Archive for the ‘Creationism’ Category

Comic Creators – It is Time to Change the Business Model

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

So, last week in my blog post The DC Comics Double-Cross I wrote about Gerry Conway’s post regarding DC’s policy about “derivative” characters and how they are using it to avoid equity payments to creators.

I usually have a lot to say about issues that involve creators rights but I do not have the clout that Neal Adams does nor his long history as an advocate.

Adam’s, who led the charge in support of Superman creator’s Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster back in the 1970′s, was quick to publicly back Conway with his own take on the subject and a warning to creators about reading contracts. His response is an important read that can be found in this Bleeding Cool post by Rich Johnston: Neal Adams Talks Gerry Conway, DC Comics And Who Owns What?

In the post Adams refers to the relationship that book publishers have with creators and how it differs from the type of relationship that Marvel and DC have had with creators for way too long. It is this difference that needs to be examined more closely.

Marvel and DC are two of the oldest comics publishing houses each having been publishing for over 75 years. Back in the late 1930′s when comic books began to grow as a viable industry, comics which sold millions of copies at the low price of 10¢ were considered a high-volume, low-yield product that relied more on ad sales based on circulation to generate income than actual unit sales. They were more concerned with paying sales commissions to the ad salesmen than they were to paying royalties to creators. Content along with its copyright was bought from creators and treated as “work for hire” which meant that the Publisher owned the work lock, stock, and barrel. The publishers, who now held the copyright were considered the “Author” and enjoyed the benefit of royalties as other mediums like film, radio and television began to license the characters as they grew in popularity. The actual creators of those characters saw nothing because they had signed away their legal rights or assumed they had none because of the conditions of work for hire. This, with few exceptions, remains the general practice of Marvel ad DC to this day.

Most book publishers have a distinctly different relationship with creators. A creator owns the copyright of their work. They enter into a contract with a publisher that grants the publisher exclusive rights to publish the work for an established duration in return for a royalty payment based on a percentage of the cover price of each book sold. The agreement usually puts the publisher in charge of marketing the work to other mediums and foreign publishers. There is usually also an exit clause that will allow the two parties to terminate their relationship if either party does not fulfill their obligations.The creator is the author and owner of the copyright and generally shares in all the profits made from the licenses of the work. The publisher is the contracted caretaker. This post, Book Advances and Royalties,  does a good job describing how this relationship works.

As the comics industry grew and characters began to generate obscene amounts of money for the publishers, creators realized that they had been duped. To make matters worse, comic creators who were content to “work for hire” anticipating a life-long, secure career were finding that they were often tossed to the side in favor of the next, hot talent. Older and unemployed these creators watch as their work continues to make tons of money for the publisher while the creator faces poverty with no benefits.

This is  a business model that has to change. Comic books are no longer a high volume low yield industry. Marvel and DC have adapted to change regarding distribution, production and marketing of the IP. It is time they change their relationship with creators to one that is fair.

Independent comics publishers have adapted to a model more similar to book publishers and creators are enjoying the benefits of profiting from their works as they are developed into other media. It is a model that can and does work for comics.

It is a wonder why creators continue to work for Marvel and DC when they could better control their destiny elsewhere.

Whenever I see young talent working for the big two I can’t help but compare them to teenage smokers. There is too much information out there that proves smoking is bad for you, why if you have half a brain, would you risk your life to cancer for that cheap thrill? I expect they think it is just a phase, something they can kick, until they are caught in the vicious cycle.

Young comic creators have a choice. Say no to work for hire. Create unique work and own it.  Enjoy the success of your creations instead of watching others profit from your work while you are tossed aside like yesterdays news. If no one will work for publishers like Marvel and DC they will have no choice but to change their relationships with creators. Until then it will be business as usual.

Gerry Giovinco

The DC Comics Double-Cross

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

If you have any interest at all in creator rights in the comic book industry or even just an appreciation for how big business finds new ways to screw over the little guy then this diatribe by legendary comic book writer Gerry Conway is a must read!

Who created Caitlin Snow on #TheFlash? According to @DCComics, nobody.

To briefly summarize it Gerry outlines how, at one time, DC under the guidance  of publisher Paul Levitz initiated a program called “creator equity participation” which allowed for creators to be compensated when their characters were used in other media. This was viewed a small victory in the long battle for creator rights that is as old as the industry.

