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The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics Paperback – June 1, 2001
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There must be dozens of books on how to draw comics, but even the best artists need to tell a good story. Who can teach them? Dennis O'Neil. A comics writer and editor for more than 20 years, O'Neil oversees DC Comics' Batman titles--one of the most successful comics franchises ever. In addition, he's a bestselling novelist, a screenwriter, and a writing teacher. So when it comes to storytelling, O'Neil knows his stuff. In this guide he delivers his knowledge in a succinct, no-nonsense style.
O'Neil explains three-act story structure and examines subplots, characterization, and methods for developing drama and suspense. He then applies these concepts to comics' specific forms: graphic novels, miniseries, maxiseries, and the rare megaseries (such as Batman: No Man's Land, a year-long über-narrative played out across five comics titles). As in good comics, words and images work together in this book. Every idea is illustrated by panels or pages from great moments in DC Comics lore. Especially illuminating are the script excerpts that come paired with the comic book pages they describe.
Strangely, the book ignores the visual side of comics writing. Modern comics scripts specify shots, angles, and blocking in movie-director fashion, but that craft is never addressed. (DC has a good opportunity here for a second volume.) However, what this book sets out to teach--storytelling--it does quite well. Aspiring comics writers won't just learn theory, they'll be empowered, because O'Neil provides a framework for crafting new tales. --J.B. Peck
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This witty, clear, and concise guide is tailored to those who want to create comics. O'Neil is adamant that there is no One True Way, although he stresses the importance of practice. He discusses story structure, characterization, script preparation, and other general writing topics. He also covers those more specific to comics writing such as miniseries, maxiseries, and continuity. O'Neil addresses the visual component of the art, the importance of page layout, and the relationship between the writer and the artist. He concludes with a short essay, "Writing Humor Comics," by Mark Evanier. The book is lavishly illustrated with black-and-white examples from various DC comics. In addition, the author includes many pages of scripts, which are usually juxtaposed with the finished page. He provides excellent advice and guidance for beginners. Although the examples focus on DC characters and stories, the content should have broad appeal. This is a nice balance to the many how-to-draw-comics books in most collections. Even for nonwriters, the book is interesting for the background look it provides into how comics are created.
Susan Salpini, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Denny O'Neil (I've never met the man, but I've been reading his work for so long, I feel that I've achieved nickname basis) has produced a rich textbook meeting both of those qualifications.
For those who are more nuts-and-bolts-oriented (and I admit I'm in that group), O'Neil gets to the juicy stuff early in the book with his discussion of the differences between, and pros and cons of, the full-script and plot-first techniques. There are plenty of visual examples, juxtaposed with the finished comic pages.
O'Neil, however doesn't skimp on the how-tos. He offers detailed sections on story structure, subplots, characterization and more. If he comes to an element that just can't be described in an instructional form (writing realistic dialogue, for instance), he explains why it cannot be taught and offers substantial suggestions for how the student can develop his or her own skills in the element.
He also describes the various architectural forms within the comic world -- miniseries, maxiseries, graphic novels, ongoing series, adaptations, etc. -- and the structural differences and nuances of each.
This is a fine, valuable instructional manual. O'Neil has left nothing out.
(By the way, this is the second DC Comics Guide I've purchased; they are both excellent instructional manuals.)