Posts Tagged ‘comico the comic book company’

Dixon and Rivoche: Critical of the Right

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Give Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche a lot of credit. They certainly stepped outside the box in an effort to promote their new book, a graphic adaptation of Amity Shlaes’ THE FORGOTTEN MAN, by attacking  comic industry liberals in their Wall Street Journal OP-ED piece, How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman.”

They managed to generate a lot of interest  and even had the opportunity to tout their book, published by Harper Perennial, on FOX NEWS!

Thank God that most of the hardcore conservatives that pay attention to these narrow-minded resources couldn’t care a rat’s ass about comics or they would have seen through the thin veil of deception that is so brilliantly dissected  by Janelle Asseline in her Comics Alliance piece, “Superhuman Error: What Conservatives Chuck Dixon & Paul Rivoche Get Wrong About Politics In American Comics.”

In their effort to be Uber Americans by defending the Political Right, Dixon and Rivoche tread on one of the most valued American liberties that comic creators have fought decades for, the right to freedom of speech and expression which is protected by the First Amendment.

Their endorsement of the Comics Code Authority, which was a direct product of McCarthy era conservatism and possibly the most strict code of censorship of any American medium, flies in the face of anyone who truly loves and values the most basic and fundamental principles of freedom set forth by the founders of this country.

It was particularly odd that both gentlemen conveniently ignored the comics history of the 1980’s where creators rebelled against the big publishers of superhero comics  and defined the potential of the Direct Market by working with Independent publishers that defied the rules of the Comics Code Authority.

Both Dixon and Rivoche saw their first works published by Independent publishers in 1984. (not the 1970’s as stated.)  Chuck Dixon’s EVANGELINE which, originally published by Comico, told a tale about a nun with a gun that was an assassin for the Vatican.Canadian Paul Rivoche illustrated Mister X published by Toronto based Vortex. His story was about a mad scientist that induced his own perpetual sleeplessness with a fictitious drug. These were not comics that any of the Code publishers would consider touching at the time!

It is ironic that these pioneers of “moral ambiguity” in comics should be so vocally opposed to its current existence in the medium!

The success and proliferation of similar independent projects eventually led to Marvel and DC’s softening and ultimate departure from the Code. This was  an orchestrated effort to compete with and eradicate Independent comics publishers  who had gained substantial  market strength.

The market dictated the newfound liberal mores with which comics were created! If audiences did not clamor for these new “left-minded” ideas we would all be reading comics with the seal of approval on it today. Worse, comic books would most likely have faced an inevitable extinction.

The comics of the 90’s that the two chose to credit with the moral departure were created by a  wave of young talent that cut their teeth reading comics and being inspired by the likes of Dixon and Rivoche. These upstarts recognized that it was time for a jailbreak and sought to distinguish themselves as the New World Order in comics.

Dixon and Rivoche are among many creators moderately associated with the old guard, despite their groundbreaking achievements, to be trampled by the inmates intent on running the asylum, finally free of the restraints of oppressive censorship (a page torn right from Dixon’s own Batman stories.)

Jerry Ordway has similar gripes but does not blame left leaning politics in his plea for work, Life After Fifty.
For many, like Ordway, it is rather an overwhelming lack of respect and appreciation for the contributions of creators that in the past would have been revered industry-wide.

Fortunately the Independent movement (not just of the 80’s and 90’s but that of the 70’s  Underground Movement, the Web Comic  Movement of the 00’s and the current Digital Movement) has solidified the rights that creators have to express themselves freely through the medium of comics. There is a now place  and an opportunity for any kind of comic regardless of “right” or “left” leaning politics. This is good for everyone, especially those with idealistic American values.

Without this new, expanding market for comics there would be no publisher that would have been interested in THE FORGOTTEN MAN, a comic not about superheroes and not targeted specifically at children. That would be a real shame.

Dixon and Rivoche should have remembered their true roots and celebrated their masterful execution of their own creative rights rather than endorse a close-minded, faux conservatism that could potentially crush other creators’ rights to freedom of speech and expression in a new witch-hunt reminiscent of the one perpetrated by Dr. Fredrick Wertham that led to the development of the restrictive Comics Code Authority.

Dixon and Rivoche need to ask themselves which Right is more important; the creatively inhibitive conservative views of the Political Right or our Inalienable Right to free speech and expression that has given comics the opportunity to flourish?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



A true, capitalism-endorsing conservative would let the market decide.

