Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

Rebuilding Riverdale At Whose Expense?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

The magic number must be 75! It is no mistake that Marvel, DC and now Archie Comics, all of which published their premier iconic characters between 1938 and 1941, have rolled out celebrations of their 75th year anniversary finding interesting ways to reboot their entire universes in the process.

DC rebooted with Flashpoint, then The New 52 and now Convergence. Marvel is rebooting with Secret Wars and the establishment of Battleworld. Now Archie is planning to “Build a New Riverdale” with a controversial Kickstarter.

No coincidence that, as copyright law stands today, characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Prince Namor, The Human Torch, Archie and most of the gang living in Reverdale are sitting on the precipice of public domain as their copyrights, whose duration is 95 years from first publication, are set to expire within the next 20 years.

All three publishers are scrambling to recreate their brand to distance the next generation of consumers and those that follow from the classic versions of their characters guaranteeing that their origin stories and adventures will  be considered outdated and unmarketable. In the meantime, trademarks of every variation of those characters, their costumes and logos which can be prevented from ever expiring will be maintained an marketed as aggressively as possible.

So while Archie is rebuilding Riverdale and seemingly throwing out any style guide that remotely looks like the characters originally designed by Bob Montana, they are just ensuring that nobody else can tell a story about life in Riverdale without infringing on their trademark. Soon Archie and the gang will have as many different looks and styles as Batman has logos.

The funny thing is Archie wants our help and is seeking $350,000 on a Kickstarter campaign to do it!

Why?

According to Archie publisher Jon Goldwater, they just want to get the new product to market as fast as possible and have their funds tied up in a deal to expand digest distribution into Target and Wal-Mart stores.

What is Target and Wal-Mart’s sudden interest in Archie all about? If they wanted comics wouldn’t they be going after Marvel or DC first? Something is in the wind. Probably the “Riverdale” TV series that will soon be coming to FOX. All that exposure has got to be killing them!

In their rush to market these new projects by selling direct to the audience through Kickstarter, they also managed to offend their most ardent supporters, the retailers in the Direct Market. They should’ve seen that coming! Publishers like Marvel, DC and Archie are the bread and butter of the Direct Market retailer. When these publishers venture into a direct-to-customer distribution system they simply cut the retailers out at the knees.

Retailers are not the only victims. So are Indy publishers that have come rely on crowdfunding as a means to generate precious preorders on a product that may not meet the sales requirements of distribution through Diamond. A company like Archie, seeking a huge some of money in a campaign will crowd out smaller publishers, especially those that are now producing comics that compete directly for the audience that Archie has appealed to  for decades.

This is the same technique that Marvel and DC employed in the 1980’s when they were threatened by the emergence of successful independent publishers in the fledgeling Direct Market. They simply flooded the market. More product does not mean that consumers will spend more money. Consumers have a limited amount of funds and when more product is introduced into a market it only means that the consumer now has to make choices on how they spend their money. The winners are usually the ones that have a big enough budget to promote their product and an already committed audience. That is not the small indy publisher.

How many Kickstarter campaigns have you read about in the news feeds this week besides Archie’s?

Point made.

If Archie reaches their goal, that is $350,000 that is not going to other crowdfunding campaigns. It is also $350,000 not venturing into a comic shop.

Archie wants to rebuild Riverdale by strip-mining the resources of the current comics market all in an effort to erect a bulkhead that will secure them from public domain which is intended as a reward for a culture that supported their work for 95 years. In the process they describe themselves as small and scrappy, yet tread on those publishers that  genuinely meet that description. Their campaign does not even offer great rewards! Supporters are asked to pay twice as much for product that will soon be available in stores.

Archie is a company that has been around for over 75 years with celebrated characters that have been in films, cartoons and live action series on TV. They have managed to maintain a presence with their comics outside of the Direct Market with their digest format, a  feat that even Marvel and DC cannot claim. Now they have a deal with Target and Wal-Mart and a television deal with FOX, yet they still need $350,000 of our money to launch three new comic books, something the’ve been capable of doing themselves with no problem for three quarters of a century. Sounds like an easy way to get a lot of free advertising with a major dash of greed.

Not-so-poor or  little Archie wants our help but remember who loses in this one… everyone but Archie Comics. If their campaign is a success, they are laughing all the way to the bank, where they should have gone for a loan in the first place.

Gerry Giovinco

Happy Hanukkah to the World of Comics and Comic Books!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Since today is the first day of Hanukkah this year, we at CO2 Comics would like to wish a very “Happy Hanukkah” to all of our Jewish friends and family in the great world of comics and comic books!

