Comics icon Stan Lee, creator of the Mighty Marvel Universe, has set about to teach everything he knows about writing and creating comic book characters. In these pages, aspiring comics writers will learn everything they need to know about how to write their own comic book stories, complete with easy to understand instruction, tips of the trade, and invaluable advice even for more advance writers. From the secrets to creating concepts, plots, to writing the script, the man with no peer — Stan Lee—is your guide to the world of writing and creating comics.
Cowriter: Bob Greenberger Contributing artists: Neal Adams, Ross Andru, Erica Awano, Mark Bagley, Diego Bernard, John Byrne, Aaron Campbell, J. Scott Campbell, Chris Caniano, Milton Caniff, John Cassaday, Cliff Chiang, Gene Colan, Steve Dillon, Steve Ditko, Glenn Fabry, Francesco Francavilla, Frank Frazetta, Frank Kelly Freas, Dick Giordano, George Herriman, Bill Hughes, Bryan Hitch, Dan Jurgens, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, David Lafuente, Jonathan Lau, Bob Layton Sr., Larry Lieber, Mike Mayhew, Bob McLeod, Frank Miller, Tom Morgan, Katsuhiro Otomo, Richard F. Outcault, Carlos Paul, Frank Paul, George Prez, Wendy Pini, Joe Quesada, Frank Quitely, Carlos Rafael, Caesar Razek, Wagner Reis, Paul Renaud, John Romita, John Romita Jr., Alex Ross, Mel Rubi, Edgar Salazar, Manuel Clemente Sanjulian, Mike Sekowsky, Joe Shuster, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave Sim, Vin Sullivan, Rodolphe Tpffer, Michael Turner, Mike Zeck Paperback edition cover artists: Jonathan Lau; color by Ivan Nunes Copyright 2011 by Dynamite Entertainment All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Watson-Guptill Publications, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. www.crownpublishing.com www.watsonguptill.com WATSON-GUPTILL is a registered trademark and the WG and Horse designs are trademarks of Random House, Inc. Produced in association with Dynamite Entertainment
Cover design by Jess Morphew Interior design by Ellen Nygaard Special thanks to POW! Entertainment, Inc., Gil Champion, Michael Kelleher, Arthur Lieberman, Luke Lieberman, Mike Kelly, Heritage Auctions, Michael Lovitz, Digikore, Carol Punkus, Dave Altoff, Mike Raicht, Eli Bard, Gregory Pan, Nick Barrucci, Juan Collado, Josh Johnson, and Josh Green. Stan Lee, Excelsior, Stan Lee Presents and 2011 Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment, Inc. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way 1979 Stan Lee & John Buscema Silver Surfer Graphic Novel 2011 Stan Lee & Jack Kirby Sherlock Holmes & Complete Alice in Wonderland & 2011 Savage Tales Entertainment, LLC Archie & 2011 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. The Haunt of Fear 2011 William Gaines, Inc. Cerebus 2011 Aardvark-Vanaheim, Inc. Elfquest & 2011 Warp Graphics, Inc. Green Hornet & 2011 Green Hornet, Inc. Akira 2011 Kodansha Terry and the Pirates 2011 Tribune Media, Inc. Flash Gordon & 2011 King Features Syndicate, Inc. A Contract with God & 2011 Will Eisner Studios, Inc. Sin City & 2011 Frank Miller, Inc. Black Terror, Death Defying Devil, Green Lama & Project Superpowers & 2011 Super Power Heroes, LLC Zorro & 2011 Zorro Productions, Inc. Red Sonja & 2011 Red Sonja, LLC Buck Rogers 2011 Dille Family Trust Vampirella & 2011 DFI Dynamite Entertainment 2011 DFI. All Rights Reserved. Marvel, and all related character names and their distinctive likenesses: & 2011 Marvel Entertainment, LLC and its subsidiaries All rights reserved. Images and likenesses of DC Comics characters & 2011 DC Comics. Printed in China 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 First Edition
www.dynamite.net Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lee, Stan, 1922 Stan Lees how to write comics / by Stan Lee. 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Comic books, strips, etc. Authorship. I. Title. II. Title: How to write comics PN6710.L44 2010 808.066741dc22 2010045663 Paperback Edition: 978-0-8230-0084-5 Hardcover Edition: 978-0-8230-0709-7
PREFACEHi, Comic Book Writers! Interviewers often ask me to describe those exciting days at Marvel in the early 60s when we were creating a brand-new universe of superheroes. Its hard to put into words the fun and excitement of bringing new types of characters and stories onto the printed page. And its almost impossible to give enough credit to the enormously talented artists I worked with, artists who took our stories and depicted them so thrillingly, so dramatically that every tale was like watching a fantastic movie on the pages of each amazing comic book. But every strip begins with one thingthe story! And thats what were gonna be talking about on the pandemonious pages that follow! Ever since Marvels superheroes conquered the world, or at least it feels that way, people have wanted to learn the magic; much as Stephen Strange sought the Ancient One to learn how to cast spells and help mankind, men and women of all ages have sought to learn how to string the words together to tell stories in comic book form. Of course, creatively, comic books are a literary world of their own. Unlike movies, television, or video games, theyre unique in the way they blend words and art on the printed page to tell titanic