Posts Tagged ‘Anime’

Black History Month: Reggie Byers – Comic Book Publishing Pioneer

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Reggie Byers Victory Productions

We are not always aware of when we are witnessing history being made. Such is the case of comic book creator  Reggie Byers who has the distinction of being one of the first African Americans to own a comic book publishing company.

Byers did not realize that in 1985 when he self published SHURIKEN #1 under his Victory Productions imprint that he was a pioneer. His intent to satisfy his personal urge to publish comics would establish him as a groundbreaker for black comic creators in this specialized arena of popular culture dominated by white men.

Click to read Crescent

CO2 Comics’ relationship with Reggie Byers, whose comic CRESCENT is a proudly presented feature on our site,  extends back over three decades to 1982 when he first knocked on the door of our former comic book publishing house Comico in  Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Comico at the time was a fledgeling company publishing black and white comic books in the Direct Market composed completely by young men who had met in high school and college, all unified by friendship and a desire to make comic books.

Reggie  had graduated from Norristown Area High School in 1981, a year after my younger brother, Tom. My father also taught there. They would often tell me about his creative exploits and love for comics so, though I had never met him, I was well aware of his talents and was excited to finally meet him. His arrival at Comico was fortuitous for us all and he was immediately welcomed into our ranks.

Reggie’s assignments increased as work became available while the company grew and eventually began to produce color comics. He started out as a self proclaimed gofer, then editor of Primer, our new talent showcase,  and eventually, because of his mastery of the Japanese Anime style, he became a penciler on ROBOTECH The Next Generation.

Reggie Byers and a new shipment

Reggie had watched Comico grow from the ground up and had learned the ins-and-outs of the business along with us all. The money he made from penciling ROBOTECH became his seed money for his personal enterprise and in 1985 he launched his independent comic company VICTORY PRODUCTIONS featuring the adventures of his own character SHURIKEN, a female martial artist named Kyoko Shidara who became a freelance bodyguard after discovering that she had been working as  bodyguard for a criminal organization.

Shuriken 1 by Reggie Byers

SHURIKEN was an immediate success in the Direct Market where it enjoyed the support of all the distributors prompting a second printing that elevated sales to over 20,000 units, an amazing circulation for a black and white comic book. These numbers were assuredly influenced by the success of Eastman and Laird’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and supported by the thriving speculator market at the time. Also significant was  Reggie’s growing popularity as penciler of the wildly successful ROBOTECH series which also included the talents of  other African Americans, Mike Leeke, Dave Johnson and MACROSS production assistant,  Aaron Keaton who were also school friends of Comico founders.

The Victory line

Reggie immediately invested his profits from SHURIKEN sales into other titles created by his close friends, Chris Etheredge and Robert Durham, expanding the Victory line to include KOMODO AND THE DEFIANTS by Etheredge, along with PHASE 1 and SHRIKE, both by Durham.

Victory Productions stood out in the Independent comic market as a company driven by three African American comic creators producing a broadly inclusive product line that featured a team of black superheroes, an Asian ninja, a Native American warrior and an anthropomorphic ensemble.

Questioning the significance of Reggie Byers’ role as possibly the first successful black comics publisher I was not surprised that Reggie had previously not considered his role as such because the creative group that we had all surrounded ourselves with at the time was so focused on creating great comics that race was never an issue. The fact that it has taken any of us thirty years to recognize his contribution is less of an embarrassment and more a tribute to the respect we all had for each other as friends, colleagues and comic creators.

I sought confirmation instead from prominent historian of African Americans in comic books, Professor William H. Foster lll who sited the example of Orrin Evans who published a single issue of ALL NEGRO COMICS in 1947 before being locked out of the industry by the big companies at the time.

Professor Foster said that the mid ’80s offered an opportunity for many independent comic publishers, a number of which were African American but because of poor listing of dates and management of records it is hard to confirm with accuracy who came first. He said with fair certainty that Reggie Byers would easily be considered in the top five candidates though because of his large sales figures on the early issues of SHURIKEN he is probably the most significant African American comic book publisher of that independent era which preceded a 1990′s boom in African American publishers.

Reggie, himself, confirms that he had been solicited for guidance by BROTHERMAN publisher Dawud Anyabwile, who in 1989 known as David Sims launched his family owned company  Big City Comics that is often recognized as having ignited the contemporary Black Comics/Superhero movement that became exemplified later by the success of Milestone Comics.

