Archive for the ‘Creationism’ Category

Halloween and Comic Books: A Frightful Pair

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Last week’s blog Before Cosplay there was Halloween got me thinking that Halloween and comic books have a much deeper and horrific connection than dressing as our favorite character.

Though your average person may immediately think “superheroes” when they hear the term comic book, any comics fan knows that comics as a medium covers a vast array of genres of which superheroes are currently at the forefront.

Just look at the offerings here at CO2 Comics and you will see a sampling of the broad range of topics that comics can cover.

Actually, throughout the late 1940′s to the very early 1960′s, it was horror comics that filled the newsstand shelves. The terrifying comic books had such a dominant impact on the industry that they ignited a witch-hunt fueled by Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s writings in his book Seduction of the Innocent. The ensuing hysteria led to hearings by the  Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and resulted in the comics industry adopting a self-imposed form of censorship called the Comics Code Authority.

For many the true terror was not the content of the comic books but watching them being burned and censored in a place like America where the freedoms of speech and press were being so harshly violated.

Comic books continued to have mildly scary themes with plenty of monsters, vampires and werewolves but they were watered down for decades until different forms of distribution allowed underground and  independent publishers the opportunity to produce comics without the vice of the Comics Code Authority.

Now there are plenty of truly scary horror comics available again to inspire the many ghouls and zombies that will wander from door-to-door this Halloween.

The monsters you encounter in forms of fiction like comic books are a healthy reminder that good and evil are relative, measured only by the extremes of each other. Horror stories allow our imaginations to witness the fear of indescribable terror without physically experiencing it. They allow us to develop defenses that will hopefully protect us from the real monsters that lurk in the world.

So grab a flashlight and a good horror comic book then crawl under the covers in a really dark room and read till you are scared to death! Then remember, when you are celebrating this Halloween, that some of those monsters in frightening costumes may be real.

If you are not careful you could easily become a bloodied victim, dismembered and buried in a shallow grave while your eyeballs float, suspended in a thickened liquid that fills a vintage mason jar capped with a rusty lid, proudly tucked away on the top shelf of a mildew encrusted Frigidaire in the basement of a quaintly-painted, suburban townhouse inhabited by an unlikely serial killer named Pinky Silverberg, the innocent looking, wide-eyed waif  who sold you that scary comic book at your local comic shop.

Happy Halloween!

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes Sell Porn to Children

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

There has been a trend lately to reinvent the images of our favorite superheroes so they seem more realistic and mature in an effort to appeal to an audience that is growing older. Ironically, porn parodies of these same superheroes tend to focus on the brightly colored costumes that superheroes wore when they were deemed too juvenile.

The porn companies appear to value the highly recognizable trademarks of the colorful costumes more than the comic companies do. While Marvel and, more significantly, DC are toning down flashy costumes,  the porn companies are cashing in on all those primary colors!

Which makes you have to wonder, who are they selling their films to?

Superheroes are going through an identity crisis of epic proportions. They want to appeal to everybody so bad that they can’t decide which costume to wear. Now they now have a closet full  spandex variants designed to appeal to each the different target audience.

Lay out a bunch of licensed merchandise and you will clearly see that toys and action figures made for little kids are adorned with the bright and bold costume colors that we have all come to recognize as representative of the world’s greatest superheroes.  As the products become targeted at an older consumer, the  costumes become darker and grittier to the point where they are almost  unrecognizable. This is all a grand scheme to progressively target market. It all makes reasonable sense until you introduce porn into the mix.

An investigative blogger once directly asked Warner Bros., Time Warner Inc., DC Comics, Liberty Media Holdings if they were using superheroes to sell porn to children, insinuating in her open letter that they must be profiting from the porn. Why else would they not be attempting to stop the obvious damaging trademark infringement of properties targeted at the youth market?

We have asked similar questions here at CO2 Comics and the obvious answer is that the porn companies are protected by the use of parody which never explains why DC was able to defend their trademark before, in the 1970′s, when they blocked a film titled XXX Superwoman which was later released as Ms. Magnificent.


