Posts Tagged ‘Bleeding Cool’

Comic Creators – It is Time to Change the Business Model

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerry Giovinco

In the Shadow of Comico’s Sins

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Rich Johnston over at Bleeding Cool raised a few eyebrows recently with the post The Return Of Comico? But What Of The Elementals?

In the post he very briefly describes the demise of Comico before unveiling his discovery of a recent trademark application filed by Steven Rev. Rich happily divulges address information and even describes the location as having convenient parking, thus instigating the ires of the many folk that have beefs with Comico owner Andrew Rev who has become both notorious and mysterious since Comico last published.

Curiously, Johnston questions the future of one of Comico’s most legendary titles, The Elementals, which had been purchased by Rev from Bill Willingham back in the 1990’s. If Johnston would have dug just a little deeper he would have found that the same trademark search engine that revealed a potential revival of Comico also discloses that the trademark for The Elementals is currently held by DYNAMITE.

That revelation would have surely stirred up some excitement!

Of course all of that is here or there speculation.  One line in the post, however personally struck a nerve for two glaring inaccuracies.

“…there has been an attempt by the original founders to publish comcics[sic] as CO2 Comics…”

The Original Founders:

Top: Dennis LaSorta, Phil Lasorda, Bottom: Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta

Bill Cucinotta and I are only two of “the original founders” of Comico.  Though we both feel very responsible for the initial direction of that company and many of the positive and innovative approaches that defined it in its heyday, we were both often at odds with the other partners and ensuing management team. The working environment at Comico was often emotionally, verbally and physically hostile. Our disputes within the partnership resulted in both of our departures as active members of the partnership at separate times years prior to the bankruptcy and sale to Rev.

Though we are prone to celebrate the accomplishments of Comico, and there is a lot that we are very proud of, there is a pall of resentment toward what we endured within that extended partnership that continues to haunt us.

We made a conscious effort to define our current partnership by naming our publishing venture CO2 Comics to specify that the vision of this approach belongs to the two of us working in cooperation with the creators that support our vision. We cannot deny our roles as former Comico publishers but, as we have repeatedly stated, CO2 Comics is NOT Comico and never intends to be.

CO2 Comics current catalog

An Attempt to  Publish:

We feel that we have accomplished a lot in the last five years since we launched CO2 Comics originally as a web comic collective on the internet in 2009 We have published both on the web and in print several thousand pages of comics and comic related content.  A brief rundown of those accomplishments as well as upcoming projects was highlighted on our blog to commemorate our fifth anniversary.

I think we have well exceeded what could be considered an “attempt” at publishing comics!

A few weeks ago Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche, in an effort to promote their new book, a graphic adaptation of Amity Shlaes’ THE FORGOTTEN MAN, suggested that they were the subjects of a black list crafted by liberals in the industry against conservative creators.

The idea of a black list might seem ludicrous to some but when our efforts to publish great comics by  a laundry list of incredible creators can be so easily dismissed by observers of the industry we have to ask ourselves if we are not being subjugated by attitudes shaped by what Comico had become toward the end; a Comico that was far from our control and well beyond what we had ever intended it to be.

We couldn’t even get a link in this post that mentions us.

There may or may not be a defined black list in comics, but Bill and I often feel like two black sheep when our current efforts and accomplishments are overlooked. We can only wonder if we are maligned by the dark shadow cast by the sins of what Comico became after we left.

Fortunately we have surrounded ourselves by great talent, many of whom witnessed first-hand what we accomplished and experienced back-in-the-day. They appreciate our integrity and commitment to them personally and to the medium of comics. We can not thank them enough for their continued faith in us!

CO2 Comics is already much more than Comico became. It is a labor of love from which great comics will continue to flow, not a trial of deception, hostility, resentment and fiscal irresponsibility that crushed the dreams of many.

Bill and I have the same vision we ever had: to publish creator owned comics and to establish wonderful, trustworthy, and mutually profitable relationships with creators  in that process.

We wish any new Comico all the luck in the world. They are gonna need it. We just ask, please,  don’t let the sins of Comico past damn the future of CO2 Comics.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



The New 52: Disrespecting the Dead Guy?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Knee-jerk reaction? Maybe, but when I saw a headline on Bleeding Cool that the late Jack Kirby was being used as a character in DC’s New 52 I almost had an aneurism.

What are they thinking?!

Fanboy homage  aside, Jack Kirby is a man whose legacy is, beside being arguably the greatest and most dominant comic creator of  all time, that he and his heirs have been stripped of creator ownership of most of his creations developed  in his five decades in the business. We are not talking deprivation of scant royalties either. He was significantly responsible for the most marketable characters at Marvel, a company that is currently worth several billions of dollars. Jack Kirby has been violated by the industry he played a major role in building. Gang raped by the industry that he dedicated his life’s work to.