tales designed to open new vistas of imagination and excitement for the lucky reader. Writers who come from other disciplines soon discover just how challenging comics can be. In the past, some have asked me for tips, but theres no way I could ever tell them all they had to know in a brief conversation. However, thanks to this book, which youre so happily holding in your grateful hands, all of that has changed. What follows are the rules, the hints, and the tips as I have come to know them. But teamwork is as important in comics as it is in sports and life itself. To make certain that theres nothing Ive neglected, to ensure that Ive covered all the literary bases, Ive been lucky enough to be able to recruit Bob Greenberger and the hip horde of heroes at Dynamite Entertainment to help me put together a lifetimes worth of comic bookwriting experience into this valiant volume of indispensable info. Obviously, styles and methods have changed over the years just as typewriters have given way to computers. So, what youre about to read is an amalgamation of the current collective wisdom on how to write comics today. But what has not changed, nor will it ever, is the desire to tell a story and tell it well. In each case, you want to write something new, something thats never been written before. You want to explore situations no one has read beforeand you have that in common with your readers. Every day, as fans walk into their comic shops or bookstores seeking the latest comic books, they have one thing in mind. They want to be transported into adventures and situations theyve never encountered before. They want to be entertained, thrilled, and surprised. And thats our jobto show you how to do it! Excelsior!
Stan LEes How to write Comics
STAN LEES TOP TEN TIPS FOR WRITERSWhen I turned 85, several publications celebrated the event and made me blush for the entire year. Danny Fingeroth desperately wanted something from me for his ne and not-forgotten magazine Write Now!, so I prepared this collection of tips, and they still hold up. 1. Write about things you know. If you dont know, Google the stuff and start learning. Or else be so vague that no one can pin you downlike when I dreamed up Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk due to a gamma bomb. I dont know any more about gamma bombs than I do about brain surgery, but I didnt try to explain how it worked. I just said that he became the Hulk because of gamma radiation. Hey, who can nd fault with that? At least it sounds scientic. So, to summarizebe totally factual, or else be so vague that you can get away with knowing nothing about your subject. But whatever you do, dont try to fake it. 2. When youre reading a comic book or watching a movie or TV show, dont just get caught up in the story and sit there like a couch potato. Try to analyze everything thats on the page or screen. Why did the writer add that bit of dialogue? Was it more dramatic for the hero to say nothing in that particular scene? Why didnt the writer introduce that important story element until fteen minutes into the lm, or until ve pages into the story? Why did (or didnt) the writer have such an enigmatic ending? Why, in that movie, was act three so much shorter than act two? Why, in the comic book, did the writer use so many captions on pages 3 and 4 and no captions at all on the next six pages? Why so many long shots or close-ups? Would it have been more interesting the other way around? You should be able to learn something new about writing every time you read a comic or watch a lmif you remember to analyze everything you see. 3. Keep writing. I gure writing is like any other activitylike swimming or jogging or sex. The more you do, the more you enjoy it, the easier it becomes, and the more you improve. If you nd yourself getting bored writing, or tired of it, theres only one answer: Find another career. 4. Write about things that interest you. If you write about subjects that bore you, thinking theyre what the market wants, youll just end up writing boring pages. The more interested you are in your subject, the better chance you have of making your subject more interesting, too. 5. Try to write at the same time every day. Writing can be a habit, like anything else. If you stick to a schedule, it makes it easier to turn pages out like a pro.54 Stan LEes How to write Comics
6. Stop writing if you nd yourself getting tired or bored. Take a nap or a short walk to wake yourself up. You can only do your best writing when youre mentally alert and interested in what youre doing. 7. When youve nished with your script, proofread it carefully. Dont read it as if its your baby and you love every word of it. Pretend youre the worlds toughest editor, looking for every fault you can nd in story structure, dialogue, characterization, and motivation. Be as tough on yourself as humanly possible, because thats how your editor will be. And keep rewriting until your script is as good as you can possibly make it. 8. In writing dialogue, try to give every character a different way of speaking. In any script, its boring to have the characters all speaking the same way. Think of people you knowhow they speak, their verbal idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. Remembe