Posts Tagged ‘comic creators’

DC Comics’ Participation Plan – Magical Mystery Money

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

It is no surprise that, with the Supreme Court considering listening to law suits brought by the heirs of  Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as legendary Marvel creator, Jack Kirby in an epic battle over creators rights, DC Comics is attempting to preemptively save face by offering a new Participation Plan.”

Their timely effort is boorishly intended to make them look good in the public’s eye pending any fallout from a potential legal hell-storm that has already attracted support from every creative guild in Hollywood.

Their new “incentive” (as Marvel calls it) will share with creators net profits generated across all distribution networks including digital sales. As an added PR bonus, colorists will be included in the profit sharing for the first time, following Marvel’s lead.

Everything looks rosy!

Depending on who you believe…

Chuck Dixon, Steve Bisette

For every creator, like Chuck Dixon who has had nothing but a positive experience regarding how DC reports shared revenue there is a disgruntled one like Steve Bisette who feels that he is treated like a second class citizen.

As  outsiders, who are we to judge? Contracts are and should be private agreements and presumably they are negotiable and often different for each creator. History, however, has proven that these agreements, no matter how good they may seem or are intended, can often be subject to reinterpretation and malignment on favor of the corporation. Just ask Alan Moore who’s great Watchmen deal went sour fast.

Gerry Conway

Gentleman Gerry Conway has a very polite perspective on policing DC’s approach to participation packages that should raise an eyebrow or two. Imagine that in this day and age, DC admittedly cannot track the use of all its properties and accurately pay out without the support of its aging creators, many of which are far from tech savvy.  So they say.  Yet, in a heartbeat,  they can shut down a sculpture of a dead boy wearing a Superman shirt in Canada before bowing to social media outrage.

The bottom line is that DC is part of a huge entertainment company that specializes in cooking books when it comes to sharing revenue. This is not an indictment of Warner Brothers but of the practices of Hollywood accounting in general.

Anyone that has ever signed on to a royalty arrangement will tell you that, unless you are willing to march into the accounts payable office with an expensive auditor by your side, your relationship with the company paying you is one of blind faith.

DC is playing with magical mystery money when they tell a creator that they will combine net profits from all channels of distribution. These numbers are tabulated over a period of months and are calculated by an algorithm that would make Sheldon Cooper’s head spin! Most comic creators are just not equipped to challenge their word and are willing to accept what they get or be prepared to move on.

Alan Brennert and Barbara Kean, co-created with Dick Giordano

Combine this mystery math with vague language that can arbitrarily define characters as “derivitive” and suddenly there are creators like Alan Brennert campaigning for a moral victory over a $45 payout that is hardly worth a legal battle let alone sitting on hold for a half hour waiting for the problem to be addressed.

This is why contracts are important. Spell details out in black-and-white to eliminate the questions, provide all the answers and provide proof of the agreement.

Wait for it…

Now, DC says all transactions and agreements will be digital only!

Kiss that paper trail goodbye!

Can anybody say Comixology?

“I’m sorry, your digital contract was somehow erased from our server but don’t worry we will reinstate you with our current (and less favorable) Participation Plan. Any questions?”

Time to look for an Indy Publisher comic creators. At least you will own your work.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

‘Captain America’ Cries the Red, White and Blues

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Anyone out there who has remotely cared about how comic creators have been screwed out of even the tiniest morsel of the tremendous profits  generated by Hollywood’s superhero bonanza had to let out a huge guffaw after reading a recent Variety  interview with Chris Evans, who will star as Captain America throughout a contracted six film run for Marvel Entertainment. His commitment is now half completed with this past weekend’s blockbuster release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The star spangled actor seems fairly constrained when talking about the trials and tribulations of portraying the famed First Avenger, careful not to raise the ire of Marvel studio execs but can’t help himself from peaking the nerves of their stingy bean counters with a little help from Avenger cast ring leader, Robert Downey, Jr.

Evans says Marvel will often send him pictures of “Captain America” action figures that are molded after his likeness, but that he doesn’t profit from the merchandising. “I see my nephew wearing underwear with my face on it,” says Evans. “I’m like ‘what’s going on?’ But for some reason, (no money comes) my way.” Adds Downey: “Nobody gets anything from the toys, and nobody ever will.” Then he promises: “I’m working on it.”