It is now widely accepted history that immigrated Jewish Americans are largely responsible for the development of the early comic book industry. Without trivializing the significance of Jewish publishers, printers and distributors of the 1930’s, just try to imagine a comic book industry without this very short list of comic book pioneer creators that were all Jewish:

Jerry Siegel

Joe Shuster

Jack Kirby

Joe Simon

Bob Kane

Bill Finger

Jerry Robinson

Stan Lee

Just imagine a world of comics without Superman, Batman, Captain America and the bulk of the Marvel Universe created or co-created by these eight men that stand out as brilliantly as the eight candles to be lit on a festive Hanukkah Menorah!

A more comprehensive list of Jewish cartoonists that were leaders in the industry can be found here.

The contributions of these creators of Jewish decent can not be overstated. Without any small percentage of them comics, as we know them today, would not exist.

This is the time of year when everyone tip-toes around espousing the phrase, “Happy Holidays,” essentially offending people they are trying not to by sterilizing their greetings. In the process of this dilution we lose site of the beauty, significance, and  contributions of the cultures that celebrate uniquely different holidays.

As an independent comics publisher CO2 Comics has always recognized the value of diversity in the comics medium. Our appreciation of the history of our industry strengthens the value of that diversity every day. Though we may not personally celebrate all of these holidays it is with great conviction that we recognize that we are influenced regularly by others that do.

So, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas and a Fabulous Festivus to you all!

Gerry Giovinco



Superhero Movies: Careful What You Wish For

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Recent announcements made by both Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers have indicated that in the next six years there will be approximately forty superhero films released! Comics Alliance has posted an incredible infographic designed by Dylan Todd that details the specifics as they stand now:

That is more than four new superhero films each year from Marvel and DC! This is also not counting any other geek-friendly science fiction films like Star Wars, Star Trek or any number of alternative comic related films!

What have we done? What did we wish for?
Is it possible that the superhero film will become mundane if it hasn’t already?

Will the flood of films, compounded by the plethora of related television shows ruin the thrill of anticipation that used to exist when comic book fans simply longed for a film that could do any superhero justice?

There was a time when it was an annual event just to watch the special effects laden The Wizard of Oz on television. Audiences looked forward to it as a special occasion because it was the one time out of the year that you could always count on to see something spectacular.

Younger generations today do not have that same appreciation because, thanks to modern technology, this classic film can be seen around the clock, throughout the year on a variety of devices. The concept of availability on demand has taken away the urgency that drove families to gather around the television and reverently enjoy it.

This is the same lack of urgency that is responsible for short runs of films at the box office. When great films came out, the line wrapped around the multiplex and down the block for tickets. Films stayed in the theater for six months at a time because it was the only opportunity to see them. Why rush to the theater now when a film will be on Blu-ray in three months? Before videos were available audiences waited three years in hopes that a film would come to television someday.

There was nothing, however, like waiting for a good comic book movie to be made. Superheroes are a special breed of character whose abilities are so fantastic that, for generations, what could only exist on the printed page and in our imaginations could not translate, believably, to film. Comic book fans longed to see a superhero film done right. They had suffered through so many cheesy attempts with only a few that garnered even a modicum of respect.

It was a milestone in 1978 when the Superman film was promoted with the slogan, “You’ll believe a man can fly!” It was a wish come true. For the first time ever, the greatest superhero of them all was finally presented in a relatively believable fashion on film.

The film was a huge success but good superhero films would still be hard to come by. Superman quickly ran his course after a few attempts as did the Batman films but it wasn’t until 2000 that CGI technology became sophisticated enough to allow for believable X-Men and Spider-Man films.

Four major superhero franchises in a twenty-five year period generates anticipation!
Since then there has been about forty superhero films from the big two in the last twelve years and now they are planning on doubling that production!

production!

Who would have ever thought that superhero films could become so commonplace? But with the threat of public domain looming over Golden Age characters in the next twenty years and Silver Age heroes not far behind, the time to cash in on those classic superheroes is now or never.

Fans finally have their wish that good superhero films can be made but now have to hope not to be overwhelmed by them. Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? If it is up to Marvel and Warner Brothers, we are going to find out.

Gerry Giovinco



Before Cosplay There Was Halloween

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Now that comic conventions have become huge cultural events, cosplay, the act of dressing as your favorite character and parading around at conventions, has been getting a lot of attention in large part due to its incredible growing popularity.

