Posts Tagged ‘Eclipse Comics’

Where Have all the Women in Comics Come From?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

women in Comics Interview vol 2

It is amazing to see the number of women that attend comic conventions these days. Maybe their inclusion is more pronounced to those of us that were attending comic cons thirty years ago when seeing a woman at a comic con was akin to spotting a Yeti on the beach.

Women abound at cons these days and though those that participate in cosplay seem to get all of the media attention because of their skimpy costumes and exhibitionistm portrayals of sexy characters, it is more than comforting to see the growing numbers of women that are comic creators, readers, bloggers, and collectors.

At the Asbury Park Comic Convention, two of the many highlights for me involved the presence of women at the show.

Meeting the extraordinarily talented illustrator, Stephanie Buscema was a thrill. She carries on the tremendous legacy of her grandfather, John Buscema, and great uncle, Sal Buscema, both gentlemen legends in the comic book industry. Though she bears the mantle of comic book royalty, she does so while maintaining her own individuality with her unique and refreshing retro style.

Lining up to meet Ms. Buscema was the other surprise of the show, a parade of female fans of all ages. They were not there just for her but her beautiful art was a magnet that attracted the ladies like a moth to a flame. Those same women soaked up everything at the show with the same enthusiasm that was once only expected from the old “boys club.” Mothers with children in tow, Grandmothers wearing Batman swag, teenagers, tweens and toddlers of the female persuasion were all there genuinely showing an interest in comics and not because they were dragged there by a dad, husband or boyfriend.

I don’t know why I am always surprised to see waves of women at conventions. I guess I fall prey to the stereotyping as easily as anyone because I do remember quite vividly those early days of comic conventions that were attended so sparsely by women. I am well aware, however, that women have played a significant role in comics for decades and it is about time that they share the limelight with the men.

Comics_Interview_Volume_2_Standard_cover

Our newly released second volume of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection is a testimonial to the efforts of some of the women that played pioneering roles in the history of comics featuring a long list of interviews that were originally published in 1984 and 1985.

Harking back to the earliest days of the Silver Age,  Marvel Comics’ very own Gal Friday, Flo Steinberg gives us an intimate look at what life was like in the fabled Bullpen and talks about her own attempt at independent publishing with the anthology Big Apple Comix.

Maggie Thompson, one of the earliest pioneers of comic fandom along with her husband Don, describes the dawn of fandom through her experience evolving fanzines into trade periodicals as she chronicles the early history of the recently retired Comics Buyers Guide.

Marvel Sales Director, Carol Kalish, discusses Marvel’s role in the structuring of the young Direct Market and revolutionary marketing programs that she was responsible for implementing that impact the industry to this day.

A young Colleen Doran talks about the development her comic creation A Distant Soil that is still in publication twenty-eight years later!

Influential editors Karen Berger, Jo Duffy and Cat Yronwode give their take on their responsibilities guiding creators at DC, Marvel and Eclipse respectively.

Round it out with creative insight from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents writer, Mary Bierbaum and American Flagg colorist Leslie Zahler and there is clear evidence to the significant roles that women played in comics for a long time.

Of course these special women are just a percentage of more than seventy subjects who’s interviews are packed into this one volume but they stand out dramatically among the scads of men that are generally associated with comics.

So next time the question is asked, “Where have all the women in comics come from?” Remember that their numbers have risen from a strong foundation of pioneers that have been in the trenches for a long, long time.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


The Great Comic Book Flood of 2011

Monday, June 6th, 2011

August 31 is becoming a benchmark day in comics. Remember that date in 2009? That was the day Disney bought Marvel for roughly four billion bucks and we all suspected that the comics industry would change forever. It didn’t.

This year all the current hullabaloo is about DC Comics’ announcement that it will renumber and revamp its entire line beginning with the release of the all new Justice League Number One to be released on…you guessed it…August 31. This too is expected to change the world of comics forever. It won’t.

Regardless what they say, do or plan, the big two have only goal and that is the market dominance of their perspective trademarks. You can’t blame them, it’s big business, but their focus is not really on the comics. You can believe that if you want to, but the real value of both brands is in film, licensing and merchandising of their trademarked intellectual property and has been for a long time.

