Posts Tagged ‘Direct Market’

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from the classic versions of their characters guaranteeing that their origin stories and adventures will  be considered outdated and unmarketable.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

Playing Monopoly with Comic Books

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Who hasn’t played Monopoly? The idea is simple. All the players start out with the same amount of cash and start rolling the dice. They travel around the board buying, selling and renting real estate until one player ends up with all the cash. Game over.

Unless you play with comic books.

Since 1996 there has been one winner in Comic Book Monopoly and that is Diamond Comic Distributors. They have controlled the distribution of comic books in North America from that point on. This game of Monopoly never ends and the players just continue to go round and round the board dictated by the rules established by the one-time winner.

The players each have worn game tokens of writers, artists, publishers, retailers, and consumers. The distributor token has been retired. It is now the Bank and it controls the game.

It is ironic that the Direct Market for the distribution of comic books, which cultivated an environment that was conducive of the growth of independent comics focused on diversity in the medium could be channeled through only a single source.

Some may view this system as a fine filter for a delicate, well-oiled machine while others will view it as a stranglehold on an industry bloated with growth potential.

In an era when everyone is concerned about something like net neutrality which supports a fair and even flow of digital distribution through the many lanes of digital delivery, it seems inconceivable that comic books should have only one lane of distribution dictated by one distributor.

Mimi Cruz, manager of Night Flight Comics in Salt Lake City, Utah expresses the frustration of a retailer with just one distribution option in this post by Rich Johnston titled How Diamond Makes a Retailer Want to Weep.

There was a time when Diamond was not the only distributor and retailers had options. Distributors had to compete with each other and provide better and faster service to satisfy their customers or loose them to their rivals. Distributors took chances on new titles and experimented with options that would expand the growth of the industry. It was a healthy competitive market that unfortunately crashed collectively in the 1990’s for a myriad of reasons including a glut perpetuated by publishers and speculators as well as the assignment of exclusive distribution rights.

Diamond purchased  it’s last remaining competitor, Bud Plant, in 1996 and seized control of the board, establishing their monopoly of distribution to the entire comics market in North America. A monopoly that did not go unnoticed.

In 2000, Diamond dodged antitrust allegations brought on by the U.S. Department of Justice on the basis that they did not have a monopoly on the distribution of books. Because comic books can be considered a form of books, in general, Diamond has a standing “Get out of Jail Free” card and is allowed to control the comic book market.

This game of Comic Book Monopoly potentially hurts everyone in comics but especially those seeking creative independence. there was a time when it was possible to find a distributor to take a chance on an unproven title. Their opinion would often encourage others distributors to take a chance too. This has no chance of happening with Diamond where an independent publisher’s only opportunity  is to meet the sales requirement or else!

Brick-and-mortar retailers worry about sales lost to the internet but, thanks to the monopolistic distribution of Diamond, the internet is the only open resource for what is new and different from small independent publishers.

Part of what is fun and exciting about collecting comics is discovering the next new refreshing comic book. The thrill of the hunt no longer exists on the pages of Previews, Diamond’s monthly distribution catalog where all comics are a proven commodity meeting required standards. It exists only on the internet where brazen new comic publishers pepper the landscape with exciting print on demand comic books that are delivered strait to the readers door or downloads that can be read instantly on mobile devices.

The survival of the local comic shop is going to depend on their ability to step off the Diamond’s Monopoly game board and engage with other wholesalers or independent publishers that will enable them to expand the horizons of the industry. Introducing new options will force Diamond to raise their game and improve their performance for retailers. Until then Diamond’s only incentive is to continue to collect cash every time someone passes go.

It’s time to roll a new set of dice.

The comics market, like all markets, is a risky business of which I have written a extensive four-part series, Making Comics is Risky Business,  that can be jumped to using the following links.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Gerry Giovinco

The Power of Independence

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

I fell in love with comics as a kid and eventually it became my dream to be a cartoonist. All I knew was that comics were incredible and the writers and artists were my heroes! The people that created the comics I loved stood on a pedestal in my eyes and were as big a any celebrity.

