Posts Tagged ‘comic book’

Not Your Father’s Comic Books

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Father’s Day!

Gerry Giovinco

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



Prince Leads the Charge for the Return of Creator’s Rights

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

According to Billboard, recording artist Prince is ready to  party like it’s 1999 all over again because Warner Brothers Records has returned to him the power to control his music  thanks to revisions made in the Copyright Act of 1976.

The musician that defined Minneapolis sound in the late 1970’s effectively has fired the first, successful, high-profile salvo that should inspire all artists who sold rights to their works to actively pursue termination of those rights within their effective window.

Prince took advantage of a termination clause in the Copyright Act that has generally been overlooked and one that strikes fear in the hearts of big business, especially those in the entertainment world where the stakes are especially high.

How the Act defines transfers of rights is clearly described here:

“With certain exceptions, section 203 provides that transfers executed on or after January 1, 1978 may be terminated 35 years after the date of the grant. Authors must give notice of their intent to terminate not less than two or more than ten years from the intended termination date. Termination of grants made in 1978 could begin, therefore, in 2013, with notices first served in 2003.

An author has a five-year window from the end of the 35-year period of the grant in which to exercise his termination right. If he fails to do so, all the rights covered under the existing grant will continue for the term of the copyright.”

The article continues:

A second termination right, set forth in section 304, applies to transfers executed before January 1, 1978. The 1976 Copyright Act extended the copyright term for pre-1978 works by 19 years. Congress decided that the beneficiary of that 19-year extension should be the author, rather than the assignee of rights in a work.

Congress accomplished this by giving the author (or his heirs as specified in the statute) a right to terminate a pre-1978 transfer of the renewal copyright effective at any time within a five-year period commencing fifty-six years after the copyright had been secured. The author must give notice of his intent to terminate between two and ten years before the effective date of termination.

Corporations do not want to lose the rights to intellectual properties that they have heavily invested in for decades, especially ones that have made them millions of dollars in return. They are anxious to settle on terms that will will benefit both parties rather than lose a property completely.

This is how Prince was able to negotiate control over his music and the return of his masters while Warner Brother Records maintained distribution rights in a win-win situation for both parties.

Prince recognized that even as big a star as he is, he could not generate the revenue with his music that the big label was capable of. Proof of the disparity of this ability can be seen in his album sales since he rebelled as the Artist formerly known as Prince and  struck out on his own in 1991. The purple clad Artist sold 18.5 million albums in the United States according to Billboard’s Soundscan numbers. 14.3 million of which were sold by Warner who accounted for over 77% of the volume.

This is the type of profit friendly sentiment that the corporations are banking on and why we see giant companies like Marvel quietly sneaking to the settlement table to preempt any mass exodus of intellectual property before any litigation makes it to a court room.

The elephant in the room, however, is work-for-hire which designates the corporation as the author and is the key exception to any termination right. There are holes in the work for hire defense though and big companies without iron clad agreements are wary of courts that might favor the little guy.

The battle over what defines the work for hire relationship in comics has been notoriously waged by the Kirby family who, using the same termination clause as Prince, has been attempting to reclaim the late Jack Kirby’s share of key characters that he co-created with Stan Lee between 1958 and 1963. Their attempt to terminate rights which began in 2009 has yet to hurdle repeated pro work for hire rulings and is now being appealed for hearing by the Supreme Court.

Should the Kirby family win or lose, a bonanza is about to begin in the comic book industry in light of Prince’s victory. More creators and lawyers than ever are now aware that any grandfathered property created after 1960 can now be contested, opening the doors to rights termination of at least some Silver Age comic book properties.

Furthermore, any property created between 1981 and 1989 needs to be addressed quickly by creators wanting to take advantage of the current eight year window for termination requests as described earlier.

This is Alan Moore’s perfect opportunity to rescind from DC Comics and Warner Brother’s the rights to his stake in WATCHMEN!

The 1980’s was a prolific era in independent comics and a number of properties exchanged hands from creators to indy publishers some of which were later sold to Marvel and DC. Their work was expressly NOT work for hire! Now is the time for any of those creators to actively seek rights termination or at least renegotiate their terms. Remember that you can always seek council from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Creators, take a stand, get educated and reclaim your rights before it is too late. Be warned that if you miss the window that applies to your work you forfeit the right to reclaim it forever and that is exactly what the big corporations are hoping for.

Now is time for comic creators to choose wether they’d rather be a prince or a pauper.