When I participated in what were then just called Costume Competitions wearing my signature THING costume back in 1979 there were only a handful of brave folks that would take the stage. Nothing compared to the legions of cosplayers that attend cons today.

What an outlet for creative costumers cons have become. As I think back on it, before science fiction and comic conventions, the only opportunity to get dressed up and run around like your favorite character was Halloween.

Just for this reason, Halloween was my favorite holiday. (Or at least a very tight second to Christmas!) Nothing was more fun than donning costumes with my brothers and pillaging the neighborhood for candy with my grandmother who, small in stature at 4’8″,  would also disguise herself as one of the kids just to help keep our group identity obscured.

It didn’t take long for us to graduate from the conventional costumes made by Collegeville or Ben Cooper but I will never forget those vacuum formed masks and cheesy,  one-piece coveralls. They came in all kinds of characters. The first I remember having was Porky Pig printed in a fluorescent orange color to aid visibility at night.

As far as superheroes were concerned, I remember a Captain America knock-off that had a triangular shield printed on the mask bearing the words “American Hero.”  We also had a Batman outfit that just wasn’t quite the same Batman we were watching on that famed 1966 series. Other kids had Wonder Woman, Superman, Spider-man, Hulk and not many others of cape-and-spandex fare.

In an attempt to dignify one of my favorite heroes my first homemade costume was of Batman. I pieced together a black cowl and a cape draped over a gray sweatshirt and pants with black rain boots and swim trunks. I was pretty young at the time and my efforts were rudimentary but I had the bug. Each year after that, it became a badge of honor to craft my own costume and to outdo the one from the year before.

Eventually, it seemed like a shame to put so much effort into a costume for a few hours of enjoyment only on Halloween. Then I discovered comic conventions. What an outlet for the costumer in me! Not only did conventions happen throughout the year, the competitions created an atmosphere that ensured the costumes would be creative and well made by like-minded people that appreciated each other and their skills.

Cosplay has since grown into a phenomenon developing a culture of its own.

Halloween has evolved too. Costumes are no longer vacuum formed and packed in pie boxes. They come in all shapes and sizes with accessories to match. Superheroes abound in costumes with built-in muscles or sexy variants of most of the world’s favorite characters that have been popularized in almost every medium. It is as if the two worlds of Cosplay and Halloween have collided to make one big, year-long, costume extravaganza.

For costumers, this is almost too good to be true and that is a concern.

Halloween has become so popular, communities have become defensive to prevent it from getting out of control. Small towns now limit the hours of Trick-or-Treating to as few as two.  Some cancel the evening altogether and offer a festival or a parade in an effort to control some random acts of violence, mischief, or safety hazards.

Cosplay is experiencing growth pains of its own with issues of privacy and sexual harassment becoming a prevalent discussion causing conventions to establish rules and regulations that will eventually reign in the casual antmosphere that conventioneers have come to enjoy.

A few rotten apples, once again, will ruin it for the whole bunch.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We could all agree to be civilized and respect each other’s dignity by simply attempting to act like the heroes we admire. Is that expecting too much cosplay fantasy in a real world or do we have to ask the hard question we ask every Halloween, “Trick or Treat?” and be satisfied with what we get?

Hopefully, no rocks.

Happy Halloween!

Gerry Giovinco



Remember When Comics Smelled Like…Pot?!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Remember when comics smelled like newsprint?

Not anymore!

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

What the hell are they thinking?!

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

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

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

Forbes describes it this way{

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

Entrepreneur says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just wrong on so many levels!

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

Just ask Deadmau5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next? Micro dot variants?

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

We will all have DC to thank.

Gerry Giovinco



The Alternate Reality of Dark Horse Comics

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Mike Richardson, the publisher of Dark Horse Comics made it very clear that winners do attempt to rewrite the history books, creating an alternate reality that would make any comic universe proud when he made this statement:

“I don’t know if anyone understands today that we spearheaded the creator-owned movement. Image was years away, and any kind of company that offered those rights and those freedoms hadn’t happened yet. We spearheaded that, and I think that fact has been lost over the years.”

Mike Richardson

People that know anything about creator owned comics and especially those that actually care about creator owned comics definitely do NOT understand the point that Mr. Richardson is attempting to make because it is a complete fantasy with no basis in historic reality, whatsoever.

Dark Horse does not even have the longest history of publishing creator owned works of current comics publishing companies. Hell, even Marvel and DC were writing creator owned contracts and offering royalties to creators before Dark Horse even opened its doors! The Big Two had to in response to a gang of Independent publishers that were successfully producing creator owned comics that posed a significant threat to their market share while siphoning away top talent.

