Posts Tagged ‘Heroes Initiative’

What If?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Does it infuriate you to hear about comic book creators, especially the aged ones, struggling to get by financially, without health benefits, and working menial jobs because they can no longer find work in the comics industry while their creations or characters whose legacy they’ve passionately contributed to continue to rake in grotesquely monolithic profits for the corporations that currently own the copyrights and trademarks to them?

Don’t you think that anyone should be upset about this, except maybe the soulless, money grubbing powers of the corporate world that have driven the globe into economic crisis?

Surely, the average person gets it. You know, the dreaded 99% who feel that we have to live with our hand out just to get by, constantly in debt so that we can live co-dependant on the new staples of life like TVs, cars, computers, and cell phones, not to mention upsized happy meals that make our asses so fat we need therapy because we no longer fit the impossibly ideal image of the perfect body that has been created by the same bastards that sold us the 64 ounce Big Gulp.


Maybe people don’t get it because it has to do with the arts. The efforts of creative types, with the exception of those few that rise to the top of the heap and rake in the big bucks, are rarely understood. People expect that the arts are practiced by those that do what they do because they love it, it’s fun, and it’s not really work. This   thinking perpetuates the romantic ideal of the so-called “starving artist.” This is true wether it is painting, music, dance, theater, literature, film or comics.

The creative community, however, understands that though we all appreciate that our work is a “labor of love,” it is also a lot of hard work that requires great dedication,  sacrifice and  expense. This work, no matter how much we may enjoy it, has value, especially when it is making gobs of money for somebody else.

So, when I see comic artists struggling and am completely stymied when one can’t even expect a decent burial because of his poverty, it is probably only other artists that I can expect to fully appreciate the knot in my gut.

This is why I am wondering where all the support for comic artists is when it comes to the ethical injustice of no compensation for work that was created under the auspices “work-for-hire” at a time when no one could have anticipated the economic power of modern media. Where is the support from other artists, other entertainment fields and their unions, especially those who are benefitting most from adapting comics to other mediums, like film.

So I ask.

What if the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America came to the defense of comic creators who have never successfully unionized and, as they do for themselves, show a force of solidarity for the people that created the source material that is creating extremely lucrative jobs for their members?

What if the long list of prominent actors that portrayed characters from comic books in films took a stand to support those creators?

What if the “A” list writers and directors showed some moral scruples and held a higher ground?

I understand that it would be impossible to to fully effect every comic creator that may have participated in making the comic book characters that have become stars on the silver screen the cultural icons that they are today. I also understand that the rights to ownership of these characters are legally embroiled by the federal copyright laws that were lobbied successfully by the big corporations. None of that, however, justifies letting some of these talented creators struggle in abject poverty, living hungry on the streets with no healthcare, doomed to be buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave while others, including other artists, get rich off the fruits of their creations.

The comic industry does not have a union but it does have advocates. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and The Heroes Initiative are two organizations that have been formed to offer services to protect comic creators. Both organizations could benefit greatly if they were to receive generous donations from those that are currently benefitting the most from the success of comic book characters in film and related merchandise.

It has been reported that “Since its inception, The Hero Initiative (Formerly known as A.C.T.O.R., A Commitment To Our Roots) has had the good fortune to grant over $500,000 to over 50 comic book veterans who have paved the way for those in the industry today.”

In contrast, if we were to signal out just Robert Downy, Jr. who is reported to have made $50,000,000 off of his role as Iron Man in the Avengers film and ask him to donate a mere one tenth of a percent of that salary to The Hero Initiative, he would match every penny they have ever spent to support comic creators in need.

These stars are a generous lot and, in fact, need to be philanthropists just to write off their taxes. Robert Downy, Jr., himself supports, Clothes Off Our Back, Midnight Mission, and Orca Network. Why wouldn’t he support some struggling comic artists that created the opportunity for him to make his millions?

What if every actor, writer, and director, especially those that reaped the mother load reached out to support these two organizations that protect struggling comic creators? It wouldn’t make certain creators as rich as they could be if the industry was fair, but it would guarantee that comic artists who dedicated their lives to their art and our enjoyment could be a little more secure and might not die penniless like so many before them.

What if everyone reading this blog took it upon themselves to pursue this campaign and contact their favorite actor from a comic book film requesting their aid? What if we all made a difference?

Gerry Giovinco

And now, another added bonus! Those of you that are huge fans of Chris Kalnick’s NON the Existential Extraterrestrial and Depth Charge both featured here at CO2 Comics will be thrilled to find out that our old buddy NON is back in a new installment titled A Sensory Neuron’s Quandary.”

The feature begins today and will be updated every Sunday. Mr. Kalnick will be  sure to have you all questioning the true “meaning of life.”

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.

Finders Keepers

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

It’s a sad truth that the term Finders Keepers is still a law of the land in the comic book industry, especially when it comes to original art. I thought that this had changed during the 80’s when creators had fought long and hard to insure that their work was returned to them. By then we had already watched too many old timers find their work for sale in dealer rooms at conventions around the country.

Those old guys who had given us the Golden and Silver age of comics created their comics for companies that bought it as “work for hire.” The artists handed in their work and never saw it again until it would come to market selling for grand prices valued far greater than what they had originally been paid to do the work. Those creators watched the dealers make big money while they struggled to pay healthcare bills because comic companies offered no benefit packages. They never saw royalties either and cringed every time the publishers made big deals with their characters while they looked for ways to feed their families.

One of the primary goals of the independent publishers of the 80’s was to change this situation. Indy publishers proudly proclaimed the comics they published as “creator owned” and struck deals with comic creators that included royalties, copyright ownership, and returned artwork so the creators could bolster their income by selling the works in the growing, secondary, collector market. Soon even the major publishers began doing the same, even creating benefit packages that included healthcare!