Rob Durham, Chris Etheredge, Steve Williams and Reggie Byers

Victory lasted only two and a half years before becoming one of the many victims of the comic glut and eventual crash of the market that also was partially responsible for the bankruptcy of Comico. SHURIKEN was absorbed by Malibu Comics after Reggie did a brief run of BLADES OF SHURIKEN for them. Malibu eventually sold to Marvel and now Shuriken occasionally is featured as a mutant character in their broad stable of superheroes.

Reggie went on to develop characters for other ventures such as JAM QUACKY for JQ Productions in the ’90s and CRESCENT which he self published before giving CO2 Comics the opportunity to present it here on our site.

Currently he is  focused on empowering young people. With that mission in mind over the last 20 years Reggie and his wife, Dionne have developed their most influential property THE KIDZ OF THE KING featuring ten multicultural angels disguised as teenage superheroes who lift up the Word of God and battle against the demonic forces that attack the children of the world.  It has been produced in comic book form and as an animated feature. Reggie is also working on a graphic novel depicting the story of Jesus Christ based on the four Gospels in the Bible.

Always humble, Reggie gushed at the idea that he played such a significant role in the history of African Americans in regards to comic books and popular culture.

It is a common notion that it is hard to gain respect in your own back yard, but not in our neighborhood. We at CO2 Comics have always been proud to be associated with him as a comic creator and delighted to have known him as a friend for all of these years.

We hope that now he will be acknowledged by fans critics and historians alike for the recognition he deserves for his significant role not just in the African American community but in the creative community of the comics industry.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



15 Year-Old, Indigo Anderson, is the Youngest Creator at CO2 Comics

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Young Indigo Anderson is passionate about manga, anime, cosplay and making comics. That is why when her tenth grade AP World History teacher asked for a paper about the relationship between North and South Korea, she requested to do it as a comic.

Give plenty of credit to her teacher for allowing her the opportunity! The result titled North and South is a wonderfully succinct , heartfelt, eight-page insight to a piece of history that continues to impact the entire world even today. Indigo’s comic presentation that she rendered digitally with a Wacom Bamboo tablet and the Paint Tool Sai program is so eloquently executed that it belies her age.

The comic, delivered in a unique journalistic approach, not only deserved the top grade of 100 that it received as a school project but the attention of anyone interested in comics because it is clear that a significant talent is emerging into the field.

Indigo’s proud father, Bill Anderson, who has been a journeyman inker in the comics industry over the last thirty years, including his work on SKROG that appears right here at CO2 Comics, was unaware of the project until well after it was completed. His delighted post on his personal facebook page clearly established his bragging rights. Who wouldn’t want to be the proud parent of a child that they could pass forward the torch of their life’s work to with anticipation of a brilliant future?

Bill knows his daughter is passionate about making comics. He claims that if he and his wife did not force her away from her computer at times she would probably never eat, sleep, or study. This is a good measure of passion in a child. Parents should not find it necessary to force the child to practice or to struggle to maintain an interest or a regimen in an activity they are supposedly interested in. The passionate child is self motivated to the point of obsession and, though parental guidance and encouragement is always healthy, it is best to let the young enthusiast  explore their activity of choice with as much freedom as possible.

The result will be a budding phenom like Indigo who possesses a confidence in her talents that allows her to be constantly motivated to create. The ultimate beneficiary is the rest of us who will enjoy witnessing the results of her efforts.

CO2 Comics is delighted to have the opportunity to present Indigo’s work North and South as a featured comic on our site. To us it is important to acknowledge the exceptional ability of someone so young and to encourage her as much as possible to grow into the incredible talent that she is capable of becoming.

Creating any opportunity for her to achieve success as a comic creator is our contribution not only to her but to the industry and our culture.  That is our perspective about encouraging every young creator, especially one that is interested in this medium of comics that we are so passionate about ourselves.

Hopefully, presenting Indigo’s work here will not only stand as a celebration of her talents and her youth but also as a sign of encouragement to all youngsters with a passionate dream.  Indigo’s accomplishment is proof that dreams come alive when they are acted upon. It is one thing to dream. It is another to do. If you love making comics, make them. Make mistakes and learn. Let your passion be your motivation to seize every opportunity to create regardless of how old you are.

