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Alan Moore's Writing for Comics

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Alan Moore, Hugo-Award winning author of WATCHMEN and the acknowledged master of comic book writing, shares his thoughts on how to deliver a top-notch script An essay originally written in 1985 to appear in an obscure British fanzine (right at the time that Moore was reshaping the landscape of modern comics), WRITING FOR COMICS was lost to time until its collection in thes Alan Moore, Hugo-Award winning author of WATCHMEN and the acknowledged master of comic book writing, shares his thoughts on how to deliver a top-notch script An essay originally written in 1985 to appear in an obscure British fanzine (right at the time that Moore was reshaping the landscape of modern comics), WRITING FOR COMICS was lost to time until its collection in these pages, expanded with a brand new essay by the author on how his thoughts on writing have changed in the two decades since. An insightful and eye-opening look into a brilliant creative mind, perfect for Moore devotees and fiction writers of all literary forms looking to hone their craft.


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Alan Moore, Hugo-Award winning author of WATCHMEN and the acknowledged master of comic book writing, shares his thoughts on how to deliver a top-notch script An essay originally written in 1985 to appear in an obscure British fanzine (right at the time that Moore was reshaping the landscape of modern comics), WRITING FOR COMICS was lost to time until its collection in thes Alan Moore, Hugo-Award winning author of WATCHMEN and the acknowledged master of comic book writing, shares his thoughts on how to deliver a top-notch script An essay originally written in 1985 to appear in an obscure British fanzine (right at the time that Moore was reshaping the landscape of modern comics), WRITING FOR COMICS was lost to time until its collection in these pages, expanded with a brand new essay by the author on how his thoughts on writing have changed in the two decades since. An insightful and eye-opening look into a brilliant creative mind, perfect for Moore devotees and fiction writers of all literary forms looking to hone their craft.

30 review for Alan Moore's Writing for Comics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    In 1985, an up and coming comics guy wrote a series of essays on writing comics. Over time, that man became whatever the hell Alan Moore is today; this man whose work has preyed on me, made me cry, turned me on, turned me off, and even, from time to time, completely failed to hold my attention. (I started to list examples of which did which, then decided I’m not quite ready to commit those facts to eternity). Years later, the essays were compiled into a pamphlet and Moore graciously added a post In 1985, an up and coming comics guy wrote a series of essays on writing comics. Over time, that man became whatever the hell Alan Moore is today; this man whose work has preyed on me, made me cry, turned me on, turned me off, and even, from time to time, completely failed to hold my attention. (I started to list examples of which did which, then decided I’m not quite ready to commit those facts to eternity). Years later, the essays were compiled into a pamphlet and Moore graciously added a post script which was essentially “boy, was I naïve.” Naïve as it may be, it’s raw, honest, and deep. Take for example his suggestion on writing horror: “First think about what sort of things horrify you. Analyze your own fears thoroughly enough and you might be able to reach some conclusions about the broad mass of human fear and anxiety. Be ruthless about this, and submit yourself to as much emotional pain as necessary to get the question answered: What horrifies me? Pictures of little kids starving in Africa horrifies me. Why does that horrify me? It horrifies me because I can’t stand the thought of tiny children being born into a world of starvation and miserly and horror and never knowing anything but hunger and pain and fear, never knowing that there could possibly be anything other than needing food as desperately as a suffocating man needs air, and never hearing anything but weeping and moaning and despair. Yeah, well, okay, but why can’t I stand that? I can’t stand that because I like to perceive the world as having some form of just and fair order, without which much of existence would seem meaningless, and know there is no possibility of them perceiving the world in those terms. I also know that were I to be in their situation I wouldn’t be able to see any unifying design above the hunger and misery, either. So does that mean that there is no order, no point to existence, above all no point to my existence? Is that what scares the shit out of me every time I see all those fly-specked bellies on the six o’clock news? Yeah. Yeah, probably it is. What scares me is probably not what’s happening to them but what it implies concerning me. That isn’t a terribly easy or noble thing to have to face up to, but it’s the sort of wringer that you have to put yourself through in order to have any valuable understanding of the material that you are working with.” (13-14). I can believe the man who wrote that was writing the Watchmen; who put his thumb on the fears that brooded over my generation’s childhood. Who said frankly -- this horrible thing is horrifying mostly because it what it says about me, and yes, I'm horrified by my own lack of empathy. And that yes, this is a man who made me cringe by putting a golliwog into the penultimate League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He also suggests that the brilliant thing that Stan Lee did with comics was moving the characters from one dimension to two. “[A]t the time this was breathtakingly innovative and seemed a perfectly good way of producing comics that had relevance to the times in which they were being produced. Progress since that point has been minimal.” (23-24) Which was a back handed dig that made me roll my eyes, but he goes on to say “I think much of the blame for this state of affairs must rest in the largely unquestioning adherence to the dictum “If a character can’t be summed up in 15 words then the character is no good.” I mean, who says? While its certainly possible to sum up the character and motivation of Captain Ahab in a well turned phrase like ‘This insane amputee with a grudge against a whale,’ Herman Melville obviously though it appropriate to take slightly longer over the job.” Heh. And yeah. And I do think that most of the good comic books these days have moved beyond the 15 words. I know I wouldn’t want to try to capture John Constantine, Dream, or even Batman that succinctly. In his ending essay he said something that made me feel oddly connected to him. “Love yourself and love the world. . . . And if you want to write about something, then you must know it must understand it as fully as possible. Must love it, even if it is unlovable. Particularly if it is unlovable. Hey, now, you’re a professional writer, why not volunteer to give a talk to a group of murders and rapists over at the nearest prison? How could anyone fail to benefit in understanding from an experience like that? What could be damaged except maybe your prejudices and preconceptions. Immerse yourself in the least desirable element and swim.” (47). I’ve helped write opinions about the lawfulness of convictions and civil commitments and prison discipline for years before (and since) I actually bestirred myself to visit a prison. I shook hands with a sexually violent predator who had the same name as one of my best friends. While I can’t say that I love anyone there, walking through those gates – and out – was a thing worth doing. And now I shall back away from this review before I start thinking too hard about the connection between drafting graphic novels and drafting court opinions. Moving on.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brian Johanningmeier

