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Anchor Bay presents

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (1988)

"Of course, you'll need a pencil. You didn't think it would be so complicated, did you?"- Stan Lee

Stars: Stan Lee
Other Stars: John Buscema
Director: Jim Gates

Manufacturer: Grace and Wild Interactive
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (busty cartoon females)
Run Time: 00h:58m:14s
Release Date: 2002-05-07
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-C-C- D-


DVD Review

Remember those books that purported to teach you how to draw ("in 10 easy steps!") and explained how every drawing starts off with basic shapes like ovals and squares, and then showed you how to turn a couple of circles into a duck? I hate those things. I like to doodle, but I absolutely, positively, cannot draw, and I don't need some stupid book aimed at burgeoning 12-year-old Walt Disneys mocking me for it.

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way is basically a live action version of those infernal books. Comic book legends Stan Lee (creator of Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk) and John Buscema (illustrator of many Marvel classics) adapt their similarly titled book, and go one better by providing a first-person view of the creative process.

They cover all of the basics briefly, from perspective, to figure drawing, to composition and accurately capturing things from different angles, all the while emphasizing that it isn't enough to just be able to draw, you must be able to do it "the Marvel way," which I guess involves guys standing with their legs really far apart and girls jutting their boobs out. Stan frequently highlights drawings so good I could never emulate them, only to pronounce them "ok, but boring, blah, blah." Shows what I know (also shows that Stan loves the word "blah").

Stan and John offer a lot of information very quickly, and while they do emphasize that practice makes perfect, I don't know how helpful any of their tips actually are. They consist mostly of showing a character roughly outlined in blocky shapes, with Stan saying "Just fill in the detail" as John quickly creates a perfectly formed drawing. "Just fill in the details," my butt.

Even with my total lack of real drawing talent, I still enjoyed simply watching the program. For one thing, Stan and John have an unusual chemistry. Stan is constantly cracking "jokes" (I think they were jokes, anyway, but I'm not sure enough to omit the quote marks), while John sits stone faced or is noticeably annoyed. And then there is the simple joy of watching masters at work. Because let's face it: no matter how many times you put How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way on repeat, there's still only one Stan Lee, and he ain't you.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Drawn from a video master, this program looks extremely cheap (which, I'm sure, it was). The image tends to wobble a bit (most noticeable during the opening credits, or whenever there is text on the screen), and it has all of the hallmarks of video: washed out colors, a very flat appearance, and an overall softness and lack of detail. Still, the DVD is an accurate presentation of poor source material, with no glaring defects resultant from the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Like the video, the audio gets the job done and nothing more. This DD 2.0 mix anchors sound mostly in the center, with some bleeding into the front mains. The only sounds are Stan and John's voices and some occasional bouncy background music. The vocal recordings are understandable, but they sound a bit fuzzy, with audible background hiss. When the music does come into play, it too sounds rather muffled.

Audio Transfer Grade: C- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This disc is about as bare as they come. There are 14 chapter stops and some nifty program-themed menu screens. Note that no subtitles are included, apparently because deaf people don't need to learn how to draw.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

I doubt a short instructional video will teach anyone to draw professionally any time soon, but my lack of talent (and Stan Lee's lame attempts at humor) aside, this is still a pretty interesting little piece. But shouldn't it be called "How to Draw Graphic Novels?"

Joel Cunningham 2002-06-06