Kirby4Heroes History Update

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015


There are just ten days left before the comic book world celebrates the 98th birthday of the legendary Jack Kirby, arguably the most influential creator in the history of comic books. In honor of his birthday on August 28, his youngest grandchild, Jillian Kirby, founded the Kirby4Heroes Campaign in 2012. For the last three years she has spearheaded an admirable effort to celebrate his accomplishments and to raise funds and awareness for the Hero Initiative, a noble organization that helps comic creators who are in desperate financial or healthcare situations.

kirby4heroesWe at CO2 Comics, urge all comic fans and professionals to make the most of the opportunity to celebrate what would have been Jack Kirby’s 98th birthday on Friday, August 28, 2015 by participating in the events, shopping at a comic shop that is supporting the Kirby4Heroes Campaign or simply by making a donation to the Heroes Initiative through links provided on the Kirby4Heroes website, Facebook page or twitter account.

If you would like a first-hand, up-to-date history of Jillian Kirby’s Kirby4Heroes Campaign, she has taken the time to thoroughly recount it in a detailed letter that she has recently sent to the many fine folks that have supported her in previous years.

We share it here in hope that it will inspire more to help this good cause in the great name of Jack Kirby!

jillian_kirby_4_heroes_2015“Hi everyone,            

I am so excited to be once again collaborating with both the Hero Complex and Nerdist to promote my 2015 Kirby4Heroes charity campaign! In previous years, the gracious support of the LA Times Hero Complex, which included Geoff Boucher, Gina McIntyre, and Noelene Clark, and former Head of Production at Nerdist, Seth Laderman, has been instrumental in spreading awareness of Kirby4Heroes! 

As you may recall, I founded the Kirby4Heroes campaign when I was 16 years old in June 2012, as a way of honoring the legacy of my grandfather, comic book artist and creator Jack Kirby, who unfortunately died the year before I was born.   My campaign supports the Hero  Initiative, the only federally registered non-profit organization that helps those in the comic book industry who have fallen upon times that require the addition of medical and financial assistance.  Hero Initiative is spearheaded by James McLauchlin.

My grandfather Jack’s generosity was legendary in the comic book industry.  He always gave encouragement to budding comic book artists asking for advice.  He never turned away a fan! His Thousand Oaks home was famous as a haven for comic book lovers, fans, and those just seeking one of my grandma Roz’s famous bologna sandwiches! Growing up impoverished on the Lower East Side of New York, my grandfather went on to create or co-create such iconic superheroes as Captain America, Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, the Avengers and Ant-Man, just to name a few.  Many of his personal life experiences served as inspiration for his creations. From gang fights on the Lower East Side, to combat in WWII, and even his mother’s mysterious tales of Eastern Europe, all can be seen in my grandfather’s art and stories. A young Jacob Kurtzberg, so passionate about his craft, almost got his family kicked out of their tenement by using the walls of the building as his canvas.  He would eventually find a new space to work, a 10′ x 10′ basement room, referred to as “The Dungeon,” of his Long Island home.  A lover of movies, he envisioned his comic book panels akin to storyboards, and now, 50 years after their creation, grandpa Jack’s characters are leaping off the silver screen.

Since my campaign’s inception in June 2012, the  support given to me by the Hero Complex and the Nerdist Channel has been instrumental in relaying my message to the comic book reading public, major comic book websites, and mainstream media outlets.  This has greatly increased my fundraising outreach.


Phil Hester #WakeUpAndDraw

My 2012 Kirby4Heroes campaign included comic book retailers throughout the state of California, as well as the first Wake Up And Draw event (WUAD), sponsored by Hero Initiative.  This event recruited comic book artists from across the country to create works of art on my grandfather¹s birthday. These pieces were later auctioned off, with the proceeds going to Hero Initiative. In that first year, the Kirby4Heroes campaign raised $5000 for the Hero Initiative.  In 2013, my Kirby4Heroes campaign grew with the addition of a Kirby4Heroes public Facebook page. Because of the generous donation of time, effort and support from Bill Cucinotta and Gerry Giovinco of CO2 Comics, a Kirby4Heroes website was created. Comic book retailers across the country were recruited, and WUAD, with Jim McLauchlin’s persistence, was expanded through the voluntary participation of many more talented artists.  This increased my fundraising efforts, raising $10,000 for the Hero Initiative! Last year in 2014, in addition to all of the events mentioned, artist Phil Hester came up with his own idea!  On August 28th, 2014, what would have been my grandfather’s 97th birthday, Phil created 97 different pieces of Kirby-themed art to auction off, raising over $3000! He pulled a marathon of an all-nighter working on these creations, live tweeting with lighthearted humor throughout the night, which truly increased individual participation and enthusiasm for the event!  And there’s more! Yet another event spearheaded by the upstate New York team of Ron Marz, comic book writer, and Paul Harding, comic book artist, with participation of comic book retailers, threw a party in commemoration of my grandfather’s birthday at a local venue and raised over $2000 for the Hero Initiative.  The event, celebrating the legacy of my grandfather Jack, was featured on National Public Radio!  NPR characterized August 28th as a movement that is spreading throughout the country to become “National Jack Kirby Day”!  My grandfather would have been astounded!  In addition, across the country, a group of major comic book artists made appearances at comic book stores to participate in Wake Up and Draw. A sentimental favorite, the beloved inker of many of my grandfather’s works, Joe Sinnott, created a work of art as a heartfelt tribute to my grandfather to be auctioned off for the Hero Initiative. Also, global outreach for the campaign increased, with events at the Moebius Liceo Gallery in Buenos Aires, an appearance by comic book artist Joe Prado at a comic book retailer in San Paolo, Brazil, a major fan Facebook page in France dedicated solely to the works of my grandfather, and comic book artists in France and Italy that created Kirby-inspired works for auction. An artist in Italy even created a birthday cake in the image of The Thing!  It was amazing! In total, the Kirby4Heroes campaign raised almost $15,000 in 2014!

