Posts Tagged ‘Comics Code Authority’

Seduction of the Innocent – The Reboot

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

We are living in dangerous times. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, religious fundamentalism, police brutality and just plain old ignorance is running rampant in the world and here in America. We, as a country, are on the verge of succumbing to the same McCarthyism sensibilities that gripped the nation in the 1950’s.

Just like then, the comics medium is caught in the middle because of its ability to so easily and eloquently communicate to the masses and the tired misconception that comics are intended solely for young readers.

In 1954 Dr. Fredric Wertham published a book titled Seduction of the Innocent that accused comics of causing juvenile delinquency. The appeal of the book’s message was so strong that it lead to a Senate Subcommittee hearing that threatened to eradicate comic books. The industry was saved only by its voluntary establishment of a strict code of self-censorship monitored by the Comics Code Authority which stood in effect for nearly forty years before its potency began to fade in the 1990’s, eventually becoming defunct completely in 201.

Underground and independent comics led the charge for creative freedom as far back as the 1970’s and now that mainstream comics also have  grown free of the censorship, comics in America have matured as a medium, catching up with comics throughout the world. Comics, as they exist today, have a huge cultural impact globally to readers of all ages and interests. Graphic novels are now commonly taught in schools and Universities and have gained a well earned respect among educators.

Once again, however, comics are under attack. This time by a young college student and her parents who are campaigning to have four graphic novelseradicated from the system citing that the award winning books required in her literature class contained nudity, sex, violence and torture. She said, “It was shocking, I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within. I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.”

What is scary is that her school, Crafton Hills College, in light of their complaints has chosen to place a disclaimer on the course in an attempt to avoid a similar situation in the future. Give them credit for not eradicating the graphic novels but thank them for opening the floodgates for pandering to the ludicrous whining of  cloistered individuals everywhere.  Now every college in the country will be scrambling to edit any syllabus that will potentially offend someone with an equally narrow-minded agenda.

How about this? When a student agrees to attend a college they need to sign a form to acknowledging they are adults and are aware that by attending said university they may occasionally read, view or experience something that may challenge them. This material may be considered mature and might include adult language graphic images of sexuality, violence, and other potentially offensive things intended for them to be exposed to an objective education of the  vastly diverse world we live in.

The problem is not that this young woman was offended by what she read. It is that her and her helicopter parents intention is to prevent anyone else from having the opportunity to make their own decision about the works in question. That is censorship and that cannot be tolerated, especially by an institution of higher education, public or private.

We are becoming a nation of big babies taught to run and hide from things that are different. This is just a single chapter of the reboot now titled Seduction of the Infantile.

Maybe it is time also  for a reboot of the Comic Code Authority but this one needs to be established to protect comics from the censorship inflicted by the first code. As a group of comic professionals and fans of the medium our new code should be one that encourages and supports our freedom of expression.

The seal of the Comics Code is now the intellectual property of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization intended to do just that, protect our First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech. It is time to use that seal or a variation of it as a symbol of a  galvanizing force that advances the medium in repentance for its past suppression. Let it now stand as a code for creative freedom that will inspire not just comic creators but creators in all mediums.

Why that seal? Because most people in the general public recognize it just as an idiom of comics but have no idea of why it was always in the corner of their favorite comic book. To many it is just a nostalgic symbol of comics that makes them feel good. It still pops up regularly on reproductions of old cover graphics that now adorn merchandise, posters and t-shirts everywhere. Using it would embrace an opportunity to educate and continue to emancipate comics from the threat of censorship.

The origins of the Code can never be forgotten but the seal can be transformed into a symbol of a revolution that proved creative oppression can be overturned and prevented if we choose it to be.

Gerry Giovinco

Vocal Minority vs Silent Minority in Comics

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

The so-called “vocal minority” in comics has been getting a lot of attention lately due to reactions generated by Raphael Albuquerque’s request to pull his controversial variant cover for Batgirl #41 and  Image co-founder Eric Larson’s criticism of the newly designed Wonder Woman costume.