The Alternate Reality of Dark Horse Comics

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

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

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

Mike Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a few Creator Owned comics published before Dark Horse existed

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

Just a few publishers of Creator Owned Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Black History Month: Reggie Byers – Comic Book Publishing Pioneer

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Reggie Byers Victory Productions

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

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

Click to read Crescent

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

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

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

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

Reggie Byers and a new shipment

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

Shuriken 1 by Reggie Byers

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

The Victory line

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob Durham, Chris Etheredge, Steve Williams and Reggie Byers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



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



Remembering Joe Kubert

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Joe Kubert 1926-2012, photo copyright The Kubert School

The news that Joe Kubert had passed away caught me at just after I finished last week’s blog. I was tempted to dive in and rush a last minute tribute in an effort to be timely but I have too much respect for the man and all that he did for comics. I chose to digest the incredible loss to his family, his school and the entire the comics community so that I could write a memorial deserved of a man of his stature.

Whenever I think of Joe Kubert the first thing that comes to my mind is a cover image of Tarzan, knife in hand, battling a savagely maned lion that struck fear in my heart as a young comic reader. The ferocity of the glare in the lion’s eyes, the sinewy muscles of Tarzan, and the dynamic gesture of every appendage on the page (right down to Tarzan’s toes!) captivated my attention in a way that few comics did or could. Joe was capable of creating something primal on a page with lines so kinetic that the images leapt from the page into the deepest, darkest part of the imagination.

Click image to see more Kubert School Advertisements

The name Joe Kubert captured my imagination again with a simple ad  for The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art that ran in the back of every comic book in the late seventies. Though I couldn’t convince my parents to let me go to a school that promoted itself in a comic book, the idea of studying art for the purpose of  creating comics became my goal. A few years later, as a publisher at Comico, I was offering small scholarships to students at Joe’s school in Dover, NJ hoping to encourage the incredible young talent that was being cultivated there to want to work for Comico. The gesture paid off when we had the opportunity to work with Joe’s sons, Adam and Andy on our JONNY QUEST series.

Joe Kubert visited our modest offices at Comico once when we were first developing our relationship. Our Studio, as we called it, was half a duplex in the middle of blue-collared Norristown, PA. It was a humble creative space littered with art supplies, drawing boards, decrepit furniture and dated, orange shag wall-to-wall carpet. Joe loved it! There was a gleam in his eye as he looked around that space and at us young guys, full of enthusiasm about making comics. He told us stories of how he was reminded him of his early days, holed up in a small room with a bunch of other young writers and artists cramming out entire issues over night in a frantic effort to meet a deadline.

Joe was an infectiously dynamic person with a passion for comics that he was always excited to share and teach. He was the ultimate father figure that commanded respect and returned it when you earned it. That day he visited Comico, without intending to and unknowingly, he ordained us as professional comic creators with his glowing approval.

Similarly, Joe’s impact on the comic industry can never be measured. He has influenced and educated so many comic professionals that it would be impossible to imagine what the industry would have been like without him, his family, or his school.

Bill Cucinotta, the extended CO2 Comics family of creators, and I extend our very heartfelt condolences to the entire Kubert family and to everyone that loved and respected Joe Kubert, one of the very great men to have ever professed to making comics.

Gerry Giovinco

We at CO2 Comics have a long relationship with a former Kubert School student, Chris Kalnick, who worked as an inker on ROBOTECH when we published it as Comico. His comics NON the Transcendental Extraterrestrial and Depth Charge are regular features on the CO2 Comics site. At our request he has offered his own remarks regarding Joe Kubert:

Baker Mansion-Kubert School circa 1977.

It’s funny how sometimes you don’t realize how much someone has impacted your life until you hear of their passing.  This was definitely the case with me regarding Joe Kubert.

35 years ago, fresh on the heels of its groundbreaking first year class, I was one of the second year students who attended The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.  The school was small compared to today’s incarnation.  There were something like 25-30 students returning from the first year, and Joe only accepted around 50 of us for its incoming second year class.  The students ran the spectrum from the intensely-focused-and disciplined-artist/storyteller to the recent goofy-high-school-graduate-not-really-knowing-what-the-hell-they-wanted. A lot of us fell in between.

I don’t need to expound on how amazing the school was, its atmosphere, its creative energy, etc… suffice to say, there was nothing like it at the time. Plenty has been written about the school over the years. Even if it wasn’t your intention, you were bound to learn some amount of craft there… not only from Joe and the teachers, but from the other students as well.  Everyone ate, drank, and breathed comic art.  The place swam in it. Those who were there know what I’m talking about.  Their life experience and their art is a little richer for it.

