Posts Tagged ‘First Comics’

Heroes go to Comic Book Heaven

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015



This Friday, August 28, 2015 we celebrate what would have been Jack Kirby’s 98th birthday. Many of us will do so by following the lead of his granddaughter, Jillian Kirby. Her campaign Kirby4Heroes has, for the last three years raised thousands of dollars for the Hero Initiative in the name of her grandfather and helps to support comic creators that have fallen on difficult times either financially, medically or both. A complete up-to-date history of the Kirby4Heroes campaign as delivered by Jillian can be read here: Kirby4Heroes History Update.

The word, hero, is not used lightly in the names of either endeavor. It may be a misconception that it refers to the heroes created by the many people that have brought them to us in comic books over the years. It is, however, those talented men and women that we honor. They have been the ones with the imaginative dreams that until recently, could only be rendered in comic books  They were the ones that inspired us with their creations. They were the heroes that taught us what a superhero should and could be.

I imagine that there is a place in Heaven where comic creators go when they die. I’m sure it is off in a corner  where the cacophony of yet to be told adventures will continue to blare like a cosmic storm from their brilliant spirits.  Jack Kirby is there greeting each new soul. He  the size of Galactus, for he is the industry giant that inspired the most. Before him are the Immortals.  Not the characters that Jack created, but a different kind of hero. Creators that left us a comic book legacy that they will live through forever. Too many of them have already gone to this ink pot in the sky but Its doors remain wide open anticipating many more thanks to all the new talent the Immortals have inspired.

batgirl_yvonne_craigThis week two more of our heroes crossed through those pearly gates radiant with Kirby Krackle. First Comics co-founder and publisher, Rick Obadiah who so amiably led the charge of the first wave of independent comic publishers in the 1980’s and the dynamic actress Yvonne Craig who portrayed the original Batgirl,  inspiring more young women to want to don a cape than probably any comic book could have. Both of their contributions to popular culture and especially comic books are immeasurable. They will be missed but are assuredly reuniting with old friends in Comic Book Heaven. I hope they say, “Happy Birthday,“ to Jack, from all of us.

Don’t for get to honor Jack and the rest of these heroic creators on Jack’s birthday by contributing to the Kirby4Heroes campaign. Give your support today.

Gerry Giovinco

The Alternate Reality of Dark Horse Comics

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Mike Richardson, the publisher of Dark Horse Comics made it very clear that winners do attempt to rewrite the history books, creating an alternate reality that would make any comic universe proud when he made this statement:

“I don’t know if anyone understands today that we spearheaded the creator-owned movement. Image was years away, and any kind of company that offered those rights and those freedoms hadn’t happened yet. We spearheaded that, and I think that fact has been lost over the years.”

Mike Richardson

People that know anything about creator owned comics and especially those that actually care about creator owned comics definitely do NOT understand the point that Mr. Richardson is attempting to make because it is a complete fantasy with no basis in historic reality, whatsoever.

Dark Horse does not even have the longest history of publishing creator owned works of current comics publishing companies. Hell, even Marvel and DC were writing creator owned contracts and offering royalties to creators before Dark Horse even opened its doors! The Big Two had to in response to a gang of Independent publishers that were successfully producing creator owned comics that posed a significant threat to their market share while siphoning away top talent.

Creator ownership is a simple concept. You create it, you own it and that is how copyright law works. Since 1976 the creator owns the work from the instant it is created wether it is filed and registered or not. This excludes, however anything created work for hire in which case it belongs to the company that commissioned the work on their behalf. If you open a comic book or any other work and it says “© Joe/Jane Creator” it is creator owned.

What you do with your creation after you create it is a different story. In the comics industry it was common practice for a creator to sell the entire rights of their creation to a publishing house. This was usually done in the hopes of getting steady work and in the case of some of the more savvy creators a small stake in royalties. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to Superman for $130 while Bob Kane, reportedly, always held some small stake in Batman.

This practice of buying properties outright was unlike typical book publishing where authors retained their copyright and were paid an advance by publishers for the rights to publish their work then paid royalties on each book sold. This publisher/creator  relationship would endure for a specified term outlined in an agreement which would also include termination clauses and opportunities for revision of rights to the creator.

