Words for Pictures

WRDS-4-PIX_5.1Author: Brian Michael Bendis
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Watson-Guptill, Crown Publishing
Source: Blogging for Books
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Entertainment, Graphic Novels

Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Spoilers:  N/A
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So, I’m not going to lie. The only real reason I picked out this book was because it was written by Brian Michael Bendis and I absolutely love his work. There are probably a lot of people out there who hear that name and are just kind of like, “Who the hell are you talking about?” But the guy is “comic book famous” as he puts it and so if you’re like me and a huge comic book nerd then you get it.

Words for Pictures is a fantastic book that any comic book fan – regardless of whether or not they have designs on writing the next big breakout comic book – will enjoy. It’s filled with interviews with various other creators and spotlight sections on some of the biggest names in comic books. It’s skewed a bit towards Marvel’s creative talent because that’s where you’ll mostly find Bendis these days.  But everyone will recognize names like Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and Tom Brevoort to name a few.

The description on the inside flap of the book promises that it’s going to be filled with tips and insider resources for writing comic book scripts. That’s not entirely accurate. This is not a how-to book by any means. Reading this book will not teach you how to write comics. You’ll need to look elsewhere for that and most likely you’ll need to experiment yourself. What the book does is give you an insiders perspective on what it’s like to be a scriptwriter.

Each chapter will take you inside some aspect of the process – be it collaborating, types of scripts, reaching out to editors, etc. But it’s less of a how-to than it is just a look at how things work. It’s great because that makes it a book that’s approachable by anyone who wants to know more about how scriptwriting for comics works but doesn’t want to get bogged down in someone painstakingly describing it all and breaking out all kinds of writing exercises and completely breaking down and analyzing pre-existing scripts. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few writing exercises mentioned or that Bendis doesn’t break down a few pages of some scripts of books you may have read yourself. That’s all in there, too. But it’s a mere fraction of the book at a whole.

If you are looking to make comics, though, Bendis has a lot to say to you, too, though out the book. And it’s not necessarily positive. This is a hard industry to get into – especially if you aren’t an artist, too. He is very honest about your chances and about the struggles ahead. At no point does he say not to try. In fact, he’s full of encouragement. But he’s also realistic and I really appreciated that. Too many books about a particular profession skirt around the hard truths. Bendis is completely and totally honest from page one.

The only downside to the book?

There are a lot of pictures. And that’s great. That’s not a downside to it at all. But the pictures rarely say what series they are from. The authors are listed but the series are not. Some of the images used are clearly promotional and so they don’t belong to any one series. But there are a lot that are taken straight from the panels – or seem to be – and I don’t recognize all of them. One cool thing is that it’s a very modern book. The people in the book and the images used are all things people who are reading current comics are likely to recognize. But some stuff I don’t recognize and it would have been nice to have the series and issue numbers listed as well.

Otherwise? I highly recommend this book.

Because not only is it a good read it’s a gorgeous book in it’s own right. The cover – which is similar but not the exact same as the one posted in this review – is gorgeous and the French fold cover makes it seem like a much sturdier book. It’s some pretty nice shelf candy is all I’m saying.

I’m not looking to make comics and you don’t have to be either to enjoy this book. You just have to like comics and want to know a little bit more about how they are made. The book talks to as many editors and artists as it does writers and it’s a very nice look at what it’s like to work with other people to shape great stories.

Final Thoughts: 
Comic book fans will enjoy this insiders look at what it’s like to write scripts for comics. Budding comic book writers will appreciate the book as well, I think. But if they are looking for actual specifics on technique and all that they’ll maybe want to pick up Alan Moore’s books on writing for comics. Words for Pictures is more for curious minds looking for an insider’s perspective into a world so few of us will ever see or even really think about.

A free copy of Words for Pictures was provided by Blogging for Books for a fair and honest review.

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