What if?

It’s a hoot seeing these mega-stars crying over the money they are not making especially after they all made such a big scene about renegotiating their contacts going into Avengers 2 after the original Avengers film grossed over $1.5 billion world-wide, ranking it number three in all-time box office sales. Adding fuel to the fire was the huge discrepancy of pay between stars. Downey made $50 million for his role as Iron Man while other Avengers  made as little as $200,000 for their silver-screen super-heroics generating comments like, “On what planet is that fair!”

True to form, Marvel continues to “strong-arm and bully” the talent, wether it is an aging comic book creator or a celebrated Hollywood actor, with threats of law suits and dismissal of service held against detractors. Marvel considers talent to be expendable so long as they control the Intellectual Property of their vast library which they protect with the might of Odin to the point that even Disney power suits stand clear.

As each new Marvel film exceeds expectations and rings up record revenue it becomes more apparent that Marvel is as mythic as its heroes and villains when it comes to sheer greed. Soon their brand will be synonymous with companies like Walmart and McDonalds whose employees require government assistance to survive because they are paid and treated so poorly.

Maybe the high profile whining of celebrities like Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and others will bring attention to Marvel’s unscrupulously tight fisted business ethics. Maybe the stars and the public will finally gain sympathy for the Kirby family who do not see one red cent from all of the characters that Jack Kirby co-created, without which none of these actors would have a role to play or complain about in the first place.

Unions in Hollywood are powerful, they have the ability to freeze the industry. Should the writers and actors become sympathetic to the plight of comic creators and their heirs, some justice could still come to those that have been denied fair compensation for their contribution to both the Marvel and DC Universes for decades. Maybe the courts will finally recognize the injustices that they’ve been catering to as they suckled the teats of big business.

Let’s root for the Marvel films to be so successful that  the stars can’t stand watching the vast amounts of money that is sure to elude them. Put them in the shoes of Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Ditko, Jerry Siegle, Joe Shuster and a long parade of other comic creators that worked for a lousy page rate under the shackles of a work-for-hire agreement and never saw royalties when their creations became films, toys or underwear.

The stars representing beloved heroes will put an unmistakable face on the unfair practices of Marvel and DC that a comic creator hunched over a drawing board or typewriter never could. Maybe then the world will appreciate the injustices that many of us have known about for decades and some things will change in the comics industry.

A perturbed Chris Evans is a great start. His character, Captain America, represents the American Dream and has stood for all that is fair and good in this country since his creation by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1941.

It is only right that Captain America should now lead this charge against the corporate greed and bullying that grips our nation, exemplified by Marvel, the self proclaimed builders of our modern mythology. There is more than a man behind that shield he carries, there is the heart of a nation that cannot be taken away. It is time we all stand behind that red, white and blue shield together to defend what we know  is morally right. It is time for a battle cry! America, Assemble!

Gerry Giovinco

Superheroes™: The Never Ending Bullshit

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is a three part documentary that recently has been airing on PBS. If you hurry you can also watch it streaming on the PBS website right here.

On the surface this series seems to be a beautifully produced and thoughtful presentation about the history of superheroes and comic books in America and their influence throughout the world.

Most comic fans that grew up reading comics or enjoying superheroes in any era will wax nostalgic as they see the devotion that is poured into the process of documenting how the creators of superhero adventures were influenced by the world around them.

The highlight of the series for me were video interjections by legendary comic creators, many of whom have already passed away. Watching Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Jerry Robinson, and Carmine Infantino speak about comics couldn’t help but choke me up.

The series also did a wonderful job of representing women in the industry with video commentary by Ramona Fradon, Jennette Kahn, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson, and Christina Strain.

I would love to say that this was a benchmark documentary about the history of comics but I can’t because what I witnessed was more like propaganda mechanism for Marvel and DC. This series in all of its splendor effectively trivialized any accomplishments in the battle for creators rights. It completely ignored the influence of the Direct Market. It  erased the impact of decades of Independent comics with the notable exception of Image. No mentions off the tremendous impact that European or Japanese comics had.

I realize that it is unrealistic to expect every last detail of a 75 year history into a three hour documentary. I also recognize now, more clearly than ever, why the word superhero and the derivatives of it should not be allowed to be used as a trademark jointly by Marvel and DC exclusively.

