Written and Illustrated by Jess Smart Smiley
Published by Penguin Random House
Let’s Make Comics isn’t meant for aging superhero fans like myself. It’s made for kids. It is, as it says right there on its own black, white, and various shades of blue cover, “an activity book to create, write, and draw your own cartoons.”
The author, though—one Jess Smart Smiley—has added a layer to the concept and made it an actual graphic novel of sorts, and a very funny one at that!
In the beginning, we meet the hosts and stars of the book, Peanut the Turtle and Bramble the Bear. Peanut explains the idea behind the book teaching basic art techniques while Bramble just wants to be recognized.
There follow a few exercises that teach, in the most basic ways possible, the concepts of sequential art, the importance of speech and facial detail.
Then our guides take us into trickier territory, yet still in the easy to understand, kid-friendly mode. “Each panel of a comic represents a different moment in time.
Sometimes the next panel happens just a few seconds after the previous one, and sometimes it’s a difference of years.” Heady stuff for youngsters to contemplate.
Character development, idea generation, feelings, and inking blue line pencils all follow next, with actual exercises on every page and continued amusing visuals from Bramble and Peanut.
Camera angles, pacing, storytelling, captions, creative lettering, editing and even a little bit of art history come after that! And remember, all this is meant for KIDS!
It all ends with a helpful glossary of terms used in the creation of comic book art.
The book itself was amusing and yet with the complex techniques of sequential storytelling taught at such a simple level. I would not only recommend Let’s Make Comics to kids but also to a fairly large number of professional comic book artists from the past few decades who never took the time to actually learn their craft. They know who they are. I myself, learned a lot from reading it as well.
In a way, Let’s Make Comics reminds me of a juvenile version of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and in a logical world may someday be considered just as important as stepping stone for the creators of the future.