Posts Tagged ‘DC Comics’

Whitewashing Diversity in Mediums Like Film and Comics

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

whitewashing

In a perfect world we would be exposed to multicultural diversity in the arts continuously and would revel in the vast brilliance of it all. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. The sad truth, however, is that art, at least in our culture is dictated by those with the power of influence. They are the ones that decide what is culturally acceptable and what is not. They are the gatekeepers masquerading as publishers, filmmakers, editors, agents and distributors. They are the pinnacle of the “good-old-boy” network. They are the enforcers of the status quo.

We like to think that great strides have been made regarding diversity but two recent accounts show us just how wanting we are as a society when it comes to welcoming true diversity.

First was a remarkable gaffe by Matt Damon, widely recognized for his liberal positions on filmaking as he schools a black woman about how to implement diversity claiming, “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not the casting of the show.” This after the woman suggested a more diverse directing team so as not to be caught stereotyping a black character.

alex_decampiThe other was a tumblr post by comics writer Alex de Campi who calls out DC, Marvel and some independent publishers for being disingenuous toward women in comics because of the lack of retribution brought towards known perpetrators of sexual harassment that happen to be big names in the industry who even she is unwilling to publicly name in her post though she is already resigned to being blacklisted.

The lesson learned is that the door to diversity can be held wide open but so long as the creative people have to pass a litmus test of what is acceptable to the gatekeepers there is still a lot of cream in the coffee.

America may be the melting pot but we still hold tight to our Eurocentric perspectives, which is a fancy way of saying it is only acceptable if it appeals to white sensibilities which are too readily regarded as universal.

In the comic industry, there has been a clamor for diversity for decades. sometimes we get diverse characters that may be various races, colors and genders yet created by the same white men that have no real idea what it is like to live in the fictional skin of these characters. Other times diverse creators are brought in but their contribution is still dictated by a publisher or editor responding to the demands of the market that still remains predominantly white and male.

These are just some of the reasons that developing diversity in the arts cannot be dependent on the expectations of commercialization. Diversity can never be about hiring the right person for the job as dictated by the market no mater how intent producers are to be diverse. True diversity only happens when the job is executed unfettered by a preestablished standard.

This is not to say that true diversity is impossible. Creative people have a way of growing art in the cracks of roads well traveled. Jazz, for example would not exist if all music was left to the standards of white musicians in the late 1800’s. Jazz grew on its own in the black communities and spilled into the streets with such energy that it appealed to a multicultural ear eventually establishing itself as one of America’s original art forms. This same freedom of expression led to rhythm and blues which led to rock and roll eventually coming full circle to the introduction of rap and hip hop.

Just as music can discover its diversity on the streets and in the multicultural communities of the country, art forms like film and comics can gain their hold on the streets of the information highway. The internet and the communities formed there are the future of diversity for these mediums. They are the fast lane around the gatekeepers that manage the restraint of the art forms.

Stop requesting diversity. Stop expecting it only to be disappointed. Create diversity as only we can as individuals. Support diversity when you recognize it. Celebrate diversity when it is achieved.Try your best not to whitewash it, and maybe then we can enjoy a multicultural experience that will put the jazz in  mediums like film and comics.

Gerry Giovinco

Power Outage at Marvel

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

power_outage_at_marvel

It has been a long time coming. Ever since Disney plunked down four billion bucks to buy Marvel, the world has been waiting for Marvel to lose its autonomy. It finally happened last week when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter was deposed as reigning king of the roost at Marvel Studios. Kevin Feige stepped over his former boss to report directly to Disney honcho, Alan Horn, to oversee that Marvel Studios joins with Pixar and Lucasfilm in its next logical step of integration with the House of the Mouse.

Perlmutter is a notoriously tight fisted skinflint that refuses interviews and lurks in the shadows, dodging photographers like a vampire reeling from the crack of dawn. (Only one image of him from decades ago exists on the internet!) Legends of his unscrupulous tactics abound from wanting to offer only potato chips at a Marvel premier to denying new pencils if two inches were left on an old one. He led Marvel with all the fear tactics and guile of Dr. Doom but his success as a dictator was unquestionable until now.

