Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis.

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 tradtional 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.

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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 breaaking 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 roundtable 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.

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Comics, everybody – The Series Finale.

With recent rumours surfacing that Marvel may be rebooting their continuity next May, it got me thinking about finales and endings in comics. If the rumours turn out to be true, the reboot will come as a climax to Jonathan Hickmans recent storyline in both Avengers and New Avengers (A quick summation of the storyline: earths from multiple dimensions are crashing into each other, sometimes killing both worlds in question. Tony Stark and his illuminati have been trying to find ways to prevent these ‘incursions’, but the price to do so is the cost of killing worlds. It’s a really good storyline and worth checking out).

The word ‘reboot’ often agitates and upsets comic fans, because it means a lot of the story lines that they’ve read and loved are going to be swept under the rug and forgotten about in place for a new and improved time line.

DC have rebooted several times, most recently with their New 52 launch. The New 52 was an initiative that saw the launch of 52 new number 1s in the space of 1 month. Nearly every character had their history rebooted, save for Batman and Green Lantern. The initiative saw a boost in sales and fandom, and got people excited about comics again. And as someone who is mainly a Marvel reader, it got me picking up DC comic books.

But Marvel aren’t prone to rebooting their universe. They’re very faithful to their history and continuity, because they know it’s part of what the fans love about Marvel.

Instead though, Marvel are prone to having multiple ‘series finale’ and ‘relaunches’ a year. More so recently, with their Marvel Now and then their All New Marvel Now initiatives, instead of relaunching the majority of books in one month, they spread them out throughout the year. However, none of these relaunches saw a significant reboot or retcon to any continuity or history.

I have several Marvel comics in my collection that have the words ‘series finale’ on the cover. I seem to always fall victim to them. I think it’s because super hero comics never end, but these ‘series finales’ give readers a sense of closure.

When I say they don’t end, I don’t fully mean in a literal sense. I mean more that these are comics that have been published for over 50 years (75 years in the case of some DC titles), and they show no signs of stopping. I think what the series finale does is it allows story lines to end and new ones to begin, giving readers a chance to either stay on for the next part of the storyline, or jump off because they feel like they’ve read enough and they’re satisfied with the ending.

Super hero comics have a soap opera feel to them. For people in the UK, they’re like the Coronation Street of publishing. For people in the US, they’re sort like Doctor Who.

These are both TV shows that have a long history to them, and what makes them able to continue is that story lines will end and then new ones will begin. I’ll be honest – it’s probably been a couple of decades since I’ve actually watched Coronation Street, but what it does is it’ll have a couple of story lines ongoing at one time, and as one or two of them come to a close, a new one will start to begin. The story lines will end, but the characters will live on in the street, and maybe have supporting roles in other storylines. In the case of Doctor Who, that sense of closure is offered every time the Doctor regenerates and changes his appearance. This was done best with David Tennant, as he said goodbye to all his former companions, and it was also the head writers final episode. Then Matt Smith would come along and start his own adventures.

Marvel comics are the same. I think it’d be foolish to say it’s to make them closer to real life, because what’s great about comic books in general is them offering escapism from real life. But it’s this idea of closure and you being able to walk away if you want to.

It’s also not just Marvel Comics. Look at Grant Morrisons recent run on Batman over at DC. It was so long running and complex that it was part of the reason why Batman never had a hard retcon at the beginning of The New 52. Morrison had already spent several years on his story and it wasn’t done in time for the New 52. But he did get to finish his story. DC relaunched Batman Incorporated into a second volume, which turned out to be the finale of his run. It ran about 12 issues and when it was done, DC did away with the title. The ending to the run (and this is a major spoiler, so maybe skip down a bit if you don’t want to know) was the death of Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne. But that was just the ending to Morrisons run, not the end to Batman as a character. Other writers were allowed to deal with the aftermath of Robins death (DC had a banner called Requiem on all the Batman books the month after).

As a reader, and someone who does like that sense of ending to a storyline, I like the appeal of the series finale, which is why I have so many. I want comic book story lines to come to a point were I can look at them and go ‘okay, this is it’. I know they’re often done as a marketing ploy to make people think they have more collectibility, but if you’ve been reading a series for a while and you’ve dedicated time to it, you want that feeling that it was worth it.

When it comes to stories, we need endings. As readers and viewers of television. When we watch movies. Even when we listen to songs. That’s what makes them different from real life. But comics have to go on. The longer characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-man last, the more they have a lasting mark.

Introduction.

Here it is: a blog.

A couple of friends have suggested that I should find some output for my interests, and starting a blog has been on my mind for a while, so I’ve decided to give it a try and see how it goes.

It looks very basic at the minute. I just wanted to get the thing set up to start with and get some content on here, and then I can start altering and obsessing over the appearance.

It’ll mostly be comic book, film and television related. When I’m not at work, I spend most of my time either reading or watching something, so this is my attempt at trying to turn it into something constructive.

I’ve been needing a ‘project’ of some kind for a while, pretty much since I graduated from University. They won’t be the most articulate write ups you’ll read online, especially at first, but they’ll be an open and honest opinion.

The first ‘column’ I’m going to be doing is a retrospective look at every comic book movie since Blade (and then onto X-men, and then Spider-man and so forth). The reason I’m starting with Blade and not an earlier comic book movie (like Superman: The Movie or Batman & Robin), is because I consider it the starting point for the current trend of Hollywood superhero/comic book movies. There’s more than 4 each year now, and they’re usually the top grossing film of their respective year of release (and some of them are actually pretty good). They’ll be reviews/semi-commentaries/as many bad snarky terrible jokes I can think of.

Also, some comic book movies (like Blade) I have not seen in a really long time, so it should be interesting.

There’ll also be posts on other stuff. I’m going to aim for 1 a week. Maybe a few more if I come up with a good idea.

So if I look back in a year from now and I have 52 posts about rubbish that no one has read, I’ll know I’ve done good.