Posts Tagged ‘Donald Duck’

Secret Wars: The Disneyfication of Marvel

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

In case you have not heard, the Marvel Universe as the world has known it since 1961 is ending. Why not? Death sells. So knock off the whole thing and reboot from scratch. The idea is so original they are calling the event “Secret Wars,” like that was never used before.

The scary thing is that, as much as this smacks of the usual mockery of fan’s intelligence perpetrated by DC Comics, this all makes perfect sense if you have stock in Disney, Marvel’s parent company.

Amazingly it has taken six years for this to happen but Marvel is finally on the verge of being Disneyfied.

What could be more Disney than uniformity? The House of the Mouse is the master of the style guide. Homogeny is the backbone of their marketing genius. Marvel however, though it has a particular identity recognized only by a specific subculture who understand the nuances of the superhero genre, is a mish-mash of styles and continuity that requires a doctorate in nerdgasm to fully grasp.

The development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a wonderful job of solidifying the continuity of a core group of characters for the masses. Now is the time to pull in the rest of the properties and neatly align them so they all make sense to the common folk. Enter Secret Wars where all realities collide and are rearranged into one neat package.

Secret Wars comes complete with a color coded map of the new world that all the Marvel characters will exist in and is named “Battleworld.” It is eerily reminiscent of early maps of the Magic Kingdom in “Disney World.” Could it possibly be the foretelling of a Super theme park west of the Mississippi? Check those land acquisitions in the Navada Desert. More likely is it just mind soap to guide us subliminally into their marketing mouse hole.

And what about that re-use of the Secret Wars name? Does it play into giant marketing scheme to tie in all of Disney’s major properties together under one neat umbrella?

Secret Wars,  Star Wars VII , Captain America: Civil War, Star Wars VIII , Avengers: Infinity War 1,  Avengers: Infinity War 2, and Star Wars IX are all released consecutively over the next five years.

That is a lot of “War” titles all being calcified by a Disney owned video game called “Infinity” (imagine that) that allows players to interact with figurines from all of Disney’s properties  including Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars. An entire generation will unwittingly galvanize the new Disney Empire of properties into a single mega universe.

By 2020 all things Marvel and Star Wars will be “infinitely” as Disney as Donald Duck and Goofy!

A reimagining of the Marvel Universe does one more important thing. It redefines characters that are more than half way to a date with public domain. By 2020 a significant number of major Marvel character’s origin copyrights will be due to expire in less than forty years. New origins will update the characters with current audiences and extend the copyright of the new origin 95 years!

Oh, and if you think Marvel an Disney won’t be putting the screws to Fox during all of this, think again. Expect to see familiar mutants suddenly becoming transcended Inhumans and the Fantastic Four innocuously bottled up till Fox finally caves in on their deal.  New continuity can take all of those Fox held characters right out of the timeline with no argument and completely derail their profitability as film franchises.

The Emperor rules the Universe and the Emperor is a mouse.

Gerry Giovinco

Trademark Deadmau5 Trap

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Joel Thomas Zimmerman, the EDM DJ/musician best known as Deadmau5,  has just encountered the world’s best mouse trap: U.S. Trademark Law.

Nobody keeps the mice away better than the Disney corporation when it comes to protecting their trademarks especially when it comes to defending Mickey Mouse and that famous pair of ears.

Canadian born Zimmerman, whose stage schtick includes performing in an oversized, robotic looking mouse head,  has flown under Disney’s litigious radar for the last decade, successfully trademarking a graphic of his mouse head in countries throughout the world. Now that he is attempting to register his trademark in America, Disney is challenging the mark claiming that it is too similar to their iconic symbol and may cause them harm by confusing consumers.

The trap is triggered, but does Zimmerman get out a Deadmau5 or a live one?

Some will argue that Disney has no basis in their contention. Deadmau5 poses no competition for Disney big focused on different markets. Deadmau5 can be interpreted as a parody and protected by fair use laws. The Deadmau5 logo is different enough. A nice piece in the Daily Trojan titled “Disney’s legal battle with Deadmau5 has no basis” does a good job defending the argument.

But when it comes to copyright or trademark issues, the solution is never that simple.

