On sale: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/06/on-sale-how-to-draw-comics-th.html


I got a copy of it signed by Stan Lee at a comic convention in the 90s soon after Jack Kirby died and I stupidly told him I was sorry his friend died. Years later I realized how fucked up it is for a stranger to remind someone of the loss of a friend.


If it recently happened, I don’t think it’s fucked up. I think it’s proper etiquette to offer condolences. If it was years after the fact, then it get a bit awkward. It gets even more awkward when they probably weren’t great friends at the end.

May I ask what he was charging in the 90s?


Kirby and Ditko get so much attention, and for good reason, but I think John Buscema is right up there both in terms of skill as at telling stories through his art and in terms of what how much essential work he did for Marvel. He may not have invented characters like those two, but he told stories just as well and man did he ever turn out a lot of superbly-crafted issues over his decades at Marvel.

Nobody drew a more compelling Hyperborea and its inhabitants. Nobody drew a more malevolent Loki or a more tragic Vision. I mean nobody drew a better Silver Surfer…I’m not saying Kirby or Moebius did it worse, just not better. He could draw the crazy space odyssey of Kirby and he could draw the gritty savagery of Joe Kubert, but it was always and clearly John Buscema.

I hear more about artists like John Byrne and John Romita in the general conversation than I do about Buscema, and while those two are legitimately awesome, I rate John Romita at least as highly and more important to Marvel Comics history. Even legends like Neal Adams and Joe Kubert…I feel like Buscema was at least their equal and probably superior when it came to drawing dynamic, narrative action. I guess I’m still surprised he doesn’t get a lot more public love and attention.


Where is the How to Draw comics the Liefeld way book?


Ingest testosterone until you no longer have any sense of human proportions.


I feel a bit bad for Liefeld. First, because he seems like a pretty nice guy. And second, because he had an absolutely meteoric rise starting when he was a teenager. He lacks certain art school fundamentals because – as far as I can tell – he never went to art school, and never even did projects that were that small. He went almost straight into churning out massive piles of work. He had the new “90s look” that shot up overnight, and he never had time grind away on fundamentals under an editor who would tell him to go back and redraw the whole damn thing.
Or so it seemed to me. There’s probably someone who’ll reply to this with something better-cited.


Wanted to jot this down, this is a good place.

  • Last night, my 11 year old comes to me, reminds me he wants to get into Dungeons and Dragons.
  • Goes to his mom next, who searches amazon for dungeons and dragons, doesn’t know what she’s looking at.
  • I tell them, it’s not a game you buy then just play. There’s a lot more to it.
  • I start looking up DND across the webs because it’s been… decades.
  • We look at all that’s involved, creating characters, being a dungeon master, and we even printed some character sheets… all that.
  • Boy disappears for 20 minutes, comes back with a drawing of a character he wants to create.
  • Today, I see this post about drawing like the Marvel big boys, so I order it, gonna give it to my kid, let him run with that imagination that’s fighting its way out of his skull.

Gotta keep encouraging it, I love it when I see it seeping out. Man, I love my kids.


See…I agree on the “feel bad for him” up until about the late 2000’'s. Yes he was targeted as the next “guy” and they gave him the money and he did his thing. By the time he broke off to form Image with Lee, Larsen, Portacio, Macfarlane, etc…he was a star and had zero reason to change. But fast forward to the late 2000’s where he was then seeking out drawing for the main publishers again and such and he showed he learned NOTHING.

It isn’t on the publisher paying you to get better…it’s on the artist. He either sees nothing wrong with his seriously flawed shitty habits, or is too lazy/arrogant to seek the tutelage to improve.

That’s where I take issue with him.

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I don’t know. I don’t remember getting charged, but my father brought me so he may have paid it. It was in 94 shortly after Kirby died.

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His standard seems to be that the human body is a series of muscular bubbles, like the arms of the Michelin man, and the feet are feather-shaped blades.

IIRC they have a starter set that lets you dip your toe into it. Or jump in and just buy him the Players Handbook.

Dungeons and Dragons Beyond, the website, lets you make up to 6 characters for free. I think the starter classes are unlocked, but not all the archtypes. You buy the players guide in digital format, and then you can make any character type in there. Buy another book that has more stuff, you can add it to what you can make. It makes character creation easier and does have a lot of the info on there.

I used to basically make up my own dungeons and run them because thanks to being in a small town during the Satanic Panic, I couldn’t find players.


and extra ankles or knees… and hands that make the cheeto in chief’s hands look big.


I’ve tried, lord knows I’ve tried, but for me these guides will always be like





Yeah, it’s pretty hard to have sympathy for a guy who doesn’t acknowledge his shortcomings, and thinks he can just keep doing what he’s always been doing. As Leonard Bernstein once quipped, the best artists are the ones who break the rules… but you have to know what the rules are before you can break them.


-ahem- Barry Windsor Smith kinda calls him the Mccartney of comics…all nice and shiny but nothing really to say (ok, thats my interpretation). I felt more or less the same way about buscema or frankly most of the american comic stuff of the 80s.

WINDSOR-SMITH : He’s like the sweet tooth of music. And yet his partner, John Lennon, who could not play as well, could not sing as well, wrote some very good songs but really wasn’t as prolific as McCartney. But John [Lennon], just like Kirby, still stands up. Because there is an almost inexplicable value to what he was doing. I say “inexplicable,” but you could always try to point out what it all was, but to a degree it is inexplicable. If you’re touched with something, a vision, a hard-edge vision perhaps, even a soft vision, as long as you’ve got vision! As long as you’ve got vision and you can send it out, you can project it … That’s what Kirby could do with aplomb, it’s what John Lennon did, it’s what a lot of people did, I’m just using two popular icons right now.

So in the case of John Buscema, he could certainly draw the human figure finer than Jack Kirby but there was just no valid intensity to what he was doing. It was just pap.

and he had a few things to say about “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way”…

GROTH: I actually attended a chalk talk that Buscema gave the Marvel staff in the ’80s. It must have been around ’82 or ’83.

GROTH: And it was the most appalling thing I had ever seen. It could have been subtitled, “How to Become a Hack.’’ He was giving lessons on how to take shortcuts and how to do work quickly.

WINDSOR-SMITH : Oh fuck, really?

GROTH: And the most appalling thing about it was that it was done in all sincerity. He really thought he was teaching these people valuable job skills.

WINDSOR-SMITH : Sort of like the live version of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way .

GROTH: Yeah.

WINDSOR-SMITH : Which is a book that should be burned. [ Groth laughs. ] I would never, ever agree to burning books, you know?

But by fucking hell, if there’s ever a book that deserves it, it’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way .



Personally I think that’s a bullshit statement.

While I would never disparage Windsor-Smith, I can’t say I ever personally thought much of his ‘hard-edge vision’ or his art. It may be more interesting to some, but I don’t think he could tell a story as well as Buscema. Granted, Windsor-Smith has told his own stories at times, which is something Buscema hasn’t done to my knowledge. But in terms of turning a story into a visual narrative or even just representing a moving body I don’t think he had a thing on Buscema.

Afaik, the bulk of JB’s Marvel work was in the '70s. Definitely worth checking at his stuff before the '80s which, I’d tend to agree, was the start of Marvel’s nadir outside of some rare exceptions:


Thank you for posting these. Great examples.