Posts Tagged ‘Iron Man’

Kirby4Heroes History Update

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

WUAD_2013_Sinnott

There are just ten days left before the comic book world celebrates the 98th birthday of the legendary Jack Kirby, arguably the most influential creator in the history of comic books. In honor of his birthday on August 28, his youngest grandchild, Jillian Kirby, founded the Kirby4Heroes Campaign in 2012. For the last three years she has spearheaded an admirable effort to celebrate his accomplishments and to raise funds and awareness for the Hero Initiative, a noble organization that helps comic creators who are in desperate financial or healthcare situations.

kirby4heroesWe at CO2 Comics, urge all comic fans and professionals to make the most of the opportunity to celebrate what would have been Jack Kirby’s 98th birthday on Friday, August 28, 2015 by participating in the events, shopping at a comic shop that is supporting the Kirby4Heroes Campaign or simply by making a donation to the Heroes Initiative through links provided on the Kirby4Heroes website, Facebook page or twitter account.

If you would like a first-hand, up-to-date history of Jillian Kirby’s Kirby4Heroes Campaign, she has taken the time to thoroughly recount it in a detailed letter that she has recently sent to the many fine folks that have supported her in previous years.

We share it here in hope that it will inspire more to help this good cause in the great name of Jack Kirby!

jillian_kirby_4_heroes_2015“Hi everyone,            

I am so excited to be once again collaborating with both the Hero Complex and Nerdist to promote my 2015 Kirby4Heroes charity campaign! In previous years, the gracious support of the LA Times Hero Complex, which included Geoff Boucher, Gina McIntyre, and Noelene Clark, and former Head of Production at Nerdist, Seth Laderman, has been instrumental in spreading awareness of Kirby4Heroes! 

As you may recall, I founded the Kirby4Heroes campaign when I was 16 years old in June 2012, as a way of honoring the legacy of my grandfather, comic book artist and creator Jack Kirby, who unfortunately died the year before I was born.   My campaign supports the Hero  Initiative, the only federally registered non-profit organization that helps those in the comic book industry who have fallen upon times that require the addition of medical and financial assistance.  Hero Initiative is spearheaded by James McLauchlin.

My grandfather Jack’s generosity was legendary in the comic book industry.  He always gave encouragement to budding comic book artists asking for advice.  He never turned away a fan! His Thousand Oaks home was famous as a haven for comic book lovers, fans, and those just seeking one of my grandma Roz’s famous bologna sandwiches! Growing up impoverished on the Lower East Side of New York, my grandfather went on to create or co-create such iconic superheroes as Captain America, Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, the Avengers and Ant-Man, just to name a few.  Many of his personal life experiences served as inspiration for his creations. From gang fights on the Lower East Side, to combat in WWII, and even his mother’s mysterious tales of Eastern Europe, all can be seen in my grandfather’s art and stories. A young Jacob Kurtzberg, so passionate about his craft, almost got his family kicked out of their tenement by using the walls of the building as his canvas.  He would eventually find a new space to work, a 10′ x 10′ basement room, referred to as “The Dungeon,” of his Long Island home.  A lover of movies, he envisioned his comic book panels akin to storyboards, and now, 50 years after their creation, grandpa Jack’s characters are leaping off the silver screen.

Since my campaign’s inception in June 2012, the  support given to me by the Hero Complex and the Nerdist Channel has been instrumental in relaying my message to the comic book reading public, major comic book websites, and mainstream media outlets.  This has greatly increased my fundraising outreach.

