Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Siegel’

Copyright and the Art of Shaming

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Last week’s blog, Copyright Law is Changing! Is it Time to Hit the Panic Button?, was predicated in response to a viral video, Everything You Know About Copyright Law Is About To Change, generated by a credible source that according to this post on Graphicpolicy.com , Don’t Believe the Hyperbole, There’s No Orphan Works Law Before Congress, is completely untrue leading thousands of people to share, watch  and spread erroneous information with an agenda.

Oh, the power of the Internet!

The bottom line, as I said in my post and which was repeated on Graphic Policy, please, get educated about copyright and about anything else you may be passionate about especially when it comes to information shared on the web because, too much of it is either biased, false, or just plain fantasy.

People on the internet seem to get a kick out of being stirred up. In regards to copyright protection this could be an advantage to folks trying to protect works that have been infringed on. Face it. Nobody wants to go through the expense of hiring lawyers and marching to court in a copyright suit when it is much easier, less costly and sometimes more damaging  to shame an infringer on the internet.

We all got to see how shame was used to drive the dentist that hunted and killed Cecil the lion underground long before authorities even had a chance to file charges. It is much easier to get the public worked up in a lather over killing a beloved animal than it may be over copyright issues but it has been done successfully many times.

Neal Adams used this public shaming technique back in the 1970’s when he orchestrated a deal between DC and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The Swipe Files on Bleeding Cool regularly hang infringers and plagiarists out to dry. We all remember what a mockery Shia LaBeouf became after his repeated plagiarisms. Marvel is no longer haunted by the perpetual public shaming of how they screwed Jack Kirby now that a deal has been settled with the Kirby family.

Online people fight their own wars behind the strength of their social networks. Cartoonist Jess Fink, for example has raised awareness of her experience with Todd Goldman on her Tumblr and it has reached the audience of Comics Alliance.

Shaming like this does not have to happen. Usually when a copyright or trademark holder recognizes an infringement they notify the infringer with a Cease and Desist letter. Rational people realize that they have been caught or have infringed unknowingly and respond apologetically and appropriately to immediately rectify the situation.  The real crooks get defiant and retaliatory, responding with a sense of righteousness and self entitlement that is beyond reproach. That is when it is time to bring it on but be wary, their moxie is generally driven by knowledge of their own deep pockets and a willingness to drain your resources legally.

I recently witnessed an artist who recognized a logo he designed on an unauthorized website. He had designed the logo for a company that used it as their trademark. He took it upon himself to notify the site that unless they had permission from the TM holder that they should not be using the logo. The initial response was the dreaded, “Don’t worry I’ll give you both credit and you will enjoy the great exposure!” When that was not deemed acceptable the infringer became a jerk acting like he was the violated one. This all played out very publicly on social media where the support apparently was strongly on the side of the artist. The logo was eventually removed and both sides agreed to remove the involved posts. Hopefully this is the end of this situation and both sides are content with the end result, though I am sure each has a stink eye out for a potential libel suit.

Avoid the shame. Play fair and don’t infringe on peoples intellectual property. If you wouldn’t steal their car why is it OK to steal their art? If you don’t understand how this works it is time that you get educated on the basics of Copyright and Trademark.

Gerry Giovinco

Comic Creators – It is Time to Change the Business Model

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

So, last week in my blog post The DC Comics Double-Cross I wrote about Gerry Conway’s post regarding DC’s policy about “derivative” characters and how they are using it to avoid equity payments to creators.

I usually have a lot to say about issues that involve creators rights but I do not have the clout that Neal Adams does nor his long history as an advocate.

Adam’s, who led the charge in support of Superman creator’s Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster back in the 1970’s, was quick to publicly back Conway with his own take on the subject and a warning to creators about reading contracts. His response is an important read that can be found in this Bleeding Cool post by Rich Johnston: Neal Adams Talks Gerry Conway, DC Comics And Who Owns What?

In the post Adams refers to the relationship that book publishers have with creators and how it differs from the type of relationship that Marvel and DC have had with creators for way too long. It is this difference that needs to be examined more closely.

Marvel and DC are two of the oldest comics publishing houses each having been publishing for over 75 years. Back in the late 1930’s when comic books began to grow as a viable industry, comics which sold millions of copies at the low price of 10¢ were considered a high-volume, low-yield product that relied more on ad sales based on circulation to generate income than actual unit sales. They were more concerned with paying sales commissions to the ad salesmen than they were to paying royalties to creators. Content along with its copyright was bought from creators and treated as “work for hire” which meant that the Publisher owned the work lock, stock, and barrel. The publishers, who now held the copyright were considered the “Author” and enjoyed the benefit of royalties as other mediums like film, radio and television began to license the characters as they grew in popularity. The actual creators of those characters saw nothing because they had signed away their legal rights or assumed they had none because of the conditions of work for hire. This, with few exceptions, remains the general practice of Marvel ad DC to this day.

