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Friday, April 21, 2006

Review: Alan Moore's Writing for Comics

Make no mistake: I'm a big Alan Moore fanboy. I consider him the best comic book writer ever, dead or alive. Better than Neil Gaiman, better than Frank Miller, Warren Ellis, Miyazaki, etc.

This book, which is really an essay on writing, was written by Moore in 1985, back when Moore was still writing The Swamp Thing for DC. His V for Vendetta
was still being serialized, and comics were starting to become respectable again, largely because of his efforts.

It is of no surprise, then, that Moore's words on writing in a few short pages are much more succint, entertaining, and relevant than any of the big books about writing I have read. His dissection of movies versus comics and their relative strengths are cogent and more insightful than Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. Moore emphasizes ideas, story-telling, and pacing over plot, but it is very clear early on that he also did far more research and worked harder on world-building than most other writiers did. He was capable of taking an idea, and working through all of its consequences and taking the story to the ultimate end, as in
The Watchmen

This edition of the book has an afterword by Alan Moore 15 years after he wrote the essay, disparaging it by calling it, "not that bad." It's an entertaining read to see how Moore says his approach has changed in 15 years (and for me at least, it's not always been for the better), and how maturity has made him a better human being, if not a better writer.

My only complaint about this edition is that the art in the book is completely irrelevant to Moore's essay, and it's quite obvious that the illustrator just drew random pictures as opposed to reading Moore's essay to see what might complement his work.

Finally, if you want to be a truly great writer, it is perhaps worth remembering that even in this, it is more important to be a good human being than it is to be a good writer. The artists...writers, painters, musicians...whose voices speak loudest to us across the centuries are those that turned out to have the most profound souls, those who turned out to actually have somtehing to say that was of lasting human value.

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