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The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics

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For any writer who wants to become an expert comic-book storyteller, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics is the definitive, one-stop resource! In this valuable guide, Dennis O’Neil, a living legend in the comics industry, reveals his insider tricks and no-fail techniques for comic storytelling. Readers will discover the various methods of writing scripts (full script vs. For any writer who wants to become an expert comic-book storyteller, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics is the definitive, one-stop resource! In this valuable guide, Dennis O’Neil, a living legend in the comics industry, reveals his insider tricks and no-fail techniques for comic storytelling. Readers will discover the various methods of writing scripts (full script vs. plot first), as well as procedures for developing a story structure, building subplots, creating well-rounded characters, and much more. O’Neil also explains the many diverse formats for comic books, including graphic novels, maxi-series, mega-series, and adaptation. Of course, there are also dozens of guidelines for writing proposals to editors that command attention and get results.


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For any writer who wants to become an expert comic-book storyteller, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics is the definitive, one-stop resource! In this valuable guide, Dennis O’Neil, a living legend in the comics industry, reveals his insider tricks and no-fail techniques for comic storytelling. Readers will discover the various methods of writing scripts (full script vs. For any writer who wants to become an expert comic-book storyteller, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics is the definitive, one-stop resource! In this valuable guide, Dennis O’Neil, a living legend in the comics industry, reveals his insider tricks and no-fail techniques for comic storytelling. Readers will discover the various methods of writing scripts (full script vs. plot first), as well as procedures for developing a story structure, building subplots, creating well-rounded characters, and much more. O’Neil also explains the many diverse formats for comic books, including graphic novels, maxi-series, mega-series, and adaptation. Of course, there are also dozens of guidelines for writing proposals to editors that command attention and get results.

30 review for The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diz

    This is an introduction to writing for the comics industry. The content covers some of the basics of writing such as Chekhov's gun and Hitchcock's thoughts on suspense, so those with some understanding of story writing and structure won't find much new here. Perhaps it would be a good book for someone who is writing for the first time and hasn't read much about writing. For me, the best part of the book is that it includes a lot of inked DC comics without the colors. Those pages are beautiful to This is an introduction to writing for the comics industry. The content covers some of the basics of writing such as Chekhov's gun and Hitchcock's thoughts on suspense, so those with some understanding of story writing and structure won't find much new here. Perhaps it would be a good book for someone who is writing for the first time and hasn't read much about writing. For me, the best part of the book is that it includes a lot of inked DC comics without the colors. Those pages are beautiful to look at.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wes Locher

    The DC Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil is a quick little romp through the utter basics of story structure, scripting, and dialoging. Having been a huge fan of comic books for as long as I can remember, I've always had the desire to write and publish my own mainly just because I think it would be fun. For me, sequential art has always been a medium that ties together well-written prose with artwork that's exciting and and full of detail. If you don't know the first thing about writing The DC Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil is a quick little romp through the utter basics of story structure, scripting, and dialoging. Having been a huge fan of comic books for as long as I can remember, I've always had the desire to write and publish my own mainly just because I think it would be fun. For me, sequential art has always been a medium that ties together well-written prose with artwork that's exciting and and full of detail. If you don't know the first thing about writing comic books, then I'd recommend this as an excellent place to start. Sure, O'Neil spends a lot of time on the very basics of storytelling, informing the reader of what's necessary for Act's I-III. While you might be able to pick this up just from reading a single issue or complete story arc in a current title, it's great to have a small reference book for your shelf that doesn't require you to thumb through hundreds of pages to find the info you seek. My favorite section offered up was that on scripting. Comic book scripting is one of those things that's very much dependent on person preference or publisher. It helps the aspiring comic writer find the style best suited for him or her and provides interesting exercises in one's ability to adapt to whatever the project requires. For effect, O'Neil juxtaposes his scripts with the finished product so you can see how artist interprets the writer's ideas and direction. Even if you have no desire to write a comic, this quick read will give you an appreciation for how the books are constructed. If nothing else, it will remind you that even though it only took you ten minutes to read a single issue comic cover to cover... the creative team spent weeks channeling their creativity into the medium. It's important to note that regardless of the fact that Batman and Superman adorn the covers of this book, the suggestions, tips, and tactics within are applicable to all styles of graphic storytelling. The section on plot structure alone should earn this a spot on any writer's shelf.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zane