Just the fact that people are objecting and asking questions should be enough to argue that there is infringement going on. The longer it is allowed to persist  the tougher it will be to fight if the companies want to.

This  may seem to be just overreaction of a conservative view except that the corporations that preside over these characters are so viciously aggressive when it comes to protecting their trademarks and have such deep pockets that it is very believable that they could stop the porn  if they really wanted to.

Maybe it is just another tier of the grand marketing scheme: bright colors for little kids; dark and gritty for mature readers; bright colors with an “X” for porn.

Just so we don’t get confused, since Halloween is upon us, check out the “slutty,” brightly-colored, licensed superhero costumes being made for young women these days. (many are described as  “adult” but are sold in the “teen” section) Then ask  how off-base this discussion is while bashing DC on their next round of licensed, sexist t-shirts.

Gerry Giovinco



Ten Things We Should All Know About Copyright Law Thanks to Kirby v. Marvel

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

With very little pomp and circumstance the most famous contentious relationship in the history of comics has finally been amicably settled between the estate of the late Jack Kirby and Marvel Entertainment. The announcement came just one business day before the case was scheduled to be considered for hearing by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Comic historians and fans of both Marvel and Kirby know that the relationship between the two has been tenuous as far back as the mid 1960′s. The feud reached a climax in the late 1980′s when many fans and comic professionals demanded that Marvel fairly compensate him for the wealth of material that he had created which, by all standards, established the foundation on which the company had been built and supported. Marvel never did.

This discussion continued after his death in 1994 though it mostly existed as a blistering boil on the ass of the comics industry establishing Kirby as the poster child of the Creators’ Rights movement replacing Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, as the most screwed creator in comics history.

The debate about what Jack Kirby and his heirs were owed, if anything,  became heated in public forums, especially on the internet, exasperated by misinformation, blind opinion, and just plain ignorance of the real matters at hand. Trolls abounded and it often got ugly.

In 2009, in accordance with provisions established in the Copyright Act of 1976, the Kirby Estate filed for termination of Marvel’s copyright claim seeking a reversion of rights which led to a legal battle that was most accurately and meticulously described by Kurt Busiek on a CBR comment thread.

Busiek laid out the truth in no uncertain terms because, as he stated, The amount of misinformation presented in this thread is staggering.” He does a great job of cutting through the he-said-she-said bullshit of the voices of public opinion and pares it down to the cold, hard facts.

Amazingly, it is apparent that too many people, including those in creative fields, do not know the basic elements of copyright law!

If Kirby v. Marvel accomplished anything it should be a better understanding of copyright law by those people that should understand it the most; creators.

Everything you need to know about copyright can be found right here, but it can be a long and agonizing read full of legal jargon.

The following is a simple list of ten important things that creators really need to know about copyright law as it concerns what happened to Jack Kirby.

1. Ideas are not protected! Copyright only protects the expression of an idea that is able to be reproduced in virtually any form.

Two people can have the same idea but their expression of the idea needs to be different. If they are the same, it is assumed that the latter infringed upon the first.

If you “borrow” an idea from someone and create your own expression of it , that is not infringement.

When Stan Lee would give Jack Kirby plot “ideas” verbally in a meeting, unless they were written in the form of a synopsis or script, they could not become copyrighted until Kirby drew the pages of the comic book.

2. The work is protected by copyright the second it is created regardless if you placed a “© 2014 John Hancock” on it or registered it at the Copyright Office.

Placing a copyright notice on your work stakes your claim to it and is a deterrent similar to faux security signs on your front lawn.  The burden of proof, however, is on you and the best and most official way to protect yourself is to register your work.

As mentioned earlier, Kirby’s work was considered copyrighted the second he drew them. It is guaranteed that he never marked them with a © or registered them. The proof that he created them prior to their publication date is all that is necessary and was enough for the Kirby Estate to challenge Marvel.

3. You can sell your copyright after you have created a work.

This is what Kirby did every time he was paid for pages he handed in that were accepted by Marvel. He sold his copyright to the material.