Follow the lead of Prince who was famously and formerly known as just an artist but who is now the ultimate ruler of his creations. Get your rights back or at least make more money and you can “Party like it’s 1999″ too!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Rocket Raccoon Not Rabid as Expected

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The battle over fair compensation for comic book creators whose creations have generated enormous profits for the corporations that now own them is almost as old as the industry itself. In most cases the fight is futile since most comic creators simply do not have the economic clout to legally go after companies as mighty as Marvel or DC and their parent corporations, Disney and Time/Warner.

Shame is the greatest tool that creators have found to expedite justice and it seems to work. Neal Adams relied on it heavily when he publicly shamed DC into settling with Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster who were living in poverty prior to the release of the first blockbuster SUPERMAN film.

Creators are gaining an upper hand these days thanks to shame. It is much easier to demonstrate to the public the gross disparity of a struggling, aging and infirm cartoonist as opposed to a monolithic corporation who is potentially making billions off of their creation.

Behind closed doors settlement deals are finally being made and creators are being reigned in before the shaming begins and apparently it is working hopefully for the benefit of all since deserved creators are suddenly falling silent on the issue.

Advocates for comic creators rights have been foaming at the mouth ever since it was revealed that the Rocket Raccoon would be a driving force in the impending bonanza that will be the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film to be released this summer. Rocket Raccoon’s co-creator Bill Mantlo was the victim of a horrible accident in 1992 that has left him brain damaged and institutionalized in a nursing home ever since.  Surely Bill Mantlo would be the perfect poster boy for comic creators rights if he were not to get fair compensation and credit for his contribution.

Let the shaming begin!

What? Not so fast?!

Bill’s brother and legal guardian Mike Mantlo boldly called off the dogs by releasing this statement:

“FOLKS, FOLKS, FOLKS…..please, enough of the hating on Marvel. Marvel has compensated, is compensating, and will continue to compensate Bill well into the future for anything that he’s entitled to compensation for. Please don’t spread false or malicious rumors, gang. Bill’s relationship with Marvel is EXCELLENT, and I wish for it to continue to be so. And all the false or exaggerated “facts” being tossed around about his accident (he was NOT in a coma for “years”, and the family was NOT put into financial ruin or destitution, among other WRONG “facts”). Yes, Bill was the victim of a horrible and tragic accident. Blowing everything out of proportion does no one any good. You guys (ALL OF YOU) have been a Godsend to Bill for these past 22 years by keeping his name & reputation alive, and by continuing to champion my cause of helping him improve his quality of life in whatever way I can, and I thank you ALL sincerely for that. Please, let’s try some positive energy for the fu! ture, so that BILL MANTLO WILL RULE FOREVER!”

In another release he states:

“Folks, on behalf of Bill I urge everyone to SUPPORT the “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” film, and help it have TREMENDOUS SUCCESS. That will benefit Bill Mantlo more than anyone could ever imagine”

Give Marvel and Disney some credit for recognizing that they were not going to be able to compete with the public hazing generated by support for a severely handicapped writer in a wheel chair that is responsible, along with artist Keith Giffen, for what looks like will be the fuzzy, break out star of the summer, Rocket Raccoon, who would have surely been a rabid thorn in their side if they had not struck preemptively.

Thank you!

It will be a pleasure to watch a Marvel film for a change without experiencing some kind of guilt for knowing that a creator or an heir (Most notably, Jack Kirby and his family) has been left unfairly compensated.  If only this could be the fundamental business practice of the comics industry from now on.

Let’s keep the ball rolling!

Maybe the big guys have finally realized that he positive PR generated from treating creators fairly is in everyone’s favor including their own.

Like Mike Mantlo, I sincerely hope that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a monolithic success. I know that because of Bill’s situation, he will never truly be able to enjoy any measure of profit that is generated by the film, though it will surely benefit his care.  The comfort is that ,in the shadow of the film’s great success , his personal story will become such a high profile subject that he will be immortalized in the pantheon of comic book and pop culture history where he belongs.

Bill Mantlo is a reminder to us all that though money is important it does not last forever and it is purely materialistic. Being recognized and acknowledged for our contributions and creations is what seals a place in history and in the hearts of all that enjoy our work.

Acknowledgement and acceptance is what creators, regardless what art they practice, truly live for.

So when the credits role by, and should you hopefully see Bill Mantlo’s name, jump out of our seat and cheer so loud that he feels the warm tremor as he sits in his nursing home beaming with pride because he knows in his soul that he is loved for something he created.

Gerry Giovinco

Fans of Bill’s work can follow updates from his brother on the Bill Mantlo facebook group .

Make donations here.

or mail Bill cards and well wishes to:

Bill Mantlo

c/o Queens Nassau Nursing Home

520 Beach 19th Street

Far Rockaway, NY 11691

The New Villain is Superhero Play

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Let’s play The Blame Game! This is the favorite pass-time of people that don’t want to take responsibility for anything. Well, it is time to blame superheroes again for some kind of corruption of the youth of America.