The problem with U.S. Trademark law is that the advantage is almost always on the side of the big guy. Why? Because it requires a trademark to be continuously defended or risk losing it. Unless you have deep pockets like Disney, who can aggressively afford to go after  every potential infringer?

Should a trademark be challenged for any trivial reason by a giant corporation like Disney who can drag you through the courts endlessly in a legal battle that will exhaust all of your financial resources. Your attempt to trademark is doomed because you will be bankrupt before a judge ever tries your case. Most settle or give up. Those that don’t usually end up as a bloodied “example.”

This system assumes that the public is too ignorant to recognize distinguishable differences in any graphic or other form of trademark. It is compounded by companies that manipulate their trademark constantly to intentionally blur the line. This is why a simple graphic like Disney’s Mouse Silhouette or DC’s Batman logo, #6 is presented in so many different ways including shapes and colors. It is now impossible to to create a simple mouse or bat logo without incurring retribution.

This has cost pop culture some great works over the years. Among the many casualties, Captain Marvel was crushed for his supposed similarities to Superman, and Howard the Duck was never the same after Disney challenged him compared to Donald Duck. These were innovative and dynamic characters that had their feet swept out from under them in their prime because of the trademark trap.

Imagine what the world would be like if Pat Sullivan, the producer of Felix the Cat, would have challenged Disney’s trademark, siting that Mickey Mouse was so similar and heavily influenced by the famous feline who had predated Mickey on film by nine years and was, at the time, the first and most successful cartoon character of the era. It was an image of Felix, after all, that was the first cartoon character star of television.

Imagine a world with no Mickey Mouse and possibly no Disney. Mickey Mouse  managed to escape the trademark trap and, in doing so, ensured that nobody else would get out alive.

Deadmaus, however, may have a leg to stand on because Disney has not been a good little mouse either. Zimmerman has countered with a copyright infringement allegation, claiming that Disney used his 2009 hit “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” without his permission and payed no fee for the use of it. Disney claims otherwise but has yet to prove it.

This could be a life or death struggle for the career of Zimmerman. According to Billboard,  the battle has already “cost him dearly”
A victory for Deadmau5 would give a lot of little guys hope, but not everyone is ready to chew off a leg to get out of a trap.

Good luck Deadmou5, I hope your stage name is not your prophecy but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes Defenseless Against Porn Parodies

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

There has lately been a rash of porn parodies featuring superhero characters stripped from the pages of comic books, television, and the multiplex. Now, it is safe to say that most of these characters have grown up and appeal to a much more mature audience than the 9-12 year old demographic that they were originally intended for. They reflect a darker, grittier motivation for their deeds and are far more fallible in their actions and judgement. They are no longer  the Dudley Do-Rights of a bygone era when their exploits were performed with a scout’s honor and a righteous smile.  Despite the graying tenant of fighting for “truth justice and the American way,” superheroes still represent a moral fiber that justifies them as heroic to audiences of all ages. So why are the owners of these characters allowing their trademarks to be tarnished under the guise of parody by pornographers?

Nothing against porn, but it is what it is, and for every person that enjoys it there is another that finds it offensive. Porn is entertainment that comes in the form of videos and magazines the same vehicles as comic characters and they currently share a similar demographic of sexually active young adults. Superheroes have run around in skin tight costumes since their inception and have always been accused of arousing some form of sexual fantasy of the reader. As the target age of comic readers has matured, sex has become a more significant theme in mainstream comics with major characters fornicating on rooftops and defining themselves with a variety of sexual orientations. Pornography featuring these characters may be less of the parody that they are described as being and more of a logical extension of the fantasies of the, now, more mature fan base of superheroes.

In the past few years, Porn Parodies of Superheroes has practically established an industry in and of itself. So why are porn companies able to produce video after video featuring “parodies” of these trademarks that are so accurately detailed to match feature films, television shows and comic books  with no contention from the trademark owners?

Superheroes are extremely valuable trademarks, each representing a character franchise for some of the biggest corporations in the world. These trademarks are worth billions of dollars and are licensed to endorse products sold to everyone from toddlers to adults. They are trademarks that generally avoid being offensive in any way, like the omission of Nazi Swastikas in the Captain America movie, in an effort to broaden their appeal. Marvel and DC even jointly own trademark of the word Superhero and variations of it in an effort to protect it.

Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communications are all pit bulls when it comes to protecting their valued trademarks most recently unleashing the dogs on a California birthday party company rented out characters wearing unauthorized, counterfeit costumes depicting their well known characters despite a disclaimer on the company’s site that read, “Look-a-like Characters are not officially licensed. We DO NOT USE OR HAVE COPYRIGHTED OR LICENSED MATERIAL, COSTUMES, OR NAMES. We also aren’t affiliated with any companies that hold copyrights so don’t ask for characters relating to copyrighted names.”

This disclaimer resembles the similar disclaimers used on the porn parodies that read,  “This movie is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with any entity owning the rights to the characters parodied therein or the work being parodied. Specifically, this movie is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with DC Comics, Warner Communications Inc., E.C. Publications, Inc. or Marvel Characters, Inc.”

The key word here seems to be Parody which protects the potential copyright or trademark infringer under the veil of “Fair Use” in copyright law. Does the claim of parody hand over the keys of a valued copyright or trademark to any Tom, Dick or Harry? No. Though the line that constitutes what is acceptable as parody is very shady, each case should be judged uniquely to determine if any harm is being caused to the trademark. Issues that weigh heavily on the court concern how much commercial value the trademark adds to the work of parody and does content that is sexual or distasteful potentially harm the trademark. Hmmm….you think someone might have a case?

Ben & Jerry’s did just last month when they tackled the Ben & Cherry’sseries of exploitive porn films using parodied names of their famous ice cream flavors. The porn company chose to pull the series from the shelves and destroy them.

DC itself battled pornographers way back in the seventies when a company tried to produce a porn parody of Superwoman. Their challenge forced the pornographer to change the costume and the name of the character to Ms. Magnificent.

Also in the seventies Disney legally crushed the Air Pirates, a group of underground cartoonists that published comic book parodies of famous Disney characters exploiting sex and drugs.

Why the sudden hands-off position regarding these porn parodies now? Some say the big companies don’t want to create publicity that might promote the porn. One would think that their lack of action would appear to be tacit endorsement of the product, despite what the disclaimer on the films might state.

I have not seen these films but a quick look at the safe for work trailers shows impressive attention to detail, great costumes and props and decent enough production quality to make these films, at least momentarily, easily mistaken for the regular film or TV productions of the originals. Now there are even animated porn parodies to mimic the cartoons of superheroes.

Its hard to imagine that these films with all their special effects, production quality and hardcore sex don’t present a greater threat to the public image of the superhero trademarks than the unauthorized costumes of a party company who sends costumed performers to a five-year-old’s birthday.

Some might say, “Who cares? It’s parody, get over it! Don’t be a stick in the mud! Freedom of speech! Boo!”

Shut down for trademark infringement.

I’m sorry, but I’m offended. Not by the pornographers, but by Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communication because they have proven that they are willing to relentlessly pursue anyone else who would infringe on their trademarks to the point of ridiculousness as shown by this very  brief rundown of challenges:

DC’s assault on Fawcett Publications claiming that Captain Marvel infringed on Superman.

Disney going after Marvel arguing that Howard the Duck infringed on Donald Duck forcing Howard to have to wear pants forever more.

Marvel going after WWF for the use of Hulk Hogan.

Not to mention the millions of dollars that Marvel and DC spend on legal fees to guarantee that they will never have to pay royalties to writers and artists that created characters that have made billions for both companies.

If they do not go after the pornographers These trademark owners make a mockery of everyone else they ever targeted and they imply that they either condone the treatment of their characters or are somehow invested in the production of these pornographic films. I think they owe it to all the little guys that they have trounced over the years because they infringed by hand painting a bat on their shingle or Mickey Mouse on a daycare wall. They owe it to all the creators they have robbed of fruitful twilight years. They owe it to all the fans who have emotionally invested  in wholesome entertainment. They owe it to every little kid that went to bed in superhero pajamas to at least pretend to protect their IP from infringement from pornographers so that we can believe that they at least tried to preserve the integrity of characters that have idealized heroism for three quarters of a century.

If Ben & Jerry’s, ice cream manufacturers, can stand their ground, why can’t  Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communications, the stewards of iconic superheroes, grow a pair and at least TRY to defend their precious property?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Get Down America!