To be clear, the term “vocal minority” today’s current comic speak for  the voice of feminists and their supporters who rally against sexual exploitation and violence against women in comics.

In the case of Albuquerque’s cover, the artist responded to threats of violence made towards critics of the cover. He respected and agreed with the concerns of the “vocal minority” that felt the image strongly implied rape and was not consistent with the current direction of the current Batgirl story line. DC honored his request and replaced the cover with a more appropriate variant.

Regarding, Erik Larsen,  well, he just had a meltdown. He  lambasted the big two on twitter for “placating a vocal minority at the expense of the paying audience by making more practical women outfits.”

Janelle Asselin did a nice piece on the subject that should be read at Comics Alliance. Her conclusion that the comics industry is changing and fans and pros that have perpetuated a sexualized  and violent comic market for decades need to realize that the industry is not just about them any more should be applauded for the sole purpose of pointing out that for too long the industry has been dictated by a  “silent minority.”

This group’s  intentions for publishing comic books over the last few decades is a lot different than what had gone before.

Many of the iconic comic characters that we enjoy today were created at a time when it was necessary to appeal to the widest audience possible. For this reason and later for the approval of the Comics Code Authority, comic publishers went out of their way to create wholesome, unoffensive characters with broad appeal. I was just good business for the market at the time.

The costumes worn by superheroes were designed to emulate the exotic and powerful costumes of circus entertainers that inspired the imaginations of the young and old alike. The capes, tights and body suits  came from strongmen, acrobats, aerialists and dancers because it was their costumes that the public equated with what was powerful  and  fantastic.

They were simple and much more innocent times.

The characters became powerful trademarks recognizable by people around the world. They were licensed and merchandised to promote tons of product all on the strength of the characters recognizability and good will.

The image of superhero on a product stood for “Truth Justice, and the American Way.”

This all changed in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Comic book sales became relegated strictly to comic shops and the Comic Code lost its authority. A new crowd took over the reigns at the publishing houses. Comics were no longer being made for the largest audience. They were being made to appeal to a finite group of like-minded, adult, male fans and creators who wanted their comics mature, violent and sexual. This “silent minority” assumed the market and would control it entirely today if it were not for the success of Manga in American bookstores and the purchase of Marvel by Disney.

Manga with its attention to wide subject matter, strong character relationships and dominant female characters attracted women readers and eventually drove them into the comic shops shaking up the boys club that proliferates there.

Disney, with their solid focus on branding has capitalized on their merchandising machine and made Marvel characters household names like never before. The appeal of the superhero has not been this great since World War ll.

But DC continues to tarnish their established trademarks from the inside-out finding new ways to offend and alienate a wider market that includes women that respect themselves and a youth market that is not ready for stories about sex, rape, extreme violence and vulgar language.

The new fans are not discovering what they expect when they walk into comic shops because comic books have changed.

Our culture assumes that superheroes are for everyone. We like to consider them our modern mythology. Like it or not, this is what they have become. When they are used as a tool for exclusion, misogyny, or racism it should be expected that a discussion will occur. One that should remain peaceful and dignified. Anyone that invokes the use of violence to prove their point should not be tolerated.

Let’s be civilized.

Superheroes are just a small part of the ever growing comics industry. There is plenty of room for comics and graphic novels to be created to appeal to every minority group out there no matter how silent or vocal they are. But we will all be best served if the publishers, creators and fans encourage the creation of new characters to drive those stories so the old characters can retain the ideals intended by their original creators.

You see, I am a member of another minority. One that remembers when comics were fun colorful and exciting. The good guy always won. The women were beautiful and their clothes stayed on. I don’t remember cringing at violence because it was never extreme and I never worried about being offended by reading a story about my favorite character. I would like to see those characters that I grew up with, remain the pure icons that they were. But it is already too late. If I want to read those comics I have to pick up an omnibus collection.

Alan Moore did it right when he created the Watchmen. He gave us something new for a more mature audience without corrupting  classic characters.

And then he wrote The Killing Joke where Batgirl was stripped, mutilated, and permanently disabled which has now led us to the furor over Albuquerque’s cover.

