Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comics’

Whitewashing Diversity in Mediums Like Film and Comics

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

whitewashing

In a perfect world we would be exposed to multicultural diversity in the arts continuously and would revel in the vast brilliance of it all. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. The sad truth, however, is that art, at least in our culture is dictated by those with the power of influence. They are the ones that decide what is culturally acceptable and what is not. They are the gatekeepers masquerading as publishers, filmmakers, editors, agents and distributors. They are the pinnacle of the “good-old-boy” network. They are the enforcers of the status quo.

We like to think that great strides have been made regarding diversity but two recent accounts show us just how wanting we are as a society when it comes to welcoming true diversity.

First was a remarkable gaffe by Matt Damon, widely recognized for his liberal positions on filmaking as he schools a black woman about how to implement diversity claiming, “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not the casting of the show.” This after the woman suggested a more diverse directing team so as not to be caught stereotyping a black character.

alex_decampiThe other was a tumblr post by comics writer Alex de Campi who calls out DC, Marvel and some independent publishers for being disingenuous toward women in comics because of the lack of retribution brought towards known perpetrators of sexual harassment that happen to be big names in the industry who even she is unwilling to publicly name in her post though she is already resigned to being blacklisted.

The lesson learned is that the door to diversity can be held wide open but so long as the creative people have to pass a litmus test of what is acceptable to the gatekeepers there is still a lot of cream in the coffee.

America may be the melting pot but we still hold tight to our Eurocentric perspectives, which is a fancy way of saying it is only acceptable if it appeals to white sensibilities which are too readily regarded as universal.

In the comic industry, there has been a clamor for diversity for decades. sometimes we get diverse characters that may be various races, colors and genders yet created by the same white men that have no real idea what it is like to live in the fictional skin of these characters. Other times diverse creators are brought in but their contribution is still dictated by a publisher or editor responding to the demands of the market that still remains predominantly white and male.

These are just some of the reasons that developing diversity in the arts cannot be dependent on the expectations of commercialization. Diversity can never be about hiring the right person for the job as dictated by the market no mater how intent producers are to be diverse. True diversity only happens when the job is executed unfettered by a preestablished standard.

This is not to say that true diversity is impossible. Creative people have a way of growing art in the cracks of roads well traveled. Jazz, for example would not exist if all music was left to the standards of white musicians in the late 1800’s. Jazz grew on its own in the black communities and spilled into the streets with such energy that it appealed to a multicultural ear eventually establishing itself as one of America’s original art forms. This same freedom of expression led to rhythm and blues which led to rock and roll eventually coming full circle to the introduction of rap and hip hop.

Just as music can discover its diversity on the streets and in the multicultural communities of the country, art forms like film and comics can gain their hold on the streets of the information highway. The internet and the communities formed there are the future of diversity for these mediums. They are the fast lane around the gatekeepers that manage the restraint of the art forms.

Stop requesting diversity. Stop expecting it only to be disappointed. Create diversity as only we can as individuals. Support diversity when you recognize it. Celebrate diversity when it is achieved.Try your best not to whitewash it, and maybe then we can enjoy a multicultural experience that will put the jazz in  mediums like film and comics.

Gerry Giovinco

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.

phil_hester_wake_and_draw

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

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

Gerry Conway Owes No Apologies

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Gerry Conway has been a busy man over the last couple of years. He has attempted to raise the bar regarding creator rights, just a little bit, through his blog posts, first with his comments regarding Comics Equity Project and then with his recent statements regarding DC Comic’s use of the term derivativeaccording to apparently avoid making equity payments to creators.

After being contacted by the DC brass Gerry seems to have changed his opinion of their intent and has issued an apology to Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and Larry Ganem.

Gerry has nothing to apologize about! The thing that Mr. Conway needs to realize is that he has been conditioned over the last several decades of his involvement in the comic industry, as has every other creator that has worked for either DC or Marvel, to either expect or at least anticipate the type of treatment he felt he was experiencing regarding the finances of his work.  That is not his fault!

It is nice that the folks at the top of DC have stepped forward and took the time to explain to Gerry how they really didn’t intend to screw with his royalty payments and their plan is to support the creators but history is not exactly in their corner.

