and break them.
It’s a positive, encouraging, and inspiring book that can benefit readers of all ages, but it is primarily geared toward young adults and those old enough to benefit from lessons of average complexity.
Reviewed by Collin David on July 17, 2012
Stan Lee's How to Draw Comics