Most book publishers have a distinctly different relationship with creators. A creator owns the copyright of their work. They enter into a contract with a publisher that grants the publisher exclusive rights to publish the work for an established duration in return for a royalty payment based on a percentage of the cover price of each book sold. The agreement usually puts the publisher in charge of marketing the work to other mediums and foreign publishers. There is usually also an exit clause that will allow the two parties to terminate their relationship if either party does not fulfill their obligations.The creator is the author and owner of the copyright and generally shares in all the profits made from the licenses of the work. The publisher is the contracted caretaker. This post, Book Advances and Royalties,  does a good job describing how this relationship works.

As the comics industry grew and characters began to generate obscene amounts of money for the publishers, creators realized that they had been duped. To make matters worse, comic creators who were content to “work for hire” anticipating a life-long, secure career were finding that they were often tossed to the side in favor of the next, hot talent. Older and unemployed these creators watch as their work continues to make tons of money for the publisher while the creator faces poverty with no benefits.

This is  a business model that has to change. Comic books are no longer a high volume low yield industry. Marvel and DC have adapted to change regarding distribution, production and marketing of the IP. It is time they change their relationship with creators to one that is fair.

Independent comics publishers have adapted to a model more similar to book publishers and creators are enjoying the benefits of profiting from their works as they are developed into other media. It is a model that can and does work for comics.

It is a wonder why creators continue to work for Marvel and DC when they could better control their destiny elsewhere.

Whenever I see young talent working for the big two I can’t help but compare them to teenage smokers. There is too much information out there that proves smoking is bad for you, why if you have half a brain, would you risk your life to cancer for that cheap thrill? I expect they think it is just a phase, something they can kick, until they are caught in the vicious cycle.

Young comic creators have a choice. Say no to work for hire. Create unique work and own it.  Enjoy the success of your creations instead of watching others profit from your work while you are tossed aside like yesterdays news. If no one will work for publishers like Marvel and DC they will have no choice but to change their relationships with creators. Until then it will be business as usual.

Gerry Giovinco

Who Cares that Comic Creators Get Credit?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

As comic characters continue to roll out of the pages of comic books and into other forms of media, especially television and film, we are discovering a greater interest in who created what. This piqued curiosity is surely the bi-product of heated battles that were fought on behalf of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as the recent settlement regarding the characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby for Marvel.

It is a sad fact of comic book history that creators have most often been taken advantage of by the publishing houses that retain the rights to characters that they created. Many had long careers but were only rewarded by meager, hard earned page rates. They saw no royalties or benefits and in the early years little, if any, credit for their work. Most never even saw the return of their original art. Too many have passed on or continue to live in obscurity, without healthcare and certainly no compensation from their creations which have spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

To be fair, some progress has been made, and in recent years attentive creators and their families have been able to establish some undisclosed agreements that have satisfied both sides. These accounts, however,  are few and far between.

The foremost concern for many creators is not money but rather an acknowledgment of their creative contribution in the form of credit on the screen. This has been demonstrated most recently by a Facebook post from the daughter of the late illustrator, Al Plastino, the co-creator of Supergirl a character that will soon be the focus of a new television series.

She writes:

“Facebook friends, we need you help.

Please help us get Al the credit he is due and all the creators who have died recently and will not see their characters come to life on television or in the movies. They never received any pensions, or health insurance, nothing at all. How disappointing that DC has waited until these gentlemen have passed away to begin producing programs like Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legion of Super Heroes,.Not looking for royalties. Just an acknowledgement of all the work these men put into building the DC brand. All the guys who have drawn or created characters when they were at the height of their popularity. Many nights I saw my father working in his studio to meet deadlines from the editor. At one point, Dad was handling 5 different strips for DC and United Media. Go to the DC website or their facebook page and let the syndicate know. You can do so much more for Al than any lawyer could. You helped Al get the Superman/Kennedy art into the Kennedy library where it was supposed to have been for the last 50 years and for that I am eternally grateful.

go to http://www.dcentertainment.com/#contact

MaryAnn Plastino Charles”

Why is a fleeting credit so important to creators or their families? Why should we care?  Few of us even notice, or stick around for the credits to roll at the end of a film. Those of us that do, understand that the greatest reward to a creator is to be recognized for his or her contribution to our culture. A simple acknowledgement goes a long way.

