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."

BOOK REVIEW: 'Words for Pictures': Exhaustive, Entertaining Look at the Writer's Role in Creating Comics and Graphic Novels
 

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.

Brian Michael Bendis
Brian Michael Bendis

 

About the Author

Brian Michael Bendis is an award winning comics creator and one of the most successful writers working in mainstream comics. For the last twelve years, Bendis's books have dominated the top of nationwide comic and graphic novel sales charts. As a leading writer for Marvel Comics, he works on their best-selling properties like The Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy. In addition, his original projects include Scarlet, Brilliant, Powers (currently in development as a TV series at FX), Torso (being developed as a film by Circle of Confusion), and the Hollywood tell-all Fortune and Glory. The winner of five prestigious Eisner Awards, Bendis lives with his family in Portland, where he writes and teaches comics and graphic novel writing at Portland State University and the University of Oregon.

For more on Bendis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Michael_Bendis

 
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