There are many more XQBs than I who have had longer, deeper, more extended relationships with Joe, and they have their stories to tell and their feelings to share.  My relationship with him was somewhat brief, but what I can tell you about Joe is that he was no-nonsense. He shot from the hip.  You knew if he liked something or felt it worked… and you knew if he didn’t.  He commanded respect, personal and professional.  My personal talks with him were few, but they definitely left an impression.  As I’m sure his conversations did with the majority of his students.  My last conversation with Joe is forever etched in my mind, for it was sad in nature. It was about my leaving the school, and Joe expressed his disappointment.  For a cartoonist… not an easy moment to shake.

Joe opened his unique school and by doing so, opened the doors for a tremendous amount of artists who may not have otherwise had the opportunity, support, and camaraderie to develop their craft.  If it wasn’t for Joe, I wouldn’t have developed my craft or the sense of identity that I have today.  I wouldn’t have made the professional friends I have now.  And my youngest daughter wouldn’t have grown up in my studio to become an accomplished young artist herself.  Joe passed away the day after my daughter left home to attend Ringling College of Art and Design as an illustration major.  The coincidence of it is not lost on me… and his legacy seems so much more poignant, his influence so much more obvious.

You are respected, Joe.  I know for a fact that you will be missed.  Thank you.

Chris Kalnick

BUGHOUSE Graphic Album NOW AVAILABLE

2012 Welcome to The End of the World!

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

I can’t believe that 2011 is finally behind us! The year sure went fast and boy was it rocky but hey, some of us enjoy a wild roller coaster ride. Now we have to look forward to the brave new year of 2012. Thanks to the Mayan calendar and a few other prophetic hijinks many fear that this year is targeted to be The End of the World.

Bring it on Baby!

Regardless what the predictions may be, you can bet 2012 will be the end of the world as we know it, especially in the field of comics. 2011 set the foundation for the Digital Age and I think that this year you will see comics taking a foothold as a dominant player in digital media.

Beware of the little guy!

The nature of digital marketing and distribution as it stands today will make the market an open free-for-all and don’t be surprised to find some of the smallest fish making the biggest waves because of their ability and willingness to navigate freely, unencumbered by bureaucracy, corporate red tape, and allegiance to traditional systems of distribution.

This sounds like a lot of hype from an Indy guy like myself plugging a web based comic site here at CO2 Comics with my partner Bill Cucinotta and a loyal roster of comic contributors that for the last two and a half years have been plugging away diligently.  We are happy to be little guys in times like this because we have been there before and we know the potential of the current environment.

Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta & Phil LaSorda

2012 marks the thirtieth anniversary of our first attempt at publishing comics as Comico the Comic Company. Bill and I, along with former partners Phil and Dennis LaSorda, were little guys with not much more than a dream when we attempted to tackle the then fledgeling Direct Market with our first black and white  anthology comic book, Primer #1. Within a few years we had surprised the industry  as we grew to be a dominant player, publishing acclaimed color comics, securing daring licensing deals, and working with a long list of some of the most talented artists in the field.

A lot has changed over the last thirty years, in the industry, in the world and in our lives, but one thing is still the same. Bill and I, along with the rest of our CO2 Comics family, have big dreams about creating comics and we know first hand the potential of being the little guy. I am a sucker for nice round numbers and twenty twelve rolls of the tongue in a robust kind of way but a thirty year benchmark is a great excuse to stand up and want to be accounted for.

This year for us will be a celebration of our past accomplishments  and a reminder to ourselves and the world what we are capable of. 2012 may not really be the end of the world after all but don’t be surprised if a new world emerges, especially where CO2 Comics is concerned.

Happy New Year!

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


Halloween Treat

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Since this is my last blog before Halloween I thought it would be fun to take a jaunt down the old, haunted Memory Lane starting with an illustration I did of a baby Bela Lugosi for a project as a student at the Philadelphia College of Art.

Thirty years ago, when Bill Cucinotta and I were still hacking away with friends at our student newspaper, DUCKWORK, Matt Wagner had joined our little band of ducks. The DUCKWORK staff had that year, by proxy, become the Arts Council of the college and it became our job to coordinate the 1981 Annual PCA Halloween Ball.

Matt accepted the responsibility of designing the poster for the event which we screen printed with black ink on white paper and added a touch of red by hand. The original prints were roughly 14×18 inches and were posted around campus for all to see.

I came across the preliminary sketches that Matt had made in one of my sketchbooks, and since I am lucky enough to have the poster as well I thought it would be a nice Halloween treat to share.

The following October, DUCKWORK would be gone, but as Comico, Bill and I, along with partners Phil and Dennis LaSorda would publish our first comic book, Comico Primer #1. Matt Wagner would introduce his popular Grendel character in issue #2 and the rest is history.