Think of the closing scenes of the Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion get their awards. A diploma, a testimonial and a medallion were all it took to make the respective characters each feel fulfilled. The tokens were material acknowledgement of who they were and what they accomplished. This is the value of credit to a comic creator especially one that has created a character that has become iconic. It is the fulfillment of their destiny as a comic book creator, to experience immortality vicariously through their creation.

But our society has become desensitized to these simple but important details. Too many of us want to cut to the chase and just consume. There is a sense of entitlement that is too quick to dismiss the value of the effort those involved in creating our entertainment. This is ironic because now, more than ever before, all that information is easily at our fingertips.

A quick Wikipedia search will tell you all you need to know about who created nearly any character with links to biographies of the respective creators.

Supergirl, She was created by writer Otto Binder and designed by artist Al Plastino in 1959.”

The modern Flash, “starred Barry Allen as the Flash and the series assumed the numbering of the original Flash Comics with issue #105 (March 1959) written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino

Green Arrow, Created by Morton Weisinger and designed by George Papp, he first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in November 1941.”

The Legion of Super-Heroes, “The team first appears in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.”

With all of this information so readily available why is it so difficult to ask that they be credited on the screen? Some could argue that so many creators have influenced the current stories being told that the effort becomes daunting. This, however, becomes more of a reason to signal out appropriate credits.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for example, does a nice job of crediting Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. but what about characters like Deathlock created by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench, Quake created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto or Mockingbird first written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Barry Smith? This is just a short list of the many characters that have appeared or are expected to appear in this ongoing series that has proven pivotal to the development of the MCU.

It is important for the world to know that the genre of superheroes did not just come from the fertile minds of a few. The genre is the result of the exceptional talents of a huge number of individuals whose work has been woven into a fabric of an expansive and growing mythology that has become entrenched in our popular culture.

For those of us that care, it is our responsibility to ensure that these creators and their efforts are not forgotten. It is the fans, collectors, historians, teachers and practitioners of the medium who will ultimately maintain the database of information that preserves the integrity of the history of what these comic book creators have accomplished. Hopefully our enthusiasm will be infectious enough that others will take notice and a greater appreciation of those unsung heroes will flourish.

Share if you care.

Gerry Giovinco

Happy Hanukkah to the World of Comics and Comic Books!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Since today is the first day of Hanukkah this year, we at CO2 Comics would like to wish a very “Happy Hanukkah” to all of our Jewish friends and family in the great world of comics and comic books!

It is now widely accepted history that immigrated Jewish Americans are largely responsible for the development of the early comic book industry. Without trivializing the significance of Jewish publishers, printers and distributors of the 1930’s, just try to imagine a comic book industry without this very short list of comic book pioneer creators that were all Jewish:

Jerry Siegel

Joe Shuster

Jack Kirby

Joe Simon

Bob Kane

Bill Finger

Jerry Robinson

Stan Lee

Just imagine a world of comics without Superman, Batman, Captain America and the bulk of the Marvel Universe created or co-created by these eight men that stand out as brilliantly as the eight candles to be lit on a festive Hanukkah Menorah!

A more comprehensive list of Jewish cartoonists that were leaders in the industry can be found here.

The contributions of these creators of Jewish decent can not be overstated. Without any small percentage of them comics, as we know them today, would not exist.

This is the time of year when everyone tip-toes around espousing the phrase, “Happy Holidays,” essentially offending people they are trying not to by sterilizing their greetings. In the process of this dilution we lose site of the beauty, significance, and  contributions of the cultures that celebrate uniquely different holidays.

As an independent comics publisher CO2 Comics has always recognized the value of diversity in the comics medium. Our appreciation of the history of our industry strengthens the value of that diversity every day. Though we may not personally celebrate all of these holidays it is with great conviction that we recognize that we are influenced regularly by others that do.

So, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas and a Fabulous Festivus to you all!

Gerry Giovinco



Ten Things We Should All Know About Copyright Law Thanks to Kirby v. Marvel

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

With very little pomp and circumstance the most famous contentious relationship in the history of comics has finally been amicably settled between the estate of the late Jack Kirby and Marvel Entertainment. The announcement came just one business day before the case was scheduled to be considered for hearing by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Comic historians and fans of both Marvel and Kirby know that the relationship between the two has been tenuous as far back as the mid 1960’s. The feud reached a climax in the late 1980’s when many fans and comic professionals demanded that Marvel fairly compensate him for the wealth of material that he had created which, by all standards, established the foundation on which the company had been built and supported. Marvel never did.