The list of comic creators that have been commercially violated by publishers in this industry is extensive and should give pause to any creator entering into a publishing agreement with any publisher, especially the big ones that still rely on the sensibilities of “work for hire” as their business model that really needs to change.

To be fair this is not just a problem in the comics industry. Artists in general have been abused of for centuries and have learned to develop a thick skin about their value or expect to be taken advantage of. Gerry, like any other creator, is a product of that system. He has been conditioned to protect himself from unscrupulous publishing practices and sometimes that requires harsh measures.

Like an animal in a cage that has been poked, prodded and too often mistreated, creators naturally develop a sense of distrust as a vital defense mechanim. Can you blame them when they occasionally bite the hand that feeds them?

It is the responsibility of both parties in a professional relationship to exhibit  respect or expect to be bitten.

Gerry has managed to maintain his famous moniker “Gentleman Gerry Conway” through it all, always managing to maintain a politely professional and objective position while exposing the facts as clearly as possible based on his personal understanding of the matter.

Because of his tactical approach and his self deprecating “minor icon” status in the industry he has made a difference that has benefited many creators who were either unaware or unable to identify the injustice or act on it. For that alone, he owes no apologies.

If the intent of the ranking officers at DC was in fact as honorable as they explained to Mr. Conway,  they need to address the changes immediately and owe him the apology for their error. They also owe him a special note of thanks for bringing their attention to what was clearly a raw deal.

Gerry Giovinco

Rebuilding Riverdale At Whose Expense?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

The magic number must be 75! It is no mistake that Marvel, DC and now Archie Comics, all of which published their premier iconic characters between 1938 and 1941, have rolled out celebrations of their 75th year anniversary finding interesting ways to reboot their entire universes in the process.

DC rebooted with Flashpoint, then The New 52 and now Convergence. Marvel is rebooting with Secret Wars and the establishment of Battleworld. Now Archie is planning to “Build a New Riverdale” with a controversial Kickstarter.

No coincidence that, as copyright law stands today, characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Prince Namor, The Human Torch, Archie and most of the gang living in Reverdale are sitting on the precipice of public domain as their copyrights, whose duration is 95 years from first publication, are set to expire within the next 20 years.

All three publishers are scrambling to recreate their brand to distance the next generation of consumers and those that follow from the classic versions of their characters guaranteeing that their origin stories and adventures will  be considered outdated and unmarketable. In the meantime, trademarks of every variation of those characters, their costumes and logos which can be prevented from ever expiring will be maintained an marketed as aggressively as possible.

So while Archie is rebuilding Riverdale and seemingly throwing out any style guide that remotely looks like the characters originally designed by Bob Montana, they are just ensuring that nobody else can tell a story about life in Riverdale without infringing on their trademark. Soon Archie and the gang will have as many different looks and styles as Batman has logos.

The funny thing is Archie wants our help and is seeking $350,000 on a Kickstarter campaign to do it!

Why?

According to Archie publisher Jon Goldwater, they just want to get the new product to market as fast as possible and have their funds tied up in a deal to expand digest distribution into Target and Wal-Mart stores.

What is Target and Wal-Mart’s sudden interest in Archie all about? If they wanted comics wouldn’t they be going after Marvel or DC first? Something is in the wind. Probably the “Riverdale” TV series that will soon be coming to FOX. All that exposure has got to be killing them!

In their rush to market these new projects by selling direct to the audience through Kickstarter, they also managed to offend their most ardent supporters, the retailers in the Direct Market. They should’ve seen that coming! Publishers like Marvel, DC and Archie are the bread and butter of the Direct Market retailer. When these publishers venture into a direct-to-customer distribution system they simply cut the retailers out at the knees.

Retailers are not the only victims. So are Indy publishers that have come rely on crowdfunding as a means to generate precious preorders on a product that may not meet the sales requirements of distribution through Diamond. A company like Archie, seeking a huge some of money in a campaign will crowd out smaller publishers, especially those that are now producing comics that compete directly for the audience that Archie has appealed to  for decades.