Perlmutter was deemed too much of a threat to the sanctity of Hollywood business etiquette and has now been banished to control only the television, animation and publishing end of Marvel.

Oh, the irony!

The world knows, and Kevin Fiege will attest, that the success of Marvel Studios has been predicated on the quality of the source material culled from the comic books and their persistent adherence to it. Yet, the comic book publishing end, like Ike Perlmutter, will be destined to play second fiddle to the hugely profitable films regardless of how responsible both the comics and Perlmutter are for being the  solid foundation on which the current Marvel empire has been  built.

Perlmutter in his storied career has proven to be both resourceful and vengeful so be sure he will not be buried in the comic book ghetto for long but what does this mean for the comic industry?

Don’t expect to see comic creators getting paid well anytime soon. Now that DC Comics is cutting back in wake of a reported $2 million deficit and  and Perlmutter’s predisposition to cheapness, there probably could be no better time to jump ship as a creator and go independent.

The driving force of the world’s most famous superheroes is no longer comic books, it is film. The publishing arms of Marvel and DC are both firmly planted in the back seat of their entertainment conglomerate’s priority list. DC is also racing to enforce edicts from on high to realign their comic book versions of their characters with upcoming film and television versions.  Don’t be surprised if Marvel and DC both pull the plug as comic book publishers while their valuable properties are licensed to other comic book publishers just to save a buck.

Lights Out.

Gerry Giovinco

Copyright and the Art of Shaming

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Last week’s blog, Copyright Law is Changing! Is it Time to Hit the Panic Button?, was predicated in response to a viral video, Everything You Know About Copyright Law Is About To Change, generated by a credible source that according to this post on Graphicpolicy.com , Don’t Believe the Hyperbole, There’s No Orphan Works Law Before Congress, is completely untrue leading thousands of people to share, watch  and spread erroneous information with an agenda.

Oh, the power of the Internet!

The bottom line, as I said in my post and which was repeated on Graphic Policy, please, get educated about copyright and about anything else you may be passionate about especially when it comes to information shared on the web because, too much of it is either biased, false, or just plain fantasy.

People on the internet seem to get a kick out of being stirred up. In regards to copyright protection this could be an advantage to folks trying to protect works that have been infringed on. Face it. Nobody wants to go through the expense of hiring lawyers and marching to court in a copyright suit when it is much easier, less costly and sometimes more damaging  to shame an infringer on the internet.

We all got to see how shame was used to drive the dentist that hunted and killed Cecil the lion underground long before authorities even had a chance to file charges. It is much easier to get the public worked up in a lather over killing a beloved animal than it may be over copyright issues but it has been done successfully many times.

Neal Adams used this public shaming technique back in the 1970’s when he orchestrated a deal between DC and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The Swipe Files on Bleeding Cool regularly hang infringers and plagiarists out to dry. We all remember what a mockery Shia LaBeouf became after his repeated plagiarisms. Marvel is no longer haunted by the perpetual public shaming of how they screwed Jack Kirby now that a deal has been settled with the Kirby family.

Online people fight their own wars behind the strength of their social networks. Cartoonist Jess Fink, for example has raised awareness of her experience with Todd Goldman on her Tumblr and it has reached the audience of Comics Alliance.

Shaming like this does not have to happen. Usually when a copyright or trademark holder recognizes an infringement they notify the infringer with a Cease and Desist letter. Rational people realize that they have been caught or have infringed unknowingly and respond apologetically and appropriately to immediately rectify the situation.  The real crooks get defiant and retaliatory, responding with a sense of righteousness and self entitlement that is beyond reproach. That is when it is time to bring it on but be wary, their moxie is generally driven by knowledge of their own deep pockets and a willingness to drain your resources legally.