In recent years since Paul Levitz has left DC and Diane Nelson has taken over as President of DC Entertainment, this program has been bastardized, first by defining some characters as “derivative” thus no longer deserving of remuneration and then by requiring that creators assume the responsibility of asking in advance for equity request contracts as DC will not pay retroactively if the papers are not filed. Gerry described this circle-jerk when he reached out for fan support with his institution of the Comics Equity Project.

Now DC has revealed new technique for double-crossing its creators. It’s called the reboot. Like the New 52? Enjoying Convergence? Isn’t it interesting how the characters origins, costumes identities and relationships all subtly or sometimes dramatically change? DC will tell you they are just trying to update characters to reflect the interests of the current market but in reality they are actively blurring the line to guarantee that all iterations of a character can be considered “derivative.”

Caitlin Snow, Jason Todd (Robin), Power Girl, Superboy & Barry Allen

According to Conway some characters can now have nobody attributed to their creation and he sites Caitlin Snow, Jason Todd, Power Girl, Superboy and Barry Allen as just a few examples!

I always expected that reboots like the New 52 were devised as an opportunity to distance the aging iconic characters from impending copyright revision suits or exposure to public domain but never did I imagine that reboots were so nefarious that they would so aggressively undermine all of the accomplishments of the creators rights movement simply to avoid paying  miniscule royalties on generally peripheral characters.

How bad is it when a company like Time Warner, who’s first quarter revenue this year was just reported as $7.1 billion, has to nickel-and-dime lowly comic creators with unkept promises? CEO, Jeff Bewkes clears a modest $32 million annually so I guess there is just not enough cash to trickle down to the bottom-feeding comic book pros.

I wonder if Diane Nelson is wearing any Prada these days?

And what about DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee? Didn’t he co-found Image, one of the most successful independent comics publishing houses, that has long been the bastion creator rights? I guess he has gone to the Dark Cide.

This type of reaming is not unique to the comic book industry. It is just another example of big businesses taking advantage of those that built them. It is a crass manipulation of an economic system that deprives workers of decent salaries, benefits, 401K plans, pensions, and just a plain-old, reasonable standard of living while continually filling the growing coffers of the already wealthy.

We like to think that our favorite superheroes instill in us a sense of justice and morality but it is getting much harder to look at that “S” on Superman’s chest and see “a symbol of hope” when it is clear that it is really a Kryptonian dollar sign for big bucks intended for a limited few.

Gerry Giovinco

Special Thanks to Herb Trimpe – RIP

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Herb Trimpe

This has been a bitter-sweet week in the comics world.

Few could have ever imagined that we would be in an period where we are overwhelmed by live-action comic book characters in so many forms of media. This past week for  me was overload time and I was enjoying every second of it.

Almost.

In the space of a few days I saw an incredible extended trailer of Avengers: Age of Ultron film due out in a couple of weeks along with a fantastic new trailer for the film Ant-Man due to be released this summer. On TV new episodes of Gotham, the Flash, Arrow and Agents of  S.H.I.E.L.D. hogged up my DVR and thirteen new episodes of the brilliant adaptation of Daredevil begged to be binged on Netflix. Even Jimmy Kimmel peppered late-nite television with visits from the cast of the Avengers pitting them against on another in an epic Family Feud battle that awarded the winners a custom Avengers bicycle-built-for-three.

Then came the sad news that put all the euphoria into perspective. Comic book artist/legend Herb Trimpe passed away, unexpectedly, at the age of 75.

None of this magic that we are currently experiencing as we watch our favorite comic book heroes come alive on the screen, wether it is the 3-D Imax at the multiplex, our TV, computer, or any assortment of mobile devices, if it were not for the labors of modest comic creators like Herb Trimpe who year in and year out brought us the adventures of our favorite characters for decades. His death is a loss to us all.

A lot has ben said about comic book creators getting credit for their creations. In a recent blog I asked  “Who cares that comic creators get credit?” Creators names are now popping up on the screen with names like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby always in the forefront but lately there is a growing list that is showing up in the after credits often titled “Special Thanks” dedicated to the comic book writers and artists who, though they may not have created the initial concept or design of a character, were instrumental in developing  continued and crucial mythos that has maintained our interest in the character over the years.