This is the same technique that Marvel and DC employed in the 1980’s when they were threatened by the emergence of successful independent publishers in the fledgeling Direct Market. They simply flooded the market. More product does not mean that consumers will spend more money. Consumers have a limited amount of funds and when more product is introduced into a market it only means that the consumer now has to make choices on how they spend their money. The winners are usually the ones that have a big enough budget to promote their product and an already committed audience. That is not the small indy publisher.

How many Kickstarter campaigns have you read about in the news feeds this week besides Archie’s?

Point made.

If Archie reaches their goal, that is $350,000 that is not going to other crowdfunding campaigns. It is also $350,000 not venturing into a comic shop.

Archie wants to rebuild Riverdale by strip-mining the resources of the current comics market all in an effort to erect a bulkhead that will secure them from public domain which is intended as a reward for a culture that supported their work for 95 years. In the process they describe themselves as small and scrappy, yet tread on those publishers that  genuinely meet that description. Their campaign does not even offer great rewards! Supporters are asked to pay twice as much for product that will soon be available in stores.

Archie is a company that has been around for over 75 years with celebrated characters that have been in films, cartoons and live action series on TV. They have managed to maintain a presence with their comics outside of the Direct Market with their digest format, a  feat that even Marvel and DC cannot claim. Now they have a deal with Target and Wal-Mart and a television deal with FOX, yet they still need $350,000 of our money to launch three new comic books, something the’ve been capable of doing themselves with no problem for three quarters of a century. Sounds like an easy way to get a lot of free advertising with a major dash of greed.

Not-so-poor or  little Archie wants our help but remember who loses in this one… everyone but Archie Comics. If their campaign is a success, they are laughing all the way to the bank, where they should have gone for a loan in the first place.

Gerry Giovinco

Comics on Campus

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

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

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

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

My, how times have changed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerry Giovinco

Remembering Roger Slifer

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

It always hits home when a comic creator passes away for those of us that share a kinship of caring for how words and pictures tangled on a page can create a memorable story or message. The announcement of Roger Slifer’s death, however,  pained us in a different way because of how he battled to survive the tragic hit-and run-accident that critically changed his life in 2012. He was an inspiration of hope through his work creating adventurous heroes throughout his career in comics and animation and through his life as an advocate for creators rights with a tenacity for achievement  against the odds. He was,  like many of the heroes he wrote about, someone we wanted to root for and did. His story, sadly,  did not end the way many of us hoped. Roger deserves to be remembered  by more than the few brief lines that have accompanied the news announcements of his passing and there is no one better to share those thoughts than his very close friend and conspirator, David Anthony Kraft who has graciously offered them:

Roger Slifer left and David Anthony Kraft right in the process of hitchhiking west to an early San Diego Comic Con using a sign drafted by Marie Severin. Photo by Dan Hagen.

Roger Slifer and I started at Marvel the same day. It wasn’t a case of love at first sight — we  didn’t like the looks of each other. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Brought on staff as a letterer and production assistant, Roger soon rose through the ranks, helping Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Steve Gerber and others with scripting or plotting during deadline crises, which were all too common back then. In the process, he taught himself to become an accomplished writer, and went on to write and edit for Marvel and DC, later becoming the first Direct Sales distribution manager for DC (another example of his ability to rise to a challenge in virtually any area).
At Marvel, Rog wrote single-issue stories for many of the major characters, and co-wrote “The Defenders” with me until other obligations left him no time. He became adept as a colorist and saved many a deadline. At DC he wrote “The Omega Men” and co-created the breakout character, Lobo. Later, he edited “World’s Finest Comics” and others for them. Still later, he became a writer, story editor and producer in animation, playing a key role on “Jem and the Holograms,” “G. I. Joe,” “My Little Pony,” “Conan,” and many another, including “Yu-Gi-Oh.”
Those are his credits, the things that can be known from his work. But his other qualities need to be known. The wit. Keen. The unique viewpoint and willingness to go his own way. Unique. The commitment and the unyielding character. Vexing sometimes, to be sure, but sincere.
We were young and in terms of being willing to quit dream jobs at Marvel and DC at the drop of a hat over perceived injustices, maybe foolish. In latter days, we shared a joke between us that we often quit a job before we applied for it or were actually hired. Which is to say, Roger was a man of principles. Without either of us knowing what the other had done, we both turned down offers to take over the scripting of “Howard the Duck” when our friend Steve Gerber was rudely parted from his creation. That’s one behind-the-scenes example of so many that Slifer’s friends and peers will remember about Roger taking a stand at personal cost to his career.
Much later, Roger called me about two story editor positions open in animation that were ideal for him. He worried that if he applied for one, he might be turned down but would have been  accepted for the other. Which one? he agonized. I kiddingly told him to apply for both and, when he got neither, he wouldn’t feel as bad. It should not have come as a surprise that he did exactly that…and got BOTH jobs!  But as anyone who’s worked in television knows, overseeing a season’s worth of scripts in a couple months is a miracle on one show. It’s impossible to do two separate shows at the same time. Yet Roger wanted to do it, and talked me into joining him as his “secret weapon.” If things went well, and the producers were pleased, he would reveal my participation and attempt to get me screen credit. After a grueling time of tag-team work, in which I’d write or re-write until I dropped, then wake him to take over where I left off, nights, weekends and every waking moment, somehow scripts for all the episodes of G. I. Joe: Extreme and Street Fighter were finished. The point? Without my once ever reminding him or saying a word, Roger did not, like most, say what was convenient when he needed help and then later have a selective memory or forget. True to his word, when the shows aired, there it was onscreen, the credit he had promised to fight for on my behalf. He was like that.

