Archive for November, 2010

Nov 26 2010

Mail Call (comic synopses, writing jobs and love interests)

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Here are some questions I got from letters and Google queries.

How long should a comic synopsis be? For a series, 2-5 double-spaced pages.  For a single issue (a standalone/one-shot), one single-spaced page.

Does a hero need a love interest? No, but it’s a nice change of pace for the hero to do something besides superpowered brawls all the time. Romances are one option.  Other options include the protagonists’ work, school, family, protecting one’s alternate identity, relationships between teammates and/or relationships between the heroes and side characters, etc.

How to write an synopsis for comics. The hardest part is condensing your story into an interesting and easily understood form.  In addition to the advice of Warren Ellis, I’d highly recommend checking out Query Shark and Flogging the Quill for examples of how novelists condensed their stories.  Once you have that down, the synopsis should be easy.  Other notes: Focus on the main elements, rather than getting bogged down in peripheral details, and I think the main character is usually the best point-of-entry for new readers.  (If you need to lay out the premise or setting before getting to the main character, please make it quick).

Can a carrot be a protagonist? Survey says no.

How can I get published with DC Comics? Like Marvel, DC doesn’t accept unsolicited scripts. Most of their writers started for other publishers and then got an offer from DC or Marvel.  Alternately, you can start working for DC (or Marvel) in some other capacity, like editing or sales or promotions or whatever, and then move laterally within the company.

How do I write for Marvel Comics? Same as DC: Get known somewhere else, OR start working for Marvel in another capacity and move laterally.  Unlike DC, Marvel has a ton of (unpaid) internships, so that’s one way to get started there.  I’d particularly recommend looking at editorial and editorial operations internships because those involve the most work with writers.

How can I get DC’s attention? + comic writting. I think most of the people that have a chance at a career in writing (for any company) are so good at basic writing craft that it’s purely instinctive.   You’ll obviously put more thought into your professional work than a Google query, but misspelling “writing” may suggest that brushing up on your mechanics would help.   As for getting DC’s attention, I think the easiest ways are to publish elsewhere (preferably a superhero comic, since that’s their focus) and/or work at DC.

How do first-time novelists get their books published? First, finish the manuscript and rewrite as much as necessary.  (The ideal length for an adult novel’s manuscript is ~70,000-90,000 words). After you’re ready to submit, you can send out queries (page-long proposals laying out your project) to literary agents or directly to publishers.  For more advice on the querying process, I’d highly recommend Query Shark’s reviews of queries and Flogging the Quill’s reviews of first pages.

How long should a comic book be? It depends on which publishers you’re looking at, but usually something on the order of 22-24 pages of content. (Some pages of comic may need more than 1 page to script, so the script may be a bit longer).

How many chromosomes would a superhero have? 46 if he’s a human, 18 if he’s a carrot, and almost certainly irrelevant regardless.

Give me an essay on if I were a superhero. Write your own, hippie.

Why are so few homeless people found in Canada? Because the moose eat the bones.

17 responses so far

Nov 26 2010

If only my Thanksgiving had been this interesting…

Published by under Comedy

One response so far

Nov 20 2010

TSA, umm, what.

Published by under Comedy

The TSA purportedly confiscated a pair of nail-clippers from a soldier on a military charter where some 230 soldiers were carrying (unloaded) rifles, pistols and machine guns, because the nail-clippers could be used as a weapon.  Apparently the TSA is the only thing standing between the world’s unluckiest terrorist and a surefire Darwin Award.

This reminds me of The Boondocks’ (highly profane) trailer for Soul Plane 2…
Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Nov 16 2010

Bitter Seeds is pretty incredible so far…

Published by under Book Review

Through the first several chapters, I’m amazed by the quality of the writing of Bitter Seeds, a paranormal 1920s-1940s novel not merely straddling but making sweet, sweet love to the line between superhero fiction and urban fantasy.  I hope it will retain the charm after we get move heavily into the paranormal WWII stuff.

Some early highlights:

  • The author, Ian Tregillis, is preposterously good at handling settings and scene-building.  Even if you read the first chapter for nothing else, I would recommend checking out how Tregellis uses setting details to set the mood and develop characterization.  (Hint: those kid-sized burial mounds outside the Nazi laboratory?  Not influenza victims).
  • The writing is remarkably tight.  Nothing is wasted.
  • The main character establishes himself pretty early.  Even as a child, he’s sort of interesting.

3 responses so far

Nov 14 2010

Dan Lee’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

The Reapers are a secret organization of superheroes like the Avengers and the three main protagonists below are a part of the group. As they become closer, they form their own kind of group, the New Reapers.

