Archive for the ‘Reinvention’ Category

Happy Independent Comics Day!

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Six years ago Bill Cucinotta and I launched the CO2 Comics website, targeting July 4th as our official Founders Day and a reason to celebrate independent comics everywhere. Clearly we were riding on the coattails of Independence Day, the celebration of the birth of the United States of America, to make a point.

Independence is important, especially in an industry like comics where creators that did not always enjoy the opportunity to have freedom to create, the power to control their property and the opportunity to benefit financially from the success of their work. It has always been our goal to positively influence this issue.

This holiday is also a reminder that independence comes with a price. Being independent requires a lot of effort, sacrifice, responsibility, expense, focus and support. Success is never guaranteed and rarely comes easy. The skills necessary to navigate obstacles are acquired in the trenches and rarely learned without casualty.

Six years later we have learned a lot.  Publishing comics today is not like when we published Comico comics in the 1980’s. Style, production, printing, communicating, distributing, marketing and consumers are all dramatically different. We have had to learn to move ahead careful to let our previous knowledge of how to do things be an advantage rather than a hindrance.

We learned that we had support from the relationships that we have established from our previous history as comics publishers, a reminder that treating others fairly and with respect has its virtue.

We learned that it is still necessary to fight for creators rights. That people are still not being treated fairly and that we have a responsibility to inform and educate so that the vicious cycle of creators being taken advantage of, especially by big publishers, will someday come to an end.

We learned that, as much as we love comics and enjoy making them, it is hard work that requires immense dedication.

We have accomplished a lot in our first six years. The evidence is at your fingertips. Browse  the CO2 Comics site and see for yourself all of the great comics, blog posts and product we have produced. Take note of all the great creators that have worked with us to share great comics with you and most importantly enjoy what you find.

Thank you for sharing our independence with us. We know our work is not complete until it is read and enjoyed by an audience. We have a lot of work to do to accomplish our ever growing list of goals and we still have a lot of obstacles left to hurdle but your support and the support of the great creators we work with make it all worth while.

Happy Independent Comics Day and enjoy your 4th of July!

Gerry Giovinco

Seduction of the Innocent – The Reboot

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

We are living in dangerous times. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, religious fundamentalism, police brutality and just plain old ignorance is running rampant in the world and here in America. We, as a country, are on the verge of succumbing to the same McCarthyism sensibilities that gripped the nation in the 1950′s.

Just like then, the comics medium is caught in the middle because of its ability to so easily and eloquently communicate to the masses and the tired misconception that comics are intended solely for young readers.

In 1954 Dr. Fredric Wertham published a book titled Seduction of the Innocent https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seduction_of_the_Innocent that accused comics of causing juvenile delinquency. The appeal of the book’s message was so strong that it lead to a Senate Subcommittee hearing that threatened to eradicate comic books. The industry was saved only by its voluntary establishment of a strict code of self-censorship monitored by the Comics Code Authority https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comics_Code_Authority which stood in effect for nearly forty years before its potency began to fade in the 1990′s, eventually becoming defunct completely in 201.

Underground and independent comics led the charge for creative freedom as far back as the 1970′s and now that mainstream comics also have  grown free of the censorship, comics in America have matured as a medium, catching up with comics throughout the world. Comics, as they exist today, have a huge cultural impact globally to readers of all ages and interests. Graphic novels are now commonly taught in schools and Universities and have gained a well earned respect among educators.

Once again, however, comics are under attack. This time by a young college student and her parents who are campaigning to have four graphic novelseradicated from the system citing that the award winning books required in her literature class contained nudity, sex, violence and torture. She said, “It was shocking, I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within. I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.”

What is scary is that her school, Crafton Hills College, in light of their complaints has chosen to place a disclaimer on the course in an attempt to avoid a similar situation in the future. Give them credit for not eradicating the graphic novels but thank them for opening the floodgates for pandering to the ludicrous whining of  cloistered individuals everywhere.  Now every college in the country will be scrambling to edit any syllabus that will potentially offend someone with an equally narrow-minded agenda.

How about this? When a student agrees to attend a college they need to sign a form to acknowledging they are adults and are aware that by attending said university they may occasionally read, view or experience something that may challenge them. This material may be considered mature and might include adult language graphic images of sexuality, violence, and other potentially offensive things intended for them to be exposed to an objective education of the  vastly diverse world we live in.

The problem is not that this young woman was offended by what she read. It is that her and her helicopter parents intention is to prevent anyone else from having the opportunity to make their own decision about the works in question. That is censorship and that cannot be tolerated, especially by an institution of higher education, public or private.

We are becoming a nation of big babies taught to run and hide from things that are different. This is just a single chapter of the reboot now titled Seduction of the Infantile.

Maybe it is time also  for a reboot of the Comic Code Authority but this one needs to be established to protect comics from the censorship inflicted by the first code. As a group of comic professionals and fans of the medium our new code should be one that encourages and supports our freedom of expression.

The seal of the Comics Code is now the intellectual property of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization intended to do just that, protect our First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech. It is time to use that seal or a variation of it as a symbol of a  galvanizing force that advances the medium in repentance for its past suppression. Let it now stand as a code for creative freedom that will inspire not just comic creators but creators in all mediums.

Why that seal? Because most people in the general public recognize it just as an idiom of comics but have no idea of why it was always in the corner of their favorite comic book. To many it is just a nostalgic symbol of comics that makes them feel good. It still pops up regularly on reproductions of old cover graphics that now adorn merchandise, posters and t-shirts everywhere. Using it would embrace an opportunity to educate and continue to emancipate comics from the threat of censorship.

