Posts Tagged ‘Independent Comics’

Outsourcing Comics

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

 

hands_drawing

Last week’s blog post, Power Outage at Marvel, suggested that Marvel and DC, in an effort to cut costs, might consider suspending their publishing arms and focus on licensing their characters to other comics publishers to minimize their expenses and risks.  This concept might be a little extreme considering the two industry giants have each been making comic books for over 75 years but there is no doubt that the depth of their intellectual property is now more valuable in other forms of entertainment media and as a license option.

Marvel and DC, however, could understandably balk at the idea of farming out their comic books to others but would still need to cut costs in production or do a radical shift in marketing of comic books if they intend to effect things like DC’s reported two million dollar fiscal loss or Ike Perlmutter’s legendary thriftiness at Marvel.

Given that the current climate of American industry is a willingness to outsource production and manufacturing to foreign countries, it has to be considered that this be a logical possibility for comic books. Recent polls have shown that comic book writers are more popular now with readers than comic book artists, and though the art is definitely more labor intensive, it is also seemingly more interchangeable by today’s standards. What are the chances that art production could be shipped overseas, especially to India where great strides are already being taken in comic art production?

amazing_world_of_carmine_infantinoThere is precedence for this in comics. Carmine Infantino in his insightful autbiography, Amazing World of Carmine Infantino,” describes how, in an effort to stave off a comic artist strike in 1971, He, Joe Orlando, and Tony Dezuniga, went to the Philippines where artists were used to getting $2 – $3 a page. Their plan was to have Tony and his wife run a shop with artists where DC paid $45 – $50 per page plus 20% to the Dezuniga’s for their management effort. Later, a young Filipino artist comes forward at a convention complaining about being paid only $5 per page and it became clear that those running the show in the Philippines were robbing the artists and DC blind. Carmine does a wonderful job of not making a direct accusation but gives us enough information to explain possibly why the Dezunigas do not return to New York until 1977.

The influx of Filipino artists did prevent a strike and it did give us the great talents of Rudy Nebres, Alfredo Alcala, Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo and Gerry Talaoc just to name a few, but we may never know how much it set back the value of American comic artists in the industry.

We are living in a global economy where we are happy to see our electronics, clothing, food and everything else farmed out to people working in other countries for slave wages by our standards. It is sad to expect that the same will happen to our comic books. Many companies already print in China and elsewhere and nobody complains. Who knows? The next issue of Superman or Spider-Man could be drawn by a kid from India working for peanuts.

Just another reason to support homegrown, independent comics.

Gerry Giovinco

Comics on Campus

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

This past week I had the pleasure of sitting in on a free lecture “Comics and the Art of Visual Communication” by legendary comic creator and theorist, Scott McCloud www.scottmccloud.com who was out promoting his new graphic novel, The Sculptor.

The event  was hosted by Rutgers University at their Camden, NJ campus. This was the same campus that hosted the second annual Camden Comic Con just a month ago where CO2 Comics presented a panel on our experience as independent publishers reuniting with some of the crew from our days publishing Comico comics back in the 1980’s.

It is so exciting to see the medium of comics finally being accepted by the great halls of higher education! When I was in college back in the early 1980’s at the Philadelphia College of Art, the administration and faculty showed complete disdain for the medium describing it as derivative and kitsch while vowing to break me of my interest in this lowly form of art. It is ironic that now, renamed the University of the Arts, they boast about  graphic novel writer Neil Gaiman’s inspirational commencement speech in 2012where they also presented Gaiman and Pulitzer Prize winning, editorial cartoonist Tony Auth each with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts!

My, how times have changed!

More and more colleges and universities are including comic art or graphic novel courses into their curriculum. Some are beginning to build robust libraries dedicated to collections of comic books. Because of the rise of the graphic novel format and the popularity of comic related adaptations into other forms of media, educators have begun to take the comic medium seriously and since the first publication of Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics in 1993, educators have had a blueprint for teaching the subject.