The big two are so protective of their properties and dominating roles that they share exclusive trademark ownership of the term “Super Heroes.”

Marvel and DC do not want competition in the marketplace that they have comfortably controlled for decades when it comes to folks in tights, but the growth and success of independent publishers and unique comic related properties that have demonstrated an ability to succeed are causing them to tighten their grip on the market.

Remember When?Both companies have always employed the ultimate biblical equalizer, the flood, when they found it necessary. The advent of the Direct Market has made the flood an even more effective tool since it has established what amounts to be a captive audience with limited spending resources. Whenever Marvel or DC have detected a threat to their market share, either one or both have simply increased their output and financially drowned their competition.

Pour one for our Homies

The first significant wave of independent publishers in the 1980’s,PacificCapital, Eclipse, First, Comico and others, all fell victim when Marvel flooded the market with X-Men spin-offs that were met with DC counter productions. The market could not bear the glut and the indies were the casualty.

DC’s announcement of a relaunch of their entire line of 52 titles is business as usual. A flood of epic proportion of first editions with variant covers, day and date digital content, print and digital combo packages and the final nail in the coffin…return-ability.

Marvel is not going to sit by and get waxed. They will counter. Independents, look out! You may as well not even plan to publish from September on, or at least until the novelty wears off. Break out the water-wings the Great Comic Book Flood of 2011 is coming and it will not be pretty.

Comic fans, if you love the medium, it is time to stop acting like lemmings. How many decades do you have to read story after story of the same old stuff? Is it possible to really do anything new or interesting with these characters that the big two have been milking for seventy years? Get real. The answer is, “NO!

It is time to support new material if you really want to read exciting NEW comics. There are plenty of publishers out there putting out great, truly original material either in print, digitally or on the web. Marvel and DC are not going anywhere. You can get a fix of your favorite character at any time but please don’t, as a fan, be responsible for propagating a marketplace that stifles the opportunity for the creation and success of exciting new characters by exploiting blind brand loyalty and worse, the zeal of speculation.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


Revolution?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

There has been a lot of talk lately about a creator ownership revolution.

Are we kidding?!

Can we seriously refer to it as a revolution, now?

This whole idea of creator ownership and creator rights goes way back. What creator wouldn’t be hesitant to sell away the rights of their creation or just fritter it away on a work for hire contract, but hey, if you wanted to work in comics that’s how things were done.

Steve Gerber

Howard The Duck

The late Steve Gerber was the first guy I remember to have the guts to stand up and buck the system. The thumbing of his nose at Marvel who ironically was haggling trademark issues with the then adversarial Disney corporation over Steve’s brilliant creation, Howard the Duck, was the shot heard around the world for comic creators.

His collaboration with Jack Kirby on Destroyer Duck published by Eclipse Comics, an early Independent publisher, was an example of what was to come in regards to creator rights and ownership.

Destroyer Duck 1

Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby of course was the King of comic creators and he too required the support of comic creators everywhere in a battle for his rights which has yet to be settled years after his passing.

Creators have fought the good fight. They have educated themselves on copyright issues. They have marketed their works, self published, merchandised, licensed and have experimented with formatting in both print and digital.

Creators have brought diversity to the medium exploring genres well beyond superheroes. Their efforts have been awarded with film deals and other opportunities never afforded to comic creators back in the day.

This dynamic climate for creators has been in the making for over thirty years. It’s not a revolution, its a resolution to what was unfair in the industry for decades.

So why all of the sudden rhetoric? Why all of the jitters?

Because there is an air of complacency.

Distribution is one of the key ingredients to independence for the creator. The early days of the Direct Market, made it a haven for independent publishers and innovative creators. Without the Direct Market there would be no diversity in comics today. Marvel and DC have been happy to let a small niche of unique product proliferate but have always been quick to flood the market when there were signs of significant competition rising.

The Direct Market is suffocating as the demand for print shrinks and the biggest casualties will be the small publishers that publish the creator owned works, inciting an exodus to digital content distributors.

These same distributors have access to an enormous library of Marvel and DC works. If the big two were happy to flood the market of the monthly pull list, do you think they would care if they drowned the digital market with 70 years of available monthly content?