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Howard The Duck button

Waaaaagh!!! What can I say? Ever since I first laid eyes on a Howard the Duck comic book I was smitten with ducks. I’m not sure why, but I think that what Steve Gerber did with the character opened my eyes to what could be done with comics beyond superheroes. It helped a lot that some of my favorite artists had drawn the character. Val Mayerick, Frank Brunner, Gene Colan, Sal Buscema and Michael Golden always left me wanting more and the iconic image by Bernie Wrightson on that campaign pin just sealed the deal!

howard wearing pants

Later when Gerber launched his creator’s rights battle with Marvel and when Disney challenged Marvel over trademark infringement, causing Howard to be forced to wear pants so as not to look like Donald Duck, Howard the Duck and ducks in general became a symbol to me of some sort of rebellious, creative attitude.

When I was in high school at Bishop Kenrick where I first met Phil Lasorda and Vince Argondezzi, my original partners in Comico the Comic Company, it was tradition to use acronyms to represent our party when we ran for office. When I ran for school president, the name of my party was, of course, D.U.C.K., Demonstrating Unity in the Community of Kenrick. I copied that Wrightson pin and made it school colors of green and gold. I even had a  mascot that crashed a student assembly in a duck costume! I lost… but the power of the duck stuck with me.

My fancy for ducks followed me to the Philadelphia College of Art now called University of the Arts where it did not take me long to establish a group of rogue comic artists called Ducks that strove to publish a small newspaper called DUCKWORK.  The thinly veiled connection to the school was a central courtyard that had two Peking Ducks inhabiting it and a bag lady that “quacked” as she walked in the area by our school earning her the name Duck Lady.

I wrote about  DUCKWORK In a previous blog and in an effort not to be redundant I invite you to check it out for the full scoop here.

Duck SuspenseStories

It dawns on me now that those six issues of DUCKWORK probably have some redeeming collectible value for their role as a precursor to the founding and publishing of Comico comics , CO2 Comics and for representing some of the earliest published works of the widely acclaimed Matt Wagner which can be seen here shown for historical purposes, of course.

Duck Throat

Duck Wish

Raiders Of The Lost Duck

Rollerduck

This peek at the credits and a dedication to Wally Wood who had passed away just prior to that particular issues publication in 1981 shows our devotion comics and  to the comic legend.

Duckwork dedication to Wally Wood

It also offers evidence of our lousy typewriter and some Ducks that went pro, Myself, Bill Cucinotta former Comico Partner and partner here at CO2 Comics, Dave Johnson of ROBOTECH  fame, Matt Wagner, Joe Williams CO2 Comics contributor and missing, somehow, is another ROBOTECH  vet and ELEMENTALS penciller, Mike Leeke.

Punk Duck 1

Ducks were infectious too. Not only did the DUCKWORK crew quickly assimilate to drawing the feathered fowl, I  recently discovered this incredible project by Martha Erlebacher, an anatomy teacher at PCA when we were students there.

Could it be remotely possible that our parodies of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

Hatch of Venus

and Marcell Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase published in DUCKWORK somehow influenced one of our world class teachers? We may never know the answer to that but I think CO2 Comics contributer and another former ROBOTECH  vet, Reggie Buyers was tipping his hand when he sent me this fax of Jam Quacky in 1991.

Jam Quacky

Jam Quacky #1

Outside of DUCKWORK I had a propensity to parody superheroes as ducks and could often be found at comic conventions drawing Bat Duck, Spider-Duck, Silver Surf Duck, X-Ducks, Red Sonduck, you name it. The ducks were my gimmick, I guess, and littered my sketchbooks. They certainly helped me attract attention in those early days and develop lasting relationships with talented comic artists that helped to build Comico and CO2 Comics.

Bat Duck

Silver Surf Duck

Sonja Duck

I still love drawing those ducks so don’t be surprised if you start seeing them pop up here at CO2 Comics or on ebay. Hey, commissions aren’t out of the question either! If you have a passion to see your favorite character parodied as a duck just drop me a line at gerry@co2comics.com.

Making Comics Because I Want To  “QUACK!

Gerry Giovinco



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