Archive for June, 2011

Jun 29 2011

Google Queries: June 15-30 (comics jobs, superhero costumes and fire-breathing squids)

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.

Why do people care about superhero costumes? I think audiences tend to notice them in comic books because it’s easy to screw them up. If you were doing a fantasy movie or military sci-fi comic book, it’d be pretty easy to make chainmail or a powersuit look decent and believable. In contrast, gaudy clothes can look really goofy. Your margin of error is pretty small if you’re trying to, say, tell a gritty, noir crime saga about a guy dressed like a bat. PS: In superhero novels, I’d recommend against overdescribing the costumes, especially in combat scenes. If Superman rescued you from a bank robber, would his costume be one of the first things that stuck out to you? Probably not. It’s not nearly the most interesting or important detail. (However, if you were rescued from a bank-robbery by a fire-breathing squid in a business suit, that would warrant some description).

 

Jobs creating superhero concepts–There are jobs creating superhero stories. You can query a novel publisher after finishing a novel manuscript or propose a comic book after completing a script (and usually some illustrated sample pages). However, I’ve never heard of any publisher buying character concepts (superhero or otherwise) without a story attached. Publishers want stories that are finished and appealing now, rather than stories that could conceivably be appealing after hundreds or thousands of hours of work. A minor exception: Nonfiction authors and experienced fiction writers can pitch proposals rather than completed projects, but they still have to finish the books themselves.

 

How much could I earn writing comics? I think the lower end of $80-150 per page is pretty typical for an unpublished writer. Your yearly income would really depend on your sales figures and your workload. If you sell pretty well and write 3-4 issues every month, a six-figure salary is possible, but that’s an optimistic scenario. As with any writing career, I’d recommend holding down a steady day job until your writing makes enough money to cover your living expenses.

 

How old do you have to be to write comics? I can’t think of any many comic book writers that got professionally published before turning 20. (Brandon pointed out that Jim Shooter was published by DC Comics at the age of 14 in 1965–if you know of any others, please let me know!) I don’t think that publishers would reject your proposal because you’re (say) 18, but you do have to be a good writer and that usually takes at least a few years of serious practice. Note: Some publishers do explicitly require an age of 18+ to submit. Please read the submission guidelines.  Please also note: DC Comics no longer accepts unsolicited submissions.  Don’t call them, they’ll call you (after you’ve made a name for yourself elsewhere, usually).

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16 responses so far

Jun 28 2011

Good news and bad news for Green Lantern fans

The good news is that Warner Bros. is planning a GL sequel.  The bad news is that the preliminary box-office returns look rough enough (so far) that I do not think the sequel will survive.

 

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Jun 25 2011

Please double-check your email address when you use the contact form

Published by under Superhero Nation

If you use the contact form, please make sure you type in your email address correctly.  Otherwise, I have no way to send you my response.

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Jun 21 2011

Nicholas Cage is Comedic Gold

Published by under Comedy

(Caution: Some PG-13 content).

7 responses so far

Jun 21 2011

Most Writing “Rules” Are Optional–These Rules of Professionalism Aren’t

1.  The cardinal rule of professionalism: Don’t do anything in private that would embarrass you if it became public.

 

2.  Dishonesty ruins careers. If you’ve done any of the following, I would recommend stopping immediately.  

  • Don’t use a fake name (sockpuppet) to hype your work.
  • Don’t write fake Amazon or B&N reviews without mentioning that bit about being the author.  Likewise, asking and/or paying others for 5-star reviews is shady.
  • Don’t plagiarize.
  • Don’t deceive or otherwise mistreat your teammates (editors, comic book artists, etc).
  • Don’t create or unilaterally edit your Wikipedia page. (Yes, they can find out).  If there is a factual error on your Wikipedia page, propose a change in the Discussion section and be upfront about who you are.  If nobody objects to your proposed change, then you can safely make the change even though you have a conflict of interest.  For more details, please see Wikipedia’s guidelines for users with a conflict of interest.  PS: Making enemies over at Wikipedia is REALLY bad business.  Almost as much as the US Air Force or Google, they can really give you a bad day.