It is a scary fact that there is an actual “Superhero Play” label that can turn up pages of content intent on its suppression. Apparently this discussion among educators has been going on for years!  Amazingly, it has been met with with little reaction or concern from the comic book industry whose bread and butter is superheroes and who should be afraid of history repeating itself.

How can this happen? Aren’t superheroes supposed to be the good guys?

Superheroes have never been more popular.  It is impossible not to be exposed to them now that they have saturated  our culture through every form of media and and merchandizing. Though superheroes were derived from comic books which for many decades were targeted primarily at children, today they appeal to audiences of all ages because they are able to deal with more mature and sophisticated themes than they were previously permitted to.

The complexities of the modern superhero are not always digested well by the youngest fans of the genre who are attracted to the characters’ brightly colored costumes, incredible physicality, heightened abilities and heroic deeds. Children remain focused on the simple themes of good triumphing over evil through the use of power which is usually exercised by fighting.

Superhero Play is commonplace in schoolyards everywhere and has been a concern to educators and parents who worry about the consequences of what is viewed as “rough-housing.” There is  agreement among most child psychologists  that it is healthy and natural for children to engage in this type of activity, provided there are supervised limitations, as displayed in this wonderful video.

Unfortunately schools today are driven to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that resembles violence and though there are many positive moral and ethical virtues that can be learned from the mythological characters that superheroes have become, there is a real movement to ban Superhero Play as demonstrated by  a preschool in the Philadelphia area.

A memo from the pre-K school in question claims that their children are exhibiting dangerously overactive imaginations which are causing injuries. The school claims to encourage creative thinking and imaginary play but found it necessary to ban Superhero Play, monster games and wrestling. The memo also requests that parents monitor what their children may view at home suggesting that  it is the re-enactment of violent television shows and movies during play time that is causing the problem, not their inability to manage, educate and nurture these three to four year-olds.

This type of reaction to media being responsible for the corruption of our youth is frighteningly similar to the witch-hunt inspired by Dr. Fredrick Wertham whose 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, claimed that the content in comic books was dangerous to children. His accusations inspired a Congressional inquiry that ultimately led to the comics industry’s creation of the Comics Code Authority which is possibly the most strict, self-imposed, industry-wide form of censorship imposed on any American media to date.

The Comics Code states:

  • Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
  • If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  • Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
  • Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
  • No comic magazine shall use the words “horror” or “terror” in its title.
  • All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
  • All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
  • Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
  • Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
  • Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
  • Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
  • Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
  • Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
  • Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
  • Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
  • Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.

The implementation of the Comics Code did prevent the complete abolishment of comic books but it prevented the young medium of comics in America from maturing at a natural pace as an art form. It also established a covenant that released parents from doing their job of being involved with their child’s comic reading consumption.

Though the Comics Code has not been heavily enforced since the 1980’s and was abandoned completely in 2010, it’s conservative directives established a standard that affected generations of comic book readers, most of which are still parenting, under the assumption that superheroes are meant for children only and require no supervision.

Our society has routinely given parents the opportunity to place the blame on media, schools, and government for the failure to provide  safety and education to our children by imposing rules and regulations designed to prevent liability. Consequently our youth are stifled as they grow, suffocating in bubble wrap that impedes their natural sense of adventure, competition, imagination, social interaction and individuality.

Banning Superhero Play deprives parents and educators the opportunity to take advantage of all the positive messages that superheroes can present. Superheroes help define the struggles between good and evil. They are advocates for the positive responsibilities of strength and power. They demonstrate that it is possible to overcome adversity.

Superheroes are also the champions of individuality and diversity. Each superhero has a unique power or ability that defines them and makes them special. They make a decision to use that power to help others in need instead of their own personal gain. They choose not to take the easy road and retreat into hiding, to avoid being judged, challenged  and labeled by others. They are noble.

It is time that we ban the Blame Game and hold parents and teachers accountable for raising children by allowing them to express their imaginations, intelligence and energies in a natural way in a responsibly supervised environment.

A mother lion in the wild can supervise her cubs as they tangle and wrestle. She intervenes when it is appropriate and the cubs grow to lead normal healthy lives. Are we so intelligent as humans that we can’t figure out how to do that?

Superhero Play is not the villain. Children have emulated the actions of their heroes since David slew Goliath. The villain is anyone that can stand by and let the imaginations and physical interactions of our children be suppressed. We are raising a nation of mindless, lifeless zombies and it is guaranteed that Zombie Play will be the next thing banned in our schools.

Why don’t they just ban it for what it is: Child’s Play.

