Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Super Hero September is Great for Comic Books

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I have been waiting for decades for Marvel and DC to step up to the plate and aggressively promote comic books.  Not just movies, toys and merchandise featuring their characters, but comic books. That is, after all, what they do right? Make comic books?

In 2011 DC surprised me with their promotion of the New 52. It was a huge promotional campaign across all media but was unfortunately  more focused on the derailment of their iconic characters’ established identity in popular culture as they redefined them for a changing market. Ever since, DC has made one marketing blunder after another to the point where there is even a site that tracks the number of days since DC did something stupid.

Their efforts, no matter how misguided, did generate interest and drive new people into comic book shops though I believe it frustrated long time fans by bastardizing the characters that they had loved for decades.

One thing DC did, according to the Hollywood Reporter, was establish September as a promotional battleground that has now instigated a devastating counterattack of heroic proportions by Marvel/Disney.

September is now Marvel Super Hero September  encouraging fans to “Power up like a Marvel Super Hero!”

Lately, after a very respective run of hugely successful films that have ecstatically (unlike DC) maintained the integrity of their long standing source material, Marvel can do no wrong. Combined with the added resource of the Disney Marketing Machine, Marvel is now a pop culture juggernaut. (FOX pun intended).

A visit to the Super Hero September web page is evidence of the things that Marvel is currently doing right in this marketing campaign.

1. Masthead includes mega blockbuster characters from all of their hit films, carefully spotlighting a couple of female characters and their new successful franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy. (Note: no X-Men!)

2. They offer a contest that promotes their brand, establishes the good morals that we all expect from our favorite superheroes, builds a mailing list and offers a great prize: a trip on a Disney Cruise ship. (How many times can you promote a corporate product in one sentence?)

3. Impressive list of retail partners that includes: Hasbro, Kmart, Party City, Payless, Target, Walmart, Hallmark,Disney Store and their own on line Marvel Shop.

4. Comic books! My initial, jaded scan of the site seemed to confirm my suspicion that, once again comic books, would be overlooked by an eager attempt to sell toys and movies but to my surprise I easily found several links to available comic books throughout!

5. Comics for Kids! This has been a peeve of many that comics have matured leaving little for the youth market. Marvel tackles this head on with a line for young readers with comics available digitally and it print.

6. Links to comic shops!  Again I suspected that comic shops would play no fiddle to the big chains but in most places on the site where comics are presented in print there is a big fat link to the Comic Shop Locator Service!

7. Sharing. There is a relatively subtle button that seems redundant to the marvelkids.com button in that it sells young reader books, but on the surface it brilliantly commands, “Share Your Universe.”  This statement does two wonderful things that every brand craves for. It hands “ownership” of the brand to the fan and it tells them it is worth sharing, “you do not need to be alone in your enjoyment of this brand.”

There is so much more that is positive about what Marvel is doing with this campaign including promoting it on Disney owned ESPN in the height of football season that a book could probably be written on the marketing strategies involved.

This is obviously a big win for Marvel but it could be a huge win for the comic book industry in general.  Comic books are being promoted on a global scale in a positive light for the first time ever. This is not an event like the death of a character, this is a brand-wide promotion. It is time to ride the wave and make sure that everyone in comics benefits from the traffic that Marvel will continue generate.

Comic shops have shown their ability to grow where traditional bookshops have been failing. They need to prepare to further capitalize on the success that Marvel is generating by directing the broadening audience to the wide selection of subject matter made available by indy publishers. The consumers may be coming in for Marvel superheroes but they can discover a much broader world than they expected, the world of comic books if those in the industry choose to show them the way.

When it comes to comic books, let September be for super heroes just leave the rest of the year for everyone else. Thanks, Marvel!  Maybe DC will learn something.

Gerry Giovinco



Is Stan Lee the Key to a Kirby Family Victory?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

On May 15, nine Justices will decide wether the Supreme Court will preside over the Kirby family’s battle to regain copyrights from Marvel and Disney of works co-created by their father, Jack Kirby between the years of 1958 and 1963.

According to the Copyright Act of 1976 the Kirby Estate has the right to request termination of these works provided that the works were not executed as “works for hire,” a term normally associated with work created by an employee of a company.

To date, lower courts have ruled that the works, which include seminal characters that represent the foundation of Marvel’s entire universe, were created at the expense of the corporation and thus are considered work for hire.

Convincing the highest court in the land to both hear the case and to rule in favor of the Kirby Estate may require a miracle of epic proportions equivalent to the great feats of the  many superheroes derived from Jack Kirby’s fertile imagination.