Creator ownership is a simple concept. You create it, you own it and that is how copyright law works. Since 1976 the creator owns the work from the instant it is created wether it is filed and registered or not. This excludes, however anything created work for hire in which case it belongs to the company that commissioned the work on their behalf. If you open a comic book or any other work and it says “© Joe/Jane Creator” it is creator owned.

What you do with your creation after you create it is a different story. In the comics industry it was common practice for a creator to sell the entire rights of their creation to a publishing house. This was usually done in the hopes of getting steady work and in the case of some of the more savvy creators a small stake in royalties. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to Superman for $130 while Bob Kane, reportedly, always held some small stake in Batman.

This practice of buying properties outright was unlike typical book publishing where authors retained their copyright and were paid an advance by publishers for the rights to publish their work then paid royalties on each book sold. This publisher/creator  relationship would endure for a specified term outlined in an agreement which would also include termination clauses and opportunities for revision of rights to the creator.

So this concept of creator ownership has never been anything new, it was just outside of the business tradition that had been established by comic companies who argued that the low price of comic books made them such a low yield product royalties would be negligible.

A quick history lesson for Mr. Richardson since he obviously missed it:

It was the Underground Comix movement in the ’60s and ’70’s that proved that creators could self publish and develop markets to sell their material in. If anybody spearheaded creator owned comics it was this group.

Just a few Creator Owned comics published before Dark Horse existed

When the Direct Market was created by Phil Seuling in 1972 he created a distribution system that was user friendly for creator owned comics. Bud Plant’s Comics & Comix published some early creator owned comics like The First Kingdom by Jack Katz which began in 1974 the same year that Mike Friedrich began publishing Star*Reach. Mike was a huge advocate of creator ownership and represented a number of great comic talents as their agent. By 1977 Heavy Metal hit the racks with creator owned material while Aardvark Vanaheim and WaRP Graphics were self publishing Cerebus and Elfquest respectively. Dean Mullaney formed Eclipse in 1978 and we witnessed the first defectors from Marvel when Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy create Sabre which was also one of the first graphic novels.

Just a few publishers of Creator Owned Comics

The floodgates opened in the 1980’s and a strong wave of publishers all with creator owned contracts poured on the scene, Pacific, First, Comico, Capital, Aircel, Vortex, Fantagraphics, Continuity, Mirage and others all produced creator owned projects well before Dark Horse showed up.

These publishers refined the model that Dark Horse adopted. ADOPTED! Dark Horse may have spearheaded survival in the volatile comics market that sank most of those early publishers by the middle of the ’90s but they certainly did not spearhead the concept of creator ownership.

Each of the publishers had their own way of exploring the terms of the contract with creators. I can only speak for what we did at Comico and we were always proud of how creator friendly and generous our contracts were. Comico paid full page rates that were comparable to those paid by Marvel and DC. In those days that averaged about $200 a page for writing, pencils, inks, lettering and coloring. We paid royalties after each issue broke even which was roughly after 30,000 were sold at which point we split the net 50/50! In those days it was not uncommon for an issue to sell between 60,000-100,000 copies so creators did quite well and they completely owned their property.

I have always been impressed with Dark Horse. They became the company that Comico was always intended to be. Comico discovered new talent,  worked with established pros,  had success with licensed properties and was highly innovative and focused on quality, but  unfortunately made mistakes that led to the company’s failure. When I look at the success of Dark Horse I see confirmation that Comico had many of the right ideas as did most of those early independents that made for one of the most exciting eras of comics history.

It is an insult to see those accomplishments dismissed by a respected guy like Mike Richardson who obviously did his homework but rather than give credit where it is due, chooses to rewrite history to benefit his latest marketing plan.

He is not alone, Image shares the same glory complex, as if they were the first Independents, the first pros to walk away from Marvel and DC but they never would have had the chance if it were not for a host of others that did it over a decade earlier and built a viable market for them to succeed in.

Acknowledging history goes a long way towards gaining the respect you desire. Why waste energy and goodwill fabricating history when you should be focused on making and celebrating your own.

Out of respect I did leave a voicemail for Mike Richardson with his administrative assistant, hoping to get a better insight to why he believes his position but as of this writing the call has not been returned. I guess it got lost in the alternate reality of Dark Horse Comics where the accomplishments of true pioneers no longer exist.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Saving Superheroes from their Gatekeeper

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Just two years ago Advertising Age magazine listed DC Comics as one of America’s hottest brands. Though the referred to it as “a move fraught with risk,” they applauded DC for reworking every character in the New 52 as an effort to broaden their audience appeal.

