Last week’s blog post, Power Outage at Marvel, suggested that Marvel and DC, in an effort to cut costs, might consider suspending their publishing arms and focus on licensing their characters to other comics publishers to minimize their expenses and risks. This concept might be a little extreme considering the two industry giants have each been making comic books for over 75 years but there is no doubt that the depth of their intellectual property is now more valuable in other forms of entertainment media and as a license option.
Marvel and DC, however, could understandably balk at the idea of farming out their comic books to others but would still need to cut costs in production or do a radical shift in marketing of comic books if they intend to effect things like DC’s reported two million dollar fiscal loss or Ike Perlmutter’s legendary thriftiness at Marvel.
Given that the current climate of American industry is a willingness to outsource production and manufacturing to foreign countries, it has to be considered that this be a logical possibility for comic books. Recent polls have shown that comic book writers are more popular now with readers than comic book artists, and though the art is definitely more labor intensive, it is also seemingly more interchangeable by today’s standards. What are the chances that art production could be shipped overseas, especially to India where great strides are already being taken in comic art production?
There is precedence for this in comics. Carmine Infantino in his insightful autbiography, “Amazing World of Carmine Infantino,” describes how, in an effort to stave off a comic artist strike in 1971, He, Joe Orlando, and Tony Dezuniga, went to the Philippines where artists were used to getting $2 – $3 a page. Their plan was to have Tony and his wife run a shop with artists where DC paid $45 – $50 per page plus 20% to the Dezuniga’s for their management effort. Later, a young Filipino artist comes forward at a convention complaining about being paid only $5 per page and it became clear that those running the show in the Philippines were robbing the artists and DC blind. Carmine does a wonderful job of not making a direct accusation but gives us enough information to explain possibly why the Dezunigas do not return to New York until 1977.
The influx of Filipino artists did prevent a strike and it did give us the great talents of Rudy Nebres, Alfredo Alcala, Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo and Gerry Talaoc just to name a few, but we may never know how much it set back the value of American comic artists in the industry.
We are living in a global economy where we are happy to see our electronics, clothing, food and everything else farmed out to people working in other countries for slave wages by our standards. It is sad to expect that the same will happen to our comic books. Many companies already print in China and elsewhere and nobody complains. Who knows? The next issue of Superman or Spider-Man could be drawn by a kid from India working for peanuts.
Just another reason to support homegrown, independent comics.
Now that the review embargo has been lifted on the new Fantastic Four film reboot because it is finally in theaters, what we all expected if fully evident. The film is lousy. With a horrible 9% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes you can bet your popcorn money that this is one superhero flick that is a super stinker.
Marvel must be loving every second of it since it has been their goal to see FOX fail as miserably as possible with both the FF and X-Men franchises in hopes of gaining back the exclusive film rights to their iconic characters.
But who does it really hurt when a superhero film like the FF tanks badly? This film still opens with the same giant red and white MARVEL logo that appears in every FF ad. It is also the same MARVEL logo that opens every Marvel Studio film as well. Serious comic fans and fans of the superhero genre may understand the tumultuous relationship between Marvel and FOX but they represent a small percentage of the millions of movie goers that spend their hard earned cash at the multiplexes world-wide. To them, this is a Marvel superhero film that sucked and could be a forbidding of the collapse of the genre because they don’t understand the difference.
This spring’s Avengers: Age of Ultron underperformed compared to the first Avenger film, and this summer’s Ant Man showed tepid opening box office numbers though it was well reviewed and continues to put people in the seats. Now the Fantastic Four crashes and burns taking with it the legendary team of superheroes that initially put Marvel on the map. Iconic characters like the Thing and the Human Torch who in the past have teamed-up with every major Marvel character are unmarketable, laughing stocks and Marvel’s most prominent villain, Dr. Doom, is a joke.
Even if Marvel were to regain the film rights to these characters that would have to put them on ice longer than Captain America before they could revive them after the three failed attempts mustered by FOX. This Honest Trailer sums up FF film history nicely.
We may all be rooting for Marvel to get their properties back, especially now that they have proven to have the ability and willingness to maintain the integrity of the characters we have all grown to love, but it is painful to watch characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby drawn, quartered and drug through town so mercilessly.
These characters that marked the beginning of a new age in the superhero genre back in the 1960’s could signal the demise of the genre in the eyes of the general public with this continued box office failure. That could that be too much Doom to bear.