Comic book companies can be the hero in this if they will stop ignoring the threat. Marvel and DC can protect their valued, shared Superhero trademark by taking a proactive position and promote positive ways to encourage Superhero Play rather than see it abolished. They, unfortunately would rather spend their money to shut down people posing as superheroes at birthday parties.

If you like superheroes it is time to support them. If you love your children it is time to let them be children. Don’t ignore this threat to our culture. It is more dangerous than any bump or bruise. It is more malicious than any terrorist threat or violent action. It is pervasive. It is eroding the foundation of who we are as a nation and as individuals. It is a threat to our freedom to be who we are and who we can be and we are allowing it to happen.

Soon there will be no heroes. We will not know how to become one. We will be a nation of victims and our greatest villain will have been ourselves for having ignored the inevitable.

The answer is simple. We can all be super by supervising our children. Let them show us how great it is to have an unadulterated imagination. Teach them how to be a good superhero and not a villain. If they get hurt, pick them up and help them. tell them everything will be OK. That’s what heroes do. The child will learn a lesson about limitations. They will feel loved and cared for and, most of all, they will feel super.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Free Comics Every Day!

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

The first Saturday in May has become an major holiday for comic book retailers around the world! Free Comic Book Day has been described as “Christmas” for comic book fans because it is the one day of the year that anyone can go to a comic book shop and get comics for FREE! This successful marketing bonanza is highly regarded as a great way to get new people into comic shops and introduce them to comic books.

What a great idea! Who can pass up getting anything for FREE?!!!

But why waste such a tremendous idea on only one lousy day each year? Why waste the other 364 days having to dole out hard earned cash for your comic fix?

What if you could get FREE COMICS EVERY DAY? Just the idea of it makes your head want to explode; doesn’t it?

Well hang on to your jockey shorts, boxers, panties and thongs because FREE COMICS EVERY DAY have been right at your fingertips all along!

Go ahead, type it in: freecomicseveryday.com… and poof! Off you go to a magical place where comics are FREE every day at right here at CO2 COMICS! No Waiting! No Marking your calendar! No standing in line hoping to get a freebie before it runs out!

FREE COMICS EVERY DAY!!! A dream come true for every comic fan! Check it out! Over a thousand pages of comics updated daily with new material!  Dozens of features by comic creators that have worked for every major comics publisher in the biz! Top notch comics!

And that’s not all!

There are blog posts, galore, covering tantalizing issues of history, technique, creator rights, ethics and observations that concern comic fans everywhere.

All FREE!

CO2 COMICS may just be the best kept secret in the industry! Now the cat is out of the bag! So what are you waiting for? Saturday?

SNORE! ZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!

Click on that colorful  FREE COMICS EVERY DAY banner and immerse yourself in a ton of great comics NOW!

Once you experience all the great FREE comics at CO2 COMICS you will want to be a HERO and share your dazzling find with all your friends on facebook, twitter and all the other social media outlets that everybody is hobnobbing at when they should be hanging at the dang-blasted, water cooler.

CO2 COMICS wants to be in your network too so don’t forget to click on all those colorful icons of your favorite social site.

All this FREE stuff has got to be making heads spin out there! Don’t worry you can spend some money if you have to!

CO2 COMICS and the creators on-board like to eat too so there is plenty product available that does require a price to pay. You can buy the three beautiful graphic novels Heaven and the Dead City, The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese! and Ménage à Bughouse along with two volumes of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW the Complete Collection all available in paperback and hardback editions.

If you want some swag you can get any of the four, ultra cool DEATH FATIGUE T-SHIRTS http://www.deathfatigue.com/index.html.

Please, make it a point to visit links to creator sites, support their other projects and services and tell your friends to do so too.

So there you have it, FREE comics are a great marketing tool that allows everyone to be a winner when enjoyed properly!  We hope you do stop by your local comic shop on that first Saturday of May  and load up on some free comic books, just remember when you’re done to stop by CO2 COMICS and get your FREE COMICS EVERY DAY the rest of the year!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Old School Comics

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Popular, classic and brilliant comic book artist, Jerry Ordway, whose work throughout the 80’s and 90’s defined the DC Universe recently wrote a heart wrenching essay, Life Over Fifty, describing his current professional situation which is unfortunately comparable to that of many of his peers.

If you are in the comics industry or aspiring to work in the field, this is an honest and fair observation of the  current state of the industry that you must be aware of and willing to change if you ever hope for  a secure career as a comic artist.

Jerry asks a simple question toward the end of the essay that is at the heart of his discontentment.