My experience at PCA was not unusual. Comics history is wrought with degradation by  educators who widely considered it a form of base communication with no educational merit. Comics were believed to contribute to the delinquency and corruption of the minds of young readers. This notion was exasperated further by Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent. Discussion among educators was more focused on how to steer readers away from comic books than to encourage them. Many even resorted to public burnings of the comics!

This sentimentality was buffered slightly by the comic industry’s 1954 adoption of a self imposed censorship called the Comic Code Authority which warranted against  any corruptive material in comics in the wake of a U.S. Congressional inquiry. It stood for decades as possibly the most rigorous form of censorship of any American medium.

Somehow, comics managed to still find a way to be interesting and in the early 1960’s with the help of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Marvel Comics discovered how to appeal to young adults despite the shackles of the Code. The interest in the medium by college students in that era developed a fertile foundation for the future generations of comic creators to grow from.

Stan Lee recognized the interest of the college students and brought his show on the road as evidenced by this recording of Stan addressing students at Princeton University in 1966. Marvel comics spoke to the youth movement of the sixties. Those comics empowered some to create more comics that grew with the readers and reflected the unrest of the new culture that was rising.

Comics evolved throughout the seventies and eighties giving rise to the underground and independent movements that aborted the Comic Code, fought for creators rights and developed a new distribution system that allowed the unfettered medium to flourish. By the dawn of the new millennium comics were poised to explode as a form of powerful artistic expression.

Then came the internet, digital distribution, and print on demand.

Few mediums have benefitted so greatly by modern technology to put both the literal and visual power  into the hands of a single creator. From this has come great works of expression that need to be digested by those interested in learning and understanding the powerful form of visual literature known as comics.

Colleges and universities have figured this out and are actively reaching out to communities to share the mechanics of this exciting medium that has had such an incredible impact on popular culture.

A quick browser search revealed a few programs since the beginning of the year at schools like Vassar,  William & Mary, University of FloridaOhio State University, The University of Hartford, Drake University, and Northern Illinois University.

Those combined with the stops on Scott McCloud’s tour which have already included Mississippi State, Wittenberg University, Champlain College, and Rutgers University make it a wonderful time to be enlightened about the true cultural value of the comics medium and how it extends so far beyond what many know as just superheroes or funny animals. If you love comics, you may want to get to know them better at a college campus near you.

Take the time to check with colleges or universities in your area to see if they are promoting any public lectures on comics. Some provide courses that may be accessible to you. I promise you will be impressed by the diversity of the group that attends, it will be what you expect from any college, a broad mix of age, gender, and culture and everyone had a great time. Special thanks to Rutger’s Digital Studies Center, the Office of Campus Involvement, the Chancellor’s Office, the Department of English, and the Department of Fine Arts for pulling their resources for a great event that covered so many disciplines.

Gerry Giovinco

Comic Book Entropy: Marvel and DC

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

When it comes to order and disorder regarding comic books one needs to look no further than the Big Two, Marvel and DC, for examples of each in regards to their corporate direction.

This past week Marvel celebrated their 75th anniversary with a televised special/infomercial titled Marvel: 75 Years, From Pulp to Pop! The show managed to  cram their long history into just 44 succinct minutes in a way that only Marvel can because they have admittedly and willfully refined their direction to the fundamental creative basics established by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Marvel recognizes that their success is built on the creative geniuses of these three men and the culture of the Marvel Bullpen that has managed to maintain a continuity that has reverently adhered to the principle foundations of the characters they created.

The new found harmony that exists since the settlement between Marvel and the Kirby Estate, as exhibited by the inclusion of a proud Neal Kirby speaking on his late father’s behalf in the special, reinforced Marvel’s dedication to the tradition of the source material.

Marvel does not stray far from the source material. They embrace it because they know it is based on good storytelling that has stood the test of time. The result is the global phenomenon known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a bountiful collection of heroic adventures dictated by simple order managed by a decree to not fix what is not broke.

Flip the coin and disorder rears its head as DC Comics once again applies a bandaid to the hemorrhage that is the complicated multiverse known as the DCU. The cure of the moment is called Convergence and it is a two-month-long event focused around the concept that Brainiac will gather the bottled up realities of the infinite earths in the DCU and bring all the variants of all the characters together in one place and let them mix it up like some tormented game of “shake n’ bake.”