The most unlikely and unwitting hero of this legal drama, however, might actually be Stan Lee who stood as Kirby’s collaborator on all of these creations with the exception of Captain America who Jack created with Joe Simon in 1941.

The idea that Stan the Man, Marvel’s biggest cheerleader, could possibly help the Kirby case may seem ludicrous at first but it was by his hand that a cosmic ball could possibly have been set in motion. His formulation of the so-called “Marvel Method” of producing comics where he would suggest an idea to the artist who would then visually plot an entire story that Stan would later script  the dialogue for could undo the work for hire strategy at its root.

This method of creating comics was new and unique to Marvel and was far from consistent with industry practice at the time where a full script would be handed in by the writer for the penciler to follow. Writers were paid to write. Pencilers were paid to draw.

Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

It is well documented that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, the earliest participants with Lee of this industry bucking practice, were unhappy that Lee was paid full writing fees and they only received standard penciling fees for their work. They both felt that they should be paid and credited for their share of the writing since they were essentially plotting the entire story, a standard duty of the writer.  Their dissatisfaction with the inequities of the practice ultimately led them both to leave Marvel in protest.

Jack’s duties as a penciler were above and beyond what was considered industry standard at the time. As one of the most prolific pencilers of the era he easily deserved at least the standard page rate he was paid for traditional penciling that did not require the visual plotting unaided by a script. He should have been paid more for the extra work required by the “Marvel Method” but he was not.

If Jack Kirby was not paid for his contribution to the writing of the stories, even though it was rendered visually, how can his contribution be considered work for hire?

Stan Lee has very publicly and proudly described the Marvel Method for decades as part of their formula for success. Lee certainly was not paid less for the work load of the writing chores that he passed to the penciler.

Stan Lee is also a poster child for negotiating a Marvel settlement for his role in creating the Marvel Universe. If Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are equally responsible for creating most of the successful characters at Marvel, how can it be justified that Lee can file a suit that results in a reported $10 million settlement back in 2005 long before the company was sold to Disney for $4.6 billion in 2009? Will the Supreme Court recognize the injustice of one co creator being compensated while the other is not?

Marvel, itself, has obvious doubts about the work for hire relationship it pretends to command over its creators. Lee’s  is not the only settlement they have negotiated going back as far as Joe Simon for Captain America, Steve Gerber for Howard the Duck and a growing list of creators that are settling quietly as the Marvel cinematic universe now grows into a global phenomenon.

No other creator has been signaled out and treated as significant a threat to Marvel as Jack Kirby. He alone was subjected to restrictive contracts regarding his existing work for the company. He alone was forced to sign restrictive agreements just for  the return of his own original art. If Marvel was so sure of its work for hire relationship with him why were they so contentious with him late in his career before his death? Why did they fear Jack Kirby?

The Supreme Court now has an opportunity to finally and fairly define the work for hire relationship as it pertains to the comic book industry regarding properties that were created in the Silver Age and are now becoming eligible for . Hopefully they will realize that properties that were created for meager wages at a time when comic book sales were weakened by a federal witch hunt are now worth an obscene amount of money that could have never been anticipated by the original creators.

Many of the creators who are still  alive and struggling in the twilight of their lives could benefit immensely from any fair compensation that relates to the current value of their creations. For those that have passed away, like Jack Kirby, it would be comforting to their families if their lives in today’s economy could be eased by that which they should rightly inherit.

If you enjoyed comics because you believed that the heroes fought for what was right, now is the time to hope and pray that the Supreme Court will insure that justice is served for those that created the heroes we enjoyed. Collectively support Jack Kirby’s family with well wishes and maybe a miracle will happen.

This can be a great comic book story where justice triumphs once again. If the Supreme Court decides to hear this case it is a sure bet that Marvel will beg the Kirby Estate to reach a settlement, hopefully with an agreement similar the one that Prince just received from Warner Brothers Records, where the work remains in current hands but compensation and control are renegotiated. It would be a win-win situation for all sides especially for the fans who all want this story to have a happy ending befitting of the greatest superheroes of all time. A story of epic proportions that would make both Jack Kirby and Stan Lee proud.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



‘Captain America’ Cries the Red, White and Blues

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Anyone out there who has remotely cared about how comic creators have been screwed out of even the tiniest morsel of the tremendous profits  generated by Hollywood’s superhero bonanza had to let out a huge guffaw after reading a recent Variety  interview with Chris Evans, who will star as Captain America throughout a contracted six film run for Marvel Entertainment. His commitment is now half completed with this past weekend’s blockbuster release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The star spangled actor seems fairly constrained when talking about the trials and tribulations of portraying the famed First Avenger, careful not to raise the ire of Marvel studio execs but can’t help himself from peaking the nerves of their stingy bean counters with a little help from Avenger cast ring leader, Robert Downey, Jr.