This discussion continued after his death in 1994 though it mostly existed as a blistering boil on the ass of the comics industry establishing Kirby as the poster child of the Creators’ Rights movement replacing Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, as the most screwed creator in comics history.

The debate about what Jack Kirby and his heirs were owed, if anything,  became heated in public forums, especially on the internet, exasperated by misinformation, blind opinion, and just plain ignorance of the real matters at hand. Trolls abounded and it often got ugly.

In 2009, in accordance with provisions established in the Copyright Act of 1976, the Kirby Estate filed for termination of Marvel’s copyright claim seeking a reversion of rights which led to a legal battle that was most accurately and meticulously described by Kurt Busiek on a CBR comment thread.

Busiek laid out the truth in no uncertain terms because, as he stated, The amount of misinformation presented in this thread is staggering.” He does a great job of cutting through the he-said-she-said bullshit of the voices of public opinion and pares it down to the cold, hard facts.

Amazingly, it is apparent that too many people, including those in creative fields, do not know the basic elements of copyright law!

If Kirby v. Marvel accomplished anything it should be a better understanding of copyright law by those people that should understand it the most; creators.

Everything you need to know about copyright can be found right here, but it can be a long and agonizing read full of legal jargon.

The following is a simple list of ten important things that creators really need to know about copyright law as it concerns what happened to Jack Kirby.

1. Ideas are not protected! Copyright only protects the expression of an idea that is able to be reproduced in virtually any form.

Two people can have the same idea but their expression of the idea needs to be different. If they are the same, it is assumed that the latter infringed upon the first.

If you “borrow” an idea from someone and create your own expression of it , that is not infringement.

When Stan Lee would give Jack Kirby plot “ideas” verbally in a meeting, unless they were written in the form of a synopsis or script, they could not become copyrighted until Kirby drew the pages of the comic book.

2. The work is protected by copyright the second it is created regardless if you placed a “© 2014 John Hancock” on it or registered it at the Copyright Office.

Placing a copyright notice on your work stakes your claim to it and is a deterrent similar to faux security signs on your front lawn.  The burden of proof, however, is on you and the best and most official way to protect yourself is to register your work.

As mentioned earlier, Kirby’s work was considered copyrighted the second he drew them. It is guaranteed that he never marked them with a © or registered them. The proof that he created them prior to their publication date is all that is necessary and was enough for the Kirby Estate to challenge Marvel.

3. You can sell your copyright after you have created a work.

This is what Kirby did every time he was paid for pages he handed in that were accepted by Marvel. He sold his copyright to the material.

4. You can terminate a grant of copyright after 35 years.

Thanks to the Copyright Act of 1976 creators have a right to terminate grants of copyright that they have sold a to a publisher or another entity.  They can also renegotiate a deal, often in the form of a settlement, just like Prince did after he filed termination papers with his record label.

There is a slim 5-year window within which creators must file to request this termination. Companies are betting that most creators or their heirs will not know about or pay attention to this, allowing the rights to be permanently forfeited to the current holder, like a the money on an expired gift card.

5. None of this matters if you were an employee of the company and created the work on their time. The work will be considered Work-for-Hire and the company that employs you will be considered the author and copyright owner.

Stan Lee was an employee of Marvel. Technically he was management so he has no rights to the material he co-created on the clock or otherwise. His settlement in 2005 was strictly based on an agreement he had regarding his work on the sales of Marvel films, not royalties based on ownership  of copyright.

6. If you are a subcontractor, (freelancer) all of this matters because you initially owned the copyright the second you created the work and you sold that copyright to the publisher. You have a right to request termination of grant after 35 years. If you sold the copyright prior to 1978 you can request termination after 56 years, which was what the Kirby estate did.

Kirby was a freelance subcontractor, regardless of how exclusive his agreement was with Marvel, verbally, written or otherwise, he was not an employee and this was the basis of all the litigation and what the Supreme Court was considering to determine.

7. The duration of a copyright  lasts the life of the author and 70 years after the author’s death.

This means that if the terminations were granted anything Kirby created would be copyrighted until 2064 and  be in the control of the Kirby Estate.

8. For works created Work for Hire the term ends 95 years after its first publication.

If the Supreme court would have decided that Kirby’s work was considered Work for Hire those works owned by Marvel would have begun lapsing  into public domain as early as 2053.

For this reason alone it was in Marvel’s best interest to settle with the Kirby Estate because it just bought them, presumably, an extra 11 years of ownership before the works go into public domain.

