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,