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Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels

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Best-selling Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis reveals the comic book writing secrets behind his work on The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men, and more. 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 stori Best-selling Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis reveals the comic book writing secrets behind his work on The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men, and more. 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.


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Best-selling Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis reveals the comic book writing secrets behind his work on The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men, and more. 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 stori Best-selling Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis reveals the comic book writing secrets behind his work on The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men, and more. 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.

30 review for Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    I’ve never taken a creative writing course in my life but I’ve never understood why anyone would if the teacher was an unknown writer, as most tend to be. The only “how to write” book I’ve ever read was “On Writing” by Stephen King, which made sense to me as he’s an enormously successful novelist - of course he’s worth listening to! - and it also turned out to be a very entertaining read, one of King’s best in fact. Similarly, Brian Michael Bendis is best placed to pen a “how to write comics” bo I’ve never taken a creative writing course in my life but I’ve never understood why anyone would if the teacher was an unknown writer, as most tend to be. The only “how to write” book I’ve ever read was “On Writing” by Stephen King, which made sense to me as he’s an enormously successful novelist - of course he’s worth listening to! - and it also turned out to be a very entertaining read, one of King’s best in fact. Similarly, Brian Michael Bendis is best placed to pen a “how to write comics” book as he’s one of the most popular comics writers in the world, having written for many years at the world’s biggest comics publisher, Marvel. Who better to learn writing for comics than this guy? Words for Pictures is a fantastic look at all of the aspects of writing comics as well as the comics industry as a whole, and would definitely be invaluable to anyone seriously looking into a comics career. That said, Bendis comes right out of the gate with some hard truths: in comics, there’s no money and there’s no fame - and this is coming from a guy at the top of his profession! Do it because you love it, he says, and it’s fine advice for any profession you choose, writing or otherwise, but especially true for comics when even a guy like Bendis doesn’t make bank - well, he makes a decent living but he’s not rich like if he were top of other artistic mediums eg. movies, music. Reading Words for Pictures, I realised how repetitive “how to write” books are, if they’re being honest. Bendis quotes King’s advice: “Read a lot, write a lot”, and really there’s little else to add, at least in terms of writing advice. Study what you like, break it down and see why it works, power through the failures, keep at it etc. - obvious kinda stuff. But this book isn’t about motivation - it’s a practical guide to writing comics. Bendis assumes the reader knows nothing about comics and goes from there, a fine approach to draw in the largest possible audience. Firstly, Bendis explains the difference between full script and Marvel style, the two most popular approaches to writing comics. If you’ve read a few “deluxe” trade paperbacks (usually by Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore), the publisher will include full scripts at the back so you can see what a comics script is like - at a glance it resembles a screenplay but look closer and you’ll see panel breakdowns and guidelines for the artist. Bendis writes this way. Marvel style was pioneered by Stan Lee back in the days when he had to produce 12 monthly titles. Lee would write a few pages of outline and then hand it to one of the artists who would take the story, break it down into panels and pages, draw it, and hand it back to Lee, who would fill in the captions/dialogue. It’s a loose, less controlled approach but one where the collaboration between writer and artist strongly favours the artist as opposed to the full script method. Marvel style is rarely used today but it turns out Matt Fraction utilised this approach in writing his and David Aja’s acclaimed Hawkeye run. And here’s a surprise: you’d think this book would be all Bendis but it’s actually comprised of contributions from a great many people in the comics industry. Fraction supplies an essay on Hawkeye and his writing process and partnership with Aja, and later on there are extended sections where Bendis fires questions at a group of the biggest artists and editors in the field, collating their answers in a lengthy Q&A. The Fraction essay was a pleasant surprise as I’m a huge fan of Hawkeye and was fascinated with the utter chaos that is the reality of a Hawkeye script! Fraction includes photostats of his handwritten notes as well as thumbnails by Aja, all of which look appropriately loose and dirty like Clint Barton’s life in the book, and in sharp contrast to the neat, perfectly compressed comics we see as the final product. The likes of Michael Allred, Skottie Young, Jill Thompson, Mark Bagley, Klaus Janson, Walt Simonson, Sara Pichelli, and a few others go through the do’s and don’t’s of how a writer/artist relationship should work, what they look for in a script, and other helpful tips. All of the artists in the book also have numerous examples of their work at different stages of completion displayed throughout so that the book’s text is broken up with gorgeous (mostly Marvel) art. A gaggle of Marvel editors and Dark Horse’s Scott Allie explain the editor’s role and the pitfalls most writers tend to drop into, as well as how to catch an editor’s eye and get hired (short answer: create your own comic. Repeat.). An interview with CB Cebulski, Marvel’s chief talent scout, goes into what he looks for in possible candidates to hire (don’t send unsolicited pitches, especially if they include Marvel characters - they legally can’t read them anyway and will be discarded immediately - but, again, instead create your own stuff and don’t call them, they’ll call you), while Bendis’ wife and business partner goes through what every comics creator should do to avoid getting ripped off (you don’t want to be a Siegel/Shuster cautionary tale should your creation take off!). Most of the participants in this book are Marvel affiliated and there are no DC editors/personnel contributing to the book, nor are there professionals from Image, IDW, Oni, and other comics companies represented here (Scott Allie and Diana Schutz from Dark Horse are the only non-Marvel professionals). However, this book isn’t aimed at writers looking to write Marvel comics specifically - this book contains advice that’s applicable from someone setting out to write their first web-comic to someone writing the latest Ultimate Spider-Man issue. It looks heavily Marvel flavoured but it’s all about comics, whatever the brand, and gives you an idea of the expectations in the comics industry. There’s also no guarantee that even if you do get hired at Marvel for a comic, you’ll get asked to do another one, so don’t put all your eggs in the Marvel basket - think more broadly and create your own stuff instead. I’m not an aspiring comics writer but I am a devoted comics reader and thoroughly enjoyed this look behind the scenes at how everything is put together, from soup to nuts. It’s an eye-opening and enormously informative read that’s worth a look even if you’re not a wannabe writer and just a comics reader. There’s a lot of stuff here that’ll make you appreciate the comics you read every week and get much more out of them too. And if you are looking to get into comics, this book will be like the freakin’ Bible to you! Every single aspect of the process is laid out and explored by professionals in an easy to understand and practical way. Words for Pictures is a must-read for anyone looking to get started in comics writing with plenty of useful information from a writer at the top of his game.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    In a word: awesome.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    I'd go so far as to say that this is one of the better How To Write books that I've read. Bendis brings his considerable expertise and enthusiasm to bear on the topic, and provides bountiful examples, and not just from his own work, either. Indeed, there are several chapters in which various writers, artists, and editors are encouraged to give their own, sometimes differing, opinions on the subject. There are copious illustrations along with the text, showing comics pages in various stages of pr I'd go so far as to say that this is one of the better How To Write books that I've read. Bendis brings his considerable expertise and enthusiasm to bear on the topic, and provides bountiful examples, and not just from his own work, either. Indeed, there are several chapters in which various writers, artists, and editors are encouraged to give their own, sometimes differing, opinions on the subject. There are copious illustrations along with the text, showing comics pages in various stages of production, from rough thumbnails, to final art. There's even a chapter devoted to contracts, which is something I don't think I've seen in any other book of this type. This book will not turn you into a comic book writer, but, if that's what you desire to be, it should very likely help make you a better one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    Brian Michael Bendis has written a lot of comics. A LOT OF COMICS. He's had several very successful runs on various Marvel titles, and has some critically acclaimed creator owned work to his name. He's been a regular guest on a comic book podcast called Word Balloon for nearly 10 years and often answers fan questions, most of those questions being about the craft of writing and making comics. More recently, he has taken to the blog site Tumblr to answer fan questions