That is what every owner of a brand wants, universal appeal. That has been the power of comics and superheroes in particular, for generations. They have had appeal to everyone as a general whole. Who wouldn’t want a character that represents “Truth, justice and the American way” as their trademark?

Few characters in the world are as iconic as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, followed by the supportive cast of the Justice League of America and the rest of the DC Universe. That is why you can you can find their images licensed on every product imaginable from baby toys to automobiles.

It is obvious that once Marvel was bought by the merchandising masterminded Disney Corporation, Time Warner and DC felt they needed to step up their game to prevent Supes, Bats, and WW from being overshadowed by the likes of Spider-man and those damn Avengers.

Rather than polishing up the classic style guides and reminding markets why their product was responsible for the entire genre of superheroes and has stood the test of time having been viable for seventy-five years, they decided to “shake things up” by making their product more edgy, gritty, trendy, socially relevant, sexy, modern, and violent.

Viola! The New 52.

There is evidence that this move has certainly perked up comic sales and generated some new found publicity, though much of this is related to the sinister speculator market.  There also seems to be an influx of new readers, woman in particular, who appeared to be absent from the comics scene just a few years ago.

But has all this change really been good?

Say what you like, the damage is done as evidenced by a stirring, must-read, fan letter to DC, eloquently and passionately written by Gabrielle Friesen, who could not have spelled out more clearly how DC has set the time bomb that is destined to annihilate their, once invaluable IP.

Her diatribe is lengthy and painful to anyone who has grown up loving comics. She details, situation after situation where DC has taken beloved characters that she enjoyed since childhood and subjected them to rape, torture, murder, exploitation, mindless prejudice and persecution all for the sake of “broader audience appeal.”

A brief synopsis can be found in this quote from her letter but seriously, please read the whole thing:

“You want to know something DC? You’re the super villain here. Your company is Doomsday. Lumbering, stupid, terrible, leaving a path of pain in its wake, killing beloved superheroes left and right. Fans like me? We’re Superman (and this is the only time I have ever identified with Superman). We’re brave and smart and powerful, and we want the world to be good and safe. We want our comics to be good and safe. And you are pummeling us down, but Superman rose up again. The Death of Superman was a stupid, and ultimately temporary move on your part. More and more fans like me are leaving, using our superpower of the dollar, withdrawing it, and warning everyone we know not to come near the radioactive toxic waste heap that is your company, that it won’t give them superpowers, only hurt them. We’re going to outlast you; whether its your company collapsing because dominant culture dudebros are not enough of a market to support your behemoth weight, or whether you pull through, get a new editorial team, or just wise up to the fact that more than just dudebros exist in the world, that people love your characters but not the way you treat them, that consumers are smart and have power. You are bleeding out and actively resisting a tourniquet, spitting in the face and insulting the medic offering it to you.

Comics were started by the downtrodden. Superman, the alien immigrant, was created by Jewish men. Wonder Woman was created by a man wishing for women’s equality. Superheroes protect the weak, not those who seek to dominate. You’ve forgotten your roots, and completely assimilated to dominant, oppressive culture.

You are in control of beautiful characters. Kind, compassionate, flawed human characters. Characters who want the world to be better, who help the downtrodden, who rescue kittens from trees and save lives. People who can fly.

But you’re stuck on the ground, actively digging yourself deeper into mud.”

What trademark owner wants to get this letter from a fan? What licensee who paid tons of money to secure the rights to plaster their product with DC superheroes wants to know that these characters are no longer the wholesome bundle of Americana they thought they bought into?

Does Fisher-Price, Mattel and every other maker of children’s toys and apparel want to know that DC editorial thinks it’s humorous that one of it’s major characters were the subject of an art contest where they were to be shown naked in a tub attempting to commit suicide a week before National Suicide Prevention Week?

(Yes, weeks after this contest created a n offensive stir in the industry, DC has yet to take this link down from their site.)

If a sport star or celebrity had this kind of attention focused on them, you know that companies would be pulling endorsements left and right. Ask Tiger Woods, Lance Armstong, Mel Gibson and Paula Deen, just to name a few.

There were high hopes when Diane Nelson was hired lead DC after her tremendous job with the Harry Potter franchise. Is she even paying attention? Would she allow the Harry Potter property to be defiled the way the DCU is? Doubtful! What would J.K. Rowlings say?