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Phil Hester #WakeUpAndDraw

My 2012 Kirby4Heroes campaign included comic book retailers throughout the state of California, as well as the first Wake Up And Draw event (WUAD), sponsored by Hero Initiative.  This event recruited comic book artists from across the country to create works of art on my grandfather¹s birthday. These pieces were later auctioned off, with the proceeds going to Hero Initiative. In that first year, the Kirby4Heroes campaign raised $5000 for the Hero Initiative.  In 2013, my Kirby4Heroes campaign grew with the addition of a Kirby4Heroes public Facebook page. Because of the generous donation of time, effort and support from Bill Cucinotta and Gerry Giovinco of CO2 Comics, a Kirby4Heroes website was created. Comic book retailers across the country were recruited, and WUAD, with Jim McLauchlin’s persistence, was expanded through the voluntary participation of many more talented artists.  This increased my fundraising efforts, raising $10,000 for the Hero Initiative! Last year in 2014, in addition to all of the events mentioned, artist Phil Hester came up with his own idea!  On August 28th, 2014, what would have been my grandfather’s 97th birthday, Phil created 97 different pieces of Kirby-themed art to auction off, raising over $3000! He pulled a marathon of an all-nighter working on these creations, live tweeting with lighthearted humor throughout the night, which truly increased individual participation and enthusiasm for the event!  And there’s more! Yet another event spearheaded by the upstate New York team of Ron Marz, comic book writer, and Paul Harding, comic book artist, with participation of comic book retailers, threw a party in commemoration of my grandfather’s birthday at a local venue and raised over $2000 for the Hero Initiative.  The event, celebrating the legacy of my grandfather Jack, was featured on National Public Radio!  NPR characterized August 28th as a movement that is spreading throughout the country to become “National Jack Kirby Day”!  My grandfather would have been astounded!  In addition, across the country, a group of major comic book artists made appearances at comic book stores to participate in Wake Up and Draw. A sentimental favorite, the beloved inker of many of my grandfather’s works, Joe Sinnott, created a work of art as a heartfelt tribute to my grandfather to be auctioned off for the Hero Initiative. Also, global outreach for the campaign increased, with events at the Moebius Liceo Gallery in Buenos Aires, an appearance by comic book artist Joe Prado at a comic book retailer in San Paolo, Brazil, a major fan Facebook page in France dedicated solely to the works of my grandfather, and comic book artists in France and Italy that created Kirby-inspired works for auction. An artist in Italy even created a birthday cake in the image of The Thing!  It was amazing! In total, the Kirby4Heroes campaign raised almost $15,000 in 2014!

Currently, as a 19 year-old entering my junior year of college as a biomedical engineering major, my 2015 campaign is off and running!  I am again working with major comic book retailers, not only in California, but also across the country.  Many will be donating a percentage of their sales or profits on my grandfather Jack Kirby¹s 98th birthday, August 28th, to the Hero Initiative, publicizing my campaign on their websites and Facebook pages, and using in-store posters and collection jar labels that I have provided.  Some will be hosting “birthday parties,” enlisting known comic book artists to draw in their stores with the work to be auctioned off either in their stores or as part of WUAD on eBay.  Others will be holding raffles with the proceeds donated to the Hero Initiative.  Phil Hester will once again participate with his crazy nonstop drawing, this time creating 98 pieces for my grandfather’s 98th birthday!  Midtown Comics in New York City will host a podcast featuring comic book artist Guy Dorian discussing my grandfather, his legacy, and the good deeds of the Hero Initiative.  I am so excited that my 2015 Kirby4Heroes campaign will also have the official endorsement of ComicsPRO, the only professional trade organization for comic book retailers in the United States.  Marco Davanzo, the Executive Director of ComicsPRO (and owner of Alakazam Comics in Irvine, CA), was instrumental in facilitating this arrangement. With over 130 members representing over 200 stores nationwide, I expect ComicsPRO to be a great resource and support. Within hours of Marco publicizing the campaign to ComicsPRO members, I began receiving requests by comic book retailers to be involved in my Kirby4Heroes campaign. It’s thrilling that my Kirby4Heroes campaign is receiving such enthusiastic support by members of the comic book community.  Wouldn’t it be great to also get the support of those involved in the Hollywood movies inspired by my grandfather’s creations!