more directly on the business Brian Michael Bendis has written a lot of comics. A LOT OF COMICS. He's had several very successful runs on various Marvel titles, and has some critically acclaimed creator owned work to his name. He's been a regular guest on a comic book podcast called Word Balloon for nearly 10 years and often answers fan questions, most of those questions being about the craft of writing and making comics. More recently, he has taken to the blog site Tumblr to answer fan questions more directly on the business of writing. So it makes sense that he would want to put out a book about writing comics and graphic novels. In his book Words for Pictures, he covers all areas of working in comics. To script layouts, working with artists and working with editors. He even has a chapter dedicated to the business side of writing. It's more of a coffee table print sized book. I was expecting it to be more like a traditional book, but it's a larger format. This is needed though because of all the art that's in here. The size and paper quality really helps show off the quality of the art. It's a very comprehensive and enjoyable read. I'm not someone who is immediately looking to break into comics. Sure, I've thought about writing some of them and I've had a few ideas. But I am interested in the craft and process. I also like hearing the writers themselves talk about their own craft and process. This book isn't just Bendis, either. He has many of his friends and collaborators contributing parts to make up the overall book. There's Matt Fraction talking about working with David Aja on Hawkeye. There's an editors round table which involves editors talking about how you should approach them and what they're looking for in new talent. There's a conversation between David Mack and Alex Maleev on how comic book art can be so much more than art. There's really a lot in here and I think it'd be a good read even to someone who isn't looking to write comics, but is interested in creating in general. The book is about giving advice to new writers and tips on breaking in. The thing with comics is that staying in is as hard as breaking in, so the insight this books gives in regard to the relationship with your editor and artist is very useful. I do have one problem with the book, however. Even though Bendis does get a lot of good writers and artists contributing to the book, they're either close friends of his or people he works with a lot. That makes sense because it probably made the book easier to put together, but that means there's a lack of DC and indie creators in here. There's cover blurbs from people like Geoff Johns, Warren Ellis and Jim Steranko talking about how good this book is, but why didn't they contribute anything to it? There is a section of the book by Diana Schutz, who is a long time editor for Dark Horse comics, and has been behind books like Hellboy and 300. But this is only one part. In the editors round table section, only one editor is a none marvel employee. Also, all the examples of art used are pretty much exclusively Marvel or from Bendis' creator owned books. Again, this is probably down to legal reasons, but this could have been a much more comprehensive look at the business and craft if he could have included more DC and indie stuff. There's a similar problem with Grant Morrisons SuperGods, but in that case, there's little Marvel stuff involved. Bendis is very much a Marvel company man, and it's great that Marvel let his used so much of their stuff in his book on writing. But how great would it be if, say, Frank Miller did a section of the book? (For all I know, though, Bendis might have asked him and he could have said no). But this is still a really good read. It is to comics what Kings On Writing is to prose. It's also just an enjoyable read and never feels like a boring chore to get through.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I had been looking forward to this book for a long time and had very high hopes, so some disappointment should probably be expected. But my, what a letdown. Bendis is probably the most open comic creator on the planet, and his lively letters columns and Q&A sessions are always full of helpful, honest advice. I assumed this book would expand on those and add some new depth to the conversation, resulting in a really valuable resource. Instead, it's all very vague, sparse and more basic than ba I had been looking forward to this book for a long time and had very high hopes, so some disappointment should probably be expected. But my, what a letdown. Bendis is probably the most open comic creator on the planet, and his lively letters columns and Q&A sessions are always full of helpful, honest advice. I assumed this book would expand on those and add some new depth to the conversation, resulting in a really valuable resource. Instead, it's all very vague, sparse and more basic than basic. And more than half of it is taken up with pictures! Not "here is how to lay out a page" type examples, but just pretty pictures of Spider-Man that are nothing but filler. It's neither a pie-in-the-sky "work hard and you can do it!" self-help book, nor a dry examination of rules and form, which I appreciate. The interviews with artists and editors were the most enlightening, laying out exactly what they look for in a writer and what annoys them. The tone is conversational and entertaining throughout. I was just hoping for more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    One of the silliest books of art theory I've ever read. The introductory chapter is about how Bendis isn't famous and how most people don't know JK Rowling's name. Even if either of those statements were vaguely true, why do they belong in this book? Right off the bat, it reads like a first draft. The chapters about process read more like Tumblr FAQs than art theory. What few insights Bendis offers get driven into the ground without elaboration, ultimately streaming back to his main point: "I dunn One of the silliest books of art theory I've ever read. The introductory chapter is about how Bendis isn't famous and how most people don't know JK Rowling's name. Even if either of those statements were vaguely true, why do they belong in this book? Right off the bat, it reads like a first draft. The chapters about process read more like Tumblr FAQs than art theory. What few insights Bendis offers get driven into the ground without elaboration, ultimately streaming back to his main point: "I dunno, man, there are a whole bunch of approaches you can take; just try to be good at it or whatever." Mind-blowing. It seems like this is a book designed to make you feel like you're hanging out with Bendis and his pals and co-workers, and yeah, they're talking about process, but they're answering the sort of vapid questions they'd get at conventions. Call me shallow, but I'm not very interested in what annoys Walter Simonson about collaboration. I want to understand where and why Bendis chooses to split panels in his scripts; his process for developing and introducing new characters; how he re-imagines established characters for the Ultimate universe; how writing for super-heroes differs from writing other genres, and so on. There's a wealth of talent and knowledge in that head of his, but--just like his comics for the last decade--he's only teased us with the prospect of sharing it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I've been reading graphic novels for years but for the most part didn't bother to learn the business or process behind it. This is one of the best books I've read about the genre and easily the best on how writer and artists collaborate, the ways to get into the business and the mistakes to avoid if you want to break into the industry. Despite being a regular reader and reviewer of graphic novels, I have to admit that prior to reading Words for Pictures, I had only a vague idea of the process. Af I've been reading graphic novels for years but for the most part didn't bother to learn the business or process behind it. This is one of the best books I've read about the genre and easily the best on how writer and artists collaborate, the ways to get into the business and the mistakes to avoid if you want to break into the industry. Despite being a regular reader and reviewer of graphic novels, I have to admit that prior to reading Words for Pictures, I had only a vague idea of the process. After having seen the deluxe editions of books like Arkham Asylum and Kingdom Come, I was aware that the writer wrote a script and that they worked with artists to create the story. The exact details of that collaboration and in particular the differences between penciller, letterer and colorist were completely foreign to me. Words for Pictures does an excellent job of bringing the ambitious down to earth in terms of understanding how the graphic novel/comics industry works and how difficult it can be to break into. Bendis doesn't discourage potential artists and writers from doing so, just cautions them to be resilient to rejection and realistic. He also really emphasizes the necessary collaboration between artist(s) and writer(s) (when they aren't one and the same) and what to do (and what not to do) for your artist if you want to write comic books. In addition to Bendis' own insight as a well-known author in the industry, he also brings in the opinions of other giants in the industry like Ed Brubaker and Walt Simonson (among many others). What I found particularly valuable were the Q and A segments with a number of different artists in the industry. It was eye opening to see what they liked and didn't like about working in the industry and what worked well for them versus what didn't. I think this book could seriously be a bible for those wanting to break into the industry as it even covers what editors are looking for and mistakes not to make when submitting work to them. I tended to skip the latter segments just because I was more interested in learning the process and the industry than in breaking into it. Because of Bendis' past work, it's heavily dominated by information on Marvel rather than DC and some of the independent publishers but it's still a great introduction and overview of the industry and how to get into it. After having read Words for Pictures, I feel like I have a much better idea of the comics industry and the collaboration that goes into making the books that I enjoy so much. If you want to break into the industry, Words for Pictures would be a must-read!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bobby

