Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I have no introduction, I just breathe it in like the air

In this post I'm going to answer a question I received via e-mail (abridged):
"...In your blog, and in Between Gears, you mention a lot of printed comics and books (the Flight series comes to mind) and other works that you read and found it helpful to study the art from. (I) looking to expand my collection of graphic novels, formerly limited to Bone and some of the Firefly tie-in books (and, of course, Between Gears). Could you do a blog post on good books to start a sequential art collection/library for aspiring artists?"
There are so, so many comics in the world, 'getting into comics' or beginning a collection can feel really daunting. I'd say just go to your local comic shop and ask for recommendations, but that's a mixed bag depending on the quality of the shop. In Portland we have Floating World Comics and Jason Levian, who gave me great, tailored recommendations and kept me in comics when I was about ready to give up reading them. In case you live in a place without a good shop or can't go to one for another reason, here is a list of comics that I personally recommend. (As an artist, I'm naturally attracted to books with art styles I like, so I believe this list will work for those looking for art inspiration/education.)

First off, here are a few that are so good, I'm telling you "don't ask, just buy":

I Kill Giants (Titan Edition contains project notes)
The War at Ellsmere
Anya's Ghost
Koko Be Good
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (make sure to buy at the 10x7" dimensions or larger so you can see the line art details!)
Scott Pilgrim
12 Reasons Why I Love Her
Mysterius the Unfathomable

Other books I have on my shelf at Periscope:

1) Betsufure - A random tankōbon I picked up the last time I was in Japan. I love manga tankōbon because they contain chapters from several artists/genres and have lots of variety and inspiring ideas for page layouts and toning effects. Try looking in a large bookstore's magazine area or in a Japanese bookstore for one that appeals to you.
2)Batgirl: Year One - The artwork is incredible. Just incredible. All in all this is a really fun book and something I could get into, not being a hardcore comic reader and not having a lot of past knowledge of DC characters.
3) The Secret World of Arriety (a comic made from screencaps from the film) - Studio Ghibli makes many of their movies into comics like this, and I love them because they serve as a library of different moments from their films. I use them for inspiration, color palette inspiration, choosing the best moments to draw for particular sequences, and acting reference.
4) Oh My Goddess! - Really clean line art and clear storytelling. Chapters are fun, self-contained stories.
5) Angelic Layer - Some of the best action sequences I have ever read.
6) Les lumieres de Lamalou - Claire Wendling is a master cartoonist. Her pencils and environments make me cry on the inside a little bit. The colors are also lovely.
7) Demo - 12 self-contained stories written by Brian Wood. Each is drawn by Becky Cloonan in a different style!
8) How to Draw Anime and Game Characters (volumes 1-3) - Wonderful art books for drawing characters and giving them life/personality.
9) Yotsuba - Hilarious, clear, self-contained stories. Character designs are instantly recognizable and characters have their own distinct personalities/tastes/expressions; they feel much more real than the average comic character.
10) Patsy Walker: Hellcat - Immonen and Lafuente both have expressive, funny, and original styles.
11) Cross Game - Great mix of realistic backgrounds and simplified characters. The story is very quiet, yet manages to engage and quickly becomes a page-turner.
12) Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things - Dark/creepy aesthetic and really wonderful draftsmanship using only black and white.
13) Objects, works by Kilian Eng - A great collection of environmental and design illustrations that each inspire a million story ideas.

Also, let us never forget the vast gift that is webcomics:
1) Emitown
2) Bucko
3) Works of Emily Carroll
4) Out Foxed
5) Hark, A Vagrant!
6) Works of Marc Ellerby
7) Tragedy Series

If you go out and explore and follow your own tastes, you'll find much more than this and stumble onto things I have never even heard of. Never give up! Never surrender! Never stop reading comics! There's so much good stuff out there.

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