9. Copyright and Trademark are not the same thing. While a copyright can expire, a trademark can last indefinitely so long as the owner continues to renew the trademark and aggressively defends it when it is infringed upon.   Copyrighted material, though it can be terminated or lapse into public domain, it cannot be used in commerce in a way that infringes on an existing trademark that is owned by the previous copyright holder.

This means that even if the Kirby Estate were to have terminated the copyrights to the works of Jack Kirby, Marvel would have still owned the trademarks to the characters. It would have been very difficult for the works to be marketed without infringing on Marvel’s trademarks, limiting the profitability of the works.

10. All things considered an amicable settlement is usually the best case scenario.

All anybody ever wanted was to see Jack Kirby treated fairly for all the incredible work he did as possibly the greatest comic creator of all time. It is a shame that he did not live to enjoy the satisfaction of  a deal that, by all expectations, appears would have made him happy. It was clear that throughout his career his main goal was simply to support his family who has, expressed satisfaction with their undisclosed deal.

The Jack Kirby experience is a lesson that must be learned by all creators so that it not be continually repeated. Know copyright law. Understand agreements. Make good deals. Defend your rights. Profit fairly from your work. These are all things that creators should be as focused on as much as they are focused on their talent and creations. They all go hand-in-hand to provide lifelong satisfaction from the hard work involved.

Gerry Giovinco



DC Comics’ Participation Plan – Magical Mystery Money

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

It is no surprise that, with the Supreme Court considering listening to law suits brought by the heirs of  Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as legendary Marvel creator, Jack Kirby in an epic battle over creators rights, DC Comics is attempting to preemptively save face by offering a new Participation Plan.”

Their timely effort is boorishly intended to make them look good in the public’s eye pending any fallout from a potential legal hell-storm that has already attracted support from every creative guild in Hollywood.

Their new “incentive” (as Marvel calls it) will share with creators net profits generated across all distribution networks including digital sales. As an added PR bonus, colorists will be included in the profit sharing for the first time, following Marvel’s lead.

Everything looks rosy!

Depending on who you believe…

Chuck Dixon, Steve Bisette

For every creator, like Chuck Dixon who has had nothing but a positive experience regarding how DC reports shared revenue there is a disgruntled one like Steve Bisette who feels that he is treated like a second class citizen.

As  outsiders, who are we to judge? Contracts are and should be private agreements and presumably they are negotiable and often different for each creator. History, however, has proven that these agreements, no matter how good they may seem or are intended, can often be subject to reinterpretation and malignment on favor of the corporation. Just ask Alan Moore who’s great Watchmen deal went sour fast.

Gerry Conway

Gentleman Gerry Conway has a very polite perspective on policing DC’s approach to participation packages that should raise an eyebrow or two. Imagine that in this day and age, DC admittedly cannot track the use of all its properties and accurately pay out without the support of its aging creators, many of which are far from tech savvy.  So they say.  Yet, in a heartbeat,  they can shut down a sculpture of a dead boy wearing a Superman shirt in Canada before bowing to social media outrage.

The bottom line is that DC is part of a huge entertainment company that specializes in cooking books when it comes to sharing revenue. This is not an indictment of Warner Brothers but of the practices of Hollywood accounting in general.

Anyone that has ever signed on to a royalty arrangement will tell you that, unless you are willing to march into the accounts payable office with an expensive auditor by your side, your relationship with the company paying you is one of blind faith.

DC is playing with magical mystery money when they tell a creator that they will combine net profits from all channels of distribution. These numbers are tabulated over a period of months and are calculated by an algorithm that would make Sheldon Cooper’s head spin! Most comic creators are just not equipped to challenge their word and are willing to accept what they get or be prepared to move on.

Alan Brennert and Barbara Kean, co-created with Dick Giordano

Combine this mystery math with vague language that can arbitrarily define characters as “derivitive” and suddenly there are creators like Alan Brennert campaigning for a moral victory over a $45 payout that is hardly worth a legal battle let alone sitting on hold for a half hour waiting for the problem to be addressed.

This is why contracts are important. Spell details out in black-and-white to eliminate the questions, provide all the answers and provide proof of the agreement.

Wait for it…

Now, DC says all transactions and agreements will be digital only!

Kiss that paper trail goodbye!

Can anybody say Comixology?

“I’m sorry, your digital contract was somehow erased from our server but don’t worry we will reinstate you with our current (and less favorable) Participation Plan. Any questions?”

Time to look for an Indy Publisher comic creators. At least you will own your work.