4. You can terminate a grant of copyright after 35 years.

Thanks to the Copyright Act of 1976 creators have a right to terminate grants of copyright that they have sold a to a publisher or another entity.  They can also renegotiate a deal, often in the form of a settlement, just like Prince did after he filed termination papers with his record label.

There is a slim 5-year window within which creators must file to request this termination. Companies are betting that most creators or their heirs will not know about or pay attention to this, allowing the rights to be permanently forfeited to the current holder, like a the money on an expired gift card.

5. None of this matters if you were an employee of the company and created the work on their time. The work will be considered Work-for-Hire and the company that employs you will be considered the author and copyright owner.

Stan Lee was an employee of Marvel. Technically he was management so he has no rights to the material he co-created on the clock or otherwise. His settlement in 2005 was strictly based on an agreement he had regarding his work on the sales of Marvel films, not royalties based on ownership  of copyright.

6. If you are a subcontractor, (freelancer) all of this matters because you initially owned the copyright the second you created the work and you sold that copyright to the publisher. You have a right to request termination of grant after 35 years. If you sold the copyright prior to 1978 you can request termination after 56 years, which was what the Kirby estate did.

Kirby was a freelance subcontractor, regardless of how exclusive his agreement was with Marvel, verbally, written or otherwise, he was not an employee and this was the basis of all the litigation and what the Supreme Court was considering to determine.

7. The duration of a copyright  lasts the life of the author and 70 years after the author’s death.

This means that if the terminations were granted anything Kirby created would be copyrighted until 2064 and  be in the control of the Kirby Estate.

8. For works created Work for Hire the term ends 95 years after its first publication.

If the Supreme court would have decided that Kirby’s work was considered Work for Hire those works owned by Marvel would have begun lapsing  into public domain as early as 2053.

For this reason alone it was in Marvel’s best interest to settle with the Kirby Estate because it just bought them, presumably, an extra 11 years of ownership before the works go into public domain.

9. Copyright and Trademark are not the same thing. While a copyright can expire, a trademark can last indefinitely so long as the owner continues to renew the trademark and aggressively defends it when it is infringed upon.   Copyrighted material, though it can be terminated or lapse into public domain, it cannot be used in commerce in a way that infringes on an existing trademark that is owned by the previous copyright holder.

This means that even if the Kirby Estate were to have terminated the copyrights to the works of Jack Kirby, Marvel would have still owned the trademarks to the characters. It would have been very difficult for the works to be marketed without infringing on Marvel’s trademarks, limiting the profitability of the works.

10. All things considered an amicable settlement is usually the best case scenario.

All anybody ever wanted was to see Jack Kirby treated fairly for all the incredible work he did as possibly the greatest comic creator of all time. It is a shame that he did not live to enjoy the satisfaction of  a deal that, by all expectations, appears would have made him happy. It was clear that throughout his career his main goal was simply to support his family who has, expressed satisfaction with their undisclosed deal.

The Jack Kirby experience is a lesson that must be learned by all creators so that it not be continually repeated. Know copyright law. Understand agreements. Make good deals. Defend your rights. Profit fairly from your work. These are all things that creators should be as focused on as much as they are focused on their talent and creations. They all go hand-in-hand to provide lifelong satisfaction from the hard work involved.

Gerry Giovinco



Remember When Comics Smelled Like…Pot?!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Remember when comics smelled like newsprint?

Not anymore!

If you haven’t heard, DC Comics plans to publish a Harley Quinn comic book that smells like cannabis. It’s true! You can read the story here.

What the hell are they thinking?!

I will never understand the marketing geniuses at DC Comics and their complete disregard for the respected value of their intellectual property.  When is their parent company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, going to reign those idiots in?

Without getting into a deep discussion about comics now appealing to a more mature audience than those that many of us grew up with, let me remind everyone that DC Comics and all of their characters represent a significant brand that is largely responsible for Warner Brothers Consumer Products being the fifth largest global licensor. They lag not far behind number one, Disney, who has been bolstered greatly by their  acquisition of Marvel and Star Wars and who will probably remain top dog forever.