    The book is sold as a "how to write and get into the business of being a comic book writer." And to that, it has a lot of basic information, but very few actual tips and tools to show you how to do it. A quick example: the importance of a cliffhanger is highlighted and explained. Everyone who has watched a TV show or read a comic knows what a cliffhanger is. What isn't explained is how to actually construct one. What are the story elements and character elements that go into the cliffhanger? Und The book is sold as a "how to write and get into the business of being a comic book writer." And to that, it has a lot of basic information, but very few actual tips and tools to show you how to do it. A quick example: the importance of a cliffhanger is highlighted and explained. Everyone who has watched a TV show or read a comic knows what a cliffhanger is. What isn't explained is how to actually construct one. What are the story elements and character elements that go into the cliffhanger? Understanding that story element as a writer is far different than recognizing it as a viewer. The best advice the book has is for when you're writing scripts for an artist and how to approach that level of collaboration. It's very good instruction for someone who already understands how to create characters, dramatic tension, etc., but getting to that point? You're on your own, kid. It's a good book for what it is. It's a motivating, kick in the butt book for people who have never studied dramatic writing. The interviews with Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker stand out... but will this book tell you what you need to know about the actual skin and bones of writing a story? Probably not.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joey Cruz

    A must-read for writers wanting to get into the comics business. Bendis is the name on the cover, but what he does is compile the thoughts, experiences, and advice of all of his professional comic creator friends in interviews that touch on every essential topic an aspiring comic creator should know.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Genevieve

    * Originally reviewed on the Night Owls Press blog here. * Storytelling is a craft and a business. This is a central maxim in Words for Pictures The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels by Brian Michael Bendis. Words for Pictures is a fascinating 101-type introduction to the world of visual storytelling—and it is one of the first books on this topic targeted directly at writers. With Words for Pictures, Bendis has written a modern-day guidebook to breaking into comics and graphic * Originally reviewed on the Night Owls Press blog here. * Storytelling is a craft and a business. This is a central maxim in Words for Pictures The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels by Brian Michael Bendis. Words for Pictures is a fascinating 101-type introduction to the world of visual storytelling—and it is one of the first books on this topic targeted directly at writers. With Words for Pictures, Bendis has written a modern-day guidebook to breaking into comics and graphic novels. Bendis himself is a bright fixture in the comic book scene. He was the creative force behind several superhero series including “Guardians of the Galaxy” (which has been turned into one of the biggest grossing movies in 2014), “The Avengers,” “Ultimate Spider-Man,” and others. He has also written independent comics and graphic novels, notably “Scarlet,” “Powers,” and “Torso.” Bendis is also an educator, teaching courses on comics and graphic novels at Portland State University and the University of Oregon. All in all, especially for a comics newbie, Words for Pictures is a rare, special treat. Writers rarely talk about their creative process, let alone their work methods as candidly as Bendis does in this book. The complex tradecraft of the visual storyteller is shared generously and honestly in this book. What does the editorial workflow look like? What components should go in a submission package? How should you write your script? What are the merits of the two dominant script forms, full script and Marvel-style? With this book, Bendis peels back the layers of the work process and the business, giving readers a better understanding of the industry and the people working in it. Words for Pictures follows a tradition of books on the craft that include Dennis O’Neil’s The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics, and Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art. What separates this book from others is that it delves a little less into the creative process and more into the work process—the profession and craft of comics and graphic novels. Bendis starts the book by disabusing starry-eyed notions of going into comics to make it big. Writing isn’t glamorous; it’s hard work. As a writer and educator, Bendis has no illusions about how hard it is to break into the industry. He writes: “Go to the bookstore and walk up to the Harry Potter books. … [L]ook around the Harry Potter books and you will find authors who have ideas and characters that may be better than Harry Potter…but they are not Harry Potter. … They are fine writers who are putting something out there into the world that wasn’t there before. And I am here to tell you those very same authors are still working at their day jobs and have no idea what happened.” His point: You have to have the right motivations to get into this business. Don’t do this for the fame and fortune. This realistic perspective is a unifying thread throughout the rest of the book. Writing is a craft, and to be successful at it you have to keep learning your craft and get better at the work process. For most of the book Bendis shows readers the technical aspects of writing and working with illustrators, letterers, colorists, and editors. He shows writers how to put together a good submission package, from pitch letters to scripts. His step-by-step approach delineates the process and is accompanied by a lot of examples from his own work and the work of others, including excerpts and scans of actual scripts, editing notes, and artwork drafts at every stage from sketches to lettering to coloring. Reading Words for Pictures feels like an exclusive backstage pass; you get to see a finished product deconstructed, and see the amount of work that goes into making those panels on that page. What really makes this book sing is that a large part of it is focused on the collaborative process, both between writers and artists, and writers and editors. The cardinal rule: The script is written for the artist—it isn’t written for the reader. “Your script is a 10,000 word letter to an artist.” Learning how to communicate your story to artists through the right amount of descriptive action and dialogue, while also taking into account your artist-partner’s visual style, is what drives the success of a comic. When a story has good pacing and rhythm through the visuals, when the action is not too cramped inside the panels, and when the dialogue isn't superfluous—all these are testaments to effective collaboration. Working with editors is the other important form of collaboration explored in Words for Pictures. As a book editor at Night Owls Press, I can most identify with this. Our collaborative partnerships have since expanded to visual artists for our Turn of Phrase ESL book series. To Bendis, editors matter. Editors are the ones who hire you. In many ways, they are the gatekeepers and they are a comic brand’s guardians. They are also the ones who push writers to produce their best work. The advice offered here can be applied to many other types of literary work. The chapter on editors includes a wonderful section written by Diana Schutz, the editor-in-chief of Dark Horse Comics, that offers an insider’s look into how to make a submission stand out and how to get an editor’s attention. Not surprisingly, it’s not simply about having a great idea but presenting those ideas well, which all speaks to a writer’s professional integrity and ability to execute and follow through. In my own work reviewing manuscript submissions, I’m always most impressed by writers who present their ideas well, who take the time to follow our guidelines, and who have taken the time to develop a website or portfolio of work. Basically, show, don’t tell. According to Schutz, nothing grabs an editor’s attention more than that portfolio, especially one filled with finished products. In other words, if you’re going to write comic books and graphic novels, finish them. Schutz advises writers to put together finished stories to show that you understand the principles of narrative tension, plot arcs, and characterization. Words for Pictures includes a treasure trove of interviews with dozens of writers, artists, and editors. In some parts, though, it feels as if Bendis was overwhelmed by so much information and access to people. There are several sections where Bendis just aggregates responses in a free-form fashion, particularly in the section “Artists on Writers.” The information is rich and insightful here, but the Q&A style feels as if you're reading a transcript. Bendis’s role as our guide just disappears. The free-running responses, which often echo each other, feel like bloat. Better editing and integration of interviewee responses would have made a dramatic improvement. By the end of the book, Bendis gives us a chapter on how to run your business. His wife and business partner takes over here and gives an extensive discussion on the topic. The most important takeaway: Contracts can make or break your business. I would have loved to see more detail on the technical craft of writing for the visual medium: how to do cliffhangers, how to write dialogue, or how to distill plot to the barest elements. Finally, there is also a gaping lack of distinction between writing comic books and graphic novels, as well as no reference to other writing traditions like Japanese manga. Overall, Words for Pictures is a beginner’s look at being a comic book writer. But what’s appealing about this book is that it will resonate with anyone who has an interest in storytelling or works in a profession where creative partnerships are the norm. It is full of rich personal detail, including anecdotes from Bendis and advice and insights from his impressive roster of colleagues in the industry, many of whom are rockstars in the world of comics. You’ll relish the deep look into this professional creator’s mind. [Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for an honest and candid review.]