What this series did effectively accomplish was to blur the distinction between the history of Supeheroes™ and the history of Comic Books as a whole by defining the impression for the general public that Superheroes™ = Comic Books and that Comic Books = Marvel and DC with the tip of a hat to Image, apparently the only independent to successfully publish another unique superhero.

NEWS FLASH! There are many independent publishers that have made comic books that featured superheroes! Superheroes also exist in other media and in other countries. All characters represented in the superhero genre are NOT owned by only Marvel and DC as much as they would like you to think that. This was not represented at all in this documentary and I believe it is unfair to dismiss the accomplishments and struggles of so many who also had great superhero stories to tell.

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is typical of the type of bullshit that big corporations do to gloss over the undesired truth.  “Smear lipstick on that pig and everyone will be happy and buy into what we have to sell.” ” Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Truth be told, there could have been a three part series just on the battles that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster fought over their rights to Superman or the battles that Jack Kirby had with Marvel for compensation and to have his art returned.

There could be a three part series on the rise of the Direct Market and how the barrage of  quality Independent publishing in the 1980’s had  Marvel and DC on the ropes.

There could be a three part series on how the internet and digital delivery has changed how comics are created published and viewed.

They would all represent true and vital information for anyone interested in an accurate history of the never ending battle of creating superheroes and comics in a market dominated by corporate interests intent on squelching any potential competition to their mythic intellectual property that they gained from the exploitation of the imaginations of mostly young, impoverished children of immigrants searching for and expressing their own American Dream.

If you have watched the series and got that great warm and fuzzy superhero nostalgic rush, I want you to know that I had it too.  I also have a tremendously deep appreciation for the medium of comics and a tremendous respect for the genre of superheroes and though it is wonderful to see the genre presented in such a positive light I think it would be great if audiences understood and valued the true history of superheroes and not the mythology of the mythology influenced only by two enormous corporations.

Next week I will begin a series of my own on this blog that will take a closer look at how “Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” diluted the real history of superheroes.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

10 Rules for Drawing Comics – Make ’em and Break ’em

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Dov Torbin is curating an interesting blog focused on defining 10 rules for drawing comics. It looks like it is in its early stages of development so now would be a great time to jump on the bandwagon.

Judging from what has already been posted, different comic creators are given the forum to present their personal 10 rules. So far seven creators including Dov Torbin have chimed in, each with distinctly different perspectives.

There is a cathartic overview that comic creators have the opportunity to make their own rules regarding creating comics. This is especially true for independent comic creators who are not burdened by editorial policies of the big corporate publishers. It is also one of the reasons making comics can be so fun and exciting.

Every medium including comics, however, is predicated on some foundation of particular idioms. Though the blog site is in its infancy, repetition of certain themes is already beginning to surface, establishing a few golden nuggets that may ultimately define a true cannon of actual rules that may be sworn by.

So far, the dominant themes seem to be: clarity, enjoy what you are doing, and the importance of good lettering. These may seem mundane at first but as you read the entire blog to date and go over each of the existing fifty rules on the site it becomes apparent that the contributing creators have a mutual affinity for these basic rules that will ultimately elevate their importance in the grander picture.

As each creator shares their personal wisdom, however, a broader perspective of the nuances involved in creating comics is revealed. Eventually, as the site continues to develop, individual comic creators will be able to find validation in their own creative process and discover a treasury of insight and inspiration that will broaden their ability to create great comics. One thing for certain, especially when creating comics; rules are meant to be broken so it is nice to finally have an idea of what boundaries to cross in the name of innovation.

This blog will surely become a valuable resource to comic creators everywhere at every level of achievement. Dov Torbin is to be commended for facilitating such a wonderful opportunity for the community of comic creators to establish such a dynamic and creative dialogue concerning this unique medium.

If you are a comic creator, it would be a good exercise to jot down your own personal ten rules of creating comics before you read the blog then reevaluate those rules after reading the posts there. You may surprise yourself as to how your opinion may change about what is important to you in your own creative process.

What are your ten rules for creating comics? Has your perspective changed after reading the rules of other creators at the 10 Rules for Drawing Comics site? How quickly will you break those rules in an effort to be spontaneous and creative?