One of the most satisfying surprises from my 2014 campaign was the amount of personal donations in the name of Kirby4Heroes sent in to the Hero Initiative either by mail or on the Hero Initiative website. The addition of my public Kirby4Heroes Facebook page in 2013 and its growth in 2014 greatly helped my fundraising efforts.  This Facebook page is meant to serve as a type of personal Jack Kirby art museum. I try to keep my grandfather Jack¹s legacy thriving through daily postings of his artwork. Comments made by the page¹s followers are often both entertaining and educational.  They keep my grandfather¹s spirit alive.  The Facebook page allows followers to personally message me, which has become another avenue for outreach.

Innovative fundraising ideas contributed by many Jack Kirby fans continually assist the Kirby4Heroes campaign to expand and blossom! Watching this event spread from state to state, with the possibility of becoming a national or international event is my greatest dream  leading up to my grandfather’s 100th birthday in 2017.  I look forward to the culmination of a fantastic show of support on August 28th! Over the past three years the Kirby4Heroes campaign has been fortunate enough to raiseover $30,000 for the Hero Initiative. This year, I’ve upped the ante to a fundraising goal of $20,000        

Looking ahead to the future, I’m zeroing in on August 28th, 2017, my grandfather¹s 100th birthday.  Upon reaching my 2015 goal of $20,000 for the Hero Initiative, I will have brought in a total of $50,000 since my campaign’s inception in 2012.  My target is to raise an additional $50,000 over the next two years.  Upon my grandpa Jack’s 100th birthday celebration in 2017, I will hopefully have been able to provide the Hero Initiative with $100,000 for their charitable works.  It would also be wonderful to have fundraising events for Kirby4Heroes occurring in all fifty states to benefit the Hero Initiative by 2017.  To spread awareness of my grandfather’s influence as one of the most preeminent American pop culture artists of the 20th century, seeing his artwork displayed in several major art museums would be another amazing goal, enabling my grandfather and his legacy to be celebrated in the mainstream.  Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, declared “if there was a Mount Rushmore of comic book artists, Jack Kirby would sit front and center.”  I wholeheartedly agree with this, and truly believe that my grandfather deserves a place in the pantheon of great American masters.

WUAD_2013_RiveraIf there is any additional information you would like to know about my campaign or any questions you have, please let me know!  Here are the links to the Hero Complex articles/videos about my campaign in previous years, so you have them as a reference:

(2012)

(2013)

(2014)

         I’ve also included 3 Wake Up and Draw pieces from 2013 that I especially enjoyed:  Joe Sinnott’s drawing of my grandfather with the Thing, the character he personally identified with at the top of this blog, Walt Simonson’s drawing of Thor, and Paolo Rivera’s take on Captain America.  Thank you so much again for your time, effort and support and I am so grateful to be collaborating with the Hero Complex and Nerdist again this year!  I’m looking forward to working with you all this summer!

Best,

Jillian

simonson-thor-2013

‘Captain America’ Cries the Red, White and Blues

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Anyone out there who has remotely cared about how comic creators have been screwed out of even the tiniest morsel of the tremendous profits  generated by Hollywood’s superhero bonanza had to let out a huge guffaw after reading a recent Variety  interview with Chris Evans, who will star as Captain America throughout a contracted six film run for Marvel Entertainment. His commitment is now half completed with this past weekend’s blockbuster release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The star spangled actor seems fairly constrained when talking about the trials and tribulations of portraying the famed First Avenger, careful not to raise the ire of Marvel studio execs but can’t help himself from peaking the nerves of their stingy bean counters with a little help from Avenger cast ring leader, Robert Downey, Jr.

Evans says Marvel will often send him pictures of “Captain America” action figures that are molded after his likeness, but that he doesn’t profit from the merchandising. “I see my nephew wearing underwear with my face on it,” says Evans. “I’m like ‘what’s going on?’ But for some reason, (no money comes) my way.” Adds Downey: “Nobody gets anything from the toys, and nobody ever will.” Then he promises: “I’m working on it.”

What if?