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pym

    This is more like “an introduction to…”, and while it has some interesting information and points you in the right direction, it does not go into the nuts and bolts of any aspect of comic book writing: This is not the place to find information on character, plot and good dialogue, or even comic specific information that you find in McCloud’s Understanding Comics (which I thought this would be like). To give an example, there’s a chapter on the business side of things by Bendis’ wife which has a This is more like “an introduction to…”, and while it has some interesting information and points you in the right direction, it does not go into the nuts and bolts of any aspect of comic book writing: This is not the place to find information on character, plot and good dialogue, or even comic specific information that you find in McCloud’s Understanding Comics (which I thought this would be like). To give an example, there’s a chapter on the business side of things by Bendis’ wife which has a list of legal terms that you would do well to consider in a business contract; more useful and interesting (to me, anyway) would have been actual sample contracts. It is also specifically geared toward writing for the big corporate companies (Marvel/DC*). So the information we do get is advice on how to communicate your story to the artist, someone that you have been partnered with by an editor and who you may never have met in person. This consists of lessons such as: Pace out actions over a number of panels, never try and cram several plot points into one panel. Do not stay in one location for more than, say, six pages, otherwise the story will lose momentum. Give the artist a say in the story, whether that be a lot (through a Marvel-style one page character story) or just listening to their input on the layout of a single page. Don’t forget until page 12 to tell the artist the hero is carrying a sword. Etc. There is a similar section with editor interviews, here the advice is things like: Send in pitches (ie, the whole story) not teasers – especially if you are an unknown, it’s not enough to know you can set a story up, you have to show you can finish it. There was a couple things useful to prospective comics artists. First, when sending in your portfolio keep it under 4mb. Lead with comic book pages (with panels laid out) to show you can do the job: Just because you can do a splash image of Wolverine doesn’t mean you can put a story together. My favourite thing from the book was Joe Quesada’s foreword, which is generally great but includes heartening words in a story about his daughter figure skating – “if you’re not falling (=failing) you’re not trying hard enough”. That works for most creative industries, I think. All in all I was hoping for something a bit more detailed and substantial, but if what you’re looking for is how to write for big name superhero comics, this is a good place to start. * There is not much mention of DC, all the interviews are with Marvel guys or the occasional Dark Horse guy, not that it makes much difference.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gamal Hennessy

    As a child, the first book I recall getting my hands on about the comic book industry was How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. After I got out of law school, I got my hands on Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. The first book exposed me to comics as a technical skill and not just a bunch of cool pictures. The second book reintroduced me to comics as an art form and not just a childish obsession. Words for Pictures is a book on the same level. It describes the creative and practical aspects of As a child, the first book I recall getting my hands on about the comic book industry was How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. After I got out of law school, I got my hands on Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. The first book exposed me to comics as a technical skill and not just a bunch of cool pictures. The second book reintroduced me to comics as an art form and not just a childish obsession. Words for Pictures is a book on the same level. It describes the creative and practical aspects of comics as a business and belongs on the radar of anyone with any interest in the medium. Brian Michael Bendis is an award winning writer who has worked on seminal franchises including Spider-Man, X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s also had success with his own original titles including Powers, Torso and Scarlet. Bendis brings years of experience to Words, walking an aspiring creator through major aspects of the writing business including: 1) The motivations for writing 2) The form and function of the script 3) Collaboration with editors and artists and; 4) Protecting your business interests Bendis doesn’t just rely on his own perspective for this book. He adds the insights from dozens of top writers, artists and editors to create a behind the scenes look into the business that is now driving the blockbuster movie industry. One of the most important lessons in the book gets a chapter to itself. Bendis advises anyone and everyone who gets into comics on any level to protect their creative investment by seeking out and listening to lawyers and accountants when it comes to handling their career. Even if you’re not interesting in writing comic books, Words for Pictures still has value. If you’re a writer on any level, the advice he offers transcends the comic book page and extends out to novelists, playwrights and screenwriters. If you simply love iconic artwork, Words is filled with art from some of the top comic book artists of the past and present. In the same way you don’t have to read comics to enjoy comic book movies, you can enjoy Words for Pictures without trying to be the next Walt Simonson of Brian Michael Bendis. Have fun. Gamal

  13. 4 out of 5

    Annice22

    Borrowed from Publisher/NetGalley for an honest review. This was full of information and I like this even more that it wasn't an "how to write" book. Because there is no perfect formula for writing the perfect story. The book does include interviews from some of the experts in the industry from writers to editors where they share their advice for dealing with the industry. As a comic book fan, I see the final product but this book lets you see what goes on behind the scenes in a way because get to Borrowed from Publisher/NetGalley for an honest review. This was full of information and I like this even more that it wasn't an "how to write" book. Because there is no perfect formula for writing the perfect story. The book does include interviews from some of the experts in the industry from writers to editors where they share their advice for dealing with the industry. As a comic book fan, I see the final product but this book lets you see what goes on behind the scenes in a way because get to see what the writers and artists sometimes have to deal with just to see that book completed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Trey Piepmeier