Share your answers with us!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Fans Build a Comic Company

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

When it comes to selling graphic albums,  CO2 Comics uses the oldest trick in the book. We sell direct to the customer. It makes sense to us. It is how people sold goods and services since the dawn of cash transactions. We want a relationship with our fans that is as direct as possible.

We don’t use distributors. We’ve eliminated the middle man and those added expenses.  Because of this we don’t see the need for ISBN numbers and barcodes. We think it is just as easy for readers to find our books using any popular search engine as it is to search for books on Amazon or any other online retailer. Our fans already know where to find the product. If you are reading this blog post, our online store is just a click away. Purchasing our books through our Lulu storefront is as safe and easy as any other online purchase you can make.

The reason we do this is simple. We want as much of the revenue generated from our books to go to the creators as possible. Traditional distribution systems seem to generate revenue for everybody but the creators. Typically, publishers receive not much more than 10% of the cover price and pay creators royalties only after all other expenses are met. This too often results in little or no compensation to the creator payed long after the book is published and there is always the threat of returns.

We have other ideas. Because we publish our graphic albums Print On Demand through Lulu we are able to pay our creators 70% of the revenue CO2 Comics  generates off of each book sold starting with the first book printed.

Yes, production costs are higher on individually printed books and yes, Lulu does take a 20% cut of profits from books sold on their site, but when all is said and done, creators will receive about 30% of the cover price from each book sold from our Lulu storefront. That is way better than sharing 10% after expenses are met, if they are.

Lulu reports and pays each and every month allowing for quick and steady revenue stream. Our creators get paid when we get paid and they make the lion’s share of the profit. They earned it. They did most of the work.

Revolutionary? Not at all. selling direct to the customer It is as “old-school” as it gets but people still look at us like we are renegades. We have no ISBN. We are not in Diamond’s catalog. We sell our books ourselves. This seems to translate, for some, into “not real publishers, ” “not newsworthy” and “not worthy to review.”

1st five Comico Covers

Comico's 1st Color Books

We have greatly appreciated the fan press that has recognized the pedigree of the creators we have published and shown a modicum of faith in our own publishing legacy as former publishers of Comico comics. We wish more news outlets were as committed to acknowledging works by respected, journeyed creators, historic collections and our efforts to redefine how comics can be sold in this ever changing market.

More importantly, we appreciate the fans that support us. We believe that the comic is not complete until it is read. We know that the reader’s imagination is what connects the panels and fills in the blanks making comics a unique interactive visual experience of storytelling. Our fans are responsible for the growing popularity of the CO2 Comics site. Thank you for your visits, your support on social media, and your purchases of our product.

We are building a relationship that we believe is important. One that is direct and honest. We produce great comics that you enjoy and you allow us to continue through your patronage.  We are building something special here at CO2 Comics. It is a cooperative effort between us as publishers, the talented creators, and the fans who are our loyal customers. We will build this comic company together and that will be newsworthy enough for us.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Warning: Comics May Cause Amnesia

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Warning: Comics May Cause Amnesia

There seems to be plenty of evidence that comics may cause amnesia.

Apparently anyone who reads, collects, buys, sells, or creates comics is prone to complete memory loss especially regarding the subject of creator rights. people associated with comics in any way shape or form are in desperate need of an old-fashioned FLASHBACK!

How can this be? It has long been assumed that comic enthusiasts excel at the ability to retain the most trivial detail regarding their favorite characters, story arcs and comic creators. They are able to recognize fine nuances in artwork that identify pencilers and inkers, idiosyncrasies in writing that denote authors, and can distinguish the differences between lettering and coloring styles and techniques.

The true comic fan can recite, verbatim, from their favorite comics, panel by panel page by page issue by issue. Yet, regarding the long fought battle over  of creators rights,  the brains of most people associated with comics today are a clean slate.

This explains why artists continue to work for page rates that are the same as or less than they were thirty years ago. This explains why creators are willing to continue to be exploited by work-for-hire contracts with little or no expectation of royalties.
This explains why contracts for digital content are as archaic as those that sucked the souls from creators and robbed them blind since the dawn of the comics industry.

Comics are like rufies, you know, the date rape drug. They must be because they make comic creators forget how they have been screwed, over and over again by the corporate publishers that demand complete control over all Intellectual Property and are unwilling to share all but the tiniest crumbs left by the billions of dollars of profit that is generated by the hard labor of those that create it.

