The year was 1991. A younger Geek in the City (technically, Geek in the Sticks) was ditching school at the one place where he felt safe in his Geekiness… The local (and only) bookstore, which, I know sounds like such a very sad place for a teenager to play hooky. What can you do? Bookstores are my people’s hangout of choice when drama club isn’t in session. My (mis)adventures at said bookstore are well documented and remembered every time I return to the dusty, sagebrush-infested steppes of Susanville. Anyway, it was the spring of 1991, and while waiting for 3 o’clock to arrive, I decided to snag some new Star Trek books. Few were catching my eye. I have never been one of those Trekkies that will buy anything with a Warp Nacelle on the cover. However, one book did garner my attention… A Star Trek: The Next Generation giant novel titled Vendetta… By a one Peter David. I bought the book and sat in the corner waiting for school to let out. Little did I know that I was taking my first step into fandom that exists to this day… Peter David instantly hooked me. His knowledge of the Trek universe and the characters within was (and is) perfection. His ability to use dialogue to drive his stories is fantastic. In addition, I say without a bit of hesitation, his writing style has inspired me to become a better writer. Some people follow Aaron Sorkin. Some follow David Mamet. Some follow Tom Stoppard… I follow Peter David.
As such, when he publishes a book on writing for comics… I devour it without hesitation!
The Book – The book itself is jumping with primary colors and practically screams its comic book subject matter, with nary a page passing without some form of balloon or inserts adding an insight. At a 175 perfect bound full color pages, the retail price of $19.95 feels like a fair price. I have paid more for lesser books. For those who may be concerned about the bright colors taking away from the book’s readability, fear not, the book designers took care in maintaining a balance between looks and function.
Readability – As I have stated many times in the past, Peter David has a very fun and engaging style of writing. One might even call his style of writing as conversational. Well, perhaps not realistically conversational, which is stilted and stuttering (a fact David points out within this book). Rather, David’s writing is how we wish we conversed. It doesn’t matter if you are familiar with David’s writing or not. His style pulls the reader in; you quickly forget that you are reading, essentially, a “How-To” guide. Reading Writing for Comics feels more akin to a comfortable conversation with a friend over drinks in your favorite watering hole… a friend who just so happens to be a highly successful writer. Doing more than simply telling you what does and does not work within comics, Writing for Comics gives you crystal clear examples ripped from the comic page. In addition to Peter David’s own insightful viewpoints, snippets of wisdom from other highly successful comic book writers fill the book. While some of the reproduced comic panels feel a tad like filler, the highly readable nature of Writing for Comics is in no way lessened.
Usability – While by no means an “Idiots Guide” stylebook, Writing for Comics does cover many of the basics within comics. Indeed, it covers many of the basics of drafting fiction as a whole. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is very easy, especially the longer you write, to forget about the basics of story telling. Forgetting these basics, particularly within the realm of comics can be a dangerous thing. When you charge a reader $2.50 (or more) for 23 pages, you had better hold that reader and hold them well. Again, David doesn’t treat his book like a textbook, however, he does delve deeply into what makes a hero and why he or she does what they do, (and, more importantly, how to make their actions believable to the reader). There are many moments within Writing for Comics that I found myself thankfully nodding over simple issues that I had long neglected, an example being the use of well-known myths into modern takes. It is so tempting to create something completely original, you forget that there really isn’t anything original. Only the ability to create interesting takes on well-known cultural myths and legends. One small portion of Writing for Comics that I found to be extremely useful was the “Exercises”… Throughout the book are small sections where Peter David challenges you to create (among other things) a believable villain or create heroes based on your friends (without offending said friends). Tasks that I used to do as a wee Geek, but for some reason stopped as I “matured” as a writer.
Filled with excellent insights into the nature of comic book writing and the industry as a whole, Writing for Comics is a must. Anyone who wishes to make a career out of funny books, be it as one who wishes to place their stamp on established characters or go the independent route, Writing for Comics is essential. Filled with personal and humorous stories, Writing for Comics is a fun and informative book that earns a place on my “books I’ll keep using’ shelf, right next to Stephen King’s On Writing, Struck and White’s Elements of Style, and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.
I give Writing for Comics with Peter David 4 out of 5 Critical Hits!
Please visist PeterDavid.net to learn more about the master!