 

3.  Anger and rudeness are almost always unhelpful.

  • A rude response to a negative review is MUCH more dangerous to your career than the review ever was.  For more advice about how to take criticism well, please see this.  PS: Don’t worry too much about negative reviews. There are several reasons a negative review might lead a reader to buy the book.  For example, “This reviewer didn’t like it, but it sounds like the sort of book I would enjoy,” “After I heard about the book, I checked for other reviews and they generally sound pretty positive,” “Now I want to see if it really is that bad,” etc.
  • Please don’t publicly rant about the publishing industry.  Most professional publishers do cursory Google searches on prospective authors before offering a publishing contract and it would be potentially problematic if your blog had several posts angry about the publishing industry.  That’d suggest you would be harder to work with.  (You wouldn’t apply to Ford or Toyota with a paper trail indicating that you were surly about car companies, would you?)
  • Be as polite as possible in your personal dealings.  When a publisher Googles you, what will they find?  If they find a news article about getting thrown off a plane for disorderly conduct, that would be (pardon my French) le bad. PS: If you DO get thrown off a plane for disorderly conduct, please don’t try to use the 9/11 attacks to make yourself look more sympathetic.
  • Don’t threaten a lawsuit unless you know what you’re talking about.  In most cases, threatening a lawsuit against a reviewer is ill-advised.  “Your negative review used quotes from my book in an unauthorized manner.”  Fair use, chief.  I’d recommend consulting with a lawyer before escalating a situation with legal threats.  (If a reviewer publicizes that you’re incompetently trying to browbeat them, it could damage your reputation).

6 responses so far

Jun 20 2011

Signs You Might Need a Confidence Adjustment

Published by under Professionalism

1.  You feel the need to bad-mouth your writing to readers/reviewers. There isn’t any advantage to including a disclaimer like “I’m sorry, but this isn’t very good.”  It reduces your authorial credibility and will scare away some prospective readers. Give your readers a chance to decide whether it’s good without inflicting a bad first impression on them.  PS: Some authors are so self-flagellating that they might come across as fishing for compliments to reviewers.  Please don’t be that writer!

 

2. Your query makes unsubstantiated claims about your story. Some red flags include hype words like “fascinating,” “compelling,” “interesting,” “excellent,” “well-written,” etc.  It’s much more effective to describe the characters and plot of your book in such a way that the readers conclude on their own that the story sounds really interesting.  (Show, don’t tell).  YOU telling me that the story is interesting is not at all convincing because, ahem, that’s just your opinion.

  • UNSUBSTANTIATED HYPE: “D.O.A. is a gripping detective story that will really excite a variety of readers and editors.”
  • MORE EFFECTIVE: “John Kimball is a poisoned detective that has 48 hours to solve his own murder.”  This is a lot more persuasive.  I can totally see why this would excite a variety of readers–I’m excited!
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3.  Your query/proposal talks too much about you and too little about your novel or comic book. In fiction, I generally think 0-1 sentences is the ideal amount of self-description for an unpublished author.  A few sentences might be helpful if your background is unusually interesting and relevant to the story you’re writing, like a SWAT officer writing a detective story.  Unless you have something genuinely interesting going on, don’t worry about it.  Unless the publisher or literary agency specifies otherwise, it’s okay to say nothing about your background, because the author’s background doesn’t matter much for most fiction books.  (Nonfiction is totally different).

 

4.  You hype your writing talent. Excessive egos are always unattractive, but if there were ever a time when it would be acceptable for an author to have an ego, it’d be after hitting the big time.  I think that unpublished authors that are completely convinced their work is ace tend to strike me as delusional and doomed.  If there weren’t anything in your work that could be improved significantly, why haven’t you been published yet?  (But don’t take this too far in the other direction–there’s a huge gap between “My writing can be improved and I’m working on that,” which I think is mature and professional, and “My writing  sucks,” which suggests an unappealing lack of confidence).