Dan is a 14 year old dealing with a traumatic past (the death of his best friend, a near-death experience himself and bullying). He has a mixed sense of humour and a happy personality. His superpowers include supersenses, the ability to walk/float on air, communicate mentally, create temporary forcefields, psychomemory, the ability to heal wounds, and fast reflexes.

Max is another 14 year old, a prankster with a good sense of humor and a funny personality. He’s very agile, can file, controls fire, and is smart and resourceful.

Hayley is another 14 year old, quiet and dangerous when provoked. She has a very mixed personality and is a bit flirty. Her brother got killed on military duty in Afghanistan. Her powers are durability, speed, the ability to see the past and sometimes the future, and the ability to duplicate herself and people on some occasions.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?

35 responses so far

Nov 09 2010

Differences Between Marvel and DC Comics

Caveat: Both companies have thousands of characters, so obviously there will be exceptions to every generalization. That said, here are some general differences between the two.


1.  Marvel characters are more likely to come from relatively ordinary backgrounds than DC characters.  For example, Spider-Man, Captain America and most of the X-Men had largely unremarkable lives before developing superpowers.  In contrast, the three most prominent DC characters are a billionaire playboy/ninja, an extraterrestrial, and an Amazon princess that may be a CEO.


2.  DC usually uses more epic superpowers.  For example, Superman doesn’t just have eye-beams or incredible strength or incredible speed or the ability to fly, but all of those and more.   In contrast, a lot of Marvel characters get just one (think Cyclops, the Hulk, Quicksilver, Angel, etc).  Most Marvel characters usually have somewhat more ordinary capabilities.  (The Sentry is a notable exception for Marvel).


3. DC characters were usually created earlier. Most of Marvel’s main characters date to the 1960s and 1970s, whereas most of DC’s date back to the late 1930s and 1940s.

  • This is one reason Marvel has characters named [Modifier] Man/Woman/Boy/Lad: Iron Man, Spiderman and the Invisible Woman vs. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Aqua Lad, Hawkgirl and Hawkman, etc.
  • Many major DC characters were introduced before superhero teams became commonplace*.


Continue Reading »

55 responses so far

Nov 07 2010

Fight Club as a Regency Romance

Published by under Comedy

A lack of intense fight scenes kept Jane Austen from making the big time.  An oversight finally corrected!

4 responses so far

Nov 07 2010

Sean’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

The Misadventures of Mugsy and Charlie: The Fall of Atlon follows a couple of space pirates as they get sucked into a conspiracy by the largest intergalactic corporation, Atlon and a civil war caused by Atlon’s CEO. It’s an ironic look at capitalism and ethics where the pirates seem to be more ethically grounded than a corporate CEO.

35 responses so far

Nov 06 2010

Mail call (the top reason manuscripts get rejected, classes for fiction writers, superhero Cthulhu, etc)

Published by under Writing Articles

Here are some questions and Google queries I’ve gotten this week.

–I’ve gotten rejected by every literary agent. If we’re talking about fewer than 20 rejections, I’d recommend that you keep trying.  If you’ve tried 20 times and haven’t heard back anything after a few months, I’d recommend checking out websites like Query Shark and Evil Editor (which evaluate proposals/queries) or a writing group like Critters or a review forum here.  That can help you determine whether you need to rewrite the query, overhaul the story, or both.

–(This one’s a Google search that’s apparently a synopsis excerpt).  Ultimately, I am a superhero out to save the city from criminals. With every kill, the world gets better. There are still many people out there.  Little do they know I am right there waiting for them, and they will rememb… This story does not strike me as promising. I think giving this protagonist more moral depth and/or empathy would probably make him more likable and interesting.

What’s the number one reason manuscripts are rejected? I’d say spelling/punctuation/grammar. For authors that clear that hurdle, I think it’s that the main characters and/or plot are not that interesting. For example, check out the previous paragraph. If you were an editor with 100 revenge stories on your desk, do you think there’s any chance that would be the best one?

How to humiliate a superhero. “That’s the third time this month you’ve gotten your ass kicked by the Sentry, the Golden Guardian of Suck! What next, Squirrel Girl?”

Will publishers reject you for typos? I think a query with more than 1-2 typos is dead on arrival.  Editors might be able to look past something minor, like mixing up “hoard” and “horde.”   In contrast, mixing up common words like “you’re” and “your” or “its” and “it’s” suggests that the author doesn’t yet have basic writing craft down.  Publishers want works that can succeed with a minimal amount of manpower.

Continue Reading »

10 responses so far

Nov 06 2010

Discussion: Can characters be inherently uninteresting?

Published by under Character Development

I read this on a discussion board today: “There are no bad or uninteresting characters, only characters that are written badly or uninterestingly.” What do you think?

24 responses so far