I recently witnessed an artist who recognized a logo he designed on an unauthorized website. He had designed the logo for a company that used it as their trademark. He took it upon himself to notify the site that unless they had permission from the TM holder that they should not be using the logo. The initial response was the dreaded, “Don’t worry I’ll give you both credit and you will enjoy the great exposure!” When that was not deemed acceptable the infringer became a jerk acting like he was the violated one. This all played out very publicly on social media where the support apparently was strongly on the side of the artist. The logo was eventually removed and both sides agreed to remove the involved posts. Hopefully this is the end of this situation and both sides are content with the end result, though I am sure each has a stink eye out for a potential libel suit.

Avoid the shame. Play fair and don’t infringe on peoples intellectual property. If you wouldn’t steal their car why is it OK to steal their art? If you don’t understand how this works it is time that you get educated on the basics of Copyright and Trademark.

Gerry Giovinco

I am Offended that You are Offended!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

The adage, “the best defense is a good offense” sums up the current climate of political correctness nicely. Special interest groups are defending their agenda so aggressively that at times their offensive assaults are… well… offensive to the point where it seems like everyone is offended by everyone else’s opinion.

The irony is that what has made most special interest groups “special” was their struggle to have their position heard along with their desire to feel included and now that they have established a foothold through social media their goal seems to be as oppressive as those that oppressed them.

This point was recently spelled out by Sonny Bunch in his blog post ‘The Killing Joke’ and Killing the Past’ where he reiterates  a sentiment he has written about before: “the reason non-PC comic book readers can’t stand the feminist set is because they aren’t interested in sharing the space—they’re interested in dominating it wholly. It’s not enough to make Squirrel Girl and Bat Girl and Spider-Gwen. The industry also has to disown its past, to declare it is ashamed of classic stories, to scorn the readers who have kept “The Killing Joke” in print through four separate decades. As Ace of Spades has noted in the context of video games, the social justice set is not really interested in providing alternatives or opening up new markets. Rather, they’re interested in changing what people like. As long as people like “The Killing Joke”—and as long as DC refuses to memory hole it, to airbrush it out of existence like a Stalinist recreating history—these warriors will not have won.”

This is not just an issue about feminists in the comic book or gaming industry who have every right to want and expect that female characters not be sexually exploited and objectified. This is an issue about LGBT proponents that support gay marriage and Caitlyn Jenner getting a courage award. This is an issue about demanding the banning of the Confederate flag. This is an issue about why Black Lives Matter.  This is an issue about issues and that every single one of us has rights no matter which side of the fence we are on on any single subject. We all have a right to our opinion  and we definitely all have a right to the history that may have established that opinion no matter how politically correct it may or may not be.

The idea that Sonny Bunch refers to, that elements of literary works, popular culture, and history be “memory holed,” is nothing short of bold censorship that should never be tolerated because it prevents us from learning from the mistakes of our past and erodes the foundation of our culture by preventing us from defining how we became the society we are today for better or worse.

The recent story of a father being offended by a toy sold to children of Princess Leah in sex slave garb with a chain around her neck can easily be an acceptable target but it is a depiction of a famous scene from Star Wars one of the most popular film series of all time and an image that most children in the last thirty years have probably been exposed to and most certainly will be by the time the next film in the series is released this Christmas.

The answer is not to ban this toy or to have it removed from the shelves. The answer is for that father and others to use the opportunity to be a parent and explain the significance of the toy and why it is bad to put a woman or any person in this position of bondage and sexual exploitation and to explain to his children why he feels it is inappropriate for them to have it as a toy.

Should it be lost that Leah overcame her imprisonment, defeated her captor and led a rebellion against an evil Empire as a strong female role model?  Would that father have the same reaction to the chains around the ankle of the Statue of Liberty?

When the PC Police prevent us from expressing ourselves as individuals they are as oppressive and fascist as our greatest enemies. Personally,  I want to see sexist comics so I can identify the chauvinists in the crowd at Comic Con. I want to see which neighbor flies the Confederate flag so I know who is inconsiderate of the feelings of African Americans. I want to see people protest gay weddings so I know who is intolerant. I want to see little Jonny draw weapons in his notebook at school so teachers can identify a potentially troubled child or one with a gifted and overactive imagination.