It’s a hoot seeing these mega-stars crying over the money they are not making especially after they all made such a big scene about renegotiating their contacts going into Avengers 2 after the original Avengers film grossed over $1.5 billion world-wide, ranking it number three in all-time box office sales. Adding fuel to the fire was the huge discrepancy of pay between stars. Downey made $50 million for his role as Iron Man while other Avengers  made as little as $200,000 for their silver-screen super-heroics generating comments like, “On what planet is that fair!”

True to form, Marvel continues to “strong-arm and bully” the talent, wether it is an aging comic book creator or a celebrated Hollywood actor, with threats of law suits and dismissal of service held against detractors. Marvel considers talent to be expendable so long as they control the Intellectual Property of their vast library which they protect with the might of Odin to the point that even Disney power suits stand clear.

As each new Marvel film exceeds expectations and rings up record revenue it becomes more apparent that Marvel is as mythic as its heroes and villains when it comes to sheer greed. Soon their brand will be synonymous with companies like Walmart and McDonalds whose employees require government assistance to survive because they are paid and treated so poorly.

Maybe the high profile whining of celebrities like Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and others will bring attention to Marvel’s unscrupulously tight fisted business ethics. Maybe the stars and the public will finally gain sympathy for the Kirby family who do not see one red cent from all of the characters that Jack Kirby co-created, without which none of these actors would have a role to play or complain about in the first place.

Unions in Hollywood are powerful, they have the ability to freeze the industry. Should the writers and actors become sympathetic to the plight of comic creators and their heirs, some justice could still come to those that have been denied fair compensation for their contribution to both the Marvel and DC Universes for decades. Maybe the courts will finally recognize the injustices that they’ve been catering to as they suckled the teats of big business.

Let’s root for the Marvel films to be so successful that  the stars can’t stand watching the vast amounts of money that is sure to elude them. Put them in the shoes of Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Ditko, Jerry Siegle, Joe Shuster and a long parade of other comic creators that worked for a lousy page rate under the shackles of a work-for-hire agreement and never saw royalties when their creations became films, toys or underwear.

The stars representing beloved heroes will put an unmistakable face on the unfair practices of Marvel and DC that a comic creator hunched over a drawing board or typewriter never could. Maybe then the world will appreciate the injustices that many of us have known about for decades and some things will change in the comics industry.

A perturbed Chris Evans is a great start. His character, Captain America, represents the American Dream and has stood for all that is fair and good in this country since his creation by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1941.

It is only right that Captain America should now lead this charge against the corporate greed and bullying that grips our nation, exemplified by Marvel, the self proclaimed builders of our modern mythology. There is more than a man behind that shield he carries, there is the heart of a nation that cannot be taken away. It is time we all stand behind that red, white and blue shield together to defend what we know  is morally right. It is time for a battle cry! America, Assemble!

Gerry Giovinco



‘Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe’ – A Kit With Instructions

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Tonight ABC television airs a special, ‘Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe’ that is being promoted as an exclusive look inside the world of Marvel Studios.

Marvel’s website succinctly describes the world premiere primetime event:

“Marvel Studios has pioneered and broken box-office records around the world, creating a cinematic universe unlike any other in pop culture history through its blockbuster films. Beginning with “Iron Man” in 2008 and continuing today through “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC and the theatrical release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” this April, the Marvel Cinematic Universe presents audiences with some of the most groundbreaking and dynamic storytelling that brings an unprecedented vision to the world of entertainment.

In this exclusive primetime documentary special, audiences will be taken further into the Marvel Cinematic Universe than ever before, offering viewers a front row seat to the inception of Marvel Studios, the record-breaking films, the cultural phenomenon, and further expansion of the universe by Marvel Television.

Marvel’s first television special documents the exciting story behind Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, featuring exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from all of the Marvel films, the Marvel One-Shots and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Viewers will walk a clear path through this amazing and nuanced universe, featuring sneak peeks at the future of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC, new footage from Marvel Studios’ upcoming theatrical releases, “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Guardians of The Galaxy,” and a sneak peek at the upcoming Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.'”