Surely the people that were responsible for the adventures of my favorite superheroes were as rich and famous as I expected.

I wanted to make comics and be like my heroes, so I immersed myself in everything I could find about the medium.

In the 1970’s there were not a lot of options. There were only a few comic book companies and there was not  much information on how to actually make comics. If you wanted to make comics it seemed that the only opportunity was to learn to draw in the acceptable style of those few publishing houses and don’t dare create any new characters unless you were willing to give them away to those publishers for a mere page rate that was as skimpy as could be.

How was it possible that the comic industry was the ghetto of the entertainment field? Most creators looked at working in comics as a slimy stepping stone to a bigger career in advertising,  television or film. Achievement wasn’t breaking into comics, it was breaking out.

Fortunately there was a generation of comic fans that had the same starry-eyed perception of comics as I did and were unwilling to accept the cold, hard truth that working in comics was a dead-end street.

One by one, these comic enthusiasts struck out into the world championing the medium that they believed in. They knew that the simple combination of words and pictures had power and was able to capture the imagination of large audiences. They believed that the people that had the ability to create these comics deserved to control them and to profit from them. They believed in creative independence.

It is not surprising that this independent movement began in head shops where underground comics gained a foothold in the imagination of popular culture and etched out a business model for grass root distribution to seedy establishments peppered around the country.

Soon comic shops began to spring up in similar fashion offering a fix of a different nature. The Direct Market for comic books sprouted in back-alley garages, flea market booths and trunks of cars. It was this testament to the love of comics and independent entrepreneurship that created opportunity for independent comic publishers to begin to achieve success and compete directly with the giants in the industry.

Just a few publishers of Creator Owned Comics

The Independent Comic movement has been going strong now for nearly forty years and has changed the face of comics forever. Comics are no longer a dead-end street but are now a viable art form with venue opportunity lurking at every corner.

Comics is no longer a medium controlled by just a few publishing houses with strict style limitations. Comics can be published by anyone and distributed globally thanks to current technology. Like any medium or business, it is a delicate balancing act between success and failure but it is invigorating to at least have the opportunity to try.

When I think back to how I imagined comic creators as rich and famous I realize how naive I was to believe that talent equaled wealth. I am glad however that I never lost the dream that making comics might equal happiness. Those of us that have that need  to make comics know that it is the same obsession that drives every artist, athlete or professional that does what they love.

Independent Comics created the opportunity for anyone with that drive to actually be able make comics. Independent comics opened the door to an endless possibility that did not exist unfettered in this medium when i was a kid.

This is why CO2 Comics continually celebrates  Independent Comics and deliberately was founded on Independence Day. We are determined to acknowledge that there is always more to comics than what the big companies have to offer.

Independent Comics have proved that comics are a unique form of creative expression and their richness is not found in the money they make but in the people that make them.

At CO2 Comics every day is Independence Comic Day!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Comico and Elementals to be Resurrected!

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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

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

1st five Comico Covers

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

Comico's 1st Color Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GAUNTLET by Neil Vokes and Rich Rankin

RIBIT by Frank Thorne

SKROG by Bill Cucinotta

SLAUGHTERMAN, by Gerry Giovinco

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

VICTOR by Andrew Murphy

Along with many other great features by talented creators.

Happy April Fools Day!

Gerry Giovinco

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



Black History Month: Reggie Byers – Comic Book Publishing Pioneer

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Reggie Byers Victory Productions

We are not always aware of when we are witnessing history being made. Such is the case of comic book creator  Reggie Byers who has the distinction of being one of the first African Americans to own a comic book publishing company.

Byers did not realize that in 1985 when he self published SHURIKEN #1 under his Victory Productions imprint that he was a pioneer. His intent to satisfy his personal urge to publish comics would establish him as a groundbreaker for black comic creators in this specialized arena of popular culture dominated by white men.