It will be three years in July since Marv Wolfman called to share the terrible news that Roger was struck down by a hit-and-run driver. We were all rooting for him, he gave it his best, but Rog never really recovered.  It’s the one challenge he couldn’t surmount.  Roger Slifer made lasting contributions to comics and animation for which he will be remembered.


But there’s so much more. Roger was a good and lifelong friend. Those of us privileged to know him personally will always remember and miss him for his many other fine qualities. His passing leaves a big hole where a good friend used to be.

David Anthony Kraft

The Irony of Marvel’s Film Right Deals to Spider-Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

There has been plenty of rumor and speculation of late about the possibility of Spider-Man appearing in Marvel Studios’ film adaptation of Civil War.  Why it could be a problem is that Sony owns the film rights to Spidey, not Marvel.

Don’t expect any X-Men or Fantastic Four characters in Civil War, either! The film rights to those characters are owned by 20th Century Fox.

Back in the late 1990’s when Marvel was struggling in bankruptcy part of their restructuring strategy was to sell film options for most of their significant properties. This all worked out great and saved the company which eventually was able to reacquire most of the rights to their characters with a few exceptions. Most significantly Spider-Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four, which have all established successful film franchises for Sony and Fox, and have been unattainable by Marvel.

Marvel has maintained a warm relationship with Sony and in light of Sony’s recent financial difficulties and public humiliation due to the corporate hacking and dissemination of private emails, Marvel may have some leverage to work out at least an addendum to their contract that will allow them to crossover  ol’ Web-Head into the MCU.

Things with Fox, however are not so warm and fuzzy! The permafrost is actually developing a glacial quality which may only get more complicated after Quicksilver, who was featured in Fox’s X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, appears in Marvel’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.

Marvel has also tossed the gloves, regarding their relationship with Fox by canceling the Fantastic Four comic book and killing off Wolverine, the most popular character of the X-Men comic books. Marvel has made a conscious decision to not support Fox’s attempts to market these two properties. They have even stopped the marketing and  production of toys and other licenses of the characters.

Ironically, Marvel is getting a wee taste of their own bitter medicine. What they are experiencing in not too dissimilar to what comic creators have experienced in the comics industry for decades. Creators develop and cultivate a character then, in order to survive, they sell to a company like Marvel in what appears to be a good deal at the time.  Eventually the creator watches helplessly as their character is maligned by reboots while they share little, if any, of the profits from their creative labors.

Spider-Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four have long been among the crown jewels of the Marvel Universe and, though Marvel must have some say in how the characters are presented, it must fry them to not have complete control creatively and financially, especially now that Marvel has proven they could successfully build film franchises on their own.

Marvel, at least,  has some clout and can go toe-to-toe in a fight. Creators usually are not so lucky and have to wait, like the Kirby’s did, for something like availability of copyright revision terms to at least challenge ownership. This , can usually take more than a lifetime and sadly Jack Kirby could not personally enjoy the rewards himself after his family settled a new deal with Marvel twenty years after his death.