9 responses so far

Jun 19 2011

Are Marvel or DC Movies Better? A Research Survey

Summary

  • Including the older movies, the average Rotten Tomato score was 47.3% for DC and 58% for Marvel.  If we look only at movies since 2000, DC drops to 47.2% and Marvel inches up to 60%.  DC’s movies have actually gotten slightly worse since 2000.

  • Marvel has been having more critical success with more series.  Since 2000, DC’s non-Batman movies have averaged 38.7%.  Since 2000, Marvel’s movies without Spider-Man have averaged 56% and its movies without X-Men have also averaged 56%.

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13 responses so far

Jun 18 2011

Green Lantern’s at 25% on Rotten Tomatoes

Published by under Comic Book Movies

Curses.  I was a lot more excited about GL than the other superhero movies this year (X-Men: First Class, Thor and Captain America) because it’s a more ambitious story, more purely sci-fi than most other superhero stories.  Unfortunately, the initial reviews have been, ahem, not favorable.  (25% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 77% for Thor and 87% for X-Men: First Class).

 

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22 responses so far

Jun 17 2011

Dialogue Checklist

1. Do the characters have distinct voices? Voice can be influenced by diction and syntax, the sorts of details they’d notice and/or mention, personality, how educated they sound, accents, etc. If the characters sound distinct, readers should usually be able to tell who is saying what even if you cut out most of the dialogue tags (like “John yelled” and “Mary said”).

 

2.  Are characters talking naturally, rather than just narrating for the benefit of readers? One red flag here is that the characters are recapping what they already know (“As you know, Bob…”).  If characters talk about things they already know, you can use the conversation to develop some new angle, like what they’re doing moving forward.  Make sure that your characters have a reason of their own to talk–if they’re talking about something because you want them to, it will probably feel stilted.

 

3.  Please don’t have characters incessantly address each other by name. That’s annoying, Greg.  People don’t talk like that, Greg.  If the characters are well-voiced and/or have distinct goals, it should usually be obvious who’s delivering each line without such addresses. If not, adding a dialogue tag like “Mary said” is usually less annoying than adding an address. (I wouldn’t recommend using one every line, though).

 

4.  Does all of the dialogue develop a character and/or advance the plot? Please stay away from chatting, idle chatter that doesn’t go anywhere.  Chatting tends to waste space and stall the plot.  For example, it’d probably be boring for characters to talk about the weather unless you’re, say, trying to foreshadow an impending hurricane.

 

4.1.  Are the characters trying to accomplish anything? If the characters are just idly talking without any particular goal, I think that’s a red flag that the characters are chatting.  Give the characters objectives that really matter to them.  For example, if a detective is trying to figure out whether Jim is the murderer and Jim is trying to allay the detective’s concerns, it’d be really surprising if the conversation weren’t interesting.

 

5.  Have you handled your dialogue tags well? Here are some common problems that can arise with dialogue tags.

  • Don’t use unnecessary tags.  For example, “I’ll never leave you,” he promised uses an unnecessary “he promised.”  Readers can easily tell this is a promise, so you don’t need to beat them over the head with it.
  • Please don’t load up on exotic substitutes for “said” that don’t add anything.  I wouldn’t recommend using an exotic substitute for “John said” unless the substitute word provides some information to readers that they wouldn’t otherwise have. For more details on how to use substitutes for “said” effectively, please see this article.

13 responses so far

Jun 15 2011

Mr. Crowley’s Second Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Guy Fails is sent to a small kingdom in the south called Illan by a man named William. He only accepts because of a promised bag of gold. Guy travels a bit but eventually gets there. Once there he meets a thief named Lillian. He instantly likes her, though it isn’t returned. He meets and plays parts in small skirmishes and keeps meeting Lillian. They are eventually pegged for a robbery they didn’t commit, the thieving of the King Jewel. A very important gem in the history of Illan. They eventually track down a small cult and are able to retrieve the jewel to clear their name. Guy celebrates with booze, Lillian with robbing the jewel back and selling it on the black market.