Curiously, they never mention the words “comics” or “comic books” once in their own promotion of this marketing extravaganza.

Seriously?

Fortunately early clips from the documentary shown on other sites quote Marvel Comics’ Editor-In-Chief, Axel Alonso saying,

“What Marvel Studios has done is very similar to what Marvel Comics did back in the day. They’ve built individual stories to stand on their own two feet, then they found a way to take those stories and weave them into a larger narrative.”

Thank you… I think.

Marvel Studios needs to pinch themselves, wake up and come to the stark (pun intended) realization that they are not creating anything. They are ADAPTING!

They are assembling this cinematic universe of theirs from a kit whose instructions were clearly established over a 73 year history by a ton of creative individuals whose professional careers were dedicated to making comic books!

Forget IRON MAN in 2008, let’s start with CAPTAIN AMERICA in 1941 and see where the Marvel Universe would be without their First Avenger that was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

That’s right, the same Jack Kirby whose name pops up when you also mention the creation of, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all of which  he collaborated on with some guy named Stan Lee throughout the 1960’s.

Stan Lee? Yeah, he was Editor-in-Cheif back in the day” and was probably the guy most responsible for finding a way to weave those stories into a “larger narrative” since he was sitting behind the big desk at the time, directing traffic and providing the final scripting on all of those comics.

Let’s not even get started on the Guardians of the Galaxy whose long list of creator contributors include the names of folks like Arnold Drake, Gene Colan, Steve Englehart, Steve Gan,  Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen just to name a few.

By the way, there is one Guardian that has been lurking around the Marvel Universe since 1960. Yup! Groot made his first appearance in TALES TO ASTONISH #13 and is credited to – guess who? Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby along with a fella named Dick Ayers who also contributed to the creation of Iron Man.

Don’t be surprised if that alien shown in the T.A.H.I.T.I. episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turns out to be Groot regenerating in that giant test tube. He is, after all, an alien plant species that was once held captive by S.H.I.E.L.D., became member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos and was later selected by the Kree to join the Guardians of the Galaxy to battle Ultron and the Phalanx where he sacrificed his life only to be brought back from the dead by Rocket Raccoon who managed to regrow him  by planting  one of his branches.

Nah!  That shit only happens in comic books.

Marvel Studios is working with a gold mine of material even after licensing out huge properties like Spider-man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four. Thanks to work-for-hire conditions in the comics industry the bulk of that material was produced for a  mere page rate and most of those creators that originally built that universe will never see a thin dime in royalties delivered to them or their heirs, especially not those of the late Jack Kirby whose creative genius is associated with most of this current crop of film and television that the Marvel Universe is built on.

Maybe, like Groot, there is hope that a seed, a branch or a twig could be planted and justice could grow from a bad deal that has been declared dead.

Remember, that without those comic books, none of these films and television shows will have ever existed and neither will have all the industry that is built around licensing and merchandising them, creating tons jobs that help support our economy.

What entertainment would we be enjoying this summer without Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the rest of those comic book creators?

Without them there is no Marvel Universe to assemble.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Creator’s Rights: The Rise of the UNDEAD!

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

For anyone who thought that  the Work for Hire clause, whether it was specified in a contract or stamped on the back of a check, was the final answer regarding creator’s rights; think again!

The battle for creator’s rights is experiencing a ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE of its own as issues once considered dead and buried by corporate gate keepers are raising their hoary heads and experiencing triumph against the devil himself.

Appropriately, Ghost Rider, the supernatural motorcyclist who sold his soul to the devil and consequently bursts into hellfire complete with a flaming skull whenever he encounters evil, has become the latest character championed by the challenge of his creator.

Gary Friedrich settled a deal with Marvel after the Second Court of Appeals decided that the work for hire contract signed in 1978 was ambiguous on the topic of copyright renewal.

His victory has highlighted the fact that there can be hope against what appears to be insurmountable odds especially after Marvel had knocked him down for the count and even won a countersuit against him for trademark violation seeking retribution of $17,000 for monies he made from selling autographed prints of Ghost Rider at comic conventions.