Currently, as a 19 year-old entering my junior year of college as a biomedical engineering major, my 2015 campaign is off and running!  I am again working with major comic book retailers, not only in California, but also across the country.  Many will be donating a percentage of their sales or profits on my grandfather Jack Kirby¹s 98th birthday, August 28th, to the Hero Initiative, publicizing my campaign on their websites and Facebook pages, and using in-store posters and collection jar labels that I have provided.  Some will be hosting “birthday parties,” enlisting known comic book artists to draw in their stores with the work to be auctioned off either in their stores or as part of WUAD on eBay.  Others will be holding raffles with the proceeds donated to the Hero Initiative.  Phil Hester will once again participate with his crazy nonstop drawing, this time creating 98 pieces for my grandfather’s 98th birthday!  Midtown Comics in New York City will host a podcast featuring comic book artist Guy Dorian discussing my grandfather, his legacy, and the good deeds of the Hero Initiative.  I am so excited that my 2015 Kirby4Heroes campaign will also have the official endorsement of ComicsPRO, the only professional trade organization for comic book retailers in the United States.  Marco Davanzo, the Executive Director of ComicsPRO (and owner of Alakazam Comics in Irvine, CA), was instrumental in facilitating this arrangement. With over 130 members representing over 200 stores nationwide, I expect ComicsPRO to be a great resource and support. Within hours of Marco publicizing the campaign to ComicsPRO members, I began receiving requests by comic book retailers to be involved in my Kirby4Heroes campaign. It’s thrilling that my Kirby4Heroes campaign is receiving such enthusiastic support by members of the comic book community.  Wouldn’t it be great to also get the support of those involved in the Hollywood movies inspired by my grandfather’s creations!

One of the most satisfying surprises from my 2014 campaign was the amount of personal donations in the name of Kirby4Heroes sent in to the Hero Initiative either by mail or on the Hero Initiative website. The addition of my public Kirby4Heroes Facebook page in 2013 and its growth in 2014 greatly helped my fundraising efforts.  This Facebook page is meant to serve as a type of personal Jack Kirby art museum. I try to keep my grandfather Jack¹s legacy thriving through daily postings of his artwork. Comments made by the page¹s followers are often both entertaining and educational.  They keep my grandfather¹s spirit alive.  The Facebook page allows followers to personally message me, which has become another avenue for outreach.

Innovative fundraising ideas contributed by many Jack Kirby fans continually assist the Kirby4Heroes campaign to expand and blossom! Watching this event spread from state to state, with the possibility of becoming a national or international event is my greatest dream  leading up to my grandfather’s 100th birthday in 2017.  I look forward to the culmination of a fantastic show of support on August 28th! Over the past three years the Kirby4Heroes campaign has been fortunate enough to raiseover $30,000 for the Hero Initiative. This year, I’ve upped the ante to a fundraising goal of $20,000        

Looking ahead to the future, I’m zeroing in on August 28th, 2017, my grandfather¹s 100th birthday.  Upon reaching my 2015 goal of $20,000 for the Hero Initiative, I will have brought in a total of $50,000 since my campaign’s inception in 2012.  My target is to raise an additional $50,000 over the next two years.  Upon my grandpa Jack’s 100th birthday celebration in 2017, I will hopefully have been able to provide the Hero Initiative with $100,000 for their charitable works.  It would also be wonderful to have fundraising events for Kirby4Heroes occurring in all fifty states to benefit the Hero Initiative by 2017.  To spread awareness of my grandfather’s influence as one of the most preeminent American pop culture artists of the 20th century, seeing his artwork displayed in several major art museums would be another amazing goal, enabling my grandfather and his legacy to be celebrated in the mainstream.  Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, declared “if there was a Mount Rushmore of comic book artists, Jack Kirby would sit front and center.”  I wholeheartedly agree with this, and truly believe that my grandfather deserves a place in the pantheon of great American masters.

