REVIEW: ‘Words For Pictures’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words For Pictures

Words for Pictures is a non-fiction book written by Brian Michael Bendis, published by Watson-Guptill in 2014. The book is a guide to nearly every aspect of writing comic books, from scripts to working with artists, all the way to marketing.

The structure of the book is neatly laid out, going from the construction of an idea all the way to contracts and running your own company. This broadens the audience base to anyone who wants to create comics, as opposed to just writers. Bendis’ approach to writing this book appears to stem from a combination of both his natural narrative writing ability, that which comes from being an established writer, and his experience as a teacher for the University of Oregon. The book has a serious, instructional tone that never feels patronizing or smug. When reading chapters of Words For Pictures, it feels like you are given advice rather than an instruction manual. 

This is also evident in a phrase used by Bendis within the book itself. “There is no set format. There are just things that work.” Telling readers to follow exact rules can be daunting and limiting when allowing a writer to express themselves. But giving them guides and providing examples of the various forms of comic book scripts stimulates the imagination.

Words For Pictures isn’t just paragraphs of Bendis’ words of wisdom. The author provides the reader with snippets of scripts from his archive. Anybody who is a lover of storyboards, scripts and other aspects of the creative process will enjoy the access Bendis gives to the production of his comics. And for those that may want more than just his backlog, there are script segments and pitch documents from other books and creators, from Sam Humphries and Stan Lee. This variety of sources that Bendis has gathered his samples draws fans of other publishers into purchasing the book. Bendis uses his own licensed work to present his examples and ideas too, showing pages and processes from all over his vast career, including Powers, Guardians of The Galaxy and Spider-Men. Because of this, the book is very enjoyable to look at and to read. 

Words For Pictures page

Alongside his own advice, Bendis calls on the help of other industry stalwarts to provide advice in Words For Pictures. Award-winning writers such as Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker have whole chapters to themselves to present their own ideas. Alongside their words, Bendis includes work from these creators, as both Fraction and Brubaker’s segments are littered with panels and scripts from their own books, namely Hawkeye and Captain America respectively.

The guest stars aren’t restricted to writers either. Rather than speak on behalf of the other professions within comics, Bendis relies on other industry professionals to answer the most pressing questions on their process and working with writers. A large chapter is dedicated to comic book artists, interviewing a convention’s worth of pros.  The list of blockbuster guestlist includes Chris Bachalo, Skottie Young and Sara Pichelli to name but a few, alongside industry definers like Walt Simonson and Bill Sienkiewicz.  All interviewed within the pages of the “Artists on Writers,” with some of Bendis’ creative partners getting spotlights of their own. The artists discuss what they love  These creators also have their work filling the pages of Words For Pictures, meaning that nearly every page is decorated with fantastic art to go with their sound advice. 

As with the artists, notable editors are given their own segment to explain what they do and how they do it. The amount of voices included in Words For Pictures means that the book is filled with content and advice. This guide is valuable for those who want to work as editors and artists, but it also teaches writers how to cooperate and collaborate with the people they rely on to bring their words to life. Not only is this a book about craft, it’s also one about communication. 

And all of this content is beautifully presented and wrapped in an attractive, eye-catching cover.

Words For Pictures is a crucial tool for anyone with an interest in any form of comic creation. Readers will learn all about making a comic from cover to cover by reading this book from cover to cover. Bendis is the perfect writer to author this, given his long, popular career, teaching experience and extensive Rolodex of contacts to create this guide. Bendis appears to know how to tap into the minds, souls, and hearts of writers, aware of every goal and every doubt they may have about the medium. 

Even if a reader does not consider writing or creating comics as a career option, there are still enough comments on inspiration, business and the industry as a whole that can be beneficial to anyone with a creative mindset. Even if you’re an experienced writer, artist, letterer or editor, you will still gain valuable knowledge within these pages. With the rare access to scripts, pitch documents, editor’s notes and so much more,  there is a fountain of information given to you by the best creators in the industry. 

Words For Pictures is available in bookstores and on Kindle.

Words For Pictures
5

TL;DR

Words For Pictures is a crucial tool for anyone with an interest in any form of comic creation. Readers will learn all about making a comic from cover to cover by reading this book from cover to cover.