When will DC understand that the strength and value of a company’s intellectual property is based solely on the public’s perceived value of that brand.

Forbes describes it this way{

“Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).  Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed.  But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.”

Entrepreneur says:

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

Both of these well informed marketing resources feel that the concept of branding can be “simply” defined, yet DC and Warner Bros. apparently have no clue or they wouldn’t be intentionally making and promoting comic books that smell like pot!

DC’s characters have achieved their brand value over their seventy plus year history based on a universal appeal of what the general population considers wholesome, heroic characters. This is why their images are available on everything from baby toys to shot glasses, They are safe (socially innocent) and have wide appeal.

What is the theory behind potentially damaging that brand by associating it with cannabis,  an illegal  Schedule 1 substance under US federal law?  Are they just daring a Dr. Wertham wannabe to stir up another witch-hunt on comics or the superhero genre all for the sake of a publicity gimmick?

Could you imagine Disney making or licensing any product  that intentionally smelled like pot?

“Get your Pocahontas Peace Pipe with realistic cannabis smell!”

Just wrong on so many levels!

Disney famously and aggressively brought down The Air Pirates for publishing an underground  parody comic where their characters imbibed in the weed and other nefarious deeds! They go after everyone, big and small mercilessly to protect their brand under all circumstances.

Just ask Deadmau5.

Only porn companies seem to be immune from big entertainment companies like Disney and Warner Bros., but there has to be more to that story.

Protecting a brand and its public perception is paramount to most large corporations. This is why we often hear of sports stars and actors losing endorsement deals because they did something stupid or illegal.

Even NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodel, one of the most powerful men in professional sports, has come under fire for his mishandling of the recent Ray Rice domestic violence case.

Companies are pulling endorsements left and right from NFL teams for public backlash stemming from ongoing disclosure of similar instances and many are asking for Goodel’s resignation.

By those standards some jackass at DC should be out of a job already.

DC has been treading on thin ice for years now, slowly chipping away at the shiny veneer of beloved characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman,  trading them in for a darker, grittier, more sinister fare.

Will the cannabis scented comic book finally be the tipping point? I doubt it, but they are seriously pressing their luck.

What’s next? Micro dot variants?

Don’t be surprised if the Comic Code Authority gets reinstated over this one.

We will all have DC to thank.

Gerry Giovinco



Kirby v. Marvel – The Final Countdown

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The suspense is killing me!

On Sept.  29, 2014 The Supreme Court of the United States will decide if it is going to hear the long embattled case of Kirby v. Marvel Characters, Inc.

If SCOTUS chooses not to hear the case it’s all over and Marvel retains complete ownership of everything that the late Jack Kirby had ever created to be published by them. His heirs will never benefit directly from the billions of dollars that his creations have generated for the industry giant. It will be a sad day, not just for the Kirby family and his fans, but for countless other creatives that had worked freelance as contractors in any field prior to 1976 whose creations will now be officially deemed “work for hire” with no hope of the rights ever being returned to the creator.

This would all seem to fly in the face of the intent of copyright law which, from inception attempted to protect the rights of creators and allow opportunity for revision of those rights even in the instance of commissioned work, with the sole exemption of “Work for Hire” which was not clearly defined until the Copyright Act of 1976.

Hey, this stuff is all very confusing or it would not require the brain trust of the Supreme Court to figure it out. If you don’t believe me just check out this well informed link.

The final brief offered to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Kirby side of the argument can be read here.  It is an eighteen page document full of legal jargon as one would expect but it poses several basic issues that in my mind stand out as pivotal.

If authorship copyright begins at creation and the creator only receives payment if the work is accepted, how is that creator considered an employee in a work for hire situation? What would be the status of works not accepted?

How could Kirby or Marvel have determined the work be “work for hire” if the term was not yet clearly defined by the court prior to 1976?

It is important to remember that the characters in question were created specifically between the years 1958 and 1963 when Kirby helped a then, failing company avoid  closure with a rash of successful characters that he co-created with Stan Lee, though there has been a long contention as to how much Lee contributed considering that the “Marvel Method” required the artist to plot and draw the story which would be scripted later by Lee.