Banning that which offends us drives the offenders into their own dangerously dark and secret closet. It does not change them it makes them bitter and resentful and only guarantees the perpetuation of a cycle of hatred and persecution. It is why we are all surprised when that “nice person who never bothered anybody” goes postal.

This is why The First Amendment of our Constitution is so important, because it guarantees our rights to religion, freedom of speech, peaceable assembly and our ability to petition government. We expect these rights from our government and we should expect these rights from each other!

It is time we all learn to agree to disagree and go on about our ways as they suit each of us and our own like-minded group. Take the time to learn why others may think so differently and we may all understand each other better. Let’s give each other a  little space to be ourselves. I won’t be offended if you’re not.

Gerry Giovinco

Gerry Conway Owes No Apologies

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Gerry Conway has been a busy man over the last couple of years. He has attempted to raise the bar regarding creator rights, just a little bit, through his blog posts, first with his comments regarding Comics Equity Project and then with his recent statements regarding DC Comic’s use of the term derivativeaccording to apparently avoid making equity payments to creators.

After being contacted by the DC brass Gerry seems to have changed his opinion of their intent and has issued an apology to Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and Larry Ganem.

Gerry has nothing to apologize about! The thing that Mr. Conway needs to realize is that he has been conditioned over the last several decades of his involvement in the comic industry, as has every other creator that has worked for either DC or Marvel, to either expect or at least anticipate the type of treatment he felt he was experiencing regarding the finances of his work.  That is not his fault!

It is nice that the folks at the top of DC have stepped forward and took the time to explain to Gerry how they really didn’t intend to screw with his royalty payments and their plan is to support the creators but history is not exactly in their corner.

The list of comic creators that have been commercially violated by publishers in this industry is extensive and should give pause to any creator entering into a publishing agreement with any publisher, especially the big ones that still rely on the sensibilities of “work for hire” as their business model that really needs to change.

To be fair this is not just a problem in the comics industry. Artists in general have been abused of for centuries and have learned to develop a thick skin about their value or expect to be taken advantage of. Gerry, like any other creator, is a product of that system. He has been conditioned to protect himself from unscrupulous publishing practices and sometimes that requires harsh measures.

Like an animal in a cage that has been poked, prodded and too often mistreated, creators naturally develop a sense of distrust as a vital defense mechanim. Can you blame them when they occasionally bite the hand that feeds them?

It is the responsibility of both parties in a professional relationship to exhibit  respect or expect to be bitten.

Gerry has managed to maintain his famous moniker “Gentleman Gerry Conway” through it all, always managing to maintain a politely professional and objective position while exposing the facts as clearly as possible based on his personal understanding of the matter.

Because of his tactical approach and his self deprecating “minor icon” status in the industry he has made a difference that has benefited many creators who were either unaware or unable to identify the injustice or act on it. For that alone, he owes no apologies.

If the intent of the ranking officers at DC was in fact as honorable as they explained to Mr. Conway,  they need to address the changes immediately and owe him the apology for their error. They also owe him a special note of thanks for bringing their attention to what was clearly a raw deal.

Gerry Giovinco

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

Comic Creators – It is Time to Change the Business Model

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

So, last week in my blog post The DC Comics Double-Cross I wrote about Gerry Conway’s post regarding DC’s policy about “derivative” characters and how they are using it to avoid equity payments to creators.

I usually have a lot to say about issues that involve creators rights but I do not have the clout that Neal Adams does nor his long history as an advocate.

Adam’s, who led the charge in support of Superman creator’s Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster back in the 1970’s, was quick to publicly back Conway with his own take on the subject and a warning to creators about reading contracts. His response is an important read that can be found in this Bleeding Cool post by Rich Johnston: Neal Adams Talks Gerry Conway, DC Comics And Who Owns What?

