Posts Tagged ‘Free Comics’

Independents Day

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Hoist the flag! Fire up the grill! Shoot off the fireworks! Americans love the Fourth of July and go to great measures to celebrate because it represents the one thing we all hold dear. Freedom!

We take freedom for granted too often. It takes harsh reminders, like spotting a limbless veteran saluting the flag as tears of pride well in their eyes at a small town parade, to remind us that the freedoms we enjoy continue to require great sacrifice and diligence.

Everyone wants to be free to be able to live their life as they choose, to express themselves and not be oppressed. It does not matter who you are. Freedom is an inalienable right.

Comics have been at the forefront of the battle for freedom since Benjamin Franklin published the first known editorial cartoon in America.  “Join, or Die” appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. The simple language of comics that combines words and pictures to communicate reaches broad audiences and has been used extensively as a tool of propaganda and information promoting freedom since its inception.

It is ironic, however,  that the comic book industry has been the source of some of the most oppressive employment policies, corporate greed and censorship. One symbol stands out as an identifier of all that is bad about the industry. The stamp of approval from the Comics Code Authority. This stamp seems innocent enough and is a nostalgic reminder of the exciting comics of the Silver and Bronze Age, but if a comic bore it on its cover you know that creators had no ownership in their work, unscrupulous work for hire commitments were in place,  every panel was scrutinized by a censorship board and distribution was controlled.

Rebels of the traditional comics publishing system were easily spotted. Their comics had no stamp or, in some cases, one that mocked the Authority itself. They were the Underground Comics of the 1970′s and they lit a fire that showed future comic publishers that it was time to stand up and be liberated.

Fueled further by the struggles of writers and artists over creators rights and the development of the Direct Market a new wave of alternative comic publishers emerged, most with new and liberal views regarding creator ownership and all enjoying the freedom from the constraints of the Comic Code Authority.

These publishers became known as Independents and they redirected the course of the entire comics medium, opening the door for more mature content and variety of genre that had been missing in the industry for decades. Readers saw comics grow up. What they didn’t see was the stamp of the Comics Code Authority in the upper right-hand corner of the comic books.

The Independents fought and continue to fight the good fight, but not without casualty. Nearly all of those early Independent publishing houses are gone including Comico, the comic company that I co-founded along with Bill Cucinotta and other partners in 1982.

New Independents now carry the mantle and the fight goes on.

Bill and I have retrenched and formed CO2 Comics four years ago. It is a new type of comic company that continues to explore the boundaries of independence as a comic publisher. We publish comics on the internet, free to a massive, global audience. We work in cooperation with comic creators to create a mutual positive experience for all involved.

Most importantly we produce comic books in print with more freedom than we ever would have thought possible thirty years ago when we first began publishing.  Last year we celebrated as Independents by declaring The Power of Three. by releasing our first three graphic novels under the CO2 Comics imprint, Heaven and the Dead City, The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese! and Ménage à Bughouse.

This year we have more in store. More great product with our own Independent stamp of approval. We are excited, but our version of Independents Day is still over a week away so we plan to build to a great finale like any good Fourth of July display of fireworks.

Join the excitement! Follow the blog, follow us on Facebook, and on Twitter. We’ll be hinting at our next three publications and expecting your stamp of approval when we finally release their availability live for all to enjoy!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Betrayed

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Has the comic book been betrayed by the Earth’s mightiest heroes? It’s a sad question to pose after probably the most geek filled comic book extravaganza the world has ever seen with the opening of The Avengers movie and Free Comic Book Day all happening in the same weekend. Comic book fans worldwide have been celebrating universally like never before, gathering at the multiplex and local comic shops in droves, dressed in their favorite comic book swag and costumes.

Free Comic Book Day itself has become a huge annual event, now in its tenth year it attracts over a million people to comic shops more than double the number from just five years ago. Comic fans and potential comic readers can’t resist the offer of free comics and continue to make this promotion a growing tradition. This is a good opportunity to point out that comics here at CO2 Comics are free to read EVERY day so if you are sill wallowing in all the free comics you acquired this weekend, just remember the buzz does not have to wear off!