The Daredevil series is a prime example. The opening credits pay tribute to the creators of the character, Stan Lee and Bill Everett, but the “Special Thanks” at the end of each episode extends to Brian Michael Bendis, Gene Colan, Klaus Janson, Alex Maleev, David Mazzucchelli, Roger McKenzie, Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., John Romita Sr. and Joe Orlando without whom the long tradition of Daredevil would not be so rich. Still, fans were quick to notice that the late Wallace “Wally” Wood had been neglected for his role in designing the iconic red costume that first appeared in DD #7 (1965) and has been the character’s trademark since, proving it is still important to remember these fine creators. All of them.

Herb Trimpe is one of these journeyed creators whose name you may not see in the opening credits but deserves a “special thanks” for his work, especially his influential run on the Hulk throughout the 1970′s. His name should appear on any film with the character including this summer’s impending Avengers blockbuster. Though Lee and Kirby deserve the credit for Hulk’s creation, when I watch Mark Ruffalo’s CGI captured performance, it is Herb Trimpe’s version of the character that comes to life.

Focusing on just his rendition of the Hulk would be a disservice to a comic pro that gave us 45 years of wonderful, memorable material. For all of his creative work and for being the gentle soul and family man that so many who knew him have described him as, Herb Trimpe deserves a “Special Thanks” from anyone that calls themselves a fan of comics.

Rest In peace, kind sir. You will be missed and always remembered.

Gerry Giovinco

Comics on Campus

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

This past week I had the pleasure of sitting in on a free lecture “Comics and the Art of Visual Communication” by legendary comic creator and theorist, Scott McCloud www.scottmccloud.com who was out promoting his new graphic novel, The Sculptor.

The event  was hosted by Rutgers University at their Camden, NJ campus. This was the same campus that hosted the second annual Camden Comic Con just a month ago where CO2 Comics presented a panel on our experience as independent publishers reuniting with some of the crew from our days publishing Comico comics back in the 1980′s.

It is so exciting to see the medium of comics finally being accepted by the great halls of higher education! When I was in college back in the early 1980′s at the Philadelphia College of Art, the administration and faculty showed complete disdain for the medium describing it as derivative and kitsch while vowing to break me of my interest in this lowly form of art. It is ironic that now, renamed the University of the Arts, they boast about  graphic novel writer Neil Gaiman’s inspirational commencement speech in 2012where they also presented Gaiman and Pulitzer Prize winning, editorial cartoonist Tony Auth each with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts!

My, how times have changed!

More and more colleges and universities are including comic art or graphic novel courses into their curriculum. Some are beginning to build robust libraries dedicated to collections of comic books. Because of the rise of the graphic novel format and the popularity of comic related adaptations into other forms of media, educators have begun to take the comic medium seriously and since the first publication of Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics in 1993, educators have had a blueprint for teaching the subject.

My experience at PCA was not unusual. Comics history is wrought with degradation by  educators who widely considered it a form of base communication with no educational merit. Comics were believed to contribute to the delinquency and corruption of the minds of young readers. This notion was exasperated further by Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent. Discussion among educators was more focused on how to steer readers away from comic books than to encourage them. Many even resorted to public burnings of the comics!

This sentimentality was buffered slightly by the comic industry’s 1954 adoption of a self imposed censorship called the Comic Code Authority which warranted against  any corruptive material in comics in the wake of a U.S. Congressional inquiry. It stood for decades as possibly the most rigorous form of censorship of any American medium.

Somehow, comics managed to still find a way to be interesting and in the early 1960′s with the help of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Marvel Comics discovered how to appeal to young adults despite the shackles of the Code. The interest in the medium by college students in that era developed a fertile foundation for the future generations of comic creators to grow from.

Stan Lee recognized the interest of the college students and brought his show on the road as evidenced by this recording of Stan addressing students at Princeton University in 1966. Marvel comics spoke to the youth movement of the sixties. Those comics empowered some to create more comics that grew with the readers and reflected the unrest of the new culture that was rising.

Comics evolved throughout the seventies and eighties giving rise to the underground and independent movements that aborted the Comic Code, fought for creators rights and developed a new distribution system that allowed the unfettered medium to flourish. By the dawn of the new millennium comics were poised to explode as a form of powerful artistic expression.

Then came the internet, digital distribution, and print on demand.

Few mediums have benefitted so greatly by modern technology to put both the literal and visual power  into the hands of a single creator. From this has come great works of expression that need to be digested by those interested in learning and understanding the powerful form of visual literature known as comics.