Gabrielle Friesen is right. Fans do have the power of their money and their voices. These characters may be copyrighted and trademarked to DC Comics but they belong to us as a culture. It is the people that have embraced them and spent their hard earned dollars to establish them as the icons they are today. Superheroes are vulnerable after all, endangered by their own gatekeeper.

It is time that true fans save their favorite superheroes before it’s too late, before there is a complete meltdown of the entire DCU.

“Up, up and away!”

Gerry Giovinco



Naked Superheroes?

Monday, June 17th, 2013

There is a battle going on. David verses Goliath (in this case two Goliaths) as independent comics publisher Ray Felix jumps into the ring against Marvel and DC in defense of their allegations that he infringes on their joint trademark of the word superhero when he uses it in the title of his work, A World Without Superheroes.”

Yes, Marvel and DC share the trademark of every variation of the word/term  superhero and pounce on anyone that uses the word to promote any goods or services related to entertainment, toys, apparel, etc. Sort of…

They seem vulnerable to pornographers who have a field day exploiting parodies of all the major superheroes as was detailed in a previous blog post Superheroes Defenseless Against Porn Parodies.” Parodies of the individual characters is one thing but the pornography industry has proven that the word superhero is too generic to be a trademark. They use it everywhere without  the special disclaimers they use to  cover their overexposed behinds in every other instance.

Video intro from Vivid's latest Superhero release Iron Man XXX

Axel Braun, lead director of Vivid Entertainment’sSuperhero” imprint (How is an imprint a parody?!) likes to brag about their extensive team of entertainment lawyers and how they insure that they are always within the boundaries of the parody law.They use the word superhero blatantly in the imprint’s logo that simply reads “Vivid XXX Super Heroes.”It is on the cover of all of their DVD’s. It is in the title sequence of the videos and previews. They even have a magazine titled “Vivid XXX Superheroes Magazine” that is on its 27th issue.

Various other porn producers released titles like “Chasing Pink 4 ‘Superhero,'” “Superhero Sex-o-rama,” “Superhero Sex Therapist,” and “Pornstar Superheroes” throw the word around like yesterday’s funny pages.

Superhero trademark gone wild

Superheroes is a word that obviously represents what the pornographers are producing and selling just as it represents what Marvel and DC are producing and selling: Characters possessing special powers that wear costumes with capes and masks. They are selling the same thing! Despite what they may be doing in the context of a story isn’t a superhero a superhero even if they get naked?

If pornographers can use the word so freely with no contention it must be a generic term. Confusing right? Doesn’t confusion of a trademark constitute infringement?

Porn parody aside why is the word Superhero still not generic enough for it to be abandoned by the courts as a trademark?

Google superhero and 47.6 MILLION results show up with plenty of links that employ the word superhero as part of their name. Here are a few websites, mostly commercial, from the first three pages of the search:

http://www.thesuperheroquiz.com/

http://www.superherohype.com/

http://www.superherodb.com/

http://www.superherostuff.com/

http://www.superherolife.com/blog/

http://www.schoollunchsuperheroday.com/

http://superherojs.com/

http://www.superherosupplies.com/ I love this one!!!

http://superherodashstl.com/

http://www.reallifesuperheroes.com/

http://www.superheroesthemovie.com

http://www.superherorocks.com/fr_home.cfm

http://www.superheroclubhouse.org/

http://www.superheroes5k.com/

More evidence that the word is generic?

Kids play Superhero in school yards all over and every day forcing overly concerned educators to coin the term Superheroplay. This term refers to kids using their imaginations often acting out as imaginary superheroes with imaginary powers.

There is even a National Superhero Day when everyone is encouraged to be a superhero for a day and news stations ask parents to send in letters explaining why their child is a superhero, not why their kid is Bat Man or Spider-man. Why is their kid Super Jane or Super Johnny?

There is even a growing trend of real-life superheroes patrolling the streets!

Marvel and DC were bold enough to  argue that the word superheroes uniquely defined their products and services and seized opportunity to pull the wool over some blind trademark officer who failed to recognize that the word had been in use since 1917 and specifically  described the entire genre of comics for decades.

Their weak argument is less valid, today. Superheroes have become part of our culture. Superheroes is  a word we use to describe exemplary performances grounded in values of moral behavior (unless of course they are porn stars). It is a word that is ground into the lexicon of our daily lives like other, once trademarked, words such as aspirin, escalator, kerosene, thermos, and zipper that have all been deemed generic.