    Fantastic. I'm glad I came across this book in my search for advice and information on the world of comic book writing. There are parts of this I'm going to refer to often, I'm sure. While this book is directed at people who are interested in writing comics, I think it would interest anyone who enjoys reading comics as well. I found it fascinating to realize that a comic book writer basically writes for an audience of one; the artist. Because of that, there's no standard format for a comic script Fantastic. I'm glad I came across this book in my search for advice and information on the world of comic book writing. There are parts of this I'm going to refer to often, I'm sure. While this book is directed at people who are interested in writing comics, I think it would interest anyone who enjoys reading comics as well. I found it fascinating to realize that a comic book writer basically writes for an audience of one; the artist. Because of that, there's no standard format for a comic script like there is for a screenplay. Whatever works for those two people is what matters.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Bendis is a top name in comics, and he clearly brings that experience to the table in "Words for Pictures." But in equal measure--and embracing the diverse approaches that art entails--the book also features the voices and perspectives of a wealth of other creators and professions in the comics world (admittedly with a Marvel-focused leaning). The result is a book that doesn't focus as heavily on craft as some books might--though many of the basics are certainly covered. Rather, "Words to Pictur Bendis is a top name in comics, and he clearly brings that experience to the table in "Words for Pictures." But in equal measure--and embracing the diverse approaches that art entails--the book also features the voices and perspectives of a wealth of other creators and professions in the comics world (admittedly with a Marvel-focused leaning). The result is a book that doesn't focus as heavily on craft as some books might--though many of the basics are certainly covered. Rather, "Words to Pictures" is a look into the world of comics creation--from ideas through collaboration and into the business side of publishing. The voices and views are diverse--and sometimes contradictory--but the overall product offers up themes, tips, and insight--not only about how to create comics, but about what to expect within the business world of comics creation. And through it all, Bendis offers hard but important realities about the struggles of making art, set alongside hopeful encouragement that--with persistent work and a great love for the act of creation itself--success is possible (even if success doesn't always look the way you expect). These are lessons that certainly apply to comics, but many of them are helpful and resounding truths for anyone seeking to create art in a world that doesn't often make it easy. This book is broad-ranging and educational, but it is also clearly the product of creators who love what they do, and are happy to take some time to share a bit of their success (and their struggles) with those who are trying to get a glimpse at the other side.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Javier HG

    El cómic es uno de los medios culturales de más éxito si lo juzgamos con base en los personajes reconocidos que ha creado (Spiderman, Tintín, Asterix y Obelix por citar solo algunos) y su "exportación" también con éxito a otros medios (TV, cine, videojuegos). Para el gran público Brian Michael Bendis es un desconocido pero en el mundo del cómic es un autor muy reconocido, habiendo creado no solo contenido propio (Powers) sino también para Marvel (la franquicia Ultimate Spiderman es prácticamente El cómic es uno de los medios culturales de más éxito si lo juzgamos con base en los personajes reconocidos que ha creado (Spiderman, Tintín, Asterix y Obelix por citar solo algunos) y su "exportación" también con éxito a otros medios (TV, cine, videojuegos). Para el gran público Brian Michael Bendis es un desconocido pero en el mundo del cómic es un autor muy reconocido, habiendo creado no solo contenido propio (Powers) sino también para Marvel (la franquicia Ultimate Spiderman es prácticamente obra suya). En "Words for pictures" Bendis escribe sobre el arte de crear cómics, tanto como escritor como dibujante. Este libro creo que es interesante tanto si eres un amante de los cómics como si no. Al igual que pasaba con "On writing" de Stephen King y "La página escrita" de Jordi Sierra i Fabra, Bendis dice que si alguien quiere ser escritor, TIENE que ser escritor. Es decir, sentir la necesidad de escribir cada día, viva de eso o no. Creo que es un consejo que mucha gente se puede aplicar para muchas cosas y para saber si tiene pasión por algo. Libro recomendable para aquellas personas que, o bien hayan disfrutado de los cómics alguna vez, o que tengan el gusto de leer en general.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Blaine McGaffigan

    This guide on how to write comic books and break into the industry is crafted by not only a talented writer, but a teacher who has honed these ideas over the years teaching in University classrooms. Brian Michael Bendis is one of the top pop comic book writers. He has pioneered the modern “write for the trade” style of comics, and excels in sharp dialogue for the characters. Bendis constructs a very easy to read book that uses visuals and industry interviews to show viewpoints outside of his own. This guide on how to write comic books and break into the industry is crafted by not only a talented writer, but a teacher who has honed these ideas over the years teaching in University classrooms. Brian Michael Bendis is one of the top pop comic book writers. He has pioneered the modern “write for the trade” style of comics, and excels in sharp dialogue for the characters. Bendis constructs a very easy to read book that uses visuals and industry interviews to show viewpoints outside of his own. The design and production of this book is high quality. It’s witty and inspiring for anyone who dreams of writing comics.

  18. 4 out of 5

    A.J. Bauers

    For any person interested in writing a script for a comic book, this is really a must-read. The most important lesson I learned from this is that the author writes for the artist first, then the audience. If you can write a scene that's visually dynamic or interesting, your comic book isn't going to do well. Let's face it, it doesn't matter how well written a comic book is--it's a visual medium first. So if you can't write with that in mind, comic book writing might not be your field.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Freudenburg

    This is a book to help people who write for comics and graphic novels. It gives a lot of wonderful information and advice on how to do it and how to get published. What a tremendous gift from someone who has been through the process. I don't write for comics, but if I did, this book would be worth gold! For ME, it was helpful to learn about the creative process and how it happens.

  20. 4 out of 5

    James

    Amazing. A surefire primer for what to expect when choosing to be a writer for comics and meeting the people you come in contact with.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Schultz