So this concept of creator ownership has never been anything new, it was just outside of the business tradition that had been established by comic companies who argued that the low price of comic books made them such a low yield product royalties would be negligible.

A quick history lesson for Mr. Richardson since he obviously missed it:

It was the Underground Comix movement in the ’60s and ’70’s that proved that creators could self publish and develop markets to sell their material in. If anybody spearheaded creator owned comics it was this group.

Just a few Creator Owned comics published before Dark Horse existed

When the Direct Market was created by Phil Seuling in 1972 he created a distribution system that was user friendly for creator owned comics. Bud Plant’s Comics & Comix published some early creator owned comics like The First Kingdom by Jack Katz which began in 1974 the same year that Mike Friedrich began publishing Star*Reach. Mike was a huge advocate of creator ownership and represented a number of great comic talents as their agent. By 1977 Heavy Metal hit the racks with creator owned material while Aardvark Vanaheim and WaRP Graphics were self publishing Cerebus and Elfquest respectively. Dean Mullaney formed Eclipse in 1978 and we witnessed the first defectors from Marvel when Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy create Sabre which was also one of the first graphic novels.

Just a few publishers of Creator Owned Comics

The floodgates opened in the 1980’s and a strong wave of publishers all with creator owned contracts poured on the scene, Pacific, First, Comico, Capital, Aircel, Vortex, Fantagraphics, Continuity, Mirage and others all produced creator owned projects well before Dark Horse showed up.

These publishers refined the model that Dark Horse adopted. ADOPTED! Dark Horse may have spearheaded survival in the volatile comics market that sank most of those early publishers by the middle of the ’90s but they certainly did not spearhead the concept of creator ownership.

Each of the publishers had their own way of exploring the terms of the contract with creators. I can only speak for what we did at Comico and we were always proud of how creator friendly and generous our contracts were. Comico paid full page rates that were comparable to those paid by Marvel and DC. In those days that averaged about $200 a page for writing, pencils, inks, lettering and coloring. We paid royalties after each issue broke even which was roughly after 30,000 were sold at which point we split the net 50/50! In those days it was not uncommon for an issue to sell between 60,000-100,000 copies so creators did quite well and they completely owned their property.

I have always been impressed with Dark Horse. They became the company that Comico was always intended to be. Comico discovered new talent,  worked with established pros,  had success with licensed properties and was highly innovative and focused on quality, but  unfortunately made mistakes that led to the company’s failure. When I look at the success of Dark Horse I see confirmation that Comico had many of the right ideas as did most of those early independents that made for one of the most exciting eras of comics history.

It is an insult to see those accomplishments dismissed by a respected guy like Mike Richardson who obviously did his homework but rather than give credit where it is due, chooses to rewrite history to benefit his latest marketing plan.

He is not alone, Image shares the same glory complex, as if they were the first Independents, the first pros to walk away from Marvel and DC but they never would have had the chance if it were not for a host of others that did it over a decade earlier and built a viable market for them to succeed in.

Acknowledging history goes a long way towards gaining the respect you desire. Why waste energy and goodwill fabricating history when you should be focused on making and celebrating your own.

Out of respect I did leave a voicemail for Mike Richardson with his administrative assistant, hoping to get a better insight to why he believes his position but as of this writing the call has not been returned. I guess it got lost in the alternate reality of Dark Horse Comics where the accomplishments of true pioneers no longer exist.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

CO2 Comics Features Short Stories by John Workman

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

John Workman could not have a more suitable surname when it comes to making comics. He has done it all and for almost everybody. One healthy read of John’s Wikipedia bio and it is clear that his influence on comics is vast. Clearly he is an unsung hero of the comics industry, in part, because much of what he has done has been behind the scenes as an Art Director or in the production room.

Make no mistake about it, Workman is a Jack of all Trades when it comes to making comics. He has worn so many hats in his long career that it is hard to tag him with any single title. Writer, Penciler, Inker, Letterer, Colorist, Designer, Art Director, and Publisher are all roles that he has claimed professionally since he began in comics, working on fanzines as early as 1967.