Never give up the fight!

Creator’s rights has been a battle going on in this industry since it began and every time the issue seems dead it claws back from the grave. Jerry Siegle and Joe Shuster were zombies extraordinaire. No creators fought back so frequently and so often reviving dead issues and achieving a number of victories along the way, than these two. Even after their own deaths their family still haunts DC and Warner Brothers with challenges.

The huge popularity of superheroes in film has certainly stirred the dead more than any other event. The immense profits made from films and merchandising of comic book characters that were unimaginable decades ago have breathed new vigor into aging creators who may have given up the fight long ago but now see the fortunes that are slipping through their fingers.

Suddenly a few of these stalwart underdogs have played a winning hand.

It is important to pay close attention to victories because they are often shrouded in secretive settlements that, though they may satisfy and reward the challenges of the creator are designed to ultimately protect the stake of the corporate holder. Terms of agreement that require secrecy lend little support to other challengers except to grant hope that they too can come to a settlement that will satisfy their unique complaint.

Stan Lee took Marvel to task in 2002 for royalties owed for characters he co-created.  He was awarded a $10 million settlement in 2005 according to Marvel’s first quarter operating results that year. This of course begs to question, what about Steve Ditko and the Jack Kirby estate?

Archie Comics settled with Ken Penders regarding rights to the characters he created while working on stories for Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles comics. His characters have shown up in reprints, comics, and video games. Victory in hand, he now has his sights set on Sega and Electronic Arts. Sega would not event participate with Archie in the original proceedings making Archie’s defense more laughable than it was. Penders plans to utilize the characters he created in a graphic novel series entitled The Lara-Su Chronicles.

Jim Starlin’s relationship has seemed so warm and fuzzy with Marvel since it was revealed that Thanos, a character he created, would be a major player in the Avengers film franchise as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Little has been made public, but one can only assume that a settlement has been reached since Starlin can prove that he created Thanos before he even came to work for Marvel.

Recently, in a congratulatory comment  to Gary Friedrich made via Facebook and Twitter, artist Bob Layton publicly stated that  he and David Michelinie had settled with Marvel over rights issues to a character created during their long run on Iron Man.

Does this activity indicate that the tide is turning? Is it possible the the courts are finally recognizing what we have known for years; that creators of intellectual property in the comic industry have been grossly taken advantage of? Is public sentiment starting to influence the position of the courts and the corporations? Is the work for hire practice of the major comic companies finally damaging the value of their good will?

A lot of creators have been cheated over the decades. A lot of challenges have laid buried beneath heaps of residue from corporate greed, abuse and the creator’s fear of reprisal.

There is a tremor now. That which was once thought dead is rising from the loosened earth. Like the Ghost Rider, injustice is igniting its fury. A new day is coming and that which was dead will be no more. Creator’s Rights will rise like the undead and the  APOCALYPSE will be waged upon corporate greed.

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes Held Hostage as Trademark

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

There is no doubt that superheroes represent modern mythology. Face it,  we are fascinated by folks with super powers and cool costumes. Why not? Super human characters have captured our imagination since the days of the ancient Egyptians. Who wouldn’t want to have a super power? Most of us at least have dreamt about flying or possessing super strength. Superheroes are permanently ingrained into our culture. They are a fantasy  representation of ultimate traits that we admire. They are who we all would like to be.

The concept of superheroes is so pervasive in our society that many are surprised to learn the word, superheroes  and all variations of it are actually trademarked jointly by  Marvel and DC. These two parent corporations are undoubtedly responsible for most recognizable superheroes in the world today but should that be enough to grant them ownership of the use of the one word that distinctly represents an entire genre of creative works depicted in all forms of media including comic books, novels, video games, film and television not to mention a plethora of merchandised products?