Marvel Entertainment could not have picked a better weekend to launch The Avengers movie, especially with all the comic book love in the air generated by Free Comic Book Day. The Avengers could have been released in the dead of winter and still been a mega hit. A bona fide blockbuster, The Avengers will be the Titanic of all superhero movies and may even give that sunken barge a run for its money. Though I might be giving them too much credit for something that could have been a wonderful coincidence, it was sure nice of Marvel to remember its roots and tie into the comic fans’ big day and make it tremendously more special before they throw them to the curb.

I know I sound like an insufferable old bore but as much as I love super heroes, I realize that I loved the medium of comics even more. For me, comics are a  visual medium of incredible creative freedom and opportunity. It is one of the few mediums where the reader can relate directly to the literal and visual expression of a lone creator without the influence of  a long list of production personnel, editors, actors, etc. Comic books, graphic novels, comic strips, all mean a lot to me just for this reason and I would love for more people to be aware of these wonders of the medium. I would love to see comics everywhere, read by everyone.

So why wouldn’t I expect this Avengers movie to be a huge vehicle to promote comics? Isn’t Marvel in the business of selling comics? Surely they would seize the moment. Right?

Nope.

I was just in my local Walmart, you know, America’s Store. It’s being reconfigured, fittingly for this blog post, into a Super Walmart and right in the middle of the store is a huge cardboard Marvel kiosk featuring Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America leaping across a city skyline. Marvel Mania! On the display was every Marvel video you could imagine, Spider-Man, X-Men, Woverine, Electra, you name it! There were cartoon videos, even the old Bill Bixby Hulk videos, a video candy store of everything Marvel.

Then it hit me. There was Marvel merchandise in every department.  The toy aisle was loaded with Marvel action figures. There were Marvel hats, shirts, pants, shoes, even underwear. Marvel PEZ dispensers, floor mats for cars, posters, greeting cards, fabric and more only began to round out the list of everything that could bear a Marvel logo in Walmart.  Everything except… comic books.

What?! Comic books aren’t good enough for Walmart?! Marvel doesn’t have enough clout to get comic books or graphic novels into Walmart?! Do comic book shops have some exclusive deal that I’m unaware of to prevent comics from being sold at Walmart?!

Outside of comic shops apparently, Marvel doesn’t even think comics are worth giving away. Here’s a website that has a long list of all the premiums that Marvel is using to promote the movie from action figures, to cups and cars but you never find a comic book used as a promotional item. Why? How can comics be such a great medium to have spawned all of these great characters only to be shunned by a company that built its empire by exploiting this magnificent sequential art of words and pictures?

I have a theory. Marvel fears the comic book. Marvel views comics as a threat because they are too easy to make and distribute. They know from experience. Comics abound on the internet, nearly anyone can publish and sell online. Anyone can create the next big comic book sensation. Just as Marvel dethroned DC in the sixties with their ragtag reinvention of the superhero, toppling juggernauts like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, even the mighty Avengers are vulnerable to a new character birthed in the pages of a mild mannered comic book. I’m sure the powers at Marvel and Disney see different shades of green every time they hear the name Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, four megastars that climbed out of a sewer in the slum of a black and white independent comic book.

When I was researching the use of superhero parodies in the porn industry for my blog post Seduction of the Ignorant I discovered that that industry is struggling to stay afloat, beaten by easy access to porn on the internet, cheap homemade porn their most threatening competition. Porn producers have turned to expensive, special effect laden parody productions that are harder for the average Dick and Jane to make in their bedroom studio.

Marvel Entertainment is doing the same thing. They are focussing now on marketing their IP through blockbuster films budgeted in the mega millions. They have corralled the hardcore comic book fan into a niche market that can barely support sales figures that would have been an embarrassment thirty years ago. They have willfully created an atmosphere that has forced competition to meet suppressed quotas to even be considered for distribution into this niche market.

DC has taken full advantage of this abandonment of the comic market by Marvel with their onslaught of the New 52. They too are actively boxing out the little guys by flooding their IP into the comic market but they realize that comic books have the same power they always had and they are redesigning their universe and working out the bugs without risking millions on a film that could flop at the box office.

