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Dark Horse Creative Submission Guidelines

This page will explain what you must include when submitting your materials to Dark Horse Comics. If you read through this document and still have questions, please visit the Submissions portion of our Frequently Asked Questions.

Dark Horse Submissions Policy

In the (distant) past, Dark Horse asked submitters to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with their submissions so that the submission, along with a response form, could be returned to the author. THIS POLICY HAS CHANGED. We no longer request SASEs, and will cease sending written responses for unsolicited submissions. Creators should only expect to hear from a Dark Horse editor regarding their submission if an editor wishes to hire them for work. Submissions will no longer be returned to the sender.

Dark Horse still welcomes your submissions, and all submissions will still be reviewed, just as they always have been. The only difference is that submissions can no longer be mailed back to the sender. The reason for this change in policy has primarily to do with the growing number of submissions; Dark Horse simply does not have the resources necessary to respond individually to each submission. Submitted samples are often kept on file for future reference, but only those creators for whom Dark Horse has immediate work will be contacted.

We appreciate how difficult it can be to break into the comics business or to get the attention of an editor, but an editor’s primary duty is to maintain his or her portion of the company’s publishing schedule, and that job leaves little time to review submissions. We, as a company, are still interested in seeing work from new creators, but we don’t want to promise a response which we may not have the resources to send.

View guidelines for writers

View guidelines for artists

View guidelines for inkers

View guidelines for colorists

View guidelines for letterers

View guidelines for prose

View Portfolio Prep 101 (if you’re going to attend a convention and want to get feedback on your artwork)

View or download a copy of the Submissions Agreement

Download our sample script in Microsoft Word format or PDF format

PROPOSAL AND SCRIPTING GUIDELINES FOR WRITERS

Aspiring writers, do you need some guidance on how to format your script? Download our script format guidelines in Microsoft Word format or PDF format.

To submit a written proposal to Dark Horse, the following material must be included:

1. SIGNED SUBMISSION AGREEMENT
Dark Horse has the highest regard for creators and for the ownership of original properties, and this agreement should in no way be misconstrued as license for Dark Horse to appropriate your creations. This agreement protects Dark Horse from any liabilities involving coincidental similarities to works-in-progress or other submissions. It is only required for original stories, scripts, series proposals, and characters. You do not need to sign it if you are only sending art samples or previously published script samples. Story proposals or scripts arriving without a signed agreement will be destroyed without review. Obtain a copy of the agreement here. A new agreement must be submitted with each new idea, proposal, script, etc. and must be signed by all involved creators and copyright holders. Please note that Dark Horse does not review unsolicited scripts, story ideas, or proposals pertaining to properties currently published by Dark Horse or any property not owned by the submitter. Such material will be destroyed without review.

View or download a copy of the Submissions Agreement

2. COMPLETE SYNOPSIS
Succinctly tell the entire story: beginning, middle, and end, omitting unnecessary details. A short-story synopsis should be no longer than a page. A synopsis for a series (limited or ongoing) or graphic novel should be about two to five pages. Indicate issue breaks where applicable. A synopsis should say exactly what happens and how, noting plot and character specifics. Do not leave the resolution of the story in question. This should be the most straightforward presentation of the story as possible, as the synopsis is often the make-or-break point for a proposal.

3. FULL SCRIPT
You must include a full script for any short story or single-issue submission, or the first eight pages of the first issue of any series, unless you are a published professional, in which case, you should include samples of previously published work. You can download our Script Format Guide on which to base your script format on here. If the work is already completed, story, art, and lettering, copies of this may be sent instead. When preparing to send your story, consider the following questions: Are my characters believable and consistent throughout the script? Is the plot clear and easy to follow? Is all the necessary information?including subtext, symbolism, essential background detail, communicated clearly to the artist? Does the script allow the pictures to tell the story rather than relying on captions or other forms of exposition? Does the story work as a comic book, taking into account the conventions and the language of the medium?

