Posts Tagged ‘comico’

Comic Book Entropy: Marvel and DC

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

When it comes to order and disorder regarding comic books one needs to look no further than the Big Two, Marvel and DC, for examples of each in regards to their corporate direction.

This past week Marvel celebrated their 75th anniversary with a televised special/infomercial titled Marvel: 75 Years, From Pulp to Pop! The show managed to  cram their long history into just 44 succinct minutes in a way that only Marvel can because they have admittedly and willfully refined their direction to the fundamental creative basics established by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Marvel recognizes that their success is built on the creative geniuses of these three men and the culture of the Marvel Bullpen that has managed to maintain a continuity that has reverently adhered to the principle foundations of the characters they created.

The new found harmony that exists since the settlement between Marvel and the Kirby Estate, as exhibited by the inclusion of a proud Neal Kirby speaking on his late father’s behalf in the special, reinforced Marvel’s dedication to the tradition of the source material.

Marvel does not stray far from the source material. They embrace it because they know it is based on good storytelling that has stood the test of time. The result is the global phenomenon known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a bountiful collection of heroic adventures dictated by simple order managed by a decree to not fix what is not broke.

Flip the coin and disorder rears its head as DC Comics once again applies a bandaid to the hemorrhage that is the complicated multiverse known as the DCU. The cure of the moment is called Convergence and it is a two-month-long event focused around the concept that Brainiac will gather the bottled up realities of the infinite earths in the DCU and bring all the variants of all the characters together in one place and let them mix it up like some tormented game of “shake n’ bake.”

While these fifty comics are being published the rest of the already established line will go on a two-month hiatus while the corporate offices move west. Fans get to wait it all out and hope they are satisfied with what promises to be yet another thread of convoluted reality attempting to make sense of what has been convoluted for decades.

DC has long lost any attachment to the foundations of any of their characters let alone any respect for the values or intentions of the creators of their iconic properties. Any opportunity that DC has to exploit their characters in another medium is just a chance to twist in another reality option. TV Flash is already rumored to be from a different reality than film Flash and so the spiral continues.

Through it all fans, are expected to sit back and wait for the shoes to fall then jump back on the bandwagon like nothing ever happened. But fans don’t like to be thrown from the bus. Major League Baseball learned this the hard way when they canceled a season due to strike and it took years to regain the trust of the fans. Why should comics be different?

Nostalgia is a large part of what we all love about our comics and our heroes. Marvel has found a way to introduce new generations to characters that are tried and true while DC continually attempts to recreate their characters to appeal to what they believe are the tastes of a new generation. The end result is that today’s Superman is not your parents’ Superman but today’s Captain America still resonates with the patriotism of your grandparents.

Entropy is, of course, all about the balance of order and disorder in relationship to chaos which is the driving force behind true creativity. Chaos is a beautifully amazing thing which can be easily witnessed in comic books just by looking at a rack of independent comics that source their creativity from every direction and, in fact, continue influence the entropy of the Big Two.

In the Marvel special,  a quick pan of a 1980′s era comic book rack began with a flash of X-Men comics before culminating into a display of independent comics featuring titles like GRENDEL, ELEMENTALS, JUSTICE MACHINE, FISH POLICE and TROLL LORDS, all titles that, at one point, were published under the COMICO imprint, a company co-founded by CO2 COMICS’ own founders, Bill Cucinotta and myself.

It is nice to know that, somehow, our work has impacted the bigger picture of comic books that the world too often recognizes only as Marvel and DC. It is great to be part of the chaos. In the end, it’s all simply about making comics because we want to.

Gerry Giovinco



In the Shadow of Comico’s Sins

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

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

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

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

That revelation would have surely stirred up some excitement!

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

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

The Original Founders:

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

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

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

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

CO2 Comics current catalog

An Attempt to  Publish:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Independence Day 2014

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Independent Comics Day is upon us and this year, as usual, Bill Cucinotta and I celebrate our Independence as comic publishers on the anniversary of our  July 4, 2009 launch of CO2 Comics!