    I'm a fan of Alan Moore but I don't want to read something and then be told in the Afterward to forget everything I've just read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Birss

    There is nothing wrong with the book. However, it is fairly common good advice given in any book on writing fiction. I did pick up about three sentence's worth of new relevant advice for comic script writing. Also, for anyone who is familiar with Alan Moore, and appreciates his cranky-old-man manner regarding comics and the comic industry, the tone is to be enjoyed. There is also some good kick-in-the-pants challenge to creative people. But without Alan Moore's name on the front, there isn't rea There is nothing wrong with the book. However, it is fairly common good advice given in any book on writing fiction. I did pick up about three sentence's worth of new relevant advice for comic script writing. Also, for anyone who is familiar with Alan Moore, and appreciates his cranky-old-man manner regarding comics and the comic industry, the tone is to be enjoyed. There is also some good kick-in-the-pants challenge to creative people. But without Alan Moore's name on the front, there isn't really a lot to this that isn't found with greater depth and more helpful application in the works of Eisner and McCloud. If one *must* learn about script and story writing from Alan Moore, I recommend reading some of his scripts, alongside their corresponding books. I did so, and found it helpful. However, as I've learned more about comic scriptwriting, and the broad spectrum of methods employed to create them, I've discovered that Alan Moore's scripts are kind of like diving in the deep end. He's frighteningly thorough and specific in his description of each panel in his scripts. I recommend a look at Bendis/Maleev scripts, or Morrison/Quitely instead. In short, this is a tiny, overpriced book that reads like stream-of-consciousness advice from an old master, which, though good, can all be found elsewhere, and with higher quality.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Greg Fisher