Click to read Crescent

CO2 Comics’ relationship with Reggie Byers, whose comic CRESCENT is a proudly presented feature on our site,  extends back over three decades to 1982 when he first knocked on the door of our former comic book publishing house Comico in  Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Comico at the time was a fledgeling company publishing black and white comic books in the Direct Market composed completely by young men who had met in high school and college, all unified by friendship and a desire to make comic books.

Reggie  had graduated from Norristown Area High School in 1981, a year after my younger brother, Tom. My father also taught there. They would often tell me about his creative exploits and love for comics so, though I had never met him, I was well aware of his talents and was excited to finally meet him. His arrival at Comico was fortuitous for us all and he was immediately welcomed into our ranks.

Reggie’s assignments increased as work became available while the company grew and eventually began to produce color comics. He started out as a self proclaimed gofer, then editor of Primer, our new talent showcase,  and eventually, because of his mastery of the Japanese Anime style, he became a penciler on ROBOTECH The Next Generation.

Reggie Byers and a new shipment

Reggie had watched Comico grow from the ground up and had learned the ins-and-outs of the business along with us all. The money he made from penciling ROBOTECH became his seed money for his personal enterprise and in 1985 he launched his independent comic company VICTORY PRODUCTIONS featuring the adventures of his own character SHURIKEN, a female martial artist named Kyoko Shidara who became a freelance bodyguard after discovering that she had been working as  bodyguard for a criminal organization.

Shuriken 1 by Reggie Byers

SHURIKEN was an immediate success in the Direct Market where it enjoyed the support of all the distributors prompting a second printing that elevated sales to over 20,000 units, an amazing circulation for a black and white comic book. These numbers were assuredly influenced by the success of Eastman and Laird’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and supported by the thriving speculator market at the time. Also significant was  Reggie’s growing popularity as penciler of the wildly successful ROBOTECH series which also included the talents of  other African Americans, Mike Leeke, Dave Johnson and MACROSS production assistant,  Aaron Keaton who were also school friends of Comico founders.

The Victory line

Reggie immediately invested his profits from SHURIKEN sales into other titles created by his close friends, Chris Etheredge and Robert Durham, expanding the Victory line to include KOMODO AND THE DEFIANTS by Etheredge, along with PHASE 1 and SHRIKE, both by Durham.

Victory Productions stood out in the Independent comic market as a company driven by three African American comic creators producing a broadly inclusive product line that featured a team of black superheroes, an Asian ninja, a Native American warrior and an anthropomorphic ensemble.

Questioning the significance of Reggie Byers’ role as possibly the first successful black comics publisher I was not surprised that Reggie had previously not considered his role as such because the creative group that we had all surrounded ourselves with at the time was so focused on creating great comics that race was never an issue. The fact that it has taken any of us thirty years to recognize his contribution is less of an embarrassment and more a tribute to the respect we all had for each other as friends, colleagues and comic creators.

I sought confirmation instead from prominent historian of African Americans in comic books, Professor William H. Foster lll who sited the example of Orrin Evans who published a single issue of ALL NEGRO COMICS in 1947 before being locked out of the industry by the big companies at the time.

Professor Foster said that the mid ’80s offered an opportunity for many independent comic publishers, a number of which were African American but because of poor listing of dates and management of records it is hard to confirm with accuracy who came first. He said with fair certainty that Reggie Byers would easily be considered in the top five candidates though because of his large sales figures on the early issues of SHURIKEN he is probably the most significant African American comic book publisher of that independent era which preceded a 1990’s boom in African American publishers.

Reggie, himself, confirms that he had been solicited for guidance by BROTHERMAN publisher Dawud Anyabwile, who in 1989 known as David Sims launched his family owned company  Big City Comics that is often recognized as having ignited the contemporary Black Comics/Superhero movement that became exemplified later by the success of Milestone Comics.