Both men were happy to be getting any check at the time and were just trying to keep the ship afloat. Nobody could have expected the characters to be worth what they are today.

According to this timeline, Kirby had a productive and often tumultuous relationship with Marvel. Publisher, Martin Goodman seemed quite successful in his ability to manipulate Kirby, hashing out deals that were not always sincerely in Jack’s favor.

Kirby did eventually sign a three-year contract with  Marvel in 1975 as shown here where he committed  to do a nearly implausible 13 pages a week for $1100.  That is full script and pencils for two entire issues a month for less than $85 per page at the height of his career. If Kirby was working a normal, forty-hour work week he would have had to have churned out a complete page every three hours just to punch out on time. To consider him an employee is a disgrace.

So, it is up to the Supreme Court, but first they have to decide to hear the case. If they do it will be all fingers and toes crossed for anyone that wishes that Jack Kirby’s family will see a fair decision that will have an impact far greater than just Kirby v. Marvel

As we all gear up for the final countdown, realists know that he chances are slim in this day-and-age where a giant corporation like Marvel/Disney holds all the cards but the idealists can hope that the good guy will win, just like in the comic books.

Either way the decision will be historic and have far-reaching implications.

I know whose side I’m on. How about you?

Gerry Giovinco



Trademark Deadmau5 Trap

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Joel Thomas Zimmerman, the EDM DJ/musician best known as Deadmau5,  has just encountered the world’s best mouse trap: U.S. Trademark Law.

Nobody keeps the mice away better than the Disney corporation when it comes to protecting their trademarks especially when it comes to defending Mickey Mouse and that famous pair of ears.

Canadian born Zimmerman, whose stage schtick includes performing in an oversized, robotic looking mouse head,  has flown under Disney’s litigious radar for the last decade, successfully trademarking a graphic of his mouse head in countries throughout the world. Now that he is attempting to register his trademark in America, Disney is challenging the mark claiming that it is too similar to their iconic symbol and may cause them harm by confusing consumers.

The trap is triggered, but does Zimmerman get out a Deadmau5 or a live one?

Some will argue that Disney has no basis in their contention. Deadmau5 poses no competition for Disney big focused on different markets. Deadmau5 can be interpreted as a parody and protected by fair use laws. The Deadmau5 logo is different enough. A nice piece in the Daily Trojan titled “Disney’s legal battle with Deadmau5 has no basis” does a good job defending the argument.

But when it comes to copyright or trademark issues, the solution is never that simple.

The problem with U.S. Trademark law is that the advantage is almost always on the side of the big guy. Why? Because it requires a trademark to be continuously defended or risk losing it. Unless you have deep pockets like Disney, who can aggressively afford to go after  every potential infringer?

Should a trademark be challenged for any trivial reason by a giant corporation like Disney who can drag you through the courts endlessly in a legal battle that will exhaust all of your financial resources. Your attempt to trademark is doomed because you will be bankrupt before a judge ever tries your case. Most settle or give up. Those that don’t usually end up as a bloodied “example.”

This system assumes that the public is too ignorant to recognize distinguishable differences in any graphic or other form of trademark. It is compounded by companies that manipulate their trademark constantly to intentionally blur the line. This is why a simple graphic like Disney’s Mouse Silhouette or DC’s Batman logo, #6 is presented in so many different ways including shapes and colors. It is now impossible to to create a simple mouse or bat logo without incurring retribution.

This has cost pop culture some great works over the years. Among the many casualties, Captain Marvel was crushed for his supposed similarities to Superman, and Howard the Duck was never the same after Disney challenged him compared to Donald Duck. These were innovative and dynamic characters that had their feet swept out from under them in their prime because of the trademark trap.

Imagine what the world would be like if Pat Sullivan, the producer of Felix the Cat, would have challenged Disney’s trademark, siting that Mickey Mouse was so similar and heavily influenced by the famous feline who had predated Mickey on film by nine years and was, at the time, the first and most successful cartoon character of the era. It was an image of Felix, after all, that was the first cartoon character star of television.