“Getting back to the beginning of this essay, and to the artists I loved as a kid, all I ask is for some of the same consideration my generation of creators and editors gave to the older guard in the 1980’s. My work is still sharp, my mind is still full of stories to tell, and I’m still willing to work all hours of my day to meet my deadlines. Why am I out of work from the publishers? Why are my friends, people who turned in great work, worthy of hardcover and trade paperback reprints, not able to get work? “

The answer is simple and unfortunate. It can be summed up in a single word. Disrespect.

Disrespect in the comic book industry is a cancer that threatens to destroy the fabric of the industry that has now survived an average person’s lifespan. It is a cancer that has always been there and just as it seemed curable it mutated into a uglier threat.

The comic book industry itself struggled with disrespect from its inception. As a product, comic books were the bottom feeders on any magazine rack; cheaply made, poorly printed, sold to children. Comic books originated as a disposable, impulse purchase. Nobody expected the cultural impact they would have or the durability and value of the character trademarks in the market.

Early comic book creators and publishers had little respect for the industry, themselves. Work in the comic book industry was considered an underpaid stepping stone to a future in some other graphics or communication field. Few admitted to working in the field and fewer stayed to make a career of it.

Those were the few that had respect for comics as a medium and as an industry. Those few became legends and solidified respect for comic books and comic book art. In the 1960’s Julie Schwartz at DC and Stan Lee at Marvel created environments that, for the first time, made the idea of a career in comics attractive and secure.

The creative legends of comics came together and made DC and Marvel commercial powerhouses that propelled their trademarks into the forefront of popular culture. Writers, artists, editors and even production people gained respect and credit for their work. And they worked, well into retirement.

All was not perfect. Creator’s rights became an issue. Work for hire contracts were viewed as a necessary evil but the legends didn’t seem to care so long as there was work doing what they loved. It was just part of the industry they knew and had built. It supported them and their families.

As the legends grew old new generations of creators came in to fill their shoes and carry the mantle, insuring that the quality and integrity of the trademarks remained intact. The Big Two had distinctive “styles” that set them apart from each other.

When Jack Kirby defected to DC after establishing himself as “King” at Marvel, editors at DC would paste house style faces of Superman over his stylized work to maintain their preferred look of the character. Kirby understood.

There was respect for creators, the characters and the companies.

Jerry Ordway is from the last generation of creators that held that respect and he had hoped to retain it himself, but times have changed. Disrespect has gained a foothold again but different than before. Creators now are cut-throat and disposable. Editors have no loyalty. The companies have no respect for the trademarks other than the bottom line.

The style sheets that one time served as bibles have been tossed aside. Entire universes are rebooted from scratch establishing new versions of old characters that are barely recognizable. The comic books and to some extent the films, thumb their noses at classic, established trademarks that are cultural icons. Why wouldn’t the industry “flip off” the creators that for decades diligently maintained the integrity of those characters?

Those iconic trademarks are now derogatorily deemed “Old School” by the new elite powers of the industry and grown, snot-nosed fans, long weened from the classics, who prefer their superhero comics gritty, racy and violent.

Ironically, the old classic trademarks hold their value with licensees who plaster the images of them on every conceivable piece of merchandise. Images by Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Herbe Trimpe, Sal Buscema, Dick Giordano, Jonny Romita, and Jerry Ordway skim the surface of the list of classic comic book creators whose work continues to generate huge revenue in forms of royalties, royalties that neither they nor their heirs see a lick of.

In the meantime the trendy, “new look” reboots of the comics struggle to sell the most modest of numbers in a perpetually shrinking Direct Comic Book Market.

If DC and Marvel respected their product and their trademarks, there would always be work for creators like Ordway. They would be necessary as mentors to insure that the integrity of the trademarks is passed along to the next generation of creators.

Kevin Tsujihara

There is hope at Marvel, now under the wing of Disney which is rigorous about preserving the iconic looks of their trademarks.

Maybe DC, under the guidance of Warner Bros new, traditionalist CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, will see the light and re-embrace that which has stood the test of time. Maybe the Old School will get the respect it deserves.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Read Your Favorite Flash Based CO2 Comics on an iPad or iPhone!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

One of my biggest criticisms of Apple’s iPad (and the iPhone for that matter) was its inability to read Flash. This was particularly irksome to me since the CO2 Comics site depends on a Flash viewer to display all of the great comics that we have to offer. We use Flash primarily for its stability and it makes our viewer particularly compatible with motion comics like Bernie Mireault’s  The Jam Urban Adventure.

I was not in a hurry to get a tablet, especially one that could not read Flash. I knew that when I eventually bought one it most likely would be the iPad since I swear by my iMac, tote around an iPhone, and would want all to interact seemlessly on the old iCloud. But to me an iPad was just a big iPhone and I am completely happy sitting in front of my computer in my studio, surfing the net and reading webcomics on my 17″ monitor.

