Book review: “Words for Pictures” by Brian Michael Bendis, foreword by Joe Quesada (2014)


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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Words for Pictures” is an interesting text— More-so because it is exactly that: A textbook. The author, Brian Michael Bendis, is a writer that I have read for years; he has written some of my favorite superhero tales from the modernization of the New Avengers to his current X-Men runs to the stellar Secret Invasion and Age of Ultron Marvel events. He is the quintessential rockstar of the comic book world, or as he would put it: Comic book famous.

Rarely do audiences get to see the man behind the curtain. We get see their art, but we are removed from their perspective and upbringing. How did they get into the comic book industry? What drives them to write or draw? Where did they go for schooling? How does the editorial process work? How do I become published in the comic book industry?

There are a myriad of questions that get lost in the shuffle of the work, which is not necessarily a bad thing but sometimes there are people who want to know more. The final product, whether it be a piece of writing and/or art or an amalgamation of the two such as comic or graphic novel, should be viewed in the most holistic light as possible, but there are some of us who want to peel back the layers and learn more about the industry and the process to better understand the human experience.

Luckily for us, Brian Michael Bendis followed in the footsteps of the greats before him and created “Words for Pictures,” which is along the same lines as Dennis O’Neil’s “The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics,” Alan Moore’s “Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics,” and Will Eisner’s “Comics and Sequential Art.” It is a modern guide for the aforementioned who want to learn more about the industry. Whether you are curious about breaking into the business or are merely a perspective reader, “Words for Pictures” strikes a chord.

The book covers all aspects of the industry. It begins with a thoughtful introduction by Joe Quesada praising Bendis for his work and ability to create such a guide whilst anecdotally speaking of his own career. The book then segue-ways into the basics and career of Brian Michael Bendis as a writer and educator, as described by him. As he starts to get into the nitty-gritty of script writing he begins to have fellow writers interject and describe their own writing processes and collaborative efforts with fellow artists. This is a unique and clever structure, because it allows the reader to see Bendis’ methodology as well as several others which begins to coalesce into working idea of the readers’ own take on the writing process.

The middle of the text unfortunately becomes a little dry. The narrative shifts abruptly to focus on the artists. This normally wouldn’t be a negative, but the information is conveyed poorly. Essentially a large group of artists were gathered (or at least their responses were) and given a series of questions. This style was executed poorly because as a reader you are subjected to a main question and then the artists’ dozen or so follow-up answers that were merely the same ones reiterated over-and-over again. After the first ten-pages or so of the interview responses they began to blur with another and I was loosing sight of the information being presented. I ended up taking a breather and coming back to it, to finish that particular section.

However, the final portion of the book closes out with a bang and ticks up wonderfully. It is chalked full of helpful inspiration for writers at all stages in their career. There is an entire section devoted strictly to the editorial and submission process, another focusing on the business aspect of writing as told by Bendis’ wife and business partner, a FAQ, and finally tips and tricks of the trade which includes what it truly means to be ‘a writer’ as described by Brian Michael Bendis.

All-in-all, “Words for Pictures” is a fantastic text. It comes from the heart of an educator, but more importantly, the mind of a writer. It touches base on all the important facets of the comic book industry and creative process. Save for a brief dry spell in the middle, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of the craft and business of making comics.

View all my reviews

Film review: The Wolverine (2013)


“The Wolverine” with Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, and Brian Tee

Directed by James Mangold, Written by Mark Bomback & Scott Frank

02Comparing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to “The Wolverine” is like comparing apples to oranges.  They are both about Marvel’s burly and animalistic Wolverine, but they could not be any more different.  Origins seemed to explore a bit of Wolvie’s past under the framework of the prior X-Men movies (i.e. familiar characters, settings, and themes), but unfortunately it didn’t hit home like the prior X-Men films.  The writing fell flat, because 20th Century Fox took odd twists and turns with fan favorites like Gambit and Deadpool and then never expanded on them in future films like they promised.  Instead of bridging Wolverine’s backstory to the acclaimed X-Men trilogy, Fox ended up widening the gap.