Notes:
# Do not send scripts or story proposals for any title currently being published by Dark Horse. Dark Horse’s agreements with its licensors and creators prohibit Dark Horse editors from reading such submissions. Such submissions will be destroyed unread.
# Please send submissions to:

Submissions
c/o Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main Street
MIlwaukie, OR
97222

# We do not publish page rates. If an editor is interested in working with you, you will work out a financial deal at that time.
# If a submitted project has an artist collaborator, samples of the artist’s continuity work (not just pin-ups or character illustrations) must be included.
# We accept proposals for both limited series as well as ongoing series.
# Do not send samples/proposals via facsimile (fax) or email. All such submissions will be destroyed without review.
# Do not make telephone follow-ups to check on the status of your submission. It is now Dark Horse?s policy to respond to submissions only if an editor wishes to hire the creator.

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GUIDELINES FOR ARTISTS

1. SEQUENTIAL ART
Consider carefully what you are sending. An editor wants to see that you can draw sequential art, not pinups. Five or six consecutive story pages is usually adequate. Include quiet scenes as well as action, utilize a wide variety of faces, figures (male, female, normal people as well as “super” characters, etc.), and well-realized settings. Ask yourself the following questions: Does the angle you’ve chosen take full advantage of the dramatic potential in a scene? Do the backgrounds establish where the characters are in relationship to their surroundings and to each other? Is there a well-defined foreground, middleground, and background? Is there a clear, readable story even without word balloons or captions? Have you left adequate room for the dialogue and captions? If you’d like to use a sample script to help you create a story sequence, you can download one here. (MS Word | PDF)

2. COVER ART/PIN-UPS
Please submit only up to five covers/pin-ups. Be forewarned that it is extremely rare that we would hire someone solely for cover work or pin-ups. Also, you must include a signed copy of the Submissions Agreement if you are submitting any artwork featuring a character of your own creation.

Notes:
# Never send original art. Send photocopies only. Make sure the photocopies you send are clean and sharp and easy to “read.” Be sure that each page has your name, address, and phone number clearly written somewhere on it.
# Please send submissions to:

Submissions
c/o Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main Street
MIlwaukie, OR
97222

# We do not publish page rates. If an editor is interested in working with you, you will work out a financial deal at that time.
# Do not send samples/proposals via facsimile (fax) or email. All such submissions will be destroyed without review.
# Do not make telephone follow-ups to check on the status of your submission. It is now Dark Horse?s policy to respond to submissions only if an editor wishes to hire the creator.

*****************************************************

GUIDELINES FOR INKERS

1. SEQUENTIAL ART
Consider carefully what you are sending. An editor wants to see that you can ink sequential art, not pinups. Five or six consecutive story pages is usually adequate. Include quiet scenes as well as action, utilize a wide variety of faces, figures (male, female, normal people as well as “super” characters, etc.), and well-realized settings.

Notes:
# If you would like sample pages to ink, please send a large 11″x17″ self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Inking samples
c/o Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main Street
MIlwaukie, OR
97222

# Please send submissions to:

Submissions
c/o Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main Street
MIlwaukie, OR
97222

# Never send original art. Send photocopies only. Make sure the photocopies you send are clean and sharp and easy to “read.” Be sure that each page has your name, address, and phone number clearly written somewhere on it.
# We do not publish page rates. If an editor is interested in working with you, you will work out a financial deal at that time.
# Do not send samples/proposals via facsimile (fax) or email. All such submissions will be destroyed without review.
# Do not make telephone follow-ups to check on the status of your submission. It is now Dark Horse?s policy to respond to submissions only if an editor wishes to hire the creator.

*****************************************************

GUIDELINES FOR COLORISTS

1. SEQUENTIAL ART
Please submit at least 5 pages of sequential art. We would also be interested to see how you handle different types of storytelling. For instance, how would you color 5 pages of Hellboy as opposed to 5 pages of Usagi Yojimbo? Editors are looking for colorists who can work in many different styles and moods and accurately aid in telling a story through the use of color.

2. FORMAT
We can accept files in any standard format such as JPG, EPS, TIFF, etc. However, all files MUST be CMYK. Files can be either 72 dpi or 300 dpi and it’s recommended that file dimensions are no smaller that 7″ x 10″. Files may be supplied on CD or Zip disk. Please include a resume of past work history (if applicable) and a cover letter.