Colleges and universities have figured this out and are actively reaching out to communities to share the mechanics of this exciting medium that has had such an incredible impact on popular culture.

A quick browser search revealed a few programs since the beginning of the year at schools like Vassar,  William & Mary, University of FloridaOhio State University, The University of Hartford, Drake University, and Northern Illinois University.

Those combined with the stops on Scott McCloud’s tour which have already included Mississippi State, Wittenberg University, Champlain College, and Rutgers University make it a wonderful time to be enlightened about the true cultural value of the comics medium and how it extends so far beyond what many know as just superheroes or funny animals. If you love comics, you may want to get to know them better at a college campus near you.

Take the time to check with colleges or universities in your area to see if they are promoting any public lectures on comics. Some provide courses that may be accessible to you. I promise you will be impressed by the diversity of the group that attends, it will be what you expect from any college, a broad mix of age, gender, and culture and everyone had a great time. Special thanks to Rutger’s Digital Studies Center, the Office of Campus Involvement, the Chancellor’s Office, the Department of English, and the Department of Fine Arts for pulling their resources for a great event that covered so many disciplines.

Gerry Giovinco

Remembering Roger Slifer

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

It always hits home when a comic creator passes away for those of us that share a kinship of caring for how words and pictures tangled on a page can create a memorable story or message. The announcement of Roger Slifer’s death, however,  pained us in a different way because of how he battled to survive the tragic hit-and run-accident that critically changed his life in 2012. He was an inspiration of hope through his work creating adventurous heroes throughout his career in comics and animation and through his life as an advocate for creators rights with a tenacity for achievement  against the odds. He was,  like many of the heroes he wrote about, someone we wanted to root for and did. His story, sadly,  did not end the way many of us hoped. Roger deserves to be remembered  by more than the few brief lines that have accompanied the news announcements of his passing and there is no one better to share those thoughts than his very close friend and conspirator, David Anthony Kraft who has graciously offered them:

Roger Slifer left and David Anthony Kraft right in the process of hitchhiking west to an early San Diego Comic Con using a sign drafted by Marie Severin. Photo by Dan Hagen.

Roger Slifer and I started at Marvel the same day. It wasn’t a case of love at first sight — we  didn’t like the looks of each other. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Brought on staff as a letterer and production assistant, Roger soon rose through the ranks, helping Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Steve Gerber and others with scripting or plotting during deadline crises, which were all too common back then. In the process, he taught himself to become an accomplished writer, and went on to write and edit for Marvel and DC, later becoming the first Direct Sales distribution manager for DC (another example of his ability to rise to a challenge in virtually any area).
At Marvel, Rog wrote single-issue stories for many of the major characters, and co-wrote “The Defenders” with me until other obligations left him no time. He became adept as a colorist and saved many a deadline. At DC he wrote “The Omega Men” and co-created the breakout character, Lobo. Later, he edited “World’s Finest Comics” and others for them. Still later, he became a writer, story editor and producer in animation, playing a key role on “Jem and the Holograms,” “G. I. Joe,” “My Little Pony,” “Conan,” and many another, including “Yu-Gi-Oh.”
Those are his credits, the things that can be known from his work. But his other qualities need to be known. The wit. Keen. The unique viewpoint and willingness to go his own way. Unique. The commitment and the unyielding character. Vexing sometimes, to be sure, but sincere.
We were young and in terms of being willing to quit dream jobs at Marvel and DC at the drop of a hat over perceived injustices, maybe foolish. In latter days, we shared a joke between us that we often quit a job before we applied for it or were actually hired. Which is to say, Roger was a man of principles. Without either of us knowing what the other had done, we both turned down offers to take over the scripting of “Howard the Duck” when our friend Steve Gerber was rudely parted from his creation. That’s one behind-the-scenes example of so many that Slifer’s friends and peers will remember about Roger taking a stand at personal cost to his career.
Much later, Roger called me about two story editor positions open in animation that were ideal for him. He worried that if he applied for one, he might be turned down but would have been  accepted for the other. Which one? he agonized. I kiddingly told him to apply for both and, when he got neither, he wouldn’t feel as bad. It should not have come as a surprise that he did exactly that…and got BOTH jobs!  But as anyone who’s worked in television knows, overseeing a season’s worth of scripts in a couple months is a miracle on one show. It’s impossible to do two separate shows at the same time. Yet Roger wanted to do it, and talked me into joining him as his “secret weapon.” If things went well, and the producers were pleased, he would reveal my participation and attempt to get me screen credit. After a grueling time of tag-team work, in which I’d write or re-write until I dropped, then wake him to take over where I left off, nights, weekends and every waking moment, somehow scripts for all the episodes of G. I. Joe: Extreme and Street Fighter were finished. The point? Without my once ever reminding him or saying a word, Roger did not, like most, say what was convenient when he needed help and then later have a selective memory or forget. True to his word, when the shows aired, there it was onscreen, the credit he had promised to fight for on my behalf. He was like that.

