This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #9, June 1998.
A long, long time ago, when Strangehaven was only the merest of unformed ideas in my brain, I bought my brother’s eldest son Reece a neat little hardcover book one Christmas called How To Draw And Sell Comic Strips by Alan McKenzie. Reece had shown a keen interest in comics and a excellent talent for art in his early teenage years and being a good uncle, I encouraged him in any way I could.
Before wrapping it up in jolly festive paper, I flicked through the book and realised what a little goldmine of information it was. Crammed full of practical tips, excellent advice and even a potted history of the medium itself in a compact, concise and yet richly informative format. I wrapped it up.
A few months later, I asked Reece if I could, um… borrow his How To Draw And Sell Comic Strips to have a proper read. “Sure,” he said. My initial impressions were confirmed. Although I had already produced various fanzines and comic strips in my time, and had even owned my own comic shop for a while, this book offered new insights into the industry and presented them in a entertaining and humorous manner. I read it cover to cover and returned his book after a couple of weeks.
Several years on, ready to launch into a new idea for a comic I just had (yup, Strangehaven), and unable to locate another copy to purchase for myself, I asked Reece if I could borrow his book again. “Sure,” he said. Despite having several other volumes for reference, advice and inspiration (Eisner’s Comics And Sequential Art, McCloud’s Understanding Comics and, er… How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way), most encouragement by far came from Alan McKenzie’s friendly tome. After about six months, I reluctantly returned the book to its rightful owner once more.
A few years later again, and I get a phone call out of the blue from a “picture researcher” called Zoe at Quarto Publishing, asking me for permission to reproduce a Strangehaven cover and asking if I had any other material which may be of use for a new, revised and updated edition of a book called How To Draw And Sell Comic Strips by Alan McKenzie. “Sure,” I said. “that book was an inspiration to me,” and I subsequently sent off a few thumbnail-to-pencil-to-finished ink photocopies I had lying around.
Earlier this year, Titan Books published (in the UK) the fully revised and updated edition of How To Draw And Sell Comic Strips by Alan McKenzie, in a handy and economical softcover format, containing all the old tricks of the trade, some new ones and a couple of illustrations provided by yours truly.
I don’t know if there’s an American edition of the book, but in the UK at least, it’s available to order from all bookstores and specialist comic shops. It represents good value at £9.99 and I’d recommend it above almost any other book of its ilk for any budding professionals out there.
Reece is now in his second year of an Masters Degree course at the Royal College Of Art in London studying animation, and is currently fending off lucrative job offers. His uncle Gary still draws his own comics in a dusty room in Southend-On-Sea.