REVIEWS

Comics: Easy As ABC!

Reading was a constant struggle for me during elementary school, due to dyslexia. The one thing that saved me was drawing. I loved to draw and I loved comics. Every Sunday I would try to read the comics section of the newspaper, studying the images, panels and sequence. Comics kept my eyes on the page. Imagination and ideas were pouring out, and I had found the medium for me. Françoise Mouly's Toon Books would have lined my shelves, and Comics: Easy as ABC would have been in my backpack every day.

With instructional drawing from Master cartoonist and educator Ivan Brunetti, this book is for comics fans and budding cartoonists. Comics: Easy As ABC will encourage you to put pencil to paper, and draw, draw, draw! In addition, educators, parents, and librarians will find invaluable information and resources on comics and literacy. This book will stay in my library for a long time, for both reference and inspiration.

Comics: Easy as ABC begins with this directive: “KIDS: BE A CARTOONIST!” Brunetti encourages doodling and advises that the only tools needed are paper, pencil, and life. The instruction relies heavily on Brunetti’s minimalist drawings, including some of his original sketchbook pages, several from childhood. The majority of his art is pen and/or brush ink drawings, but you can imagine kids easily using crayons or pencils to copy and practice. His writing is equally selective, humorous, and direct. The overall approach is show versus tell – cartooning skills at work. I especially enjoyed Brunetti’s comic to demonstrate the use of Emanatas. He used a wordless story told with lines, bursts, tears, and ice cream.

Comics: Easy As ABC a beautiful book, with every surface considered. This is not surprising given the author and editor. Brunetti uses blue or red line art for instructional pages and features grid backgrounds and custom hand lettering, lending an overall sketchbook aesthetic. 

Celebrity cartoonists weigh in on cartooning topics, offer advice, or show their work. You’ll find some adorable Ugly Drawings by Elise Gravel, and comics and drawings by contributors Renee French, Liniers, Art Spiegelman, Eleanor Davis, James Sturm, Geoffrey Hayes, Jeff Smith, Kevin McLowskey, and Roz Chast. Inspirational quotes are from Chris Ware, Neil Gaimen, and Lemony Snicket.

With Brunetti’s signature clean lines and basic shapes that are active, alluring, and appropriately repetitive, it seems reasonable that anyone can draw his characters. Good luck. The illusion is real, as this stuff takes lots of practice at the drawing table to get that perfect line or shape. I was glad to see a bibliography for further study, which includes How To Draw the Ed Emberley Way, which was my first drawing book, and Adventures in Cartooning (by my colleague James Sturm, and two graduates of The Center for Cartoon Studies, Andrew Arnold and Alexsis Frederick-Frost). Lynda Barry’s books plus many more essentials are also listed to keep up with reading and drawing interest.

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2 Responses to Comics: Easy As ABC!

  1. erik nebel says:

    huge huge thrill for me to have one of my comics included in this beautiful book, in the section: SHORT STRIPS. thank you, ivan and francoise. wonderful review, michelle. exciting to imagine how this book will inspire a new generation of cartoonists.

  2. bob the lady says:

    yikes. that was awful.

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