While these fifty comics are being published the rest of the already established line will go on a two-month hiatus while the corporate offices move west. Fans get to wait it all out and hope they are satisfied with what promises to be yet another thread of convoluted reality attempting to make sense of what has been convoluted for decades.

DC has long lost any attachment to the foundations of any of their characters let alone any respect for the values or intentions of the creators of their iconic properties. Any opportunity that DC has to exploit their characters in another medium is just a chance to twist in another reality option. TV Flash is already rumored to be from a different reality than film Flash and so the spiral continues.

Through it all fans, are expected to sit back and wait for the shoes to fall then jump back on the bandwagon like nothing ever happened. But fans don’t like to be thrown from the bus. Major League Baseball learned this the hard way when they canceled a season due to strike and it took years to regain the trust of the fans. Why should comics be different?

Nostalgia is a large part of what we all love about our comics and our heroes. Marvel has found a way to introduce new generations to characters that are tried and true while DC continually attempts to recreate their characters to appeal to what they believe are the tastes of a new generation. The end result is that today’s Superman is not your parents’ Superman but today’s Captain America still resonates with the patriotism of your grandparents.

Entropy is, of course, all about the balance of order and disorder in relationship to chaos which is the driving force behind true creativity. Chaos is a beautifully amazing thing which can be easily witnessed in comic books just by looking at a rack of independent comics that source their creativity from every direction and, in fact, continue influence the entropy of the Big Two.

In the Marvel special,  a quick pan of a 1980’s era comic book rack began with a flash of X-Men comics before culminating into a display of independent comics featuring titles like GRENDEL, ELEMENTALS, JUSTICE MACHINE, FISH POLICE and TROLL LORDS, all titles that, at one point, were published under the COMICO imprint, a company co-founded by CO2 COMICS’ own founders, Bill Cucinotta and myself.

It is nice to know that, somehow, our work has impacted the bigger picture of comic books that the world too often recognizes only as Marvel and DC. It is great to be part of the chaos. In the end, it’s all simply about making comics because we want to.

Gerry Giovinco



Respect Diversity in Comics: It is the Heart of Independence

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Diversity is a hot buzzword in the comics industry lately, mostly because we are actually seeing examples of it. Many people have championed diversity for many years as a way of expanding the market and the medium. The expectation is that the broadening diversity currently experienced in the comics industry would be welcomed and celebrated but, unfortunately,  that is not always the case.

The comics industry has a long history of narrow vision when it comes to nearly every aspect of it which has been focused predominantly on white males. People that enjoy comics have been generally comfortable with this for too long. Now that things are changing so is the warm, fuzzy feeling of what has been familiar.

Diversity can refer to many things including race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation. In a comic shop it could simply refer to product diversity like books, clothing and toys. The important thing to remember is that diversity is good especially when it involves a creative medium that is as powerful and communicative as comics.

Heroes Con 2013 Cosplay group shot

Diversity in a medium like comics has the power to bring people together rather than push them apart. If we let it.

The first step to truly encouraging diversity is to actually respect it.  Many find it very easy to give diversity in comics “lip service” but struggle to walk the talk. Too many people squirm when they actually experience attempts at instilling diversity in the medium because deep down it violates their comfort zone and they are unwilling to muster enough respect for the tastes of the broader audience to accept that which is different.

I refuse to call it ignorance, prejudice, bigotry or even small-mindedness because that would be just as disrespectful. Expanding diversity means investing in a willingness to have such a variety of comics that there is product that can appeal to everybody.  It is not the industry’s place to segregate anyone for enjoying something that may be specific to them regardless if they are a minority or a majority. Respect goes both ways. That is how it is achieved. Mutually.

Those that champion diversity have to also accept that which has been homogenous for so many years because true diversity cannot exist without it. Let it be, rather than change it and use all energies to create something new. Then celebrate that. Celebrate all.