Remember, this is not just Marvel and DC we are talking about. Those guys in the New York offices actually love comics and probably enjoy a lot of the diverse content out there but Warner Brothers and Disney will need and want to protect their intellectual properties.

The best way to guarantee that Superman and Spidey have no competition is to make sure there can be none.

Comics are too easy to produce, publish and distribute compared to any other visual entertainment medium. Its too easy for another Mutant TurtleSpawn, Scott Pilgrim, or Wimpy Kid to sneak up and take market dollars.

TMNT, Spawn, Scott Pilgrim, Wimpy Kid

It is naive to think that the monster corporations are not intent on controlling digital distribution.

Revolution? No.

Wake up call?

YES!!!

Creators have got to be smart and protect the market for each other. We need to focus on innovative ways to market comics to the new generation of digital readers. Keep the sources open. Capitalize on the web. Be creative about sourcing revenue from free content as well as monetized downloads.
Be a community.

Beware of the competition. It is not each other. It is the super powers that be.

Most of all, value your creative freedom. It has been fought for for decades. Now is the time that we may have the greatest opportunity in front of us.

Let’s not let it slip away.

Making comics because I want to!

Gerry Giovinco


The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 3

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Lou Brooks Drug Store

Color in comic books had a specific look for fifty years prior to the 1980’s. Flat color was the norm and part of the charm of the comic books that I grew up reading. There was just something about that limited palette and those pronounced dots that seemed to define the medium as much as the words and pictures that they illuminated. Others agreed and focused on this idiom when referencing comic art in pop culture.

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein and Lou Brooks are two artists that took full advantage of exploring the idiosyncrasies of comic book color establishing themselves as masters of Pop Art.

Lou Brooks Disgrace Me

The production process that produced the color in comics was intended to print color on highly absorbent newsprint with rubber plates on web offset presses at the World Color Press plant in Sparta, IL. Color separations were done by Chemical Color Plate in Bridgeport, CT. The colors were made by combinations of three percentages, 25%, 50% and 100% of each of the primary colors; blue (cyan), red (magenta) and yellow to be printed with the black line art. CMYK refers to these four colors used in printing.

A layer would be produced for each percentage of each color making nine layers of film that would be compressed to form three negatives, each containing the three percentages for its corresponding color. There was one more film for the black plate which would print the line art. The printing plates would be burned from these final four films.

Colorists used a guide provided by Chemical Color Plate to assist them in making their own color guides for each page that the separators would interpret into films.

Chemical Color Chart

By the 1980’s the alternative independent publishers that began peppering the comic market were using better, whiter paper and were able to produce better color. Many comics were printing with processed or full-color using the coloring techniques that I’ve described in my earlier blogs on this subject. Some publishers were still attracted to the notion of flat color but realized that they were being limited by the old color guide.

The 64 colors with the course dot grid intended for newsprint produced harsh, garish colors on the brighter paper stock. A new color percentage of 70% was added for each color producing 124 different colors as shown by this color guide produced by Eclipse Comics in 1983 and again engraved by Chemical Color Plate. The line screen also changed from 60 to 120 lines per inch making the dots less noticeable on the printed page.

Eclipse Color Chart side 1

Eclipse Color Chart side 2

Murphy Anderson

By the time Comico was ready to make our transition to color there was a new color separator in town. Renowned comic illustrator Murphy Anderson had entered the field with his own company, Murphy Anderson Visual Concepts Inc. that he operated with his son, Murphy Jr.

Murphy had a different scheme for producing colors. By making a minor shift in the color percentages and adding two shades of black Murphy could stretch the color palette to 372 colors! The new formula was 20%, 50%, 70% and 100% of each of the primary colors plus an addition of 10% and 20% of black to every color on the palette.

Elementals 2

Our first color books had been produced using processed color techniques and we were very happy with the results but our next project, Bill Willingham’s Elementals was a clear superhero comic and we wanted it to look like one. We all felt flat color was the way to go and we only had one choice when it came to choosing a separator. Murphy Anderson’s company was already doing most of DC’s prestige work and had proven his incredible quality. Murphy is also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and proved it with his patience bringing us up to speed on his technique.

In 1987 I designed a color chart that had long been missing from the process. It soon became a staple in every production department in the industry. I would imagine that it would have been the last of the color charts for comics since not long after the computer took over most of the color chores as we know them today.