It is hard to believe that it has been five years since we began posting comics on the web and a lot has happened in that brief time!  We have since posted thousands of pages of comics created by dozens of creators. Those serialized comics and our weekly blog, together, have generated  22.5 million hits!

Beyond the web, we have published, in print,  two massive volumes of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection and six graphic albums that we are very proud of:

Steve Lafler’s Ménage à Bughouse, a single volume collection of the Bughouse trilogy and Doggie Style: The Complete Dog Boy.

Don Lomax’s The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese,

Raine Szramski’s Heaven and the Dead City,

Chris Kalnick’s NON and

John Workman’s The Adventures of ROMA!

Collectively, between digital content on the web and books in print, CO2 Comics has already generated about six thousand pages of content for our readers’ enjoyment, yet we remain one of the Comics Industry’s best kept secrets!

This is fine by us because we know that true independence is earned by commitment, patience, hard work, perseverance and a belief in what we stand for. We know that there is value in flying under the radar, waiting for the moment when opportunity arrises.

Until then we continue to grow in strength and numbers, allying with creators that also appreciate the value of Independent Comics publishing to expand our content offerings!

This Independent Comics Day we are thrilled to announce six new projects that are in the works with impending release dates!

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Volume 3 is nearing completion as we continue the fulfillment of the monumental 11 volume set!

Our relationship with DAK which has extended over thirty years and continues to grow as we now take on the formidable task of collecting two popular series formerly published under the COMICS INTERVIEW imprint.

The 36 issue run of SOUTHERN KNIGHTS is intended to be collected in a giant two volume set with well over a thousand pages of adventures of the “greatest superhero team in the South!”

The Complete  X-THIEVES, more accurately known as the Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time Traveling Thieves, will collect over 300 pages of the group’s intergalactic hijinks! Way too much fun to be packed between two covers!

Working closely with DAK and creators, Henry Vogel, David Willis and Mark Propst both of these features will finally be collected in handsomely condensed omnibus formats that will represent an an incredible library brought together by the joint efforts of the  CO2 Comics and COMICS INTERVIEW families!

Not all of our product, however,  will be massive collections that will buckle a bookshelf!

Raine Szramski’s HEAVEN AND THE DEAD CITY which continues its weekly serialization on our site is rolling into a a second volume for print! This beautifully painted work is a testament to Raines’ talent and long history in the medium.

Long time friends and free lance comic talents Bill Anderson and Rick McCollum have teamed with us to package their feature, SCREAMING MASKS! We cut our teeth in the indy comic market  with these journeymen creators and are excited to publish them, together on one of their own unique projects.

Finally,  my SLAUGHTERMAN title will  be collected in a single book after all these years. This seminal title which was significant in the launching of both Comico and CO2 Comics is due an archival packaging.

Yup! We have a lot on our plate and a lot for our readers to look forward to!

Please stay tuned for notifications of release dates and extended product descriptions as each product is rolled out in the coming weeks and months! We plan to charge into the next five years of CO2 Comics as dedicated to independent publishing and the creative rights of comic creators as we have ever been and we cannot wait to see what the future holds!

Happy Independent Comics Day!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



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.

Song of the Sketchbook

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Bill Anderson has been delighting us all with his Facebook posts of sketchbook drawings that he acquired on a convention run with the Comico gang back in 1983. You can see his wonderful collection of sketches here.

What a flashback it was not just to see work by all the great artists that are included but to see images drawn by the Comico crew that included Matt Wagner, Reggie Byers, Will Brown, Vince Argondezzi, Phil LaSorda, Bill Cucinotta, and myself, all done over thirty years ago!

I have to say that seeing those drawings and reveling in the raw energy that exists in spontaneous sketches was quite an inspiration for me to crack out my old sketchbooks, for a personal shot of nostalgia, and to crack down and start a new one.