It is time that the ownership of this trademark is successfully challenged. Maybe the fine lawyers at mysuperherolawyer will take up the cause. They defended their own use of the word successfully!

Ray Felix is fighting the good fight.  The genericization of the word will allow other comics publishers working within the superhero genre to accurately promote their projects to audiences that continue to hunger for fresh and exciting superhero stories that are not limited to the editorial policies of Marvel and DC.

Become a superhero and support Ray Felix. Help free the word superhero from trademark bondage. Renewal of the trademark registration is in 2016. If the courts do not deem it generic by then a unified front might be necessary to free the word.

Why should the Porn Industry be able to sell superheroes and other comics publishers can not. Maybe we can so long as our superheroes get naked. Hey, it works for them.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Superheroes Held Hostage as Trademark

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

There is no doubt that superheroes represent modern mythology. Face it,  we are fascinated by folks with super powers and cool costumes. Why not? Super human characters have captured our imagination since the days of the ancient Egyptians. Who wouldn’t want to have a super power? Most of us at least have dreamt about flying or possessing super strength. Superheroes are permanently ingrained into our culture. They are a fantasy  representation of ultimate traits that we admire. They are who we all would like to be.

The concept of superheroes is so pervasive in our society that many are surprised to learn the word, superheroes  and all variations of it are actually trademarked jointly by  Marvel and DC. These two parent corporations are undoubtedly responsible for most recognizable superheroes in the world today but should that be enough to grant them ownership of the use of the one word that distinctly represents an entire genre of creative works depicted in all forms of media including comic books, novels, video games, film and television not to mention a plethora of merchandised products?

Marvel and DC entered into the rare joint ownership back in 1979, though some suggest that this may have occurred as far back as the 1950’s. It was necessary for them to share the ownership to protect their rights to the word or risk losing it. They renewed the trademark registration as recently as 2006 generating much discussion at the time. A clear explanation of the ramifications of the registration was posted on Comic Book Resources by staff writer Brian Cronin who is also a lawyer in New York City. The post titled, The Superhero Trademark FAQ did a a wonderful job of succinctly answering all of the obvious questions, especially the big one, “How can they trademark the word superhero?”

Apparently, all they had to do was prove, through surveys, that people identified the the word superhero specifically with their product.  Asked, “name a superhero” and any random selection of the general population undoubtedly would have ran off a steady stream of, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-man, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America; a list of the most iconic superheroes, all owned by Marvel and DC.

Case closed.

Of course there are tons of other superheroes. There is a rich three-quarter of a century history of superheroes that were published by a myriad of other companies but by the late seventies they were all gone and forgotten except by a few diehard fans of the medium and pop culture enthusiasts. The mass market was being funneled into the Direct Market and when a sudden wave of new superheroes emerged in the 1980’s they were corralled into a restrictive market that catered only to enthusiasts that could spot a superhero a mile away if they were labeled one or not. New publishers were frustrated by their inability to use the word on covers and in advertising but were happy to distance their product from the big two in an effort to establish their brand if only in the confines of the local comic shop. The rest of the world was exposed exclusively to Marvel and DC characters.

Nobody could have imagined the scope of the internet then or the future of computer generated special effects.  The impact they both have had on  the new explosion of interest  in superheroes has changed the game. The concept of the superhero has become bigger than the individual characters. Show a generic picture of any man, woman or child in a costume with a mask and a cape and they will easily be identified as a superhero and distinguished as NOT one of the major players in the field. Generic superheroes abound throughout advertising, media and entertainment. Everybody calls them what they are, superheroes.  The people that are in the business of creating new superheroes, other comic publishers, cannot call a spade a spade, however,  without receiving the dreaded cease and desist letter from both Marvel and DC.

This is just another example of how Marvel and DC gang up and continue to put a stranglehold on the growth of the genre and the medium of comics. As an industry we let it happen by not contesting their dictatorship at every turn. One little guy has stood up to fight the good fight. Ray Felix , the publisher of A World Without Superheroes, is taking a stand and challenging them with amazingly little support from others. He needs help from those that care about superheroes. He needs help from us.

What Marvel and DC have done with the trademark of the word, superhero, is a travesty. If anyone has diluted the trademark it is them. When they originally registered the word, a superhero had distinct wholesome qualities that were governed by the Comics Code Authority which was still in effect, though in  weakened sense, in 2006 upon their renewal. They have continually changed their characters rebooting everything from their costume, to sexual orientation. Characters have been killed, re-killed and killed again. Any moral code that was attributed to superheroes has long gone astray. There is little that another publisher could do that would harm the term superhero more than what Marvel and DC have already done. They are not good custodians of the word!