Some are immune to this peculiar neurological allergen. They stand out as rebels and spin their craft in the far reaches of the marketplace: small press, self publishing, web comics and commission work. They carry the torch for a war still fought but rarely noticed; a fight for principle and fairness. They remember the victims of the scrupulous publishers. They remember those that fought: the few that won and the many that lost.

This rag-tag band of comic rebels have their supporters: enlightened fans that sing their praise and defend their stance but in total they are a rare breed that struggles to perpetually rekindle the flame of an apparently, easily forgettable fight.

Thank goodness for history books. If not for them many a war would be left forgotten. Fortunately, the chronicles of this battle for creators rights was recorded directly from the mouths of those that first led the charge. Their words were captured for perpetuity in the pages of a magazine in the form of interviews.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW was the voice of comics industry from 1983 to 1995. It was the forum where everyone and anyone associated with comics was able to speak their mind. The matter of creators rights was at the forefront of many of those discussions as a heated affront to the unjust norms of the industry was erupting in the form of the first wave of independent publishers who, along with the formation of the Direct Market, created an alternative venue for comic creators to reach their audience and own their work.

Steve Gerber

Page after page of COMICS INTERVIEW emboldened the movement, inspiring, and engaging the ranks of comic creators and fans alike who were able to empathize with each other. Readers were able to experience and appreciate the perspective of creator rights pioneers like Steve Gerber who threw his mantle down in the first issue, establishing a code of honor that would endure for the full 150 issue run of the magazine.

Fortunately, COMICS INTERVIEW is not destined to be a faded memory, lost to the world in the forgotten long boxes of aging comic enthusiasts of a bygone era. It is being digitally restored and collected in its entirety by CO2 Comics who are packaging the massive collection in an eleven volume set. Each volume contains over 600 pages of riveting history of the comic book industry. Currently the first two volumes are available featuring the first 28 issues of the magazine. Volume three is currently in production.

Many of the subjects whose interviews grace the pages had careers that dated back to the dawn of the industry itself, while others continue to work in the industry today. This portal to a window in time at the center of the history of comic books makes David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection an invaluable historical treasure. It is in fact the greatest collection of interviews in the history of comic books.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection is the perfect cure for any amnesia regarding creators rights in the comic industry. It is a history book that uniquely depicts a war as it was happening and directly told by the participants and witnesses themselves.

It is a history book that belongs in the library of anyone with any interest in understanding the comic industry today as it is as relevant now as as it ever has been.

It is a history book that belongs in every school or public library for its intimate perspective of an industry that has had a dynamic impact on the popular culture of the world as we know it today.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection is the ultimate FLASHBACK to remind us that the war over creators rights is not, and can never be, over.

Never forget. Never give up.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Seeing Green

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Tiny little green screens in place of profile pictures have littered the internet since the Oscars as a show of solidarity for the unfair treatment of visual effects artists whose work made possible many of the award winners and top grossing films of the year.  Hell, VFX artists have made possible the top grossing films of all time! You would have to go very deep to find a top grossing film that has no visual effects.

In fact, almost all of the 150 top grossing films All rely on visual effects with few exceptions. Of those 150 films, over ten percent of them were based on comic books! Throw in The Incredibles and Hancock and there are a lot of superheroes making money for Hollywood.

Apparently VFX artists and comic creators have a lot in common when it comes to getting screwed. Both creative fields are labor intensive and require tedious, specialized skills that are capable of generating insanely lucrative product for major corporations who don’t want to pay much for the work or share any of the profits generated by the work.

Forget sympathy! For every comic creator or VFX artist there is an army of working class stiffs struggling to keep afloat in dead-end, hard-labor jobs that offer them no appreciation while they make some bastard at the top of the ladder richer than rich. At least these creative types are doing what they L-O-O-O-O-V-E and aren’t breaking their back like some underpaid migrant worker.

Welcome to the 99%!

Artists, in general, have a different kind of struggle that most people don’t understand. An artist’s job is to create and their relationship with their creations is uniquely personal. Their creation is part of them. It is their “baby.” A good artist, like a good parent, will gladly nurture their creation regardless of the cost. But when their creation is ripped away through a cheesy work-for-hire agreement and greedily exploited it is like they sold their child to the circus.

