Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis - Book Review

From the publisher: One of the most popular writers in modern comics, Brian Michael Bendis reveals the tools and techniques he and other top creators use to create some of the most popular comic book and graphic novel stories of all time. Words for Pictures shows readers the creative methods of a writer at the very top of his field. Bendis guides aspiring creators through each step of the comics-making process—from idea to script to finished sequential art—for fan favorite comics like The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, and more. Along the way, tips and insights from other working writers, artists, and editors provide a rare, extensive look behind the creative curtain of the comics industry. With script samples, a glossary of must-know business terms for writers, and interactive comics-writing exercises, Words for Pictures provides the complete toolbox needed to jump start the next comics-writing success story.

Brian Michael Bendis writes some of the best, and most popular, comics currently going and in the recent past.  When I discovered he had written a book on writing comics, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I looked forward to seeing his process and ideas on story in general, and comic books in particular.  The book, Words for Pictures, was not disappointing at all.

Bendis teaches a course in graphic novel writing at the University of Oregon, and this book reads like a syllabus or highlights from his class.  It is divided into seven chapters: 1) Why?; 2) The Modern Comic Book Script; 3) Writing for Artists; 4) The Editor's Roundtable; 5) The Writers' FAQs; 6) The Business of Comics Writing; and 7) Writing Exercises.  Each chapter focuses on one aspect of the writing part of comic creation, with a brief look at how to run your career as a successful business (an interview with his wife, who runs his business).  Most chapters contain multiple examples of what Bendis is discussing, including art, book pitches, script pages, etc. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 also have special sections at the end that highlight Bendis's writer, artist, and editor friends views on the same subject.

One of the great parts of Words for Pictures is how Bendis recruits his colleagues to give their perspective on multiple aspects of the writer's job, including multiple artists addressing how they interact with writers and their scripts, and multiple editors talking about what they look for in a writer.

The art is gorgeous, as it is from actual comic books, and the script pages are helpful guides.

I thought Words for Pictures was a fantastic book and a great help for aspiring comic book writers, and writers in general.  Bendis is very helpful and provides many ideas and examples, but he never crosses the line into an ego trip.  He is always careful to point out what works for him, and how there are other successful writers who do things differently.  However, Bendis always focuses on what the common traits of the successful writer are.

This book is highly recommended, particularly for writers.  I can see it becoming a well-used guidebook or reference text, as it is full of useful information.

I received a review copy of this book from Ten Speed Press in exchange for an honest review.

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