WUAD_2013_RiveraIf there is any additional information you would like to know about my campaign or any questions you have, please let me know!  Here are the links to the Hero Complex articles/videos about my campaign in previous years, so you have them as a reference:




         I’ve also included 3 Wake Up and Draw pieces from 2013 that I especially enjoyed:  Joe Sinnott’s drawing of my grandfather with the Thing, the character he personally identified with at the top of this blog, Walt Simonson’s drawing of Thor, and Paolo Rivera’s take on Captain America.  Thank you so much again for your time, effort and support and I am so grateful to be collaborating with the Hero Complex and Nerdist again this year!  I’m looking forward to working with you all this summer!




The Fantastic Flub

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Now that the review embargo has been lifted on the new Fantastic Four film reboot because it is finally in theaters, what we all expected if fully evident. The film is lousy. With a horrible 9% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes you can bet your popcorn money that this is one superhero flick that is a super stinker.

Marvel must be loving every second of it since it has been their goal to see FOX fail as miserably as possible with both the FF and X-Men franchises in hopes of gaining back the exclusive film rights to their iconic characters.

But who does it really hurt when a superhero film like the FF tanks badly? This film still opens with the same giant red and white  MARVEL logo that appears in every FF ad. It is also the same MARVEL logo that opens every Marvel Studio film as well. Serious comic fans and fans of the superhero genre may understand the tumultuous relationship between Marvel and FOX but they represent a small percentage of the millions of movie goers that spend their hard earned cash at the multiplexes world-wide. To them, this is a Marvel superhero film that sucked and could be a forbidding of the collapse of the genre because they don’t understand the difference.

This spring’s Avengers: Age of Ultron underperformed compared to the first Avenger film, and this summer’s Ant Man showed tepid opening box office numbers though it was well reviewed and continues to put people in the seats. Now the Fantastic Four crashes and burns taking with it the legendary team of superheroes that initially put Marvel on the map. Iconic characters like the Thing and the Human Torch who in the past have teamed-up with every major Marvel character are unmarketable, laughing stocks and Marvel’s most prominent villain, Dr. Doom, is a joke.

Even if Marvel were to regain the film rights to these characters that would have to put them on ice longer than Captain America before they could revive them after the three failed attempts mustered by FOX.  This Honest Trailer sums up FF film history nicely.

We may all be rooting for Marvel to get their properties back, especially now that they have proven to have the ability and willingness to maintain the integrity of the characters we have all grown to love, but it is painful to watch characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby drawn, quartered and drug through town so mercilessly.

These characters that marked the beginning of a new age in the superhero genre back in the 1960’s could signal the demise of the genre in the eyes of the general public with this continued  box office failure. That could that be too much Doom to bear.

Gerry Giovinco

Marvel/Disney Erasing History

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Marvel/Disney is waging a licensing war with Fox over the Fantastic Four and X-Men properties. Marvel sold the film rights for the characters and their supporting casts to Fox back in the 1990’s when they were struggling with bankruptcy. Since then Marvel has moved on to bigger and better things including joining the ranks of Disney and becoming a film blockbuster builder themselves.

Now they want their toys back and Fox is not parting with them and are unwilling to share like Sony has with the Spider-Man franchise.

Marvel’s answer is a self-imposed embargo that blocks any and all licensors from using the characters associated with Fox’s film rights. Sounds like a brilliant strategy!  Marvel will defeat Fox through attrition by preventing as much external awareness of the properties as possible.

In-house, they have also cancelled the Fantastic Four comic book  and killed-off Wolverine, the most popular X-Man. They have even gone so far as replacing the characters on graphics from famous covers and removing them from Marvel Universe posters and 75th Anniversary trading cards. They are systematically erasing anything to do with the properties as if they never existed.

This decree, reportedly issued by Ike Perlmutter, is so obsessive it is becoming perverse in its resemblance to Holocaust denial, a conspiracy theory  considered an act of antisemitism that is illegal in several countries. Like Marvel erasing mutants,  Holocaust deniers will go to great extremes to convince people that the Holocaust never happened. Their goal, like Marvel’s,  is to revise history to suit their agenda.

It is ironic that the mutants which compose the X-Men have long been a symbol of marginalized people and have often been equated with the Jews in the Holocaust. The mutants have been the champions of those that are different in the Marvel Universe. They have fought the good fight to be accepted and in their success have attracted fans world-wide who could empathize with their struggles and achievements.

