- Posted by Johanna on October 14, 2008 at 8:03 am
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: by Peter David
- PUBLISHER: Impact; $19.99 US
There are an ever-increasing number of how-to books on making comics. Some are by accomplished creators; some by names you may not have ever heard of. Most deal with drawing, but any good story starts before that, with the writing. (As the Introduction points out, writers are the only ones that face the blank page.) I can’t think of a better guide than Writing for Comics With Peter David.
David has an immensely varied resume that demonstrates how well he knows his stuff. In addition to comics, he’s written New York Times bestsellers, television shows, and movies. He’s not only written top-selling superheroes, including his well-known 12-year run on the Incredible Hulk, but creator-owned titles like Fallen Angel and Sachs & Violens. His long-running “But I Digress” column gave him experience with essays and explanatory non-fiction, too.
As a result, this is the most entertaining craft how-to book I’ve read. It’s conversational, with plenty of wisecracks (much like David’s fiction writing style). Illustrations feature familiar Marvel characters, clearly captioned. His points are illustrated with examples from actual comics, often ones he’s written. It’s a huge benefit to actually see the theory put into practice in stories I remember reading.
Chapters are broken down into shorter, labeled sections, so it’s easy to find and re-read particular topics of interest. The flow is natural, starting with ideas and concepts, and moving through character development, conflict and theme, plot and structure, to the details of scripting, including formats and ballooning. There are even exercises included, suggestions to try to put the advice into practice.
I find myself in great sympathy with his points, whether it’s how to combat writers’ block or how to make “message” stories more than one-sided screeds or even how to handle criticism. He gives advice on how to do things right and, when you need another option, how to paper over plot holes. I particularly like how he points out that a story is more than just a string of incidents; would that some current comic writers had the advantage of this book.
There is one caveat, that perhaps goes without saying: David focuses on the kinds of comics he writes, fantasy adventure titles with heroes and villains. The solo writer/artist may find other books more useful — although anyone will find something of value here — as may the writer of more subtle genres. Still, I am thrilled to see a comic writing book that actually analyzes story types and themes as well as covering how sound effects work.
This is an appealing, informative book that makes for a great read even if you’re just a fan of David’s work and want to see more inside his head.