Evans says Marvel will often send him pictures of “Captain America” action figures that are molded after his likeness, but that he doesn’t profit from the merchandising. “I see my nephew wearing underwear with my face on it,” says Evans. “I’m like ‘what’s going on?’ But for some reason, (no money comes) my way.” Adds Downey: “Nobody gets anything from the toys, and nobody ever will.” Then he promises: “I’m working on it.”

What if?

It’s a hoot seeing these mega-stars crying over the money they are not making especially after they all made such a big scene about renegotiating their contacts going into Avengers 2 after the original Avengers film grossed over $1.5 billion world-wide, ranking it number three in all-time box office sales. Adding fuel to the fire was the huge discrepancy of pay between stars. Downey made $50 million for his role as Iron Man while other Avengers  made as little as $200,000 for their silver-screen super-heroics generating comments like, “On what planet is that fair!”

True to form, Marvel continues to “strong-arm and bully” the talent, wether it is an aging comic book creator or a celebrated Hollywood actor, with threats of law suits and dismissal of service held against detractors. Marvel considers talent to be expendable so long as they control the Intellectual Property of their vast library which they protect with the might of Odin to the point that even Disney power suits stand clear.

As each new Marvel film exceeds expectations and rings up record revenue it becomes more apparent that Marvel is as mythic as its heroes and villains when it comes to sheer greed. Soon their brand will be synonymous with companies like Walmart and McDonalds whose employees require government assistance to survive because they are paid and treated so poorly.

Maybe the high profile whining of celebrities like Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and others will bring attention to Marvel’s unscrupulously tight fisted business ethics. Maybe the stars and the public will finally gain sympathy for the Kirby family who do not see one red cent from all of the characters that Jack Kirby co-created, without which none of these actors would have a role to play or complain about in the first place.

Unions in Hollywood are powerful, they have the ability to freeze the industry. Should the writers and actors become sympathetic to the plight of comic creators and their heirs, some justice could still come to those that have been denied fair compensation for their contribution to both the Marvel and DC Universes for decades. Maybe the courts will finally recognize the injustices that they’ve been catering to as they suckled the teats of big business.

Let’s root for the Marvel films to be so successful that  the stars can’t stand watching the vast amounts of money that is sure to elude them. Put them in the shoes of Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Ditko, Jerry Siegle, Joe Shuster and a long parade of other comic creators that worked for a lousy page rate under the shackles of a work-for-hire agreement and never saw royalties when their creations became films, toys or underwear.

The stars representing beloved heroes will put an unmistakable face on the unfair practices of Marvel and DC that a comic creator hunched over a drawing board or typewriter never could. Maybe then the world will appreciate the injustices that many of us have known about for decades and some things will change in the comics industry.

A perturbed Chris Evans is a great start. His character, Captain America, represents the American Dream and has stood for all that is fair and good in this country since his creation by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1941.

It is only right that Captain America should now lead this charge against the corporate greed and bullying that grips our nation, exemplified by Marvel, the self proclaimed builders of our modern mythology. There is more than a man behind that shield he carries, there is the heart of a nation that cannot be taken away. It is time we all stand behind that red, white and blue shield together to defend what we know  is morally right. It is time for a battle cry! America, Assemble!

Gerry Giovinco



Rocket Raccoon Not Rabid as Expected

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The battle over fair compensation for comic book creators whose creations have generated enormous profits for the corporations that now own them is almost as old as the industry itself. In most cases the fight is futile since most comic creators simply do not have the economic clout to legally go after companies as mighty as Marvel or DC and their parent corporations, Disney and Time/Warner.

Shame is the greatest tool that creators have found to expedite justice and it seems to work. Neal Adams relied on it heavily when he publicly shamed DC into settling with Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster who were living in poverty prior to the release of the first blockbuster SUPERMAN film.

Creators are gaining an upper hand these days thanks to shame. It is much easier to demonstrate to the public the gross disparity of a struggling, aging and infirm cartoonist as opposed to a monolithic corporation who is potentially making billions off of their creation.

Behind closed doors settlement deals are finally being made and creators are being reigned in before the shaming begins and apparently it is working hopefully for the benefit of all since deserved creators are suddenly falling silent on the issue.

