The best books on the craft of comics

Who am I?

I’m an Eisner-nominated and award-winning graphic novel and comics writer, editor, and book packager. I've worked on staff at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Disney Publishing, DC Comics, Nickelodeon Magazine, and Platinum Studios. My sequential art book, The Bramble, won the 2013 Moonbeam Gold Medal for Picture Books, and I created a new way to read comics with BirdCatDog, a 2015 Eisner Awards nominee, that received the 2015 Moonbeam Spirit Award Gold Medal for Imagination, and was chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best children’s books of 2014. SheHeWe, the third book in the series, was a 2016 Eisner Award nominee for Best Publication for Early Readers.


I wrote...

Comics Creator Prep

By Lee Nordling,

Book cover of Comics Creator Prep

What is my book about?

Where inspiration and spontaneity prime a comic’s pump, create a vision, propel it forward, and give it life, Comics Creator Prep raises the level of comics craft to give a creator the requisite tools to consistently realize that vision. It shows creators how to use the tools in their comic toolboxes well.

One Amazon reader wrote: “This book deserves a place next to the works of McCloud and Eisner on any would-be comics creator's bookshelf. Nordling's classroom-style comics-writing exercises, and critiques of his (imaginary) students’ executions of them, really help to hammer home points about how to think comics, in a way that simple exposition cannot.”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Lee Nordling Why did I love this book?

First things first, every other book on understanding and making comics is simply an addendum to the work of Scott McCloud and Will Eisner. The fact is: most comics creators begin the process of learning to write and draw comics by teaching themselves from the comics and graphic novels they read, mostly through observation, and trial and error. With Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud, in addition to Eisner, pioneered the analytical study of how and why comics work. It’s a must-read for any serious comics creator, because it gives prospective comics creators and educators a solid foundation on which to build.

By Scott McCloud,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Understanding Comics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication "You must read this book." - Neil Gaiman Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.


Book cover of Reinventing Comics: The Evolution of an Art Form

Lee Nordling Why did I love this book?

While there are many good books out there on the craft of understanding, writing, and making comics, my suggestion for what to read establishes a bedrock on which careers can be built. Scott’s follow-up book to Understanding Comics continues to explore how comics work, and how they can work. In short, he just doesn’t define the sandbox in which you can play; he shows you how to expand the sandbox so that you can do things that have never been done before.

By Scott McCloud,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reinventing Comics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1993, Scott McCloud tore down the wall between high and low culture with the acclaimed international hit Understanding Comics, a massive comic book that explored the inner workings of the worlds most misunderstood art form. Now, McCloud takes comics to the next level, charting twelve different revolutions in how comics are created, read, and perceived today, and how they're poised to conquer the new millennium.

Part One of this fascinating and in-depth book includes:

The life of comics as an art form and as literature The battle for creators' rights Reinventing the business of comics The volatile and shifting…


Book cover of Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels

Lee Nordling Why did I love this book?

The subtitle to Making Comics is: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels. In this book, Scott gets practical, and shows you how to apply what you learned from his previous volumes. In his introduction, he writes, “The comics industry is changing fast. Old formats die and new ones are born. Whole industries come and go. But these storytelling principles always apply. They mattered fifty years ago and they’ll matter fifty years from now.” To quote Stan Lee, ‘nuff said.

By Scott McCloud,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Comics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Magnificent! The best how-to manual ever published." - Kevin Kelly, Cool Tools Scott McCloud tore down the wall between high and low culture in 1993 with Understanding Comics, a massive comic book about comics, linking the medium to such diverse fields as media theory, movie criticism, and web design. In Reinventing Comics, McCloud took this to the next level, charting twelve different revolutions in how comics are generated, read, and perceived today. Now, in Making Comics, McCloud focuses his analysis on the art form itself, exploring the creation of comics, from the broadest principles to the sharpest details (like how…


Book cover of Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist

Lee Nordling Why did I love this book?

Eisner was a comics and graphic novel pioneer, first by his work on his classic creation, The Spirit, and then with his graphic novels. Eisner offers valuable, personal, professional, and practical insights into how the sequential art medium can be tailored to your intentions. In his foreword, he writes: “This work is intended to consider and examine the unique aesthetics of sequential art as a means of creative expression, a distinct discipline, an art and literary form that deals with the arrangement of pictures or images and words to narrate a story or dramatize an idea.”

By Will Eisner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Comics and Sequential Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Will Eisner is one of the twentieth century's great American artists, a man who pioneered the field of comic arts. Here, in his classic Comics and Sequential Art, he refines the art of graphic storytelling into clear, concise principles that every cartoonist, comic artist, writer, and filmmaker meeds to know. Adapted from Eisner's landmark course at New York's School of Visual Arts, Comics and Sequential Art is an essential text filled with invaluable theories and easy-to-use techniques. Eisner reveals here the fundamentals of graphic storytelling. He addresses dialogue, anatomy, framing, and many other important aspects of the art form. Fully…


Book cover of Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative

Lee Nordling Why did I love this book?

In his foreword, Eisner writes: “In this work, I hope to deal with the mission and process of storytelling with graphics.” Where McCloud shows you different options and tools for how to choose images to explore ideas, Eisner gets specific, and shows you how he does it. This book, along with the four others I recommend, and mine, gives you all the tools you need to choose your own path for effectively working as a writer and/or artist in the sequential art medium.  

By Will Eisner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, Will Eisner-one of the most influential comic artists of the twentieth century-lays out the fundamentals of storytelling and their application in the comic book and graphic novel. In a work that will prove invaluable for comic artists and filmmakers, Eisner reveals how to construct a story and the basics of crafting a visual narrative. Filled with examples from Eisner's work as well as that of artists like Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb, this essential work covers everything from the fine points of graphic storytelling to the big picture of the medium, including how to:…


You might also like...

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

Book cover of The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

Alexander Rose Author Of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.

Alexander's book list on Zeppelin airships

What is my book about?

From the author of Washington’s Spies, the thrilling story of two rival secret agents — one Confederate, the other Union — sent to Britain during the Civil War.

The South’s James Bulloch, charming and devious, was ordered to acquire a clandestine fleet intended to break Lincoln’s blockade, sink Northern merchant vessels, and drown the U.S. Navy’s mightiest ships at sea. Opposing him was Thomas Dudley, an upright Quaker lawyer determined to stop Bulloch in a spy-versus-spy game of move and countermove, gambit and sacrifice, intrigue and betrayal.

Their battleground was the Dickensian port of Liverpool, whose dockyards built more ships each year than the rest of the world combined and whose merchant princes, said one observer, were “addicted to Southern proclivities, foreign slave trade, and domestic bribery.”

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Washington's Spies, the thrilling story of the Confederate spy who came to Britain to turn the tide of the Civil War-and the Union agent resolved to stop him.

"Entertaining and deeply researched...with a rich cast of spies, crooks, bent businessmen and drunken sailors...Rose relates the tale with gusto." -The New York Times

In 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, two secret agents-one a Confederate, the other his Union rival-were dispatched to neutral Britain, each entrusted with a vital mission.

The South's James Bulloch, charming and devious, was to acquire…


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