There is guilt, shame and embarrassment often amplified by the reality of  poverty and the inability to properly care for themselves and their family while the fruit of their work mocks them from every conceivable piece of merchandise and media on the market. It is depressing and maddening at the same time.

Creating that million dollar baby is a lot like hitting the lottery. Maybe those incredible odds are why so many creators will climb that treadmill and toil for peanuts just to get by. And yes, publishers and film producers do bear a huge burden of risk. Nobody is asking them not to profit from what they invested in but when the lottery is hit wouldn’t it be nice to share the winnings with those that made it possible to have the ticket in hand?

This issue of greed is not relegated just to movies and comic books. The flashes of green across social networks, though a sign of solidarity, is a symbolic microcosm of the overall greed that is threatening America and the world. We’ve heard a lot about the sequester agreement that never happened this last week as the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” broadens. The rich refuse to share and the poor work harder for less.

We all turn towards our entertainment to take our minds away from these frustrations but now, because of the sea of little green screens, even our entertainment reminds us that it is time to come together and make a change. It is time to support each other!

Steve Bissette made a compelling post about the hypocrisy of VFX artists looking for support after they ignored the injustice bestowed upon the Kirby heirs. He argues that creators should support each other. I made a similar assessment in an earlier post when I asked What if the long list of prominent actors that portrayed characters from comic books in films took a stand to support those creators?

It’s not a hard concept. We were all taught to share in grade school. It’s time we start practicing what we were taught as kids and share our stuff and our responsibility. It does not have to be a dog-eat-dog world if we all have each other’s back.

You can practice sharing simply by sharing this blog. You can use the green graphic on your profile image. Maybe if  enough people see green (St. Patty’s Day is this month) the message will come across and maybe, just maybe, there will be a little less greed in the world.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Thanksgiving Tradition – Embracing Something Different

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Imagine sitting at that table on the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Do you think there was any tension? Pilgrims sat across from the Native American, Wampanoag people and celebrated their first successful harvest together. The Pilgrims were strangers in a strange land and relied heavily on the support given to them by the natives. Their survival depended on their ability to embrace the differences of the two cultures. In the end, their successful harvest was as simple as people helping people despite their differences.

Life in America has changed a lot in the 391 years since that first Thanksgiving and is undoubtedly much more complicated. The hostile tensions that have risen in the wake of our recent presidential election are a sign that we desperately need to sit at our Thanksgiving tables again this year with a willingness to reach out and embrace our differences again.

This is much easier to do when there is a sense of community, when we have a feeling of responsibility toward our neighbor, when we all realize that we re in this together. Big corporations and big government have made us all feel like a number on a ledger sheet that matters little. When big companies like Walmart, Papa Johns and Denny’s threaten or impose layoffs as retaliation to the Affordable Health Care for America Act, Americans need to do what we have done since before that first Thanksgiving and turn to our neighbors for support. Little guys helping each other will be what pulls this country out of the economic mess we are in today.

What does any of this have to do with comics?!

The direction of the comic market has been dictated by big companies for generations. We have all grown up enjoying the adventures of too few iconic characters. In most cases the creators of these characters have been stripped of ownership of their creations by “traditional” business practices in the comics industry. These properties today are worth billions of dollars and their trademarks permeate our culture. They have a grip on our attention and our wallets that offers the corporations that own them the confidence to do whatever they feel to elevate the bottom line.

Comics as a medium, however, has infected our culture. More people create comics now than ever before in history. There is more talent, more diversity and more product than could ever have been imagined. Too much to presumably generate secure careers  for the sea of talented practitioners. Too much to be channeled through a few giant corporations who are unwilling to recognize, produce and promote the vast variety of material available.

Are there too many independent “little guys?”

Comic creators shouldn’t have to struggle, especially now that there are so many. There is power in those numbers. They need to realize their strength as a community and work with each other to raise awareness of their work and its value. They need to join forces when combatting injustice regarding their creations. The comic creating community needs to work together to reach a wider audience rather than wait for one of the few major corporations to do it for them or to rely on a single brave sole to venture forth with limited resources.