Under their stewardship an entire industry of superhero pornography has been allowed to flourish under the guise of parody. Their trademarked term, superhero, is all over the covers of those videos.  One company has an entire line of them titled “Vivid XXX Superheroes” that features all the major superheroes doing the “nasty.” OK, a parody is a parody and it is protected. Superhero Movie was a parody. There was one of them!  The porn industry uses the trademark “superhero” over and over again with no contention.  There’s even a performance spray for men called Superhero!  What’s the deal?

Imagine Coke-a-Cola standing by idly while a porn film features everyone running around with a Coke bottle hanging out of every orifice. It wouldn’t happen!

Now there is Superhero Play. No, it is not some type of pornography. (See the dilution) It is a term coined by educators describing little kids running around pretending they are superheroes and it is raising concern because it inspires aggressive behavior because superheroes “fight” evil.  Will Marvel and DC want to distance themselves from the word superhero when it becomes a witch-hunt-buzz-word like Horror and Crime comics did in the fifties?

The word superhero is being held hostage as a trademark by Marvel and DC. They protect it when it is convenient and when it offers an opportunity to bully small publishers, toy companies and business owners. They enforce the illusion that all superheroes are their product only  and for any other reason this is why guys like Ray Felix need to be supported, because the world needs to know that all superhero comics do not come from just Marvel and DC.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Film Adaptations – What Do Fans Know?

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The 2011 film adaptations of Conan the Barbarian starring Jason Momoa as the vengeful Cimmerian was far from being a classic and quickly vanished from theaters. It struggled on many levels as a film. Acting, storytelling, cinematography, sound, and special effects all missed their mark yet for fans of the original Robert E. Howard pulps this movie succeeded at tapping the nerve that has attracted so many to the character. It was bloody, fierce, and full of gratuitous sex and violence, summing the character up in a simple bio, “I live, I love, I slay… I am content.”

Unlike the earlier, more polished, film versions of Conan that starred the muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzenegger who gave the character as much barbaric swagger as a He-Man cartoon, this movie, through all its crudeness, somehow just “got it.” The makers understood the true nature of the character and consequently made a film that, as bad as it was, was still enjoyable to fans who have longed to see Conan finally unleashed.

Reviews of the film reveal two types of Conan fans: Those who are fans of the original source material and those whose only familiarity with the character came from the Swarzeneggar flicks. The latter seem offended by the ferocity of the newer film, objecting that it betrays the watered-down Conan that they grew up with.

Imagine that!

This is nothing new. Audiences that only knew Batman through their experience growing up during the 1966 Batmania had a hard time adjusting to the darker yet more accurate versions of the character that came later.

Hollywood has a way of redefining comic book characters to enhance what they perceive as their marketability often sacrificing the virtues that made the character special in the first place.

This summer’s retooling of Superman may be the boldest attempt to reshape the most iconic superhero of all times. If Man of Steel is successful will it blot out or demean the Superman that has stood for truth, justice and the American way for the last seventy-four years? I am anxious to see if Kal-El is ever actually called or referred to as Superman in the film.

Will it be up to the fans of the original source material to preserve the legacy of Superman?

Probably.

And that’s a good thing because fans get it right. Fans know what makes characters special and even with limited resources they are able to capitalize on those attributes to create memorable films that capture the true essence of the subject.

The following is a list of great examples of fan films that succeed:

Wonder Woman

Grayson

Judge Minty

Y: The Last Man Rising

ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining

Lobo ParaMilitary Christmas Special

Superman Classic

The Rocketeer Animation

At CO2 Comics we have our own favorite fan film. A blast from the past, completed in 1982 by Bob Karwoski, Larry Ruggiero and the infamous Bob Schreck:

The Incredible HULK Meets the Ever  Lovin’ Blue Eyed THING


The THING costume created by Yours Truly conjures a truer version of a Jack Kirby/Joe Sinnott THING than any of the recent Hollywood films.

You decide

Thanks to advances in CGI, film adaptions of comic characters have gotten a lot better but directors are always in danger of putting the cart before the horse and becoming dependent on effects to carry a film rather than the character. Green Lantern proved that CGI does not a superhero film make.

So Hollywood, pay attention to the fans. If you want a beloved superhero film, stay true to the character. But if all else fails, call it a parody and make a porno!

Who cares? The original character is already screwed.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



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