It will be three years in July since Marv Wolfman called to share the terrible news that Roger was struck down by a hit-and-run driver. We were all rooting for him, he gave it his best, but Rog never really recovered.  It’s the one challenge he couldn’t surmount.  Roger Slifer made lasting contributions to comics and animation for which he will be remembered.


But there’s so much more. Roger was a good and lifelong friend. Those of us privileged to know him personally will always remember and miss him for his many other fine qualities. His passing leaves a big hole where a good friend used to be.

David Anthony Kraft

Who Cares that Comic Creators Get Credit?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

As comic characters continue to roll out of the pages of comic books and into other forms of media, especially television and film, we are discovering a greater interest in who created what. This piqued curiosity is surely the bi-product of heated battles that were fought on behalf of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as the recent settlement regarding the characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby for Marvel.

It is a sad fact of comic book history that creators have most often been taken advantage of by the publishing houses that retain the rights to characters that they created. Many had long careers but were only rewarded by meager, hard earned page rates. They saw no royalties or benefits and in the early years little, if any, credit for their work. Most never even saw the return of their original art. Too many have passed on or continue to live in obscurity, without healthcare and certainly no compensation from their creations which have spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

To be fair, some progress has been made, and in recent years attentive creators and their families have been able to establish some undisclosed agreements that have satisfied both sides. These accounts, however,  are few and far between.

The foremost concern for many creators is not money but rather an acknowledgment of their creative contribution in the form of credit on the screen. This has been demonstrated most recently by a Facebook post from the daughter of the late illustrator, Al Plastino, the co-creator of Supergirl a character that will soon be the focus of a new television series.

She writes:

“Facebook friends, we need you help.

Please help us get Al the credit he is due and all the creators who have died recently and will not see their characters come to life on television or in the movies. They never received any pensions, or health insurance, nothing at all. How disappointing that DC has waited until these gentlemen have passed away to begin producing programs like Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legion of Super Heroes,.Not looking for royalties. Just an acknowledgement of all the work these men put into building the DC brand. All the guys who have drawn or created characters when they were at the height of their popularity. Many nights I saw my father working in his studio to meet deadlines from the editor. At one point, Dad was handling 5 different strips for DC and United Media. Go to the DC website or their facebook page and let the syndicate know. You can do so much more for Al than any lawyer could. You helped Al get the Superman/Kennedy art into the Kennedy library where it was supposed to have been for the last 50 years and for that I am eternally grateful.

go to http://www.dcentertainment.com/#contact

MaryAnn Plastino Charles”

Why is a fleeting credit so important to creators or their families? Why should we care?  Few of us even notice, or stick around for the credits to roll at the end of a film. Those of us that do, understand that the greatest reward to a creator is to be recognized for his or her contribution to our culture. A simple acknowledgement goes a long way.

Think of the closing scenes of the Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion get their awards. A diploma, a testimonial and a medallion were all it took to make the respective characters each feel fulfilled. The tokens were material acknowledgement of who they were and what they accomplished. This is the value of credit to a comic creator especially one that has created a character that has become iconic. It is the fulfillment of their destiny as a comic book creator, to experience immortality vicariously through their creation.

But our society has become desensitized to these simple but important details. Too many of us want to cut to the chase and just consume. There is a sense of entitlement that is too quick to dismiss the value of the effort those involved in creating our entertainment. This is ironic because now, more than ever before, all that information is easily at our fingertips.

A quick Wikipedia search will tell you all you need to know about who created nearly any character with links to biographies of the respective creators.

Supergirl, She was created by writer Otto Binder and designed by artist Al Plastino in 1959.”

The modern Flash, “starred Barry Allen as the Flash and the series assumed the numbering of the original Flash Comics with issue #105 (March 1959) written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino

Green Arrow, Created by Morton Weisinger and designed by George Papp, he first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in November 1941.”