    There is a common idea that you have to know the formula to break it. This book gives the formula to DC comics. It is sort of sad and demystifying, but for the most part maybe we could already see through it. I am glad DC is not overrun by this formula, but I can definitely see its presence. The author says every super hero story should start with action, so someone picking up your book will buy it. Now I want to go to a comic store and look to see if that is the general rule. What if it is, and There is a common idea that you have to know the formula to break it. This book gives the formula to DC comics. It is sort of sad and demystifying, but for the most part maybe we could already see through it. I am glad DC is not overrun by this formula, but I can definitely see its presence. The author says every super hero story should start with action, so someone picking up your book will buy it. Now I want to go to a comic store and look to see if that is the general rule. What if it is, and I never noticed? Am I a bad reader? Also, the author makes the claim that most people don't read caption boxes in comics. I find it hard to believe that people are so lazy reading comics that they just look at pictures, read sound words, and a few voice balloons. That would also be sad. Anyway, if you are interested in writing comics, this may give you some direction. Let's just hope you couple it with Alan Moore's condemnation of most of the things this book suggests in his 'Writing for Comics.'

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eugene booker

    Books great for any begging writer, get all the trade from Denny Oneil. It goes into things like story structre and writing graphic novels, short stories and the like. Reccomended for anyone who wants to know ho to write comics!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    This is actually a pretty terrible book. Much of that is because I just finished Alan Moore's book on writing so maybe he ruined it for me. But O'Neil is so conservative in his ideas about writing that he never really suggests anything that would actually distinguish one as a better writer. It seems like a lot of what Moore considers in his book to be irrelevant. And Moore was writing in 1985. True, a lot of what O'Neil does say sounds like the lesson plan from your Middle School English This is actually a pretty terrible book. Much of that is because I just finished Alan Moore's book on writing so maybe he ruined it for me. But O'Neil is so conservative in his ideas about writing that he never really suggests anything that would actually distinguish one as a better writer. It seems like a lot of what Moore considers in his book to be irrelevant. And Moore was writing in 1985. True, a lot of what O'Neil does say sounds like the lesson plan from your Middle School English teacher. And as far as it goes I suppose that is fine. Generic but reasonable. Yet he is so afraid of advocating anything definite that it all comes across as an exercise in vagueness and an unassertive +anything goes+ attitude, none of which is that helpful to anyone. I get the idea he doesn't like printed literature much and he comes across like that sneering kid who complains loudly about having to read anything in English class. What he does like is movies and he makes the analogy with them so often that when he finally admits that "comics are not movies" at the very, very end it sounds pretty hollow. The bibliography for example is almost all film books and that seems to send the wrong message. It is a DC Comics guide, but he never gives much credence to anything that isn't Batman, Superman and a few Marvel titles. If this were written by Art Spiegelman, Jaime Hernandez, Dan Clowes, Moebius, Herge, Jodorowsky or Hugo Pratt the conception would be very, very different. It is a DC book but this bias sort of seems symptomatic of how limited the book's vision is. Graphically, the illustrations are informative and useful and it is a better designed book than Alan Moore's in that sense but it could use something besides greyscale and the text should be broken up more and the print size should be larger. Watson Guptill should know better about good book design.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Daryl

    I spent some time reading through this cover to cover, as I'm currently working on some comic book scripts and thought it might be helpful. I didn't learn much from this I didn't already know. There were a couple of good bits, one on characterization (very similar to what an author or actor does in theatre) and one on script preparation -- going from plot to outline to prose (very similar to what I have been doing). Other than that, I found it very basic information on storytelling and some I spent some time reading through this cover to cover, as I'm currently working on some comic book scripts and thought it might be helpful. I didn't learn much from this I didn't already know. There were a couple of good bits, one on characterization (very similar to what an author or actor does in theatre) and one on script preparation -- going from plot to outline to prose (very similar to what I have been doing). Other than that, I found it very basic information on storytelling and some specifics on comic book writing, but nothing I hadn't already gleaned from years of comic book reading, and other sources on comics writing that I've read over the years. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised as this book is older than most of the others I've perused in the past. I was torn between giving this one two or three stars, but hey, it's about comics and has lots of pretty pictures. The script examples O'Neil includes (far too many of his own, I felt) are always interesting. I particularly liked seeing a Charles Moulton Wonder Woman script from the '40s (I'm guessing), and seeing how similar it was to one that could have been written today.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Great for beginners I won't get too deep into the book during this review. But as someone venturing into the world of writing comics for the first time, this was an excellent read. Plenty of helpful hints and important terminology. The thing that differentiates The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics is that they actually showed pages of actual scripts and then, how that particular script was translated into a finished comic book page.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mira Domsky

