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Magazines, novels, articles, poetry, interviews or other textual (and sometimes illustrated) media that's currently caught the mind of Adam Creighton ...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Making Comics

I finished Scott McCloud's Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels, some time ago, and (as always) I'm impressed, inspired, and better equipped than before my read. So I'm finally getting around to plugging it here.

This is the third in his "series" of books, following Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics.

By way of background, I read Scott's books for a number of specific reasons.

I love comic books and sequential medium. I think they're a powerful, nascent medium, as old (arguably older) than film, but only now starting to touch on their potential and import. These books look at the history and technique behind sequential art, ways creators try to evoke a response in readers, and ways by and filters through which readers interpret the medium.

As a creative, these are amazing books in adding process and technique for everything from storytelling, to writing, to layout, to publishing, and a bunch of stuff in between. I've used the books for things like my own recent comic book, my voice and film acting, and software design and management.

I've also got a formal usability background (academic and via a Blue User-Centered Design Center). That training and and interest in how things work (or don't) is something I apply to everything from software and service design, to writing, to comic books, to ideas for inventions. These books add to all of that.

Finally (for now at least), I'm impressed with the cognitive study and psychology laid bare in these books. In college, one of my favorite, brain-bending courses was "The Evolutionary Theory of Cognitive Development" -- these books fit in nicely (and more accessibly) into the concepts and theories introduced to me in that course.

All three books use actual comic / sequential art panels to get their message across. No long prose, and examples are inline (the whole freakin' book is an inline example), which makes for an accessible, effective how-to guide that has few contemporaries.

Before reading Making Comics, I'd read reviews and heard comments from industry acquaintances who thought the book was the "weakest" of the three.

Everyone's entitled to their opinions, but these folks' opinions are wrong. ;-)

The three books should be looked at as a funnel. Understanding Comics is a survey book for the history, tropes, techniques, and styles inherent in comic books, creative pursuits, psychology, and usability. Reinventing Comics builds on those concepts, and starts to look at (given the deeper subjects) how you can get away from "because this is the way it's done" to doing something truly innovative with sequential art.

Making Comics builds on and focuses those things raised in Reinventing Comics to a nuts-and-bolts application of creating traditional and innovative art. This latest book in particular helped me create innovative story, interesting panel layouts and transitions, and deceptively simple parody in my own recent comic book. I say this not to toot my own horn (much, but do go buy my comic book), but to provide a case-study(ish) of how the books made the creative process fairly painless, with decent output.

Scott is bolstering the book with a "Chapter 5 1/2" already online, with promises (in-text and on the book's Website) of more content "coming soon".

The book is a great read without the previous two, but reading (or, *ahem*, re-reading) the two books prior really explodes the potential of the last book, and served as a creative and hard-work catalyst for my own work.

A good read all around, and I heartily recommend it.

I'll hopefully see Scott at Comic-Con this week, and hope to say "thank you" for this and the previous two books.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Get in the Game!

I finally finished Marc Mencher's Get in the Game! Careers in the Game Industry, mainly to get an idea of what is different between the enterprise development management I currently do, and equivalent roles in the games industry.

Mencher is over at, and has a historied career in the game development industry that makes him a good content generator for this title. And, if his recommendations are any indication, he seems like a really good guy with whom to work.

I wanted to get a broad background on the games industry, the roles, and the challenges, then do further research on more focused leadership positions (producers, senior project managers), via things like The Game Producer's Handbook (which I'm reading now).

Get in the Game! is good. It's broad in scope, well-written, and easy to work through.

It's broadness is also its limiting factor. If this were a college text, it would be a survey textbook.

But it serves its purpose well. What's different between my job outside and equivalents inside?

Not much. And that's encouraging.

Get in the Game! bridges the gaps for me a bit. While I'd say two-thirds (or more) of the book maps to non-gaming IT roles and principals (for example, the survey-light resume / interviewing / etc. sections), there is that one-third of the content that helps spell out specific game industry roles, responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities.

The book is dated (2002), so it doesn't address now-gen technology, and its appendix on game companies (publishers and developers), while a laudable effort, is woefully out of date, due to the fast-moving nature of this relatively young industry. And the link to updated content listed in the book is nonexistent.

That said, the book is a good resource, giving me a broad view of the landscape for this vertical market, and sets me up well for further research and (hopefully) interviewing.

As an aside (and this will probably irritate some video game folks), I constantly run into the bias from video game employees about how their high tech is so different from my high tech.

Now, it is different, to be sure, but it's different in target and scope and audience and impact, so it's a variation of high tech -- not an altogether new beast. And given my having one foot each in technical management and acting, I'm in unique place to appreciate the managerial, technical, and creative all at once.

This bias can be frustrating, and it can limit mutual opportunities. I can chat with someone at a company who says, "We really like you, and you have more skills than anyone we've talked to, but you don't have game industry experience."

I want to respond, "Really? Because you don't have enterprise, worldwide, multinational, multi-million dollar experience, but I'm still willing to talk to you."

That would probably end the interview prematurely.

Ah well, let's see what a little more research and ongoing, authentic relationship building can do...


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