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Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume…

Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1 (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Alan Moore (Author), Jacen Burrows (Artist)

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The master of comic book writing shares his thoughts on how to deliver atop-notch script! The main essay was originally written in 1985 and appeared inan obscure British fanzine, right as Moore was reshaping the landscape of moderncomics, and has been tragically lost ever since. Now Avatar brings it back inprint, collected for the first time as one graphic novel, and heavilyillustrated by Jacen Burrows. Moore also provides a brand new essay on how his thoughts on writing havechanged in the two decades since he first wrote it.… (more)
Title:Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1
Authors:Alan Moore (Author)
Other authors:Jacen Burrows (Artist)
Info:Avatar Press (2003), Edition: 32583rd, 48 pages

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Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1 by Alan Moore (2003)



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In Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics, Moore outlines his philosophy for comic book writing based upon his years of experience in the medium. He cautions that he does not intend to teach readers how to write like him, but rather to offer some general advice that may be useful. As Avatar Press originally published this as a book in 2003, it’s interesting to see how a decade-and-a-half have borne out his musings.

Moore writes, “In the end, it is effect which governs the success of an individual piece of artwork or a whole artform, and while abstract critical considerations concerning the inherent quality of a work might give us a few useful handles with which to grasp and appreciate a work more fully, art still succeeds or fails in terms of the actual effect it has upon the individual members of its audience. If it stimulates or excites them, they will respond to it. If it doesn’t, they’ll go and look for something that does. Comics have a capacity for effect that they haven’t begun to take advantage of, and are held back by narrow and increasingly obsolete notions of what constitutes a comic story. In order for comics to move forward as a medium, these notions must change” (pgs. 5-6). In this, Moore’s comments seem particularly prescient given Marvel and DC’s struggles to break out of the usual pattern of large events, reboots, and nostalgia that dominate a great deal of their storytelling. That said, many of the smaller and independent comics have succeeded in finding new types of stories to tell and new ways to tell them, generating greater effect.

Discussing comic book history, Moore summarizes the approach to characterization from the Golden Age of the 1940s and 50s to the Silver Age of the 1960s and 70s, writing, “The earliest approach found in comics was that of simple one-dimensional characterization, usually consisting of ‘This person is good’ or ‘This person is bad.’ For the comics of the time and the comparatively simple world that they were attempting to entertain, this was perfectly adequate. By the early 1960s, however, times had changed and a new approach was needed. Thus, Stan Lee invented two-dimensional characterization: ‘This person is good but has bad luck with girlfriends,’ and ‘This person is bad but might just reform and join the Avengers if enough readers write in asking for it’” (pg. 23). Moore concludes, however, that progress has been minimal since that point with characters remaining two-dimensional.

Arguing that plot should enhance character and theme, Moore writes, “Pick up an average current comic and put it to your ear and you can almost hear the process at work: Plot, plot, plot, plot, plot, plot…it sounds like someone wading through mud and it very often reads like it, too. An obsession with the demands of a concrete and linear plotline is often one of the most dependable ways to crush all the life and energy from your story and make it simply an exercise in mechanical narration” (pg. 29, ellipses in original).

Finally, in his conclusion, Moore argues that the advice may have been good for those starting out, but that readers should ignore things like his promotion of a certain panel structure as, in hindsight, that was on its way out even as he wrote. Further, he offers advice for those who are already writing, urging them to take risks, avoid cliché, and, above all else, work on being good human beings because then they’ll leave the kind of work that will be impactful. Though the book has passed its 15th anniversary and Avatar Press has it in its 9th printing, it remains valuable for those seeking to break into the popular culture industry. The majority of the book also serves as a time capsule for those studying comics of the late 1980s and early 1990s. ( )
1 vote DarthDeverell | Sep 18, 2019 |
Fabulous. Moore gives some solid bullet points on writing (and thinking about writing) but what's more helpful are the details between the bullets; digressions and quotes and examples which will provide food for lengthy thought long after the basic, explicit messages have been understood. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
A dense booklet, perhaps a bit on the "ramblings and musings" side. In any case, here's someone with very strong opinions about comics, and not afraid to express them. ( )
  citizenk | Mar 5, 2017 |
This is more like advice about writing fiction in general, although there were a few comics-specific references. A good read for beginners, however the afterword spoke more to me. Worth the quick read if you come across it. ( )
  darushawehm | Oct 24, 2015 |
One of the most imaginative and creative writers of the last two decades show us how he thinks his art. An excellent book for any one who wants to understand about writing, but not just comics but any kind of writing. Alan Moore is both practical and insightful in his explanations and draws examples from both comics and literatura, showing that the line between is more imaginary than had been thought. ( )
  horaciocorral | Oct 17, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Mooreprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burrows, JacenIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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