Since then, John has left his indelible imprint throughout the industry, having worked for Archie Comics, Star*Reach, DC Comics, Heavy Metal, First Comics, Marvel Comics, Topps Comics, Image Comics, National Lampoon, Playboy Hamilton Publishing, Two Morrows, and Dark Horse. Unbelievably the list does not stop there and happily continues as CO2 Comics announces the presentation of two short stories by John Workman, “The Gold Mask” and “Revenge.”

The Gold Mask is a concept that had been percolating in Workman’s mind for years before realizing itself as an overview of much of his career’s work serving as an introduction to readers unfamiliar with his creative impact on Star*Reach and Heavy Metal.

John hopes the that the story would  be a sort of “visual encouragement” to those comic creators who are walking the same road that he had travelled in creating comics material and presenting it to the public.

Revenge,” also a brief study in the power the comics medium, has an interesting back story:

According to John, “the work began as one of the “June 2050″ stories in Heavy Metal. Dick Giordano had missed his deadline on the story that he and Jack Harris were doing, so… knowing that we needed to fill that page… I went home and wrote, pencilled, lettered, and inked this story and brought it in to the HM offices the next day. John Lennon had just been killed, and I used this as an opportunity to say something about his death. It was also a way of telling a somewhat complicated story by way of the comics form, a story that would be different if done in any other medium.”

comics_interview_vol_2Bill Cucinotta and Gerry Giovinco, publishers at CO2 Comics could not be happier than to have the opportunity to present these two short pieces by John Workman. John’s early work at Star*Reach and Heavy Metal were significant influences,  inspiring them to maintain a broader vision regarding quality, variety of subject matter and creators rights when they began publishing as Comico in the early 1980’s. That  vision that continues today with their new venture CO2 Comics that features serialized web comics, publishes, in book form, graphic novels and an eleven volume set of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW the Complete Collection.

An interview with John Workman appears in the first volume of the COMICS INTERVIEW collection and highlights John’s pet peeve regarding the number of people involved in creating a page of comics. Workman prefers to do it all himself but he is ready to jump in a moments notice to take on any creative responsibility with the utmost ability.

It is that sensibility that proves, though may take many to create great comics, there is only one John Workman and now you can read his great short stories at CO2 Comics.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Bigger is Better!

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Anyone who has been following The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese by Don Lomax as it progresses weekly here at CO2 Comics knows that BIGGER is better!

Don’s morbidly obese super hero packs a BIG punch when he is wearing that Ring of Rings and is hell-bent on protecting his lovely, elfin sweetie, Oshna! The fact that he is fat just means that the rotund hero has more weight to throw around. Bad guys beware!

The adventure is BIG too! Captain Obese dukes it out with common thugs, the police, Neo-Nazis, the Vigog Dragon, hordes of Swamp-Nads, Mud-Hole Maggot Suckers, a New Jersey biker gang and, worst of all, Oshna’s  daddy!

DON LOMAX, photo credit The Register-Mail, Nick Adams, Associated Press

Captain Obese creator Don Lomax is a BIG talent in comics and has enjoyed a career that has lasted over thirty years. Don, whose first professional comic work was Atilla the Frog for Heavy Metal in 1979 has been a journeyman as a comic creator with work appearing in a long list of publications for such publishers as Pacific, First, Fantagraphics, Warp Graphics, Apple Comics, Dark Horse, Marvel, DC and Transfuzion Publishing. Don has also done an enormous amount of comics for adult magazines, as well as strips for specialized markets about truckers, cars, law enforcement, and model railroading!

Check out Vietnam Journal

Don once told me he just has a BIG need to make comics. Ever since he was a young boy reading EC Comics in bed at night, thrilling his desire to be frightened, he knew he wanted to create comics. Don says that he has to draw comics, it is just his nature. He managed to sketch his way through his tour of duty in Vietnam back in the late sixties and it was those images that he brought back that ultimately led to his most celebrated work, Harvey Award nominated Vietnam Journal.

