Today we’ll take a breather from the interviews and instead look at some of the books in the True North Country Comics library. For this post, we’ll focus on writing comic books.
It goes without saying that if you don’t know what you’re writing about, then you better learn very quickly. And what better way to know your subject then checking out the following two books by Scott McCloud — Understanding Comics (1994 – HarperPerrenial) and Reinventing Comics (2000 – HarperPerrenial). Both of these books take the reader through the fine details about what makes a comic book tick including vocabulary, passage of time, panel layout, narrative, colour and a whole lot more. Start here!
Famed DC Comics writer Geoff Johns was once asked at a Comic-Con International panel about books he’d recommend for aspiring writers. His answers were The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers by Christopher Vogler (1998 – Sheridan Books Inc.) and The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (1949 – Princeton University Press). Both of these books guide the would-be writer to recognize the pattern in story telling and the process in which the hero must abide to achieve their true goal. The authors cite specific historical stories as well as modern tales to illustrate the function of mythic writing. Heck, if Geoff Johns thinks these books are great, then maybe you should check them out too.
Even though he just passed away just recently, Dennis O’Neil will forever be remembered for writing and editing comic books. However, few people know he taught writing at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and gave many college lectures on the subject. If you want a better understanding of his writing insight, you may want to read The DC Comics Guide To Writing Comics (2001 – Watson-Guptill Publications). Broken into two parts, the first addresses the manner of writing considering characterization, story structure, subplot and more. The second part focuses on the types of comic book writing such as series, miniseries, graphics novels and something called the Levitz Paradigm. On top of all that, Stan Lee offers a very flattering introduction.
Peter Davis is another noteworthy writer who knows a thing or two about the comic book business having written for decades. His book Writing For Comics With Peter David (2006 – Impact Books) uses examples of his own wealth of comic book writing for Spider-Man, X-Factor, Wolverine, Supergirl, Hulk and much more to showcase the steps to writing. Chapters focus on creating the idea, character foundation, conflict and theme, story structure and more.
One element of writing for comic books is scriptwriting. Author Mark Salisbury interviewed a who’s who of the comic book world for his title Writers On Comics Scriptwriting (1999 – Titan Books). From Peter David (see above) to Frank Miller to Neil Gaiman to Todd McFarlane, all offer their insight into the art of comic book scriptwriting with examples to boot.
And if you want to see scripts in all their glory, then you need to check out Panel One: Comic Book Scripts By Top Writers edited by Nat Gertler (2002 – About Comics, LLC). This book includes the original scripts and illustrations from a wide variety of writers including Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, Dwayne McDuffie, Trina Robbins, Kevin Smith, Marv Wolfman and more.
Last, but not least, is the Powers Scriptbook by Brian Michael Bendis with illustrations by Michael Avon Oeming (2001 – Jinxworld). If you ever want to see what goes into writing a script for a comic book, this is it. Brian lays out his writing scripts for “Who Killed Retro Girl’, ‘Ride Along’ and ‘Role Play’ without any editorial intrusion. With this book, you get to see exactly word-for-word, line-by-line how Brian methodically created the Powers stories for readers. If you want a primer on comic book scriptwriting, you should have this one in your collection.
These are just a handful of books in the library that address the art of writing for comic books and there are undoubtedly many more on your shelf too. If you have a favourite book about writing comics, send in your picks.