Sketchbooks are used to plot and draft, but also to doodle and dream. So what’s wonderful about looking at Comics Sketchbooks, a collection of pages from over 80 comics artists, is not just seeing how roughs relate to finished work, but scribbling’s lack of self-consciousness.
The revelations in sketchbooks can make the creator vulnerable – stripped bare of glossy finish, we can all look a bit rough – and it’s interesting in a book like this which pages the artists chose to present. Some use their pages to practice, others to fantasise. Some show obsessive neatness, others get messy. The ones that show process are fascinating to follow, and their annotations are exciting to decipher. But the pleasure of this book mainly comes from the feeling that seeing cartoonists trawl faint blue pencil for the perfect line to ink is akin to being let in on a great secret.
Flicking through the sketches of some of the finest practitioners of comics is thrilling. There’s a huge variety of cartoonists featured – editorial, strip, illustrative, underground, old, young, from the US, Europe, South America and Japan, including R. Crumb, Seth, Posy Simmonds, Charles Burns and Kevin Huizenga. Perhaps inevitably in a book this size, the tiny interviews are all too brief, but then again, these pages are themselves little more than tantalising – albeit inspiring – glimpses.