Notes:
# Feel free to scan any black and white comics if you are in need of pages to use if you are in need of sample pages. An example of a popular black and white comic is Usagi Yojimbo.
# Please send all coloring submissions to:

Submissions
c/o Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main Street
MIlwaukie, OR
97222

# We do not publish page rates. If an editor is interested in working with you, you will work out a financial deal at that time.
# Do not send samples/proposals via facsimile (fax) or email. All such submissions will be destroyed without review.
# Do not make telephone follow-ups to check on the status of your submission. It is now Dark Horse?s policy to respond to submissions only if an editor wishes to hire the creator.

*****************************************************

GUIDELINES FOR LETTERERS

1. SEQUENTIAL ART
Please submit at least 5 pages of story to show diversity of balloons and sound effects, as well as font choice. In addition, please show exmaples of italicized and bold text.

2. TITLES
Please include examples of titles in your submissions. By titles, we mean story/story arc titles not logos.

3. FORMAT
We can accept files in any standard format such as JPG, EPS, TIFF, etc. Files can be either 72 dpi or 300 dpi and it’s recommended that file dimensions are no smaller that 7″ x 10″. Files may be supplied on CD or Zip disk. Please include a resume of past work history (if applicable) and a cover letter.

Notes:
# We prefer black and white or grayscale submissions rather than color. It is easier to determine your skill if we aren’t distracted by coloring.
# Please send all lettering submissions to:

Submissions
c/o Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main Street
MIlwaukie, OR
97222

# We do not publish page rates. If an editor is interested in working with you, you will work out a financial deal at that time.
# Do not send samples/proposals via facsimile (fax) or email. All such submissions will be destroyed without review.
# Do not make telephone follow-ups to check on the status of your submission. It is now Dark Horse’s policy to respond to submissions only if an editor wishes to hire the creator.

*****************************************************

GUIDELINES FOR PROSE SUBMISSIONS

What we want: Well-written, original works. We are primarily interested in horror, dark fantasy, and genres tangential to or overlapping with those; for adult and YA audiences; but were willing to consider almost anything that really blows us away.

What we dont want: Tie-ins, or anything based on established properties or characters; poetry; pre-Victorian historical fiction; traditional high fantasy; remixed classics; true crime; erotica; self-help.

Anthologies and short story collections: Please query first (query must be accompanied by signed submission agreement; see below).

Novels and nonfiction:

1. SIGNED SUBMISSION AGREEMENT Dark Horse has the highest regard for creators and for the ownership of original properties, and this agreement should in no way be misconstrued as license for Dark Horse to appropriate your creations. This agreement protects Dark Horse from any liabilities involving coincidental similarities to works-in-progress or other submissions. It is only required for original stories, scripts, series proposals, and characters. You do not need to sign it if you are only sending art samples or previously published writing samples. Story proposals or samples arriving without a signed agreement will be destroyed without review. Obtain a copy of the agreement here. A new agreement must be submitted with each new idea, proposal, excerpt, etc. and must be signed by all involved creators and copyright holders. Please note that Dark Horse does not review unsolicited novels, story ideas, or proposals pertaining to properties currently published by Dark Horse or any property not owned by the submitter. Such material will be destroyed without review.

View or download a copy of the Submissions Agreement

2. COVER LETTER This is your chance to tell us who you are, what you write, and why you think it would be a good fit for Dark Horses prose line.

3. CV This is only relevant if you have previous publication history.

4. SYNOPSIS Succinctly tell the entire story: beginning, middle, and end, omitting unnecessary details. This should be the most straightforward presentation of the story as possible, and, ideally, under 500 words. For a series, please include a full series synopsis, broken down by book.

5. SAMPLE CHAPTERS Up to three sample chapters, totaling approximately 10,000 words, in standard manuscript format.

Please address all prose submissions and queries to:

PROSE SUBMISSIONS
Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main St.
Milwaukie, OR 97222

Please direct questions regarding the prose submissions process to prose@darkhorse.com

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Download a copy of the Submissions Agreement.