    Definitely a useful handbook for amateurs, however, many of the examples of what a comic should look like or do are so old that they don't apply to modern comic writing. But what do I know? I'm an amateur, and O'Neil is a veteran.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Karleen Elizabeth

    I was required to read this Guide by Dennis O’Neil for my Writing Workshop III: Comics college course. I knew nothing about comics and I don’t read very many so this book was very helpful to me with all the definitions it has. I read a few reviews where people felt that it had to many definitions, but I think for someone like me who knows zero about writing comics those definitions are important. Now I did have some issues with the way that it was written and some parts felt a bit tedious to I was required to read this Guide by Dennis O’Neil for my Writing Workshop III: Comics college course. I knew nothing about comics and I don’t read very many so this book was very helpful to me with all the definitions it has. I read a few reviews where people felt that it had to many definitions, but I think for someone like me who knows zero about writing comics those definitions are important. Now I did have some issues with the way that it was written and some parts felt a bit tedious to read. There was also some things that were repeated in almost every section. Now, I know, repetition is the best way to remember things, but for a 128 page book, that is actually only 115 pages, because the actual lesson material starts on page 11 and ends on page 125, it was a bit excessive to me and I started to get annoyed with it. This is why I gave this book 4 stars rather than 5.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Mills

    Dennis O'Neil's book offers great advice for writers who want to learn more about plot structure, story arcs, subplots and more. I particularly liked when he compared and contrasted to devices in other media (such as television or movies), and pointed out limitations or unique benefits of the comics media.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Travis Webber

    Sometimes I read how-to books, for the enjoyment of listening to skilled professionals talk enthusiastically about their hard-earned abilities and finely-honed workflows. This was a good book, but is pitched at a more introductory level than I needed to scratch that itch.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    This is one of the best, most accessible books on the craft of writing (not just comics writing) I have ever read. There is a great deal of application to other forms of writing that I am looking forward to working with, using the lessons here as inspiration.

  13. 4 out of 5

    James Hold

    I didn't get much from this. The advice is pretty general: start with the ending, etc. Otherwise it's mostly a lot of definitions. O'Neil wrote this in a annoying 'cute' style which did not help. It's an oky starter, but Stan Lee's book is far superior.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Jacob Rosenfeld

    Good for beginners. If somewhat knowledgeable this might not provide any new insights. Somewhat disappointing considering some of the amazing writing O'Neil has done in his career.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    Solid book on writing comics. Covering many facets of the field.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lostshark

