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Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1 Paperback – Illustrated, July 6, 2003
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My real issue with this is the fact that the book was described as "collected for the first time as one graphic novel." There are approximately 11, 2" x 2" images in a 47 page book. And most of the images are just mundane images of a piece of paper in front of a typewriter; there are no iconic comic images at all. Since less than half the book is even illustrated, can you even call this a graphic novel? A graphic novel at $5.95 about Alan Moore's writing is a good deal. A reprint of an outdated and useless article that Alan Moore wrote with a few random images stuck in the upper corners of every third page is a free pdf at best. Don't waste your money on this. Moore himself later contradicted a lot of what he is saying here anyway.
Moore writes, “In the end, it is effect which governs the success of an individual piece of artwork or a whole artform, and while abstract critical considerations concerning the inherent quality of a work might give us a few useful handles with which to grasp and appreciate a work more fully, art still succeeds or fails in terms of the actual effect it has upon the individual members of its audience. If it stimulates or excites them, they will respond to it. If it doesn’t, they’ll go and look for something that does. Comics have a capacity for effect that they haven’t begun to take advantage of, and are held back by narrow and increasingly obsolete notions of what constitutes a comic story. In order for comics to move forward as a medium, these notions must change” (pgs. 5-6). In this, Moore’s comments seem particularly prescient given Marvel and DC’s struggles to break out of the usual pattern of large events, reboots, and nostalgia that dominate a great deal of their storytelling. That said, many of the smaller and independent comics have succeeded in finding new types of stories to tell and new ways to tell them, generating greater effect.
Discussing comic book history, Moore summarizes the approach to characterization from the Golden Age of the 1940s and 50s to the Silver Age of the 1960s and 70s, writing, “The earliest approach found in comics was that of simple one-dimensional characterization, usually consisting of ‘This person is good’ or ‘This person is bad.’ For the comics of the time and the comparatively simple world that they were attempting to entertain, this was perfectly adequate. By the early 1960s, however, times had changed and a new approach was needed. Thus, Stan Lee invented two-dimensional characterization: ‘This person is good but has bad luck with girlfriends,’ and ‘This person is bad but might just reform and join the Avengers if enough readers write in asking for it’” (pg. 23). Moore concludes, however, that progress has been minimal since that point with characters remaining two-dimensional.
Arguing that plot should enhance character and theme, Moore writes, “Pick up an average current comic and put it to your ear and you can almost hear the process at work: Plot, plot, plot, plot, plot, plot…it sounds like someone wading through mud and it very often reads like it, too. An obsession with the demands of a concrete and linear plotline is often one of the most dependable ways to crush all the life and energy from your story and make it simply an exercise in mechanical narration” (pg. 29, ellipses in original).
Finally, in his conclusion, Moore argues that the advice may have been good for those starting out, but that readers should ignore things like his promotion of a certain panel structure as, in hindsight, that was on its way out even as he wrote. Further, he offers advice for those who are already writing, urging them to take risks, avoid cliché, and, above all else, work on being good human beings because then they’ll leave the kind of work that will be impactful. Though the book has passed its 15th anniversary and Avatar Press has it in its 9th printing, it remains valuable for those seeking to break into the popular culture industry. The majority of the book also serves as a time capsule for those studying comics of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Top international reviews
The art, except for the cover is just poor and irrelevant, but it's not about the drawing.
If you need a bit of inspiration on writing, want to learn about a professionals work process and the things he considers whilst planning, then I would recommend this book. If you are a fan of his work, and want to learn more about writing comics then getting this book is a must.
At £3, you can't go wrong. Note that it is a very short book, extracted from a fanzine, about 1/3 cm thick!
Also an enjoyable read, a bit of a page turner, unlike Will Eisner's books which bore me to tears unfortunately.
It is a very interesting little essay from Moore but basically it is the type of thing that you can normally read for free. The artwork is pretty throw-away as well.
The advice that he offers is very good as well, even if he disparages it as very basic in his afterword.
He doesn't seem as cynical in this essay as he does now. His comments about hackneyed comic book plots are accurate and amusing.
The core of the book was written in 1985 when Alan was riding high after Watchmen, V for Vendetta and his other great work. It gives you a good argument for and against the strengths and weaknesses of comics and talks about visual story telling whilst encouraging you to challenge what is cliche and conventional. all good stuff but still only a twenty mnute read.
Then comes the afterword, written in 2002, in which the Alan Moore we are now familar with comes along and undermines everything in the core of the book. Inviting the reader to igore all of it and do something else. This afterword is refreshingly honsest and very telling of the modern writer's attitudes to the industry and indeed his own work. I even shead a tear reading it, as this is not the sort of thing I expected to be reading in a book of this nature.
Anyway. Is this book worth it. Well, it is quite cheap and it should be for what you get, it's about the size of a comic. I'd be more inclinded to look out for it next time you go to a comic shop or stall and buy it second hand. Or ask around to see if any of your mates will lend it to you.
Not a rip off - just slightly over priced and underwelming.
With an added plus, it arrived considerably early than expected.
The basic message of the afterwords, however, is "Ignore everything I said in the previous section of the book" (a quote from the final page). To be honest, that didn't bother me too much, as I like Alan Moore and it was still a fun read, but it might bother other buyers more.
I was also looking for more technical information - techniques I could use to control the pacing of a comic, etc. This booklet didn't provide much of that either and unfortunately I haven't yet found a book that does.
So.. it wasn't what I expected, but I'm still glad I read it.
This is a short text with completely useless illustrations.