Submissions Agreement
Dark Horse Comics, Inc. – 10956 S.E. Main St. – Milwaukie, OR 97222

I am submitting to you the following materials (“the Material”):

____________________________________________________________ ____
(list title and description here)

in accordance with the following agreement:

1. I represent and warrant to you, your successors, and assigns that the Material is original with me and that no other persons other than those who have signed this agreement have collaborated with me in creating and developing the Material.

2. Your consideration of the Material and any negotiations between us regarding the Material shall not be deemed an admission of the novelty or originality of the Material.

3. You may retain a copy of the Material and I release you from any liability for loss or damage thereto.

4. I hereby grant you the right to use the Material provided that you shall first conclude an agreement with me for such use or you shall determine that you have an independent legal right to use the Material or any portion thereof which is not derived from me either because the Material is not new, novel, or original or has not been reduced to concrete form or because other persons (which may include your employees and other persons presenting materials to you) have submitted similar or identical suggestions, features, and material which you have the right to use.

5. This Agreement shall be construed solely under Oregon substantive law (except where the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States requires federal law to apply). The parties having chosen the substantive law to apply, no other choice of law (including Oregon’s) applies. Any dispute shall be settled in the state of Oregon; if dispute resolution is required, it shall be conducted in Oregon. A party may enforce any settlement or arbitration in any other forum only in accord with applicable law. Any dispute between us which cannot be settled by the parties in a reasonable time shall be submitted to arbitration in Portland, Oregon, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the American Arbitration Association. I agree that any claim against you, your employees, officers, directors, or shareholders based on the Material must be brought within one year after the date of your first publication or other relevant use of the Material.

6. In the event of any dispute that requires dispute resolution, the prevailing party shall be entitled to receive reimbursement from the nonprevailing party for all mediation, arbitration, and other legal costs, expenses, and fees, in addition to any other recovery or award.

7. This agreement constitutes our entire understanding and my signature and the signature of any person who has collaborated with me in the creation or development of the Material shall constitute agreement to the terms and conditions set forth herein. This agreement may be changed only by a written instrument signed by you and me. This agreement also applies to any other material which I may submit to you unless it is agreed by us in writing to the contrary. The invalidity of any provision of this agreement shall not affect the remainder, which shall continue in full force and effect.

__________________________________________________________
Signature

__________________________________________________________
Street Address

__________________________________________________________
Name, Please Print Clearly

__________________________________________________________
City, State, Zip Code

__________________________________________________________
Date

__________________________________________________________
Telephone Number

NOTE: In case of collaboration, each collaborator should sign and provide the above information.

PORTFOLIO PREP 101

Attention aspiring artists!

If you’re planning to show us your portfolio during a convention, PLEASE read through our Portfolio Prep 101 tutorial. It’s full of information on what our editors look for during portfolio reviews and it’s recommended that you follow these guidelines!

ARTIST’S PORTFOLIO REVIEW PREP CHECKLIST

Showing your work to an editor for the first time – especially in a convention setting – can be an exhausting, nerve-wracking event. It’s likely you’ll have to wait in line for several hours with other people who are vying for the same jobs as you, watching as, one by one, those in line ahead of you take their turn. By the time you reach the head of the line, you may be tired, hungry, or dying to use the restroom. You may be nervous, excited, or filled with dread – all natural reactions to being in a situation in which you’re submitting your work to a stranger for judgment. It’s not unusual to discover afterwards that you failed to voice all of the clever things you were going to say, or that all of the questions you had planned to ask were forgotten. (For this reason, you should write them down ahead of time and consult your list at the end of the review.)

Likewise, the editor may be tired as well. He or she has perhaps seen dozens of portfolios already that day and has repeated the same advice to probably ninety-nine percent of those who have come before you.

Put it all together and it’s a recipe for miscommunication, conflicting expectations, and possibly dashed hopes. Below are some steps you can take to create the best possible experience for both yourself and the editor, and to ensure that the hours you’ve put into preparing your work and waiting in line are worth the effort.

