Posts Tagged ‘Comics Buyers Guide’

Where Have all the Women in Comics Come From?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

women in Comics Interview vol 2

It is amazing to see the number of women that attend comic conventions these days. Maybe their inclusion is more pronounced to those of us that were attending comic cons thirty years ago when seeing a woman at a comic con was akin to spotting a Yeti on the beach.

Women abound at cons these days and though those that participate in cosplay seem to get all of the media attention because of their skimpy costumes and exhibitionistm portrayals of sexy characters, it is more than comforting to see the growing numbers of women that are comic creators, readers, bloggers, and collectors.

At the Asbury Park Comic Convention, two of the many highlights for me involved the presence of women at the show.

Meeting the extraordinarily talented illustrator, Stephanie Buscema was a thrill. She carries on the tremendous legacy of her grandfather, John Buscema, and great uncle, Sal Buscema, both gentlemen legends in the comic book industry. Though she bears the mantle of comic book royalty, she does so while maintaining her own individuality with her unique and refreshing retro style.

Lining up to meet Ms. Buscema was the other surprise of the show, a parade of female fans of all ages. They were not there just for her but her beautiful art was a magnet that attracted the ladies like a moth to a flame. Those same women soaked up everything at the show with the same enthusiasm that was once only expected from the old “boys club.” Mothers with children in tow, Grandmothers wearing Batman swag, teenagers, tweens and toddlers of the female persuasion were all there genuinely showing an interest in comics and not because they were dragged there by a dad, husband or boyfriend.

I don’t know why I am always surprised to see waves of women at conventions. I guess I fall prey to the stereotyping as easily as anyone because I do remember quite vividly those early days of comic conventions that were attended so sparsely by women. I am well aware, however, that women have played a significant role in comics for decades and it is about time that they share the limelight with the men.

Comics_Interview_Volume_2_Standard_cover

Our newly released second volume of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection is a testimonial to the efforts of some of the women that played pioneering roles in the history of comics featuring a long list of interviews that were originally published in 1984 and 1985.

Harking back to the earliest days of the Silver Age,  Marvel Comics’ very own Gal Friday, Flo Steinberg gives us an intimate look at what life was like in the fabled Bullpen and talks about her own attempt at independent publishing with the anthology Big Apple Comix.

Maggie Thompson, one of the earliest pioneers of comic fandom along with her husband Don, describes the dawn of fandom through her experience evolving fanzines into trade periodicals as she chronicles the early history of the recently retired Comics Buyers Guide.

Marvel Sales Director, Carol Kalish, discusses Marvel’s role in the structuring of the young Direct Market and revolutionary marketing programs that she was responsible for implementing that impact the industry to this day.

A young Colleen Doran talks about the development her comic creation A Distant Soil that is still in publication twenty-eight years later!

Influential editors Karen Berger, Jo Duffy and Cat Yronwode give their take on their responsibilities guiding creators at DC, Marvel and Eclipse respectively.

Round it out with creative insight from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents writer, Mary Bierbaum and American Flagg colorist Leslie Zahler and there is clear evidence to the significant roles that women played in comics for a long time.

Of course these special women are just a percentage of more than seventy subjects who’s interviews are packed into this one volume but they stand out dramatically among the scads of men that are generally associated with comics.

So next time the question is asked, “Where have all the women in comics come from?” Remember that their numbers have risen from a strong foundation of pioneers that have been in the trenches for a long, long time.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Self-Publishing is a Virtue

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Self-publishing is often perceived with a certain disdain that I always struggle to understand especially when it concerns publishing comics. Self-publishers are usually viewed as purveyors of “Vanity Press” or unrefined rebels, void of editorial and quality control, rather than the enlightened, creative entrepreneurs that they often are.

For the record, I have always considered myself a self-publisher though I have spent a lot of time publishing the works of others. I self-published my first comics in high school. Those comics were printed on a mimeograph machine and distributed from class-to-class and sold for a nickel apiece.

In college, where I met my long time publishing partner Bill Cucinotta, we published a student newspaper, DUCKWORK , with a bunch of like-minded friends that all had an interest in comics.  We were doing our own thing and doing it collectively so I still considered what “we” published as self-published.

Few people remember or realize that Comico began as a self-publishing venture. Our earliest projects all featured comics that we created ourselves.  AZ, Skrog, and Slaughterman were each works of the individual Comico partners, Phil LaSorda, Bill Cucinotta, and myself. Primer was intended an introductory product for our personal projects but became our first vehicle to present the works of others, most notably our former DUCKWORK pal, Matt Wagner, and his signature work Grendel.

