Category Archives: comic book review

Bravest Warriors Presents: Catbug’s Treasure Book Review

If you’re a fan of the Bravest Warriors animated series, chances are you’re also a fan of the cutest member of its cast, Catbug! Absolutely adorable with his squeaky voice and somewhat ADD personality, he now reveals all his secrets in Bravest Warriors Presents: Catbug’s Treasure Book!

Back Cover Blurb

Four teenage travelers traverse the universe saving those in need…though not always in the way you’d expect…in fact…never! Along the way they meet aliens, phantoms and other interdimensionals—including everyone’s favorite, Catbug. Sometimes…they even meet themselves!

In Catbug’s Treasure Book we see the world from his perspective. A kind of scrapbook, the pages are filled with memories and souvenirs of his adventures with the Bravest Warriors, along with his playtime imaginings. There are also allusions to past episodes (Danny’s eyebrows taped to a page, for example), and hints at secrets not yet revealed.

The Review

If you do not know who Catbug is, can’t identify all four Bravest Warriors, and haven’t the foggiest what an Impossibear is, do yourself a favor, and do NOT buy Catbug’s Treasure Book. At least not until you’ve acquainted yourself with Cartoon Hangover’s Bravest Warriors animated series. Prior to my taking this book off the Fandom Post review pile, my only exposure to Bravest Warriors was seeing my 21-year-old cousin in Catbug cosplay at Fanime 2013, and I can personally attest that giving a Bravest Warriors noob Catbug’s Treasure Book will only result in mass confusion. However, if you are a Catbug fan and enjoy his playful hijinks, silly interjections, and wild imagination, you can get plenty more in his treasure book.

The hardcover design of the book is very similar to a child’s storybook but don’t be fooled. If you’re expecting a single cohesive story with beginning, middle, and end, you won’t get it. Catbug’s Treasure Book is actually a kind of journal, the written record that would result if a highly sophisticated artificial intelligence transcribed all of Catbug’s thoughts. And since Catbug has the intelligence and attention span of a 7-year-old boy chugging Mountain Dew, the content of the book goes all over the place. Then again, it’s the sort of randomness that’s typical for Bravest Warriors.

Most of the book is presented as a dialogue between Catbug and the journal, the Futuristic Electromagnetic and Enigmatic Learning Encyclopedia X, (a.k.a. Feelex). Feelex does have a personality though it does take things a little too literally and seriously. As mentioned earlier, there is no plot per se, but over the course of their conversations, we get a few anecdotes about the Courageous Battlers and Bravest Warriors, the origins of Feelex, and a couple ramblings that go absolutely nowhere. The book is illustrated throughout and includes a few two-page spreads.

As you might guess from the title, Catbug is the star of this book. The four Bravest Warriors are relegated to supporting roles. Interestingly, Impossibear features predominantly and not just in the illustrations and Catbug’s stories. On nearly every page of the journal are “handwritten” comments from Impossibear (ostensibly jotted down when Catbug had him fill in the blanks for some Mad Lib style pages), and for me, Impossibear’s snarky remarks are the most entertaining part of the book.

In summary

Catbug’s Treasure Book contains pictures, anecdotes, and other Bravest Warriors-styled flights of fancy you won’t find anywhere else. However, be warned that it does not contain an overarching plot, and the four Bravest Warriors have relatively minor parts. But if you’re a big Catbug (or Impossibear) fan, this will probably be up your alley.

First published in The Fandom Post.

Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels Book Review

For writers, there are lots of books on the subject of writing fiction and screenplays. For illustrators, there are lots of books about drawing, manga-style and otherwise. However, there’s not a whole lot about scripting for comic books around, and Brian Michael Bendis’ Words for Pictures aims to fill that niche.

Back Cover Blurb

Arguably the most popular writer in modern comics, Brian Michael Bendis shares the tools and techniques he uses to create some of the most popular comic book and graphic novel stories of all time. Words for Pictures provides a fantastic opportunity for readers to learn from a creator at the very top of his field. Bendis’s step-by-step lessons teach comics writing hopefuls everything they’ll need to take their ideas from script to dynamic sequential art.

The Review

I was confused by this book’s title at first. After all, if it’s about comics, where visuals often take the place of blocks of text, shouldn’t it be Pictures for Words, not the other way around? As it turns out, the title does fit the book as it is not so much about all roles in the industry but specifically focuses on the writer.

So there are a lot of references to art and artists, and many contributors, including Bendis, went to art school and drew for part of their careers. However, Bendis’ intended audience are those aspiring to create the scripts most comic book readers never see. For those unfamiliar with these scripts, they’re the all-text documents used to tell another person how to draw the actual comic book, much the way screenplays guide filmmakers in making films. (In fact, Bendis writes his scripts using Final Draft, which is what my LA screenwriter friends use to write their scripts.) Not that this book can’t be useful for the writer-artist who’s writing out of his own head, but it’s definitely biased toward the situation where the writer is part of a much larger team.

Bendis introduces the “Full Script” and “Marvel Style,” which delineate the two ends of the scripting spectrum. However, from what he describes, scripts wind up in all places in between the two styles, morphing as collaborators figure out what works best for their particular team. In his example of a Full Script, he includes notes that address artist Sara Pichelli by name before getting into the dialogue. (The script also contains a couple grammatical errors, and I’m not sure if that’s an indication of what is acceptable in the industry or an oversight of the book’s editor.)

Because there are no hard and fast guidelines for scripts, Bendis discusses them in broad terms, stressing teamwork, communication, and the need to remember that comics, unlike film, is a static medium. He does touch on topics like story beats but so briefly that other guides, like Save the Cat!, would probably be more useful even if they are not specifically geared towards comic books. Bendis’ advice comes predominantly in the form of anecdotes or Q&A with various artists, whose preferences for script styles run all over the place.

As such, most chapters wind up being a kind of showcase of different ways various creators got into the industry or get their craft done. Fortunately for those wanting something more concrete, there are Chapter 4: The Editors’ Roundtable and Chapter 6: The Business of Comics Writing. If you’re aiming to pitch to any of the editors in the roundtable, which include six former/current Marvel editors and one Dark Horse editor, their responses are definitely worth a look. So is the spotlight on Marvel VP C.B. Cebulski. However, Diana Schutz’ five-page guide to editors will prove the most valuable section to those wanting to get into the industry but have no idea where to start. As for Chapter 6, it’s not a comprehensive guide to managing your creative work as a business but provides a good start and contains a handy glossary of contract terms.

Because it is a book about the comic book industry, it includes comic book art, mostly from Marvel titles, which isn’t surprising since Bendis writes for them. Some pictures are used to illustrate a point; most simply decorate the pages. They are vibrantly reproduced though. And though the focus is on writing, it includes interviews with artists David Mack, Alex Maleev, and Michael Avon Oeming. So if you’re not a writer but have an interest in those artists, you’ll have decide for yourself if that material’s enough to justify the book’s $24.99 cover price.

In summary

The cover flap touts the book as the “complete toolbox needed to jumpstart the next comics-writing success,” but it isn’t quite that. To be sure, anecdotes from Bendis and a host of writers, artists, and editors provide a fairly good look into the industry. However, Bendis treats comic book scripting in such general terms that I would call Words for Pictures a nice tool for a writer but hardly the complete toolbox.

First published in The Fandom Post.