Publishing Your Superhero in a Comic Book
- Read widely in the genre.Read the stories of your favorite superheroes, but also read the adventures of other superheroes, particularly those who cross into other genres, such as detective fiction (Batman, the Elongated Man), science fiction (Green Lantern, the Legion of Superheroes) and fantasy (Thor, Doctor Strange). The more superhero characters you're familiar with, the better you know what's already been done and what makes a good superhero.
- Note the level of characterization superheroes exhibit in both their costumed and secret identities. The Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, has endured not just because of the Scarlet Speedster's super-speed and vibration abilities, but because Barry Allen has been portrayed as a dedicated police scientist and respected man who makes friends easily, despite his reputation as a lazy slowpoke.
- Pay attention to how the stories are told, as well. Many of the techniques in prose writing have made their way into comic book stories. For example, in a 1970s Flash story in which the hero learns that his wife, Iris, was actually sent to the present as an infant by her 30th century parents, the comic opens with Flash talking with Superman and telling him the story in flashback. As Superman had been sent to Earth as an infant by his Kryptonian parents, his presence in the story foreshadows what Flash and the reader learn within its pages.
- Know which publishers are taking submissions.Some of the major comics publishers, such as Marvel and DC, do not presently accept unsolicited submissions other than through special programs or with the assistance of an agent. Smaller, independent comic book publishers, such as Image or Dark Horse, are more likely to be looking for submissions than the major comic book companies, giving you a better chance to get your superhero published - and are also more likely not to want to buy the rights to your character. You can learn which publishers accept submissions by visiting their Web sites or from publications such as "Writer's Market," "Locus" or the "Science Fiction Chronicle."
- Get and follow the guidelines of the publisher you're submitting to.Just as when submitting to a prose market, you must follow the guidelines laid down by the publisher to whom you're submitting your superhero for publication, whether in comic book or prose format. While the specifics vary among publishers, most comic book publishers are looking for a 1- to 3-page story synopsis, a complete script for the first issue of the hero's adventures and sample artwork, accompanied by a cover letter.
- Your submission should be addressed to a specific named editor at the company to which you're submitting your superhero, and your description of your superhero and comic book should be brief and descriptive without making comparisons to other published works. For more advice on preparing a submission and cover letter, see a recent copy of "Writer's Market."
Other Options to Publish Your Superhero
- Publish your superhero's adventures as a short story or novel.Since the publication of "Superman: Last Son of Krypton" in 1978, there has been a growing market of superhero novels and anthologies, particularly since the mid-1990s. You can learn about these anthologies from "Locus" or from Web sites such as Superhero Nation (http://www.superheronation.com/category/writing/getting-published/).
- Enter a superhero-related contest.Marvel Comics co-founder Stan Lee, who hosted the now apparently defunct reality show "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?," sponsors a contest through his foundation, in conjunction with art supply company Prismacolor, in which entrants submit superhero designs, with the winning design rendered as an action figure.
- "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" had both an American and British version. In the American version, adults dressed up as their superhero and competed in various contests, with the winner getting his or her superhero published in a Dark Horse comic book written by Lee. In the British version, children aged 9 to 13 competed in similar contests.
- Consider self-publishing.Many of the publishing services that have sprung up to permit authors to publish their own novels also deal with comic books and graphic novels. If you go this route to publish your superhero, you will have more control over the character, but you will also bear the publication costs and have to do more of the marketing work, just as you would if you self-published a work of prose. If you don't both write and draw, you'll also need a partner to do the part of the work that you can't.
- As with self-publishing a work of prose, you should also employ the services of a copy editor to ensure the integrity of your work and subsequent adventures, if there are any. The Hulk's real identity became Robert Bruce Banner because of an early writer error in which the Green Goliath referred to his alter ego as "Bob Banner" instead of "Bruce Banner."
- Publish your superhero as a character in a role-playing game.Another option to get your superhero published is as a character in a role-playing game, such as Hero Games' "Champions." You'll need to know the gaming system in which you want to have your character published, as well as how to adapt comic book conventions to role-playing games.
- Publishing your superhero in a role-playing game involves writing game statistics for the character, an origin story, a description of how the character uses his or her powers and suggestions for using the character in a campaign. The write-up is usually accompanied by a visual depiction of the character.
- Also be aware that many gaming companies will want to buy all rights to your work. If you want to publish your superhero in other markets, you'll either have to choose a different game publisher or negotiate for having the rights revert to you after a certain period of time.
- Whether you want to get your superhero published or write or draw already established superheroes, you can help yourself by networking with people in the comic book industry. You can do so in 2 ways: either personally at conventions such as Comic-Con or online through business networking sites such as LinkedIn.