It was only fitting that when Bill and I began publishing on the web as CO2 Comics the first features we launched were our earlier works Skrog and Slaughterman . We were self-publishers again!

Because we do enjoy publishing others, we set up CO2 Comics as a cooperative venture where we work closely with creators to present their work on our site. When we do publish works in print we consider the creators our partners and insure that they receive the lion’s share of net profits from sales of their books.

I don’t ever want to lose my perception of being a self-publisher because I consider it a virtue and a right. Cat Yronwode, esteemed comics critic, and editor once questioned our rights to publish what was admittedly amateurish material. Her comment in the Comics Buyer’s Guide sent me into a tizzy back in 1983 because I am so adamant about a creator’s right to have control over their work which is my primary  endorsement for self-publishing. I argued that as Americans we should have the right to publish whatever we want and that the market will determine our fate.

Self-publishing, in fact has integral responsibility for the birth of our nation. Forefather, Ben Franklin, was a self-publisher and champion of freedom of speech. He used his press, his writings and his publishing skills to inspire and encourage the American Revolution. He valued those rights and so should we as comic creators.

This is the sense of independence that comic creators needed when it became obvious that the big comic publishers were taking advantage of them. By the late seventies when people started demanding rights for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster followed by champions for Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby it became obvious that alternative publishing was necessary in the comics industry

For us, like many others, self-publishing was the answer.  Thanks to the nature of the Direct Market in the comics industry at the time, self-publishers could easily get their foot in the door. A lot of good and bad publishers proliferated but what became clear was that comics could be more than just superheroes and the opportunity for diversity in the medium exploded.  Self-publishing opened the door for creative opportunity that may not have existed otherwise.

The new generation of comic creators with this expanded view of the medium quickly moved to the world wide web and launched a self publishing assault  that proved anything is possible when creating comics. Stick figures capably replaced the anatomically exaggerated superheroes as dominant reading material on the web.

Now, with digital advancements in printing and distribution, the opportunity to self-publish is as accessible and affordable than ever before leaving the greatest challenge to be that of being discovered by an audience.

More than ever, self-publishing is the doorway to creative freedom. As creators, now is the time to encourage each other to embrace the opportunity to swelf-publish, to control your intellectual property and not be victimized by unscrupulous publishers who continue to exploit the antiquated work-for-hire business model.

This is our goal at CO2 Comics. We recognize that not every creator wants the burden of all the details that self-publishing requires wether it be on the web or in print. We want CO2 Comics to be a safe haven for projects to be published while creators retain ownership and control over their property.

More importantly we intend that creators are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve and would warrant as a self-publisher because we know personally what a virtue self-publishing is.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Goodbye CBG

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The only newspapers that ever really mattered to comic book fans were The Daily Planet, The Daily Bugle and The Comics Buyer’s Guide. Of course, of the three only the CBG was real and now, after forty-two years and 1,699 issues, it is gone.

John Jackson Miller provides a broad perspective of the fanzine, turned, newspaper, turned magazine in this wonderfully documented blog piece, End of an era: Comics Buyer’s Guide, 1971-2013.

I was first introduced to the newspaper by my Comico and CO2 Comics publishing partner, Bill Cucinotta, in 1980. Bill worked at Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt in those days while he went to school at Philadelphia College of Art and teamed with me and the rest of the gang that published our own underground-ish, student newspaper DUCKWORK.

Then titled The Buyers Guide for Comic Fandom and generally referred to as TBG the weekly publication was a tabloid size newspaper like any weekly local paper you would find in your mailbox. The format and frequency established TBG for what it was, the voice of a community, and the periodical singlehandedly galvanized fandom into a comics community with a strong sense of identity.

Maggie & Don Thompson

Under the nurturing guidance of Don and Maggie Thompson, the newspaper was a welcoming vehicle for all to participate whether you were a fan, professional, retailer or distributor there was always a sense that all had an equal voice. To be included was to be accepted into the community.

When we began publishing as Comico, shortly before TBG changed its name to The Comics Buyers Guide or CBG it was always an exciting moment for us to see our full page ads appear in the large tabloid sized pages and to read reviews of our product even though our earliest comics received harsh criticism. We were where we wanted to be; included in the comics community!

This inclusion spread to our appearances at comic conventions across the country where we always felt welcomed due to this sense of community that was fostered by the congeniality of the Thompsons who could be found at most conventions and were happy to encourage and enlighten young, wide-eyed publishers like ourselves.