Last week’s blog, Copyright Law is Changing! Is it Time to Hit the Panic Button?, was predicated in response to a viral video, Everything You Know About Copyright Law Is About To Change, generated by a credible source that according to this post on Graphicpolicy.com , Don’t Believe the Hyperbole, There’s No Orphan Works Law Before Congress, is completely untrue leading thousands of people to share, watch and spread erroneous information with an agenda.
Oh, the power of the Internet!
The bottom line, as I said in my post and which was repeated on Graphic Policy, please, get educated about copyright and about anything else you may be passionate about especially when it comes to information shared on the web because, too much of it is either biased, false, or just plain fantasy.
People on the internet seem to get a kick out of being stirred up. In regards to copyright protection this could be an advantage to folks trying to protect works that have been infringed on. Face it. Nobody wants to go through the expense of hiring lawyers and marching to court in a copyright suit when it is much easier, less costly and sometimes more damaging to shame an infringer on the internet.
We all got to see how shame was used to drive the dentist that hunted and killed Cecil the lion underground long before authorities even had a chance to file charges. It is much easier to get the public worked up in a lather over killing a beloved animal than it may be over copyright issues but it has been done successfully many times.
Neal Adams used this public shaming technique back in the 1970’s when he orchestrated a deal between DC and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The Swipe Files on Bleeding Cool regularly hang infringers and plagiarists out to dry. We all remember what a mockery Shia LaBeouf became after his repeated plagiarisms. Marvel is no longer haunted by the perpetual public shaming of how they screwed Jack Kirby now that a deal has been settled with the Kirby family.
Online people fight their own wars behind the strength of their social networks. Cartoonist Jess Fink, for example has raised awareness of her experience with Todd Goldman on herTumblr and it has reached the audience of Comics Alliance.
Shaming like this does not have to happen. Usually when a copyright or trademark holder recognizes an infringement they notify the infringer with a Cease and Desist letter. Rational people realize that they have been caught or have infringed unknowingly and respond apologetically and appropriately to immediately rectify the situation. The real crooks get defiant and retaliatory, responding with a sense of righteousness and self entitlement that is beyond reproach. That is when it is time to bring it on but be wary, their moxie is generally driven by knowledge of their own deep pockets and a willingness to drain your resources legally.
I recently witnessed an artist who recognized a logo he designed on an unauthorized website. He had designed the logo for a company that used it as their trademark. He took it upon himself to notify the site that unless they had permission from the TM holder that they should not be using the logo. The initial response was the dreaded, “Don’t worry I’ll give you both credit and you will enjoy the great exposure!” When that was not deemed acceptable the infringer became a jerk acting like he was the violated one. This all played out very publicly on social media where the support apparently was strongly on the side of the artist. The logo was eventually removed and both sides agreed to remove the involved posts. Hopefully this is the end of this situation and both sides are content with the end result, though I am sure each has a stink eye out for a potential libel suit.
Avoid the shame. Play fair and don’t infringe on peoples intellectual property. If you wouldn’t steal their car why is it OK to steal their art? If you don’t understand how this works it is time that you get educated on the basics of Copyright and Trademark.
Copyright law is about to change and creative people all across the U.S. are going into panic mode!
Everyone else could care less. Both reactions are extreme because copyright law as it stands today effects so much of our daily lives that complete enforcement of it would be nothing short of dystopian.
If you want to understand what the fuss is about concerning potential changes then you need to watch this tedious but eye opening podcast video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDoztLDF73I
The most significant part of the Copyright Act of 1976 that most people either do not understand or appreciate is that you possess ownership of copyright the moment you express a thought by affixing it to something tangible. There is no requirement to register a copyright or even attach a notice though both are beneficial. Every single person has copyright ownership of every original scribble, note, photo, video, doodle, craft, song, tune or anything else tangible that they ever created from the moment they created it provided they did not copy it from something else. Copying something without permission would be infringement of another’s copyright.
NOTE: Ideas are not protected by copyright! Only the physical expression of an idea is. Someone can have the same idea for a story or a picture but if how they tell that story or draw that picture is different there can be no conflict.