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



Worlds Apart – Stan Lee and Alan Moore

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

A recent review by Bob Duggan of Clifford Meth’s Comic Book Babylon led off with the title The Real Heroes and Villains in Comic Books. It featured spot illos of a typically exuberant Stan Lee and brooding Alan Moore beautifully rendered by Michael Netzer.

The arrangement of the portraits beneath the title insinuates, at first glance, that Smilin’ Stan, with Spidey dangling in the background, represents the heroes and Scowlin’ Alan embraces the villainous dark side.

According to Duggan’s review, however, both Lee and Moore are described by Meth as victims that belong to a long list of creators that have been taken advantage of by the corporate comic book giants, Marvel and DC.

It is a huge stretch from most perspectives to imagine Stan Lee as a victim of the comics industry while Alan Moore could easily be anointed the poster child for the royal reaming that begets comic creators. This contrast added greatly to the irony of the header of the post and was a wonderfully divisive way to catch the attention of readers, especially those sympathetic and knowledgeable about creators rights issues.

Yet, Stan Lee and Alan Moore are a perfect choice to if not solely for their contributions as the most influential writers of superheroes in the industry outside of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. Where the creation of entire genre of Superhero comics rests on Siegel’s shoulders, Lee and Moore’s influence anchor pivotal changes in how superheroes were portrayed that redirected the entire industry at different points in its history.

Despite their similar accomplishments both men also took decidedly different roads regarding their creative achievements and celebrity. In many ways the two men are worlds apart from each other.

Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

There is a strong argument as to how much creative responsibility Stan Lee had in regards to the creation of most of the Marvel Universe during its heyday in the early 1960’s. Lee himself readily admits the roles that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had in fostering the creation of Marvel’s most iconic characters that are now worth billions of dollars. But Stan is and always has been a company man and has held fast to the work-for-hire relationship that denies creators and their heirs, especially those of Kirby and Ditko from any royalties.

To his credit, however, Stan bucked the system by developing and marketing one character that no one could take away from him. He recreated himself. With the impending success of the new Marvel line of comics Stan quickly transformed from your typical clean cut, white collared middle aged editor with thinning hair to a flashy guy with a mustache, sideburns, toupee, shades and a polyester wardrobe indicating that his new image consultant was probably the young and attractive Flo Steinberg, Marvel’s own Gal Friday. He certainly wasn’t getting fashion tips from Sol Brodsky.

While he was busy scripting snappy dialog full of trendy colloquialisms that endeared Marvel characters to a hipper, slightly more mature audience and redefining the genre he was sure to build his own celebrity with his new look, lecturing at colleges, doing voice overs on cartoons, writing Marvel Origin books, and plastering his name on every Marvel comic that opened with “Stan Lee Presents.” Stan’s monthly Soapbox was exactly that, not just a tool to promote Marvel Comics but a forum to promote Stan the Man and was where his now famous slogan “Excelsior!” first buried deep into the souls of his fans.

Today at 91 years of age, Stan is as vibrant and famous as ever. He has managed guest appearances in nearly every Marvel blockbuster an tonight will appear on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.. He is worth over two hundred million dollars and in large part due to his own success at making his name synonymous with Marvel rather than royalties received from  each character he co-created.

Stan has done what he does best. He took care of himself and worked hard at it and though he has always been incredibly diplomatic, he has never stepped away from company lines regarding creators challenging the work for hire agreement. He never used his celebrity or leverage of any significance to correct or influence the draconian practices of the industry.

Alan Moore opened the doors for superheroes to engage a more mature audience. His work filled with complex themes and refined writing that raised comics to a level  recognized as literature. A true artist, his preference was to have his work speak for itself. Respect the work and you respect Alan Moore. Simple as that.

In the 1980’s when Moore’s work rose to critical acclaim and redefined the medium there was no question that he was the new Golden Boy. His trademark long hair and looming bearded persona always projected an image of the quintessential artist. His work has always spoke for itself and he is regarded by most as the greatest graphic novel writer.

For this reason alone it was with great celebration that DC penned a “creator owned” deal with him and Brian Bolland for Watchmen. A deal that would be manipulated and bastardized for decades to follow, culminating in a Watchman film that disregarded his lack of approval and the insult of a prequel series of comics titled Before Watchmen that mocked his authorship of the  greatest selling graphic novel of all time.

Moore has had a tempestuous relationship with publishers throughout his career that has led many to point fingers at him as the common denominator and has driven him into a personal exile from most comics and fandom.