Read NORTH and SOUTH

Be sure to take time to read Indigo’s comic and be inspired to act on your dreams. You are never too young or too old to start and if you are truly passionate it would kill you to stop doing what you love.

If you know someone who is passionate about doing anything take time to encourage their dreams. Your enthusiasm about their efforts is as important as their own motivation. Here are three other CO2 Comics posts about encouragement that may be inspiring.

Encouraging Comics

Encouraging Comics – A Sketch in Time

Encouraging comics: Pros and Cons

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Free Comic Book in My Mailbox!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

I am always amazed at the quantity and quality of the junk mail that arrives in the form of catalogs via the United States Postal Service nearly each and every day. Printed in full color on glossy stock, perfectly bound and usually fairly thick containing, sometimes, hundreds of pages of content. I have one that just came from Dover Saddlery (yes, we have horses) that contains 352 pages!

Why couldn’t some of these be comic books or contain comics in them? You can bet that I would spend more time hunting through them if I knew I would find a comic feature that I could grow attached to.

The Superhero Catalogue with SNYDERMAN , art by Joe Kubert

Back in the late seventies there was The Superhero Catalogue published by Superhero Enterprises featuring the character Snyderman drawn by the legendary Joe Kubert.  The whole catalog was laid out like a comic book and sold every available superhero merchandise imagineable.  I went nuts every time I got one in the mail!

Read the Jordan Marsh catalog by Gerry Giovinco and Mitch O'Connell

Back in the eighties Comico produced a fashion catalog for Jordan Marsh that was packaged in the form of a comic book. The catalog, illustrated by Mitch O’Connell and scripted by me, actually won awards from Advertising Age Magazine as a direct mail promotion.

The Disney Catalog for a brief time inserted previews of the W.I.T.C.H. comic that was packaged similar to popular manga. You know I looked for that when it came for my kids. I always wondered why more catalogs didn’t do the same, especially now with the popularity of comic heroes in all forms of media.

To my surprise a catalog doing its best to mimic the idioms that define comic books recently showed up in my mailbox, sent by the most unlikely source, UMBC, an Honor University in Maryland.

Click here to view the UMBC Catalog

My son, who is a senior in high school with great academic standings has attracted the attention of the admission boards of many colleges who now flood our mailbox daily with richly produced catalogues, most of which feature beautiful pictures of sprawling campuses, active student lifestyles and, of course, esteemed learning environments which is to say that they all look the same.

UMBC, regarded by CBS 60 Minutes as one of the most innovative schools in the country, proved their ability to step outside the box by sending my son an admissions catalog cleverly disguised as a comic book. It was trimmed to comic book size with thirty two pages, chock full of panels and text boxes, and, though there was not a single word bubble with a pointy little tail, a very stylish Anime font was used throughout. The covers featured students striking heroic poses, one even wearing a mask, posturing to the prevalent  theme of Change the World.”

My immediate reaction as a comic art enthusiast was of pure amazement that an institution of higher education would embrace comic books to attract students. I remember a time when even kindergarden teachers scorned comics as fodder for the ignorant and uneducated. Hell, Mitt Romney probably believes that comic books are all that 47% of Americans are capable or willing to read. Why not? Obama reads them!

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

But times are changing. Comics do get much more respect these days, especially since the advent of the graphic novel. Even University of the Arts, a school that scorned comics when Bill Cucinotta and I attended back when it was the Philadelphia College of Art, has a new attitude towards comics They must!  They had Neil Gaimen, celebrated comic author of Sandman and Coraline, deliver the Keynote Address at their 2012 graduation ceremony! He  was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts along with another comic creator, Philadelphia Inquirer editorial cartoonist Tony Auth.

UMBC Marketing Director, Erika Ferrin, explained that this edition of the admissions catalog which they refer to as a viewbook, was part of an ongoing Heroes campaign that has been very successful for the university.

Inspired by the popularity of Harry Potter, Twilight and superhero films with the teen market, Ferrin chose to focus on the heroic attributes of those characters when marketing to graduating high school students. She realized that students that came to UMBC had unique intellectual and creative abilities that, when honed at the university, allowed them to realize their potential of heroically impacting the world.