However, “The Wolverine,” takes an entirely different approach to the eponymous character.  Audiences get to see the Adamantium and claws stripped away in a more emotionally driven film.  Wolverine is facing an existential crisis.  Following the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand” filmgoers get to see the Wolverine battle is own mortality, or rather near-immortality, during a series of dream sequences centering-around Jean Grey, which is reprised by award-winning Dutch actor, Famke Janssen.  This creates a great underlying plot, and immediately sets “The Wolverine” apart from the other X-Men films.

Surprisingly enough, “The Wolverine” closely follows the original comic book volume of Wolverine, Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s four-part miniseries, that set the tone and standard for Wolverine and his story arcs.  Even though the film is set after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” instead of “X-Men Origins,” “The Wolverine” accurately showcases the events of the 1982 comic book series.  Slight changes have been made to modernize and fit the screenplay into the continuity of the X-Men franchise but on the whole I was incredibly surprised by the amount of source material represented in the movie.

06Following the conclusion of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” in which Jean Grey (aka the Phoenix) is killed by Wolverine in order to stop her from committing genocide, Wolverine    once again takes to the Canadian Rockies.  Living as an animal, Logan only ever comes down from the mountains to garnish what little supplies that he needs.  After a particularly unjust hunting party pulls Wolverine from his introspection and a mysterious Japanese woman shows up to escort Logan to her adoptive grandfather, the films gains traction.  The remainder of “The Wolverine” takes place in Japan with an almost all Japanese cast, and focuses on Wolverine’s relationship to a (now) elderly Japanese man who Logan saved during the closing days of World War II after the atomic drop over Nagasaki.

Rivals emerge and mutants aid both sides, but at its heart “The Wolverine” is primarily focused on Wolverine.  It discusses his mental state after killing Jean, his own mortality as he confronts an old acquaintance, and ultimately his place in an ever shifting world.  Hugh Jackman portrays the character perfectly.  He is, for lack of a better phrase, the only actor that could ever play Wolverine.  He is the best he is at what he does.

Aside from the phenomenal adaptation and Jackman’s performance, the action sequences are tight and the revelations are legitimately surprising.  There are only a handful of lines that came off forced or cheesy, but they can be forgiven considering the overall quality of the film.  The pacing is so smooth and cyclical, that I personally had difficulties telling where the climax of the film landed; this left me without a frame of reference.  Usually I can tell when the conclusion is eminent, but this time around I had difficulties nailing it down.  I think that this is a byproduct of closely adapting a mini-series into a film.  It felt more like a series of mini-climaxes akin to the conclusion of four separate issues culminating in the finale of a series.  Regardless, the flow was appropriate and I never felt that the film hung in exposition or action for too long.  It had great balance.

This is a solid superhero film that pays homage to its source material better than most and keeps with the character’s integrity after nearly fifteen years.  Cheers to Hugh Jackman and the whole crew for “The Wolverine.”  “The Wolverine” garnishes four-out-of-five stars.

Also, do not forget to stick around for the after the credits scene.  It ties wonderfully into “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which is slated to release May of 2014.  Its got surprises a plenty and if it doesn’t get you excited for the next X-Men film then I’m not sure what would.

(SOURCE: Film review: The Wolverine (2013))

Goal! (12.9.2011)


In light of my last post I have decided to do a weekly post listing out some of my goals for the week.  I think it’ll be a good exercise and refocus and bolster my spirits.  It’s the holidays!  A time of happiness, family, and friends.  A lot of fellow bloggers write out their goals and whether they’ve met them or not, so I think I’ll follow suit and see ho wit pans out.  So, here it goes:

1.  Finish reading Mathew Reilly’s, “Ice Station.”

2.  Write “Defenders #1″ article for the Examiner before next Wednesday (12.14.2011)

3.  Write “Fantastic Four Reboot” article for the Examiner

4.  Watch the “Fighter.” (finally)

5.  Come up with two new splash pages for the Martian Manhunter blog (one possibly from Marvel’s Siege)

6.  Review at least three other writer’s work on Writer’sCafe.org

7.  Start on next chapter of “Jack and the Lilac Butcher.”

We’ll see how many of these I can complete within in the week!  Not a long nor a short list, but very doable.