Yet now, to satisfy the agenda of a corporation, these mutants, along with the Fantastic Four, a team that is the keystone of the Marvel Universe, are being eradicated, replaced by a new, more acceptable breed of heroes called Inhumans and an assortment of other “B” list characters.

Marvel/Disney is becoming our worst nightmare, an oligarchy that is willing to erase a mythology that has had a tremendous impact on our popular culture and specific marginalized communities that have embraced its message of inclusion and tolerance. They are manipulating history for no other reason than to effect their bottom line but at our culture’s expense.

Marvel’s property embargo  is a brilliant tactic but a disgrace to a humanity that has accepted these mutants and heroes as our own. It is just another gross example of how willing corporations like Marvel/Disney are to  manipulate us for their own gain. Congratulations Marvel! You are officially Disneyfied.

Gerry Giovinco

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

The Irony of Marvel’s Film Right Deals to Spider-Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

There has been plenty of rumor and speculation of late about the possibility of Spider-Man appearing in Marvel Studios’ film adaptation of Civil War.  Why it could be a problem is that Sony owns the film rights to Spidey, not Marvel.

Don’t expect any X-Men or Fantastic Four characters in Civil War, either! The film rights to those characters are owned by 20th Century Fox.

Back in the late 1990’s when Marvel was struggling in bankruptcy part of their restructuring strategy was to sell film options for most of their significant properties. This all worked out great and saved the company which eventually was able to reacquire most of the rights to their characters with a few exceptions. Most significantly Spider-Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four, which have all established successful film franchises for Sony and Fox, and have been unattainable by Marvel.

Marvel has maintained a warm relationship with Sony and in light of Sony’s recent financial difficulties and public humiliation due to the corporate hacking and dissemination of private emails, Marvel may have some leverage to work out at least an addendum to their contract that will allow them to crossover  ol’ Web-Head into the MCU.

Things with Fox, however are not so warm and fuzzy! The permafrost is actually developing a glacial quality which may only get more complicated after Quicksilver, who was featured in Fox’s X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, appears in Marvel’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.

Marvel has also tossed the gloves, regarding their relationship with Fox by canceling the Fantastic Four comic book and killing off Wolverine, the most popular character of the X-Men comic books. Marvel has made a conscious decision to not support Fox’s attempts to market these two properties. They have even stopped the marketing and  production of toys and other licenses of the characters.

Ironically, Marvel is getting a wee taste of their own bitter medicine. What they are experiencing in not too dissimilar to what comic creators have experienced in the comics industry for decades. Creators develop and cultivate a character then, in order to survive, they sell to a company like Marvel in what appears to be a good deal at the time.  Eventually the creator watches helplessly as their character is maligned by reboots while they share little, if any, of the profits from their creative labors.

Spider-Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four have long been among the crown jewels of the Marvel Universe and, though Marvel must have some say in how the characters are presented, it must fry them to not have complete control creatively and financially, especially now that Marvel has proven they could successfully build film franchises on their own.

Marvel, at least,  has some clout and can go toe-to-toe in a fight. Creators usually are not so lucky and have to wait, like the Kirby’s did, for something like availability of copyright revision terms to at least challenge ownership. This , can usually take more than a lifetime and sadly Jack Kirby could not personally enjoy the rewards himself after his family settled a new deal with Marvel twenty years after his death.

Now that Marvel knows what it its like to watch helplessly while someone else stewards their property maybe they could develop a modicum of sympathy for creators. Could this be why Marvel has lately been working out settlements with creators behind closed doors? More likely they are shoring up any other possible contactual cracks that could cost them any amount of control of their valued IP in the future.

This may or may not be the last time that Marvel is burned by a rights dispute but for now it sure is fun watching them squirm like they made most of the creators do for the last seventy-five years.

Watching how this battle between studios plays out may be as entertaining as watching or reading stories about the superheroes involved. At least the fate of the Earth is not at stake. Popcorn anyone?

Gerry Giovinco

‘Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe’ – A Kit With Instructions

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Tonight ABC television airs a special, ‘Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe’ that is being promoted as an exclusive look inside the world of Marvel Studios.

Marvel’s website succinctly describes the world premiere primetime event:

“Marvel Studios has pioneered and broken box-office records around the world, creating a cinematic universe unlike any other in pop culture history through its blockbuster films. Beginning with “Iron Man” in 2008 and continuing today through “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC and the theatrical release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” this April, the Marvel Cinematic Universe presents audiences with some of the most groundbreaking and dynamic storytelling that brings an unprecedented vision to the world of entertainment.