Erica worked with in-house designers Erin Ouslander and Jim Lord to develop the visuals for the campaign of which the viewbook evolved from. The end result is a beautifully packaged presentation printed on very heavy stock, intelligently designed and very respectful of the comics medium which they took great pains to research while developing the graphics which were all rendered from the ground up without using a comic or manga template program. The catalog has enjoyed a distribution of upwards to 50,000 copies most of which were delivered by mail.

This type of innovation is what makes UMBC a leader in education. It’s the type of innovation that the comics industry needs to employ to expand the marketplace. I know I’d like to see more comic books in my mailbox. How about you?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

The Comic Company: Licensed to Thrill

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

A number of comic book companies today fill their product line-ups with licensed properties. IDW, Boom, Darkhorse and Ape are among the most significant publishers outside of Marvel and DC who have found value in acquiring licensed properties from other media outlets.

The idea is simple and is a marketing tool used by scores of merchandising companies in nearly every industry. Find an intellectual property with high visibility. Purchase the rights to make an exclusive product featuring the property. Benefit from the sales generated by the customer recognition of the popular property.

Badda Boom, Badda Bing!

Licensing and merchandising is nothing new. Saint Paul built Christianity on its basic premises by marketing the popular teachings of Jesus as a new religious product.

Merry Christmas,” two thousand and ten years later!

Comic books have used it since the beginnings of the industry. The first comic books featured licensed syndicated newspapers comics that were reprinted in color.

It shouldn’t have been a big deal in 1983 when Comico licensed the rights from Harmony Gold to publish the English adaption of the popular Japanese animated series MACROSS. But it was and it became an even bigger deal that put Comico on the map as a major player in the comic industry.

Robotech/Macross #1 cover, Comico 1984

At the time, and please correct me if I’m wrong, Comico was the first independent comic company to enter into a licensing deal other than one that was of a creator owned property. Only Marvel and DC had a lock on that side of the market and, to the best of my knowledge, no one else was even considering it.

Comico’s deal was innocent enough. It was built on the enthusiasm of Carl Macek for his project that he was working on with Harmony Gold and the Comico crew’s collective interest in Anime. Comico enthusiastically became the first American licensee of MACROSS.

At the same time DC acquired the rights from Revell to publish ROBOTECH, based on a line of toys designed around assorted transforming robot molds that Revell had purchased from a toy company in Japan. When the first issue was published by DC it was clear that a number of the robots in ROBOTECH were from the MACROSS series and many of the other robots were from other series that Harmony Gold also held the rights to.

Needless to say there was lot of wrangling going on but Carl Macek and Harmony Gold held the trump card. They had an entire animated series that could be adapted to TV in the American market. As Stan Lee would say, “‘Nuff said!”

Revell and Harmony Gold worked together to build the ROBOTECH franchise that took America by storm. Harmony Gold proved their honor by awarding Comico the rights to the comic book resting it from DC since we had the original deal for the actual story.

Comico's 1st Color Books

Comico had already established its ability to produce quality product with its first color offerings, MAGE, EVANGELINE, ELEMENTALS and MACROSS. Our production and success of the ROBOTECH comics helped the marketing team behind ROBOTECH to attract more licensees and before long the ROBOTECH logo was everywhere.

Others took notice and soon we were being contacted others, most notably Hannah Barbera who was looking for a publisher for Thundarr the Barbarian. Our interest, however, was in one of their long dormant properties, Jonny Quest.

Jonny had been off their radar for so long that the people we were dealing with thought that it was a Filmation property and were surprised to discover it in their own archives.

Jonny Quest was a huge success for Comico and other properties were soon to follow. Space Ghost, Gumby, and Starblazers were all big hits. We also set our sights on Max Headroom and though we did initially acquire the property and began marketing it, creative differences arose between the editorial staff, creative team and the owners of the property, Chrysalis Records. Max Headroom never became a Comico comic book.

Other comic companies picked up where Comico left off, finding success in licensed properties. Others found even greater success in licensing their own properties following in the insanely successful footsteps of Eastman and Laird’s nearly immortal Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Now, more than ever before, with the advent of digital content and the internet, we have to closely examine what is the true value of the comics that we make. Is it the comics themselves or is it the intellectual property they are derived from?

We all would love to make money selling our comics and I can tell you from experience that you certainly can but folks, the real money is in the properties themselves.

