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.

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shout OUT!


I would like to give a shout out to the individuals who have supported my work by showcasing some of their work. I have met a ton of magnificent writers and artists that it is difficult to not get inspired by their dedication and hard work.  Here is a brief, and far from exhaustive, list of admirable individuals and their respective sites:

Brian Triplett

Brian Triplett is a fantastic columnist for the Examiner and hosts his own blog on Google’s BlogSpot.  He focuses primarily on the literary beat as well as the importance and innovations of social media websites, especially how they pertain to local Spokane denizens.  Check out his website and throw a couple of +1’s and ‘likes’ his way on his next periodical.

Spokane Books Examiner

Spokane Social Media Examiner

The Pop Culture Warehouse

Bob and Chrissy’s Lefty Leanings

Bob and Chrissy are a pair of political and environmental activists that love to challenge the many misconceptions of politics by engaging all types of individuals in healthy debates and conversation.  Check out their Facebook page and give ’em a ‘like.’

Bob and Chrissy’s Lefty Leanings Facebook Page

Celeste Sievers

Celeste Sievers is a talented artist and D.Y.I extraordinaire.  She hosts a wonderful blog detailing her influences and current projects that provides visitors a glimpse into the life of a creative mind.  Follow her on DeviantArt and Pinterest after you give her Comic Chic blog a gander.

Celeste Sievers @ DeviantArt (dot) com

Celeste Sievers @ Pinterest (dot) com

Comic Chic 

The Geeky Penguin

The Geeky Penguin is a pop culture aficionado who I had the pleasure of meeting on Digg (dot) com.  He writes anything from music to movie to game reviews to the many ponderings and influences that pop culture has upon our lives.  Follow the Geeky Penguin on Digg (dot) com, or give his eponymously titled blog a follow–you won’t be disappointed!

The Geeky Penguin @ Digg (dot) com

The Geeky Penguin 

Martin Gray

Martin Gray has a stellar comic book blog that holds fantastic discussions and incredibly thorough and analyzed reviews of the latest comics.  His voice pops from his reviews and his laced with little bits of comic book wisdom and intricacies that bump his posts up to a league of their own.  Gray’s, “TOO DANGEROUS FOR A GIRL!,” comic book blog is a must-read for anyone intrigued by the comic book industry.

TOO DANGEROUS FOR A GIRL!

Merlyn’s 

Merlyn’s is the premier shop for all your comic and gaming needs in Spokane, WA.  The owner and staff are always engaging, friendly, and more than willing to help.  They hold regular events for just about everyone interests and they are constantly trying to out do themselves in one way or another.  If you are just visiting Spokane, or are a local who hasn’t stopped by yet, give Merlyn’s a try and a buy.

Merlyn’s

Nigel D Paul

Nigel is a beautiful and heartfelt poet/writer who always manages to put a piece of himself in his work.  In almost every post that I have read from his blog, “NDP,” there is always at least one line or phrase that strikes a chord.  If you ever just want to lose yourself in a bit of prose than this is the blog for you.  Give Nigel’s blog a look and follow to read some truly original and masterful work.

NDP

read/RANT!

“read/RANT!” is wonderful conglomeration of writers and comic book lovers that just enjoy conversing and penning comic book reviews and posts.  I am deeply honored to have met such a great group of individuals and hear their opinions and feedbacks on all of the highs and lows that the industry has to offer.

read/RANT!

Robert Schultz

Robert Schultz, aka Reggae Rob, has a popular, worldwide podcast that blends political, social, and economic motifs with past and present reggae riffs.  Countless nights I have been spent listening to a Rastaman Vibrations podcast, while composing my next article or scene.  Reggae Rob’s podcast is free to download and provides approximately a full hour of soulful vibrations that always cuts above the rest.

Rastaman Vibrations Reggae Podcast @ PodBean (dot) com

Rastaman Vibrations Reggae Podcast Facebook Group

Rastaman Vibrations on iTunes 

Sonia G. Medeiros

Sonia is a talented writer that hosts an incredibly engaging blog entitled, “Doing the Write Thing.”  If she is not holding her monthly writing challenge she is always keeping busy by keeping up on her ROW80 goals, fleshing out the latest supernatural post, guest blogging, networking, etc., etc.  All of her hard work pays off resulting in a well-maintained and high-quality website that makes her blog one of the best of the best.  Check it out and give her latest writing challenge and post a whirl and read.

Doing the Write Thing

Follow Sonia G. Medeiros at Twitter (dot) com

7takearisk7

7takearisk7 is a friend that I met on StumbleUpon that greatly inspires me on a day-to-day basis just by being incredibly supportive and friendly.  He is a proveyor of the arts, and his talents in writing, social networking, and friendship go well-beyond most.  Give 7takearisk7 a proverbial nod by visiting his Categorian page.  He constantly updates it making a fantastic hub to launch into the beauty of everyday life.

7takearisk @ Categorian(dot) com