Advocates for comic creators rights have been foaming at the mouth ever since it was revealed that the Rocket Raccoon would be a driving force in the impending bonanza that will be the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film to be released this summer. Rocket Raccoon’s co-creator Bill Mantlo was the victim of a horrible accident in 1992 that has left him brain damaged and institutionalized in a nursing home ever since.  Surely Bill Mantlo would be the perfect poster boy for comic creators rights if he were not to get fair compensation and credit for his contribution.

Let the shaming begin!

What? Not so fast?!

Bill’s brother and legal guardian Mike Mantlo boldly called off the dogs by releasing this statement:

“FOLKS, FOLKS, FOLKS…..please, enough of the hating on Marvel. Marvel has compensated, is compensating, and will continue to compensate Bill well into the future for anything that he’s entitled to compensation for. Please don’t spread false or malicious rumors, gang. Bill’s relationship with Marvel is EXCELLENT, and I wish for it to continue to be so. And all the false or exaggerated “facts” being tossed around about his accident (he was NOT in a coma for “years”, and the family was NOT put into financial ruin or destitution, among other WRONG “facts”). Yes, Bill was the victim of a horrible and tragic accident. Blowing everything out of proportion does no one any good. You guys (ALL OF YOU) have been a Godsend to Bill for these past 22 years by keeping his name & reputation alive, and by continuing to champion my cause of helping him improve his quality of life in whatever way I can, and I thank you ALL sincerely for that. Please, let’s try some positive energy for the fu! ture, so that BILL MANTLO WILL RULE FOREVER!”

In another release he states:

“Folks, on behalf of Bill I urge everyone to SUPPORT the “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” film, and help it have TREMENDOUS SUCCESS. That will benefit Bill Mantlo more than anyone could ever imagine”

Give Marvel and Disney some credit for recognizing that they were not going to be able to compete with the public hazing generated by support for a severely handicapped writer in a wheel chair that is responsible, along with artist Keith Giffen, for what looks like will be the fuzzy, break out star of the summer, Rocket Raccoon, who would have surely been a rabid thorn in their side if they had not struck preemptively.

Thank you!

It will be a pleasure to watch a Marvel film for a change without experiencing some kind of guilt for knowing that a creator or an heir (Most notably, Jack Kirby and his family) has been left unfairly compensated.  If only this could be the fundamental business practice of the comics industry from now on.

Let’s keep the ball rolling!

Maybe the big guys have finally realized that he positive PR generated from treating creators fairly is in everyone’s favor including their own.

Like Mike Mantlo, I sincerely hope that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a monolithic success. I know that because of Bill’s situation, he will never truly be able to enjoy any measure of profit that is generated by the film, though it will surely benefit his care.  The comfort is that ,in the shadow of the film’s great success , his personal story will become such a high profile subject that he will be immortalized in the pantheon of comic book and pop culture history where he belongs.

Bill Mantlo is a reminder to us all that though money is important it does not last forever and it is purely materialistic. Being recognized and acknowledged for our contributions and creations is what seals a place in history and in the hearts of all that enjoy our work.

Acknowledgement and acceptance is what creators, regardless what art they practice, truly live for.

So when the credits role by, and should you hopefully see Bill Mantlo’s name, jump out of our seat and cheer so loud that he feels the warm tremor as he sits in his nursing home beaming with pride because he knows in his soul that he is loved for something he created.

Gerry Giovinco

Fans of Bill’s work can follow updates from his brother on the Bill Mantlo facebook group .

Make donations here.

or mail Bill cards and well wishes to:

Bill Mantlo

c/o Queens Nassau Nursing Home

520 Beach 19th Street

Far Rockaway, NY 11691

Hollywood Hell

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

It is Oscar Season in Hollywood. Congratulations in advance to all the losers! I’m not talking about all those folks that were lucky enough or talented enough to be nominated but those that will never even be invited to ceremonies or get a sniff of the knobby trophy.

I’m talking about all of the dedicated artists without which most of the films we see would never be made. The men and women that create, design, animate, sculpt,  draw and paint relentlessly to produce a reality in two and three dimensions that ultimately comes alive on film. The people that make a measly paycheck compared to the actors, directors, and producers that rake in millions. The saps whose microscopic credit flies by on the screen so fast it is nothing but a blur.

Congratulations to you all and thank you for another incredible year of cinema that would have been shit without you!

Sounds rough, I know, but any one who describes themselves as an artist of any sort knows that they, with few exceptions, wear a permanent “Kick Me” sign especially when it comes time to being valued and paid for their work. This is not just in Hollywood but in all creative fields including comic books.

These days, comic books and Hollywood work in tandem to create incredible films and, for the most part, it is the people that created the comics in the first place that see the least revenue from the giant blockbusters they inspire.