Alan Moore, is a man who is more concerned about respect for his work than he is about money and has, as in the case of Watchmen, declined receipt payment as a matter of principle to protest his dissatisfaction. Few can understand how anyone could be so idealistic to reject the kind of money he has turned away, thus fueling the impression that he is an irrational man which he is anything but.

Moore, lately, has a new take on superheroes calling them a cultural catastrophe.’ The man that elevated the horizon for an entire medium is now denouncing the genre that he is responsible for transitioning. He is now receding from public life to work uninteruppted. In his wake is an entire generation of creators that are watching their greatest influence turn his back and walk away from them.

Alan Moore has been a high profile victim but he has often been in a position to capitalize tremendously despite his abuse. He has chosen retreat and rejection of compensation as his defense where he could have redirected that “tainted” money toward a fund to champion creators rights that seem dear to him, personally, yet he chose not to.

Stan Lee and Alan Moore both had the amazing ability to change the course of an entire genre. Their lofty positions gave them both an opportunity to make a difference regarding the rights of creators and neither took up the mantle. In Clifford Meth’s book, apparently they are both portrayed as victims of sorts, clearly Moore has received the shorter stick, but neither are in a position to cry poverty like so many others.

These are two men that made a career out of defining heroes but never found the hero in themselves.

This issue of creators rights is an important one in the comic book industry and should never be taken lightly by any fan or professional. Any book like Comic Book Babylon is a must read and Meth should be applauded for its compilation as well as his personal efforts in defense of the late Dave Cockrum.

In the end, this is a story about David and Goliath both with an opportunity to make a difference. As usual it is the Davids of the world like Clifford Meth that stand up and fight while the Goliaths like Lee and Moore draw all the attention but, in the end, are ineffectual when it matters most. Worlds apart in more ways than one.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Super Pope – Redefining the Hero

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

You have to hand it to Pope Francis! In just a few short months since he has been elected, he is redefining not just his role as Pontiff but also what it means to be a hero to millions of people around the world. His opposition to the vast inequalities between the rich and the poor,  his mandate to be merciful rather than judgmental and his inclusive attitude  has already gained him the title of “The People’s Pope.” Time Magazine and the leading gay magazine, The Advocate, both herald him as  “2013 Person of the Year.”

Amazingly, Pope Francis’ words and actions appeal not just to his Catholic constituency but to people of all denominations and level of faith.  His approval rating has soared as high as 69% among all people in the United States, 80% of which are not Catholic!  He is, without question, a Super Pope.

Is it fair to compare the Pope to a superhero? Probably as fair as comparing superheroes to Jesus Christ who the Pope is said to represent.

Zack Snyder’s film Man of Steel made no bones about comparing Superman to Jesus. Snyder was so heavy handed in his biblical analogies that he probably should have cast The Bible star, Diogo Morgado, instead of Henry Cavill to play Kal El.

In Man of Steel, Superman is sent to Earth by his father to be a god among us. He is raised by common folk, sports a beard, strikes crucifixion poses, walks on water, turns himself over to authorities and sacrifices himself to save the world. This all sounds too familiar to Christians until Superman snaps Zod’s neck and kills him for a reality check.

Comparing Superman to Jesus was previously left mostly to scholars analyzing literature, theology, and modern mythology, not hammered down our throats in comic books or movies.

Since his 1939 debut in comic books, it has been widely acknowledged that Superman’s young  creators,  Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were heavily influenced by their Jewish heritage and that Superman was their fanciful interpretation of the expected Savior that has been promised by God. This would  indicate to Christians, who believe Christ to be the Savior, that Superman is a metaphor for Jesus.

Jesus, however, did did not fly around in blue long johns and a red cape. Though He performed miracles, He did not  exhibit the ability to run faster than a speeding bullet, be more powerful than a locomotive or leap tall buildings in a single bound. He definitely did not kill anyone.

Pope Francis, like Jesus does not exhibit bombastic superpowers and, so far, no miracles have been attributed to him, yet.  (The Church is a strong believer in miracles that numerous Popes have been credited with.)

As for the colorful uniform, Pope Francis has denounced many of the gaudy Papal accessories that might actually associate him more closely  with Superheroes. The new Pope wears simple white garb instead of the lavishly ornate robes, hats and shoes of his predecessors. Instead of a golden throne, he sits upon a plain, wooden one. He has even traded in the famed, bulletproof Popemobile for a used 1984 Renault 4L.

Pope Frances is less like Superman and more like Clark Kent. This is where he redefines the hero. Pope Francis does not elevate the spectacular, he praises humanity. He focuses away from the rich and powerful and embraces that which is common. He recognizes and promotes the power of numbers that is in the hands of the less fortunate. He delivers a message of fairness and sharing that inspires hope more than the symbol on Superman’s chest.