The Legion of Super-Heroes, “The team first appears in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.”

With all of this information so readily available why is it so difficult to ask that they be credited on the screen? Some could argue that so many creators have influenced the current stories being told that the effort becomes daunting. This, however, becomes more of a reason to signal out appropriate credits.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for example, does a nice job of crediting Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. but what about characters like Deathlock created by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench, Quake created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto or Mockingbird first written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Barry Smith? This is just a short list of the many characters that have appeared or are expected to appear in this ongoing series that has proven pivotal to the development of the MCU.

It is important for the world to know that the genre of superheroes did not just come from the fertile minds of a few. The genre is the result of the exceptional talents of a huge number of individuals whose work has been woven into a fabric of an expansive and growing mythology that has become entrenched in our popular culture.

For those of us that care, it is our responsibility to ensure that these creators and their efforts are not forgotten. It is the fans, collectors, historians, teachers and practitioners of the medium who will ultimately maintain the database of information that preserves the integrity of the history of what these comic book creators have accomplished. Hopefully our enthusiasm will be infectious enough that others will take notice and a greater appreciation of those unsung heroes will flourish.

Share if you care.

Gerry Giovinco

Vocal Minority vs Silent Minority in Comics

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

The so-called “vocal minority” in comics has been getting a lot of attention lately due to reactions generated by Raphael Albuquerque’s request to pull his controversial variant cover for Batgirl #41 and  Image co-founder Eric Larson’s criticism of the newly designed Wonder Woman costume.

To be clear, the term “vocal minority” today’s current comic speak for  the voice of feminists and their supporters who rally against sexual exploitation and violence against women in comics.

In the case of Albuquerque’s cover, the artist responded to threats of violence made towards critics of the cover. He respected and agreed with the concerns of the “vocal minority” that felt the image strongly implied rape and was not consistent with the current direction of the current Batgirl story line. DC honored his request and replaced the cover with a more appropriate variant.

Regarding, Erik Larsen,  well, he just had a meltdown. He  lambasted the big two on twitter for “placating a vocal minority at the expense of the paying audience by making more practical women outfits.”

Janelle Asselin did a nice piece on the subject that should be read at Comics Alliance. Her conclusion that the comics industry is changing and fans and pros that have perpetuated a sexualized  and violent comic market for decades need to realize that the industry is not just about them any more should be applauded for the sole purpose of pointing out that for too long the industry has been dictated by a  “silent minority.”

This group’s  intentions for publishing comic books over the last few decades is a lot different than what had gone before.

Many of the iconic comic characters that we enjoy today were created at a time when it was necessary to appeal to the widest audience possible. For this reason and later for the approval of the Comics Code Authority, comic publishers went out of their way to create wholesome, unoffensive characters with broad appeal. I was just good business for the market at the time.

The costumes worn by superheroes were designed to emulate the exotic and powerful costumes of circus entertainers that inspired the imaginations of the young and old alike. The capes, tights and body suits  came from strongmen, acrobats, aerialists and dancers because it was their costumes that the public equated with what was powerful  and  fantastic.

They were simple and much more innocent times.

The characters became powerful trademarks recognizable by people around the world. They were licensed and merchandised to promote tons of product all on the strength of the characters recognizability and good will.

The image of superhero on a product stood for “Truth Justice, and the American Way.”

This all changed in the late 1980′s and 1990′s. Comic book sales became relegated strictly to comic shops and the Comic Code lost its authority. A new crowd took over the reigns at the publishing houses. Comics were no longer being made for the largest audience. They were being made to appeal to a finite group of like-minded, adult, male fans and creators who wanted their comics mature, violent and sexual. This “silent minority” assumed the market and would control it entirely today if it were not for the success of Manga in American bookstores and the purchase of Marvel by Disney.

Manga with its attention to wide subject matter, strong character relationships and dominant female characters attracted women readers and eventually drove them into the comic shops shaking up the boys club that proliferates there.

Disney, with their solid focus on branding has capitalized on their merchandising machine and made Marvel characters household names like never before. The appeal of the superhero has not been this great since World War ll.

But DC continues to tarnish their established trademarks from the inside-out finding new ways to offend and alienate a wider market that includes women that respect themselves and a youth market that is not ready for stories about sex, rape, extreme violence and vulgar language.

