Jun 29 2011

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

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 I think the lower end of $80-150 per page is pretty typical for an unpublished writer.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).

“guest post” Superhero NationI’m looking for informative and entertaining advice aimed at novelists and/or comic book writers.


Sex ratio of superhero powers. Ooh, I like this. I’ll expand this in an article later, but here are some preliminary ideas. (Note: These are just trends, not recommendations. I don’t think publishers would care much one way or the other).

Disproportionately female superpowers/traits:

  • Telepathy/psychic powers.
  • Invisibility.
  • Virtually every superheroine has The Most Common Superpower (an extraordinary physique–link probably NSFW), whereas men might look relatively mundane (Peter Parker) or ugly (Wolverine).
  • Magical superpowers. (Perhaps because magic/fantasy usually appeals somewhat more to women readers than men).

Disproportionately male superpowers/traits:

  • Superspeed, overwhelmingly so. How many female speedsters can you name? (Maybe one, if you’ve seen Heroes).
  • Flying bricks tend to be male.
  • Superintelligence, particularly for scientists. Many women in comics are smart (like Susan Storm and She-Hulk), but it’s rarely treated as a primary ability. For example, Wikipedia’s summary of abilities lists intelligence for Reed Richards and the Hulk but not Susan Storm or She-Hulk.
  • The bell curve strikes with a vengeance: Characters prone to notably dumb decisions are almost exclusively male. Some examples include the Human Torch, Reed Richards again and me for linking to Newsweek vs. Emma Frost for getting cast as January Jones.
  • Heroes that look really nonhuman are almost exclusively male. For example, Nightcrawler, Beast, the Martian Manhunter and the Thing vs. Mystique (who has a “get out of blue free” card). The Martian Manhunter can morph into a human, but rarely does.
  • I’ve never seen a superheroine in a powersuit.
  • I think that black characters are almost always men that are notably tough and/or extremely athletic. For example, Cyborg, Steel, John Stewart (huah!*), Luke Cage, Black Panther and Black Lightning vs. Storm and Static Shock.


*Speaking of Marines… What’s the correct name for a woman Marine? “Marine, ma’am.”

16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Google Queries: June 15-30 (comics jobs, superhero costumes and fire-breathing squids)”

  1. RandomGirlon 29 Jun 2011 at 4:32 pm

    When it comes to females and magic, I have to disagree slightly.
    Bookwise, I tend to read quite a bit of magical fantasy and the majorty of magic users (protagonist-wise) tend to be male. Whether or not they are accurately portrayed as guys is up to debate, but the authors tend to make it noticble at a certain point which side of the gender line they fall on.
    Comicwise, I do have to agree; I can only honestly think up one well known male magic user in a comic series. Maybe two.

  2. B. Macon 29 Jun 2011 at 4:43 pm

    “Bookwise, I tend to read quite a bit of magical fantasy and the majority of magic users (protagonist-wise) tend to be male.” Hmm, that’s interesting. If most novels’ magical heroes tend to be male, I wonder why comic books would tend to go the other way.

    The two magical male superheroes that come to mind are Dr. Strange and Dr. Fate. If you define “magical superhero” loosely, maybe Hellboy and Jason Blood as well.

    As for magical superheroines, I’d go with Zatanna, Raven, the Scarlet Witch, probably Buffy the Vampire Slayer and maybe Storm (who has magical powers in some versions). There are also some profoundly obscure possibilities like Amanda Sefton and Illyana Rasputin (Colossus’ sister). Finally, manga and anime have so many magical girls like Sailor Moon that they have their own sub-genre.

  3. John Bentonon 29 Jun 2011 at 5:21 pm

    “Superspeed, overwhelmingly so. How many female speedsters can you name?”

    Jesse Quick, XS, Impulse/KC Kid Flash and half of the Tornado Twins just from the Flash family.

    Velocity from Cyberforce.

    Doc Rocket from one iteration of Youngblood.

    Black Racer from the Serpent Society.

    And yes, Daphne from Heroes.


  4. John Bentonon 29 Jun 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Oh, and Aurora from Alpha Flight.


  5. B. Macon 29 Jun 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Curses! I thought I was getting my geek on with Daphne and Aurora. 🙂 Clearly, I’ve been bested.

  6. Mynaon 29 Jun 2011 at 5:52 pm

    “”Bookwise, I tend to read quite a bit of magical fantasy and the majority of magic users (protagonist-wise) tend to be male.” Hmm, that’s interesting. If most novels’ magical heroes tend to be male, I wonder why comic books would tend to go the other way.”

    This is just my two cents, but I think it has more to do with that in novels, magic users tend to be more epic fantasy types (Pendragon, Eragon, heck even HP could count) and it’s not the same as having a magical superpower… epic fantasy heroes are also usually knight-in-shining armor types, or lonely farmboys, and so overwhelmingly male.

    At least that’s my guess, lol.

  7. Castilleon 30 Jun 2011 at 3:58 pm

    If I’m correct, didn’t one of Iron Man’s female side-characters wear powered suits recently?

  8. Wingson 30 Jun 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve noticed characters who heal themselves tend to be male, and characters who can heal others tend to be female (this is also often magical).

    – Wings

  9. K Perryon 01 Jul 2011 at 11:06 am

    I know you say not to over describe the costume but I still want to say something about it so people will get a general idea of what they might look like. I do have one scene where one of hero’s gets a new cape and the others make fun of him.

  10. B. Macon 01 Jul 2011 at 11:55 am

    “I do have one scene where one hero gets a new cape and the others make fun of him.” At least then it’s somehow relevant to the story, right? If it helps develop a character (and/or relationships, like how the other characters regard this character) or advance the plot, I think the detail could be relevant.