We celebrate our diversity everyday at CO2 Comics and are proud of it. That does not mean that we don’t still love the superhero comics that influenced us.  They inspired us to want to create something different and more diverse. Check out our creator page and you will find talented people of all ages, race, gender and orientation none of which matters more than the fact that we respect each and every one of them for who they are as individuals and for their tremendous talents and that they share with us.

Their diversity extends to their creations which are as unique and brilliant as each and every one of them. Their comics speak to the new, broader market place that is now so politically correct. Their comics deserve your respect for their diversity

If you consider yourself  a fan or champion of diversity in comics you owe it to yourself to read and enjoy the diversity we present here at CO2 Comics. If you respect what you find here, you will share it with your friends. Take the time to look, not just here but industry wide, and acknowledge the variety of comics created by others who are not the usual fare and be prepared to be impressed. The industry cannot be diverse if we are unwilling to recognize the diversity that is already there.

Our very special thanks to all of the creators that have ever chosen to break the mold.  We know, through all of your endeavors that the diversity you bring to comics is what truly equals creative independence. You have our respect and always will. You are our inspiration and why we continue to make independent comics.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



The Power of Independence

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

I fell in love with comics as a kid and eventually it became my dream to be a cartoonist. All I knew was that comics were incredible and the writers and artists were my heroes! The people that created the comics I loved stood on a pedestal in my eyes and were as big a any celebrity.

Surely the people that were responsible for the adventures of my favorite superheroes were as rich and famous as I expected.

I wanted to make comics and be like my heroes, so I immersed myself in everything I could find about the medium.

In the 1970’s there were not a lot of options. There were only a few comic book companies and there was not  much information on how to actually make comics. If you wanted to make comics it seemed that the only opportunity was to learn to draw in the acceptable style of those few publishing houses and don’t dare create any new characters unless you were willing to give them away to those publishers for a mere page rate that was as skimpy as could be.

How was it possible that the comic industry was the ghetto of the entertainment field? Most creators looked at working in comics as a slimy stepping stone to a bigger career in advertising,  television or film. Achievement wasn’t breaking into comics, it was breaking out.

Fortunately there was a generation of comic fans that had the same starry-eyed perception of comics as I did and were unwilling to accept the cold, hard truth that working in comics was a dead-end street.

One by one, these comic enthusiasts struck out into the world championing the medium that they believed in. They knew that the simple combination of words and pictures had power and was able to capture the imagination of large audiences. They believed that the people that had the ability to create these comics deserved to control them and to profit from them. They believed in creative independence.

It is not surprising that this independent movement began in head shops where underground comics gained a foothold in the imagination of popular culture and etched out a business model for grass root distribution to seedy establishments peppered around the country.

Soon comic shops began to spring up in similar fashion offering a fix of a different nature. The Direct Market for comic books sprouted in back-alley garages, flea market booths and trunks of cars. It was this testament to the love of comics and independent entrepreneurship that created opportunity for independent comic publishers to begin to achieve success and compete directly with the giants in the industry.

Just a few publishers of Creator Owned Comics

The Independent Comic movement has been going strong now for nearly forty years and has changed the face of comics forever. Comics are no longer a dead-end street but are now a viable art form with venue opportunity lurking at every corner.

Comics is no longer a medium controlled by just a few publishing houses with strict style limitations. Comics can be published by anyone and distributed globally thanks to current technology. Like any medium or business, it is a delicate balancing act between success and failure but it is invigorating to at least have the opportunity to try.

When I think back to how I imagined comic creators as rich and famous I realize how naive I was to believe that talent equaled wealth. I am glad however that I never lost the dream that making comics might equal happiness. Those of us that have that need  to make comics know that it is the same obsession that drives every artist, athlete or professional that does what they love.

Independent Comics created the opportunity for anyone with that drive to actually be able make comics. Independent comics opened the door to an endless possibility that did not exist unfettered in this medium when i was a kid.

This is why CO2 Comics continually celebrates  Independent Comics and deliberately was founded on Independence Day. We are determined to acknowledge that there is always more to comics than what the big companies have to offer.

