Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Review: Making Comics

I borrowed Scott Mccloud's Making Comics for a variety of reasons: a stellar review on CoolTools, my general interest in drawing, my hopes that lessons learned from it could be applicable to programming, and Just Because. I was handsomely rewarded for taking this chance - the book was fantastic, and absolute gem.

The book gave me an incredible appreciate for comics themselves. I hadn't really ever thought about it - but it's absolutely remarkable that comics even work. In a movie, you've got thousands of frames of pictures, so telling a story seems quite possible. In a book, you've got thousands of words, so again, it's no surprise that you can tell a story there either. Now consider a comic - it has just a handful of frames, and a handful of words. Yet, it works. Not only that, but it can work exceedingly well.

Consider that just using a $2.00 black pen and a sheet of paper, it's possible to not only tell a story - but to get people to hear sounds, smell odors, and feel motion. McCloud couldn't have sold me on the story telling capability of comics any more if he had tried.

He actually got me thinking - if the beauty and power of comics can be expressed so clearly (in comics, no less!), then where's the equivalent text on poetry, opera and other forms of story telling? Think how remarkable it would be if you had a book on poetry, written in poetic form, that could spread this same message? Perhaps a book on programming written as a program? Hmmm, that seems to be going a bit too far. But still, something to consider.

As for lessons I'll take away from this besides the obvious ones - I think I'll be on the lookout for how some of these techniques can be applied to user interfaces. Perhaps mixing text and graphics can be a clearer way to get an interface across than one or the other. And his parting set of rules are definitely words every programming should live by:

  1. Learn from everyone
  2. Follow no one
  3. Watch for patterns
  4. Work like hell

I give this book a 10/10. It's a quick, informative read. If you do comics, you'll want to learn everything this book has to teach you. If you're like me, and don't do comics, then you'll get a rare glimpse into an impressive art.

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