It was a sad day when Don Thompson passed away in 1994 because the comics community lost a pioneer, a friend and a mentor. A similar feeling of loss is being experienced now as CBG fades into history, a victim of modern technology and an ever changing market. The comic community communicates differently now, through social networks, blogs, podcasts and video but we cannot change our heritage that defined itself in the pages of a once glorious yet simple newspaper.

Bill and I want to express a heartfelt thank you and extend our most sincere well wishes to the staff and contributors of CBG especially Maggie Thompson as she continues to blog on her website and takes on a new role blogging for Comic Con International’s new Toucan blog.

R.I.P. CBG and thanks for the memories.

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


The Comic Company:
Marketing Comics on Mobile Devices Since 1984

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

“Location, location, location!” This is the mantra of of real estate investors worldwide and was a dilemma we faced as we planned a promotion strategy for our first full-color comic book publications, Matt Wagner’s Mage and Judith Hunt and Charles Dixon’s Evangeline.

 

Our first 2 color publications

 

Comico had proven itself as an aggressive marketer of its black-and-white line by advertising in all of the major fan magazines at the time. Bill Cucinotta made sure that full-page ads were regularly seen in the Comics Buyers Guide, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Journal, and David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview.

 

 

Our decision to begin publishing in color raised the bar significantly. We could no longer survive if our titles sold just a few thousand copies each. We knew that publishing in color would automatically cause our sales figures to rise dramatically but we had to sell around 30,000 of each title to see black ink on our ledger sheets.

30,000 seems like a good number when looking at the monthly sales figures of comics today but in 1984 when Marvel and DC were still selling comics for 75¢ we could not compete with a $3-4 cover price. At $1.50, our profit margin was a lot slimmer than it is for books in the current market.

We had great faith in the product and rightfully so. Creators of each comic have gone on to become industry giants but at the time they were all virtual unknowns.

We felt that in order to succeed we needed to promote our product at the point of purchase; in the comic shops themselves.

Bill, who had worked many years in retail at Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt in Philadelphia, knew first-hand how valuable the real estate was in comic shops which were usually quite small.

When he, Phil LaSorda, and I discussed the possibility of posters in the stores to promote our comics the question was, “Where would the retailers hang them if they hung them at all?”

Retail walls were usually covered, floor-to-ceiling, by shelves displaying hundreds of new comics. Valuable older comics in mylar bags were displayed on walls also.

If a poster were to go up on any of the limited wall space that might be left, you could bet that it would be reserved for a Marvel or DC product.

We talked about post cards and rack cards but agreed that counter space and rack space was as much a premium as wall space in the tiny comic shops.

Hell, the only space left was the ceiling and how would we convince retailers to staple our poster on their ceiling?

Inspiration from above

Maybe it was from years of kite flying, model rocketry, and hanging plastic airplanes in my room. Maybe it was from marveling at Alexander Calder’s masterpieces in art school. The idea of creating a mobile that the retailers could hang from a single tack or hook soon gave rise.

We would command a virgin, uncharted territory smack in the center of the ceiling in virtually every comic shop. We would boldly go where no man had gone before!

 

Mobile Ad

 

The Comico Mobile, which was promoted as “The First in a series of Promotional Mobiles,” was a simple elegant design though it would be the first and only one of the intended series. It was a cardboard disc that was 18 inches in diameter printed in full color on both sides, Mage on one side, Evangeline on the other. At the top was drilled a tiny hole from which it could be hung.

There was a limited number of 100 that were signed and numbered by the creators and the rest were sent to distributors where retailers would place an order to get theirs for free with their shipment of Comico comics. Just in case they missed the offer we ran ads in the trades to make sure no one was left out.

The Comico line of color comics was off the ground. The proof was on the ceiling!

 

A Comico Mobile still hangs in my studio today right next to my inspiration for the Comico Blimp, a toy airship hanging from a string.

 

CO2 Mobile Command Centre

 

On the wall behind my desk, however, is a new banner proclaiming CO2 Comics, our exciting new foray into the digital world of comics.

Today’s digital environment adds a completely different meaning when speaking the term “mobile.” Computers and mobile devices like smart phones, iPads, and e-readers are quickly changing the landscape of all publishing including comics.

CO2 Comics will give Bill and I the chance to pioneer again but we will still look back to the term “Location, location, location,” only this time we will be looking for a good Wi-Fi connection.

Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco

 

 


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