    This is a reprint of an essay Alan Moore wrote years ago for serial publication in a small press magazine (or was it a fanzine? I'll check). In it he discusses writing for comics and gives his unique perspective -- the kind of perspective that created The Watchmen, revamped Miracleman, rejuvenated The Swamp Thing and led to Promethea, Top Ten and other ABC comics. An afterward, written by the Alan Moore of today discusses how he writes today and how radically different it is from the way he wr This is a reprint of an essay Alan Moore wrote years ago for serial publication in a small press magazine (or was it a fanzine? I'll check). In it he discusses writing for comics and gives his unique perspective -- the kind of perspective that created The Watchmen, revamped Miracleman, rejuvenated The Swamp Thing and led to Promethea, Top Ten and other ABC comics. An afterward, written by the Alan Moore of today discusses how he writes today and how radically different it is from the way he wrote then. He gives a suggestion that writers start out like he did with careful plotting and pushing the boundaries of comics and then evolve into a simple writing as you go and trust your creativity method as you mature. Easy reading this is not but essential if you want to write comics and leave a lasting legacy. There are many wonderful writers out there and they're raising bar. This book can help you rise to the challenge.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Himani Agrawal

    3.5 stars Pros: a. gave me a deeper understanding of how best to appreciate graphic novels/ comic books - seriously, read this if you want to truly understand what it means to read a comic book and the depth of detailing a writer and illustrator go through to produce a creative which is not a. cinema or b. literature but a creative medium of its own right b. good reference for getting to know a lot of comic book titles c. good tips on writing as a whole Cons: a. si 3.5 stars Pros: a. gave me a deeper understanding of how best to appreciate graphic novels/ comic books - seriously, read this if you want to truly understand what it means to read a comic book and the depth of detailing a writer and illustrator go through to produce a creative which is not a. cinema or b. literature but a creative medium of its own right b. good reference for getting to know a lot of comic book titles c. good tips on writing as a whole Cons: a. since I am not a comic book writer and this is clearly for someone who wishes to start writing there is a lot of content that is virtually useless to me even in this small 50 page book b. Alan Moore recants most of what he says in the afterword and though I appreciate the sentiment IMHO it just doesn't make sense

  6. 5 out of 5

    RB

    Plan on writing a comic? Or any story, really? If you said yes to either of those, and enjoy Alan Moore's work, this book is essential. It doesn't have detailed layouts of his outlines or comics before they were published, but what is does include is an essay that spans through every element of storytelling, describing what works with examples from his own work and other, while showing clearly the failings of many modern comics, to asking the reader to reach for more in their work, and this is a Plan on writing a comic? Or any story, really? If you said yes to either of those, and enjoy Alan Moore's work, this book is essential. It doesn't have detailed layouts of his outlines or comics before they were published, but what is does include is an essay that spans through every element of storytelling, describing what works with examples from his own work and other, while showing clearly the failings of many modern comics, to asking the reader to reach for more in their work, and this is all told in the captivating voice of Mr. Moore who is as passionate as ever here. "Alan Moore's Writing for Comics" is an insightful, invaluable book for aspiring writers or fans of Moore's output.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Levi

    Comic book writers writing about writing comic books has increased my interest in comics. This allowed some insights that were helpful in my own endeavors to do some comic book writing. There are certainly some tricks, ideas, and advice that was quite helpful, especially as a new writer. That's where I think this works the best: as an introduction to comic book writing. I wouldn't necessarily see this as an exhaustive guide, but it helps get ideas flowing and provide examples about ho Comic book writers writing about writing comic books has increased my interest in comics. This allowed some insights that were helpful in my own endeavors to do some comic book writing. There are certainly some tricks, ideas, and advice that was quite helpful, especially as a new writer. That's where I think this works the best: as an introduction to comic book writing. I wouldn't necessarily see this as an exhaustive guide, but it helps get ideas flowing and provide examples about how to move forward with those ideas.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tomas

    Book is awesome. Alan Moore is too. Not even the text is good or the thoughts that are being communicated, which are very insightful and eye-opening by the way. The book itself as a whole is great. Being without table of contents and being only forty-something pages long. No blather, no bullshit. My impression is only positive. Hooray.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Moore talks about his technique. Advice from a master, but it's a pretty dry read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matt Kelland

    It's interesting, but as he says himself, the techniques are dated. Good for the basic concepts of how to approach writing, not so much as a practical primer.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lent

    Meant to be read and reread. As a fellow writer, Moore's books and lectures (saw him speak at Comic-Con) remind me to aspire, ask more of myself and always digger.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarospice

    God. This was a slog. Not because of what Moore says or any illusions of dated advice but the way It's presented. Just white pages of typewriter font and truly arbitrary art. Guess they had no way to show the art pages of story that Moore mentions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gamal Hennessy

    The first thirty pages had a lot of venting and very little advice. The last ten pages are very helpful for anyone trying to understand writing for comics, especially if you already have experience writing in another medium.