I was surprised to discover that Kirby had actually spent more time working for DC than Marvel over his long career and, though this does not account for the ton of work he did for the company in the 40’s and 50’s, it is well documented that DC has fairly paid royalties for his work done late in his career. They proudly claim  that Kirby made more money off of his work  from his New Gods characters than he made from all of his work done for Marvel, citing royalties paid for appearances and merchandising related to the Super Powers series.

That, of course was a different DC comics, lead by creator friendly Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz who pioneered royalty sharing and creator ownership at a time when independent publishers were forcing the Big Two to recognize the value of creator’s rights.

The new DC, purveyor of the New 52 that is aggressively bastardizing their entire line of characters in a strategic effort to prevent copyright reversion and the immanent threat of public domain, is not so creator friendly.

Ask Alan Moore whose WATCHMEN was ripped from his control and whored out without his consent long after he had been courted with promises of creator ownership of his work. BEFORE WATCHMEN was a slap in the face to anyone who thought DC actually respected creator rights.

Ask Gerry Conway who recently reached out to his fans in an effort to be notified when his creations would appear in various media so he could file forms to be paid royalties due through DC’s “equity participation program.” Conveniently, the new DC is not in the business to notify the creators when their characters are used. The burden of discovery is on the creators and payment is not retroactive.

Ask Jerry Ordway whose work defined DC Comics back in the 80’s and 90’s. He cannot get a lick of work today from the company he helped keep afloat in turbulent times.

Ask the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster who watch the iconic character that these two men created be endlessly rebooted to the point of mutilation where Superman and his story are no longer recognizable, all to protect DC’s ownership of the IP.

The New DC, has no respect for the creators, the characters or the fans. They are run by a narcissistic band of privileged fanboys, focused only on their own singular vision and the bottom line.

So, the thought of Jack Kirby appearing as a character in the New 52 stirs the acid in my gut and makes me want to puke. Kirby deserves better than to have his likeness paraded in faux homage as a cartoon character in a comic book. I imagine the Kirby character showing up in future encyclopedias of the DCU, in animated series and in 3DCGI video games, all with a DC trademark attached.

Worse yet, I imagine Marvel falling in line and parroting DC. Why not? He’s a historical figure. “We’re only trademarking our rendered interpretation of him, like Disney did with Pocahontas.

I’m sure this rant sounds irrational but tell that to fans of Bruce Lee.

Audrey Hepburn,

and Fried Astaire

who have seen their idols resurrected from the dead by advanced media technology to sell whiskey, chocolate and vacuums. At least these commercials were made with compensation to the appropriate estates or heirs.

There was a time when DC would go to great lengths to gain approval of a celebrity’s likeness. They required Neal Adams to get approval for the 170 famous faces that he drew in the 1978 Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali wraparound cover!

I guess they don’t feel the need for approval to use Jack as a character because he is dead.  What’s he going to say, “I’ll sue you?”

While DC is squeezing yet another buck from the legacy of Jack Kirby,  his granddaughter, Jillian, is plugging along with her Kirby4Heroes kirby4heroes.com campaign to raise money for the Hero Initiative to support other comic creators in need. That’s what Jack would have done. It’s what would have made him proud. Her Kirby4Heroes facebook page is a glorious celebration of the joys that her grandfather brought to all of us and the impact he had on popular culture.

She and her family have taken the high road to place Jack on the pedestal he has earned. Do they deserve, as heirs,  to be compensated handsomely for Jack’s contributions to the industry? Absolutely! But it is more important to them that the good will of his name be maintained in a dignified and positive manner.

Jack took enough abuse from the comics industry when he was alive. Can we please show some respect now that he is gone? He will have been 100 in just four years. Is it possible that his centurion celebration will be one of honor rather than a crass marketing bonanza benefiting those that need it the least?

I pray that I see no Jack Kirby action figures with a jointly owned Marvel/DC trademark stamped on his ravaged behind.

Making Comics Because  We Want to

Gerry Giovinco



The Future of Comics is 3-D

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Remember the commercial where one person eating a chocolate bar collides with another eating peanut butter presumably inspiring Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? The ad capitalized on a well known fact that some of the best ideas are the results of accidents.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could anticipate these unlikely turn of events and forecast an outcome accurately in advance? Scientists attempt this all the time and perform experiments to prove their hypothesis.

Well, I’m no scientist but I think I know a few things about comics and I have been witnessing some developments in technology, distribution and comic art production that lead me to believe that 3-D is the key to a bountiful future for the comics industry.

(Laughter?)

I know this is  a daring statement considering that 3-D has never been anything other than an eye-blurring, headache-inducing fad requiring optical accessories that defy all fashion sensibilities but the stars of fate are lining up like the reflection of lights in disco infinity mirror!