This Thanksgiving, as you sit at the table give thanks for all the other comic creators that have chosen this vocation, for each is a member of a unique community that only we can fully appreciate. Think of each member in this community as a neighbor that is as dependent as you are on the embrace of the entire comics community. Support your comic neighbors especially those that are pressing the boundaries of the medium and creating something different than what you have grown accustomed to. Broaden your tastes and experiences. Broaden the market. If we can all work together, starting simply by supporting each other, we can hope and expect a bountiful harvest of success as comic creators in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gerry Giovinco

Fun Size Mini-Comics

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Halloween is quickly sneaking up on us and soon we will have to contend with costume clad  trick-or-treaters looking for candy at our door. It only takes one stop in the candy isle at the local grocery store to know that the huge candy bars we received as kids have be reduced to microscopic proportions. Some marketing genius coined the term Fun Size to describe these shrunken delights and the moniker has stuck. This year there is even a Halloween themed movie  bearing the title Fun Size.

Over the years, the practice of strangers doling out candy to children has become suspect as more and more sociopathic idiots get their jollies by lacing the goodies with drugs, poison, strait pins and razor blades. My family has turned to handing out inexpensive novelties that can be purchased in bulk from any number of mail order companies like U.S. Toy or Oriental Trading. The little trinkets that might consist of spider rings, monster teeth, tattoos, or rubber bugs are quite popular with the kids and relieve parents of the threat of tainted treats.

Inspired by the wide variety of mini comics that small independent publishers have been producing including CO2 Comics’ own creative duet, Joe Williams and Tina Garceau whose Monkey and Bird mini comic can be found here, I thought it would be great to hand out hand-made, Fun Size Mini Comics to trick or treaters this year.

Monkey And Bird mini comic cover

This is an inexpensive and novel way for comic creators to get the word out as to who is the coolest cartoonist in the neighborhood. It is also a fun introduction to the process of comic production and a unique calling card when promoting your creative services in this difficult market for cartoonists, illustrators and graphic designers.

These 32 page self-covered Fun Size Mini Comics can be black and white, black ink printed on color paper, full color, or color covers with black interior. Their final size is approximately 2.5″ x 2″ They are printed 2 sided on a single sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper either on your own printer at home or at a copy house like Staples or Kinkos. Fold them by hand, trim with a scissors or paper cutter and bind with a single staple.

Because the page size is so small art should be simple and graphic with minimal dialogue. You can focus on Halloween images, images lifted from your sketchbook,  or a more ambitiously composed story. Someone with limited art ability could use clip art with snappy one liners  on each page. Be creative. Have fun.

The hardest part of the process once the content is created, is figuring out the pagination. to get an idea of where each page lies, fold a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ paper in half four times. It is important to always fold the paper the same way each time so be very careful to take note Trim the top side and bottom leaving the spine in tact. Number each page taking note of the top and bottom of each page. Fold another piece of paper the same way but do not cut it. Unfold both papers carefully marking the page number and directions on the uncut paper using the trimmed version as your guide. You can now create a template on Photoshop, Illustrator, or a fresh blank piece of paper. Insert or paste art into the appropriate spot careful to face it in the right direction as some will be mounted upside down.

Pagination front & back

Once you have laid out the art for both sides of the paper have it printed two sided on a single sheet. Make as many copies as you think you will need. Fold them neatly using a folding bone or a burnisher to make crisp folds.  Staple the spine with a single staple using any decent household or office stapler. Open your comic in the middle and lay it face down in the stapler so the bent side of the staple will be  inside of the comic. Needless to say the staple should run in the same direction as the spine. Trim the top, side and bottom of the comic using a sharp pair of scissors or a paper cutter. Be sure all the pages are separated cleanly after you have trimmed your comic.

This Fun Sized Mini Comic is a great treat for the kids on Halloween or any holiday and is a wonderful project for cartoonists and their families to participate in together. This is also a great project for educators that may be teaching cartooning or are looking for a creative project in an art or literature class. If you might be thinking about using the Fun Sized Mini Comic as a promotional tool make sure that your name and contact information is prominently displayed on on the cover. Please also remember that if you are making the Fun Size Mini Comic to be handed out to children on Halloween, be sure that the content, including  any contact info or websites that may be on your comic, is appropriate for young children or you will have parents banging on your door the next day.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

I Don’t Know Jack

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

What an honor it has been to have had the opportunity to work with members of the Kirby family over the past couple of years, helping them to maintain the legacy and awareness of Jack Kirby, the undisputed king of comic creators. The wonderful campaign, Kirby4Heroes that was initiated by his youngest granddaughter, Jillian and the personal blog that she allowed us to present on our site last week is a prime example of how the family wishes that Jack is remembered and their own interest in maintaining a continued Kirby presence in the comic community.