Marvel and DC entered into the rare joint ownership back in 1979, though some suggest that this may have occurred as far back as the 1950’s. It was necessary for them to share the ownership to protect their rights to the word or risk losing it. They renewed the trademark registration as recently as 2006 generating much discussion at the time. A clear explanation of the ramifications of the registration was posted on Comic Book Resources by staff writer Brian Cronin who is also a lawyer in New York City. The post titled, The Superhero Trademark FAQ did a a wonderful job of succinctly answering all of the obvious questions, especially the big one, “How can they trademark the word superhero?”

Apparently, all they had to do was prove, through surveys, that people identified the the word superhero specifically with their product.  Asked, “name a superhero” and any random selection of the general population undoubtedly would have ran off a steady stream of, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-man, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America; a list of the most iconic superheroes, all owned by Marvel and DC.

Case closed.

Of course there are tons of other superheroes. There is a rich three-quarter of a century history of superheroes that were published by a myriad of other companies but by the late seventies they were all gone and forgotten except by a few diehard fans of the medium and pop culture enthusiasts. The mass market was being funneled into the Direct Market and when a sudden wave of new superheroes emerged in the 1980’s they were corralled into a restrictive market that catered only to enthusiasts that could spot a superhero a mile away if they were labeled one or not. New publishers were frustrated by their inability to use the word on covers and in advertising but were happy to distance their product from the big two in an effort to establish their brand if only in the confines of the local comic shop. The rest of the world was exposed exclusively to Marvel and DC characters.

Nobody could have imagined the scope of the internet then or the future of computer generated special effects.  The impact they both have had on  the new explosion of interest  in superheroes has changed the game. The concept of the superhero has become bigger than the individual characters. Show a generic picture of any man, woman or child in a costume with a mask and a cape and they will easily be identified as a superhero and distinguished as NOT one of the major players in the field. Generic superheroes abound throughout advertising, media and entertainment. Everybody calls them what they are, superheroes.  The people that are in the business of creating new superheroes, other comic publishers, cannot call a spade a spade, however,  without receiving the dreaded cease and desist letter from both Marvel and DC.

This is just another example of how Marvel and DC gang up and continue to put a stranglehold on the growth of the genre and the medium of comics. As an industry we let it happen by not contesting their dictatorship at every turn. One little guy has stood up to fight the good fight. Ray Felix , the publisher of A World Without Superheroes, is taking a stand and challenging them with amazingly little support from others. He needs help from those that care about superheroes. He needs help from us.

What Marvel and DC have done with the trademark of the word, superhero, is a travesty. If anyone has diluted the trademark it is them. When they originally registered the word, a superhero had distinct wholesome qualities that were governed by the Comics Code Authority which was still in effect, though in  weakened sense, in 2006 upon their renewal. They have continually changed their characters rebooting everything from their costume, to sexual orientation. Characters have been killed, re-killed and killed again. Any moral code that was attributed to superheroes has long gone astray. There is little that another publisher could do that would harm the term superhero more than what Marvel and DC have already done. They are not good custodians of the word!

Under their stewardship an entire industry of superhero pornography has been allowed to flourish under the guise of parody. Their trademarked term, superhero, is all over the covers of those videos.  One company has an entire line of them titled “Vivid XXX Superheroes” that features all the major superheroes doing the “nasty.” OK, a parody is a parody and it is protected. Superhero Movie was a parody. There was one of them!  The porn industry uses the trademark “superhero” over and over again with no contention.  There’s even a performance spray for men called Superhero!  What’s the deal?

Imagine Coke-a-Cola standing by idly while a porn film features everyone running around with a Coke bottle hanging out of every orifice. It wouldn’t happen!

Now there is Superhero Play. No, it is not some type of pornography. (See the dilution) It is a term coined by educators describing little kids running around pretending they are superheroes and it is raising concern because it inspires aggressive behavior because superheroes “fight” evil.  Will Marvel and DC want to distance themselves from the word superhero when it becomes a witch-hunt-buzz-word like Horror and Crime comics did in the fifties?