Time sure flies when your making comics. Three decades later we’re still at it, bringing our readers great comics right here on the internet with CO2 Comics. We do sure miss the smell of paper though so stay tuned for another treat that will be announced sooooooooooooooooooon!

OH, and have a Happy Halloween!

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


R.I.P Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Steve Jobs’ passing was no surprise. His failed health had been quite public and his recent resignation as CEO of Apple was a clear sign. The dignity with which he handled his final days in public is as much an inspiration as his life and the impact his vision has had on the world.

It is hard, now, to imagine a day without some technological influence that Steve Jobs and the company he stewarded did not have some impact on. As a comic creator, I can tell you that the course of the entire comics medium has been redirected, in large part due to innovations derived from Apple.

There certainly were computers before Steve Jobs and Apple came on the scene. In 1974, when I was in 8th grade at Saint Titus in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, I had access to an already obsolete computer that had been used for actual Apollo moon missions. It was a clunky machine that had to be programmed with binary punch cards and its output seemed no more sophisticated to me than that of the newly released Mini Bomar that launched a frenzy of low cost handheld calculators on the world.

Learning to program that two digit dinosaur was a real trial and to this day the words of my Math teacher, Rev. Joseph Oechsle, ring in my ears, “Trash in, trash out!” The lesson was that computer was only as good as the person programming it.

Vintage home computing

A few years later I would sell computers meant for the home as part of my job working in the electronic appliance department at K-Mart where I tried making some extra cash while we struggled to build our fledgling comic company, Comico. I sold machines like the Texas Instrument TI-99/4A, the Commodore VIC-20 and the Commodore 64. These computers saved data on audio cassette tapes and sophisticated gaming was PONG.

By that point in my life I had no interest in computers. I  was totally focused on comics and the ugly pixelated images and type that these computers could barely generate were of no use to me and my aspirations to be a comic artist and publisher. I was blind to their potential.

This all seemed to change in 1984 when the hammer was launched into a giant screen during Apple’s first and most memorable Super Bowl commercial. Not only did it change the impact that Super Bowl commercials had–it changed the way the world would look at personal computers. It also introduced Graphic User Interface (GUI) which put icons on our desktop suddenly making computers much more intuitive and useable to the general public.

We had one of those Macs at Comico when it first came out and immediately we used it to generate all of the type that we used for our letters pages, graphics and editorial columns. Between the Mac and our photocopier we had practically eliminated our dependancy on our local typesetter and the graphics house where we had most of our photostats done. This transition to a variation of desktop publishing ended up saving us us a ton of money.

In 1985 First Comics published Shatter by Peter B. Gillis and Mike Saenz. This was the first all-digital comic commercially published. It was created on a Mac exactly like the one that sat in our office at Comico.

Digital comics have come a long way since Shatter. Where Shatter’s pixelated digital imagery made it obvious that it was generated on a computer and was in fact a badge of honor for its accomplishment, today it is nearly impossible to tell which comics are drawn by hand on paper and which are generated completely digitally.

Michael Saenz interview from Comics Interview #21, © Fictioneer Books

Steve Jobs recognized the power of digital art which was evident when he bought Pixar from Lucasfilm in 1986. Under his guidance Pixar changed how animation was created and delighted the world with Toy Story in 1995 followed by a long list of incredible 3D CGI films that set new standards not for just animation but entertainment in general

3D CGI has had its affect on comics. Many creators use it to create their comics entirely, others use it as a form of reference for everything from anatomy to architecture.

The biggest impact that Steve Jobs has had on comics in my opinion, however, has been in the area of web comics which would not have ever been possible without the advent of the personal computer. Since the turn of the century (boy that sounds weird!) digital comics have been proliferating on the internet at a rapid pace. Almost anyone with a computer, a scanner, and internet service can now publish comics on the web.

Thanks to the personal computer there has never been more diversified work available in the comics medium. We take full advantage of that here at CO2 Comics. The computer and the internet have given Bill Cucinotta and me a chance to publish comics again and to reach an audience that before was never possible.

Distribution of comics is also changing thanks to Mr. Jobs and company. Just as Apple redefined how music was heard around the world with the 2001 introduction of the iPod and iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad are quickly becoming the place where people read their comics with apps purchased through the App Store. These of course are not the only options for digital comic distribution, but as with the introduction of GUI and the Macintosh personal computer, Apple seems to always be the innovator of record.