    this comic makes me feel happy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    Whether you really want to try your hand at writing comics or are just interested in how the product comes together, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics is an enlightening little book, profusely illustrated with real-life experiences and actual comics panels and pages. Best of all, it is written by Dennis (usually known as Denny) O’Neill—both a classic comics writer and an influential editor of classic comics. The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics underscores some of the lessons learned in Whether you really want to try your hand at writing comics or are just interested in how the product comes together, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics is an enlightening little book, profusely illustrated with real-life experiences and actual comics panels and pages. Best of all, it is written by Dennis (usually known as Denny) O’Neill—both a classic comics writer and an influential editor of classic comics. The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics underscores some of the lessons learned in Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and also fills some gaps. O’Neill talks about the “plot first” method of writing comics—preferred method of Stan Lee when he was responsible for so many of the Timely/Marvel Comics—where a writer plots out a story and the artist fills in a lot of the gaps. That works great if you have a Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko behind you, but it may not work in today’s environment. The book offers samples of full script pages and that is very helpful. O’Neill explains the significance of splash pages to opening stories with a hook and full-page shots (interior one page images—sometimes erroneously calls splash pages). He explains the classic three-act formula and points out where you need rising action and where you need a denouement (and how short the latter should be). There is a discussion on suspense vs. surprise as a way of keeping the reader engaged, and urges moving on with the pace in every section of the story—even when adding a sub-plot. Instead of merely capitulating the class hero’s journey approach to both characterization and plotting, O’Neill offers a checklist of questions to be answered about all characters—not just the major ones. This checklist includes: 1) What does the character want? 2) Who or what does the character love? 3) What is the character afraid of? and 4) What is the character’s motive for becoming involved in extreme situations? O’Neill objects to the tendency to use captions to narrate and expose the main character’s thoughts. He encourages dialogue as both the way to humanize characters, as well as engage the readers more fully. He quotes some great novelists to underscore the necessity of using dialogue early and often. He urges writers to listen not only to the meaning of the words but to “hear” the rhythm and dialect of the speeches. He warns that using humor in a story that isn’t deliberately humorous must grow out of the situation and be natural to the speech of whatever character is delivering the quip or punchline. The use of Scott Peterson’s methodology for moving from idea to finished script was most helpful. If I ever do try to write a comic story, I’ll be sure to use that method. It’s worth the price of the book (even if I did buy the book used). There is also a terrific way of handling story arcs by using the Levitz paradigm. Once you see the illustration, you’ll recognize it from a lot of television series with continuing plots, sub-plots, and story lines. This book portends becoming a reference to which I will return again and again. It’s helpful for any kind of writer—even a game creator or game master in a role-playing game. The DC Guide to Writing Comics has become a permanent part of my library. Don’t ask to borrow it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Another how-to guide, this time focusing on comics from one master. I've already flipped through Stan Lee's How to Write Comics: From the Legendary Co-Creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Iron Man, so I think I've got an idea of how to write a "how to write comic books" book. I liked both Stan Lee's and Dennis O'Neil's books on how to write comics and they're pretty comparable: both have sections on vocabulary, both discuss the importance of three-act structure, Another how-to guide, this time focusing on comics from one master. I've already flipped through Stan Lee's How to Write Comics: From the Legendary Co-Creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Iron Man, so I think I've got an idea of how to write a "how to write comic books" book. I liked both Stan Lee's and Dennis O'Neil's books on how to write comics and they're pretty comparable: both have sections on vocabulary, both discuss the importance of three-act structure, both discuss subplots and character. The main differences are that O'Neil's book uses DC comics as examples and Stan Lee's uses Dynamite comics as examples--advantage O'Neil. O'Neil's also feels a little more instructional about writing, whereas Lee's had some focus also on selling, including a section from various editors on what they were looking for. Overall, I thought this was a nice book, but maybe aimed towards the aspiring comic writer as a first introduction to the concepts of structure and not doing horribly cliched accents.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Levi

    Sometimes, there just is no school like the old-school. In this book, Denny O'Neil covers the 3-act structure, something I only vaguely understood, gives his two cents on the various categories of comic book series (miniseries, maxiseries, ongoing title, graphic novel, etc.), and gives understandable definitions to comic book terminology, such as panels, pages, story-arcs, and what-not. If I didn't like Denny O'Neil much before, I love him now. Though what I was looking for in this book (a guide Sometimes, there just is no school like the old-school. In this book, Denny O'Neil covers the 3-act structure, something I only vaguely understood, gives his two cents on the various categories of comic book series (miniseries, maxiseries, ongoing title, graphic novel, etc.), and gives understandable definitions to comic book terminology, such as panels, pages, story-arcs, and what-not. If I didn't like Denny O'Neil much before, I love him now. Though what I was looking for in this book (a guide to writing comic book scripts) wasn't the most useful thing I found in the book (that distinction belongs to the 3-act structure), it was refreshing to learn at the feet of a real master of the art. O'Neil definitely knows what he's talking about, more than a rank amateur such as myself. To finish everything off, he supplies a wonderful list of books for further reading, which I intend to look into in the future. I definitely prefer this book to "The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics." That book used hideous clip art in a half-butted imitation of the excellent Scott McCloud's book. This is definitely a case of "old and superior."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric England