The new fans are not discovering what they expect when they walk into comic shops because comic books have changed.

Our culture assumes that superheroes are for everyone. We like to consider them our modern mythology. Like it or not, this is what they have become. When they are used as a tool for exclusion, misogyny, or racism it should be expected that a discussion will occur. One that should remain peaceful and dignified. Anyone that invokes the use of violence to prove their point should not be tolerated.

Let’s be civilized.

Superheroes are just a small part of the ever growing comics industry. There is plenty of room for comics and graphic novels to be created to appeal to every minority group out there no matter how silent or vocal they are. But we will all be best served if the publishers, creators and fans encourage the creation of new characters to drive those stories so the old characters can retain the ideals intended by their original creators.

You see, I am a member of another minority. One that remembers when comics were fun colorful and exciting. The good guy always won. The women were beautiful and their clothes stayed on. I don’t remember cringing at violence because it was never extreme and I never worried about being offended by reading a story about my favorite character. I would like to see those characters that I grew up with, remain the pure icons that they were. But it is already too late. If I want to read those comics I have to pick up an omnibus collection.

Alan Moore did it right when he created the Watchmen. He gave us something new for a more mature audience without corrupting  classic characters.

And then he wrote The Killing Joke where Batgirl was stripped, mutilated, and permanently disabled which has now led us to the furor over Albuquerque’s cover.

Where is Yvonne Craig when we need her?

Gerry Giovinco

What Color is Spider-Man?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Ask any person, regardless of age, race, gender or socio-economic status what color is Spider-Man and they will tell you that he is red and blue. On a rare occasion, someone who saw Spider-Man 3 or who read Spider-Man comics in the late 80′s may act smart and suggest that he is black and white.

Nobody will tell you that his skin color is black, white or brown.

Trust me. To most of the world Spider-Man is merely red and blue. Case closed.

That is the beauty of Spider-Man and most superheroes. People do not relate to them by the color of their skin. They relate to the color of their costume. Spidey especially, as Stan Lee once speculated,  because his costume covers his entire body.

This is most easily observed by watching kids in playgrounds all across the country roleplaying as their favorite superhero. Or by watching adults wear the swag of their favorite characters. They don’t make character choices based on race but they do based on their favorite costume and its color along with the uniqueness of the character’s super power.

Just ask who their favorite Ninja Turtle or Power Ranger is and hear a staccato of colors blurted out. Red, blue, orange and purple for the turtles and red, green, blue, black, white, pink and yellow for the rangers.

Superheroes are characters that fulfill our fantasies and we all can equally imagine having their powers, abilities, attributes, costumes and adventures.

Who has never dreamt of flying like Superman? Did it really matter what race, gender or build you have? I doubt it.

So why do people get all bugged out when it is suggested that a black actor might play Spider-Man in a film? We haven’t seen enough white actors play the role?

We forget that films are merely adaptations of the comics and while we can hope that they stay as true as possible to the source material we know that is rarely the case. We all have very personal interpretations of the source material and would probably make our film completely different.

The only truly authentic version of Spidey as “he was meant to be” can still be found in a copy of some edition of the stories created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. If you need a fix of the original, go pick it up but you may be surprised how different it is from the many other incarnations of the character that we have all been exposed to since 1962.

Spider-Man has changed with the times, the market and our culture.

It is time that we realize that we live in a multicultural society. If we imagine that our superheroes are some new type of mythology, then we have to expect that they will be a reflection of the diverse society we live in. A reflection of our cumulative imagination. We should all be able to imagine ourselves as the character no matter what color we are.

Unfortunately, the choice to change a character’s race has more to do with marketing than creativity. If it didn’t we would see a much more diverse selection of directors and producers. I would love to see a Spider-Man story told from the perspective of an non-white director that truly reflected their personal experience of the character. I would love to know what’s different about the way a black, Hispanic  or Asian child in an urban setting imagines Spider-Man compared to  how I imagined him as a white kid in the suburbs.

I bet we might be surprised to discover that Spider-Man will still be an amazing red and blue no matter who wears the suit.

Gerry Giovinco

Comico/Robotech Crew to Reunite at Camden Comic Con This Weekend

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

The second annual Camden Comic Con will be held this Saturday, March 7, 2015 at the Rutgers Camden Athetics and Fitness Center! If you need directions you can find them here.