Anyone who has ever kept a sketchbook knows that they are visual diaries that preserve not just ideas but unfettered strokes of genius that may escape from the mind of an artist through the tip of some rendering implement be it a pencil, marker, pen or brush.

Rarely is there much sense of order in a sketchbook and that is what makes them exciting. Images jump from doodles to notes to fully rendered illustrations, randomly, revealing inner secrets of the artist’s talents that can easily be lost when applied to a more finished work.

A sketchbook reveals an artists soul. The images are the lyrics to a melody that flows from a creative hand in a staccato of strokes.

I received my first sketchbook when I was just ten years-old and I still have it. In it are drawings that are far from spectacular, most lifted from old Preston Blair cartooning books. There are, however, crude drawings of my first comic strip character, Little Sailor Boy, and my first attempts at drawing superheroes that signify a starting point in the timeline of my life in comics.

I have a modest collection of sketchbooks that I have accumulated over the years. Some are from my  days at the Philadelphia College of Art, others from my years at Comico and still more from various periods in my life.

An occasional trip through them is a reminder of projects left unfinished, ideas left unrealized, and  a nostalgic look at the gestation projects that came to fuition. Exposed are moments of creative brilliance, signs of potential untapped and a beacon begging for more.  Sketchbooks can be our own biggest cheerleaders.

I wish that I had kept more sketchbooks. To my regret, however, I was a doodler and jotted ideas and drawings on everything I could find: napkins, notebooks, bond paper and post-its. I have folders stuffed with sketches and portfolios with more but sadly, many sketches ended in the abyss of the dreaded the circular file; the trash!

Somewhere there is a garbage man curating a gallery of my work because I was not as diligent about keeping a sketchbook as I should have.

So in front of me is a brand new sketchbook with a hundred blank pages of creative possibility waiting to be addressed. It’s like a garden waiting for seeds to be planted so that new projects can grow. New comics that need to be made.

I plan to share a few of them here at CO2 Comics, but not before I encourage all you creative types out there to dive into your own sketchbook, if you haven’t already, and plant a few seeds of your own. Let  your sketchbook sing your praises and encourage you to make some great art and even greater comics. When you’re done  don’t forget to share your talents with the rest of us.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Camden Comic Con a Pleasant Surprise

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Going to a new comic book convention is a leap of faith, whether you are a guest, vendor or an attendee.  So many things can dampen the experience. Poor organization, lousy attendance and inhospitable management have ruined many comic conventions and guaranteed that there will not be a second.

The first clue that a con is going to suck is usually the location.  Having a con that is in a town off the beaten path or in a cheesy venue is a major indication that the organizers have no idea what they are doing.

What could be the chance that a comic con held in Camden, New Jersy could be any good? Camden is, after all, too often recognized as  the poorest and most dangerous city in America with a crime rate that is five times the national average!

Sounds like the type of town where you would expect to find a lot of superheroes battling bad guys, not lining up for a cosplay competition.

Despite all odds, however, Camden Comic Con was a wonderful convention that I would heartily recommend to anyone, largely due to the attentiveness and management skills of organizers, Miranda Powell, Bill Haas, their staff and the support of Rutgers University whose campus hosted a safe, accessible and comfortable venue.

For a small, first-time convention organized in just two short months, so many things were done right that it is just amazing, beginning with and highlighted by the hospitality of the staff and Rutgers University. They found a way to make everyone feel appreciated which is, in and of itself, a rarity anywhere in today’s society. They even provided a delicious, complimentary lunch  to all vendors, dealers and guests! Who can not be happy when you are being fed?

Camden Comic con was a remarkably festive, one-day event that was unusually inviting, not just to the hardcore comic fan but to the entire community, opening its doors to anyone that was curious about comic books, free of charge!

Once you walked past the colorful balloon arch, picked up a few free comics left over from last years Free Comic Book Day and adorned yourself with a Camden Comic Con pin you  discovered the live band, Knuckle Puck Time playing in the exhibition area, face painting and crafts for the young children, and insightful panels that covered creative and social issues relating to comics.