    “Words for Pictures” is an interesting text— More-so because it is exactly that: A textbook. The author, Brian Michael Bendis, is a writer that I have read for years; he has written some of my favorite superhero tales from the modernization of the New Avengers to his current X-Men runs to the stellar Secret Invasion and Age of Ultron Marvel events. He is the quintessential rockstar of the comic book world, or as he would put it: Comic book famous. Rarely do audiences get to see the man behind the “Words for Pictures” is an interesting text— More-so because it is exactly that: A textbook. The author, Brian Michael Bendis, is a writer that I have read for years; he has written some of my favorite superhero tales from the modernization of the New Avengers to his current X-Men runs to the stellar Secret Invasion and Age of Ultron Marvel events. He is the quintessential rockstar of the comic book world, or as he would put it: Comic book famous. Rarely do audiences get to see the man behind the curtain. We get see their art, but we are removed from their perspective and upbringing. How did they get into the comic book industry? What drives them to write or draw? Where did they go for schooling? How does the editorial process work? How do I become published in the comic book industry? There are a myriad of questions that get lost in the shuffle of the work, which is not necessarily a bad thing but sometimes there are people who want to know more. The final product, whether it be a piece of writing and/or art or an amalgamation of the two such as comic or graphic novel, should be viewed in the most holistic light as possible, but there are some of us who want to peel back the layers and learn more about the industry and the process to better understand the human experience. Luckily for us, Brian Michael Bendis followed in the footsteps of the greats before him and created “Words for Pictures,” which is along the same lines as Dennis O’Neil’s “The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics,” Alan Moore’s “Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics,” and Will Eisner’s “Comics and Sequential Art.” It is a modern guide for the aforementioned who want to learn more about the industry. Whether you are curious about breaking into the business or are merely a perspective reader, “Words for Pictures” strikes a chord. The book covers all aspects of the industry. It begins with a thoughtful introduction by Joe Quesada praising Bendis for his work and ability to create such a guide whilst anecdotally speaking of his own career. The book then segue-ways into the basics and career of Brian Michael Bendis as a writer and educator, as described by him. As he starts to get into the nitty-gritty of script writing he begins to have fellow writers interject and describe their own writing processes and collaborative efforts with fellow artists. This is a unique and clever structure, because it allows the reader to see Bendis’ methodology as well as several others which begins to coalesce into working idea of the readers’ own take on the writing process. The middle of the text unfortunately becomes a little dry. The narrative shifts abruptly to focus on the artists. This normally wouldn’t be a negative, but the information is conveyed poorly. Essentially a large group of artists were gathered (or at least their responses were) and given a series of questions. This style was executed poorly because as a reader you are subjected to a main question and then the artists’ dozen or so follow-up answers that were merely the same ones reiterated over-and-over again. After the first ten-pages or so of the interview responses they began to blur with another and I was loosing sight of the information being presented. I ended up taking a breather and coming back to it, to finish that particular section. However, the final portion of the book closes out with a bang and ticks up wonderfully. It is chalked full of helpful inspiration for writers at all stages in their career. There is an entire section devoted strictly to the editorial and submission process, another focusing on the business aspect of writing as told by Bendis’ wife and business partner, a FAQ, and finally tips and tricks of the trade which includes what it truly means to be ‘a writer’ as described by Brian Michael Bendis. All-in-all, “Words for Pictures” is a fantastic text. It comes from the heart of an educator, but more importantly, the mind of a writer. It touches base on all the important facets of the comic book industry and creative process. Save for a brief dry spell in the middle, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of the craft and business of making comics.

  22. 4 out of 5

    S.Q. Eries

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In summary The cover flap touts the book as the “complete toolbox needed to jumpstart the next comics-writing success,” but it isn’t quite that. To be sure, anecdotes from Bendis and a host of writers, artists, and editors provide a fairly good look into the industry. However, Bendis treats comic book scripting in such general terms that I would call Words for Pictures a nice tool for a writer but hardly the complete toolbox. The Review I was confused by this book’s title at first. After all, if it In summary The cover flap touts the book as the “complete toolbox needed to jumpstart the next comics-writing success,” but it isn’t quite that. To be sure, anecdotes from Bendis and a host of writers, artists, and editors provide a fairly good look into the industry. However, Bendis treats comic book scripting in such general terms that I would call Words for Pictures a nice tool for a writer but hardly the complete toolbox. The Review I was confused by this book’s title at first. After all, if it’s about comics, where visuals often take the place of blocks of text, shouldn’t it be Pictures for Words, not the other way around? As it turns out, the title does fit the book as it is not so much about all roles in the industry but specifically focuses on the writer. So there are a lot of references to art and artists, and many contributors, including Bendis, went to art school and drew for part of their careers. However, Bendis’ intended audience are those aspiring to create the scripts most comic book readers never see. For those unfamiliar with these scripts, they’re the all-text documents used to tell another person how to draw the actual comic book, much the way screenplays guide filmmakers in making films. (In fact, Bendis writes his scripts using Final Draft, which is what my LA screenwriter friends use to write their scripts.) Not that this book can’t be useful for the writer-artist who’s writing out of his own head, but it’s definitely biased toward the situation where the writer is part of a much larger team. Bendis introduces the “Full Script” and “Marvel Style,” which delineate the two ends of the scripting spectrum. However, from what he describes, scripts wind up in all places in between the two styles, morphing as collaborators figure out what works best for their particular team. In his example of a Full Script, he includes notes that address artist Sara Pichelli by name before getting into the dialogue. (The script also contains a couple grammatical errors, and I’m not sure if that’s an indication of what is acceptable in the industry or an oversight of the book’s editor.) Because there are no hard and fast guidelines for scripts, Bendis discusses them in broad terms, stressing teamwork, communication, and the need to remember that comics, unlike film, is a static medium. He does touch on topics like story beats but so briefly that other guides, like Save the Cat!, would probably be more useful even if they are not specifically geared towards comic books. Bendis’ advice comes predominantly in the form of anecdotes or Q&A with various artists, whose preferences for script styles run all over the place. As such, most chapters wind up being a kind of showcase of different ways various creators got into the industry or get their craft done. Fortunately for those wanting something more concrete, there are Chapter 4: The Editors’ Roundtable and Chapter 6: The Business of Comics Writing. If you’re aiming to pitch to any of the editors in the roundtable, which include six former/current Marvel editors and one Dark Horse editor, their responses are definitely worth a look. So is the spotlight on Marvel VP C.B. Cebulski. However, Diana Schutz’ five-page guide to editors will prove the most valuable section to those wanting to get into the industry but have no idea where to start. As for Chapter 6, it’s not a comprehensive guide to managing your creative work as a business but provides a good start and contains a handy glossary of contract terms. Because it is a book about the comic book industry, it includes comic book art, mostly from Marvel titles, which isn’t surprising since Bendis writes for them. Some pictures are used to illustrate a point; most simply decorate the pages. They are vibrantly reproduced though. And though the focus is on writing, it includes interviews with artists David Mack, Alex Maleev, and Michael Avon Oeming. So if you’re not a writer but have an interest in those artists, you’ll have decide for yourself if that material’s enough to justify the book’s $24.99 cover price. For more manga and book reviews, drop by my blog Keeping It In Canon!

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Kinchen

    BOOK REVIEW: 'Words for Pictures': Exhaustive, Entertaining Look at the Writer's Role in Creating Comics and Graphic Novels REVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN In one of those strange coincidences that often occur in my life, the review copy of "Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels" by Brian Michael Bendis (Watson-Guptil Publications, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC; foreword by Joe Quesada; large format paperback, $24.99, BOOK REVIEW: 'Words for Pictures': Exhaustive, Entertaining Look at the Writer's Role in Creating Comics and Graphic Novels REVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN In one of those strange coincidences that often occur in my life, the review copy of "Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels" by Brian Michael Bendis (Watson-Guptil Publications, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC; foreword by Joe Quesada; large format paperback, $24.99, index, profusely illustrated) arrived in the mail the same day I saw the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy." Bendis has written for the Marvel comic book series "Guardians of the Galaxy", as well as "The Avengers," "Ultimate Spider-Man," "All-New X-Men," and more. After describing how a comic book obsessed kid growing up in Cleveland became first an artist and finally a writer for comics and graphic novels, Bendis describes the role of writers in the extremely collaborative genre. I'm guessing that most people think the artist writes the words in a comic or graphic novel, just as many people still believe actors make up the dialogue in movies and plays. I'm probably exaggerating about the latter part of the previous sentence, but Bendis says that -- with a few exceptions -- writers and artists engage in a collaboration that Bendis says -- somewhat tongue in cheek -- that is a lot like dating! "Words for Pictures" takes readers step by step through 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. He even reveals the word processing program -- Final Draft -- that he uses, noting that it is one of the most popular screenwriting software products in use today. One of the best parts of the book are the conversations Bendis elicits from many artists and writers in the graphic novel and comic book genre. I found these passages -- often very emotional -- full of useful information for both the aspiring writer and the fan of comics and graphic novels. I've reviewed a number of graphic novels and have often wondered about the creative process. There are many illustrations in this beautifully printed -- in China -- book. There are also many scripts, notes and other products of writers engaging their artist collaborators. The reader is also presented with examples of artwork that Bendis created early in his career. He's overly modest about his artistic abilities: I think he could have done very well as an artist. While not specifically a how-to book, "Words for Pictures" will help both writers and artists in the creative process. It's ideal for the beginner, but it's also useful for the experienced practitioner, too. The section about the business aspects of Jinxworld Inc., Bendis's business, is vital, too. Jinxworld is headed by Alisa Bendis, Brian's wife. In the interview with her, she says her husband is a wonderfully gifted writer, but not the world's greatest business manager. Alisa Bendis provides valuable information on the business/legal aspects of the process. Both entertaining and supremely informative, "Words for Pictures" is a must-read book for writers, artists and the many fans of comics and graphic novels. It was an eye-opener for me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rafael Deras