Imagine a world with no Mickey Mouse and possibly no Disney. Mickey Mouse  managed to escape the trademark trap and, in doing so, ensured that nobody else would get out alive.

Deadmaus, however, may have a leg to stand on because Disney has not been a good little mouse either. Zimmerman has countered with a copyright infringement allegation, claiming that Disney used his 2009 hit “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” without his permission and payed no fee for the use of it. Disney claims otherwise but has yet to prove it.

This could be a life or death struggle for the career of Zimmerman. According to Billboard,  the battle has already “cost him dearly”
A victory for Deadmau5 would give a lot of little guys hope, but not everyone is ready to chew off a leg to get out of a trap.

Good luck Deadmou5, I hope your stage name is not your prophecy but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Gerry Giovinco



Super Hero September is Great for Comic Books

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I have been waiting for decades for Marvel and DC to step up to the plate and aggressively promote comic books.  Not just movies, toys and merchandise featuring their characters, but comic books. That is, after all, what they do right? Make comic books?

In 2011 DC surprised me with their promotion of the New 52. It was a huge promotional campaign across all media but was unfortunately  more focused on the derailment of their iconic characters’ established identity in popular culture as they redefined them for a changing market. Ever since, DC has made one marketing blunder after another to the point where there is even a site that tracks the number of days since DC did something stupid.

Their efforts, no matter how misguided, did generate interest and drive new people into comic book shops though I believe it frustrated long time fans by bastardizing the characters that they had loved for decades.

One thing DC did, according to the Hollywood Reporter, was establish September as a promotional battleground that has now instigated a devastating counterattack of heroic proportions by Marvel/Disney.

September is now Marvel Super Hero September  encouraging fans to “Power up like a Marvel Super Hero!”

Lately, after a very respective run of hugely successful films that have ecstatically (unlike DC) maintained the integrity of their long standing source material, Marvel can do no wrong. Combined with the added resource of the Disney Marketing Machine, Marvel is now a pop culture juggernaut. (FOX pun intended).

A visit to the Super Hero September web page is evidence of the things that Marvel is currently doing right in this marketing campaign.

1. Masthead includes mega blockbuster characters from all of their hit films, carefully spotlighting a couple of female characters and their new successful franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy. (Note: no X-Men!)

2. They offer a contest that promotes their brand, establishes the good morals that we all expect from our favorite superheroes, builds a mailing list and offers a great prize: a trip on a Disney Cruise ship. (How many times can you promote a corporate product in one sentence?)

3. Impressive list of retail partners that includes: Hasbro, Kmart, Party City, Payless, Target, Walmart, Hallmark,Disney Store and their own on line Marvel Shop.

4. Comic books! My initial, jaded scan of the site seemed to confirm my suspicion that, once again comic books, would be overlooked by an eager attempt to sell toys and movies but to my surprise I easily found several links to available comic books throughout!

5. Comics for Kids! This has been a peeve of many that comics have matured leaving little for the youth market. Marvel tackles this head on with a line for young readers with comics available digitally and it print.

6. Links to comic shops!  Again I suspected that comic shops would play no fiddle to the big chains but in most places on the site where comics are presented in print there is a big fat link to the Comic Shop Locator Service!

7. Sharing. There is a relatively subtle button that seems redundant to the marvelkids.com button in that it sells young reader books, but on the surface it brilliantly commands, “Share Your Universe.”  This statement does two wonderful things that every brand craves for. It hands “ownership” of the brand to the fan and it tells them it is worth sharing, “you do not need to be alone in your enjoyment of this brand.”

There is so much more that is positive about what Marvel is doing with this campaign including promoting it on Disney owned ESPN in the height of football season that a book could probably be written on the marketing strategies involved.

This is obviously a big win for Marvel but it could be a huge win for the comic book industry in general.  Comic books are being promoted on a global scale in a positive light for the first time ever. This is not an event like the death of a character, this is a brand-wide promotion. It is time to ride the wave and make sure that everyone in comics benefits from the traffic that Marvel will continue generate.