There was an array of creators, publishers, and vendors occupying a space that was mercifully, not oversold especially considering that table fees were only $10 – 20 each!

Costumed fans of all ages wandered the floor, waiting for their chance to compete in the cosplay competition at the end of the day while they added immensely to the atmosphere that was enjoyed by the respectable number of 600 fans in attendance.

Hopefully this will be the first in a long tradition of comic conventions held in Camden. It was certainly a boost in the arm for the city, Rutgers, and the comic fans in the community!

CO2 Comics was proud to have been a part of this premiere event and we are admittedly biased about our experience because we had the opportunity to hang out with our long time friend and former ROBOTECH artist Reggie Byers, who we had not seen in years! Reggie’s comic CRESCENT has been popular feature here at CO2 Comics while he has been working on his pet project KIDZ OF THE KING.

We also had the wonderful opportunity to spend the afternoon next to Bob McLeod, long-time penciler and inker extraordinaire! Bob was a gracious as he is talented and we had a great time talking shop when not interacting with visitors to our tables.

My personal highlight was having the chance to finally meet a young fan that would regularly phone and send samples to me when I was Art Director at Comico thirty years ago. “Gus” was then a thirteen year-old with aspirations to create comics and I always considered it my responsibility to encourage him. It was very heartwarming to meet him as an adult that has maintained his interest in the medium knowing that  I personally had some influence on his continued enthusiasm.

So, If you can measure the success of a comic convention by its ability to bring people together, the Camden Comic Con was a rousing success and and extraordinarily pleasant surprise. I can’t wait for the next one! Hope to see you there!

You can see great pics from the convention on their facebook page and there are promises of more pics and updates on their tumblr site.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Comico and Elementals to be Resurrected!

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

CO2 Comics publishers, Bill Cucinotta and Gerry Giovinco, have formally announced that they have incredibly reached an exclusive agreement with Andrew Rev and will be reviving the Comico imprint for a new line of full color comics that will include the ELEMENTALS title originally created by Bill Willingham. The new line is expected to be  available for distribution in the Direct Market this coming Fall.

Cucinotta and Giovinco were among the original founding partners of Comico the Comic Company. Comico began publishing black and white comic books in 1982 with the release of Comico Primer #1, an anthology comic that featured characters created by the original publishers.

1st five Comico Covers

Comico immediately added four new black and white features, AZ by Phil LaSorda, SKROG by Bill Cucinotta, SLAUGHTERMAN by Gerry Giovinco and GRENDEL by Matt Wagner.

Comico's 1st Color Books

In an effort to grow the fledgeling company, Comico scrapped their entire black and white line to concentrate on full color, creator-owned, comic books spearheaded by   MAGE by Matt Wagner, and EVANGELINE by Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt soon to be followed by hugely successful ELEMENTALS by Bill Willingham, all published in 1984.

Comico quickly became a contender in the independent market throughout the 1980s and  as a pioneer of licensed properties began setting new standards with tiltles like ROBOTECH, STARBLAZERS, JOHNNY QUEST, SPACE GHOST, and GUMBY.

Comico for a brief period ranked third in the industry for monthly sales with a broad line of comics and graphic novels before making the fatal decision to enter the mass market, a move that would drive the company into bankruptcy leading to an eventual sale to Andrew Rev in 1990.

Along with the acquisition of Comico, Rev also bought the exclusive rights of the ELEMENTALS from Bill Willingham and has remained the sole owner of the title and characters since.

The revival of the Comico imprint by CO2 Comics will also resurrect the Elementals in the form of a 300 page full color Elementals Omnibus that will collect the first twelve issues and primary story arc of the series, accompanied by digital release of each individual issue.

Cucinotta and Giovinco, who both left the partnership before the demise of their former company, are excited to have the opportunity to steward the Comico brand in the direction it was always intended just in time to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of the title and Comico’s publication of their first color comic books.