    Inspiring knowledge from active professionals This may not be the ultimate book on writing comics, specially since the actual process of creating comics involves different phases, both creatively and thechnically. However I really appreciate the interviews and the experiences of the author. It may not go into detail to the process but the testimonials are good enough to have an idea of do's/don't in the business. The art samples are great although the examples for the writing part seem a bit conf Inspiring knowledge from active professionals This may not be the ultimate book on writing comics, specially since the actual process of creating comics involves different phases, both creatively and thechnically. However I really appreciate the interviews and the experiences of the author. It may not go into detail to the process but the testimonials are good enough to have an idea of do's/don't in the business. The art samples are great although the examples for the writing part seem a bit confusing if you're not familiar with the actual stories they correspond to, so I recommend getting those too. The exercises part could be improved IMHO.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rory Wilding

    As one of the most established writers in comics, it’s fair to say that Brian Michael Bendis – starting out with independent crime and noir comics to eventually mainstream superhero work that have changed the face of the Marvel multiverse – knows a bit or two about the artistic and business side of the industry. Taking cue from the comics’ education by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud, Bendis presents a how-to on – like the title suggests – the art and business of writing comics and graphic novels. As one of the most established writers in comics, it’s fair to say that Brian Michael Bendis – starting out with independent crime and noir comics to eventually mainstream superhero work that have changed the face of the Marvel multiverse – knows a bit or two about the artistic and business side of the industry. Taking cue from the comics’ education by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud, Bendis presents a how-to on – like the title suggests – the art and business of writing comics and graphic novels. At the beginning, Bendis states that the book isn’t about how to write like him, considering how good his work is, and really show a general approach on the creative toolbox on developing sequential art as a writer. Considering how in-depth the author breaks down the process, in terms of pitching your stories to editors before actually writing the script as well as being aware of your collaborated artist’s strengths and weaknesses, Bendis keeps everything reader-friendly, especially giving examples about pitch documents and scripts that need to be strictly stuck in a particular format. Bendis states there isn’t a strict format on how to writer comics scripts, unlike film and TV. One of the big delights of the book is the contribution of other comic book creators from writers such as Matt Fraction (Hawkeye, Sex Criminals) and Ed Brubaker (Gotham Central, The Immortal Iron Fist) to artists like David Mack (Kabuki) and Michael Avon Oeming (Powers). In thirteen pages, Fraction gives an insight in his unconventional writing process on the hit Marvel title Hawkeye, which is a mix of full script and Marvel Style, as well as the writer having repitched another issues, much to the infuriation of his collaborators on the book. Whilst he recommends no one to approach their work in this way, it’s one of the many ways one can experiment on the writing. There is one chapter discussing a subject that is not often aware for up-and-coming writers and artists is the importance of editors in as much as what attracts them and how to maintain a positive working relationship with the editor. Another aspect is the business side as a comics writer, as there is an interview with Bendis’ wife Alisa who is president of Jinxworld Inc. where he co-creates and self-publishes works such as Powers. It’s a great lesson at financially maintaining a career in this industry. Granted that nearly every page features finished artwork from numerous artists for mostly filler, as well as contribution from figures who are essentially friends and family from Bendis so there’s a sense of bias, but the writer gives an honest and universal look into the industry and tells its readers about how to get started in the field and for the right reasons. If you wish to get into comics, you do it because it makes you happy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    L.A. Kelley

    Given solid encouragement and a template I can make a pretty darn good smiley face. Needless to say, I don’t call myself an artist and have never produced either a comic or graphic novel. However, I have a lot of respect for those who do. Fortunately, Words for Pictures is not a how-to-color book. Unusual in its approach, it explores the business end of both comics and graphic novels. They are odd art forms. Sometimes the writer/illustrator is the same person, sometimes not. The writer’s work is Given solid encouragement and a template I can make a pretty darn good smiley face. Needless to say, I don’t call myself an artist and have never produced either a comic or graphic novel. However, I have a lot of respect for those who do. Fortunately, Words for Pictures is not a how-to-color book. Unusual in its approach, it explores the business end of both comics and graphic novels. They are odd art forms. Sometimes the writer/illustrator is the same person, sometimes not. The writer’s work is more reminiscent of a script. The artist’s work is similar to that of an action movie director. While a fiction writer writes for a faceless unseen audience, the comic book writer works for a single person—the artist. If the writer doesn’t tell a good story, illustrations won’t save it. If the artist can’t generate the right level of excitement, the story falls flat. Each contributes equally. It is a unique collaborative effort not seen in other types of fiction. There’s a lot of ground to cover and Words for Pictures does a good job of briefly outlining the pitfalls facing a budding comic book writer or illustrator. Wiggling free from a straitjacket while bound with chains and trapped under an ice floe is a snap compared to breaking into any form of publishing. The odds are stacked against you from the get-go. Bendis is one of the big dogs in the comic world and much of the advice is applicable not just for his field, but others such as fiction or screenplays. Problems Even though this book purports to approach comics from the business instead of the design end, there is only one chapter devoted solely to nuts and bolts practical advice. That chapter is written by his wife and business manager and reads too light. Other chapters are interviews with different comic book writers and artists. Unfortunately, just because someone can write or illustrate a good piece of fiction, doesn’t mean they can translate that skill into words or provide cogent observations. While Bendis’ work is readable and insightful, some of the interviewees come across as ‘Yo, dude, chillax. Let the creative juices flow and, like, good stuff will happen. Dig?’ Not really, bro, but your artwork is cool. Who’d like it Despite the problems, the book has a lot to offer. The pages are filled with dynamite illustrations and Bendis gives an insightful, although brief, overview of the business. He is an enthusiastic and engaging writer with a cheerleader’s ‘you can do it’ attitude. Sometimes that’s all a budding writer or artist needs to get started. While the average comic book fan might have no interest in this book, I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys comics or graphic novels as art forms, or anyone with the desire to create either one. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Odette Cortés