To be sure there is a line of creators seeking compensation for their contributions outside the Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros. offices. In many cases settlements are made secretly, behind closed doors, in an attempt to shore up any floodgates ready to burst.

These agreements are band aids on a wound that never heals because though it may satisfy the immediate creator in question it casts an illusion of harmony that deludes other creators into a false sense of security in their professional dealings, giving the corporate gatekeepers the upper hand.

It is this overwhelming attitude that disregards the value of creators that makes them vulnerable to predators in the industry and in society itself.

This is why people  like Shia LaBeof feels it is his it is his right to plagiarize source material at will and mock the convention of copyright ownership. Comic artist Dan Clowes is a victim whose work and career has been violated, yet it is Labeouf that is defensive like a rapist dismissing an accuser.

It is this creative disregard that allows artists at the top of the food chain, like Spike Lee, to scoff at designer Juan Luis Garcia and respond with malice when Garcia sought to be paid for work that had been stolen from him by an unscrupulous ad agency hired by the filmmaker.

Juan Luis Garcia has disappeared, a mere hiccup to a respected independent filmmaker that had an opportunity to publicly respect the value of the work of another artist that was just trying to make a living. Spike Lee chose to bury him instead, more concerned with protecting his own bottom line than the integrity of the arts.

It is this pervasive sentiment that opens the Kirby heirs to criticism for seeking compensation for their father’s contribution in creating the multibillion dollar Marvel Universe.

The professional hell that artists experience everyday may not always compare to the injustices in Hollywood but it is prevalent every time someone asks that work be done for free or well below market value because it will “offer exposure” instead, every time time an artist is asked to do work on speculation, never to be paid, and every time they do work-for-hire and see no residuals from an unexpected success.

The world is a difficult place for any profession these days. Everyone from the plumber to the baker is struggling to make ends meet while the moguls at the top get rich off of their hard work. Artists are often dismissed because at least they have the joy of “doing what they love.” That is no excuse for fair compensation for the work that they do.

Next time you watch a film pumped out by Hollywood, take the time to sit through the credits and absorb the enormous amount of people that it took to make that single movie. Imagine how many of them are artists with great aspirations and who are now wondering where their next paycheck is coming from. Learn to appreciate and value their work and creativity because these are the folks in the trenches of Hollywood Hell and the film you enjoyed would not exist without them.

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 – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 3

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Corporate Greed: There was a time when there was such a thing as the American Dream. It was predicated on the idea that if you worked hard, lived a good life  and saved your money you will achieve success. The American Dream manifested itself  differently in comic books where it was represented in the very beginning of the industry by downtrodden sons of immigrants during the Great Depression. Their vision was that of the meek attaining tremendous powers and using them to protect and serve their community. Their creations, which launched a genre known as superheroes, represented “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”

The recent PBS documentary Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle did a wonderful job bringing attention to these idealistic virtues of superheroes and comic books. What it neglected to do, however,  was show that superheroes of today also represent the continued victimization of their creators and their families and have become the iconic representation of Corporate Greed as the two monolithic media corporations Time/Warner and Disney, the parent companies of DC and Marvel respectively, seek to control, dominate, and protect their intellectual properties. They do this by the use of Draconian creator contracts, militant trademark enforcement of not just their characters but the word superhero itself, and by putting a stranglehold on the markets where other comics are sold and distributed.

This is what I see as the greatest failure of the documentary. That it supposedly represents superheroes as being a significant part of our culture. That superheroes are the modern American mythology. That superheroes represent Truth Justice and the American Way. That Superheroes are everywhere consumed by the imaginations of everyone. The documentary fails because it focuses solely on the superheroes represented by Marvel and DC and consequently  becomes a tool that empowers their domination and control of the entire genre.

Corporations are quickly corralling us all into a culture that is dictated by them. There was a time when culture would influence decisions made by a corporation but now media has such a firm embrace on our cultural psyche that they can manipulate our every whim. As corporations like Time/Warner and Disney seek to control trademark ownership of public domain characters from every fable, myth, legend, story and comic book they have a lock on each and every one of us that goes much deeper than our pocketbook. They control the extent our imaginations and the marketability of our creativity, personally and as a culture.

Superheroes were born from comic books for one reason. No other medium besides comics gives any person the opportunity to create so vividly a story that is so fantastic and so unimaginable about a person with incredible superpowers and their adventures. Comics let us deliver that idea to an audience in a precise and visually stimulating way with very little expense.