Ever since the incredible commercial success of AVATAR, Hollywood has been cramming 3-D films down the throats of audiences in theaters everywhere. Any film that can be remotely adapted to 3-D is going under the stereoscopic knife. Still, most audiences prefer the traditional 2-D  versions so what is the rush?

There is a 3-D technological boom on the horizon.

3-D has been steadily infiltrating our homes as more and more HD televisions are equipped with 3-D capability.  Though these televisions still require the use of eyeglasses with polarized lenses or more the sophisticated shutter glasses, the 3-D effects, especially on large screens, are astounding.

Hand held mobile devices, however, are poised to overtake the market using a new technology called APB or Autostereoscopic Parallax Barrier. They are capable of displaying crystal clear 3-D on their small screens without the need for any special glasses. These gaming units, cell phones and, soon, tablets are also being equipped with 3-D cameras making them capable of capturing, sending and sharing photos and video of unique 3-D content.

Content is the magic word!

For these new 3-D devices to succeed there needs to be content. Lots of it. Hollywood is scrambling but it can’t make it fast enough. Video games, tapping into the already present 3-D CGI will be broad providers of  material. Web developers will employ more and more 3-D imagery as the viewing devices become more readily available. Manufacturers are betting the house that users will become the biggest provider of 3-D content simply by sharing their images and video. Anaglyphic 3-D content that requires the use of the old red and blue lensed glasses is already proliferating on YouTube, paving the road for the more easily viewed autostereoscopic material.

I believe that no media can produce more dynamic 3-D content at an economical cost than comics. Comic art is a natural for 3-D with its traditional dependancy on line art and frequent use of dramatic forced perspective.  The effects in 3-D comics are enhanced and the layers of depth are more clearly defined than traditional stereoscopic photography and even 3-D CGI. Comics also give the reader a greater opportunity to appreciate 3-D in each static image of a story while in a 3-D video the effects stream by quickly, offering little chance to digest the depth of the graphics.

Motion comics offer the best of both worlds. In fact it was my having watched DC’s commercial for the New 52 and noting its achievement  of creating the illusion of depth with its graphics and motion of layers of art, combined with an ad for a newly released 3-D cell phone that includes a 3-D camera that  pushed the chocolate into the peanut butter for me. I had already seen the trailer for Green Lantern displayed on a 3-D capable  Nintendo 3DS and was quite impressed by the technology and the clarity of the image. The idea that any user could easily generate this type of 3-D photos and videos with their cell phone camera gave me hope that comic artists could do the same with simple ingenuity and the help of a program that could generate stereoscopic images from line art.

Click and Visit M2

I came across a 3-D motion comic made by the guys at M2 on Bleeding Cool that is a must see if you have an old pair of red and blue anaglyphic glasses on you. It will give you a chance to see the potential of motion comics in 3-D.

M2 : 3D Sizzle Reel 2011 from M2 on Vimeo.

If you are enjoying the motion comics please be sure to check out Bernie Mireault’s Jam motion comic right here at CO2 Comics. I’m sure you can easily imagine how great that would look in 3-D.

Check out Bernie Mireault's The JAM Motion Comic

I have always been intrigued by 3-D possibly because even though we live in a three dimensional reality it is so hard to capture. As an artist the biggest challenge is being forced to capture that third dimension on a two dimensional canvas.

My first experience with simulated 3-D was with a Viewmaster.  We all had them as kids, staring through those binocular-like viewers at a disc with a series of transparent slides. They were a toy adapted from basic stereoscopes that had been around since 1838.

Mighty_Mouse_3D

I was also a big fan of 3-D baseball cards that used lenticular graphics to create the illusion of depth. I at one time even owned a Nashika N8000 35mm 3-D camera that took photos that were processed and printed with this same lenticular process as the baseball cards.

3-D Comics have been around for a long time. The first 3-D comic featured Mighty Mouse and was published by St. John Comics in 1953. The 3-D effect was created by none other than the legendary Joe Kubert along with Norman Maurer and his brother Lenny. The 3-D comic fad in the 50’s was short lived but 3-D comics enjoyed a comeback in the 80’s under the guiding hand of Ray Zone.

We published a  ROBOTECH 3-D comic in 1987 while at Comico aond used Ray Zone’s expertise to produce it. Of course it contained pencils by CO2 Comics contributer Mike Leeke. Here are a couple of scans that you should be able to enjoy with a pair of 3-D specs.

With all of these new viewing devices and autostereoscopic technology 3-D may be here to stay permanently and comics may benefit. Digital comics will have an opportunity to separate themselves from print entirely offering an eyeglass-free experience that cannot be had in book format. Will the added dimension create added value? More importantly will it create an interest in comics that attracts a broader audience? I’m betting that if it helps to sell more 3-D devices then the answer is yes. Only time will tell if my hypothesis is correct but right now I’m in the mood for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco



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