We couldn’t be happier working with a creator like Don Lomax who has comics just running through his veins. That’s why The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese fit into our BIG publishing plans so well.

Captain Obese NOW AVAILABLE!

When it came time to produce our first CO2 Comics graphic albums, there was no doubt that  The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese by Don Lomax would be part of our BIG release that included Heaven and the Dead City by Raine Szramski and Ménage à Bughouse by Steve Lafler.

If you are one of the lucky ones that have already purchased any one or more of these graphic spectacles you can attest to the BIG decisions that we made as publishers. Take note that we refer to the products as graphic albums rather than the, now, popularly accepted term of graphic novel. This is in part homage to the late great comic creator and illustrator Jean Giraud better known as Moebius who played a major role in ushering beautifully packaged, perfect bound comics from Europe to America.

These books were referred to as graphic albums and had a BIG impact on us regarding the potential of publishing comics. The paper was better, the color was more brilliant and the art was BIGGER. Compared to traditional comic book size of 6.625″  x 10 .25″  the  8.5″ x 11″  format  somehow seemed to be more respectful of the art, allowing it to breathe, giving the reader an opportunity to enjoy it more.

Comico Graphic Novels

We chose this size when we produced our graphic novels as publishers of  COMICO the Comic Company as well. GINGER FOX by Mike Baron and Mitch O’Connell,  GRENDEL, DEVIL BY THE DEED by Matt Wagner and Rich Rankin, NIGHT AND THE ENEMY by Harlan Ellison and Ken SteacyRIO by the legendary Doug Wildey and ROBOTECH by Mike Baron, Neil Vokes and Ken Steacy, all had the benefit of this BIGGER format.

CO2 Comics Graphic Albums NOW AVAILABLE!

The term graphic album seems to fit our CO2 Comics publications better as they are each collections of the works. In the case of Heaven and the Dead City it is a newly developed work by Raine Szramski that unfolds weekly unveiling each new chapter over a period of time. Ménage à Bughouse is a collection of three previously published graphic novels by Steve Lafler that is also experiencing a weekly posting of its content on our collective site.  The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese by Don Lomax is a collection as well of chapters that were previously published as back-ups by Warp Graphics in the 1980’s and is also experiencing weekly serialization on the web here at CO2 Comics.

Now that we are all in agreement that BIGGER is better it is a good time to point out that this is only the beginning. We have just published our first graphic albums under the CO2 Comics imprint and have BIG plans for more in the future. CO2 Comics has planted a seed that we expect to grow into something big that all comic fans will enjoy.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

Stop the Presses: Part 4

Monday, April 9th, 2012

I recently acquired a DC Comics Production Handbook that was produced in 1989. It was quite clear from the contents that the industry then was clearly moving away from newsprint and focusing on the finer production qualities of better paper stock that we are now used to.  Some explanations in the handbook contradicted information that I posted in Stop the Presses Part 3 and, being that I am always happy to stand corrected, I am sharing these new insights.

As mentioned in Part 3, World Color Press’s Sparta plant played a dominant role in comic book production from the 1940’s to the 1990’s but, though I credited this to their use of the  web offset press, the DC Handbook claims that all the Sparta newsprint comics were printed on letterpress which used plastic coated plates to press ink onto the absorbent stock. The letterpresses at Sparta could print two 32-page comic books at a time and would produce up to 15,000 copies of each interior an hour.

By the late 1980’s, DC Comics, along with every other comic publisher at the time, were exploring other printers who were producing comics on better paper stock allowing for greater color capabilities. DC used the offset presses at Ronald’s Printing out of Canada.  The manual sites that Ronald’s M1000-B offset press could produce 60,000 16-page sections (signatures) an hour which according to my math is the same speed as the letterpress.  (1 32-page book = 2 16-page signatures X 2 books = 4 16 page signatures. 4 signatures times 15,000 = 60,000 signatures an hour. No?)

According to the manual color adjustments on the offset press had to be done while the press was running  and could waste as many as 10,000 copies before a proof was okayed. Sheet fed letterpresses stop while color adjustments are made and waste far less paper.