Imagine that the images that could be drawn on a page by a poor immigrant teenager with a pencil and ink were so fantastic that it required over forty years of technological development before they could be made believable on film! Today, it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make a superhero action film but a superhero can come alive in a comic for next to nothing. The creator of the next great superhero could be a young kid publishing that story right now for very little cost on the internet, reaching millions of people around the globe in an instant.

That is the power of comics. That is the power of unfettered culture. That is the biggest fear to these big corporations, that the next great superhero will fly right under their nose and take the world by storm and they will not own a piece of it.

So Corporate Greed does what it does best and attempts to create tunnel vision for everyone it can with documentaries like Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle. They create a new mythology that everyone is expected to believe, that the Marvel and DC superheroes are the only game in town.

If they get enough of our attention and enough of our money and can control enough of the distribution system (we are to believe there is only one real comic book distributor) maybe we won’t notice that there is a world of other comics and superheroes out there. Maybe we won’t notice that many are much more entertaining and original than the seventy-five-year-old rehash of Superman or that fifty-year-old not-so-fresh take on Spider-man.

It is our job as true fans of the medium of comics and the genre of superheroes to remain vigilant and to ensure that the wealth of accurate information about what we love is not forgotten because the true archives of the past is the fertile ground from which a fruitful future will spring regardless how much manure is spread on the dried up wasteland of lies that the corporations want us to believe.

Yes the title of the documentary got it right. When it comes to superheroes there is a never ending battle to tell the truth about the comics industry, seek justice for creators, and to not fall victim to corporate greed because what we usually get told in documentaries like this is just a pile of very pretty bullshit that panders to the big guys.

Previous links to my perspective on this documentary can be found here:

SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit

SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 1

SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 2

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Credits – Salt on the Wound?

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Last Wednesday the world watched as Marvel Entertainment premiered the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. , their highly anticipated foray into the wild world of prime time television. Despite all the hype, gadgetry, special effects and the reintroduction of Agent Coulson the thing that surprised me the most was a line in the opening credits that skipped by quickly. It simply read, “Based on the Marvel Comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.”

I’m not so sure I was as surprised at the inclusion of the credit or my immediate negative reaction to it because as happy as I was to see both men credited, all I could think about was how the Kirby family must feel seeing Jack’s name brandished on yet another blockbuster that they will see no royalties from.

Unlike films, this television series which I suspect will be around for a while will be a weekly reminder of how their father’s creative genius was largely responsible for the success of Marvel Comics and the empire that it has become without ever receiving reasonable or fair compensation for his contribution other than a measly page rate.

Marvel movies based on Kirby creations

The Kirby family continues to fight the good fight, struggling to seek copyright revision of characters that their father co-created. Their legal battles have been a very public roller coaster ride that may take the issue of creator’s rights within the work for hire relationship eventually to the Supreme Court. A victory there would change the standard of living for generations of comic book creators and their heirs.

Is the inclusion of Jack Kirby’s name intended to be salt on the wounds of the Kirby family who recently took a big it in the Court of Second Appeals in New York?

Is it intended to motivate them to settle their dispute as Stan Lee had, to the tune of ten million dollars in 2005 followed by  a small rash of other creators who have made more recent settlements?

Has the Jack Kirby name become another valuable marketing brand that Marvel seeks to exploit just as they do with Stan Lee (but with Stan’s consent of course!).

Or is it just a pale display of goodwill intended to appease the fans who flooded the internet with rage and petitions when it was anticipated that Kirby might not be credited on the Avengers film?

Regardless of the motivation, I hope the credit remains and finds its way on every film, television show and piece of merchandise that would not exist without the contribution of Jack Kirby.

The public is slowly becoming aware of how pervasively his creativity effects the entirety of our poplar culture. As that awareness continues to grow it inevitably will will shed a spotlight  that can no longer be ignored on the injustices exercised by Marvel and now Disney.

Who wants to be known for having screwed over possibly the most influential single artist of the twentieth century? Certainly not the biggest media conglomerate  in the world.

Gerry Giovinco



Saving Superheroes from their Gatekeeper

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Just two years ago Advertising Age magazine listed DC Comics as one of America’s hottest brands. Though the referred to it as “a move fraught with risk,” they applauded DC for reworking every character in the New 52 as an effort to broaden their audience appeal.

That is what every owner of a brand wants, universal appeal. That has been the power of comics and superheroes in particular, for generations. They have had appeal to everyone as a general whole. Who wouldn’t want a character that represents “Truth, justice and the American way” as their trademark?

Few characters in the world are as iconic as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, followed by the supportive cast of the Justice League of America and the rest of the DC Universe. That is why you can you can find their images licensed on every product imaginable from baby toys to automobiles.