Instant ownership of copyright makes life a lot easier for creative people because they do not have to pay to register every single thing they create but in a world where now everyone is creative and able to publish their thoughts and pictures tangibly on the internet we are inundated with copyrighted material at every turn and surrounded by copyright holders.
Most people are not aware of the significance or value of copyright and consequently, as we go about our daily lives sharing or copying or quoting all the material we have such easy access to, we have unwittingly become a nation self-entitled of copyright infringers!
“By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer—a veritable grand larcenist—or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years.”
As technology continues to advance it is becoming easier identify when we are being infringed upon or pirated. This is great for people who make their living creating things but what about people who may want to make their living suing people for infringing on their copyrights of photos of the family dog or that viral cat video we all like to share? Do we really want to live in that kind of police state? Will we stop being creative because we are afraid of being infringed upon? Will we stop sharing socially for fear of being accused of infringement?
Before 1976, copyrights had to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office similar to registering a patent or a trademark. This helped to identify copyrights that had a perceived value and allowed others to be considered public domain. Registering was definitely less convenient and more costly than the current system but may be not such a bad thing. Unfortunately, part of the changes to copyright procedure currently being considered is privatizing the registration process. Are creatives about to be corralled into money making scheme for some greedy corporate entity with huge lobby interests in Washington?
In the aforementioned podcast video at about 20:30 in to it, editorial illustrator and copyright champion, Brad Holland, talks about a company called theCopyright Clearance Center who already conveniently owns the website www.copyright.com. He talks in detail about how this company, which has been around since 1978, (the year the Copyright Act of 1976 when into actual effect) collects fees from schools libraries and copy centers for permission to copy images and text to the tune of $300 million a year! This is similar to music collection societies likeASCAP or BMI. Mysteriously, however, creators seem to be kept out of the loop when it comes to distribution of these funds collected by the CCC. Apparently they have all the infrastructure in place to register, manage and police copyrights while making boatloads of money at creator’s expense.
Now let’s look at the elephant in the room – Work For Hire. One of the biggest issues in the Copyright Act of 1976 is that it did not do a great job of defining Work For Hire, a point that was vehemently defended by musicians anticipating their ability to terminate rights granted to record labels after 35 years as defined by the Copyright law. This is a glitch that has big companies scrambling to make deals with creators who may be closing in on that term. It is the main reason Prince was able to settle an agreement with Warner Bros. and the Kirby family was able to settle with Marvel/Disney. It is the main reason why a lot of deals are being struck quietly behind closed doors before the proverbial shit hits the fan.
If Copyright law stands as it is, where creators own copyright from the moment of creation, any freelancer who did not sign a declaration of work for hire and was not actually defined as an employee of the company currently holding the copyright could terminate rights of use of their contribution to the work. Anything published after 1975 is currently fair game for future reversions.
Using comics as an example, say I am a letterer of an independent comic of the 1980’s and I was paid to letter a comic by the author or the publisher but as a freelancer and had no signed agreement that this was exclusively considered Work for Hire. According to copyright law can’t I consider that I am the “author” of the lettering on that comic and copyright holder from the time I penned it to the paper? If I decide I want to revert my rights by terminating the rights of the current holder, can I? If I can revert my rights, any reprint would require new lettering to replace mine or a new deal would need to be struck with me for a new term. Imagine if the Inker or the colorist did the same. This could prevent a work from being republished and it could create havoc for current publishers holding reprint rights.
Imagine if this happens in film where creators from many disciplines come together as freelancers to create a movie. It may sound far fetched but this is the backbone of this revival of the Orphan Works Copyright Act of 2008. It in theory seeks to make works accessible that are unable to be recopied into digital format by Libraries and Schools because copyright permission cannot be obtained by creators that cannot be located.
The argument is that our culture is being deprived of accessibility to works because of the inadequacies of the copyright law which intends, in part, to restrict perpetual ownership of works so they can be absorbed by the culture that supported and inspired it. This is the reason that the new law intends to have copyrights registered, to enable identifying creators but I bet it will also redefine the Work for Hire clause to prevent the mass migration of rights from corporations to creators. This is a classic case of misdirection that speculates most freelancers will not be aware or willing to pay to register copyrights on every work they did thirty-five years ago under a questionable Work for Hire situation, sweeping one big elephant under the rug.
Copyright law has three significant objectives: Identify the copyright holder, protect the rights of the copyright holder for the term of their copyright and limit terms of copyrights so works can ultimately be absorbed by the society that cultivated it.