The 1989 manual also makes a startling claim that, with all factors involved, they could not make any money on a comic book selling less than 20,000 copies! There seems to be a lot of titles below this number on current sales charts, so either production costs have dropped or the higher prices of today’s comics can support this decline in figures. I’m sure it’s not because DC likes losing money.

The DC Comics Production Handbook went into a lot of other now obsolete but fondly remembered production techniques such as color separations, blue boards, coding for flat color, photostats and even pasting up word balloons. The Digital Age of art production has changed all of those things and the comics industry got its initial taste of that with First Comics‘ 1985 publication of the all digitally produced comic book SHATTER by Peter B. Gillis and Mike Saenz.

Nearly thirty years later coloring, lettering, and even artwork is being done digitally. This is true of printing as well. Though digital printing may not be the cheapest way to print it is giving many publishers an opportunity to be able to publish in very small print runs because of the lack of set up costs. Previously much of the initial cost in printing was tied up in the production costs of films and plates requiring minimum runs in the tens of thousands before a comic could recover those costs. Now it is possible to print just one copy of a comic book and, though the unit cost is much higher than a comic printed on an offset press, there is no need to have a warehouse of unsold comics to meet the limited demand of a niche product.

Print on Demand (POD) providers have created an opportunity for independent publishers to create beautiful editions of their publications in nearly every format imaginable. Creators and publishers just need to upload digitally formatted content to the POD providers site, usually at no cost, and order a printed proof that generally takes no more than two weeks to arrive. Once the proof is reviewed and and any changes made the books can be made available for sale or ordered in quantity for distribution.

David Anthony Kraft's COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Volume 2

CO2 Comics has taken advantage of this POD production process and has been able to produce the beautiful 640-page David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW the Complete Collection Volume One of this eleven volume project has already been made available and Volume Two is currently in production. Other new print projects will be announce very shortly so please stay tuned for the exciting news HOT OFF THE PRESS!

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

R.I.P Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Steve Jobs’ passing was no surprise. His failed health had been quite public and his recent resignation as CEO of Apple was a clear sign. The dignity with which he handled his final days in public is as much an inspiration as his life and the impact his vision has had on the world.

It is hard, now, to imagine a day without some technological influence that Steve Jobs and the company he stewarded did not have some impact on. As a comic creator, I can tell you that the course of the entire comics medium has been redirected, in large part due to innovations derived from Apple.

There certainly were computers before Steve Jobs and Apple came on the scene. In 1974, when I was in 8th grade at Saint Titus in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, I had access to an already obsolete computer that had been used for actual Apollo moon missions. It was a clunky machine that had to be programmed with binary punch cards and its output seemed no more sophisticated to me than that of the newly released Mini Bomar that launched a frenzy of low cost handheld calculators on the world.

Learning to program that two digit dinosaur was a real trial and to this day the words of my Math teacher, Rev. Joseph Oechsle, ring in my ears, “Trash in, trash out!” The lesson was that computer was only as good as the person programming it.

Vintage home computing

A few years later I would sell computers meant for the home as part of my job working in the electronic appliance department at K-Mart where I tried making some extra cash while we struggled to build our fledgling comic company, Comico. I sold machines like the Texas Instrument TI-99/4A, the Commodore VIC-20 and the Commodore 64. These computers saved data on audio cassette tapes and sophisticated gaming was PONG.

By that point in my life I had no interest in computers. I  was totally focused on comics and the ugly pixelated images and type that these computers could barely generate were of no use to me and my aspirations to be a comic artist and publisher. I was blind to their potential.

This all seemed to change in 1984 when the hammer was launched into a giant screen during Apple’s first and most memorable Super Bowl commercial. Not only did it change the impact that Super Bowl commercials had–it changed the way the world would look at personal computers. It also introduced Graphic User Interface (GUI) which put icons on our desktop suddenly making computers much more intuitive and useable to the general public.

We had one of those Macs at Comico when it first came out and immediately we used it to generate all of the type that we used for our letters pages, graphics and editorial columns. Between the Mac and our photocopier we had practically eliminated our dependancy on our local typesetter and the graphics house where we had most of our photostats done. This transition to a variation of desktop publishing ended up saving us us a ton of money.