Independent Comics have proved that comics are a unique form of creative expression and their richness is not found in the money they make but in the people that make them.

At CO2 Comics every day is Independence Comic Day!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Dixon and Rivoche: Critical of the Right

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Give Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche a lot of credit. They certainly stepped outside the box in an effort to promote their new book, a graphic adaptation of Amity Shlaes’ THE FORGOTTEN MAN, by attacking  comic industry liberals in their Wall Street Journal OP-ED piece, How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman.”

They managed to generate a lot of interest  and even had the opportunity to tout their book, published by Harper Perennial, on FOX NEWS!

Thank God that most of the hardcore conservatives that pay attention to these narrow-minded resources couldn’t care a rat’s ass about comics or they would have seen through the thin veil of deception that is so brilliantly dissected  by Janelle Asseline in her Comics Alliance piece, “Superhuman Error: What Conservatives Chuck Dixon & Paul Rivoche Get Wrong About Politics In American Comics.”

In their effort to be Uber Americans by defending the Political Right, Dixon and Rivoche tread on one of the most valued American liberties that comic creators have fought decades for, the right to freedom of speech and expression which is protected by the First Amendment.

Their endorsement of the Comics Code Authority, which was a direct product of McCarthy era conservatism and possibly the most strict code of censorship of any American medium, flies in the face of anyone who truly loves and values the most basic and fundamental principles of freedom set forth by the founders of this country.

It was particularly odd that both gentlemen conveniently ignored the comics history of the 1980’s where creators rebelled against the big publishers of superhero comics  and defined the potential of the Direct Market by working with Independent publishers that defied the rules of the Comics Code Authority.

Both Dixon and Rivoche saw their first works published by Independent publishers in 1984. (not the 1970’s as stated.)  Chuck Dixon’s EVANGELINE which, originally published by Comico, told a tale about a nun with a gun that was an assassin for the Vatican.Canadian Paul Rivoche illustrated Mister X published by Toronto based Vortex. His story was about a mad scientist that induced his own perpetual sleeplessness with a fictitious drug. These were not comics that any of the Code publishers would consider touching at the time!

It is ironic that these pioneers of “moral ambiguity” in comics should be so vocally opposed to its current existence in the medium!

The success and proliferation of similar independent projects eventually led to Marvel and DC’s softening and ultimate departure from the Code. This was  an orchestrated effort to compete with and eradicate Independent comics publishers  who had gained substantial  market strength.

The market dictated the newfound liberal mores with which comics were created! If audiences did not clamor for these new “left-minded” ideas we would all be reading comics with the seal of approval on it today. Worse, comic books would most likely have faced an inevitable extinction.

The comics of the 90’s that the two chose to credit with the moral departure were created by a  wave of young talent that cut their teeth reading comics and being inspired by the likes of Dixon and Rivoche. These upstarts recognized that it was time for a jailbreak and sought to distinguish themselves as the New World Order in comics.

Dixon and Rivoche are among many creators moderately associated with the old guard, despite their groundbreaking achievements, to be trampled by the inmates intent on running the asylum, finally free of the restraints of oppressive censorship (a page torn right from Dixon’s own Batman stories.)

Jerry Ordway has similar gripes but does not blame left leaning politics in his plea for work, Life After Fifty.
For many, like Ordway, it is rather an overwhelming lack of respect and appreciation for the contributions of creators that in the past would have been revered industry-wide.

Fortunately the Independent movement (not just of the 80’s and 90’s but that of the 70’s  Underground Movement, the Web Comic  Movement of the 00’s and the current Digital Movement) has solidified the rights that creators have to express themselves freely through the medium of comics. There is a now place  and an opportunity for any kind of comic regardless of “right” or “left” leaning politics. This is good for everyone, especially those with idealistic American values.

Without this new, expanding market for comics there would be no publisher that would have been interested in THE FORGOTTEN MAN, a comic not about superheroes and not targeted specifically at children. That would be a real shame.