    The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil is a fun and informative read that provides much helpful advice to novice writers. While the book is a bit basic and aimed at those truly starting in the field of writing, there are plenty of useful tips that aid any writer working in all mediums. I found that the Levitz Paradigm was an intriguing and innovative means of structuring multiple plot lines for an ongoing comic series. I think it could also work well for television and other The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil is a fun and informative read that provides much helpful advice to novice writers. While the book is a bit basic and aimed at those truly starting in the field of writing, there are plenty of useful tips that aid any writer working in all mediums. I found that the Levitz Paradigm was an intriguing and innovative means of structuring multiple plot lines for an ongoing comic series. I think it could also work well for television and other serial mediums that tell comprehensive stories. I also found some of Dennis O'Neil's suggestions on characterization to be extremely rewarding and plan to utilize them in my own writing. The book is fourteen years old and some of the information about the comic book industry is quite dated. New forms and conventions have entered this storytelling medium and some types of stories, like the adaptations, are no longer done in a wide-scale fashion. However, despite all the changes, this book has enough solid advice that it will continue to serve its instructional purpose.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Hayes

    Not only the best book on writing comics I have ever read, but one of the best books on writing. O'Neil approaches characterization, three-act structure, and other pillars of the craft with a simple, conversational tone that brings the core ideas across in a way that is neither intimidating nor difficult, and really makes the reader feel like he is here to help them tell their stories in the best way they can. Some of his advice is very specific to comics (most notably the script format), but a Not only the best book on writing comics I have ever read, but one of the best books on writing. O'Neil approaches characterization, three-act structure, and other pillars of the craft with a simple, conversational tone that brings the core ideas across in a way that is neither intimidating nor difficult, and really makes the reader feel like he is here to help them tell their stories in the best way they can. Some of his advice is very specific to comics (most notably the script format), but a lot of it is just good for writers in general; I've been writing and making (a little) money off it for nigh-on a decade and this was still a revelatory experience for me. I was a better writer at the end of this book than I was at the beginning, and almost more importantly, I felt like the world actually wanted me to succeed at it. Recommended for any writer; all but mandatory for any writer who wants to write comics.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Serge Pierro

    A good introductory book on the essence of writing for comics. Nothing of profound depth is presented within, but it does contain all of the relevant material to get one up and running. Writing itself isn't taught, so the aspiring comic writer would have to supplement this book with those that actually teach the writing process. Sample pages from scripts are contained within - including Sandman by Neil Gaiman!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Curtis

    Denny O'Neil provides very useful information about D.C. Comics' writing protocol. The books is a quick read and has great black & white artwork. It's nice that the Detective Comics company has, basically, a manual for novice comics writers. I'm positive that O'Neil's book will be a very useful reference more than anything. Read it once. Keep it close to flip through as you write your own original story drafts.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jason Hammons

    Denny O'Neil is a true master of the craft of storytelling. This book is so full of fantastic advice and guidelines from not only O'Neil, but many other masters as well. This book is worth its price in what it taught me about outlining alone, not to mention the numerous other valuable lessons. I'll be referring back this one for years.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Wilson

    Although a tad simplistic, O'Neil's book was a good how-to guide for beginners. The only reason I gave it four stars was that it could be a bit patronising, and his 'I'm just a good pal having a chat' tone irritated me, taking an almost 'I know better than you' tone. I mean, he does know better than me, but it still irritated me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Galo

    Overall it makes for a good reference book for those interested in writing comics, but it has its limitations since it mostly covers writers who have worked for DC (although not exclusively); hence the title. A more complete picture would have included writers representing both DC and Marvel, as well as the independents, underground and foreign publishers.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Tells you everything you need to know about writing comic books, and the history of it. It even goes to describe the basic elements of comic books, and describes the elements of the past. I've actually seen new comic books use old elements very well, like the "POW!" and the hero being alerted to dangers around him, etc.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    If you know what a 3 act structure is and other basic writing rules there is no need to buy this book. If you would like to learn about comic writing and already have an idea about writing structure I would recommend on of the Panel One series.

  29. 4 out of 5

    K.S. Lewis

    This was a book read for one of my college courses. If you have any interest in writing for comic books or want to know more about what goes into the creation of a comic book, this is the book for you.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    "Tom Wolfe, a superb reporter and novelist, wrote that his peers 'learned by trial and error something that has since been demonstrated in academic studies; namely, that realistic dialogue involves the reader more completely than any other single device.'"

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