In 1985 First Comics published Shatter by Peter B. Gillis and Mike Saenz. This was the first all-digital comic commercially published. It was created on a Mac exactly like the one that sat in our office at Comico.

Digital comics have come a long way since Shatter. Where Shatter’s pixelated digital imagery made it obvious that it was generated on a computer and was in fact a badge of honor for its accomplishment, today it is nearly impossible to tell which comics are drawn by hand on paper and which are generated completely digitally.

Michael Saenz interview from Comics Interview #21, © Fictioneer Books

Steve Jobs recognized the power of digital art which was evident when he bought Pixar from Lucasfilm in 1986. Under his guidance Pixar changed how animation was created and delighted the world with Toy Story in 1995 followed by a long list of incredible 3D CGI films that set new standards not for just animation but entertainment in general

3D CGI has had its affect on comics. Many creators use it to create their comics entirely, others use it as a form of reference for everything from anatomy to architecture.

The biggest impact that Steve Jobs has had on comics in my opinion, however, has been in the area of web comics which would not have ever been possible without the advent of the personal computer. Since the turn of the century (boy that sounds weird!) digital comics have been proliferating on the internet at a rapid pace. Almost anyone with a computer, a scanner, and internet service can now publish comics on the web.

Thanks to the personal computer there has never been more diversified work available in the comics medium. We take full advantage of that here at CO2 Comics. The computer and the internet have given Bill Cucinotta and me a chance to publish comics again and to reach an audience that before was never possible.

Distribution of comics is also changing thanks to Mr. Jobs and company. Just as Apple redefined how music was heard around the world with the 2001 introduction of the iPod and iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad are quickly becoming the place where people read their comics with apps purchased through the App Store. These of course are not the only options for digital comic distribution, but as with the introduction of GUI and the Macintosh personal computer, Apple seems to always be the innovator of record.

Maybe I’m biased. This blog is spat out of my dependable iMac every week and Bill does all the designing on his. We’ve both done our fair share of work on other PC’s but it is our Macs that have always been the faithful workhorse. This is a certain to me as the notion that the future of comics is brighter and more diverse now than ever dreamed possible thanks in large part to innovations set forth by Steve Jobs and Apple.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs but expect your legacy to survive for a long, long time. You made a difference in the world and it will always be remembered. Thank you for making a difference in the world of comics, wether you intended to or not. The art of making comics is far richer thanks to your innovation and inspiration.

Making Comics Because I 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

The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 2

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The Gray-Line System that I described in last week’s blog helped us to achieve a look that we had always hoped for our comics when we first considered evolving to color.

The fact that most of the alternative independent publishers were taking advantage of the ability to print processed full-color images on the better, whiter paper was not our inspiration or motivation at Comico.

Captain Canuck by Comely Comix

Long before we had even printed our first book we had already fallen in love with how the color appeared in Captain Canuck comics published by Comely Comix and illustrated by George Freeman. The soft processed color printed on newsprint had a quality that was unique compared to the limited 65-color palette of traditional flat-color comic books.

We were not interested in the slick color of the glossy new comics and we definitely did not care for the glare that shown off the pages of the glossy paper stock.

Mage By Matt Wagner


Our preference for the more muted color production was evidenced in the fist two issues of Matt Wagner’s Mage.

Matt, who had attended college with Bill and me at the Philadelphia College of Art, had been involved in many discussions concerning how we all thought color in comics should look. We were all on the same page when we made the decision to print Mage on a high-grade newsprint. Mage was a more urban setting and was supported by the grittier look of the newsprint. Besides, we wanted it to look like Captain Canuck.

Evangeline by Chuck Dixon & Judith Hunt


Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt’s Evangeline was a different story. We could see how the finer line quality and more delicate colors would be better served on a whiter stock and though we were reluctant to go to a fully bleached stock we upgraded to a Mando stock which had a creamy quality to it and did not suffer from the glare issue that the more machined paper stocks offered.