Dixon and Rivoche should have remembered their true roots and celebrated their masterful execution of their own creative rights rather than endorse a close-minded, faux conservatism that could potentially crush other creators’ rights to freedom of speech and expression in a new witch-hunt reminiscent of the one perpetrated by Dr. Fredrick Wertham that led to the development of the restrictive Comics Code Authority.

Dixon and Rivoche need to ask themselves which Right is more important; the creatively inhibitive conservative views of the Political Right or our Inalienable Right to free speech and expression that has given comics the opportunity to flourish?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



A true, capitalism-endorsing conservative would let the market decide.

Comic Fans, Rejoice!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

What a time to be a fan of comics!

Face it, we all like to wax nostalgic and can be certain that the era in which we grew up was without doubt the best.

Comic fans, however do have an appreciation for the history of their favorite medium and have managed to classify it in specific ages: Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Modern Age and Digital Age. Each worthy of distinguished respect for their accomplishments and significance to the medium.

I, personally, was most heavily influenced by Bronze Age comics and the Independent Movement of the 1980’s and can easily justify the greatness of the material of those periods, but as a comic book fan and a fan of the superhero genre I have to admit  there was a feeling of isolation that all comic fans can relate to. One that is now quickly and amazingly eroding away.

Most fans of comics at any time in the last millennium with the exception of the initial fans in the 1940’s know that being a fan of comics was akin to being the black sheep in the crowd. We were alone in our endeavor to enjoy and collect comics, lucky to have any friends or allies that might have shared our passion.

Lone fans had to hunt for their randomly accessible comics and comic related merchandise.  Small groups of hardcore fans looked forward to gathered at small regional annual comic book or science fiction conventions. Successful cons drew just a few hundred attendees. They were intimate gatherings that solidified a mutual respect for the medium and willingness to ignore of the exclusion of fandom by society.

Comic fans wore a badge of honor that most described as geek or nerd but certainly never cool. Occasionally the things that comic fans were interested in burst into popular culture in the form of fads, most of which were quickly dismissed  by the masses.

My, how times have changed!

What was once considered Geek Culture is now firmly embraced as Pop Culture and it appears that there may be no looking back!

The rise of the Digital Age has given us the technology to finally bring comics to life on film in ways that were never possible. Now anybody can witness what used to require the unbridled imagination of a comic fan to fully experience. Fantasy is now teetering on the brink of reality as superheroes, now culturally accepted, have invaded and flourished in virtually every form of media.

Where there used to be a day when one waited years for a good adaptation of a comic book character to hit the screen, now fans must decide which film to spend their hard earned cash on first.  This spring alone it will be possible to have Captain America, Spider-Man, The X-Men and Godzilla all in theaters at the same time!

Television, too, is rife with comic book characters both animated and live action. Gone are the days of campy caped crusaders and  bodybuilders painted green. Only Wonder Woman cannot seem to make the transition from buxom Linda Carter to a modern Amazon Princess.

Out in public generations of comic book admirers of both genders now flaunt their superhero swag in astounding numbers that would have not been thought possible a few decades ago.

Comic book conventions are now a cultural phenomenon that put Woodstock to shame as fans flock by the tens-of-thousands, fully adorned in costumes and well prepared to celebrate their affinity for all that is fantastic. Cons that used to be the stomping grounds a subclass of young men have tipped the gender scales and now attract a well balanced number of enthusiastic female fans.

Emerald City Comicon recently bragged a 52/46 ratio of women to men!

Comic book stores are surviving where traditional book stores cannot in large part due to the element of social gathering they provide to the like-minded comic book fans!

Video games let gamers interact seamlessly with comic book reality giving fans the opportunity to play out their fantasies in realtime allowing them to relate to characters like never before.

Finally there is the internet, the nexus of a booming nation of nerd loving loyalists that can gather and communicate about their favorite comics in every nook and cranny of the world wide web. More importantly it is a place for the comic creatives to post and share there work. Because of the internet, comics are accessible more than ever  and they are being embraced by everyone.

How we got here is as amazing as the fact that we are. Superheroes are now accepted as a global modern mythology rivaling that of the Greeks and Romans. This unparalleled popularity is a vindication for all of us that enjoyed reading comics with black light posters riddled full of Kirby Krackle hanging on the wall.

