Stan Lee's How to Write Comics cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.
Stan Lee is an American comic book legend, although I suspect that he also has some kind of exalted status within the international comics community. A writer, editor, and publisher at Marvel Comics, Lee co-created such characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and the Hulk, among many others. In addition to writing comic books, Lee has also authored several books. Perhaps, Lee’s best known non-comic is How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (1978), co-authored with artist, John Buscema.
Stan Lee’s latest how-to book is Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics, which is available in both hardcover ($45.00 U.S.) and paperback ($24.99 U.S.) editions. Apparently, the purpose of the book is for Lee “to teach everything he knows about writing and creating comic book characters.” Lee offers tips, advice, and even a few secrets (or at least what he thinks are secrets).
Truthfully, this book has a misleading title. Yes, it does offer some how-to advice, and yes, it is rather interesting. However, this probably should be titled “Stan Lee’s About Writing Comics,” because the book is really about writing comics rather than being a how-to, guide to, or advice book, although this tome does all three things at different sections of the book.
Unless you open this book, you won’t know that Lee has a co-writer, Bob Greenberger. I wouldn’t be surprised if Greenberger did much of the writing in this book based upon interviews he conducted with Lee. Reading Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics, I got the sense of a collaborative process in which Lee strolled down memory lane recalling how he wrote, how he created, and how he collaborated with different artists, such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
Much of this book includes quotes from current comic book creators and editors like Alan Moore, Kurt Busiek, Bryan Hitch, Doug Moench, Jerry Ordway Richard Pini, and Mark Waid, among others. There is even a script sample by Neil Gaiman. That’s why I say that Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics is about writing comics rather than a pure how-to book.
Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics is lavishly illustrated by pages, covers, and details from a wide assortment of comic books. There are also reproductions of original art, pencil art, and preliminary art of various kinds. To me, this book is worth purchasing because there is an entire chapter devoted to the benefits and shortcomings of using the full script or “Marvel Style” script, which is a plot-first way of telling the artist what to draw.
Upon first glance, I honestly didn’t expect much of this book, but Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics is a book that beginning and novice comic book writers should have. Even if they keep it for simple reference, they will like having this book because it has a lot to say about writing comic books.