I believe it is fair to say that the current copyright law has some inadequacies, mostly in regard to how staggeringly unenforceable it is at its most basic level. Policing every infringement on a daily basis would be impossible and if it were we would not want to live under those conditions. But for those of us that rely on the value of our works and their copyright for our income, it is time to be attentive to how we may be affected by changes and become involved with how a new law is constructed.
Is it time to hit the panic button? Maybe not, but it is time to get educated about copyright and to ensure that any new copyright law benefits everyone fairly.
The adage, “the best defense is a good offense” sums up the current climate of political correctness nicely. Special interest groups are defending their agenda so aggressively that at times their offensive assaults are… well… offensive to the point where it seems like everyone is offended by everyone else’s opinion.
The irony is that what has made most special interest groups “special” was their struggle to have their position heard along with their desire to feel included and now that they have established a foothold through social media their goal seems to be as oppressive as those that oppressed them.
This point was recently spelled out by Sonny Bunch in his blog post ‘The Killing Joke’ and Killing the Past’ where he reiterates a sentiment he has written about before: “the reason non-PC comic book readers can’t stand the feminist set is because they aren’t interested in sharing the space—they’re interested in dominating it wholly. It’s not enough to make Squirrel Girl and Bat Girl and Spider-Gwen. The industry also has to disown its past, to declare it is ashamed of classic stories, to scorn the readers who have kept “The Killing Joke” in print through four separate decades. As Ace of Spades has noted in the context of video games, the social justice set is not really interested in providing alternatives or opening up new markets. Rather, they’re interested in changing what people like. As long as people like “The Killing Joke”—and as long as DC refuses to memory hole it, to airbrush it out of existence like a Stalinist recreating history—these warriors will not have won.”
This is not just an issue about feminists in the comic book or gaming industry who have every right to want and expect that female characters not be sexually exploited and objectified. This is an issue about LGBT proponents that support gay marriage and Caitlyn Jenner getting a courage award. This is an issue about demanding the banning of the Confederate flag. This is an issue about why Black Lives Matter. This is an issue about issues and that every single one of us has rights no matter which side of the fence we are on on any single subject. We all have a right to our opinion and we definitely all have a right to the history that may have established that opinion no matter how politically correct it may or may not be.
The idea that Sonny Bunch refers to, that elements of literary works, popular culture, and history be “memory holed,” is nothing short of bold censorship that should never be tolerated because it prevents us from learning from the mistakes of our past and erodes the foundation of our culture by preventing us from defining how we became the society we are today for better or worse.
The recent story of a father being offended by a toy sold to children of Princess Leah in sex slave garb with a chain around her neck can easily be an acceptable target but it is a depiction of a famous scene from Star Wars one of the most popular film series of all time and an image that most children in the last thirty years have probably been exposed to and most certainly will be by the time the next film in the series is released this Christmas.
The answer is not to ban this toy or to have it removed from the shelves. The answer is for that father and others to use the opportunity to be a parent and explain the significance of the toy and why it is bad to put a woman or any person in this position of bondage and sexual exploitation and to explain to his children why he feels it is inappropriate for them to have it as a toy.
Should it be lost that Leah overcame her imprisonment, defeated her captor and led a rebellion against an evil Empire as a strong female role model? Would that father have the same reaction to the chains around the ankle of the Statue of Liberty?
When the PC Police prevent us from expressing ourselves as individuals they are as oppressive and fascist as our greatest enemies. Personally, I want to see sexist comics so I can identify the chauvinists in the crowd at Comic Con. I want to see which neighbor flies the Confederate flag so I know who is inconsiderate of the feelings of African Americans. I want to see people protest gay weddings so I know who is intolerant. I want to see little Jonny draw weapons in his notebook at school so teachers can identify a potentially troubled child or one with a gifted and overactive imagination.
Banning that which offends us drives the offenders into their own dangerously dark and secret closet. It does not change them it makes them bitter and resentful and only guarantees the perpetuation of a cycle of hatred and persecution. It is why we are all surprised when that “nice person who never bothered anybody” goes postal.
This is why The First Amendment of our Constitution is so important, because it guarantees our rights to religion, freedom of speech, peaceable assembly and our ability to petition government. We expectthese rights from our government and we should expect these rights from each other!