BEFORE YOU GET IN LINE, ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS HONESTLY:

Have you shown your work to:

  • your parents?
  • your friends?
  • your teachers?
  • and especially to professional artists attending the convention?

Has the consensus been that your work is of professional quality?

If the answers to those questions is no, then we strongly advise you not to go through the process of showing your work.

Consider this: an editor’s job is to find artists whose work is polished enough that they could start on a professional assignment today. An editor can look at your work and assess whether or not your samples demonstrate that you have what it takes to be a professional comics artist. If your work is not yet of professional caliber, most editors are not qualified to tell you specifically what you need to do to raise your skills to a professional level. They are project managers, not teachers.

Unless you have people honestly telling you that you’re working at a professional level, instead of wasting your time waiting in line for an editor to tell you that you’re not ready for professional work, avail yourself of the many professional artists that attend major conventions. Most will have their original work on display, and are often happy to discuss specific techniques, how they developed their skills, what kind of classes or schools they attended, etc.

Becoming a professional comics artist doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Until you’ve studied the craft and learned the essentials, you have nothing to gain by showing your work to an editor.

For many aspiring artists, showing ones work to an editor seems to have become an end in and of itself. Unfortunately, those artists are usually disappointed by the experience because they have not thought through what their goals should be when showing their work.

WHAT YOUR GOAL SHOULD BE IN SHOWING YOUR WORK:

To get a job drawing comics.
If your work is not yet of professional quality, you’re not ready for a job and should not be showing your work.

Treat the portfolio review experience like a job interview. Would you apply for a job as a brain surgeon if you weren’t already a qualified brain surgeon? Of course not. Comics artist is a job, just like any other, with its own set of necessary skills and qualifications. Come to the interview prepared to show that you’re qualified.

Now, if this is your first time showing your work, the odds are stacked against you walking away with an assignment, but you can still learn and benefit from the experience.

WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT:

Two to ten minutes of an editor’s time. Period.
The editor will look at your samples and discuss them with you. He or she will tell you what they like about what you’ve done, as well as areas they think you could improve upon. They may invite you to send them more samples in the future. There is a very, very slim chance that the editor will like your work enough that he or she may offer you a job on the spot, but don’t expect it. Look upon this as your first opportunity to develop a professional’s “thick skin.” Editors are often harried and tired at conventions, and they aren’t always at their best. If you receive brusque treatment, don’t take it personally. Keep in mind that the editor’s primary job is to find creators who are accomplished enough to take on an assignment right now – not a year from now. Most will give you a fair assessment of your work, but if you’re looking for advice on how to draw and/or a detailed critique, show your work to friends, family, teachers, and other artists, especially professional artists who are also attending the show.

WHAT TO BRING:
Pencillers:
Five or six consecutive story pages showing panel-to-panel continuity.
Pick a story or sequence that shows your range: a quiet scene followed by an action scene; scenes that demonstrate how you handle a wide variety of subject matter, including regular people, street scenes, cars, buildings, trees, animals, etc. The more range you can demonstrate, the more likely you are to land a job. You may bring more work to show, but don’t count on the editor looking at every single page you’ve ever drawn. Show only what you feel to be your best work.

The script or plot from which you worked.
If you drew your story sequence from a written plot or script, bring it along. The editor may not ask for it, but if they want to compare what was asked for in the script with what you’ve drawn, you’ll be able to show them.

If you also plan to show inked work, bring good, readable copies of the pencilled pages.
If your inks aren’t of professional quality, you’re better off not showing them. Concentrate the review on what you do best. No editor expects you to be accomplished in every aspect of the field. Show only what you feel to be your best work.

If you wish to show pinups or other single-page illustrations, show them last – after your story pages.
While it’s true that editors hire artists to produce covers and the occasional pinup, the vast majority of work available for artists is drawing story pages (the average comic book has 22 pages of story and one cover). An editor needs to know you can tell a story with pictures. Show only what you feel to be your best work.

An envelope containing copies of the work you’re showing with your name and contact information on every single page.
The editor may or may not ask you to leave copies of your samples. If he or she does, you’ll be prepared.

