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Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of…

Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic… (edition 2014)

by Brian Michael Bendis (Author)

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514341,221 (4.07)1
Title:Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels
Authors:Brian Michael Bendis (Author)
Info:Watson-Guptill (2014), 224 pages
Collections:To read

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Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels by Brian Michael Bendis



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If you read Marvel comics and don't know who Brian Michael Bendis is, then where have you been? Didn't you read Ultimate Spider-Man with Peter and/or Miles? Five time Eisner winner? Ring any bells yet? In Words for Pictures he dives into the world of comics yet again but not in the usual way. Instead of writing Spidey, he writes his experiences with writing comics and the reader gets an in-depth insider perspective of the comic book industry. In this book you'll find a lot of amazing artwork as well as guides, insider tips on the business and on writing, and interviews. I found the tips and insight on publishing/publishers to be especially interesting but there is a lot of inspiration as well. The book begins with Bendis telling a story about his personal road to achieving his dream of making comic books. His own inspiring origin story.

The size and the cover are perfect for a coffee table book, if that's what you're looking for, and the content is extremely interesting. If you're not a writer but enjoy comics, you'd probably still enjoy the book. If you don't read comics, write, or have any interest in either, then I can't recommend this for you but you probably would have never picked this up to begin with! However, if you consider yourself a writer (which I like to consider myself from time to time) I'd say this book can be especially useful.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I do not receive monetary compensation for positive reviews.

( )
  samanthamholt | Nov 21, 2017 |
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. ( )
  vonze | Sep 19, 2017 |
I have read Brian Michael Bendis' work since he began Ultimate Spider-Man, which is around the same time that I began researching comics history. I have gone on to read much of what's out there, both for my own interest and as research for my M.A. thesis. Bendis' book descends from the comics theory work of Scott McCloud and Wil Eisner, but examines more of the modern techniques (those used in the last decade or so). This book is a useful guide for anyone interested in breaking into the field, but is also a good primer for modern comics theory. Bendis structures it in a useful, logical manner and includes the opinions of other writers and artists in the field to present a well-rounded perspective. A must-have for anyone interested in the theory or making of modern comics. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Sep 30, 2014 |
* 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.] ( )
  gendeg | Sep 21, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0770434355, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:11 -0400)

Step-by-step lessons teach comics writing hopefuls everything they'll need to take their ideas from script to dynamic sequential art. The book's complete coverage exposes the most effective methods for crafting comic scripts, showcases insights from Bendis's fellow creators, reveals business secrets all would-be comics writers must know, and challenges readers with exercises to jumpstart their own graphic novel writing success.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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