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The Oregonian: Portland's Brian Michael Bendis celebrates his new book with Excalibur Comics signing event on Wednesday
Author: Kristi Turnquist, The Oregonian
Posted: August 6, 2014

Kristi Turnquist writes in The Oregonian that comic book writer and PSU instructor Brian Michael Bendis has published a new book based on his teaching experience and is heading back to a PSU classroom this winter.

Read the original story here in The Oregonian. 

Brian Michael Bendis is having a good week. Already a star as a writer of comics and graphic novels, Bendis is getting great feedback from would-be comic writers inspired by Bendis' book, "Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels" (Watson-Guptill Publications, $24.99, 224 pages.)

Bendis, who lives with his wife and four kids in Portland, is also basking in the blockbuster box-office success of the movie version of "Guardians of the Galaxy," one of the many Marvel Comics titles Bendis has written for (he has also made key contributions to "Spider-Men," "X-Men" and "The Avengers.")

Later this year, Bendis will finally see "Powers," the comic/graphic novel written by Bendis and illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming, adapted to TV series form as the inaugural original streaming series for the PlayStation Network.

Oh, and Wednesday, Bendis and some of his friends and fellow members of the Portland-based comics community, will be appearing for a book-signing at Excalibur Books & Comics, the Southeast Hawthorne institution that's celebrating 40 years in Portland.

"Forty years is an amazing achievement," Bendis says in a phone conversation. "Excalibur is such an amazing institution." When the Cleveland native moved to Portland in 2001, Excalibur "was, I think, the first place I visited, and they took me in like family."

Even with all this activity, Bendis is also feeling especially upbeat about "Words for Pictures," published in July by a division of Random House. A practical, how-to volume incorporating what Bendis has learned about the techniques of pitching and creating comic book and graphic novel stories, "Words and Pictures" also includes contributions from comic veterans such as Walter Simonson ("The Mighty Thor," "Fantastic Four"), Ed Brubaker ("Captain America," "Fatale"), and the Portland-based married couple Matt Fraction ("Hawkeye," "Sex Criminals") and Kelly Sue DeConnick ("Captain Marvel," "Pretty Deadly," "Avengers Assemble.")

Bendis knew from an early age that he wanted to create comics. But, as he writes in "Words for Pictures," it took a series of meetings with helpful comics professionals, his own determination, and some lucky breaks to break in to the big time.

The idea of "Words for Pictures" –- a book that has nuts-and-bolts, hard-won, inside information about pursuing a career in comics -– grew out of Bendis' work teaching a class in comic and graphic novel-writing at Portland State University.

"My editor at Random House called me a couple years ago," Bendis says, "because he'd seen me tweeting about the class. He said, we've been talking about what point of view is missing from of the books that are out there."

The idea of doing a book with down-to-earth information not only about the art and history but also the business of comics appealed to Bendis, and to his publisher.

"We worked on it for a couple of years," Bendis says, " and every semester the class would get a little bit more refined (Bendis has also taught at the University of Oregon) and the point of the book would get a little more refined."

Bendis points to the real-world advice found in such chapters as "The Editors' Roundtable," in which editors for Marvel Comics and Oregon's own Dark Horse Comics, talk about mistakes novice writers make; what aspiring writers should do to get an editor's attention; and share other first-hand experiences.

"I would have loved to have seen that when I was in college," Bendis says. "It's nice to peel the curtain back a little bit, and help people get where they dream of going."

In the few weeks since the book has been out, Bendis says, he's been hearing from lots of hopeful writers, who, he says, report that the book has inspired them to get off their backsides and buckle down.

"I did this in a very selfless way," Bendis says, "but it comes back in a selfish way. Who doesn't want that feeling? That's certainly the energy I was hoping to put out in the world, and the energy I was hoping to get back. I'm so proud of the entire thing."

Among his many other tasks -– including being an executive producer on "Powers" -- Bendis is heading back into the classroom. He'll be teaching another session of his graphic novel/comic writing class at Portland State University during the winter term.

-- Kristi Turnquist