Our early color books were printed in Florida at the same press that was printing Bill Black’s Americomics line but we quickly switched over to Sleepeck in Dixon, IL so that we would have more centralized shipping and warehousing of our runs. Once at Sleepeck we decided that our standard comic line, including Mage, would all be printed on the Mando stock.

Wheatly & Hemple's Mars

Around this time we were also introduced to a new coloring system. Mark Wheatly from Insight Studios was producing Mars with Marc Hemple for First Comics. He had told me about a guideline system he was using that employed the use of chemicals from a Fluorographics Services kit. A brief description of how the system works can be seen here.

This system was very similar to the gray-line system in that you had to produce a positive transparency of the line art. The grey line required a negative to produce the grey guide-line on the layer to be painted. The Fluorographics system let you use the film positive to create the non-repo blue guide which eliminated an extra step and expense. You could coat any paper stock you wanted with the chemicals allowing you to paint much more naturally than on the polymer based photo paper of the gray-line.

Blue-Line instruction from The Illustrator's Bible By Rob Howard

Note that though the color was considered non-repo blue this was only effective when shooting in black-and-white. The blue line did appear in the color separations for full-color.

Initially we would coat a paper stock with the sensitizer, place the film positive on top then cover it with a plate of glass to keep it flat then take it outside to expose it to the sun then run in and develop the image. It didn’t take too many rainy days to convince us to purchase a UV sun lamp so that we could do all of this inside and avoid blowing deadlines.

The only problem with this system was that the paper stock was less stable than the photo paper and would shrink when the paint dried, often distorting the registration.

Matt solved the problem by using pre-stretched watercolor blocks of paper that were sealed on all four sides keeping the top layer “stretched” until it was dried and removed. Matt would buy large enough paper so that four pages could be exposed at once. He usually had two blocks set up so that while one block dried, he could be working on the other.

This new blue-line system was a home run but it was not going to help us with our next two projects.

Elementals & Macross Covers

We knew that when we signed on to publish Bill Willingham’s Elementals that we were going to want it to be more like traditional flat-color superhero comics. Down the line would also be a little project called Macross that would press all of our expectations for color in comics. We still had a lot to learn.

To be continued…

Gerry Giovinco

Making comics because I want to!

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 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.


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

The Gutter | CO2 Comics forecasts a lot of Raine this summer

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Raine Szramski, that is.

Raine is a fine illustrator that dazzles with fantasy paintings executed in gouache, the medium of choice for many of the greatest illustrators in history. Raine’s use of this opaque and often overlooked form of watercolor creates a brilliant world of the fantastic, filled with fairies, heroes, maidens and villains that are rendered with an angelic luster that can only be executed by a master artist who has discovered a creative niche that is personal and unique.

Paintings by Raine Szramski

Raine Szramski may seem like a new name on the comic scene but in truth, she has made the journey and paid the dues that entitle her to as a veteran. Raine’s credits include Child’s Play the Series, and Scaramouch for Innovation, DC Comics’ Who’s Who, First’s Comics adaption of the television series Beauty and the Beast which featured Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlma and work for other indy publishers like Opposite Numbers and Comics Zone.

Raine's Comic Work

Besides her comic work, Raine has illustrated for children’s books, magazines and corporate clients like Pez Candy and Borders Book Stores.

Despite her work for others Raine finds time to continue to paint for herself and has many images available to view on DeviantArt also for purchase on ImageKind and Cafe Press.

Now she brings her unique blend of llustration, storytelling, and romance of fantasy to the web pages of CO2 Comics where she will introduce Heaven and the Dead City which has never been published anywhere before.

Heaven And The Dead City

Raine spoils us with lush cover art vibrant with an eery quality that haunts and invites readers as it opens a portal to a tale rendered in myriad tones of black and white that lend to the compilation of a graphic novel that will belong on the shelf of lovers of comics, fantasy, mystery and romance.

With over seventy pages in various stages of completion and more on the fire, there will be plenty of reason for readers to return to CO2 Comics to support and follow the development of something special.

So get your Raine gear out. Bookmark Heaven and the Dead City in your favorites, brew some hot tea, and enjoy!

Gerry Giovinco

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