Where is Yvonne Craig when we need her?

Gerry Giovinco

Halloween and Comic Books: A Frightful Pair

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Last week’s blog Before Cosplay there was Halloween got me thinking that Halloween and comic books have a much deeper and horrific connection than dressing as our favorite character.

Though your average person may immediately think “superheroes” when they hear the term comic book, any comics fan knows that comics as a medium covers a vast array of genres of which superheroes are currently at the forefront.

Just look at the offerings here at CO2 Comics and you will see a sampling of the broad range of topics that comics can cover.

Actually, throughout the late 1940’s to the very early 1960’s, it was horror comics that filled the newsstand shelves. The terrifying comic books had such a dominant impact on the industry that they ignited a witch-hunt fueled by Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s writings in his book Seduction of the Innocent. The ensuing hysteria led to hearings by the  Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and resulted in the comics industry adopting a self-imposed form of censorship called the Comics Code Authority.

For many the true terror was not the content of the comic books but watching them being burned and censored in a place like America where the freedoms of speech and press were being so harshly violated.

Comic books continued to have mildly scary themes with plenty of monsters, vampires and werewolves but they were watered down for decades until different forms of distribution allowed underground and  independent publishers the opportunity to produce comics without the vice of the Comics Code Authority.

Now there are plenty of truly scary horror comics available again to inspire the many ghouls and zombies that will wander from door-to-door this Halloween.

The monsters you encounter in forms of fiction like comic books are a healthy reminder that good and evil are relative, measured only by the extremes of each other. Horror stories allow our imaginations to witness the fear of indescribable terror without physically experiencing it. They allow us to develop defenses that will hopefully protect us from the real monsters that lurk in the world.

So grab a flashlight and a good horror comic book then crawl under the covers in a really dark room and read till you are scared to death! Then remember, when you are celebrating this Halloween, that some of those monsters in frightening costumes may be real.

If you are not careful you could easily become a bloodied victim, dismembered and buried in a shallow grave while your eyeballs float, suspended in a thickened liquid that fills a vintage mason jar capped with a rusty lid, proudly tucked away on the top shelf of a mildew encrusted Frigidaire in the basement of a quaintly-painted, suburban townhouse inhabited by an unlikely serial killer named Pinky Silverberg, the innocent looking, wide-eyed waif  who sold you that scary comic book at your local comic shop.

Happy Halloween!

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.

Independents Day

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Hoist the flag! Fire up the grill! Shoot off the fireworks! Americans love the Fourth of July and go to great measures to celebrate because it represents the one thing we all hold dear. Freedom!

We take freedom for granted too often. It takes harsh reminders, like spotting a limbless veteran saluting the flag as tears of pride well in their eyes at a small town parade, to remind us that the freedoms we enjoy continue to require great sacrifice and diligence.

Everyone wants to be free to be able to live their life as they choose, to express themselves and not be oppressed. It does not matter who you are. Freedom is an inalienable right.

Comics have been at the forefront of the battle for freedom since Benjamin Franklin published the first known editorial cartoon in America.  “Join, or Die” appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. The simple language of comics that combines words and pictures to communicate reaches broad audiences and has been used extensively as a tool of propaganda and information promoting freedom since its inception.

It is ironic, however,  that the comic book industry has been the source of some of the most oppressive employment policies, corporate greed and censorship. One symbol stands out as an identifier of all that is bad about the industry. The stamp of approval from the Comics Code Authority. This stamp seems innocent enough and is a nostalgic reminder of the exciting comics of the Silver and Bronze Age, but if a comic bore it on its cover you know that creators had no ownership in their work, unscrupulous work for hire commitments were in place,  every panel was scrutinized by a censorship board and distribution was controlled.

Rebels of the traditional comics publishing system were easily spotted. Their comics had no stamp or, in some cases, one that mocked the Authority itself. They were the Underground Comics of the 1970’s and they lit a fire that showed future comic publishers that it was time to stand up and be liberated.

