Posts Tagged ‘Convergence’

Rebuilding Riverdale At Whose Expense?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

The magic number must be 75! It is no mistake that Marvel, DC and now Archie Comics, all of which published their premier iconic characters between 1938 and 1941, have rolled out celebrations of their 75th year anniversary finding interesting ways to reboot their entire universes in the process.

DC rebooted with Flashpoint, then The New 52 and now Convergence. Marvel is rebooting with Secret Wars and the establishment of Battleworld. Now Archie is planning to “Build a New Riverdale” with a controversial Kickstarter.

No coincidence that, as copyright law stands today, characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Prince Namor, The Human Torch, Archie and most of the gang living in Reverdale are sitting on the precipice of public domain as their copyrights, whose duration is 95 years from first publication, are set to expire within the next 20 years.

All three publishers are scrambling to recreate their brand to distance the next generation of consumers and those that follow from the classic versions of their characters guaranteeing that their origin stories and adventures will  be considered outdated and unmarketable. In the meantime, trademarks of every variation of those characters, their costumes and logos which can be prevented from ever expiring will be maintained an marketed as aggressively as possible.

So while Archie is rebuilding Riverdale and seemingly throwing out any style guide that remotely looks like the characters originally designed by Bob Montana, they are just ensuring that nobody else can tell a story about life in Riverdale without infringing on their trademark. Soon Archie and the gang will have as many different looks and styles as Batman has logos.

The funny thing is Archie wants our help and is seeking $350,000 on a Kickstarter campaign to do it!

Why?

According to Archie publisher Jon Goldwater, they just want to get the new product to market as fast as possible and have their funds tied up in a deal to expand digest distribution into Target and Wal-Mart stores.

What is Target and Wal-Mart’s sudden interest in Archie all about? If they wanted comics wouldn’t they be going after Marvel or DC first? Something is in the wind. Probably the “Riverdale” TV series that will soon be coming to FOX. All that exposure has got to be killing them!

In their rush to market these new projects by selling direct to the audience through Kickstarter, they also managed to offend their most ardent supporters, the retailers in the Direct Market. They should’ve seen that coming! Publishers like Marvel, DC and Archie are the bread and butter of the Direct Market retailer. When these publishers venture into a direct-to-customer distribution system they simply cut the retailers out at the knees.

Retailers are not the only victims. So are Indy publishers that have come rely on crowdfunding as a means to generate precious preorders on a product that may not meet the sales requirements of distribution through Diamond. A company like Archie, seeking a huge some of money in a campaign will crowd out smaller publishers, especially those that are now producing comics that compete directly for the audience that Archie has appealed to  for decades.

This is the same technique that Marvel and DC employed in the 1980’s when they were threatened by the emergence of successful independent publishers in the fledgeling Direct Market. They simply flooded the market. More product does not mean that consumers will spend more money. Consumers have a limited amount of funds and when more product is introduced into a market it only means that the consumer now has to make choices on how they spend their money. The winners are usually the ones that have a big enough budget to promote their product and an already committed audience. That is not the small indy publisher.

How many Kickstarter campaigns have you read about in the news feeds this week besides Archie’s?

Point made.

If Archie reaches their goal, that is $350,000 that is not going to other crowdfunding campaigns. It is also $350,000 not venturing into a comic shop.

Archie wants to rebuild Riverdale by strip-mining the resources of the current comics market all in an effort to erect a bulkhead that will secure them from public domain which is intended as a reward for a culture that supported their work for 95 years. In the process they describe themselves as small and scrappy, yet tread on those publishers that  genuinely meet that description. Their campaign does not even offer great rewards! Supporters are asked to pay twice as much for product that will soon be available in stores.

Archie is a company that has been around for over 75 years with celebrated characters that have been in films, cartoons and live action series on TV. They have managed to maintain a presence with their comics outside of the Direct Market with their digest format, a  feat that even Marvel and DC cannot claim. Now they have a deal with Target and Wal-Mart and a television deal with FOX, yet they still need $350,000 of our money to launch three new comic books, something the’ve been capable of doing themselves with no problem for three quarters of a century. Sounds like an easy way to get a lot of free advertising with a major dash of greed.

Not-so-poor or  little Archie wants our help but remember who loses in this one… everyone but Archie Comics. If their campaign is a success, they are laughing all the way to the bank, where they should have gone for a loan in the first place.

Gerry Giovinco

The DC Comics Double-Cross

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

If you have any interest at all in creator rights in the comic book industry or even just an appreciation for how big business finds new ways to screw over the little guy then this diatribe by legendary comic book writer Gerry Conway is a must read!

Who created Caitlin Snow on #TheFlash? According to @DCComics, nobody.

To briefly summarize it Gerry outlines how, at one time, DC under the guidance  of publisher Paul Levitz initiated a program called “creator equity participation” which allowed for creators to be compensated when their characters were used in other media. This was viewed a small victory in the long battle for creator rights that is as old as the industry.

In recent years since Paul Levitz has left DC and Diane Nelson has taken over as President of DC Entertainment, this program has been bastardized, first by defining some characters as “derivative” thus no longer deserving of remuneration and then by requiring that creators assume the responsibility of asking in advance for equity request contracts as DC will not pay retroactively if the papers are not filed. Gerry described this circle-jerk when he reached out for fan support with his institution of the Comics Equity Project.

Now DC has revealed new technique for double-crossing its creators. It’s called the reboot. Like the New 52? Enjoying Convergence? Isn’t it interesting how the characters origins, costumes identities and relationships all subtly or sometimes dramatically change? DC will tell you they are just trying to update characters to reflect the interests of the current market but in reality they are actively blurring the line to guarantee that all iterations of a character can be considered “derivative.”

Caitlin Snow, Jason Todd (Robin), Power Girl, Superboy & Barry Allen

According to Conway some characters can now have nobody attributed to their creation and he sites Caitlin Snow, Jason Todd, Power Girl, Superboy and Barry Allen as just a few examples!

I always expected that reboots like the New 52 were devised as an opportunity to distance the aging iconic characters from impending copyright revision suits or exposure to public domain but never did I imagine that reboots were so nefarious that they would so aggressively undermine all of the accomplishments of the creators rights movement simply to avoid paying  miniscule royalties on generally peripheral characters.

How bad is it when a company like Time Warner, who’s first quarter revenue this year was just reported as $7.1 billion, has to nickel-and-dime lowly comic creators with unkept promises? CEO, Jeff Bewkes clears a modest $32 million annually so I guess there is just not enough cash to trickle down to the bottom-feeding comic book pros.

I wonder if Diane Nelson is wearing any Prada these days?

And what about DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee? Didn’t he co-found Image, one of the most successful independent comics publishing houses, that has long been the bastion creator rights? I guess he has gone to the Dark Cide.

This type of reaming is not unique to the comic book industry. It is just another example of big businesses taking advantage of those that built them. It is a crass manipulation of an economic system that deprives workers of decent salaries, benefits, 401K plans, pensions, and just a plain-old, reasonable standard of living while continually filling the growing coffers of the already wealthy.

We like to think that our favorite superheroes instill in us a sense of justice and morality but it is getting much harder to look at that “S” on Superman’s chest and see “a symbol of hope” when it is clear that it is really a Kryptonian dollar sign for big bucks intended for a limited few.

Gerry Giovinco

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




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