    I recently got to read a copy of Brian Michael Bendis’ book, Words for Pictures and well, I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed this book. Over the last few years I’ve read tons of books about the comic book industry; books written by professionals on how to publish a web comic or how to draw, etc.... and this is the first one that I’ve read that focuses in the writing portion of the business. Nonetheless, this is not a how to write to comic books manual, please keep that in mind. There are many I recently got to read a copy of Brian Michael Bendis’ book, Words for Pictures and well, I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed this book. Over the last few years I’ve read tons of books about the comic book industry; books written by professionals on how to publish a web comic or how to draw, etc.... and this is the first one that I’ve read that focuses in the writing portion of the business. Nonetheless, this is not a how to write to comic books manual, please keep that in mind. There are many books you can buy for the specific purpose, even if it’s not only for comic books, but just how to write in general. What I truly loved about this book was the way it’s structured. I’ve been part of many illustrator communities since I was in high school and this book captures that same sort of dialogue we have when we get together. Someone throws a question up in the air, and then a bunch of artists, who’ve had different experiences and approaches to the subject provide answers. You immediately get the feeling of community, but most of all you get to see how organic the creative process can be. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for writing a comic, there is not just one way of getting the result, and I think that this is a valuable lesson for those who want to become part of the industry. Bendis invites other artists, writers and editors to a sort of written round table, which I know it may sound a little odd, but it works. The book feels like panel in a convention but in the comfort of you own home. You get the tons of information written in a friendly and calm way. Yes, some times the comic book industry is portrayed as a very daunting and scary world, and Bendis doesn’t neglect the horror stories. But they are told in such a way that you get the sense that they are not the end of the world and mostly that this occurrences are temporary. Bendis also points out a couple of things that I’ve noticed that the creative types tend to overlook, mainly the business side. Think of yourself as a company, have a work ethic, write a contract, not the sexiest part of the business, but a necessary one. I did have to force myself to read that part, not because it was a Q&A with Mrs. Bendis (the business wiz of the team) but because it talked about those things that I really don’t like to concern myself with. Either way I read it and I don’t regret it. It is insightful and scary at the same time, but helpful either way. Is I’ve mentioned before, I enjoyed the book. It was a breez to read, it was very informative, and it gives you a sense of how collaborative the comic book industry is.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Birss

    I am writing my first comic series right now. I've read a lot of books about how to write comics. This one, from an overall perspective, was the most practically helpful. Bendis is not only a phenomenally successful comics writer, he is also an instructor at the University of Oregon where he teaches a class on writing graphic novels. I strongly suspect this book is his textbook, because it reads like one. It has a spine of information written clearly by Bendis, but also, like many textbooks, inc I am writing my first comic series right now. I've read a lot of books about how to write comics. This one, from an overall perspective, was the most practically helpful. Bendis is not only a phenomenally successful comics writer, he is also an instructor at the University of Oregon where he teaches a class on writing graphic novels. I strongly suspect this book is his textbook, because it reads like one. It has a spine of information written clearly by Bendis, but also, like many textbooks, includes interviews and articles by a score of other successful artists and writers in the business. He features David Mack and Alex Maleev most prominently, as two of his favourite collaborators. The biggest strength of this book was also, for me, its greatest weakness. This is a very recently published book. The art and examples, and there are a lot, are almost all from creators of books that have been published in the last three to five years, and almost exclusively by Marvel. For me, this was a huge help. I discovered as I read this book that I am far more familiar with the world of Marvel in the last five years than I thought. Lengthy examples are used from Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man, Hawkeye, and more, with interviews or articles with members of the creative teams for each. The examples are from some of the most cutting edge books on the shelves today, and I recognized nearly every name, and every page that was broken down and analyzed to reveal its process. There are pages reprinted in this book that I've read within the last year, and still considered to be current. Unfortunately, this means that this will become a very dated book very quickly. I expect that in fewer than five years, a lot of this book will not connect quite as it does now, nor be as relevant. But if this is a textbook, as I suspect it is, perhaps it will be revised yearly for Bendis' new crop of students each September. And if you read this far, you're probably a comics writer. So, stop reading reviews and get to writing that comic!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Bendis M Brian book, Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels, emphasizes the business of the professional comics writer while neglecting the basic details of the writer's art. The discussion of the different roles involved in comics production--writer, penciller, inker, letter, editor--is thorough and informative, but I don't know that anyone interested in writing comics will find this information new. The section on the differences between Full Script and M Bendis M Brian book, Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels, emphasizes the business of the professional comics writer while neglecting the basic details of the writer's art. The discussion of the different roles involved in comics production--writer, penciller, inker, letter, editor--is thorough and informative, but I don't know that anyone interested in writing comics will find this information new. The section on the differences between Full Script and Marvel Style scripting is more helpful, and the interview section is informative. Bendis doesn't really talk about how to write in either script style. The book lacks any explanation of the basics of comics: panels, speech bubbles, captions, splash pages, etc. Consequently, the book doesn't talk about the different ways to manipulate font for effect in bubbles and captions. The hefty section on editors includes a number of comments from editors about mistakes writers make, some related to their writing, some related to managing their business. I found the use of interviews here a mixed bag. Some of them yielded useful information, while others just chewed up space. Bendis could've just directly informed the reader of a lot of the information without adding to the bulk of book. For example, he didn't need the testimony of an editor to tell the reader that you shouldn't expect a critique on your submissions to publishers. I would rate this book lower if it was solely about writing comics. Read something else for that. This is a better book for someone who can already write a comic book and wants to learn about the business of operating in the comics world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vonze

    As a manga and graphic novel fan that occasionally entertains the idea of starting a webcomic (I’ve started and stopped several times), I found Words for Pictures to be a wealth of information. For aspiring comic artists and writers, the book covers the modern comic book script, writing for the artists, the editors’ roundtable, the writer’s FAQS, the business of comics writing, and writing exercises. This being my first “how to write comics” book, my eyes were instantly opened to differences in s As a manga and graphic novel fan that occasionally entertains the idea of starting a webcomic (I’ve started and stopped several times), I found Words for Pictures to be a wealth of information. For aspiring comic artists and writers, the book covers the modern comic book script, writing for the artists, the editors’ roundtable, the writer’s FAQS, the business of comics writing, and writing exercises. This being my first “how to write comics” book, my eyes were instantly opened to differences in story outline styles, the aspects and challenges of collaborations, and elements to observe next time I read a really good or really bad comic or graphic novel. I found it helpful that Brian Michael Bendis offers not only his perspective, but also the views and opinions of other writers and artists. I never realized how little I know about the “behind-the-scenes” end of the comic world. For those interested in writing in general, Bendis offers clear advice in the writer’s FAQs, the business of comics writing (which can be applied to any creative manuscript), writing exercises, and his conclusion. His personal story, of going from fan to his dream job, is very inspiring. Furthermore, for the typical comics fan, the book is also a fun read to discover how the creative individuals behind the superheroes work. Overall, the book is a good guide to inform and inspire an individual about the comics writing process. It doesn’t tell you how or what to write (for that I’m guessing you’d need Bendis’ comic and graphic novel writing class), but it gives a strong overview of the aspects of the business. I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

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