Monday 29 September 2014

Cataclysmic Comic Making! We pit "Write and Draw your Own Comics" (Usborne) against "How to make Awesome Comics" (David Fickling Books)


We love comics. You probably already know this, and we love anything that can help us to make our own cool comic creations. 

With exquisite timing, two utterly brilliant and fantastic books have arrived that can turn you into a comic-creating genius. But, as Harry Hill would say - which is best? There's only one way to find out - FIGHT!!

Round 1 - BIFF!

Reading "Write and Draw your Own Comics" from the tip-top talented team of Louie Stowell, Jess Bradley, Neill Cameron (Wait a cotton-picking minute here, how busy is this guy?), Freya Harrison and Laura Howell (plus a few other mondo Usborne-y folk) we started work defining our characters. 

In the red corner, Daddy (in typical style) came up with...BOTTOM FACED FISH MAN

Bottom Faced Fish Man - Stand upwind of him, he's a bit of a whiffer

(as Charlotte decided that we were going to do an underwater mermaid-ey tale). BFFM is 127 years old, can direct wee, poo and farts as his superpowers, is susceptible to shiny loo roll and flat bubble juice (this is what Charlotte calls Lemonade) and he ultimately wants to get rid of girly mermaids, blech!

In the blue corner, Charlotte came up with...RAINBOW AND DIAMOND, MERMAID SISTERS!

Charlotte drawing Rainbow and Diamond
Rainbow and Diamond are both 13 years old and love partying at the underwater cafe. Their super-powers are special Rainbow and Diamond swords that fire - yes you've guessed it - Rainbows and Diamonds! They have no weaknesses (hey, wait a minute! How is THAT fair!) and they want bubble juice and to have a fantastic time under the sea. 

Round 2 - POW!

We swapped over to Neill Cameron's "How to Make Awesome Comics" from David Fickling Books. Neill, awesome artist and writer at The Phoenix Comic, has put together a superb book full of astonishing tips, groovy artwork and a ton of insider knowledge to make your comic creations pop, pop, POP!

We looked to Neill's book to start building our comic's title frame, and set the scene a little...

"The Lovely Mermaids vs Bottom Faced Fish Man" - The next zillion seller from ReadItDaddyMondoComics
"How to make Awesome Comics" is almost like reading an awesome comic in its own right, with the sort of artwork that makes us green with envy at Neill's skills. Real practical advice shows you how to keep things simple at first, don't overcook your characters or art so we took this advice to heart and started drawing together. 

"Wait a minute Daddy, you need to read a bit more, your character is RUBBISH!"
Panel one started to spring to life before our eyes...

Charlotte busies herself making her lovely mermaids royally rock but who's that lurking in the corner?

Round 3 - Kra-KOOOM!

Back to "Write and Draw your Own Comics" - we dipped into Louie Stowell and her comic collective's brill tome to jazz up our panels a little with some of the fantastic stickers designed to compliment your own strips. Speech bubbles, sound effects and other cool stuff are in there to get you off to a flying start (so even if you're really rubbish at drawing - like me - or great at drawing - like Charlotte - you'll have some brilliantly drawn additions to add to your own work). 

Hey, those farty stickers are very useful!
We were a bit ropey at planning out a story so kept it simple, with an all-out battle between Bottom Faced Fish Man and Rainbow / Diamond for supreme rule under the sea...

Bottom Faced Fish Man - does anyone have a breath mint?

Round 4 - Za-FOOM!

Back to "How to Make Awesome Comics" for a few lessons on polishing up your backgrounds and applying the all-important polish to the story as it emerges from our simple grid. 

Charlotte spent a lot of time perfecting hairstyles but said "Why hasn't Neill's book got more girl hairstyles in it!" (Eeps!)
One thing we did realise early on is just how LONG it all takes if you're amateurs like us, and so it's a very good idea to put aside plenty of time and even if you haven't got the best bunch of art materials in the world, work as big as you can too because we were always running out of room in our tiddly panels (we were drawing in a fairly big A3 pad but you might even want to go bigger than that if you can!)

Some truly awesome drawing tips (I need them, Charlotte doesn't!)

Round 5 - The Verdict - Which book is best?

We absolutely loved the spiral-bound "lay-flat" presentation of "Write and Draw your Own Comics" (believe me, having a book that lays flat without needing to break the spine is a real boon when you're using it in the way we were). Having sets of stickers to use was fun too, and it's so full of brilliant advice (even stuffed into the margins) and great artwork and presentation, that we couldn't fault it at all. On balance, this would be the perfect book if your children are slightly younger, and haven't had a go at creating comics yet. There are so many nifty little tips and shortcuts in it that will get them off to a cracking start. 

But we absolutely loved "How to make Awesome Comics" too, because Neill's sense of humour and truly brilliant eye for detail comes across from every page. This is cool comic making, from a master of what he does. Breaking things down into chapter-like sections, and drawing on all the fabulous advice we've been loving in The Phoenix Comic's "Comic Creation" features that they run occasionally meant that we were on familiar ground. This is also a book that I keep sneaking off and reading myself, just to try and pick up some useful tips to buff up my own artistic skills (meagre as they are).

So which is better, Charlotte? Perhaps Minnie Mouse can help decide. 

Both Charlotte and I found both books too durned good to declare an outright winner, and you know what that means don't you - With Christmas coming up and comics becoming more and more high profile as a means to getting kids interested in art, creativity, writing and literacy, it's a very very good idea to buy both! In fact just do that! Do it, because you'll have a heck of a lot of fun, cackle like drains (like we did) and find the hours slide by so quickly! Can't make a higher recommendation than that!

Our heads were spinning like Bottom Faced Fish Man's trying to choose between this pair of absolute crackers!

"Write and Draw your Own Comics" by Louie Stowell et al is out on 1st October from Usborne Books. 

"How to make Awesome Comics" by Neill Cameron is out now, from David Fickling Books. 

"The Lovely Mermaids vs Bottom Faced Fish Man" being finished off (we did tell you it took a long time to draw comics) so we might catch up in a future article and show you what happened at the end :)

Charlotte's comic making skills are top notch! Snap her up now before Marvel or DC do!

(Huge huge HUGE thanks to Usborne Books and David Fickling Books for sending us such a brilliant and inspiring pair of awesome resources to buff up our comic-making skills with!)