In this exclusive primetime documentary special, audiences will be taken further into the Marvel Cinematic Universe than ever before, offering viewers a front row seat to the inception of Marvel Studios, the record-breaking films, the cultural phenomenon, and further expansion of the universe by Marvel Television.

Marvel’s first television special documents the exciting story behind Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, featuring exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from all of the Marvel films, the Marvel One-Shots and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Viewers will walk a clear path through this amazing and nuanced universe, featuring sneak peeks at the future of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC, new footage from Marvel Studios’ upcoming theatrical releases, “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Guardians of The Galaxy,” and a sneak peek at the upcoming Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.'”

Curiously, they never mention the words “comics” or “comic books” once in their own promotion of this marketing extravaganza.


Fortunately early clips from the documentary shown on other sites quote Marvel Comics’ Editor-In-Chief, Axel Alonso saying,

“What Marvel Studios has done is very similar to what Marvel Comics did back in the day. They’ve built individual stories to stand on their own two feet, then they found a way to take those stories and weave them into a larger narrative.”

Thank you… I think.

Marvel Studios needs to pinch themselves, wake up and come to the stark (pun intended) realization that they are not creating anything. They are ADAPTING!

They are assembling this cinematic universe of theirs from a kit whose instructions were clearly established over a 73 year history by a ton of creative individuals whose professional careers were dedicated to making comic books!

Forget IRON MAN in 2008, let’s start with CAPTAIN AMERICA in 1941 and see where the Marvel Universe would be without their First Avenger that was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

That’s right, the same Jack Kirby whose name pops up when you also mention the creation of, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all of which  he collaborated on with some guy named Stan Lee throughout the 1960’s.

Stan Lee? Yeah, he was Editor-in-Cheif back in the day” and was probably the guy most responsible for finding a way to weave those stories into a “larger narrative” since he was sitting behind the big desk at the time, directing traffic and providing the final scripting on all of those comics.

Let’s not even get started on the Guardians of the Galaxy whose long list of creator contributors include the names of folks like Arnold Drake, Gene Colan, Steve Englehart, Steve Gan,  Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen just to name a few.

By the way, there is one Guardian that has been lurking around the Marvel Universe since 1960. Yup! Groot made his first appearance in TALES TO ASTONISH #13 and is credited to – guess who? Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby along with a fella named Dick Ayers who also contributed to the creation of Iron Man.

Don’t be surprised if that alien shown in the T.A.H.I.T.I. episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turns out to be Groot regenerating in that giant test tube. He is, after all, an alien plant species that was once held captive by S.H.I.E.L.D., became member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos and was later selected by the Kree to join the Guardians of the Galaxy to battle Ultron and the Phalanx where he sacrificed his life only to be brought back from the dead by Rocket Raccoon who managed to regrow him  by planting  one of his branches.

Nah!  That shit only happens in comic books.

Marvel Studios is working with a gold mine of material even after licensing out huge properties like Spider-man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four. Thanks to work-for-hire conditions in the comics industry the bulk of that material was produced for a  mere page rate and most of those creators that originally built that universe will never see a thin dime in royalties delivered to them or their heirs, especially not those of the late Jack Kirby whose creative genius is associated with most of this current crop of film and television that the Marvel Universe is built on.

Maybe, like Groot, there is hope that a seed, a branch or a twig could be planted and justice could grow from a bad deal that has been declared dead.

Remember, that without those comic books, none of these films and television shows will have ever existed and neither will have all the industry that is built around licensing and merchandising them, creating tons jobs that help support our economy.

What entertainment would we be enjoying this summer without Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the rest of those comic book creators?

Without them there is no Marvel Universe to assemble.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Mark Millar is Right!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Mark Millar’s assertion that a Justice League film is “an excellent way of losing $200 million” is dead-on but not for the reasons he stipulates.

The idea that the characters that comprise the membership of Justice League of America are outdated is insane. The core group of founding members of the JLA; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, are not only iconic characters, they have literally established and defined the entire superhero genre over their 75 year history.

Where the powers-that-be at DC and Warner continually fail and why a JLA film would tank is that, for some reason, these classic characters are considered by them as never good enough, never mature enough, never edgy enough. The properties are constantly the subject of reboots to make them more relevant, more gritty, more believable. In the process these characters have become unrecognizable to generations of fans that have an idealized passion for the originals.

Marketing geniuses that license the DC properties understand this passion and that is why classic images of these characters adorn every product imaginable from Converse sneakers to slip covers for car seats. You don’t see licensees rushing to conform to likenesses of these characters from DC’s New 52. Why? Because the reboots of these characters are a bastardization of the classics whose only purpose is to distance copyright and trademark enforcement from the original creators.

There is a reason that these characters have been around for as long as they have. Something about them has struck a deep cultural nerve that has allowed them to be ingrained into our society. They are beloved.