Now that Marvel knows what it its like to watch helplessly while someone else stewards their property maybe they could develop a modicum of sympathy for creators. Could this be why Marvel has lately been working out settlements with creators behind closed doors? More likely they are shoring up any other possible contactual cracks that could cost them any amount of control of their valued IP in the future.

This may or may not be the last time that Marvel is burned by a rights dispute but for now it sure is fun watching them squirm like they made most of the creators do for the last seventy-five years.

Watching how this battle between studios plays out may be as entertaining as watching or reading stories about the superheroes involved. At least the fate of the Earth is not at stake. Popcorn anyone?

Gerry Giovinco

Looking Forward to 2015: Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The two comic related stories that impressed me the most this past year were the Kirby v. Marvel settlement and Rocket Raccoon co-creator, Bill Mantlo’s generous treatment by Marvel in response to the  Guardians of the Galaxy film.

I found these moments to be significant because they were the culmination of decades of struggle by the men, their families, and a legion supporters of Creators Rights in the Comics Industry.

Thirty years ago, the idea of Jack Kirby or his family being compensated appropriately for the Marvel characters he created or co-created was an idealistic fantasy that most people believed could never be fulfilled.

Twenty-two years ago, when prolific Marvel writer Bill Mantlo suffered a traumatic head injury in a tragic accident, there was little hope that any potential success gleaned from characters or stories that he created while working in comics would benefit his long term care.

In 2014, after years of monumental success of comic book properties in film, the ice began to thaw on the relationship between creators and comic book companies. Deals began to happen behind closed doors to satisfy creators who challenged ownership of properties that had long been held tightly under the premise of “Work for Hire.”

Though everything regarding Creator’s Rights in comics may still not be perfect, strides have been made.

For me, little was much more pleasing than watching a proud and content Neal Kirby participate in a Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration or seeing pictures of a beaming Bill Mantlo watching a private screening of Guardians of the Galaxy from his bed in a long term care facility, all set up by Marvel executives.

Knowing that deals have finally been made to secure the Kirby family well into the future and that Bill Mantlo will be the recipient of royalties that could be used to support his tremendous healthcare needs proves what many of us in the comics industry believed, that creators could and should be beneficiaries of the success of their creations.

It also proved that if you believe in something strong enough, work at it hard enough, and have enough support from the people around you, you should never give up. There is hope for the future.

While working on the fourth volume of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection,  I had the opportunity to re-read an interview with me and Art Director, Geraldine Pecht while at Comico in 1987. It was a look back at my own hopes and dreams nearly three decades past in comparison to the reality that transpired.

It was true affirmation that we have no idea what the future holds but that some dreams never die. It was a flashback that rekindled a youthful enthusiasm that I can only hope to maintain throughout 2015 and beyond.

I had big plans for Comico in 1987. Plans that, for me, ended abruptly that same year. Like the Kirby family and Bill Mantlo, though, I have never given up and neither has by former Comico partner, Bill Cucinotta who had his Comico career cut short prior to mine.

Now we both have big plans for CO2 Comics but with the benefit of many hard lessons learned.

Comico Black Book cover

When I sat for that interview, Comico was at it’s peak and ready to celebrate its five year anniversary with a little product called Comico Black Book. Little did we know, the company was was poised to crash and burn.

I comparison, halfway through our fifth year, CO2 Comics is still building a solid foundation and growing.   Though we may not have had the meteoric successes that we had with Comico and have seen our share of setbacks, Bill and I are content that  we work with people we trust and have mutual respect for. We have more control over our product and integrity and we produce comics and product in a way that does not put us in jeopardy of the production expenses the distribution system or the competition that existed in the 1980’s.

The future is bright and hopeful for CO2 Comics because we have held on to a dream that we are unwilling to give up. Yes, we are looking forward to 2015 and many years after that!

Thanks to all the wonderful people that continue to believe in us and support us. We could not have come this far without you!

We wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year as we look forward to 2015!

Gerry Giovinco



Comic Book Entropy: Marvel and DC

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerry Giovinco




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