Thursday 17 February 2011

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. The missing link.

How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Back in the 1970s, when British television proudly proclaimed itself the best in the world, the biggest star on British TV was arguably a small dog that said, "Sausages," in the voice of Satan whenever its owner manhandled it.

Sadly the days of such quality broadcasting are long since gone but the usefulness of sausages to those involved in the arts remains.

From time to time I've been known to do the odd painting or drawing and I long ago taught myself to draw people by assembling them from hastily sketched sausages before properly defining their shape and detail. So, in the early 1990s, when I saw a copy of Stan Lee and John Buscema's How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, in my local branch of WH Smiths, I had to buy it.

Disappointingly there wasn't a sausage in sight. In the world of Marvel, it seemed, all was done with stick figures, cubes and cylinders.

Fired up by this new-found knowledge, I had a try at drawing people the recommended way but I can't deny it, by this stage I was too set in my sausagey ways to be able to get the hang of building people up from stick figures, and my attempts to reproduce what Buscema was doing in the book's examples all failed miserably.

I'm also not sure it was written as clearly as it could be. I was never certain whether we were meant to replicate all the construction lines on the heads in the examples or if we were just supposed to imagine them as we drew. As for its claim that the human head is just a cylinder with bits cut off, I always found it better to think of it as an egg that was blunt at both ends. Sausages, eggs; if only I'd been able to work out a way to get bacon into it, maybe I wouldn't have made such a meal of it all.

Still, if the book failed in its principal aim of actually teaching me how to draw, at least I had fun looking at all the art in it and spotting whose work was being used. And I did learn to draw characters with their feet too wide apart, to impose a sense of drama and dynamism.

Sadly, despite its inherent promise of turning us all into John Buscema, as a guide to drawing comics and/or people, I really couldn't claim How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way is the best, or even particularly good. A book I bought around the same time, called Figure Drawing Without A Model by Ron Tiner, as well as having an awful lot more content jam-packed into it, proved far more useful and easier to emulate.

Now if only Marvel had ever had the sense to launch a super-hero called Sausage-Man, then my career in comics would've taken flight.


Kid said...

Another humorous winner. Surely you have a sit-com in you?

I also have this book, which I got in 1979 or '80 - signed by Stan Lee when I met him in 1991. There's a photo of the two of us somewhere on my blog.

Steve said...

I tried to write a sit-com once. Sadly, I could do the com but couldn't maintain any interest in the sit. If I were totally devoid of any kind of subtlety, I'd plug my legendary novels, "Danny Yates Must Die" and "Mr Landen Has No Brain" here (HarperCollins/Voyager; still available at all good online shops - I think), but I'm not that unsubtle, so I won't.

I believe I've seen that photo of you and Stan Lee on your blog.

Unknown said...

I bought that book too, Steve, and have to agree that it wasn't the greatest help in the world. A much better book called "The DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics" came out in 2002, written b y Klaus Janson, and I can thoroughly recommend that. His guidance on drawing human bodies is much more detailed and interesting. Some of my drawings now even look vaguely like super-heroes!