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6 responses so far

Jun 14 2011

Google Searches: June 1 – June 14

Published by under Uncategorized

Can you use real guns if you’re writing a book? I’m not a lawyer, but I would intuit that this is acceptable–novels and comic books can legally use brand names except in a defamatory fashion.  I can’t think of any reason guns would be different. However, I wonder if implying that criminals favor a particular type of gun may be defamatory. The Kalashnikov Concern has rights, too! 🙂

 

Comic book publishers that accept writing only submissions – The only one that’s coming to me right now is Dark Horse.  Pretty much everybody else that accepts unsolicited manuscripts expects illustrated sample pages alongside the script.

 

how to right a sperhero story – Don’t quit your day job.

 

Worst election slogan: “Vote for B. Mac: He puts the man in manuscript.”  I also put the man in The Taxman Must Die, although the (tax)man in question gets beaten up at various points by a hogtied alligator, a Nobel laureate that isn’t Henry Kissinger, a Nobel laureate that is, a training robot mischievously set to “Matrix” mode, a C-SPAN cameraman (by accident), a Baltimore cab-driver (on purpose), a Norwegian crime lord, a Domino’s delivery boy working for Mossad* and a Marine armed with a paintbrush.  *Mossad thought through every part of its Domino’s Pizza front operation besides plausibility.  Have you ever heard of someone actually ordering Domino’s?  “Get the door, it’s Mossad.”

 

Which day jobs are best for writers? A lot of companies have communications positions, like copywriting/marketing and the like.  The publishing industry is not doing tremendously well right now, but you might be able to find an opening in editing, sales, marketing or another field.  Likewise, try literary agencies.  Alternately, you can teach (up to high school) English with a bachelor’s degree.  If my background check clears on time, I’m teaching high school English abroad this year.

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6 responses so far

Jun 14 2011

Contact Guidelines

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7 responses so far

Jun 09 2011

“Americans rated most hilarious in global poll”

Published by under Comedy

Only if David Chapelle and The Onion pull extra shifts to make up for Two and a Half Men and David Spade.

6 responses so far

Jun 07 2011

How much do comic book writers make?

Published by under Sales and Royalties

One financial planning website (!?) reports comic book authors are usually paid about $80-$150 per page.  I’ve never handled any financial details for any publishing company (and wouldn’t publicly discuss any numbers if I had), but that strikes me as plausible.   I would, however, guess that really small comic houses typically pay less than $80 a page.

 

In comparison, novelists make much less than $80 a page.  Novelists typically earn an advance of ~$6000 for their first-published novels if they have agents and ~$3500 if they do not.   If your novel manuscript has 80,000 words (about 275 pages), that’d work out to $21 per page if you have an agent and $13 otherwise.  Theoretically, you might make additional money if your novel sells well enough to clear the advance, but that is highly unusual for debut novels.

33 responses so far

Jun 04 2011

Been waiting on a response for 3+ days? Let me know…

Published by under B. Mac

Right now, my to-do list includes:

  • A submission review for AJ.
  • A submission review for GG-T.
  • Business/submission advice for Mumtaz.
  • Crunching numbers/project details with RH.
  • Reminding Ekimmak (at his request) not to comment on SN until he finishes his exams next week.  🙂
  • Anything I received after June 1.

So, if you sent me a request before June 1 and are still waiting for a response, please feel free to send the email again to superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com, repost the comment or remind me.  Sorry for any inconvenience. 

