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.
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.