This is a FREE convention that you can’t miss especially if you live in the Greater Philadelphia, Tri-State, Delaware Valley area.

In a previous post I listed ten reasons we’re excited about Camden Comic Con 2015. We think they are all great reasons for everyone that enjoys comics to want to come to this show but our favorite reason is number 5.

Andrew C. Murphy, Mike Leeke, Chris Kalnick, Neil Vokes, Rich Rankin, John Workman

“We will be reuniting with long time friends and collaborators! Joining us on the panel is a group of creators that have worked with us at Comico and CO2 Comics including Andrew C. Murphy, and former ROBOTECH crew: Mike Leeke, Chris Kalnick, Neil Vokes and Rich Rankin. Don’t be surprised to also find John Workman and a few other folks that are tentatively planning to be there.”

Comico Mage, Grendel, Elemental, Justice Machine, Ribit, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Gumby, Star Blazers, Robotech

Those of you that remember the glory days of Norristown, PA based, independent  publisher, Comico The Comic Company, best known for great creator-owned titles like Mage, Grendel, Elementals, Justice Machine and Ribit also surely remember our  work producing comics based on licensed properties like Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Gumby, Starblazers and a little fan favorite, ROBOTECH.

Besides making great comics we also had the opportunity to make great friendships and experiences that we will always look back on as some of our best times in life, professionally and personally.

After Comico our lives took us all in many different directions until years later when we would once again pull our talents together digitally on the site of CO2 Comics.

The wonders of the internet allow us to all share our talents but rarely do we have an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company face-to-face. Our Panel at Camden Comic Con will be an opportunity for some of us to come together for the first time in over twenty-five years.

We have  great panel planned with a nice visual trip down memory lane for all the Comico /Robotech fans and a look at what CO2 Comics has been up to in the last six years with a look into what we plan for the unpredictable future.

We hope to see as many of you as possible at the show. Please stop at our panel A Legacy of Independence: From Comico to CO2 Comics http://camdencomiccon.tumblr.com/programming from 11AM – 12:30 PM in Multipurpose Room 2 and visit us at our CO2 Comics booth for an opportunity to meet and support the the creators.

Gerry Giovinco

Sony Offers Marvel an Alternate Universe Spun by Spider-Man

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Just weeks after I speculated that Marvel’s destruction of their known universe and it’s various realities in the upcoming Secret Wars event could lead to a homogenous structure that would fit neatly into the marketing strategy of their parent company, Disney, a new web has been spun.

It has long been rumored and anticipated the at Marvel’s masthead character, Spider-Man would be finally joining the ranks of the uber successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. The hold-up was that Sony owned the exclusive film rights to the character and it would require some heavy negotiation to pull it off. After some industrial hacking, corporate upheaval and a disappointing attempt to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, Sony and Marvel have established a new relationship regarding ol’ Web-Head.

According to the deal, Marvel can now use Spider-Man in future films alongside all of their other famous characters just as he does in the comic books. More interestingly, they are exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into Sony’s Spider-Man films!

What does this mean?

Marvel has been making cinematic history by building a universe that ties the continuity of all of their films, television and Netflix series all together into a neat, orderly package.

Sony, on the other hand has been tinkering with various realities related to Spider-Man that have introduced different origins, relationships, actors and villains to a mixed reaction among audiences.

Long-time fans of Marvel comics know that over the last seventy-five years, there have been a lot of changes made to most of the characters and various generations of readers have personal attachments to “their” universe. Basically, today’s Spider-Man is not your parent’s Spider-Man.

This is a problem for Marvel because, as diligent they are about building a cohesive MCU that will stand the test of time and establish a specific cannon, they will inevitably alienate some portion of their audience who may miss their beloved version of a character.

Sony’s Spider-Man franchise can become their escape valve for alternate universes that will allow these variants to come alive on film with the friendly, neighborhood, web-slinger as the conduit.

A solid, friendly relationship between Marvel and Sony will give audiences an opportunity to explore all of the potential options of the multitude of characters in the Marvel Universe and all of its various realities while also establishing a solid core universe built around the MCU that will dictate the long term marketing strategy of Marvel/Disney.

It is a win-win situation for everyone. Marvel and Sony both have a full roster to work with and fans can have the best of all worlds that will appropriately be linked by an intricate web that only Spidey could weave.

Now, if only 20th Century Fox would wise up and join the party…

Gerry Giovinco


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