Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guide for the writer-artist-letterer

Once upon a time, this is what you needed to know to be a comic book artist...and oh, you should be able to draw, too.

Thanks to the scanner who made this available online.

Copyright © 1973 Charlton Publications, Inc.


  1. I'm glad to finally get to read this guide. Not that it has anything in it I didn't already know.

    Rather odd to see vertical guidelines used with the lettering on page 13. I've only seen horizontal guidelines on actual comic book originals.

    And in the script sample on page 19, it's odd to see the captions above the panel descriptions. In all scripts I've seen the panel description came first, then the caption (if any), and then dialogue.

    Having the captions first for each panel in a script would make sense if the script were the final product to be presented to the reader, to be read as literature like a play by Shakespeare. But a script is a working document for use by an editor, penciler, letterer, inker, colorist, and anyone else putting the comic together. Normally the things that need to be lettered are grouped together, so that nothing gets overlooked or skipped by the letterer. Also, normally, the panel description is set apart more through formatting, perhaps by having it in parentheses, perhaps by having the panel description in lowercase while the dialogue and captions are all uppercase.

    When one is trying to meet tight deadlines (which is how virtually all comics are produced) anything that makes the script more easily and more quickly comprehensible is to be desired.

  2. HGE: I have been curious about this baby for a long time. Finally! Mystery solved. I always suspected it would be a sturdy, reliable guide and that is just what it is. I love the inclusion of the Comics Code. Great post.

  3. Somehow I just never seemed to get around to ordering it when Charlton offered it in the '70s, even though like you I was curious. It was great finding it online and I thank the fan who scanned it and posted it.

  4. I remember seeing an ad for this as a kid, and being really curious about it when I was desperate to know how the pros did it.

    Thanks for posting it -- it's pretty text heavy, but at a time when there weren't many resources like this, it must have been an eye opener for many people!

  5. I combined all the JPEGs into a PDF if people would rather have it that way; seems easier to go through. Download it if you wish:

  6. Here's a pdf of the book:

  7. I notice that another "Mark" has started posting comments on some of the same blogs I post comments to, and this blog is on the list of blogs he follows. Hate piecing the veil of my semi-anonymity, but I want to avoid confusion. I am not the "Mark" who has a blog called "It's A Crazy World In Here." (Personally, I cannot see having a blog that posts ones own artwork, yet that doesn't give one's full name.) I'm not that Mark, whoever he is.

    I am Mark Armstrong, and am the same Mark that posted the first comment to this blog entry, and also posted a comment to the recent blog entry about Virgil Findlay and how he possibly worked.

    Regarding the Charlton Comic Book Guide: I had a story published by Charlton a few years after this guide came out. I hadn't seen the guide because it came out during a brief period I felt I had outgrown comics.

    My first comic book story was "Rocket Rabbit!" which was published in the Charlton Bullseye (1981 if I recall correctly, I don't have a copy of it handy). A little later, I did some work for Marvel (Spider-Ham), and later Fantagraphics (Critters).

    The Charlton Comic Book Guide is basic, but okay.

    I may start signing my comments.

    Mark Armstrong


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