Fueled further by the struggles of writers and artists over creators rights and the development of the Direct Market a new wave of alternative comic publishers emerged, most with new and liberal views regarding creator ownership and all enjoying the freedom from the constraints of the Comic Code Authority.

These publishers became known as Independents and they redirected the course of the entire comics medium, opening the door for more mature content and variety of genre that had been missing in the industry for decades. Readers saw comics grow up. What they didn’t see was the stamp of the Comics Code Authority in the upper right-hand corner of the comic books.

The Independents fought and continue to fight the good fight, but not without casualty. Nearly all of those early Independent publishing houses are gone including Comico, the comic company that I co-founded along with Bill Cucinotta and other partners in 1982.

New Independents now carry the mantle and the fight goes on.

Bill and I have retrenched and formed CO2 Comics four years ago. It is a new type of comic company that continues to explore the boundaries of independence as a comic publisher. We publish comics on the internet, free to a massive, global audience. We work in cooperation with comic creators to create a mutual positive experience for all involved.

Most importantly we produce comic books in print with more freedom than we ever would have thought possible thirty years ago when we first began publishing.  Last year we celebrated as Independents by declaring The Power of Three. by releasing our first three graphic novels under the CO2 Comics imprint, Heaven and the Dead City, The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese! and Ménage à Bughouse.

This year we have more in store. More great product with our own Independent stamp of approval. We are excited, but our version of Independents Day is still over a week away so we plan to build to a great finale like any good Fourth of July display of fireworks.

Join the excitement! Follow the blog, follow us on Facebook, and on Twitter. We’ll be hinting at our next three publications and expecting your stamp of approval when we finally release their availability live for all to enjoy!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Superheroes Held Hostage as Trademark

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

There is no doubt that superheroes represent modern mythology. Face it,  we are fascinated by folks with super powers and cool costumes. Why not? Super human characters have captured our imagination since the days of the ancient Egyptians. Who wouldn’t want to have a super power? Most of us at least have dreamt about flying or possessing super strength. Superheroes are permanently ingrained into our culture. They are a fantasy  representation of ultimate traits that we admire. They are who we all would like to be.

The concept of superheroes is so pervasive in our society that many are surprised to learn the word, superheroes  and all variations of it are actually trademarked jointly by  Marvel and DC. These two parent corporations are undoubtedly responsible for most recognizable superheroes in the world today but should that be enough to grant them ownership of the use of the one word that distinctly represents an entire genre of creative works depicted in all forms of media including comic books, novels, video games, film and television not to mention a plethora of merchandised products?

Marvel and DC entered into the rare joint ownership back in 1979, though some suggest that this may have occurred as far back as the 1950’s. It was necessary for them to share the ownership to protect their rights to the word or risk losing it. They renewed the trademark registration as recently as 2006 generating much discussion at the time. A clear explanation of the ramifications of the registration was posted on Comic Book Resources by staff writer Brian Cronin who is also a lawyer in New York City. The post titled, The Superhero Trademark FAQ did a a wonderful job of succinctly answering all of the obvious questions, especially the big one, “How can they trademark the word superhero?”

Apparently, all they had to do was prove, through surveys, that people identified the the word superhero specifically with their product.  Asked, “name a superhero” and any random selection of the general population undoubtedly would have ran off a steady stream of, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-man, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America; a list of the most iconic superheroes, all owned by Marvel and DC.

Case closed.

Of course there are tons of other superheroes. There is a rich three-quarter of a century history of superheroes that were published by a myriad of other companies but by the late seventies they were all gone and forgotten except by a few diehard fans of the medium and pop culture enthusiasts. The mass market was being funneled into the Direct Market and when a sudden wave of new superheroes emerged in the 1980’s they were corralled into a restrictive market that catered only to enthusiasts that could spot a superhero a mile away if they were labeled one or not. New publishers were frustrated by their inability to use the word on covers and in advertising but were happy to distance their product from the big two in an effort to establish their brand if only in the confines of the local comic shop. The rest of the world was exposed exclusively to Marvel and DC characters.