Rob Durham, Chris Etheredge, Steve Williams and Reggie Byers

Victory lasted only two and a half years before becoming one of the many victims of the comic glut and eventual crash of the market that also was partially responsible for the bankruptcy of Comico. SHURIKEN was absorbed by Malibu Comics after Reggie did a brief run of BLADES OF SHURIKEN for them. Malibu eventually sold to Marvel and now Shuriken occasionally is featured as a mutant character in their broad stable of superheroes.

Reggie went on to develop characters for other ventures such as JAM QUACKY for JQ Productions in the ’90s and CRESCENT which he self published before giving CO2 Comics the opportunity to present it here on our site.

Currently he is  focused on empowering young people. With that mission in mind over the last 20 years Reggie and his wife, Dionne have developed their most influential property THE KIDZ OF THE KING featuring ten multicultural angels disguised as teenage superheroes who lift up the Word of God and battle against the demonic forces that attack the children of the world.  It has been produced in comic book form and as an animated feature. Reggie is also working on a graphic novel depicting the story of Jesus Christ based on the four Gospels in the Bible.

Always humble, Reggie gushed at the idea that he played such a significant role in the history of African Americans in regards to comic books and popular culture.

It is a common notion that it is hard to gain respect in your own back yard, but not in our neighborhood. We at CO2 Comics have always been proud to be associated with him as a comic creator and delighted to have known him as a friend for all of these years.

We hope that now he will be acknowledged by fans critics and historians alike for the recognition he deserves for his significant role not just in the African American community but in the creative community of the comics industry.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



May the Farce be with You!

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Two recent announcements by Marvel have captured the attention of the comics industry for no other reason than being so painfully expected.

The headlines in fan press read:

Marvel Comics Saying Goodbye to Newsstand?

and

It’s official: Stars Wars license moving from Dark Horse to Marvel

Regarding the newsstand, how is that even news? The traditional newstand market for comics has been gone now for years. When was the last time anyone saw comic books for sale at a corner newsstand, convenience store or local pharmacy?

Spinner racks filled with comics have long been extinct.

Marvel hasn’t left the newsstand, the newsstand left Marvel and every other comics publisher.

I’m sorry but book stores like Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million are not a newsstand.  They qualify as a specialty shop and are not much different than your local comic shop other than they sell a broader range of books and magazines. The real difference is the distribution. Comics sold to bookstores are returnable where most comics sold to an LCS in the Direct Market are not. Marvel, like every other publisher, is just tired of eating returns and waiting months for remittence on product that actually sells.

Marvel is reducing risk. They are selling their comics now in just two places: The Direct Market where most sales are pre-ordered and guaranteed, and digitally where the expense is negligible and all profit is icing on the cake.

Marvel is in a position to eliminate risk altogether by giving up entirely on the periodical pamphlet format and focusing all energies on repackaging the seventy-five years of existing content both digitally and in print. Their tremendous wealth of IP generates more revenue from films, television,  licensing and merchandising than it does from comic books . It would not be surprising if Marvel didn’t eventually farm out all publishing to licensees as as well. No risk, all gain.

Which makes Disney’s decision to have Marvel publish Star Wars a bit puzzling. Why grant the publishing rights to Marvel when Marvel is pulling out of markets that current Star Wars publisher, Dark Horse, is maintaining? Sure Disney owns both Marvel and Star Wars so it seems obvious to keep everything in the House of the Mouse but Disney also has a long record of farming out IP to licensees. No risk, all gain.

Maybe Disney is merely protecting information about the new Star Wars films from leaking out since Dark Horse would need to be privy to story lines well ahead of film release in order to have a timely and marketable product related to the new films available. Maybe Disney expects the next Star Wars bonanza to be so great that it can’t justify sharing profit from a sure thing with someone else. Then why would they allow Marvel to abandon the book store/mass market/newstand with such a cash cow on the horizon?

We may be witnessing a brilliant marketing strategy or a comedy of errors that will dramatically change the face of the comic industry forever.

Force or Farce is yet to be determined but it all reminds me of a more simple time.