In the post Adams refers to the relationship that book publishers have with creators and how it differs from the type of relationship that Marvel and DC have had with creators for way too long. It is this difference that needs to be examined more closely.

Marvel and DC are two of the oldest comics publishing houses each having been publishing for over 75 years. Back in the late 1930’s when comic books began to grow as a viable industry, comics which sold millions of copies at the low price of 10¢ were considered a high-volume, low-yield product that relied more on ad sales based on circulation to generate income than actual unit sales. They were more concerned with paying sales commissions to the ad salesmen than they were to paying royalties to creators. Content along with its copyright was bought from creators and treated as “work for hire” which meant that the Publisher owned the work lock, stock, and barrel. The publishers, who now held the copyright were considered the “Author” and enjoyed the benefit of royalties as other mediums like film, radio and television began to license the characters as they grew in popularity. The actual creators of those characters saw nothing because they had signed away their legal rights or assumed they had none because of the conditions of work for hire. This, with few exceptions, remains the general practice of Marvel ad DC to this day.

Most book publishers have a distinctly different relationship with creators. A creator owns the copyright of their work. They enter into a contract with a publisher that grants the publisher exclusive rights to publish the work for an established duration in return for a royalty payment based on a percentage of the cover price of each book sold. The agreement usually puts the publisher in charge of marketing the work to other mediums and foreign publishers. There is usually also an exit clause that will allow the two parties to terminate their relationship if either party does not fulfill their obligations.The creator is the author and owner of the copyright and generally shares in all the profits made from the licenses of the work. The publisher is the contracted caretaker. This post, Book Advances and Royalties,  does a good job describing how this relationship works.

As the comics industry grew and characters began to generate obscene amounts of money for the publishers, creators realized that they had been duped. To make matters worse, comic creators who were content to “work for hire” anticipating a life-long, secure career were finding that they were often tossed to the side in favor of the next, hot talent. Older and unemployed these creators watch as their work continues to make tons of money for the publisher while the creator faces poverty with no benefits.

This is  a business model that has to change. Comic books are no longer a high volume low yield industry. Marvel and DC have adapted to change regarding distribution, production and marketing of the IP. It is time they change their relationship with creators to one that is fair.

Independent comics publishers have adapted to a model more similar to book publishers and creators are enjoying the benefits of profiting from their works as they are developed into other media. It is a model that can and does work for comics.

It is a wonder why creators continue to work for Marvel and DC when they could better control their destiny elsewhere.

Whenever I see young talent working for the big two I can’t help but compare them to teenage smokers. There is too much information out there that proves smoking is bad for you, why if you have half a brain, would you risk your life to cancer for that cheap thrill? I expect they think it is just a phase, something they can kick, until they are caught in the vicious cycle.

Young comic creators have a choice. Say no to work for hire. Create unique work and own it.  Enjoy the success of your creations instead of watching others profit from your work while you are tossed aside like yesterdays news. If no one will work for publishers like Marvel and DC they will have no choice but to change their relationships with creators. Until then it will be business as usual.

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

Remembering Roger Slifer

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

It always hits home when a comic creator passes away for those of us that share a kinship of caring for how words and pictures tangled on a page can create a memorable story or message. The announcement of Roger Slifer’s death, however,  pained us in a different way because of how he battled to survive the tragic hit-and run-accident that critically changed his life in 2012. He was an inspiration of hope through his work creating adventurous heroes throughout his career in comics and animation and through his life as an advocate for creators rights with a tenacity for achievement  against the odds. He was,  like many of the heroes he wrote about, someone we wanted to root for and did. His story, sadly,  did not end the way many of us hoped. Roger deserves to be remembered  by more than the few brief lines that have accompanied the news announcements of his passing and there is no one better to share those thoughts than his very close friend and conspirator, David Anthony Kraft who has graciously offered them:

Roger Slifer left and David Anthony Kraft right in the process of hitchhiking west to an early San Diego Comic Con using a sign drafted by Marie Severin. Photo by Dan Hagen.