Inkers:

At least six story pages showing panel-to-panel continuity.
Pick a story or sequence that shows your range; scenes that demonstrate how you handle a wide variety of subject matter, including regular people, street scenes, cars, buildings, trees, animals, etc. The more range you can demonstrate, the more likely you are to land a job. If possible, obtain pencils from a variety of artists of varying styles. Show only what you feel to be your best work.

Good, readable copies of the pencilled pages from which you worked.
An editor will absolutely want to compare your work with the original pencils.

An envelope containing copies of the work you’re showing (and copies of the pencils) with your name and contact information on every single page.
The editor may or may not ask you to leave copies of your samples. If he or she does, you’ll be prepared.

WHAT TO DO:

Use the time you spend in line to prepare.
Hopefully, you will have prepared your portfolio before ever getting into line for Portfolio Review, but while you’re waiting, take another look at it. Make sure that it is well organized and that the pages you wish to show are in the front of the portfolio and in the correct order. Talk to the people in line ahead of you and behind you. You’re going to be there awhile, so you may as well take advantage of each other’s knowledge and experience. Compare experiences, share tips, and critique one another’s work. It’s not altogether improbable that the person sitting next to you may one day be a fellow professional, a collaborator, or a helpful contact.

Treat the review session like a job interview.
You don’t have to dress up, but be neat and clean. Speak clearly. Make eye contact. Let the editor know you’re engaged in the process. Try to relax. If the editor didn’t want to look at your work, he or she wouldn’t be there.

Listen to what the editor has to say.
That’s the reason you’ve been waiting in line. Take notes if you want. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what point the editor is trying to make or the terminology he or she uses.

Let the review end when it’s over.
Yes, this is your big chance, but remember what we said about not setting your expectations too high. If the review session appears to be at an end and the editor has not offered you a job, it is permissible to ask him or her if they’d like to see more of your work (assuming you’ve brought more to show), or if you can send additional samples in the future. But don’t overstay your welcome. Other people are in line waiting for their turn.

WHAT NOT TO DO:

Don’t apologize for your work.
If your portfolio is unorganized, or you don’t have any story pages to show, or the work is only half finished, then do apologize for wasting the editor’s time. However, if you’ve done your prep work and you’ve waited in line, let your work speak for itself and allow the editor to get on with the review.

Don’t defend your work.
Any comments the editor makes will be directed at specific aspects of your work, not you. Listen to the editor’s comments and try to learn from them. If an editor makes critical comments about your work, don’t try to “explain” them away. Those initial context-free reactions are valuable, because that is what a professional editor is honestly “seeing” when they’re looking at your work, regardless of what you intended. If you disagree with the editor’s assessment of your work, let it go. Find another editor to whom you can show your work. Arguing with an editor will not change their opinion of your capabilities, and it certainly won’t get you any closer to a job. Sure, some editors are jerks (just as some artists are), but there also exists the possibility that he or she knows what they’re talking about.

Don’t force copies of your work on the editor.
If the editor doesn’t ask you to leave copies of your work, take the hint. If you force the issue, the editor will most likely accept the copies, but they will end up in the garbage before the end of the convention.

Don’t call the editor after the convention.
The only time it is acceptable to phone an editor after showing them your samples is if they told you they had a job for you. Other than that, restrict your contact to mailing new sets of samples (for God’s sake, don’t send editors the same pages they saw at the convention unless they’ve asked you to!).

The most important thing to remember when showing your work to an editor is that this is your first contact with a new aspect of the comics industry. If you’ve been a life long comics fan, this is your opportunity to see things from the side of the people who create comics for a living. Even if it’s just for a few moments, you’ve been invited behind the scenes. Take advantage of the invitation, use the opportunity, and learn from the experience.

FOR WRITERS

We’ve saved writers for last because, unfortunately, conventions are not ideal places to present stories or scripts to editors. Art can be looked at and evaluated in a few seconds; reading a script takes time – more time than an editor has available at a con. Writer’s guidelines can be found here.

Always get the latest guidelines for Dark Horse at darkhorse.com/Company/Submissions.