Comico Color Chart - Click for larger view

I might like to mention that this complex looking piece was not done on a computer. It was done the old fashion way by creating a mechanical with typesetting, tech pens, x-acto knives, photostats and a good old waxer. Of course the color separations were done by hand as well.

To be continued…

Gerry Giovinco

Making comics because I want to!

The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 1

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Comico’s switch from black-and white to color in 1984 added heavily to the learning curve we required to make comic books. We were young guys learning by the seat of our pants, making lots of mistakes but growing with each ounce of education we received “the hard way.”

Jumping to color would be an adventure for several reasons. World Color Press who was printing most of the newsstand comics at the time had no more room in their schedule for the Indy publishers. They were the experts in printing comic books on newsprint which had been the standard since comic books were first published in America.

Indy publishers turned to other options to print color comics which included better paper stock by necessity since most printers were not set up to print what was considered low numbers on newsprint.

Bright, white, glossy stock came into vogue and presented a surface that could better handle full-color images that would not hold up well if printed on newsprint. But comics were still dependent on the traditional black line art that held the color.

Full-color separations that were made from line art that had been simply painted-in produced nasty ghosting of solid magenta, cyan and yellow when images came out of register which could easily happen when printing low runs. Several thousand prints could be made before registration could be fully adjusted forcing the opportunity for a lot of waste and driving up the unit cost of each book.

The black line art had to be held on its own plate and the colors needed to be added on another layer which would later be separated into the four print colors, CMYK. This is done easily today in Photoshop but in the early eighties there was no digital solution.

Doug Wildey

An early maverick attempt by Doug Wildey on his Rio comic, which was published by Eclipse Comics then later compiled by Comico, provided an interesting solution.

Doug Wildey's Rio

Doug painted his colors on tracing paper that he laid over his black line art. The tracing paper was shot and separated then registered to the films of the black line art. This created a beautiful, ethereal watercolor look but provided very fragile originals that warped easily and were difficult to preserve.

Other people were experimenting with different solutions.

Early Pacific Comics-Captain Victory and Starslayer

In the summer of 1983, while in California to attend the San Diego Comic Con, we paid a visit to Pacific Comics. Pacific was not just one of our biggest distributors, it was also one of the trailblazing alternative publishers of the early Indy movement. Founders Bill and Steve Schanes and editor David Scroggy were great hosts. While giving us a tour of their production department, they took the time to show us how a new approach to coloring comics that they were using worked.

The Gray-Line System required that a negative film was made from the original black-and-white comic art. This negative was sized at 60% of the original size which was equal to the actual print size of 6×9″ for the final comic.

Blackline on acetate transparency

From the negative a positive transparency of the line art was made. The lettering on the negative would then be masked with rubylith and, using a dot screen, a 10% gray, positive print was made on photostat paper.

Greyline

The transparency and “gray-line” had registration marks and were aligned and hinged using a single piece of tape. The colorist would paint the grey-line layer, frequently reviewing the art by flipping down the transparency to see what the final image would look like.

Blackline & Grayline combined

The gray-line gave the colorist an accurate guide for which to apply color on a separate layer. If ghosting were to occur due to registration errors the faint image of the gray-line was barely noticeable.

The photostat paper that was used had a polymer base that made the gray-line very durable and stable. They would not shrink or warp when the color, which was usually water based, was applied.

Unfortunately, the surface of the paper was not absorbent at all. Painting with translucent watercolors and dyes was difficult, often creating a streaky or smudgy look especially in areas requiring larger coverage.

The Gray-Line System was an answer to the coloring dilemma but it was not the only one.

To be continued…

 

Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco

Making History

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The Fourth of July. Independence Day. The birthday of America. A time to appreciate the rich history of our country. A history that makes us uniquely American. History is what makes us who we are, biologically, emotionally, intellectually, and creatively. The choices we make about our future are tempered by lessons learned from accomplishments, mistakes, tragedies, losses, and victories. We can never truly control our destiny but history is our only guide for navigating the unknown future.