Roger Slifer and I started at Marvel the same day. It wasn’t a case of love at first sight — we  didn’t like the looks of each other. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Brought on staff as a letterer and production assistant, Roger soon rose through the ranks, helping Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Steve Gerber and others with scripting or plotting during deadline crises, which were all too common back then. In the process, he taught himself to become an accomplished writer, and went on to write and edit for Marvel and DC, later becoming the first Direct Sales distribution manager for DC (another example of his ability to rise to a challenge in virtually any area).
At Marvel, Rog wrote single-issue stories for many of the major characters, and co-wrote “The Defenders” with me until other obligations left him no time. He became adept as a colorist and saved many a deadline. At DC he wrote “The Omega Men” and co-created the breakout character, Lobo. Later, he edited “World’s Finest Comics” and others for them. Still later, he became a writer, story editor and producer in animation, playing a key role on “Jem and the Holograms,” “G. I. Joe,” “My Little Pony,” “Conan,” and many another, including “Yu-Gi-Oh.”
Those are his credits, the things that can be known from his work. But his other qualities need to be known. The wit. Keen. The unique viewpoint and willingness to go his own way. Unique. The commitment and the unyielding character. Vexing sometimes, to be sure, but sincere.
We were young and in terms of being willing to quit dream jobs at Marvel and DC at the drop of a hat over perceived injustices, maybe foolish. In latter days, we shared a joke between us that we often quit a job before we applied for it or were actually hired. Which is to say, Roger was a man of principles. Without either of us knowing what the other had done, we both turned down offers to take over the scripting of “Howard the Duck” when our friend Steve Gerber was rudely parted from his creation. That’s one behind-the-scenes example of so many that Slifer’s friends and peers will remember about Roger taking a stand at personal cost to his career.
Much later, Roger called me about two story editor positions open in animation that were ideal for him. He worried that if he applied for one, he might be turned down but would have been  accepted for the other. Which one? he agonized. I kiddingly told him to apply for both and, when he got neither, he wouldn’t feel as bad. It should not have come as a surprise that he did exactly that…and got BOTH jobs!  But as anyone who’s worked in television knows, overseeing a season’s worth of scripts in a couple months is a miracle on one show. It’s impossible to do two separate shows at the same time. Yet Roger wanted to do it, and talked me into joining him as his “secret weapon.” If things went well, and the producers were pleased, he would reveal my participation and attempt to get me screen credit. After a grueling time of tag-team work, in which I’d write or re-write until I dropped, then wake him to take over where I left off, nights, weekends and every waking moment, somehow scripts for all the episodes of G. I. Joe: Extreme and Street Fighter were finished. The point? Without my once ever reminding him or saying a word, Roger did not, like most, say what was convenient when he needed help and then later have a selective memory or forget. True to his word, when the shows aired, there it was onscreen, the credit he had promised to fight for on my behalf. He was like that.

It will be three years in July since Marv Wolfman called to share the terrible news that Roger was struck down by a hit-and-run driver. We were all rooting for him, he gave it his best, but Rog never really recovered.  It’s the one challenge he couldn’t surmount.  Roger Slifer made lasting contributions to comics and animation for which he will be remembered.


But there’s so much more. Roger was a good and lifelong friend. Those of us privileged to know him personally will always remember and miss him for his many other fine qualities. His passing leaves a big hole where a good friend used to be.

David Anthony Kraft

Who Cares that Comic Creators Get Credit?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

As comic characters continue to roll out of the pages of comic books and into other forms of media, especially television and film, we are discovering a greater interest in who created what. This piqued curiosity is surely the bi-product of heated battles that were fought on behalf of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as the recent settlement regarding the characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby for Marvel.