  14. 4 out of 5

    A. B. Neilly

    It is an article about the techniques Alan Moore used to use. It is followed by an article about how he abandoned all those techniques and you should create your own. Funny and informative.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Pierce

    Good enough for what it is, and Moore, as the best comics writer ever, has some interesting things to say, but honestly, it's a bit bold to call this thing a book...it's really more of a pamphlet.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    I was going to give this book four stars but then I looked back and saw how long it took me to get through a 50-page book. There are some really good things in this book. Moore makes interesting points about writing and storytelling techniques. He is is talking about comic book writing specifically, but I think that good writing shares certain features, regardless of whether it's in a comic book or a french novel. Moore's advice could certainly be useful for any writer. He also has so I was going to give this book four stars but then I looked back and saw how long it took me to get through a 50-page book. There are some really good things in this book. Moore makes interesting points about writing and storytelling techniques. He is is talking about comic book writing specifically, but I think that good writing shares certain features, regardless of whether it's in a comic book or a french novel. Moore's advice could certainly be useful for any writer. He also has some useful (comic book) examples to illustrate his points. However, the writing style did wear on me. Moore goes on multiple rambles. I actually wouldn't argue if someone described this whole book as one long ramble. That's cool in one sense because it feels like Moore is actually talking to you. (He seems to me like the kind of guy who goes on long tangents and rambles during normal conversation.) The rambling is uncool in another sense though: sometimes you read a long passage and by the end you've forgotten what the original point was. Overall, there are some useful nuggets in this book and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be writer- whether you like comic books or not.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Adrian182

    Writing for Comics. Moore, Alan. Writing for Comics (2003). How To. High School Target Audience. Alan Moore, author of such popular comics as The Killing Joke, Watchman, Swamp Thing and Miracleman takes to the page to teach other prospective writers how to dip their feet into the waters of comic book creation. The beauty of reading a How To book about writing comics by a comic writer is the accentuation of language and style that emits from his writing. Amidst the book are short exercises to hel Writing for Comics. Moore, Alan. Writing for Comics (2003). How To. High School Target Audience. Alan Moore, author of such popular comics as The Killing Joke, Watchman, Swamp Thing and Miracleman takes to the page to teach other prospective writers how to dip their feet into the waters of comic book creation. The beauty of reading a How To book about writing comics by a comic writer is the accentuation of language and style that emits from his writing. Amidst the book are short exercises to help the reader exercise their prose and sequential narrative chops, which adds an element of hands on practice that is a great addition to the information given. I have chosen to make this book target high school students because of Moore’s robust range of language. Also, the ideas that are presented are best suited for readers who are a bit more developed and mature. Alan Moore gives writers rules when considering the art of comic book creation, and does so in a way that reminds the reader why they picked up the book in the first place. Target audience: ages 15-24

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    Somehow I always conflate Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock in my mind. I hope they do not object. I know well which books are written by each. But there's something in its tone,message and general attitude to the topic of writing of Moore's book that reminds me a great deal of Moorcock's polemics in the mid-60s in New Worlds magazine, that Moorcock then edited. Goodreads says these essays of Moore's were written in 1985. That context is important. This book is not just Alan Moore's opinion for wh Somehow I always conflate Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock in my mind. I hope they do not object. I know well which books are written by each. But there's something in its tone,message and general attitude to the topic of writing of Moore's book that reminds me a great deal of Moorcock's polemics in the mid-60s in New Worlds magazine, that Moorcock then edited. Goodreads says these essays of Moore's were written in 1985. That context is important. This book is not just Alan Moore's opinion for what makes for good writing, and it is that, but a time capsule of a transitional moment in the history of comics. Some of these discussions are well known now but if I can think back to 1985 I recall there were issues just bubbling up as DC's Crisis was just reaching the shelves. All in all, this book though short since it was originally no more than a four piece magazine installment is a nice little statement on writing. I would recommend it for aspiring writers and anyone interested in Alan Moore's process or comics in general.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert Pocock