Nobody could have imagined the scope of the internet then or the future of computer generated special effects.  The impact they both have had on  the new explosion of interest  in superheroes has changed the game. The concept of the superhero has become bigger than the individual characters. Show a generic picture of any man, woman or child in a costume with a mask and a cape and they will easily be identified as a superhero and distinguished as NOT one of the major players in the field. Generic superheroes abound throughout advertising, media and entertainment. Everybody calls them what they are, superheroes.  The people that are in the business of creating new superheroes, other comic publishers, cannot call a spade a spade, however,  without receiving the dreaded cease and desist letter from both Marvel and DC.

This is just another example of how Marvel and DC gang up and continue to put a stranglehold on the growth of the genre and the medium of comics. As an industry we let it happen by not contesting their dictatorship at every turn. One little guy has stood up to fight the good fight. Ray Felix , the publisher of A World Without Superheroes, is taking a stand and challenging them with amazingly little support from others. He needs help from those that care about superheroes. He needs help from us.

What Marvel and DC have done with the trademark of the word, superhero, is a travesty. If anyone has diluted the trademark it is them. When they originally registered the word, a superhero had distinct wholesome qualities that were governed by the Comics Code Authority which was still in effect, though in  weakened sense, in 2006 upon their renewal. They have continually changed their characters rebooting everything from their costume, to sexual orientation. Characters have been killed, re-killed and killed again. Any moral code that was attributed to superheroes has long gone astray. There is little that another publisher could do that would harm the term superhero more than what Marvel and DC have already done. They are not good custodians of the word!

Under their stewardship an entire industry of superhero pornography has been allowed to flourish under the guise of parody. Their trademarked term, superhero, is all over the covers of those videos.  One company has an entire line of them titled “Vivid XXX Superheroes” that features all the major superheroes doing the “nasty.” OK, a parody is a parody and it is protected. Superhero Movie was a parody. There was one of them!  The porn industry uses the trademark “superhero” over and over again with no contention.  There’s even a performance spray for men called Superhero!  What’s the deal?

Imagine Coke-a-Cola standing by idly while a porn film features everyone running around with a Coke bottle hanging out of every orifice. It wouldn’t happen!

Now there is Superhero Play. No, it is not some type of pornography. (See the dilution) It is a term coined by educators describing little kids running around pretending they are superheroes and it is raising concern because it inspires aggressive behavior because superheroes “fight” evil.  Will Marvel and DC want to distance themselves from the word superhero when it becomes a witch-hunt-buzz-word like Horror and Crime comics did in the fifties?

The word superhero is being held hostage as a trademark by Marvel and DC. They protect it when it is convenient and when it offers an opportunity to bully small publishers, toy companies and business owners. They enforce the illusion that all superheroes are their product only  and for any other reason this is why guys like Ray Felix need to be supported, because the world needs to know that all superhero comics do not come from just Marvel and DC.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

The New Villain is Superhero Play

Monday, May 27th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Comics Code states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Heavy Metal, Ninja Turtles and The Tales of ISHMAR

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

The American comics scene was turned on its head in April of 1977 when a glossy full-color comics magazine called Heavy Metal hit the stands featuring European comic art from Enki Bilal, Philippe Caza, Guido Crepax, Philippe Druillet, Jean-Claude Forest, Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) and Milo Manara.

Heavy Metal’s content, which was initially translated stories that had been previously published in the French magazine Métal Hurlant, focused on a more adult presentation of fantasy/science fiction and erotica that liberated American comic readers whose exposure to comics was generally limited to publications that were heavily censored by the Comics Code Authority.

By 1979 under the guidance of Ted White and John Workman, Heavy Metal began including more work by American artists including Arthur Suydam, Dan Steffan, Howard Cruse and Bernie Wrightson.


The July 1979 issue featured a five page strip that would be the first professional work  ever published by current CO2 Comics contributor Don Lomax. His story, Attila the Frog, edited by long time Heavy Metal editor Julie Simmons was a black and white action extravaganza that would be Don’s first and last piece ever published by the magazine but launched a comic career that now spans over three decades.