If you are a fan of comics, support your local comic shop, explore the internet for great new comics like the one’s here at CO2 Comics and download those comic apps for your mobile devices. Keep an eye out for the next big sensation to be created in comics and don’t be surprised if it does not come from marvel or DC. Be vigilant comic fans because despite the rise of the superhero in cinema, comic books are still the bastard child of the entertainment industry and even the Avengers betray them.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


The Gutter:
Land of the Free

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

The debate over free content on the internet is heating up to a fever pitch and it is getting ugly. Discussions about piracy and devalued intellectual property with regards to comics, fueled by a terrible economic climate and rapidly changing technology is generating hysteria among comic creators and those of us who love the medium.

 

 

At the heart of it is free content on the web of which I am a strong supporter.

This does not mean that I do not respect the value of the work! If anything, I appreciate its value more.

Comics as a medium has a power that few mediums have. It has the ability to connect with the masses in a genuine way. The creator can convey their concepts through words and pictures and deliver it directly to the reader with a minimal amount of production in between. This can be a photocopy, a printed page, a jpeg or a web site.

Creators have the opportunity, now more than ever, to reach the largest possible audience, unencumbered. More importantly, they have control of their work. The creative opportunities are endless but shouldn’t there be some compensation for all the hard work that goes into making those comics? Absolutely.

Then why do I, Bill and the rest of the fine creators here at CO2 Comics, give our work away for free?

We know that good comics attract readers like a light bulb attracts moths.

This is no secret!

 

Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst knew it in the 1880′s when they put a free comic supplement in their newspapers to sell more copies and attract more advertisers.

The first American comic book Funnies on Parade was given away as a promotional tool by Proctor and Gamble in 1933.

Bazooka Joe comics have been given away free with bubblegum since 1953.

Free comics are nothing new. They have launched the industry and made money for publishers, promoters and packagers for over a century! In the process many creators worked for peanuts and others made tons of money.

For the record, I consider comics in newspapers and magazines to be free content the same way I consider the prize in a Cracker Jack box or the Happy Meal toy to be free. We all know that we are somehow paying for that little premium but it just seems like an added bonus and that’s what makes it special.

I remember reading the top ten grossing entertainers list in the 1980′s and being surprised to find Charles Schultz and Jim Davis up there with Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby. Those comics that I perceived as free content in the newspaper sure made a lot of money.

Excuse me while I venture out to my mailbox. Let’s see what is in here today. More catalogs. Who sends this crap to me? I don’t ask for this stuff! Full-color, well produced magazines with nothing but ads in them from every company imaginable.

These things are produced better that almost any comic on the market and I get them for free.

What a waste of content and paper. Do you think? This stuff would not be in my mailbox if the sender did not know that if they sent out enough of them they would make a lot of money. I sure wish they were comic books.

In 1987 Comico made a sixteen-page fashion catalog for Jordan Marsh that was bulk-mailed to households in New England. It was a comic book that featured the characters wearing the clothes that the department store was selling that fall. I wrote the story and Mitch O’Connell did the art. It was selected as one of the best direct mail ads that year by Advertising Age Magazine. I’m sure it sold a lot of clothes.

Comics are powerful marketing tools folks! Do not kid yourself! There is a reason that Mickey Mouse built Disney and Superman built Warner Brothers.

Free content on the internet is not much different than free content in my mailbox except that it can reach a larger audience with minimal expense. If my free content is comics, I believe that I will attract more people to my site where those visitors will be exposed to product and advertisers that will generate revenue to support the creators that make the comics.

If you are enjoying free content on the internet; if you are especially enjoying the free content here at CO2 Comics, do yourself and us all a favor. Share the comics with your friends! Allow the free comics on the internet to reach the widest audience possible!

Support the creators by buying product that they may have for sale: original art, graphic novels, related merchandise. Support the advertisers that chose to promote on our sites.

Enjoy the free comics product as much as possible and the comic creators will enjoy success and creative freedom that they have never known in this field.

This is not revolutionary stuff. It has worked in newspapers, television, radio and sports forever. Don’t let an old-school, failed system of distribution and marketing of comics suffocate this medium. Now is the greatest time to be a comics creator. Now is the best time to be a comics reader. Now is the time to build the profitable and prolific future that the comics medium should enjoy!

 

 

Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco


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