I’m not excited about the idea of buying a comic app to read on a device. I’d rather have the comic book whenever possible and there is so much free comic content on the web, I could read comics forever without spending a dime.

So tablets did not impress me. They are just another tekkie device attempting to flip over the consumer and shake every last shekel out of our already thinly worn pockets.

But hey, I’m an old fart. What do I know?

When an iPad mini migrated into our home to be used primarily by my wife and daughter (my son’s Macbook Pro is tattooed to him as is his iPhone) I squeamishly explored its browser capabilities, sadly confirming its inability to read Flash. This became an even bigger issue, however,  when my wife discovered she could not play Farmville, her favorite Flash based Facebook game.

Oh! The horrors!!

So I sat in front of my trusty iMac and explored. I quicky discovered a number of apps claiming to enable the iPad to be able to view Flash, all with varied reviews. iSwifter caught my attention. It was a cloud based server designed for games, that quicky translated your interaction back to your device. It was FREE! It could play Farmville! Surely it could handle the CO2 Comics viewer.

Well, the app was free…for fifteen minutes each day for a week after which it was $9.99 for unlimited usage.  After I got knocked off when my first fifteen minutes expired it was worth the ten bucks to me not to have to wait twenty-four hours to take another stab at experimenting with it. (Sucker!)

Sure enough, it worked as promised. It was fast. The images were clear. Farmville worked great. I could read all the comics on CO2 Comics with some minor snafus. It needs Wi-Fi and does not work at all on the iPhone. The CO2 Comics Flash viewer worked fine and it jumped nicely from page to page but the browser was locked into a horizontal view and I could not significantly change the size of the image. This forced me to have to center the comic viewer on the screen and scroll up and down. I could not control the scrolling action at all by touching the comic page in the viewer. I could only use the tiny available border visible on each side of the image. If I happened to accidentally touch a link, I was off to a different site. With a little practice I was navigating CO2 Comics like a pro and I was satisfied despite the quirks.

Screw Farmville! I can read CO2 Comics on an iPad!

I was happy until I sat down to write this post. I did some more research on the subject and came across this list of Alternative Browsers for the iPad compiled by Craig Nansen that appeared on a 2011 post on Wired Educator:

Diigo Browser (free) – Chrome-like, with annotation and offline reading (formerly iChromy)

iSWiFTER (Free)

Atomic Web Browser ($0.99) – Browse FullScreen w/ Download Manager & Dropbox

Cloud Browse ($2.99)

iCab Mobile (Web Browser) ($1.99)

Grazing Web Browser ($1.99)

Skyfire Web Browser ($4.99) and $2.99 for the iPhone.

Puffin Web Browser ($0.99)

Opera Mini Web browser (free)

After reading the reviews and the comments, the Puffin Web Browser, which was actually FREE, stood out as a viable option. I couldn’t argue with free so I downloaded the app to check it out.

Boy am I glad I did!

The comic reading experience in the Puffin Web Browser was great! So much better than iSwifter. I can’t believe I almost settled for something so mediocre. The thing I like most about Puffin is the ability to zoom in and out with no discretion. The images slide across the screen with a sweep of the finger. There are some artifacts in the images. They are more noticeable on black and white images and become more apparent, naturally, when the image is larger but they are not that big of a distraction from the reading experience, at least no more than the funky printing on the old newsprint comics.

One other plus about Puffin is that it does work without Wi-Fi enabled. It is slower on Verizon’s 3G network but it gets the job done if you have the patience to wait 5-10 seconds to turn a page.

Puffin is also available for the iPhone! So, being the curious goat that I am, I quickly downloaded the app to my iPhone. Sure enough, I can now read CO2 Comics on my cell as well, though my suspicions were confirmed. I just can’t seem to enjoy reading comics on a little cell phone screen. If I wanted to read comics that small I’d go buy some penny gum and read the comic adventures of Bazooka Joe. Unfortunately they no longer include those tiny printed gems with those crusty little pink and chewy bricks of gum. What’s next? Hostess cupcakes? ( I know. I know. Sad isn’t it?)

Reading CO2 Comics on the iPhone using Puffin Web Browser was pretty much just like reading them on the iPad except everything was smaller and it did move a bit slower. Buttons and links were harder to navigate because of their shrunken size and though I could zoom in and out just as easily, I needed to do it so much more often that it became a bore. I at least know now that if I ever need a comic fix all I have to do is pull out my iPhone but I’d much rather read comics on a tablet, laptop, or desktop if no printed comic book is available.

So there you have it. A resounding, YES! You can read and enjoy Flash based comics on the iPad and the iPhone! Next time you have the urge to drop 99¢ on a comics app in Comixology to read one comic on your tablet remember that there are over a thousand pages of great comics right here on CO2 Comics that are just one FREE app away.