Don Lomax’s absence from Heavy Metal is not for lack of trying. Don has submitted several great stories to HM over the years that have met with rejection and never found a home anywhere else until now.

Having reached the conclusion of Captain Obese, CO2 Comics is proud to announce that we will continue to be presenting an anthology of works by Don Lomax! That’s right, Don’s new feature, Tales 0f ISHMAR is none other than The Tales of Incredible Stories Heavy Metal Actually Rejected!

This amazing collection of short stories will be serialized a page a week every Tuesday filling the tremendous void left by Don’s oversized hero Captain Obese. To kick off the series in spectacular fashion, however, we are presenting the story that started it all for Don. The story that actually did see print in Heavy Metal, Attila the Frog can be seen right here on CO2 Comics!

Now call me a conspiracy theorist or just plain crazy but as I looked back on Don’s first story it became apparent that those illustrious five pages may have had greater cultural impact than one could imagine because as I googled for images of Attila the Frog , I discovered a character by the same name that first appeared in a 1987 television episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

What are the odds that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird who would have been 17 and 25 when Attila the Frog was first published in Heavy Metal might have been influenced by a horde of sword wielding amphibians led by Attila the Frog when they created TMNT five years later in 1984.

What are the odds that a character by the exact name, Attila the Frog, shows up in the TMNT animated series three years later. Probably just a coincidence until you consider that Kevin Eastman would ultimately, in 1992, purchase Heavy Metal Magazine, which he cites as having introduced him to Richard Corben, “his second greatest influence” as a comic artist after Jack Kirby.

Maybe Don Lomax’s well armed, barbarian frog just faded into obscurity or maybe it actually plunged deep into the collective consciousness and influenced a cultural phenomenon. I like to think that as artists we all have the power to influence others with our ideas and our creations. The impact may not always be as obvious or as coincidental as what I just outlined, but that is the true value of our work. The impact it has on society.

We know that Don’s work has sure had an impact on CO2 Comics and we are glad to be able to present it to our readers. Please enjoy Don Lomax’s Attila the Frog and Tales ISHMAR. Soak in each short story and imagine what Heavy Metal missed out on. If you haven’t had a chance to read The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese now is your chance to read it online or purchase your very own copy of the hardback or paperback edition of the graphic novel.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Reinvention: The Stepchild of Necessity

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The Comics industry is all too familiar with having to reinvent itself in an effort to survive changing times.

Comics made the jump from newspapers to comic books addressing a new publishing trend in the late thirties.

The forties watched Superman be reinvented over and over as a whole genre of superheroes was created.

The comic book industry rescued itself from oblivion in the fifties by adopting the Comics Code Authority to placate the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency though it placed a stranglehold on much of what made comics interesting and exciting at that time.

Stan Lee

Stan Lee reinvented the superhero genre in the sixties making it viable and relevant to a new generation of readers.

Phil Seuling

The Direct Market pioneered by Phil Seuling in the seventies gave comics the opportunity to be liberated from the Comic Code Authority.

The eighties gave rise to alternative, independent publishers and the concept of creators rights.


The nineties showed the vulnerability of the Direct Market and the power of Manga in the US market.

The new millennium ushered in the the development of new formats in the wake of Manga’s popularity and the graphic novel matured as a format that began to dominate the market.

The “oughts” also ushered in an entirely new venue for comics in the internet and web comics came on the scene.

Now, as we enter the eighth decade of comic history since the invention of the comic book, (I know I am rounding it off by a few years, we’ll throw a party in 2014 to make up for it) we all have to figure out what to make of the advent of digital comics.

For the first time in history, comics have total access to a global market direct from the hands of creators free from censorship, and the burden of high production costs.

Digital comics, whether they are posted on the web, offered as a downloadable files or banked on a cloud can be read on devices as small as the palm of your hand or as large as the biggest television monitor you can imagine.

Digital spells freedom for creators and freedom of choice for readers. Digital offers a free world of possibility. Now how do we handle all of that potential. More importantly, how do we handle that four letter word: F-R-E-E.