Disney and Warner Brothers both know this and are in the process of redefining the IP of Marvel and DC for success in the long haul while producers throughout Hollywood are rummaging through comic properties regularly looking for the next Mutant Turtle.

The Internet is the comic creator’s opportunity to develop and establish rights to a property while reaching an audience that is global. Protect your assets, invest your skills and let the best properties sell themselves. This is the greatest time ever to be a comic creator. Take advantage of it!

Hey, I know the economy sucks and the market is in tremendous flux but guess what? That is exactly how it was when Mickey and Superman showed up both borne on the backs of failure and surrounded by the Great Depression. Their strength was the brilliance of their property which still shines today.

Comic properties can have tremendous economic power and there is plenty of proof. Don’t be discouraged if you are a creator or a fan. The future for comics is bright.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Vol 1

CO2 Comics is going into 2011 as optimistic as anybody! The content of our site is growing steadily and our readership is expanding rapidly. We have published our first book, David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Volume 1 and have new products on the horizon.

But our biggest achievement is the honor That Bill and I have of posting the great comics that have been trusted to our site by creators that we love and respect so that all of our valued readers can enjoy them.

Thank you everyone for this opportunity to do what we enjoy most.

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco

The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 5 (Finally!)

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

ROBOTECH is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and mourning the loss of of its producer and biggest cheerleader, Carl Macek.

Robotech/Macross #1 cover, Comico 1984

ROBOTECH was a big reason for the success of Comico in its heyday and is a blog all unto itself but before ROBOTECH became the successful franchise that it still is we published a comic book based on ROBOTECH’s original source material, the very popular Anime series MACROSS.

We were big fans of Anime having grown up watching classics like 8Th-Man, Gigantor, Astro Boy, Prince Planet, Marine Boy, Speed Racer, and Kimba the White Lion. We wanted to maintain the luster and integrity of the original.

Classic Anime

Our vision was to produce the pages using images taken from the actual video. When this proved to be an impossible option we decided that we would create the pages using a technique similar to that of genuine animation cels.

Line Art

Carl Macek’s wife Svea Stauch provided the pencils. Phil LaSorda and I inked all of the main characters which included all of the aircraft, spaceships and robots. The inks were done on a separate overlay that was later lettered then photographed as a positive transparency. This was an important layer of the final art since it would hold the black line separate from all the color work just as we would in the grey-line and blue-line systems that I have written about in earlier True Color blogs.

Matt

The backgrounds were all transfered to a different layer and painted much like the backgrounds in an animation cel.

Cel

Between the line art and the background paintings was a layer of clear acetate. All three layers were aligned to each other with registration marks. The clear film was then attached to the back of the line art and painted from behind with animation cel paint mimicking the flat look of cel production. After it dried, the layer was then removed from the line art layer and then attached over the more heavily rendered, painted backgrounds.

Printed

The two color layers would be separated by the color separator as one piece then the black line layer would be added. This all created the dimensional effect that the original animation cels had while preventing the black line from suffering from registration problems in the print process.

Macross 6 Line Art & Matt

This system, though it produced the intended results, was painstaking and required a small army of extra hands to chip in to get the work finished. Macross #1 would be the only time we used this technique. When Macross became ROBOTECH with issue #2 it was clear that the only way we would be able to produce a ROBOTECH issue every 2 weeks, which was our intended schedule, was to use flat color.

Macross 6 Cel & Prod

Our experimentation with all of the various techniques for producing color for comics proved that we respected the individual requirements of each property that we published. We were never content to produce a line of cookie-cutter comics.

Macross 6 Mount & Print

I like to think that our readers appreciated this and that the creators who worked with us understood that our priority was the integrity of their work. This provided us with the opportunity to work with many talented comic creators and made it easier for us to attract other licensed properties.

Today, nearly all color for comics is produced digitally. One thing I have discovered about creating comics digitally is that every creator has their own special technique to achieve a desired result. There is no real right or wrong way to produce quality comics.

That’s good for us at CO2 Comics because we love to experiment and we love to tap into our own experiences from the good old days. Our priority is still the integrity of the work and it will always be regardless if we are producing comics for the internet , digital readers or print.

In the next few days we will be announcing our first print project from CO2 Comics. It is big, bold and beautiful and has required a fair amount of experimenting to produce the product that we have been hoping for.

I promise this one will have people talking for years.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco.


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