    To other writers: If/when you describe what the character looks like, make it relevant somehow. Tie it into the story and/or the characterization.

  11. brandonthbrokenon 02 Jul 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Don’t forget he DC marvel families (SHAZAM and Black marvel) with a 2:1 Male-female magic ratio.
    Magic users are unrepresented in mainstreams comics for different reasons. For years, DC has tried and failed to create a market for high fantasy esque magic (i.e., Captain Marvel), and thus is switching to low-key occultism to attract the Vertigo crowd. Meanwhile, Marvel is’s actually downplaying significant magic uses, since former editor-in-chef, Joey Q considered characters like Dr. Strange and Scarlet Witch walking, “plot devices.”

    I’d say there’s a near even ratio between male and female magic users, but one gender appears more domain depending on who current writers use. Still, the big two have introduced or re-introduced more male than female magic users in the last decade. Marvel’ created a few males with Druid (Secret Warriors) and Phobos (secret warriors), Trauma ( Avengers Initiative), and Wiccan (|Young Avengers), and only one notable female: Nico (runaways). Meanwhile, DC has more female mages Black Alice, (Anything Gail Simon), Misfit (Birds of Prey) and Isis (Black marvel family). But they’re tired with DC’s Kid Devil (originally, KD was a tech-based hero), Zatanna’s cousin in Titans, and Osiris (Black marvel family). Speaking of the Marvel Family, both SHAZAM and Black marvel families have a 2:1 Male-female ratio.

    Jim Shooter sold his first story to DC at 14-years-old. His last work for DC was Legion of Superheroes before Johns re-introduced the Original Legion.

  12. B. Macon 02 Jul 2011 at 7:36 pm

    With Captain Marvel and his kin, I think it might be helpful to distinguish between characters that have a magical origin (like Hellboy, a demon) and those that are mainly spellcasters (like Dr. Strange or Raven). I think the Marvels have a magical origin but I wouldn’t consider them much of spellcasters (unlike, say, the side-character Shazaam). I think the same is true with the Black Marvel family, but I’m not very familiar with the them. Based on their Wikipedia description, they don’t sound much like spellcasters. (Black Adam’s powers include magically-bestowed strength, agility, intelligence, regeneration and flight, but it doesn’t say anything about his ability to cast spells or use magic beyond his ability to trigger these superpowers).

    Based on my preliminary list, I’d say that spellcasting superheroes are largely (perhaps even overwhelmingly?) female.

    My preliminary list of magical superheroes and superheroines would probably look something like…

    Amanda Sefton (female)
    –Black Alice (female)
    –Dr. Druid (male)
    –Dr. Fate (male)
    –Dr. Strange (male)
    Nico (female)
    –Ilyana Rasputin (female)
    –Raven (female)
    –Scarlet Witch (female)
    –Wiccan (male) — I think he’s more of a magic-user than not.
    –Zack Zatara (male)
    –Zatanna (female)–Poor Zatanna. She’ll probably be at the bottom of this alphabetical list forever. 🙂

    –Black Adam (male), Isis (female) and Osiris (male).
    –Buffy (female)
    –Captain Marvel and family (mostly male)
    David Druid, maybe (his powers are chemical/scientific in origin rather than actual magic).
    –Hellboy (male)–well, he’s more of a demon and magic itself doesn’t play into his origin all that much, but he does do a bit of work with magic.
    –Jason Blood (male)–also a demon, but does more work with magic.
    –Kid Devil–he gets his powers through a deal with the devil… sometimes. PS: Get a shirt, dude.
    Misfit (female). I had a lot of trouble classifying Misfit–her powers are magical in nature but I don’t think she’s a caster.
    –Storm (female)–? (She has a scientific origin as well, but she also has some magical powers in some versions).

    Trauma. I don’t think his powers are magical.
    –Wonder Woman, Thor, and Phobos. I think there’s an argument that having a mythological background is somehow magical, but I didn’t feel it was close enough for these three. I thought that Hellboy made the cut because he sometimes works with magic.

    PS: If half of the superheroes with a particular superpower are female, I would say the power is probably disproportionately female because I think fewer than 50% of superheroes are female to begin with.

    PSS: I am both impressed and alarmed by your knowledge of Marvel’s and DC’s more obscure characters and/or your research skills. Thanks a lot for your help!

  13. Anonymouson 03 Jul 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I think Thor does qualify as a magic-user sometimes. His lesser-used weather control, energy blasts, lightning bolts, and occasional possession of the Odinforce might qualify him there…

  14. B. Macon 03 Jul 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Yeah, I think Thor (and Wonder Woman) are arguable either way. I think a lot of the characters with mythological origins are hard to distinguish from magical characters. I don’t think mythological characters skew hard either way, but personally I’m familiar with more male ones than females.

  15. Nayanon 27 Oct 2012 at 12:42 am

    @B. Mac
    You said, ”I think the lower end of $80-150 per page is pretty typical for an unpublished writer.”
    If someone sends a proposal for a comic book with complete art and gets accepted, how much pay he can expect at per page rate? As you have told us that for doing a comic book by hiring a freelancers (penciler, inker etc.) costs about $100 per page. So the payment must be more than that.

  16. B. McKenzieon 27 Oct 2012 at 8:20 am

    “If someone sends a proposal for a comic book with complete art and gets published…” If you’re working with a freelancer by the page, I would recommend having only a few (~5) pages illustrated as part of the submission. That limits your risk in case the book needs to be reworked (either before it can be published or after the publisher accepts the proposal). As for the amount a publisher would pay for a book with complete art, I don’t know. According to the owner of Army Ant Publishing, most colorists are paid $75-100 per page. After you add in the money for penciling/inking and lettering, it will probably be substantially more.

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