The word superhero is being held hostage as a trademark by Marvel and DC. They protect it when it is convenient and when it offers an opportunity to bully small publishers, toy companies and business owners. They enforce the illusion that all superheroes are their product only  and for any other reason this is why guys like Ray Felix need to be supported, because the world needs to know that all superhero comics do not come from just Marvel and DC.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Mark Millar is Right!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Mark Millar’s assertion that a Justice League film is “an excellent way of losing $200 million” is dead-on but not for the reasons he stipulates.

The idea that the characters that comprise the membership of Justice League of America are outdated is insane. The core group of founding members of the JLA; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, are not only iconic characters, they have literally established and defined the entire superhero genre over their 75 year history.

Where the powers-that-be at DC and Warner continually fail and why a JLA film would tank is that, for some reason, these classic characters are considered by them as never good enough, never mature enough, never edgy enough. The properties are constantly the subject of reboots to make them more relevant, more gritty, more believable. In the process these characters have become unrecognizable to generations of fans that have an idealized passion for the originals.

Marketing geniuses that license the DC properties understand this passion and that is why classic images of these characters adorn every product imaginable from Converse sneakers to slip covers for car seats. You don’t see licensees rushing to conform to likenesses of these characters from DC’s New 52. Why? Because the reboots of these characters are a bastardization of the classics whose only purpose is to distance copyright and trademark enforcement from the original creators.

There is a reason that these characters have been around for as long as they have. Something about them has struck a deep cultural nerve that has allowed them to be ingrained into our society. They are beloved.

Leave them alone already!

I was watching a designer on the Rachel Ray show the other day who was expounding on the enduring virtues of classic design. Classics never go out of style. Update with accessories! This has been lost on DC.

Stan Lee has always said that a great character should be easily defined by a simple statement. The JLA lineup has that in spades to the point where just the name of each character defines most of them. These are the characters audiences want to see in a film not a convoluted mess like they saw in the film Green Lantern.

That movie should have been about a guy with a ring that gave him superpowers. Boom! Instead we had to suffer through the history of the Green Lantern Corps and be introduced to more characters than we were ready to digest. Seriously. I just wanted to see Green Lantern fight some bad guys and save the day with his bad-ass ring!

Marvel Entertainment gets this. They do a great job of embracing the original source material and simply defining their characters. Look at The Avengers. Iron Man – guy in a metal suit. Thor – god of thunder. Captain America – super soldier. Hulk…now there’s a study.

The Hulk was in two films that audiences could not embrace. Those films were too much about what made Bruce Banner tick. Inner conflicts. Fancy cinematography. CGI. They strayed away from what was simple yet great about the character: Make Hulk mad and Hulk will smash. Oh, and he’s green.

Director Josh Whedon understood this and gave us the Hulk that we saw in The Avengers. Suddenly the Hulk was a breakout character again. Hulk was there. Hulk got pissed. Hulk smashed. Ta-da! The audience ate it up.

The Avengers was brilliant in its simplicity regarding character development. Every character was easily defined, relying heavily on what people knew and expected from them, not from their previous individual movies as much as what we knew about them from their decades of existence in popular culture.

With The Avengers film, Marvel Entertainment had a plan to market each character through their own feature film then combine them as a super group in The Avengers capitalizing on the exact marketing strategy that Stan Lee exploited with the comic books featuring the same characters. Stan, ironically, borrowed this strategy from DC who’s success combining their own banner characters to form the JLA, in part, instigated the creation of The Fantastic Four, miraculously giving Marvel a new life.

DC would do well to reverse engineer this marketing plan by giving us a Justice League film that gives us highlights of the classic characters as we know and love them in a dynamite team adventure then spinning each character off into their own film after audiences have re-embraced the characters. This would work best if they were sure not to convolute the characters and dramatically depart from the institutions that they already are.

Good luck with that.

Maybe DC would be less likely to over think their characters if the film was titled Super Friends.

It may be that the only producers capable of making a profitable Justice League film are those in the porn industry. Those superheroes are always recognizable, even with their clothes off.

More on this rant next week.

Gerry Giovinco


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.

Ahem..

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.”

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



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