We all love to have the freedom to create as we please but face it, we all need to make a buck, especially in these terrible economic times.

My suggestion is that now is not the time to get greedy. As much as we as creators want to get what we deserve, consumers are looking for the best deal possible.

I for one, as a consumer, will look at all the free content I can get before spending a dime on digital content. I will look at every free website and I know that there is a ton of great stuff that would take me years to read. Just look at the hundreds of pages of dynamite material right here at CO2 Comics. Hey, I’m in all my glory because guess what…it’s FREE! FREE! FREE!

Now, on the outside chance that I’m an unusual cheapskate, tightwad I have to wonder how the folks selling digital content for prices that resemble regular comic prices are making out.

I’ve seen the reports that brag sales of digital content for mobile devices that are ten times that of last year and I have to be impressed but what does that really mean? First I have to remember that this technology is only about a year old. How many downloads did they sell that first year? Ten times what?

Captain Visual's big Book of Balloon Art

Since July my first book for the iPad Captain Visual’s Big Book of Balloon Art, which as an e-book sells for $11.99 as opposed to a $24.95 book in print, has increased in sales by 1500%! That is an incredible increase especially in a ridiculously slow market. I bet you want to run out and see what all the fuss is about don’t you?

Well I’m happy to brag about those numbers all day but the truth is I sold one e-book in July. Go ahead, do the math. That’s right. I’ve sold 15 copies in the last six months. At the same time my print copy has sold only six times as many copies as I sold in July but that is six times three at more than twice the price.

You can see how a positive spin can influence a consumer and even a producer interested in digital content.

Publishers will often compare the success of digital content to the slacking sales of a hardback edition but neglect to tell you how the paperback is outselling both.

Digital content is a new toy for the comics industry. Don’t rush in ill informed. Don’t tie up your digital distribution rights based on clouded numbers. Don’t become a statistic in a digital bookstore with an app provider that promises you a gateway to an exciting new market that is yet to be defined.

Don’t throw away your freedoms yet.

My opinion is that digital content should be considered disposable content and should be priced accordingly.

I can’t see selling a digital comic for more than the price of a can of soda or a candy bar. I want to be ravenous about what I want to read regarding comics. I want to read as much as I can and I am not excited about storing the content the way I am excited about collecting a comic book. Sell me the comic for 99¢ or a subscription of 12 for $10 and I’ll be happy.

This is our time to reach a wider audience than we could have ever imagined. We want the world to see our comics. Our intellectual property. A hundred thousand people might be willing to spend a buck on a digital comic like they do on music but raise the price and you will see those numbers fall dramatically. Would you rather sell a hundred thousand e-comics at a dollar or one thousand e-comics at two or three dollars?

Be willing to wholesale your comics and you will find a greater audience. If you don’t believe me look at the Walmarts of the world. They find their success in selling large quantities at the lowest possible price and they are making dinosaurs out of their competition.

Marvel and DC will continue to dictate the market and control the IP of the comic world if everyone is enticed to follow their lead into overpriced content. The market for independent comic publishers will always remain constricted if we continue to price our product where only the hardcore fan is willing to pay for it.

Reach the masses by selling to their pocket change and you will have a property that everyone wants and is eventually willing to pay top dollar for.

At CO2 Comics our comics are free as I mentioned earlier. They are free because we want you to read them and we have faith that you will respect the properties and want to support the creators by buying their works or services that are or may be available for sale.

We expect that if you enjoy the material you will share it with your friends offering greater exposure for the creators and their property. You look all smart, cultured and influential and we reach more readers. Win! Win!

We also know that if you can get the work for free right here you are less likely to download from some torrent site where the creators have no control or benefit at all from the piracy of their works. Thank You!

This decade will be less about reinventing comics as it is about reinventing how comics get to the consumer. We plan to reach as many of you as possible. In the process we will make great comics that will generate revenue in creative ways for the creators.

What do we want from you? Just some respect and your willingness to spread the word. I think it’s a great deal. Don’t you?

Enjoy the next decade! We plan to!

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco

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