It was spring of 1977 and as a young and avid comic collector I was rummaging through the new comics at my local 7-ll. The first issue of Star Wars sat in the rack, priced at thirty cents, bragging to be a comic adaption of “The greatest space-fantacy film of all!” Big words for a film that had yet to be released.

Little did I know that comic book would be the first glimpse the world would have of a global phenomenon poised to erupt and that thirty-six years later no kid would be able to buy a comic book that would change their life on a newsstand ever again.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes™: The Never Ending Bullshit

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is a three part documentary that recently has been airing on PBS. If you hurry you can also watch it streaming on the PBS website right here.

On the surface this series seems to be a beautifully produced and thoughtful presentation about the history of superheroes and comic books in America and their influence throughout the world.

Most comic fans that grew up reading comics or enjoying superheroes in any era will wax nostalgic as they see the devotion that is poured into the process of documenting how the creators of superhero adventures were influenced by the world around them.

The highlight of the series for me were video interjections by legendary comic creators, many of whom have already passed away. Watching Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Jerry Robinson, and Carmine Infantino speak about comics couldn’t help but choke me up.

The series also did a wonderful job of representing women in the industry with video commentary by Ramona Fradon, Jennette Kahn, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson, and Christina Strain.

I would love to say that this was a benchmark documentary about the history of comics but I can’t because what I witnessed was more like propaganda mechanism for Marvel and DC. This series in all of its splendor effectively trivialized any accomplishments in the battle for creators rights. It completely ignored the influence of the Direct Market. It  erased the impact of decades of Independent comics with the notable exception of Image. No mentions off the tremendous impact that European or Japanese comics had.

I realize that it is unrealistic to expect every last detail of a 75 year history into a three hour documentary. I also recognize now, more clearly than ever, why the word superhero and the derivatives of it should not be allowed to be used as a trademark jointly by Marvel and DC exclusively.

What this series did effectively accomplish was to blur the distinction between the history of Supeheroes™ and the history of Comic Books as a whole by defining the impression for the general public that Superheroes™ = Comic Books and that Comic Books = Marvel and DC with the tip of a hat to Image, apparently the only independent to successfully publish another unique superhero.

NEWS FLASH! There are many independent publishers that have made comic books that featured superheroes! Superheroes also exist in other media and in other countries. All characters represented in the superhero genre are NOT owned by only Marvel and DC as much as they would like you to think that. This was not represented at all in this documentary and I believe it is unfair to dismiss the accomplishments and struggles of so many who also had great superhero stories to tell.

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is typical of the type of bullshit that big corporations do to gloss over the undesired truth.  “Smear lipstick on that pig and everyone will be happy and buy into what we have to sell.” ” Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Truth be told, there could have been a three part series just on the battles that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster fought over their rights to Superman or the battles that Jack Kirby had with Marvel for compensation and to have his art returned.

There could be a three part series on the rise of the Direct Market and how the barrage of  quality Independent publishing in the 1980’s had  Marvel and DC on the ropes.

There could be a three part series on how the internet and digital delivery has changed how comics are created published and viewed.

They would all represent true and vital information for anyone interested in an accurate history of the never ending battle of creating superheroes and comics in a market dominated by corporate interests intent on squelching any potential competition to their mythic intellectual property that they gained from the exploitation of the imaginations of mostly young, impoverished children of immigrants searching for and expressing their own American Dream.

If you have watched the series and got that great warm and fuzzy superhero nostalgic rush, I want you to know that I had it too.  I also have a tremendously deep appreciation for the medium of comics and a tremendous respect for the genre of superheroes and though it is wonderful to see the genre presented in such a positive light I think it would be great if audiences understood and valued the true history of superheroes and not the mythology of the mythology influenced only by two enormous corporations.

Next week I will begin a series of my own on this blog that will take a closer look at how “Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” diluted the real history of superheroes.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



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


Warning: Comics May Cause Amnesia

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Warning: Comics May Cause Amnesia

There seems to be plenty of evidence that comics may cause amnesia.