As I learn more about Jack Kirby and who he was as a man I wish that I had had more of an opportunity to know him when he was alive.

I was not fortunate enough to have been reading comics when Jack Kirby was in his prime at Marvel. Though I have since had plenty of exposure to his work and have developed a keen appreciation of its value, I was influenced more by comic creators that came after him. They were all, however, students his work giving me the opportunity to realize the importance of studying a true master and developing a unique style.

By the time I became a publisher, Jack Kirby and his battles with Marvel over creator’s rights had become a symbol to me of what should be ethical treatment of creators. He, along with Steve Gerber, stood out as revolutionaries, setting the tone for what would become a movement of independent publishers in the 1980’s of which our former company, Comico, was fortunate to be part of. It was appropriate that the two of them joined forces on DESTROYER DUCK to create one of the first creator owned properties.

Destroyer Duck 1

I believe I was at ComicCon in 1984 when I met Jack and Roz Kirby for the first and only time. I still struggle to believe that it wasn’t a dream but I had the opportunity to have dinner with them as part of a group at a restaurant and was able to have a wonderful personal conversation with them both.  Jack was in his late sixties at the time and I have always been extremely respectful and drawn to seniors and their stories. Even though Jack was and remains a god in the comics industry, he was, more importantly a real, personable, and humble gentleman that was as inviting and encouraging as the World’s Best Grandpa.

It was an incredible evening that I will never forget. We joked and shared a few anecdotes about shop but what I remember most was him telling me a story about how Roz would not let him drive anymore. Jack explained that he would get so distracted thinking about his story ideas while he was driving that he would often find himself lost and having to call home for directions. He said, one day he ended up on some lady’s front lawn with the car staring into her bathroom window. That’s when Roz took the keys. At his side, Roz nodded in confirmation. It was easy to see that she was his protectorate and word around the industry was that she was a dynamic force to be reckoned with. What was obvious was that they were a wonderful, loving couple that respected each other throughout the long years of their marriage.

I think of this story every time I find myself doubling back looking for a turn that I missed due to my own preoccupation with my next “brilliant” idea. I was also fortunate enough to marry a dynamic, strong-minded, woman that always has my back. So, though I may not possess an ounce of the talent Jack Kirby had, I always felt that I related to him as a person through some sort of kindred spirit.

This is why I get so passionate about creator’s rights. To me it is less about ownership, and who did what. It is about the real people involved. Their personal investment. Their hopes, dreams, and fears. Their families. Their legacy.

As a comic creator and publisher I like to think that the value of our work is substantiated by the history behind it. Each moment in time establishes a benchmark by which each new work is measured. Jack Kirby’s work established a standard for excellence in comics that stands alone for the sheer volume and brilliance of creativity.

Unfortunately, histories often incur atrocities. The worst thing we can do is ignore them or pretend that they never happened. Gross injustices need to be singled out, addressed, and corrected. They need to be never forgotten so that they may not be repeated. Unfortunately the comic book industry was built on an unethical treatment of creators since inception, a system which continues to be recognized as common industry practices even today. The damages will probably never be repaired but the injustices need to be acted upon appropriately and with finality. Jack Kirby’s legacy stands as a monument to those travesties every time his heirs or estate sees no compensation from the billions of dollars that are generated by his creations. Jack Kirby’s legacy is a testimonial as to why those unethical treatments of creators and their creative properties should be permanently changed and not be repeated.

It is so important that we remember the humanity of Jack Kirby and do not get lost in just the brilliance of his creations which is so easy to do. Jack was a man that grew up in the ghetto, he fought for his country, married the love of his life, was a father and a grandfather. He was a kind man. He made something of his life doing what he loved, and fought for what he deserved till he died. Jack lived the American dream and experienced the nightmare of corporate greed.

It is our job to make sure that Jack Kirby and every comic creator that he symbolically represents, is remembered for their accomplishments, their talents, their struggles and their role as a member of the extended comic community. It is our job to carry their torch forward and guarantee ethical treatment of creators and their rightful properties.  It is our job to never forget Jack Kirby.

Gerry Giovinco


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