    This slender volume reprints an extended essay from 1985 along with a short follow-up from 2003. The main piece consists of Alan Moore's thoughts on the mechanics and thought processes behind the writing of a comic strip and is illustrated with discussions of examples from his own work and that of other artists (from comics and other art forms). The follow-up essay, in much condensed form, explores some of these same topics from the perspective of a now established, and experienced writer. Most This slender volume reprints an extended essay from 1985 along with a short follow-up from 2003. The main piece consists of Alan Moore's thoughts on the mechanics and thought processes behind the writing of a comic strip and is illustrated with discussions of examples from his own work and that of other artists (from comics and other art forms). The follow-up essay, in much condensed form, explores some of these same topics from the perspective of a now established, and experienced writer. Most interesting for me is the way Alan Moore describes different aspects of the creative process and some mechanisms he has used or uses to generate "ideas". (I found myself thinking of the BBC Radio programme 'Chain Reaction' where he discusses this in an interview with Brian Eno.)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    It's an interesting insight into how Moore wrote things back in the 80's, with some good advice overall. The format (two columns, side by side, per page) in a book the size of a comic bothered me somehow. And, as others have said, the afterward is basically 'ignore everything in this book before this chapter, then probably this one as well', which actually gave me a chuckle more than it bothered me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Overly chatty, stream-of-consciousness-style advice with a nugget or two every few pages. Somewhat underwhelming. Then you get to the Afterword, written decades after the main text, and it becomes more compelling and more inspiring, but a little annoying since it devalues (or recognizes the actual value of) what you've just read. I'll write down a few worthwhile tidbits in my sketchbook and then likely never touch this book again.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bracicot

    Super interesting, thoughtful advice about the nature of good writing and more specifically of good comics composition. Of particular interest is Moore’s analysis of a 40-page superman comic he wrote, which went over both process and motivation, plot and story and hiw they interact, and visual and verbal thinking. Still looking for a straight-up description of the format and conventions of a comics script, though.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Smith

    This book is awesome if you are trying to get a fundamental start on sequential art. Cheap, quick, a good starter. For sure read this and also watch the mindscape of Alan Moore documentary. The book and the documentary dovetail nicely. The documentary was more significant to me, but this book delivers.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vonze

    Good advice for beginners. I wish there had been more graphics or illustrations in a book about writing comics. He mentions some works of art and it would have been nice to have an actual photo or illustration for example.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shawn M.

    You learn many things throughout life and years later you'll find out that what you've thought back then is not the same thing you think right now. From the man that made comics an important medium for storytelling.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mike Mann

    This is a very good pamphlet. The dense, justified text and random illustrations make this a more difficult read than it could be, but the text is good. The first five chapters, written in the ‘80s, are on the basics of good storytelling. He explains this methodically and in depth using very specific examples, which is extremely helpful. Twenty-ish years later, he reflects on this in the afterword. There, he states the preceding text is fine for a beginner learning the form, but he strongly This is a very good pamphlet. The dense, justified text and random illustrations make this a more difficult read than it could be, but the text is good. The first five chapters, written in the ‘80s, are on the basics of good storytelling. He explains this methodically and in depth using very specific examples, which is extremely helpful. Twenty-ish years later, he reflects on this in the afterword. There, he states the preceding text is fine for a beginner learning the form, but he strongly encourages writers to move beyond form. Using the _Shuhari_ concept, the later writing is from a _ri_ perspective on a guide written from a _shu_ perspective that encourages _ha_ exploration.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Braden

    The 2013 Afterword is a little more interesting and practical to writers than the basic, fundamental steps towards narrative creating suggested in the actual meat of this essay. Remember to explore your limits!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris Philbrook

    Dense and very helpful as it pertains to writing a compelling comic. Recommended for people who are looking into the industry, or just want to read it for a sneak peek behind the scenes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lorena

    I liked it! I could relate to much of the writing angst and decisions about stepping away from the novel writing. Not sure I’d recommend it for non-writers though.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pablov95

    If you really love writing and "For the Man Who has Everything", this is a must-have.

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