Comic shops have shown their ability to grow where traditional bookshops have been failing. They need to prepare to further capitalize on the success that Marvel is generating by directing the broadening audience to the wide selection of subject matter made available by indy publishers. The consumers may be coming in for Marvel superheroes but they can discover a much broader world than they expected, the world of comic books if those in the industry choose to show them the way.

When it comes to comic books, let September be for super heroes just leave the rest of the year for everyone else. Thanks, Marvel!  Maybe DC will learn something.

Gerry Giovinco



It’s a Story about Jack and Jillian

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The story is pretty simple, really.

A young girl grows up knowing that her grandfather is one of the most talented and prolific comic book creators of all time. Unfortunately, he passes away before she was born and she never has a chance to meet him and to share a granddaughter’s love personally. Her entire life she hears stories about his generosity and accomplishments. As she grows into a young adult, she is surrounded by characters he created or co-created as they have become icons in popular culture. This all instills in her a great sense of pride and a strong attachment to maintaining her grandfather’s legacy. She creates and manages a successful, annual campaign intended to celebrate his birthday by raising money in his name and generates tens of thousands of dollars for a worthy charitable organization.

Nobody goes up a hill and dumps a pail of water on their head.

This Jack and Jill tale is a love story that continually gives back.

This is a story about Jack Kirby and his granddaughter, Jillian Kirby who, once again, is asking for our support for her Kirby4Heroes Kirby4Heroes.com campaign that this year celebrates what would have been Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday.  Jillian’s goal this year  is to raise $15,000 for The Hero Initiative, an organization that provides much needed support to comic creators that have fallen on severe hard-times due to health issues, age, and lack of income.

This charity is important to Jillian because she understands that some of the practices of the comic industry were not always fair to the people that created the comics we all enjoyed, leaving many of them destitute while characters they created continue to generate large revenue for the publishing houses.  Her grandfather was as much a victim of these practices as anyone but was always able to support his family and maintain a respectable lifestyle until his death. This is what she hopes for other comic creators who were not as lucky.

She has  gone “up the hill” merely to take the high road with no intention of “tumbling after.”

Jillian has chosen not to dwell on the widely publicized legal disputes involving her grandfather, family and Marvel. Her campaign is not intended to to support her or her family in any way other than maintaining the goodwill and legacy of her grandfather’s name by helping others in need and insuring that the contribution of Jack Kirby to the comics industry and popular culture is never forgotten.

Her efforts are noble and selfless and provides the comic industry with yet another positive female role model to be applauded.

She can’t do it alone and she needs all of our help.

August 28th is Jack’s birthday and comic shops across the country have joined Jillian’s campaign to donate a percentage of their sales that day to The Hero Initiative. Do your part by endorsing them with your patronage!

Of course there are other ways that you can become involved!

To find out visit Kirby4Heroes.com or HeroInitiative.org You can also join the Kirby4Heroes Facebook page where Jillian and her family post wonderful memories and art from Jack Kirby for everyone’s enjoyment.

What better way can you think of to wish the King of Comics a happy birthday than to help others in his name. With your continued support this Jack and Jill story can be “happily, never ending!”

Gerry Giovinco



The Secret Identity of Robin Williams

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

There was no mistake that Robin Williams came into public awareness like most of our favorite superheroes do, in a garish costume that hid his identity. His was bright red with silver trim, his faced masked by the dark visor of a ridiculously huge space helmet. His character’s name was Mork from the planet Ork.

Rather than hide the identity of Robin Williams, Mork propelled him into public stardom, revealing his super powers. Where Mork could point his finger and make amazing things happen, Robin could do something greater. He could make the whole world laugh.

What an amazing ability he had to bring joy to a world that so needed it. His humor was spontaneous, infectious and, seemingly, never ending.

But Robin had another identity and power that he hid from us his entire life. One that we wish he had never shared. He had the ability to make the world weep.

Sure, we saw glimpses of this ability in his many brilliant dramatic roles. He knew how to reach into our hearts and stir up those feelings that moved us.