We were ahead of the curve, rejoicing in a future that was bound to happen. A future that could only be inspired by the magical combination of words and pictures called comics.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Prince Leads the Charge for the Return of Creator’s Rights

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

According to Billboard, recording artist Prince is ready to  party like it’s 1999 all over again because Warner Brothers Records has returned to him the power to control his music  thanks to revisions made in the Copyright Act of 1976.

The musician that defined Minneapolis sound in the late 1970’s effectively has fired the first, successful, high-profile salvo that should inspire all artists who sold rights to their works to actively pursue termination of those rights within their effective window.

Prince took advantage of a termination clause in the Copyright Act that has generally been overlooked and one that strikes fear in the hearts of big business, especially those in the entertainment world where the stakes are especially high.

How the Act defines transfers of rights is clearly described here:

“With certain exceptions, section 203 provides that transfers executed on or after January 1, 1978 may be terminated 35 years after the date of the grant. Authors must give notice of their intent to terminate not less than two or more than ten years from the intended termination date. Termination of grants made in 1978 could begin, therefore, in 2013, with notices first served in 2003.

An author has a five-year window from the end of the 35-year period of the grant in which to exercise his termination right. If he fails to do so, all the rights covered under the existing grant will continue for the term of the copyright.”

The article continues:

A second termination right, set forth in section 304, applies to transfers executed before January 1, 1978. The 1976 Copyright Act extended the copyright term for pre-1978 works by 19 years. Congress decided that the beneficiary of that 19-year extension should be the author, rather than the assignee of rights in a work.

Congress accomplished this by giving the author (or his heirs as specified in the statute) a right to terminate a pre-1978 transfer of the renewal copyright effective at any time within a five-year period commencing fifty-six years after the copyright had been secured. The author must give notice of his intent to terminate between two and ten years before the effective date of termination.

Corporations do not want to lose the rights to intellectual properties that they have heavily invested in for decades, especially ones that have made them millions of dollars in return. They are anxious to settle on terms that will will benefit both parties rather than lose a property completely.

This is how Prince was able to negotiate control over his music and the return of his masters while Warner Brother Records maintained distribution rights in a win-win situation for both parties.

Prince recognized that even as big a star as he is, he could not generate the revenue with his music that the big label was capable of. Proof of the disparity of this ability can be seen in his album sales since he rebelled as the Artist formerly known as Prince and  struck out on his own in 1991. The purple clad Artist sold 18.5 million albums in the United States according to Billboard’s Soundscan numbers. 14.3 million of which were sold by Warner who accounted for over 77% of the volume.

This is the type of profit friendly sentiment that the corporations are banking on and why we see giant companies like Marvel quietly sneaking to the settlement table to preempt any mass exodus of intellectual property before any litigation makes it to a court room.

The elephant in the room, however, is work-for-hire which designates the corporation as the author and is the key exception to any termination right. There are holes in the work for hire defense though and big companies without iron clad agreements are wary of courts that might favor the little guy.

The battle over what defines the work for hire relationship in comics has been notoriously waged by the Kirby family who, using the same termination clause as Prince, has been attempting to reclaim the late Jack Kirby’s share of key characters that he co-created with Stan Lee between 1958 and 1963. Their attempt to terminate rights which began in 2009 has yet to hurdle repeated pro work for hire rulings and is now being appealed for hearing by the Supreme Court.

Should the Kirby family win or lose, a bonanza is about to begin in the comic book industry in light of Prince’s victory. More creators and lawyers than ever are now aware that any grandfathered property created after 1960 can now be contested, opening the doors to rights termination of at least some Silver Age comic book properties.

Furthermore, any property created between 1981 and 1989 needs to be addressed quickly by creators wanting to take advantage of the current eight year window for termination requests as described earlier.

This is Alan Moore’s perfect opportunity to rescind from DC Comics and Warner Brother’s the rights to his stake in WATCHMEN!