The origins of the Code can never be forgotten but the seal can be transformed into a symbol of a revolution that proved creative oppression can be overturned and prevented if we choose it to be.

Gerry Giovinco

Not Your Father’s Comic Books

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Another Father’s Day is looming and as we plan to celebrate dads everywhere I’m getting a little introspective. I am a father of two college students who are excitedly anticipating their future armed with a contemporary education, all the conveniences of modern technology and the promise of continued innovation.

Their world is so much different than the world I experienced when I was their age. Like most fathers I have romanticized about the era I grew up in especially when it concerns pontificating about my own accomplishments. That kind of nostalgia sometimes can make it hard not to resent some of the changes that have been brought by younger generations more relatable to my kids. I then have to recognize that my children and their peers want exactly what I wanted when I was young, an opportunity to be daring, make a difference, and stake a claim.

My focus coming out of college was on the comic book industry, and though I was well versed in the history of comic books and had a deep respect for long established characters and their creators, I was sure it was time for a change.

When I started publishing Comico comics in 1982 with my current CO2 Comics partner, Bill Cucinotta and the LaSorda brothers, we were among a pioneering group of independent publishers that tampered with everything in an effort to make comics better. We effected creator ownership, genre content,  production techniques, paper stock, color, distribution,  marketing and new package formats. One of the major accomplishments of that era was the eventual eradication of the Comic Code Authority.

The independent comic book publishers of the 1980′s made a difference and I will always be proud to have been a part of it!

The comic book industry had changed forever and continues to. It is no longer an industry that is locked into the regimented formula that it maintained for much of its first forty years of history. Yet, sometimes I find myself resentful of new changes and how they may fly in the face of my nostalgia. I have to remind myself of my involvement in why comics today are not my father’s comic books and why the comic books of the future will not be mine.

Now, when I look at modern comics, I consider myself “old-school” even though CO2 Comics continues to wade through the future by publishing on the web as a creator collective while implementing POD printing, customer direct marketing, and sharing an unheard of 70% of net profits with creators on print projects. These are all things that were not plausible thirty years ago. I still have to consciously embrace new directions for comics for the sake of the future of both the medium and the industry.

That is not to say there is no value in “old-school,” which can too often be more accurately defined as fundamentals.

When we were publishing ROBOTECH back in the 1980′s, Harmony Gold and Revell brought in an old marketing guru named, Irv Handelsman to kick off the licensing bonanza that was ROBOTECH. Irv claimed to have been responsible for the creation of the Mickey Mouse Club and, among other properties,  represented Jay Ward Production’s popular characters including Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Bullwinkle the Moose, Boris and Natasha, Dudley Do-Right, and several others.

Irv  was as “old-school” as they came! He was the stereotypical old Jewish salesman with a frumpy polyester blazer, mismatched neck tie and dusty briefcase. We would watch in amazement as he would schmooze potential licensees in a private suite at Toy Fair and ring up accounts left-and-right while we secretly mocked his primitive techniques that today would appear lifted from episodes of Mad Men.

More importantly, Irv was a legend in his own mind and got the job done because, I’m sure, at one time he was an aggressive innovator that discovered what worked for him and stuck with it. He also had established himself within a network of toy manufacturers and his reputation for success preceded his techniques.

I think of Irv whenever I feel discriminatory about being “old school” just as I think of the excitement and challenge of tackling the future with new ideas and I realize that there is room for both.

Being an innovator of anything, especially a medium like comics is like being a parent. We have to enjoy our children while we have them, do our job as best we can as parents, then let them go so they can blossom into the best they can be so they can continue to pave the way for the future.

Today’s comic books are not your father’s and, most likely, tomorrow’s will not be yours. Change is good. It is the hope of the future.

Happy Father’s Day!

Gerry Giovinco

Captain Obese is Back! Big! Bold! And in Beautiful Color!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

We can’t tell you how happy we are to be able to present an all new adventure of one of the biggest heroes to grace the CO2 Comics site!

If you have not ventured far from the realm of political correctness in some time, treating yourself to a heaping portion of Don Lomax’s morbidly obese superhero, Captain Obese, will have the PC Police hot on your tail!

Captain Obese Graphic Album Cover

If you have missed the main course, you can read 102 pages of The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese right here: If you really love the the comic we know you will want to own your own copy in either paperback or hardback edition so here is a handy link for your convenience.

Now it’s time for dessert! So far the exploits of the rotund hero have been available only in black-and-white which gives us all the opportunity to devour the incredible line art that  pours from Don Lomax’s creative hand but Don is now presenting a real treat beefing up the art of a new Captain Obese short story with all pages in full-color!

The new story will be serialized on a weekly basis with new pages available each Monday.

Besides the Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese be sure to view Don’s other great works:

Attila the Frog which was Don’s first published work that appeared in a 1979 edition of Heavy Metal magazine.

and Tales of ISHMAR that features four Incredible Stories Heavy Metal Actually Rejected!:


Gestation


Lighter than Aries


Soft Stuff


The Midas Curse


There is not much more that can be said beyond what we already have about how much we appreciate the tremendous talents of Don Lomax here at CO2 Comics. Not just for his incredible skill as a fantastic comic creator but also the faith he has put  in us to present his work since 2010.

If you missed these previous posts that boldly toot Don’s horn and exhibit extensive peeks into Don’s long and influential career pleased be encouraged to take a gander now!

Fat is Back!

Bigger is Better!

Heavy Metal, Ninja Turtles, and the Tales of ISHMAR!

Gerry Giovinco

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


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