“This would be a dream come true,” admits Giovinco, who confesses that this is nothing more than a cruel prank that he perpetrated since April Fools Day coincided with his weekly blog post that is launched each Tuesday morning.

“It would have been a bore not to act on April Fools Day,” he states, “but  you are still welcome to enjoy all of great comics at CO2 Comics, many of which are created by former Comico collaborators like Bill Anderson, Reggie Byers, Chris Kalnick, Mike Leeke, and Bernie Mireault.”

You can also enjoy several creator owned features that were originally published by Comico such as:

GAUNTLET by Neil Vokes and Rich Rankin

RIBIT by Frank Thorne

SKROG by Bill Cucinotta

SLAUGHTERMAN, by Gerry Giovinco

THE WORLD OF GINGER FOX by Michael Baron and Mitch O’Connell

VICTOR by Andrew Murphy

Along with many other great features by talented creators.

Happy April Fools Day!

Gerry Giovinco

*Sincerest apologies to Andrew Rev, Bill Willingham, Dynamite Entertainment and any comic fan or speculator who may have experienced palpitations due to this post that was solely intended for good fun.



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



Happy New Year, 2014!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Goodbye 2013! All of the triskaidekaphobics can now come out of the closet and take a breath of fresh air. It’s time to move on.

Like any year, 2013 had its ups and downs with plenty of good and bad to go around.

I had high hopes for a magical year  when writing this blog to usher in the New Year twelve months ago, the manifestation of which is evident on the CO2 Comics site and in the product we’ve produced.

Besides my 52 weekly blog posts that tackled everything from creator’s rights to trademark infringement and a month-long, scathing review of the PBS broadcast of Superheroes: the Never Ending Battle,

we were delighted to introduce exciting new comic features that are available  to view for FREE everyday along with thousands of pages of other comics that have been archived here at CO2 Comics over the last four-and-a-half years:

Cid and Francis by Mike Sgier continued our commitment to diversity with its unique style of art and whimsical fantasy set in a world of elves and elemental spirits.

Two short stories, The Gold Mask and Revenge as well as the serialization of The Adventures of ROMA all by the legendary  John Workman.

15 year-old Indigo Anderson captured our attention with her youthful talent exhibited in her short feature North and South.

Most recently added has been Dreamcraft, a science fiction thriller by Craig Rippon, Sam Custodio and Bill Anderson that is sure to have you hanging on every page.

We also had the good fortune of releasing four new books in print:

Volume two of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW  The Complete Collection.

Three graphic albums, Doggie Style by Steve Lafler, The Adventures of ROMA by John Workman and NON by Chris Kalnick.

All of which are available with the rest of our printed product that we conveniently  cataloged on this Wish List.

Purchase them exclusively at these two links:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/co2comics

http://www.amazon.com/shops/co2comics

Comico's 1st Color Books

Robotech/Macross #1 cover, Comico 1984

We look ahead to another exciting year with wonderful new projects and publications to be announced with a firm swell of appreciation of our accomplished past as Bill Cucinotta and I will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of our first full-color comic books. 1984 was a significant milestone for us when, still as publishing partners at Comico, we released the historic first issues of Matt Wagner’s Mage the Hero Discovered, Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt’s Evangeline and Bill Willingham’s Elementals. That defining year was rounded out by the publication of MACROSS which would eventually become ROBOTECH!

As staunch supporters of independent comics we also have to give a tip of the hat to another thirty-year anniversary as Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird celebrate their 1984 creation of the phenomenally successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and proved to us all that while publishing comics is hard work, anything is possible when you follow your dreams. Thanks guys!

We can only hope that 2014 will be as dynamic for comics and for us as 1984 was. We know from experience that all we can do is give it our best shot and we will!

You are all welcome  along for the ride!

Happy and Prosperous New Year from our entire CO2 Comics Family!

Gerry Giovinco




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