Friday, September 29, 2006

Book Reviews

I had some airplane time recently. Tore through a number of books, both of comic and non-comic variety. Here are my reviews of the comics. More on the non-comic variety of books in the near future):



Megatokyo 4

Some of you may recall I posted about my having picked up the first book of this comic series. Volumes 2 through 4 just got better and better.

It's a brilliant mashup of gamer culture, anime/manga culture, American and Japanese youth cultures, geek culture and a story telling style that borrows from all of them. Watching how the creator grew in his abilities over time is a real treat. The artwork, story telling, and plot line are far more evolved in the fourth volume than in the first.

You can of course read this comic for free on the web, but I highly recommend picking up the print version. Especially for the first volume, where the margins are filled with notes on the evolution of the comic along the way.


Making Comics

Scott McCloud has a new book out. If you've read Understanding Comics or Reinventing Comics (like those two, Making Comics is also itself in comic form), then you don't need pursuading, and are off ordering the book already. Good.

For the rest of you, let me say this:

  • If you are at all into comics, then Understanding Comics is just the best disection and analysis of the medium in existence. It will make you think differently as a reader of comics.
  • If you are in the game industry: Understanding Comics is a must-read for anyone on the creative side of the industry, and Reinventing Comics is a must-read for anyone on the business side of the industry. There are so many parallels between the mediums, cultures and business ecosystems, it's uncanny.

Making Comics is less applicable to the games medium, though there are dozens of points where I made comparisons while reading it. It's more a straight-up instruction manual on the making of comics (thus the name). Where other authors often just address drawing style, he address all aspects of choosing, framing and composing moments, making characters more memorable (face, body language, their motivations and personalitites, etc), and much more.

The *only* downside for me (and I still highly recommend the book despite this) is that he didn't spend a lot of time talking about how to choose what to leave "between the borders". In his previous books, he discusses the concept of comics being an interactive medium, where the space between the borders (between moments, panels, etc) being constructed in the mind of the reader.This is analogous in some ways to how some in our industry think the game isn't complete until the user interacts with it. Anyhow, would have liked to have seen more time spent on this topic.


24 Hour Comics

This is another McCloud book, though it's a compilation of the best 24-hour comics done as part of his initial 24 hour comics challenge (in which artists are given 24 hours to create a full 24 page strip.

This is an extremely fast read (I finished it in an hour), it's fun if you like dark and different kind of stuff. Some of the authors have some pretty twisted imaginations.