The year is 1938. The first issue of Action Comics is released into the world and so Superman bounds into life. The obsession begins.
Comics as an art medium have evolved rapidly since they began, with artists and illustrators preoccupied with the burning desire to bring superheroes to the page. Evolving from cartoons that gained popularity in England and America since the early 1800s, the period from 1938 through to the mid-1940s marks the peak of comic book popularity.
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To provide context, currently monthly sales of popular comic book titles sit around 100,000 copies. In the early 1940s, Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel titles each regularly racked up 1.5 million copies sold each month. People simply couldn’t get enough.
Since then a diverse range of creators, styles, and art formats has allowed comic book artists to develop their techniques and increase accessibility to the industry. Often mistakenly derided as a ‘low’ art form, comics have stood their ground and the test of time, boasting a huge influence on pop culture and accomplishing the transition from page to screen. Looks like they are here to stay.
Has all this talk of comics got you feeling inspired? Fancy trying your hand?
Before you get started on our ‘Create artwork that captures your comic book style’ brief, we’ve highlighted some key elements of comic book art to help you along the way.
1. The artwork must tell a story
Even if your main goal is to create cover art for comic books, learning the storytelling tenets of good comic art is essential for building your skills as an artist. Comic book art tells a story by placing one image after the other (often known as “sequential storytelling”). Make sure you know what storyline you are trying to convey before you get drawing.
Former Marvel Comics editor Andy Schmidt notes, ““What makes one comic artist stand out over another — even if an artist is a really great illustrator — is the ability to communicate a story easily.
2. Colour must be there for a reason
Colour is a great and subtle way to help direct the reader's eye whether that be via shadow lines or colour patterns. It can also be used to help support the story. A blue can suggest quiet or melancholy, whilst including a bit of red may hint towards danger. Think of this like colour shorthand.
But remember, colour should always have a reason for being there. The simpler you keep the colour, the more impact a change in colour can have.
3. Include movement to add extra depth to the storyline
Comic book storytelling is most powerful when it communicates with movement. This is mainly because humans are geared to draw meaning from movement rather than communication through words.
Some good techniques to create movement in your art include directional brushstrokes, contrasting textures, and warm and cool colour temperatures.
4. Expression is key
When designing characters, the points of focus should be the eyes, mouth and hands as these are the key conveyors of expression. Make sure to keep these elements clear and readable for the audience in order to give your characters expressions the most impact.Art by Talenthouse Creative, Draw Colour Dream