*Writing for Comics With Peter David — Recommended

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.

Writing for Comics With Peter David cover
Writing for Comics With Peter David
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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.

4 Responses to “*Writing for Comics With Peter David — Recommended”

  1. Tim O'Shea Says:

    Solid review of the PAD book, but I’m actually posting on a more general note.

    When did you start using the callout/pullout lines (ie “Would that some current comic writers had the advantage of this book.”)? I noticed it with Mr. Sizemore’s SPX post last week. Anyways, nice addition (and sorry if you started it six months ago and I just noticed. :) )

  2. Johanna Says:

    Nope, it’s new. I found a plugin a couple of weeks ago that allows me to do it easily. Glad you like it!

  3. Writing for Comics with Peter David Gets Positive Review | IMPACT Fantasy and Comic Art Says:

    […] Comics blogger Johanna Draper Carlson recently reviewed Writing for Comics with Peter David, calling it “the most entertaining craft how-to book I’ve read.” We couldn’t agree with her more. You can read the entire delightful review on Carlson’s web site, comicsworthreading.com, or you can just click here. […]

  4. there it is, plain as daylight. » Staring down the blank page Says:

    […] Draper Carlson reviewed Writing for Comics with Peter David which I have decided I must own ASAP. It looks like a great resource for those of us who write but […]




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