I have a confession to make: I may not be the world’s biggest fan of comic books. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do read them and I certainly enjoy them. There’s no other storytelling medium quite like it. I have a big box of ’em I collected from grade school during weekly visits to my local comic shop, and I have a few dozen more volumes of great stuff balanced precariously on the headboard of my bed. What I mean is that I’m not an active collector and, to be completely honest, I don’t know that I’ll be attempting to create my own comic in the near future.
So, why in hell am I reviewing this book by Dirk Manning? A few reasons. One, I genuinely like Dirk a lot. He’s local to my area, he’s been kind enough to do print and internet radio interviews with me before, and he’s very generous with his time. Two, I dig his work. He’s creative, funny and, yes, has a great sense of creating drama and intriguing stories through his chosen medium. While I consider myself a fan of a few of his projects, “Nightmare World” alone has many of the best short comic stories I’ve ever read. Finally, I truly believe that Dirk has the experience, ability, and honesty required to help young writers have a better chance at creating comics. So if that’s what you’re looking for, too, buy “Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics.” When you’re done reading it, there’s a lot of things you’ll be: more knowledgeable, better prepared, and ready to get started. But what you certainly won’t be is sorry.
I think it’s the “honesty” part that I liked best about this book. In “Write or Wrong,” based on his long-running column on Newsarama, the very last thing you can accuse Dirk of doing is mincing words. He’s straightforward to the point of being blunt at times – but that’s good! Creating comics may be fun, but it’s also hard work. This book won’t coddle you and probably won’t tell you what you always want to hear. But it will outline exactly what you need to hear if you’re going to be prepared.
For instance, early in the book he asks you the question: “Why comics?” Hint: answering “because I love comics” isn’t enough. He also challenges you to seriously ask yourself if you are really as good as you think you are. Honestly, that may be the toughest question a writer can ask themselves, but it’s important to do so. Why? Because, while you may think your comic is unique, imaginative, or speaks to the human condition, the last thing you want to hear is, “Dude, this is lame.” It’s bad enough hearing it from a friend. But what about hearing it from an editor? You should be your own worst critic. Dirk writes in this book that the business of honing your skills is “not a race.” Instead, take the time to make your work the best it possibly can be. Only then, Dirk writes, can you present it to “the right people at the right time.”
Don’t let any of this scare you off, creatives! It’s not all comic-creating boot camp. A lot of times, you’ll find yourself laughing at different situations Dirk has found himself in over the years. And, of course, you’ll be happy to know that he does offer practical advice about how to meet artists, how to assemble a team and, yes, how to get your work published, too. In fact, one of the most informative sections of the book is a chapter in which he asks a variety of artists and comic creators the same three questions geared toward helping you get started and how to make your relationship with your artists the best it can be. I learned a lot about the comics creating world just from reading this chapter alone! I have little doubt you will too.
I honestly cannot recommend this book enough to writers interested in creating comics. It’s honest, it’s funny, and it’s extremely useful. Dirk writes in a friendly, conversational tone that I found very welcoming. Technical details that weren’t familiar to me before were explained in an easy and forthright manner and, generally speaking, I found it a joy to read. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. In chatting with Dirk a bit about this book, he’s let me know that, while originally available through Diamond, it has sold out and is now available only through Amazon. So, word to the wise, get your copy now. I guarantee that you’ll learn something.