Apparently anyone who reads, collects, buys, sells, or creates comics is prone to complete memory loss especially regarding the subject of creator rights. people associated with comics in any way shape or form are in desperate need of an old-fashioned FLASHBACK!

How can this be? It has long been assumed that comic enthusiasts excel at the ability to retain the most trivial detail regarding their favorite characters, story arcs and comic creators. They are able to recognize fine nuances in artwork that identify pencilers and inkers, idiosyncrasies in writing that denote authors, and can distinguish the differences between lettering and coloring styles and techniques.

The true comic fan can recite, verbatim, from their favorite comics, panel by panel page by page issue by issue. Yet, regarding the long fought battle over  of creators rights,  the brains of most people associated with comics today are a clean slate.

This explains why artists continue to work for page rates that are the same as or less than they were thirty years ago. This explains why creators are willing to continue to be exploited by work-for-hire contracts with little or no expectation of royalties.
This explains why contracts for digital content are as archaic as those that sucked the souls from creators and robbed them blind since the dawn of the comics industry.

Comics are like rufies, you know, the date rape drug. They must be because they make comic creators forget how they have been screwed, over and over again by the corporate publishers that demand complete control over all Intellectual Property and are unwilling to share all but the tiniest crumbs left by the billions of dollars of profit that is generated by the hard labor of those that create it.

Some are immune to this peculiar neurological allergen. They stand out as rebels and spin their craft in the far reaches of the marketplace: small press, self publishing, web comics and commission work. They carry the torch for a war still fought but rarely noticed; a fight for principle and fairness. They remember the victims of the scrupulous publishers. They remember those that fought: the few that won and the many that lost.

This rag-tag band of comic rebels have their supporters: enlightened fans that sing their praise and defend their stance but in total they are a rare breed that struggles to perpetually rekindle the flame of an apparently, easily forgettable fight.

Thank goodness for history books. If not for them many a war would be left forgotten. Fortunately, the chronicles of this battle for creators rights was recorded directly from the mouths of those that first led the charge. Their words were captured for perpetuity in the pages of a magazine in the form of interviews.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW was the voice of comics industry from 1983 to 1995. It was the forum where everyone and anyone associated with comics was able to speak their mind. The matter of creators rights was at the forefront of many of those discussions as a heated affront to the unjust norms of the industry was erupting in the form of the first wave of independent publishers who, along with the formation of the Direct Market, created an alternative venue for comic creators to reach their audience and own their work.

Steve Gerber

Page after page of COMICS INTERVIEW emboldened the movement, inspiring, and engaging the ranks of comic creators and fans alike who were able to empathize with each other. Readers were able to experience and appreciate the perspective of creator rights pioneers like Steve Gerber who threw his mantle down in the first issue, establishing a code of honor that would endure for the full 150 issue run of the magazine.

Fortunately, COMICS INTERVIEW is not destined to be a faded memory, lost to the world in the forgotten long boxes of aging comic enthusiasts of a bygone era. It is being digitally restored and collected in its entirety by CO2 Comics who are packaging the massive collection in an eleven volume set. Each volume contains over 600 pages of riveting history of the comic book industry. Currently the first two volumes are available featuring the first 28 issues of the magazine. Volume three is currently in production.

Many of the subjects whose interviews grace the pages had careers that dated back to the dawn of the industry itself, while others continue to work in the industry today. This portal to a window in time at the center of the history of comic books makes David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection an invaluable historical treasure. It is in fact the greatest collection of interviews in the history of comic books.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection is the perfect cure for any amnesia regarding creators rights in the comic industry. It is a history book that uniquely depicts a war as it was happening and directly told by the participants and witnesses themselves.

It is a history book that belongs in the library of anyone with any interest in understanding the comic industry today as it is as relevant now as as it ever has been.

It is a history book that belongs in every school or public library for its intimate perspective of an industry that has had a dynamic impact on the popular culture of the world as we know it today.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection is the ultimate FLASHBACK to remind us that the war over creators rights is not, and can never be, over.

Never forget. Never give up.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



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