Maybe I’m biased. This blog is spat out of my dependable iMac every week and Bill does all the designing on his. We’ve both done our fair share of work on other PC’s but it is our Macs that have always been the faithful workhorse. This is a certain to me as the notion that the future of comics is brighter and more diverse now than ever dreamed possible thanks in large part to innovations set forth by Steve Jobs and Apple.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs but expect your legacy to survive for a long, long time. You made a difference in the world and it will always be remembered. Thank you for making a difference in the world of comics, wether you intended to or not. The art of making comics is far richer thanks to your innovation and inspiration.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


The Future of Comics is 3-D

Monday, September 26th, 2011

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

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

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

(Laughter?)

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

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

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

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

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

Content is the magic word!

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

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

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

Click and Visit M2

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

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

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

Check out Bernie Mireault's The JAM Motion Comic

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

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

Mighty_Mouse_3D

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

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

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

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

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


Holy Crap

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

AZ #2

I recently had an opportunity to reread and old blog post by Tom Spurgeon on his site The Comics Reporter. In the blog post Tom takes a look at one of our old Comico publications, AZ by our late partner Phil LaSorda.  Tom questions the cultural impact that such an obviously crude attempt at making comics may or should have on the market and the medium.

Now I along with my current publishing partner Bill Cucinotta who was also a partner back in those early Comico days may be biased but we also have a unique perspective just by having been there. We know, retrospectively, that the work we did in those days was seminal at best and was often criticized as being crap. It is easy to look back and be embarrassed by our rudimentary attempts to both create and publish comics. The irony, I suppose, is that as rudimentary as that material was, we are both still very proud of it for many reasons, so much so that we published it all again, right here on CO2 Comics.

Slaughterman #1

Skrog #1

SLAUGHTERMAN and SKROG may not have had many more redeeming qualities than AZ but they were all cornerstone publications that established a foundation that Comico, one of the most influential independent publishers of the eighties, was built on. For this reason alone, despite their critical ineptness, yes, they had, and continue to have cultural impact.

I remember a scathing review by Cat Yronwode in the Comics Buyers Guide that questioned, “who gave us the right to publish such crap?” My fiery response was that we all have the right to publish what we want to in America and that, crap or not, it will be the market that decides the success of the product. I wish I had those CBG articles today.

One thing we did well at Comico, in those early days, was to learn from our mistakes. It did not take long or us to realize our success would come from publishing others. It was, however, our relationships that we had developed hanging in artist alleys at comic conventions, and our ability to relate to young and maturing talent that allowed us the opportunity to work with the likes of Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Sam Kieth, Chuck Dixon, Judith Hunt, Neil Vokes, Rich Rankin, Reggie Byers and many many others.

We also published a new talent showcase called Primer where we published the earliest work of many other budding artists who were not quite ready for the Big Two.

Comico Primer #1-6

To me the biggest impact that Comico had on the comics industry, was that it gave evidence that if a handful of guys with apparently limited talent and experience could build a company that at one time was ranked #3 behind Marvel and DC in monthly sales, then maybe, just maybe, anybody can.

I believe we created an opportunity for creators to get bold enough to publish their own work or feel more confident when presenting it to others. We all did it as artists, looked at other work that we considered weak and say, “hey, I’m at least as good as this, if this can be published than so can mine.”

Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta & Phil LaSorda

We may have been naive or overconfident when we launched Comico but we had one mantra that we held to that was first spoken by Phil,  “We don’t want to look back years from now and regret that we didn’t try when we had the chance.” To us, the fear of failure was never as great as the fear of never having the opportunity to make comics professionally.  To do what we loved.

Today the internet is the greatest thing for young comic artists and for the entire medium. Anyone can publish on the web and, yes, there is a ton of incredible crap out there but more people than ever are taking a shot making comics and we fans of the medium are the winners because tremendous comic talent that may have never tried before is now offering our eyes a feast of variety that has never existed in comics.

So to answer Tom Spurgeon’s quote: The question that many of us near comics ask — if only to each other — is if the art form can survive without the occasional cycling back to cruder efforts like this one, unpretentious material devoid of any hope for life or riches beyond its publication schedule that helped revitalize the art form four or five times during a low ebb.”

No! The art form, or more accurately the medium of comics or any medium for that matter, cannot survive without a cycle that includes cruder efforts. No crude efforts would imply no young talent and with no young talent to revitalize a medium, that medium will die a death of eventual mediocrity.

To paraphrase McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, “When you’re green you grow. When you’re ripe you rot.”

So, be brave and create! Express yourself as well as you know how and be willing to show the world.  Make mistakes. Learn from them. Never stop growing. But when you do someone new will begin making their own mistakes and we will all have the pleasure of witnessing their adventure.

Holy crap, it’s the circle of life, comics style.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco



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