And don’t worry, if you would really much rather have a printed book, we have them too! Just click on that cool ad blinking at the bottom of this page!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 4

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Over the years the business risk of making comics has shifted as has been outlined in the previous three installments of Making Comics is Risky Business.

Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3

As promised in this last article on the subject we will now take a closer look at the risky business of speculation and why crowd funding is the future for comics publishing.

When Phil Seuling developed the concept of the Direct Market in the late 1970’s he predicated it on the existence of comic book specialty shops that were springing up across the country, most of which depended on sales of collectible back-issues, the value of which were marked up considerably on many depending upon their rarity and conditions.

Though back-issues at the time were still generally affordable, they established a precedent for what would constitute speculative value. Premiere issues, popular creators, significant events and, of course, mint condition comics became sought after commodities by comic collectors who became the backbone customers of the Direct Market.

As the rising prices of collectible comics became a recognized investment, collectors began to buy multiple issues of their favorite comics, one to read and others to  squirrel away in mylar bags, preserving their mint condition and hopefully driving up their potential value.

The customers became speculators and took over the position of financial risk takers in the comic market. Professional speculators bought specific issues in quantity, artificially driving up demand and inflating aftermarket retail figures.

Retailers and publishers took advantage of the speculator market and a secondary market of collectible supplies like bags, boards and boxes sprang up.

Independent publishers benefitted greatly from the speculative nature of the market during the 1980’s as collectors feared missing the next “Holy Grail” guaranteeing that at least premiere issues of almost any title could receive respectable sales figures.

As Independent publishers began to proliferate in the market presenting themselves as serious competition for Marvel and DC, the Big Two, in defense of their reign, launched an all-out assault of first issues featuring popular characters and creators. Focusing on the speculative nature of the market they employed novelty devises like mini-series, variant covers, crossovers and events to successfully flood the competition out of the market.

By the mid 1990’s the Direct Market was a bloated mess of over-inflated and over-hyped product that nobody wanted or could any longer afford, crashing the market and even forcing Mighty Marvel into bankruptcy. Diamond stood as the only surviving distributor to a market that was once serviced by over a dozen.

Through it all the emergence of the graphic novel and the success of imported Japanese Manga paved a road into traditional bookstores challenging the Direct Market’s role as sole provider of comics to changing readership. Digital media, however was lurking in the background, poised to change how comics could be delivered to a world wide audience.

Eric Millikin's Art

The development of the web comic, which began with Eric Millikin’s Witches and Stitches as early as 1985, grew through the 1990’s and has flourished in the 2000’s, has changed the rules for creating comics completely and for the first time put the risk fully on the shoulders of the creators as, in most cases, they are the sole publishers and maintain complete autonomy of their works.

Though it requires minimal expense to post comics online, the true cost in publishing web comics is in the time it takes to create the material and cultivate the audience. Monetization of the web comics remains the biggest challenge as web comikers struggle to find ways to profit from their works. Most creators that have managed to bridge that gap have done so by rolling their web content into print product or digital downloads for mobile devices to be sold for retail.

Minimizing their investment risk, these unique independent publishers have taken advantage of today’s technology to put that risk into the hands of the consumer. Using Print on Demand suppliers like Lulu, CreateSpace, Comixpress, Ka-Blam, and others, they no longer need to sit on large quantities of expensive unsold books waiting for sales. Books are printed to order and shipped directly to customers, avoiding the need for distributors and returning a much larger portion of the profit to the publisher who is most often the creator themselves.

Steve Gerber

Finally, creators have found a way to control their properties which have been historically robbed from them by comic publishers for the last seventy years as wonderfully described by the late Steve Gerber in this recently resurfaced article Truth, Justice, & The Corporate Conscience, which I beg you to read and share with every comic creator you know.

The modern comic publisher also has a new tool at their disposal to minimize their risk and further enlist the consumer to share the burden. Crowdfunding through services like Kickstarter , and Indiegogo , capitalize on the strength of social networking and perks offered by campaign developers to essentially pre-sell comic projects.

Comic creators set a goal that represents the investment they will need to produce their project and they request financial support through pledges on these crowdfunding platforms. For various levels of financial support, rewards are offered as incentives. Though these rewards often vary considerably they generally include a printed copy of the project being promoted establishing a new form of marketing and distribution. If the established goal is not met, pledged funds are not collected and rewards are nullified.

Because crowdfunding does such a wonderful job predetermining the success of a project, some observers are viewing the phenomenon as a new form of market research avoiding the need for agents and pitchmen to sell a concept.