We were positive that was simply great “acting.”

The “real” Robin made us laugh!

This is what most of us wanted to believe, until his final “act” when Robin succumbed to his hidden self and demonstrated his other, more nefarious power, crushing the world with sadness.

Fortunately, he could only use that power once. Though his secret identity has been revealed, the shock and the sorrow brought by it will soon ebb,  overshadowed by the lasting  power of his laughter and talent that  the world will forever recognize him by.

Most of us can never say we actually knew the man. Those that were fortunate enough to call him friend or family wish they could have known better what only he knew about himself. He took his true identity, with all its pain, to his grave.

We can only know what the existence of Robin Williams continues to mean to us each, individually. His loss has taught us all to look deeper into ourselves and each other, to see beyond the surface, no matter how brilliant or dull, how perfect or damaged. To realize that we all have our own secret identities.

We all wear a faux self  that masks our true identities.  It is our secret defense mechanism that helps us to survive our greatest fears of the world and ourselves.  Call a it a facade, personality, likeness or attitude, it gets most of us through each day and through our lives.

Through this personal filter, most of us will chose to remember the Robin Williams that brought us so much joy. I can’t speak for him, but I will choose to believe that this is how he would like to be remembered.

Thanks for the happiness, Robin, whoever you are.

Signing out, Nanu Nanu…

Gerry Giovinco



When Diversity is a Gimmick

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Last week’s blog was focused on respecting diversity in comics. Diversity does plenty of good for the medium and the market as it creates an opportunity to broaden the audience and explore the boundaries of material offered.

But too often what is masked as an attempt at diversity is actually just a marketing gimmick, dependent on the buzz created by knee jerk reactions to  dramatic changes in major characters that have long been ingrained in our popular culture.

It has become a disappointing  and predictable common practice by publishers to boost sales figures by implementing any of the following strategies:

Kill the character.

Have the character get married.

Expose the character as gay.

Change the gender of the character.

Change the race of the character.

Any one of these options is a guarantee that airtime on The View will follow!

It won’t be long before Whoopi Goldberg will be waving a comic book featuring a traditional white male character that has returned from the dead as an, African- American lesbian about to get married to her same-sex partner!

This is not really a respectful implementation of diversity. This is merely pathetic evidence that the character has become so old and stale that the editors are willing to try anything to spice it up to get attention. It also broadens the corporations ability to protect the trademark, like when Stan Lee quickly generated a She-Hulk and a Spider-Woman after the suggestion that anyone could otherwise easily swipe the characters from Marvel.

Creating diversity in a product line in this manner is like mass producing Santa or plastic Jesus figures of all ethnicity just to appeal to all common denominators possible. It is a confirmation that the character in question is so ingrained in the public consciousness based on its most rudimentary properties that nothing else really matters other than the costume and the powers of that character.

So why change it?

Stan Lee once described Spider-Man’s success as being attributed to the fact that behind the costume Spidey could be any race and that allowed him to appeal to readers of all ethnicities because they could easily imagine themselves as him.

It is possible that idea of  the mask on so many superheroes has allowed whole cultures be able to relate to them, establishing the “modern mythologies” that the trademark owners of superheroes are so proud of?  If that’s the case, the audience has been responsible for diversity in comics through their own imagination.

The success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a great example. People don’t relate to them by race. They can’t. They are turtles! Individually they appeal to people by the color of their mask, their weapons and their personalities. That’s all! Ask anybody who their favorite turtle is and most will say, “the red one,” or “the purple one” and so on. Almost anyone can identify with a Ninja Turtle because they are essentially animals that we don’t usually identify by race or gender.

Someday it will be realized by the public that disrupting the foundation of iconic characters in the name of diversity is merely a marketing ploy that dilutes the property and minimizes its cultural impact.

Implementing diversity would be better served by developing new characters created by diverse talents that appreciate the differences of those characters first hand and are willing to target a specific audience. It all goes back to respect. Respect the talent. Respect the audience. Create great, diverse works and the gimmicks won’t be needed.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco




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