It is time we all learn to agree to disagree and go on about our ways as they suit each of us and our own like-minded group. Take the time to learn why others may think so differently and we may all understand each other better. Let’s give each other a little space to be ourselves. I won’t be offended if you’re not.
On August 28th of this year, Jack Kirby would have celebrated his 98th birthday. Since his passing in 1994, he has been remembered not just as one of the most influential creators in the history of comics but also as a symbol of the injustices of business practices in the comic book industry.
In his memory his youngest grandchild, Jillian Kirby began a campaign titled Kirby4Heroes to help raise money and awareness of the Hero Initiative, an organization intended to help support comic book creators that have fallen on hard times financially or with their health. Since she began the campaign in 2012, tens of thousands of dollars have been raised for the Hero Initiative with support from local comic shops, creators and fans alike.
The Hero Initiative is close to Jillian’s heart as it is with the rest of the Kirby family because, though Jack Kirby led a reasonably comfortable life, he spent his later years frustrated that he could not enjoy in the prosperity of his creations. He never lived to see his work become the foundation for a multi-billion dollar corporation but he would have been proud that his family stood their ground and challenged Marvel until they reached a historic settlement in September of last year.
The Kirby’s know what it is like to live and struggle in the shadow of success that is generated by characters that comic creators bring to life. Now that they have reached a very satisfactory agreement that twill assuredly insure their family’s well being into the foreseeable future, it is heartwarming to see that they have not forgotten Jack’s legacy in regards to what it means for other creators who have been so much less fortunate.
Applaud Jillian and her family by lending your continued support. The following is a letter she released to comic shops and anyone who has helped in the past to insure the success of her campaign:
“Dear Comic Book Retailer,
Thank you so much again in advance for your anticipated commitment to participate in my 2015 Kirby4Heroes campaign. The campaign’s success would not have been possible without the support of comic book retailers like you. Last year, your support and enthusiasm helped the Kirby4Heroes campaign raise almost $15,000 for the Hero Initiative. This year my goal is to raise at least $20,000!
August 28th is the 98th birthday of my grandfather, comic book artist Jack Kirby, and the Kirby4Heroes campaign continues to honor his legacy to the comic book industry.
Can I depend on your support again this year with a donation of at least 10% of your sales on August 28th?
All funds raised, of course, go directly to the Hero Initiative.
Last year, comic book retailers had a wealth of creative ideas to raise money for the Hero Initiative. These included August 28th in-store Jack Kirby birthday parties, and having guest artists in the store creating pieces to be auctioned. Some retailers sold raffle tickets for certain items, with the proceeds going to Hero Initiative.
Retailers promoted my Kirby4Heroes campaign by embedding my 2014 YouTube video and other promotional materials on their Facebook pages, websites and newsletters.
In addition, artist Phil Hester created 97 different pieces of Kirby-themed art to auction off for my grandfather’s birthday, raising over $3000! An event spearheaded by Ron Marz and Paul Harding in New York raised over $2000 for the Hero Initiative! Known artists drawing in comic book storefront windows, special events at cartoon museums, and the annual Wake Up And Draw event, where artists draw birthday tributes to my grandfather on August 28th to be auctioned on eBay, also occurred in 2014.I plan on continuing all of these wonderful events for 2015, and hope even more fantastic ideas come to fruition!
If you have any other ideas how your store can participate on August 28th for my grandfather’s birthday, please let me know! Feel free to be as creative and out-of-the-box as possible (PG-13 and under, please!).
To help you promote this event, I will follow up with an email including an attached Kirby4Heroes flyer, collection jar label, and poster. Make sure to check out my Facebook page (like it!), Twitter account (follow it!), and website for additional updates about the campaign! Here are the links:
I am grateful for your support, and look forward to working with you again this year. Please email me to confirm your participation, and please let me know if you have any questions. If you wish me to call you instead,
please let me know. I would be happy to do this! Thanks again for your support.”
Please forward it to your local comic shop if they are not already a participant. Put on your thinking cap and empower the campaign with creative ways to generate revenue to support the Hero Initiative but most of all remember to celebrate the life of Jack Kirby on August 28th in a way that makes a heroic difference as a thank you for all the heroes he has given us including his granddaughter, Jillian.
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!
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 novels “eradicated 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.
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.