By Todd Allen
Random House has announced that Brian Michael Bendis has signed a deal with Random House to produce a book called Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Graphic Novels. The Hollywood Reporter has it described as “designed to give those looking to break into comic writing a leg up.” And they might just be missing the point. It looks to me like Bendis just wrote a textbook.
You may recall that Bendis has been an adjunct professor over at Portland State University since 2009. He teaches a class called “Graphic Novel.” (There are only 2 students evaluating, but Bendis does have a very high rating on Rate My Professor — but no peppers for hotness.) It’s fairly common for colleges to get working professionals to teach specialized courses. Teaching a class forces you to organize your thoughts on a subject.
Or, as the Hollywood Reporter says:
Bendis’ aim is to explain the many theories and techniques, including the ones he and his writer colleagues use (he wants the book to have many voices), tally up pros and cons, and let readers/prospective writers choose what suits them.
The difference between a textbook and a “how-to” book is going over the different techniques that can be used, as opposed to “How to Write Comics the Marvel Way.” (Plot, then script being the traditional Marvel Way.)
That Bendis is also including a business section to the book and how to protect yourself as a professional writer also makes me think that’s something that came up during the course of his class. That’s not something you typically see in a writing manual, but if you’re teaching a professional course, that’s something that will be in the practice portion of the syllabus.
Oh, sure — this may not be marketed as a textbook, but there are a lot of business and non-fiction books that have a healthy shelf-life in the Ivory Tower.
Congratulations, Professor Bendis. You don’t have to photocopy as many handouts now.
(And yes, before the comment board flares up — Bendis is definitely qualified to write a book on Graphic Novels. Never mind Marvel, off the top of my head, he’s written for Image, Oni and Caliber. Graphic novels and serials. Creator-owned and corporate-owned. He’s dealt with Hollywood as much as anyone. His career is more rounded than you might think.)
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.