A former nightclub bouncer, Pope Francis speaks the language of the street. He recently responded  to Rush Limbaugh’s “Marxist” charges with clever comments that rang around the world:

“The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

When targeting the abuse of Trickle Down Economics he is quoted as saying:

“The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor.”

Pope Francis speaks to all people in words they can understand and the people are listening. Does this make him a hero?

Heroes are born out of desparation. Superman was a wonderful remedy for the angst that was post depression, war era America. His popularity peaks in times of turmoil. Today, however, Superman has come to represent that which is all powerful. He is lead by the hand of corporate greed and is immune to the perils of the general population when cities are destroyed during one of his fictional epic battles and now he is willing to kill.  Superman has lost his humanity.

We are in desperate times. The global economy pits the rich against the poor in an ever widening gap that Superman cannot close.  A new hero is needed but this time he is not delivering a punch but a message. Pope Francis lets us know that the new hero is not among us. It is us! Our power is our humanity. That has always been the true power of all great heroes. Superman has lost this power but  it is definitely the power of this new, Super Pope.

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes™: The Never Ending Bullshit

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is a three part documentary that recently has been airing on PBS. If you hurry you can also watch it streaming on the PBS website right here.

On the surface this series seems to be a beautifully produced and thoughtful presentation about the history of superheroes and comic books in America and their influence throughout the world.

Most comic fans that grew up reading comics or enjoying superheroes in any era will wax nostalgic as they see the devotion that is poured into the process of documenting how the creators of superhero adventures were influenced by the world around them.

The highlight of the series for me were video interjections by legendary comic creators, many of whom have already passed away. Watching Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Jerry Robinson, and Carmine Infantino speak about comics couldn’t help but choke me up.

The series also did a wonderful job of representing women in the industry with video commentary by Ramona Fradon, Jennette Kahn, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson, and Christina Strain.

I would love to say that this was a benchmark documentary about the history of comics but I can’t because what I witnessed was more like propaganda mechanism for Marvel and DC. This series in all of its splendor effectively trivialized any accomplishments in the battle for creators rights. It completely ignored the influence of the Direct Market. It  erased the impact of decades of Independent comics with the notable exception of Image. No mentions off the tremendous impact that European or Japanese comics had.

I realize that it is unrealistic to expect every last detail of a 75 year history into a three hour documentary. I also recognize now, more clearly than ever, why the word superhero and the derivatives of it should not be allowed to be used as a trademark jointly by Marvel and DC exclusively.

What this series did effectively accomplish was to blur the distinction between the history of Supeheroes™ and the history of Comic Books as a whole by defining the impression for the general public that Superheroes™ = Comic Books and that Comic Books = Marvel and DC with the tip of a hat to Image, apparently the only independent to successfully publish another unique superhero.

NEWS FLASH! There are many independent publishers that have made comic books that featured superheroes! Superheroes also exist in other media and in other countries. All characters represented in the superhero genre are NOT owned by only Marvel and DC as much as they would like you to think that. This was not represented at all in this documentary and I believe it is unfair to dismiss the accomplishments and struggles of so many who also had great superhero stories to tell.

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is typical of the type of bullshit that big corporations do to gloss over the undesired truth.  “Smear lipstick on that pig and everyone will be happy and buy into what we have to sell.” ” Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Truth be told, there could have been a three part series just on the battles that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster fought over their rights to Superman or the battles that Jack Kirby had with Marvel for compensation and to have his art returned.

There could be a three part series on the rise of the Direct Market and how the barrage of  quality Independent publishing in the 1980’s had  Marvel and DC on the ropes.

There could be a three part series on how the internet and digital delivery has changed how comics are created published and viewed.

They would all represent true and vital information for anyone interested in an accurate history of the never ending battle of creating superheroes and comics in a market dominated by corporate interests intent on squelching any potential competition to their mythic intellectual property that they gained from the exploitation of the imaginations of mostly young, impoverished children of immigrants searching for and expressing their own American Dream.

If you have watched the series and got that great warm and fuzzy superhero nostalgic rush, I want you to know that I had it too.  I also have a tremendously deep appreciation for the medium of comics and a tremendous respect for the genre of superheroes and though it is wonderful to see the genre presented in such a positive light I think it would be great if audiences understood and valued the true history of superheroes and not the mythology of the mythology influenced only by two enormous corporations.

Next week I will begin a series of my own on this blog that will take a closer look at how “Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” diluted the real history of superheroes.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco




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