CO2 Comics Homepage

The Fourth of July. Independents Day. The birthday of CO2 Comics. We are one year old and we appreciate every minute of it. For us, it is a celebration of the moment in time when we first, publicly revealed our web site http://www.co2comics.com/. It is the celebration of the culmination of years of dreaming, experimenting, hypothesizing, observing and anguishing over history. The history of comics. Our place in the history of comics. How we will use that history to navigate and pioneer the future of comics at this, the Dawn of the Digital Age.

Comico Covers

Mike Sterling reminded us a few weeks ago on his blog Progressive Ruin , that Bill Cucinotta and I had stood at the brink of a new age in comics before as publishers of Comico. We are proud that we had charged in with the likes of Pacific, Eclipse, Warp, Aardvark-Vaneheim, Capital, First and others laying the foundation for what would become The Independent Age.

Top: Bill Cucinotta, Vince Argondezzi, Phil Lasorda, Gerry Giovinco Bottom: Aaron Keaton, Andrew Murphy

Like our forefathers who fought valiantly to establish the ideals and conventions of freedom that make America what it is today, the early Independents left a trail of casualties while they set standards for creator rights, compensation, quality, format and innovative marketing in the fledgeling Direct Market. Comico, a briefly shining star in the industry, unfortunately, is among those ruins but its legacy should be remembered as should the lessons learned from all the pioneers in comics, wether they be the innovators of cave drawings, nineteenth century French publications, Gold, Silver or Bronze Age Comics, Undergrounds, Independents, and now, Digital.

Understand the past before challenging the future.

DAK

This is a lesson I learned from David Anthony Kraft one evening overlooking Georgia from his home perched high on Screamer Mountain during the mid 1980’s. The long time Marvel editor and writer and publisher of Comics Interview had a unique perspective of the history of comics because he had the opportunity to work and speak with legends that had created comics from the dawn of the industry. He appreciated my enthusiasm for change but emphasized understanding the reasoning for why comics had been made the same way for forty years.

Don’t fix what’s not broke? No. Understand the past before challenging the future.

This has been a historic year for comics. The Digital Age is blossoming. What it will be like in full bloom can only be imagined. We know that CO2 Comics will be part of it. We have seen the power of the internet. We know the potential of the downloadable content. We do not underestimate the value of the printed product. We know and respect the power of the medium of comics.

Our first year as CO2 Comics started humbly last Fourth of July weekend with just a few pages of comic art by Bill and me, an introduction and the basic structure and design elements that remain intact today. During our maiden year we have had the pleasure of being able to post the work of over twenty creators, many of which were friends with strong ties to our Comico days. We have accumulated nearly 600 pages of comic art about ten times the amount of work that had been published by Comico in its first year.

CO2 Comics Year One

The audience has been bountiful. CO2 Comics has received nearly two million hits in its first year! In 1982, when Comico began publishing, it was inconceivable to reach an audience like that. Our sales figures of the two Primers that we published in our first year were just a few thousand copies, combined.

We know that as Comico grew into a significant publishing house, CO2 Comics, likewise, will make a major impact in the comics community.

Why? Because history repeats itself.

We also know that we as publishers are older and wiser. We have a proven history of learning from our mistakes, exploring unique options, and pressing the envelope. We also know from failure. We know that Comico, for all of its successes, became a casualty, but it laid a foundation for a future. We are living in that future now and looking into the next horizon.

CO2 Comics considers our first year a beta year. In many ways it was a campaign that developed a life of its own. This next year will be even more exciting. New product will appear on the site, new comics by new creators. Digital, downloads will be developed for e-reading devices, and we will release our first products in print.

A key theme that will prevail throughout will be history. We are excited about comic history and our first print product will have tremendous historic value for the entire comic community. I would love to tell you about it right now, but it’s a surprise! Actually, it has been a tremendous amount of work, a true labor of love, and so important to Bill and I that we will announce it only when it is 100% ready to fly.

Until then we will keep the subject of history alive in our blog with a new weekly feature, The Comic Company, that explores some of the innovations we tackled in our early years of Comico. Inspired by the Progressive Ruin blog, and the interest that was generated by it, we will look at the highlights of the Dawn of the Independents and our involvement in an exciting time in comics history.

Making comics because we want to!

Making history because we just can’t help it.

Gerry Giovinco


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