It is a sad fact of comic book history that creators have most often been taken advantage of by the publishing houses that retain the rights to characters that they created. Many had long careers but were only rewarded by meager, hard earned page rates. They saw no royalties or benefits and in the early years little, if any, credit for their work. Most never even saw the return of their original art. Too many have passed on or continue to live in obscurity, without healthcare and certainly no compensation from their creations which have spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

To be fair, some progress has been made, and in recent years attentive creators and their families have been able to establish some undisclosed agreements that have satisfied both sides. These accounts, however,  are few and far between.

The foremost concern for many creators is not money but rather an acknowledgment of their creative contribution in the form of credit on the screen. This has been demonstrated most recently by a Facebook post from the daughter of the late illustrator, Al Plastino, the co-creator of Supergirl a character that will soon be the focus of a new television series.

She writes:

“Facebook friends, we need you help.

Please help us get Al the credit he is due and all the creators who have died recently and will not see their characters come to life on television or in the movies. They never received any pensions, or health insurance, nothing at all. How disappointing that DC has waited until these gentlemen have passed away to begin producing programs like Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legion of Super Heroes,.Not looking for royalties. Just an acknowledgement of all the work these men put into building the DC brand. All the guys who have drawn or created characters when they were at the height of their popularity. Many nights I saw my father working in his studio to meet deadlines from the editor. At one point, Dad was handling 5 different strips for DC and United Media. Go to the DC website or their facebook page and let the syndicate know. You can do so much more for Al than any lawyer could. You helped Al get the Superman/Kennedy art into the Kennedy library where it was supposed to have been for the last 50 years and for that I am eternally grateful.

go to http://www.dcentertainment.com/#contact

MaryAnn Plastino Charles”

Why is a fleeting credit so important to creators or their families? Why should we care?  Few of us even notice, or stick around for the credits to roll at the end of a film. Those of us that do, understand that the greatest reward to a creator is to be recognized for his or her contribution to our culture. A simple acknowledgement goes a long way.

Think of the closing scenes of the Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion get their awards. A diploma, a testimonial and a medallion were all it took to make the respective characters each feel fulfilled. The tokens were material acknowledgement of who they were and what they accomplished. This is the value of credit to a comic creator especially one that has created a character that has become iconic. It is the fulfillment of their destiny as a comic book creator, to experience immortality vicariously through their creation.

But our society has become desensitized to these simple but important details. Too many of us want to cut to the chase and just consume. There is a sense of entitlement that is too quick to dismiss the value of the effort those involved in creating our entertainment. This is ironic because now, more than ever before, all that information is easily at our fingertips.

A quick Wikipedia search will tell you all you need to know about who created nearly any character with links to biographies of the respective creators.

Supergirl, She was created by writer Otto Binder and designed by artist Al Plastino in 1959.”

The modern Flash, “starred Barry Allen as the Flash and the series assumed the numbering of the original Flash Comics with issue #105 (March 1959) written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino

Green Arrow, Created by Morton Weisinger and designed by George Papp, he first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in November 1941.”

The Legion of Super-Heroes, “The team first appears in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.”

With all of this information so readily available why is it so difficult to ask that they be credited on the screen? Some could argue that so many creators have influenced the current stories being told that the effort becomes daunting. This, however, becomes more of a reason to signal out appropriate credits.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for example, does a nice job of crediting Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. but what about characters like Deathlock created by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench, Quake created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto or Mockingbird first written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Barry Smith? This is just a short list of the many characters that have appeared or are expected to appear in this ongoing series that has proven pivotal to the development of the MCU.

It is important for the world to know that the genre of superheroes did not just come from the fertile minds of a few. The genre is the result of the exceptional talents of a huge number of individuals whose work has been woven into a fabric of an expansive and growing mythology that has become entrenched in our popular culture.

For those of us that care, it is our responsibility to ensure that these creators and their efforts are not forgotten. It is the fans, collectors, historians, teachers and practitioners of the medium who will ultimately maintain the database of information that preserves the integrity of the history of what these comic book creators have accomplished. Hopefully our enthusiasm will be infectious enough that others will take notice and a greater appreciation of those unsung heroes will flourish.

Share if you care.

Gerry Giovinco


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