In the follow-up to Barry's bestselling Syllabus, the artist shares all her comics-making exercises. Barry has students drawing themselves as monsters and superheroes, convincing students who think they can’t draw that they can, and, most important, encouraging them to understand that a daily journal can be anything so long as it is hand-drawn.
Every page is wonderfully crammed. There's even a revise-as-you-go quality, since some of the hand-written text includes cross-outs and insertions. These are details we would normally register as mistakes, but here they are integral elements not only of the artwork, but of Barry's larger vision ... as immersive a document as possible. If you can't take a class with Barry, Making Comics is the next best thing ... Readers aren't getting graded. What they are getting is an immersion into Barry's philosophy of art and -- this is going to sound a bit grandiose but I'll say it anyway -- life. Barry teaches us how to be better people by teaching us how to see and think and draw like children again ... Making Comics is a love letter to every child who ever picked up a crayon and started making marks with unselfconscious intensity ... I've read a lot of writing and drawing textbooks, and Barry's is the only that has made me choke up with emotion ... No matter your goal, you'll benefit from reading this work.
... the closest cousin to Making Comics is not a book about drawing comics at all but the 1979 classic by Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Both books demand participation. Both have a messianic spirit. Both demand you silence certain parts of your judgmental self. But Edwards’s book, which teaches you how to draw from life, relies on the intelligence of the eye; Barry’s, which teaches you how to draw from your unconscious, relies on the intelligence of the hand ... This is all fantastic and fantastically encouraging, but about halfway through Making Comics I started yawning uncontrollably. I wasn’t tired or bored. I simply could not stop yawning ... I discovered a new anxiety: I’m not Lynda Barry. She has a frenzied energy that is impossible to match ... She never gets tired of filling space with lines and colors and words. It’s infectious ... I love the spirit of this book and its raucous energy; it almost makes me feel as if I could draw like Barry ... I’m not sure whether Making Comics will make you, or me, a better cartoonist, or a cartoonist at all. But that’s not the point. The point is just to make you a more you-cartoonist.
As the title suggests, Barry’s book is an instruction manual, but while Making Comics aims to teach you how to, well, make comics, it may surprise even the reader who has no intention of doing that (me). Barry is so thoughtful—philosophical, even—about art and its purpose that it’s hard not to be moved ... I do not draw (I want to start now!) but I found in this book a lot of smart advice that’s broadly applicable ... what’s most delightful about Making Comics is its emphasis on action, on exercise, on practice—on actual making ... Barry works within the academy and won a MacArthur this year; she’s as establishment a figure as it’s possible to be. She’s clearly brilliant but uninterested in showing that off. Just as critics might misunderstand her style as naïve, they might misunderstand her pedagogy as self-help.