As one of the publishers of Comico the Comic Company, a brief juggernaut in the industry during the mid-eighties that paved many roads for future indy publishers before its demise, I was proud to have been on the forefront of such a great movement that seemingly impacted the future of the industry forever. Now as a publisher of CO2 comics those same principals of creator’s rights remain the highest priority to myself and Bill Cucinotta who has partnered with me in both publishing ventures.

It is a matter of history that Comico had a very tragic ending from a stellar run as one of the great independents of its time. What is a dirty secret is that Comico was often a very hostile work environment where the threat of verbal, mental and physical abuses were real and frequent. It was this caustic atmosphere that destroyed the relationships in the partnership and drove first Bill and eventually myself to leave Comico. We have both taken great pains to remain focused on positive accomplishments of our experience when we blog about Comico here on the CO2 Comics site, especially since we know that we do have a lot to feel proud about.

When it became news late last year that huge archives of old Comico production material which vaguely stated it included original art of which little was shown was for sale on ebay, Bill and I made sure to be clear that we had no involvement in the auction and to state that we felt any original art should have been returned to the creators as was always the policy when we were part of Comico. Personally and regretfully, the emotional scars of my Comico experience ran too deep for me to take a more proactive role in retrieving the material and insuring that if there was original art it would be returned to its rightful owners.

This week I was contacted by Rick Funk owner of Collector Haven Comics who purchased the archives which includes a number of original pieces of art and plans to inventory it and sell it on ebay. The auctions have already begun.

I know that Rick is only doing what dealers do, hunt and acquire treasured collectibles then capitalize on them. Maybe I’m too idealistic but I had hoped that somehow the “Ruins of Comico” would not result in a creator who trusted Comico with their creation finding their work lining the pockets of somebody else when they never had the opportunity to sell it themselves.

Rick claims to have “Saved the Comico Production Art,” possibly from rotting, lost in some storage facility outside of Norristown, PA but the
principals that Comico were founded on and recognized for are so totally disregarded in this situation that it is hard for me to consider any of that original art “saved.” Rather it is damned to resurrect demons of a bygone era that we had all hoped would never be seen again.

The following is correspondence between Rick and myself. I believe it is very civil on both sides yet clear as to what I would like to see done with the material:

Greetings Gerry,

First and foremost I want to state that Justice Machine, Elementals and Mage were the Comico titles that I followed. so yes I was a Comico fan.

I have read all your comments about the ebay auction that appeared in the last part of 2010 from Coyote storage.

I have researched the history of that ebay listing and I am aware that a couple of art dealers expressed an interest in it, and it attracted a
couple of phone calls too. However when faced with the fact that this accumulation of material that seemed to have once belonged to Phil, was not the original line art and was a large volume of production material, they all passed on it.

I did not.

To be honest we purchased it with the intention of bringing it to market.

We have had experience handling large amounts of material before. In 2000 we purchased the back stock of Passiac Books, one of the original comics dealers from the 60s and we also had a hand in bringing the Jack Adler art collection to market.

This turned out to be about 2500 lbs of material that we are just now starting to inventory and list on ebay.

More of the story will come to light with the upcoming publication of a Comics Buyers Guide article. In comic book culture Comico is a signicant contribution made by you.

I personally wanted to close the loop on the internet story for you, in regards to the original ebay auction.

Here is the arrival of the collection at our store, Collector Haven in Mesa Arizona.


Rick Funk
Collector Haven Comics

PS: I read your articles about the color production process, however I have a couple of questions about that process and how some of these production pieces fit into that.


I appreciate that you wanted to “close the loop,” for me and I know that you made a significant investment acquiring the material but I still have personal and professional issues with the fact that much of the material should not have been available for sale in the first place by anyone other than the actual owners of the individual pieces, the creators.

The images of the early inventory that you have sent me clearly show original art that in my opinion belongs to the creators of the works. I saw three pieces that were actually mine.

Phil’s or Dennis’ possession of the works, at any time, is in question to me since it should have been returned to the creators immediately after its publication which was the long standing policy of Comico.

Also, as I mentioned in my blog, I would have expected that Andrew Rev would have taken possession of the production proofs when he bought Comico. I would have expected them to have been part of the deal.

Phil’s passing does not make the situation any different besides I am sure that his brother, Dennis, would have been quick to take charge of his estate, especially if he felt it had value.

Regardless of how Coyote came into possession of the material, the right thing would be for at least the original art to be returned to the creators. I know I would like mine returned.

You and Collector Haven have a unique opportunity to do something that publishers like Marvel and other dealers who have sold art that they acquired from publishers like Dell and Gold Key have historically declined to do. Do the right thing and help place those works where they should have been a long time ago, back in the hands of the creators to which they belong.

I think that as another option, if you worked closely with The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund or the Heroes Initiative and used this material to help raise funds for these great organizations in the name of the creators you may either be able to negotiate your investment back or at least write it off.

Regardless of how you might proceed in righting this situation the benefit would be a huge Good Will return to you and your company for setting a remarkable example that I believe would be applauded tremendously throughout the industry.

I will be happy to help you do this I any way I can and I will be your biggest supporter for championing the rights of the creators without whom we would not have a comics industry to feed off of.

I will not, however, be able to help you in any way to sell and profit from these works and I will remain a vocal supporter that they should be returned to their rightful owners.

I hope you understand that as a publisher of Comico and now CO2 Comics, I and my partner Bill Cucinotta have always placed the rights of the creators as our highest priority. It is against everything we have stood for our entire careers in the industry not to take a stand on this issue.

I hope you appreciate our position and will work with us to make an important and valiant statement.

Very Sincerely,

Gerry Giovinco
CO2 Comics

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