So, yes, making comics is risky business as has been proven over the last seventy-five years but it doesn’t have to be as risky as it has been. Now is the time for creators to take advantage of the resources available to them and take control of the direction of the industry so that they, themselves, can enjoy the riches provided by their creations rather than some domineering corporation that views creators merely as cheap disposable labor from which to capitalize on.

Carpe diem!

Gerry Giovinco

Santa Gets a Reboot

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

My apologies to those of you that have been following Making Comics is Risky Business and were expecting Part 4. I will continue with that series after the holidays.  Those of you that would like to play catch-up on that series can read the previous posts here.

But it is Christmas Day, today, and it just wouldn’t seem right if the holiday wasn’t addressed somehow. Christmas, after all, is the one holiday that is most closely associated with tradition. Every family, town, culture, ethnicity, has particular traditions associated with Christmas. Ironicly, though Christmas is a very religious holiday celebrated by Christians commemorating the birth of Jesus, much of the tradition is highlighted by pagan practices and influences from other religions in an effort to assimilate into popular culture.

Twas The Night Before Christmas

The Christmas tradition that children the world over look forward to most is the arrival of Santa Claus as he delivers toys to all the good little boys and girls. The tradition of Santa has fourth century roots reflecting the exploits of a generous Greek bishop now known as Saint Nicholas. The more contemporary version of Santa, however, has been popularized by the Clement C. Moore poem best known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which was first published in America in 1823.

Moore’s poem defined the mythology behind Santa, describing in detail, his fur-lined outfit, airborne sleigh, the names of each of the eight reindeer, his agile descent and ascent of chimneys, his friendly demeanor, chubby appearance and his terrible habit of smoking a pipe.

Twas the Night Before Christmas Edited by Santa Clause

This year, in a brazen move, Pamela McCooll of Vancouver, B.C. decided it was time to edit this classic poem, which is arguably one of the most famous works of American literature that has had a tremendous impact on popular culture. She chose to effect the work, long in public domain, by removing the two lines that reference his pipe smoking, “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.” She changed the title to “Twas the Night Before Christmas: Edited by Santa Clause” and added info on the back cover as to why Santa, “himself,” chose to make the change to the classic poem.

This enforcement of political correctness now opens the doors for those that will argue against Santa’s use of fur, humane treatment of reindeer, and obviously poor diet. Why not update the poem to reflect the interests  of contemporary children? Who dreams of sugar plums? Let’s replace that with iPads. What is a sash or a kerchief? let’s change them too! Who really has a chimney anymore? Why can’t Santa just use the front door?

Give me a break!

Does this classic poem about the arrival of Santa on Christmas Eve really need a reboot? Changing the original source material deprives our culture of a piece of our history and lies to us about who we really are. Why can’t the original be left alone and a new story be added to the rich mythos of the character. Would that require too much creativity?

Rankin Bass Christmas Specials

Rankin Bass did an incredible job of creating incredible Christmas stories that embellished on classics. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reinedeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, A Year Without a Santa Claus and many more titles fill our holidays with joy and add to the mythos.These stories injected details, answered questions and adapted the characters. They were new works that became as beloved as the original songs and poems they were based on.

I would have much rather seen a new story about why Santa quit smoking. Maybe Santa responds to listening to so many children asking for their grandparents back because they lost them to lung cancer. One day a small child looks deep into Santa’s eyes and asks, “Why do you smoke, Santa? I don’t know what all the children would do if you died like my , Grandpa?” Santa makes a commitment right there to quit smoking to fulfill that child’s Christmas wish and discovers just how hard it is to do. With the help of all his friends and family he manages to quit smoking just in time for Christmas and embarks on a mission to make a difference in the lives of others by sharing the message that smoking is not healthy.

Santa Claus smoking pipe

Isn’t that more effective than removing the lines that told us Santa was a pipe smoker and pretending that he never smoked in the first place? Do we need to to sterilize our culture? Maybe it cleans it up and turns a blind eye to a negative part of our history and culture but it deprives us of important lessons and great art. It deprives us of our heritage. Should we remove, slavery, child labor, women’s suffrage, and the Holocaust from our “story books”  because they are uncomfortable. Let’s just pretend they never happened.

I’m sensitive to this issue because I see the origins of comic book characters rebooted all the time. I understand that it is mostly a marketing attempt to keep the characters “current” but I always find it an insult to the originals that should be held as the timeless classics that they are. Leave them alone! Create new stories and new characters! Define a new era with new art that reflects the times instead of bastardizing a classic because it is easier than creating something original.

Regarding original, let’s not forget the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Now, that’s a story!

Everybody, please have a very, Merry Christmas from all of us here at CO2 Comics!

Gerry Giovinco


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