It is obvious that once Marvel was bought by the merchandising masterminded Disney Corporation, Time Warner and DC felt they needed to step up their game to prevent Supes, Bats, and WW from being overshadowed by the likes of Spider-man and those damn Avengers.

Rather than polishing up the classic style guides and reminding markets why their product was responsible for the entire genre of superheroes and has stood the test of time having been viable for seventy-five years, they decided to “shake things up” by making their product more edgy, gritty, trendy, socially relevant, sexy, modern, and violent.

Viola! The New 52.

There is evidence that this move has certainly perked up comic sales and generated some new found publicity, though much of this is related to the sinister speculator market.  There also seems to be an influx of new readers, woman in particular, who appeared to be absent from the comics scene just a few years ago.

But has all this change really been good?

Say what you like, the damage is done as evidenced by a stirring, must-read, fan letter to DC, eloquently and passionately written by Gabrielle Friesen, who could not have spelled out more clearly how DC has set the time bomb that is destined to annihilate their, once invaluable IP.

Her diatribe is lengthy and painful to anyone who has grown up loving comics. She details, situation after situation where DC has taken beloved characters that she enjoyed since childhood and subjected them to rape, torture, murder, exploitation, mindless prejudice and persecution all for the sake of “broader audience appeal.”

A brief synopsis can be found in this quote from her letter but seriously, please read the whole thing:

“You want to know something DC? You’re the super villain here. Your company is Doomsday. Lumbering, stupid, terrible, leaving a path of pain in its wake, killing beloved superheroes left and right. Fans like me? We’re Superman (and this is the only time I have ever identified with Superman). We’re brave and smart and powerful, and we want the world to be good and safe. We want our comics to be good and safe. And you are pummeling us down, but Superman rose up again. The Death of Superman was a stupid, and ultimately temporary move on your part. More and more fans like me are leaving, using our superpower of the dollar, withdrawing it, and warning everyone we know not to come near the radioactive toxic waste heap that is your company, that it won’t give them superpowers, only hurt them. We’re going to outlast you; whether its your company collapsing because dominant culture dudebros are not enough of a market to support your behemoth weight, or whether you pull through, get a new editorial team, or just wise up to the fact that more than just dudebros exist in the world, that people love your characters but not the way you treat them, that consumers are smart and have power. You are bleeding out and actively resisting a tourniquet, spitting in the face and insulting the medic offering it to you.

Comics were started by the downtrodden. Superman, the alien immigrant, was created by Jewish men. Wonder Woman was created by a man wishing for women’s equality. Superheroes protect the weak, not those who seek to dominate. You’ve forgotten your roots, and completely assimilated to dominant, oppressive culture.

You are in control of beautiful characters. Kind, compassionate, flawed human characters. Characters who want the world to be better, who help the downtrodden, who rescue kittens from trees and save lives. People who can fly.

But you’re stuck on the ground, actively digging yourself deeper into mud.”

What trademark owner wants to get this letter from a fan? What licensee who paid tons of money to secure the rights to plaster their product with DC superheroes wants to know that these characters are no longer the wholesome bundle of Americana they thought they bought into?

Does Fisher-Price, Mattel and every other maker of children’s toys and apparel want to know that DC editorial thinks it’s humorous that one of it’s major characters were the subject of an art contest where they were to be shown naked in a tub attempting to commit suicide a week before National Suicide Prevention Week?

(Yes, weeks after this contest created a n offensive stir in the industry, DC has yet to take this link down from their site.)

If a sport star or celebrity had this kind of attention focused on them, you know that companies would be pulling endorsements left and right. Ask Tiger Woods, Lance Armstong, Mel Gibson and Paula Deen, just to name a few.

There were high hopes when Diane Nelson was hired lead DC after her tremendous job with the Harry Potter franchise. Is she even paying attention? Would she allow the Harry Potter property to be defiled the way the DCU is? Doubtful! What would J.K. Rowlings say?

Gabrielle Friesen is right. Fans do have the power of their money and their voices. These characters may be copyrighted and trademarked to DC Comics but they belong to us as a culture. It is the people that have embraced them and spent their hard earned dollars to establish them as the icons they are today. Superheroes are vulnerable after all, endangered by their own gatekeeper.

It is time that true fans save their favorite superheroes before it’s too late, before there is a complete meltdown of the entire DCU.

“Up, up and away!”

Gerry Giovinco



The New 52: Disrespecting the Dead Guy?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Knee-jerk reaction? Maybe, but when I saw a headline on Bleeding Cool that the late Jack Kirby was being used as a character in DC’s New 52 I almost had an aneurism.