The 1980’s was a prolific era in independent comics and a number of properties exchanged hands from creators to indy publishers some of which were later sold to Marvel and DC. Their work was expressly NOT work for hire! Now is the time for any of those creators to actively seek rights termination or at least renegotiate their terms. Remember that you can always seek council from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Creators, take a stand, get educated and reclaim your rights before it is too late. Be warned that if you miss the window that applies to your work you forfeit the right to reclaim it forever and that is exactly what the big corporations are hoping for.

Now is time for comic creators to choose wether they’d rather be a prince or a pauper.

Follow the lead of Prince who was famously and formerly known as just an artist but who is now the ultimate ruler of his creations. Get your rights back or at least make more money and you can “Party like it’s 1999″ too!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

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



There’s a Brave New World on Bergen Street

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Imagine walking into a comic shop and not seeing any comic books published by Marvel or DC. The shelves are void of Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman, Bat Man and Wonder Woman. With few exceptions, there are no superheroes, no men and women in tights and capes with bulging muscles and exploitive, break-back poses. The shelves are not overwhelmed with reboots of the same characters that we have been reading for the last seventy-five years. Seriously, how many times can you read a retelling Superman’s origin story before it gets old?

Imagine, instead, that what you find is shelf after shelf of unique and amazing comics that are created by an array of talented artists and writers that is always expanding. Comics are arranged by subject matter, social interest, artist and writer. There are comics for everybody; children, teens, adults, men and women, alike. Entire families can walk into the shop and discover comics that interest each member individually as they peruse the inviting corners of an elegantly and respectfully designed shrine of the comics medium, finding surprises at every turn.

Welcome to Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn, New York where co-owner, Tom Adams recently announced that the store will stop shelving most titles from Marvel and DC. Adams explained on Twitter that the decision, “Will enable us to better serve our customers. Strength of self contained, creator controlled comics will let us move away from double shipping, editorially driven, artist-swapping, inconsistent, tied into events/gimmicks comics. Trying to keep this a going concern/think long term.”

Bergen Street Comics will celebrate their fifth anniversary this spring. In their relatively short history they have firmly established themselves as a supporter of independent comics publishers and have hosted many creator signings and art shows including CO2 Comic’s own Steve Lafler as he toured promoting his graphic album Ménage à Bughouse.

Steve Lafler at Bergen Street Comics

Bergen Street Comics demonstrated their commitment to Independent publishers that night when they, on extremely short notice, opened their doors to Steve when his scheduled engagement at MoCCA was suddenly canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Their graciousness and hospitality exceeded our expectations and established an impressive standard of customer service that we will never forget.

The atmosphere at Bergen Street Comics will capture the attention of anyone the moment they walk through the door. This is a place that celebrates the comic medium as an art form. Framed, original comic art hangs on the rugged brick walls, displayed like fine art in a gallery. The fixtures, furniture and shelving all presented with a classic taste that invites their customers to respect and value the comics that they are about to buy.

It is not surprising that they would make this bold decision to no longer shelve Marvel and DC titles. Bergen Street Comics is a boutique that specializes in a gourmet product. They are the Starbucks of comic shops, refusing to sell a common blend of coffee that can be bought on any corner, watered down and stale from having sat in the pot too long.

People want to experience quality, variety and atmosphere. They want a special experience that they feel entitled to and they want to share that experience with others. Great comics deserve the opportunity to be presented this way, as a rich and robust medium that will tickle the taste-buds of the imagination leaving the reader wanting for more.

A store like Bergen Street Comics can offer some hope for comics in print, especially those that are produced with a particular aesthetic that extends to the entire package. Printed books can offer a viscerally tactile experience that cannot be equally matched digitally. Independent publishers that recognize this understand the power of producing a boutique worthy product and will be energized as more stores adopt the model that Bergen Street Comics has.

This is not the end of superhero comic books. There will always be a place where bland or bitter coffee is available for those with a less discerning tastes. But, Bergen Street Comics has demonstrated that finally it is time for a little Frappuccino with our comics in this brave, new world where superheroes no longer have to dominate the local comic shop.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco




© 2009-2017 CO2 COMICS All Rights Reserved. All other material © their respective creators & companies