Leave them alone already!

I was watching a designer on the Rachel Ray show the other day who was expounding on the enduring virtues of classic design. Classics never go out of style. Update with accessories! This has been lost on DC.

Stan Lee has always said that a great character should be easily defined by a simple statement. The JLA lineup has that in spades to the point where just the name of each character defines most of them. These are the characters audiences want to see in a film not a convoluted mess like they saw in the film Green Lantern.

That movie should have been about a guy with a ring that gave him superpowers. Boom! Instead we had to suffer through the history of the Green Lantern Corps and be introduced to more characters than we were ready to digest. Seriously. I just wanted to see Green Lantern fight some bad guys and save the day with his bad-ass ring!

Marvel Entertainment gets this. They do a great job of embracing the original source material and simply defining their characters. Look at The Avengers. Iron Man – guy in a metal suit. Thor – god of thunder. Captain America – super soldier. Hulk…now there’s a study.

The Hulk was in two films that audiences could not embrace. Those films were too much about what made Bruce Banner tick. Inner conflicts. Fancy cinematography. CGI. They strayed away from what was simple yet great about the character: Make Hulk mad and Hulk will smash. Oh, and he’s green.

Director Josh Whedon understood this and gave us the Hulk that we saw in The Avengers. Suddenly the Hulk was a breakout character again. Hulk was there. Hulk got pissed. Hulk smashed. Ta-da! The audience ate it up.

The Avengers was brilliant in its simplicity regarding character development. Every character was easily defined, relying heavily on what people knew and expected from them, not from their previous individual movies as much as what we knew about them from their decades of existence in popular culture.

With The Avengers film, Marvel Entertainment had a plan to market each character through their own feature film then combine them as a super group in The Avengers capitalizing on the exact marketing strategy that Stan Lee exploited with the comic books featuring the same characters. Stan, ironically, borrowed this strategy from DC who’s success combining their own banner characters to form the JLA, in part, instigated the creation of The Fantastic Four, miraculously giving Marvel a new life.

DC would do well to reverse engineer this marketing plan by giving us a Justice League film that gives us highlights of the classic characters as we know and love them in a dynamite team adventure then spinning each character off into their own film after audiences have re-embraced the characters. This would work best if they were sure not to convolute the characters and dramatically depart from the institutions that they already are.

Good luck with that.

Maybe DC would be less likely to over think their characters if the film was titled Super Friends.

It may be that the only producers capable of making a profitable Justice League film are those in the porn industry. Those superheroes are always recognizable, even with their clothes off.

More on this rant next week.

Gerry Giovinco

Collusion Over Creator’s Rights?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe looks like an incredible read for any fan of comics. An excerpt from it that appears on Grantland certainly leaves your mouth watering for more.

I was hooked on every word especially since it dug into the skeleton filled closets of Marvel at a time when I was an avid fan of the House of Ideas. Though there is clearly tons of riveting kiss-and-tell moments, I was most taken by an account where Stan Lee and Carmine Infantino draft an agreement to share information regarding freelance rates to maintain some type of parity between Marvel and DC. Roy Thomas, Editor-In Chief of Marvel at the time considered the agreement collusion and was unwilling to enforce it. This drove him to resign referring to the agreement as “unethical, immoral, and quite possibly illegal.”

Bravo, Roy!


I began to wonder if this word could be the key to the emancipation of character rights back to their original creators.

The comics industry, according to Gerard Jones’ equally compelling book, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book has a sordid history steeped in mob ties and unethical decisions. Many publishers including Marvel/Timely were subsidiaries of other publishing groups and were often one of many comics publishers  commingling under the same umbrella.

It was not uncommon for competing publishers to have distribution agreements with each other. National Periodicals, the parent of DC Comics, for instance, distributed Marvel in the early sixties restricting them to just six regular publications.

All of the comics publishers, historically, convened to create the Comic Code Authority in an effort to save the industry from abolishment during the Kefauver, Senate subcommittee hearings motivated by Dr. Frederick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent.

The point being that comics publishers did talk and were known to conspire when it came to making money and self preservation.

Julius Schwartz, Martin Goodman

Stan Lee himself admits that the creation of the Fantastic Four was motivated by a discussion that Marvel publisher Martin Goodman had while golfing with DC editor-in-chief Julius Schwartz.

After reading that Stan Lee and Carmine Infantino were willing to conspire against creators to prevent a page rate war I had to wonder.

What is the possibility that work-for-hire and the practice of creators having no ownership in the rights of their creations was a mutually agreed upon and enforced system amongst conspiring publishers that was simply considered how things were done in comics?

If someone could prove that there was collusion regarding creators rights in those early days, would that deem the practice illegal, forcing the courts to readdress the copyright ownership of characters created under those pretenses?