What are they thinking?!

Fanboy homage  aside, Jack Kirby is a man whose legacy is, beside being arguably the greatest and most dominant comic creator of  all time, that he and his heirs have been stripped of creator ownership of most of his creations developed  in his five decades in the business. We are not talking deprivation of scant royalties either. He was significantly responsible for the most marketable characters at Marvel, a company that is currently worth several billions of dollars. Jack Kirby has been violated by the industry he played a major role in building. Gang raped by the industry that he dedicated his life’s work to.

I was surprised to discover that Kirby had actually spent more time working for DC than Marvel over his long career and, though this does not account for the ton of work he did for the company in the 40′s and 50′s, it is well documented that DC has fairly paid royalties for his work done late in his career. They proudly claim  that Kirby made more money off of his work  from his New Gods characters than he made from all of his work done for Marvel, citing royalties paid for appearances and merchandising related to the Super Powers series.

That, of course was a different DC comics, lead by creator friendly Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz who pioneered royalty sharing and creator ownership at a time when independent publishers were forcing the Big Two to recognize the value of creator’s rights.

The new DC, purveyor of the New 52 that is aggressively bastardizing their entire line of characters in a strategic effort to prevent copyright reversion and the immanent threat of public domain, is not so creator friendly.

Ask Alan Moore whose WATCHMEN was ripped from his control and whored out without his consent long after he had been courted with promises of creator ownership of his work. BEFORE WATCHMEN was a slap in the face to anyone who thought DC actually respected creator rights.

Ask Gerry Conway who recently reached out to his fans in an effort to be notified when his creations would appear in various media so he could file forms to be paid royalties due through DC’s “equity participation program.” Conveniently, the new DC is not in the business to notify the creators when their characters are used. The burden of discovery is on the creators and payment is not retroactive.

Ask Jerry Ordway whose work defined DC Comics back in the 80′s and 90′s. He cannot get a lick of work today from the company he helped keep afloat in turbulent times.

Ask the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster who watch the iconic character that these two men created be endlessly rebooted to the point of mutilation where Superman and his story are no longer recognizable, all to protect DC’s ownership of the IP.

The New DC, has no respect for the creators, the characters or the fans. They are run by a narcissistic band of privileged fanboys, focused only on their own singular vision and the bottom line.

So, the thought of Jack Kirby appearing as a character in the New 52 stirs the acid in my gut and makes me want to puke. Kirby deserves better than to have his likeness paraded in faux homage as a cartoon character in a comic book. I imagine the Kirby character showing up in future encyclopedias of the DCU, in animated series and in 3DCGI video games, all with a DC trademark attached.

Worse yet, I imagine Marvel falling in line and parroting DC. Why not? He’s a historical figure. “We’re only trademarking our rendered interpretation of him, like Disney did with Pocahontas.

I’m sure this rant sounds irrational but tell that to fans of Bruce Lee.

Audrey Hepburn,

and Fried Astaire

who have seen their idols resurrected from the dead by advanced media technology to sell whiskey, chocolate and vacuums. At least these commercials were made with compensation to the appropriate estates or heirs.

There was a time when DC would go to great lengths to gain approval of a celebrity’s likeness. They required Neal Adams to get approval for the 170 famous faces that he drew in the 1978 Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali wraparound cover!

I guess they don’t feel the need for approval to use Jack as a character because he is dead.  What’s he going to say, “I’ll sue you?”

While DC is squeezing yet another buck from the legacy of Jack Kirby,  his granddaughter, Jillian, is plugging along with her Kirby4Heroes kirby4heroes.com campaign to raise money for the Hero Initiative to support other comic creators in need. That’s what Jack would have done. It’s what would have made him proud. Her Kirby4Heroes facebook page is a glorious celebration of the joys that her grandfather brought to all of us and the impact he had on popular culture.

She and her family have taken the high road to place Jack on the pedestal he has earned. Do they deserve, as heirs,  to be compensated handsomely for Jack’s contributions to the industry? Absolutely! But it is more important to them that the good will of his name be maintained in a dignified and positive manner.

Jack took enough abuse from the comics industry when he was alive. Can we please show some respect now that he is gone? He will have been 100 in just four years. Is it possible that his centurion celebration will be one of honor rather than a crass marketing bonanza benefiting those that need it the least?

I pray that I see no Jack Kirby action figures with a jointly owned Marvel/DC trademark stamped on his ravaged behind.

Making Comics Because  We Want to

Gerry Giovinco




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