Author Topic: Review: Draw the Marvel Way #1  (Read 2917 times)

Pa Kalsha

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Review: Draw the Marvel Way #1
« on: January 07, 2016, 10:45:25 PM »
Partworks are a big deal in the UK, and the new year always brings us half a dozen or so. This year, Hachette is publishing a 100-part series called Draw the Marvel Way. I thought I'd take a look.

Description:
The magazine is 23 pages long and printed on satin-finished paper. I don't know what the standard is for partworks these days, but the whole thing feels like an oversized comic book and the colours really pop.

Issue one gives us tutorials on drawing Spidey (male body, front view, static pose), Cap (male head, front view) and Mjolnir (construction drawing); a brief history of artists who drew Spidey, featuring Romita, McFarlane, Deodato, Pichelli and Camuncoli; quick introductions to pencils and proportions; pull out and keep sketch pages; and an interview with Mike Deodato Jr. It comes bundled with some basic drawing gear as well: a steel rule, 2H pencil, 0.5 inking pen and a putty rubber.

Content:
Spider-Man was chosen for the first tutorial specifically to avoid drawing the face, which shows the writers understand their market - for new and/or younger artists, an iconic hero with a relatively easy design and no complicated bits (i.e.: no visible face or hair) is perfect. The instructional text is informal (although it lacks Stan Lee's chattiness, each issue would be five pages longer if they let him write it!) and delivered in short paragraphs with most of the page given over to illustration. The text glosses over detailed information to keep the student moving, but that means it can be sparse on explanation (the instruction for adding Spidey's muscles is 'refine the body shape and bring on the muscle, but don't go overboard - this ain't the Hulk!'). That said, they promise to cover anatomy in future issues, so I'm okay with that; you've got to walk before you can run, but you've got to want to run first.
The tear out and keep sketchpad pages (lightly toothed, unsized paper for drawing on) are a nice touch, giving the student paper as well as a pencil, and they've got a grid and different stages of each tutorial printed in non-photo blue to give less confident students a leg-up.

On the down side, while I understand that the fundamentals are transferable skills and that a free copy of Photoshop and a Wacom Bamboo with a £5 magazine is unrealistic, but most (all?) Marvel comics are digitally inked and coloured but the magazine is giving away and presumably teaching students to use ink pens and watercolours, which seems like an odd choice. The watercolour pans in the 'next issue' preview are labelled with CMYK values, which makes them transferable to a digital workflow, but might make it hard to get replacements when the pan runs out.

The inevitable comparison:
The step-by-step tutorials use a digitally inked line to keep things neat, but I think it could be disheartening to beginners - there's no way their pencil drawing can be as accurate or clean as the tutorial and it puts an unnecessary distance between the teacher and the student. The original How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way used pencil sketches which made the step-by-step guide feel warmer and a bit more human.

The magazine has some good information not included in the original book (the artist interviews are a nice touch, and I'm sure the Tools of the Trade section will be more useful when it's covering more esoteric tools like French curves) and introduces important design concepts like proportions at a very early stage, but there's a lot of space used for images that could maybe have been used for more information. That said, the book could be sparse on directly actionable information so, particularly for less confident artists, I think the step-by-step format is beneficial, and the fortnightly format gives students easily digestible chunks of information and time to practice and experiment with what they've learned.



Verdict:
Definitely pick up the first one.
For 99p, you get a decent quality ruler, pencil pen and eraser and you can't say fairer than that, even if the magazine isn't your cup of tea. The gifts bundled with part two (#2 watercolour brush, three half-pans and a box to keep the full set of watercolours in) is probably worth the cover price of £5 by themselves and the series looks to be a good way of building a toolbox. Based on issue one, it doesn't look to be a bad series if you want to learn draw comic characters. The writers know what they're talking about and offer insight into the industry, issue one promises anatomy tutorials in later issues so there will be more in-depth stuff in the future, and it doesn't look like it'll miss anything important that the original book doesn't cover. That said, I can't recommend the series without caveats.

The full run will set you back at least £500 over two years (£350 if you subscribe before issue 2) but, in my experience, 100-issue partworks have a habit of growing into 125-issue partworks or more. Even if it finishes on time, that's a lot of money for - frankly - not a lot of teaching per issue. Obviously you're paying for the kit as well the magazine, but that's still a heck of an investment compared with a box of pencils, a putty rubber and a copy of the original book (or, at that price, a taught drawing course).
If you learn better in bursts or can't get through a how-to book, go for it, but look into a subscription: apart from the price, partworks disappear from newsstands around issue ten as the print run is reduced to suit the readership. If you're able to work through a how-to book, that's definitely the cheaper option.

Grade: B+ (provisional)
A decent offering, but pricey; its usefulness will vary depending on individual learning style and the content of future issues.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2016, 11:23:33 PM by Pa Kalsha »

Schaible

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Re: Review: Draw the Marvel Way #1
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2019, 01:07:45 PM »
This looks very interesting indeed, but 500 pounds is a steep price. Do you think there's a chance of this going on sale or something now that some time has passed?

Pa Kalsha

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Re: Review: Draw the Marvel Way #1
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2019, 03:56:50 PM »
I wish!
Partworks are never collected and only occasionally reprinted. If you missed it, you may as well assume it's gone for good. This print run is ongoing, however, and is currently on issue 83, with most of the back issues are available from the Hachette website for the full cover price.

You might also be able to find it on eBay at some point (currently, there's one incomplete collection for sale, with an asking price of £55), but, at this point, I reckon you'd be better off picking up a copy of How to Draw the Marvel Way (also for sale on eBay for between £0.99 and £12).