8 responses so far

Jun 04 2011

X-Men: First Class was surprisingly good

  • It’s less action-heavy than previous X-Men movies.  That’s fortunate, because the action is largely derivative of previous X-Men movies.
  • The character-building is surprisingly good.  I think 2-3 more minor characters like Havok, Darwin, Angel, Riptide (the unnamed tornado villain), Banshee and Moira the CIA agent/love interest could have been removed so that there was more development time for the others, but to the writers’ credit I think each of them had at least one worthwhile moment besides Angel.
  • I feel Beast and Xavier are a lot more interesting here than they were in the previous movies.  Wolverine’s cameo was hilarious and the Magneto-Xavier relationship was good but rushed.  (I don’t think Magneto interacts enough with Xavier that he would be as shaken up about losing him as he was).
  • The cast was generally competent.  However, Kevin Bacon (the lead villain) is notoriously inept.  A few of his scenes were unintentionally funny.  Besides Emma Frost, the ladies were notably not bad, particularly compared to previous superhero disasters (e.g. Jessica Alba and Halle Berry).  However, all of the ladies got small roles.
  • There were several female characters (Mystique, Emma Frost, Moira the love interest and Angel) but, besides Mystique, I thought the writers didn’t accomplish much with them.  The Moira-Xavier romance was half-hearted.  I think it would have helped to eliminate Angel and use that time to develop Moira and/or Mystique.  Also, the movie failed the Bechdel test.  (At least two named women must have at least one conversation about anything besides a man).
  • Spoiler: The black guy is the only protagonist to die?  He barely got enough screen-time to say his name!  (Still, he’s less awful than the jive comic relief in Transformers).
  • The political propaganda was a bit less heavyhanded than usual, mainly because the U.S. military is a potential genocidal villain and not a current genocidal villain yet.  (That’s pretty much as politically evenhanded as the X-Men series gets).   Also, there’s a likable CIA agent and a CIA supervisor that is not totally evil, whereas the military was pretty consistently portrayed as some combination of evil and/or useless.  (For example, Xavier implicitly compares U.S. soldiers to Nazis “just following orders”).   However, I’m inclined to give the screenwriters a pass on making the CIA bosses grossly sexist because that strikes me as plausible for this time period.
  • Besides Mystique, the nonhuman-looking characters looked surprisingly goofy.  Beast and Azazel (Nightcrawler’s dad) looked like extras on a Sy-Fy production.  Yeah, if my dad looked like Azazel, I’d probably join the circus to get out of the house.
  • I noticed two one fairly minor plot hole.  There’s a scene where the characters are staring at incoming missiles and Azazel can teleport himself and others.  Hey, maybe instead of staring at your impending death, Azazel, maybe you can warp everybody to safety like (SPOILER) you did after the missiles were disabled?  Just saying…

22 responses so far

Jun 01 2011

A shakeup for DC’s series

Published by under Comic Books,DC Comics,News

DC Comics announced a few changes that might be significant.  Details are sparse at the moment, but here’s what DC Comics, USA Today and the New York Times have reported.

  • Every DC series will restart at issue #1 and many of the characters will be younger than they were before.  It’s less clear whether the plots will substantially change in noncosmetic ways.  The only substantial changes announced so far are that “a lot” of series are not returning, Justice League will focus more on relationships and DC will branch into genres besides pure superhero action.  “We’re going to use war comics, we have stories set in mystery and horror, we’ve got Westerns.”
  • “We really want to inject new life in our characters and line. This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”
  • DC will be digitally releasing all of its issues the same day they arrive in comic stores.
  • Some titles will return and “a lot” won’t.  Most DC writers and artists are also getting shuffled around. “Series that are successful and writer/artist combinations that work well together won’t be tweaked too much.”
  • The direction for the costume changes is to look more contemporary.   They’re also trying to “alter the physicality of many heroes and villains to modernize the DC Universe.”  I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like a dangerous surgery illegal in most countries.
  • “The recent emphasis on diverse characters such as lesbian superheroine Batwoman, Hispanic hero Blue Beetle and African-American adventurer Cyborg (who will be a core member of Johns and Lee’s new Justice League) also will continue.”

32 responses so far