Mark’s Remarks – Iron Man #220 (July 1987)

How many time has this happened to you? You buy a comic, you read it, you finish it, and you say, “Hey, I can write (or draw) a story better than that!” So you whip up a story or a few drawings, send ‘em to the editor of the book you read and wait. And wait. And wait. Eons later, you get a reply that says something like, “Sorry, we can’t use you at the present time. Thanks for your interest.” So you wad up the letter, vow never to buy a comic with the name of the person who sent you the letter init, and say, “Those lame-o’s couldn’t tell a good story (or art sample) if it bit ‘em on the buns.”

Now there’s a lot of reasons why the above scenario is a common one. But the main reason why 950 out of every 1000 Unsolicited Submissions Marvel gets every week is sent a polite no thank-you is that they really aren’t up to Marvel’s standards. But, assuming you’re in the 5% of submitters whose work is near-professional in caliber, here are some submission tips.

CHARACTER CREATORS. Don’t send us your characters. It is very rare that Marvel buys character ideas and designs outright. After all, we have a whole slew of talented professionals who do this as part of their jobs. Nobody I know of broke into the business selling characters for other people to write and draw.

WRITERS. Send one page plot synopsis only! That synopsis should demonstrate that you have a good story to tell – that is, one with an exciting beginning, and interesting middle, and a satisfying ending. Within one page an editor can evaluate if s/he like the premise enough for a write to flesh it out. Don’t submit a full script (story broken down panel by panel with specific dialogue included). Editors don’t have time to wade through excess verbiage just to figure out what the story is about, and if we don’t like the basic premise, everyone wasted his time. By no means submit a synopsis for a multi-part epic, a graphic novel, an annual, or anything other than a standard story. Nobody breaks in doing unusual formats. Nobody. Don’t submit stories to an editor about characters s/he doesn’t edit. Don’t submit a story that is so tricky or clever or artsy that we can’t tell if you know the basics of storytelling. Don’t submit a story that radically violates or alters the hero’s status quo (for instance, Iron Man decides to sell his armor to the Soviets or Thor is discovered to be an Egyptian).

ARTISTS. Submit photocopies of your work only. No originals! Make sure your samples are comic book page samples, not still-life watercolors, intaglio etchings, or charcoal figure studies. Being good at that stuff doesn’t tell us if you know how to do a good comic book page. Edit your work. Only send us your best stuff. If you have to apologize in any way for your work (“This is old stuff – I’m better than this now”), don’t send it. Pencilers: Don’t send heavily shaded pencil renderings. Comics are basically line drawings with solid black areas and some feathering or cross-hatching to create “grey.” Your pencil line must be able to be inked. Don’t submit full-page pin-ups. Comics involve storytelling through sequential pictures. To judge your ability to break down a story into clear sequential panels, we need to see at least 3 consecutive pages of a story. You can either make up the story or redraw a sequence in a Marvel comic that you think could be improved upon. Make sure you use Marvel characters in your samples. We know what Spider-Man is supposed to look like, so we can judge if you’re drawing him well. We don’t know what your creation, Floobah-Man, looks like, so how are we supposed to tell if you drew him right? Inkers: Find a good penciler to ink over. If you don’t know any, buy the MARVEL TRY-OUT BOOK on sale at comic stores and better book stores anywhere. (If you can’t find it anywhere, write me and I’ll tell you where to send for it.) If you don’t know what pen or brush to use, you’re not ready to submit your work. (Inkers use a wide variety of inking instruments and black india ink. Forget about rapidographs and felt-tip markers.) Samples showing your inks over a variety of pencilers if preferable to just one.

That’s it, my basic tips and guidelines about Unsolicited Submissions. If your work doesn’t meet the above criteria, DON’T EVEN THINK OF SENDING IT TO US…because you already know what we’re going to say about it, right?

–Mark Gruenwald