I’m no lawyer and may be grasping at  straws, but it sure would be nice to see a practice that has proven to be, to use  Roy Thomas’ words,  “unethical and immoral” in the minds of fans and creators alike who feel that those who created the characters  that are now generating billions of dollars for the corporations that own them should receive at least some kind of residual compensation.

If you have a perspective on this, I’d love to hear it. If you are a lawyer, or investigative journalist, I hope you would sink your teeth in this. If you are one of those creators that feel screwed, cross your fingers!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Blame it on Stan Lee

Monday, June 11th, 2012

The subject of Creators’ Rights in Comics has been catapulted into the limelight in recent years with the sudden surge of blockbuster, comic related films taking in billions of dollars for the corporations that own the copyrights and trademarks while the creators or the estates of creators that conceived and created these gold mines,  struggle to get screen credit, let alone, some type of monetary compensation.

The current success of Marvel’s characters in all popular media has made Jack Kirby the posthumous poster child for numerous creators who are now victims of the comic industry’s tradition of work-for-hire agreements.

Stan Lee, Marvel’s long-time, imperial ambassador and co-creator on many of these characters, stands accused of benefitting enormous financial gain while failing to defend the rights of his various creative partners, most notably, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko who many contend deserve more than just art credit for their contribution to the actual creation of the characters that they are associated with.

Stan has and always will be, first and foremost, a company man having been brought into the business as a gopher at the ripe old age of 17 by his cousin-in-law, Martin Goodman, the publisher and former owner of Timely Comics. Timely evolved into Marvel under the stewardship of Stan who took over as editor, replacing Joe Simon who left Timely with Jack Kirby  in 1941. Nepotism goes a long way in comics and Stan Lee, since, has always been “taken care of” for his role as a stalwart, corporate soldier.

To be fair Stan Lee is  much more than the average, Marvel Monkey Boy. He is, unequivocally the Voice of Marvel Comics. The head cheerleader. The band leader of the Mighty Marvel Marching Society. Stan Lee, in many ways, has made himself into a Marvel character as epochal as any Spider-man, Avenger or X-Men. He has done so with a silver tongue, a witty pen, relentless salesmanship, unbridled enthusiasm, and a revisionist memory that defies the continuity strangled editorial policy of Marvel itself.

Stan Lee and his relationship to Marvel is his own greatest creation and he gets paid handsomely for it. Stan’s net worth is reportedly $200 million! This staggering figure infuriates co-creators and their heirs as well as comic fans focused on creators’ rights who all argue the unfairness that Stan Lee continues to acquire great wealth while his former collaborators are rewarded zilch. Most of them can’t even get a free ticket to see a movie featuring the character they created.

Is there, however, any evidence that Stan Lee is gaining that wealth from any type of royalty paid to him for his act of co-creating those characters either? If Stan got even a fraction of a cut from all the Marvel films and associated merchandise featuring a character that he is credited as a co-creator of , that $200 million would be a drop in the bucket.

Stan gets paid for being Stan the Man. Stan gets paid for being Executive Producer. Stan gets paid for his gratuitous cameos. Stan Lee has made himself famous. He is the Kardashians of the comics world and he is making himself rich, still, at 89 years old with the same vigor he had in 1961 when the Fantastic Four first hit the stands.

So why does Stan Lee catch so much heat when the subject of creator’s rights comes up if he is probably a victim of the same corporate greed, himself?

Well, it’s his own damn fault.

While Stan was creating a marketing atmosphere that sold Marvel to it’s readers as one big happy, zany Bullpen, he took it upon himself to make stars out of his creators by giving them credits with merry monikers that were intended to stick in the minds of the legion of fans that was growing faster than even he could have imagined.

As Marvel Mania grew, Stan boasted and told all. He was very open about who he collaborated with and happily shared the details of the now famous Marvel Method of creating comics. Not only did he talk; he wrote it down in his own words so that even if his memory would one day be awry, there would be a very clear paper trail.

In 1974 Stan Lee authored Origins of Marvel Comics followed the next year by Son of Origins of Marvel Comics. The success of these two books led to The Superhero Women and Bring on the Bad Guys. These books all detailed his perspective of his creative relationships with the artists in the Bullpen especially his dependancy on his numero uno illustrator, “Jolly” Jack Kirby.

Stan seemed to do all this with an intention of elevating the appreciation of comic creators with both the public and the industry. He assesses that the writing in comics prior to the inception of the Marvel style “…left just a little bit to be desired.”

To make his point he writes:

“Who were these people who actually created and produced America’s comic books? To answer that burning question we must be aware that comics have always been a high-volume low-profit-per-unit business. Which is a polite way of saying that they never paid very much to the writers or artists. If memory serves me (and why shouldn’t it?), I think I received about fifty cents per page for the first script I wrote in those early days. Comics have always been primarily a piecework business. You got paid by the page for what you wrote. the more pages you could grind out, the more money you made. The comic book writer had to be a comic-book freak, he had to be dedicated to comics; he certainly couldn’t be in it for the money. And unlike most other forms of writing, there were no royalty payments at the end of the road… no residuals…no copyright ownership. You wrote your pages, got your check, and that was that.”

We all know that Stan Lee values credits highly and was sure to plaster his own name on every Marvel comic. Stan Lee Presents and Stan’s Soap Box were as much of the part of the Marvel experience as anything else. His famed sign-off,“Excelsior!”, still brings a giddy rush to a generation of comic book fans. In an effort to instill some added pride to the work of the comic creators in the Bullpen, Stan began putting credits of all the creators in the comics Marvel produced.

“…I’ve frequently mentioned Jolly Jack Kirby as our most ubiquitous artist-in-residence. He wasn’t christened Jolly Jack –– sometimes he wasn’t even that jolly –– but I got a kick out of giving alternative nicknames to our genial little galaxy of superstars, mostly for the purpose of enabling our readers to remember who they were. You see, prior to the emergence of Marvel Comics, the artist and writers who produced the strips, as well as the editors, art directors, and letterers, were mostly unknown to the reader, who rarely if ever saw their names in print. In order to change that image and attempt to give a bit more glamour to our hitherto unpublicized creative caliphs, I resorted to every deviceI could think of –– and the nutty nicknames seemed to work.”

Joe Rosen

And it did work! Joe Rosen, a letterer in those days said in COMICS INTERVIEW #7, “That’s why I admire Marvel. By instituting credits, they made you feel prouder of your work. And by being so successful they revamped the industry and launched so many titles that they made it possible to have a professional career.”

Stan knew that to be successful you have to make those around you successful. He did this by giving credit and creating work. Most of which went to Jack Kirby.

Throughout the Origins series and, actually, most of his career, Stan always spoke very highly of Jack Kirby and his creative contributions. Some of those very telling remarks have been posted on the Kirby Museum website in Robert Steibel’s Kirby Dynamics but I have to refer to a quote in Son of Origins where Stan Lee completely asserts Jack Kirby’s role:

“Jack was (and still is)* to superheroes what Kellog’s is to corn flakes. When such fabulous features as The Fantastic four, the Mighty Thor, and The Incredible Hulk were just a-borning, it was good ol’ Jackson with whom I huddled, harangued, and hassled until the characters were designed, the plots were delineated, and the layouts were delivered so that I could add the little dialogue balloons and captions with which I’ve spent a lifetime cluttering up the illustrations of countless long-suffering artists.”

(*This was written during a period when Jack Kirby had left Marvel and gone to DC, unhappy because he was not being paid for what he considered “writing” at Marvel according to Carmine Infantino in his autobiography The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino. Kirby no longer wanted to be “second fiddle” and even declined an opportunity to collaborate with Joe Simon for the same reason though the pair did do a single issue of Sandman together.)

Stan recognized that his greatest resource was his talent pool and, short of finding ways to give them ownership in their creations, he looked for other ways to keep them happy. Stan was even the first president of The Academy of Comic Book Arts that he started with Neal Adams. The ACBA was to be the start of a comic creator’s union of sorts but did not last long.

Stan Lee has been in the comic book business for seventy-three years, probably longer than anyone else alive. He has done more for crediting comic creators than any editor who had gone before him, revealing his greatest sin. With his eye focused on glamour and recognition he failed to affect righteous residual compensation for the efforts of Marvel’s comic creators. His compliance with the business tradition that he himself recognized as insufficient destined generations of creators to teeter on poverty while their creations reaped gold for Marvel.

The victims of this industry-wide practice blanket the entire comics landscape, some tragically. Most recently Robert L. Washington III co-author of Static which is currently owned by DC Comics died of a heart attack in abject poverty at the age of 47. His contribution to the Heroes Initiative is a heart wrenching window into the reality of too many comic creators.

Stan, we love you man, but we need you now, more than ever, to stand up for comic creators or you will be always be cursed with the blame for Marvel cheating the same creators that you personally paraded as stars. You can still make a difference. It’s time to put an end to an archaic, unjust work-for-hire practice that keeps talented people impoverished while a soulless corporation bloats over the spoils of their creative efforts.

You have stood at the helm of a company that has created heroes your entire life. Be a hero to those that depended on you the most, the ones that helped you build that fabled “House of Ideas.”

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

As an added Bonus here’s a link to Neal Kirby’s FATHER’S DAY tribute to his dad that ran on this site last year.

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