Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Universe’

Groot and Rocket Raccoon: More Than Guardians of the Galaxy

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

The world is about to get giddy over yet another Marvel movie as fans everywhere pace, feverishly waiting for the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film to be released on August 1.

The reviews that are beginning to proliferate are overwhelmingly positive with an early 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes!

Most of the early reviews claim that the breakout stars of the film are Groot and Rocket Raccoon which is awesome because they are credited to two creators with significant ties to the comic industry’s great charity, The Hero Initiative. The Hero Initiative supports comic creators that are facing difficult times, especially those  in the twilight of their lives. Please take the time to learn more about the mission of this organization here.

Nothing needs to be said about the tremendous creative contributions that the legendary Jack Kirby has made to the medium of comics. Many know that Kirby is responsible for at least co-creating most of the major characters in the Marvel Universe and that there has been an ongoing battle between his heirs and Marvel regarding compensation and copyright revision that is currently being considered to be heard by none other than the Supreme Court of the United States.

Your average movie goer may be surprised to learn that Kirby had his hand in the creation of Groot as well. Groot, who first appeared in TALES TO ASTONISH #13, published in November 1960 even predates all of the popular Silver Age Marvel characters!

Jump ahead 54 years and know that Jack Kirby, who passed away twenty years ago, would be celebrating his 97th birthday this month on August 28 and to honor his legacy, his granddaughter, Jillian Kirby,  is out beating the drums for the third consecutive year, promoting her Kirby4Heroes campaign. Jillian, in true Kirby heroic fashion, celebrates her grandfather’s birthday by cooperating with retailers and comic artists across the country to raise money for The Hero Initiative. Last year she raised over $10,000 and is shooting for $15,000 this year.

If you discover that you love Groot as much as everyone expects, please take your time to tip your hat to one of his creators by supporting the Kirby4Heroes campaign this month. Information on how you can participate can be found at www.kirby4heroes.com

As for Rocket Raccoon, his co-creator, Bill Mantlo, could be a poster child for The Hero Initiative’s wonderful work. Bill was the victim of a tragic accident that has left him severely brain damaged since 1992. According to Bill’s brother, Mike Mantlo, The Hero Initiative that was the first organization to step forward and help on behalf of the comics industry when Bill needed it the most. Mike says he will always be indebted to them for their kindness.

Bill remains in a long term healthcare facility but his brother continues to keep him connected with his fans by sharing information about him regularly on a Bill Mantlo facebook group page. Happily,  Bill is well aware of the excitement that is being generated Rocket Raccoon and is proud that his work is being recognized!

Guardians of the Galaxy is sure to be a blockbuster this year but it has a great opportunity to shine a high profile light on the real people that are responsible for the fantasies we enjoy in the comics and now on the big screen. Many of these creators are no longer with us but their genius continues to influence our popular culture in a huge way.

So when you are stuffing your face with popcorn and reveling in the exploits of Groot and Rocket Raccoon, stare deeply into their beady little CGI eyes and remember that they are more than just Guardians of the Galaxy. They, and every other character on that screen, are results of the labor of comic creators who are real people with real, lives, families, hopes dreams and, unfortunately,  tragedies and ill fortune.

Contributing to The Hero Initiative on their behalf is a great way to thank them  indirectly for the joy that their imaginations continue to inspire and to help those creators that may need a supportive hand from all of us.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



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

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously?

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

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

Thank you… I think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nah!  That shit only happens in comic books.

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

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

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

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

Without them there is no Marvel Universe to assemble.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Joe Simon Deserves More Than a Concession

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Marvel superheroes are anticipating a big summer on the silver screen with four blockbusters waiting in the wings. Captain America, Spider-Man, X-Men and The Guardians of the Galaxy are all ready to prove that their real superpowers are their ability to generate billions of dollars worldwide from ticket sales and merchandising.

With all that cash soon to be whirling around, It was a wonderful feeling to discover from  Bill Mantlo’s brother Mike, that Marvel had come to an agreement that would compensate Bill fairly for his part in co-creating Rocket Raccoon, the expected breakout star of the Guardians of the Galaxy film due in August. It is a bitter sweet victory since Bill now resides in a nursing home a victim of permanent brain damage sustained by a terrible accident in 1992.

Marvel’s settlement with Bill Mantlo, though undisclosed, appears to be one that is quite satisfactory to his family and is indicative of other agreements that seem to be quietly negotiated with other creators whose characters were created as work-for hire and are now being featured in this wave of popular films. Creators appear to be receiving some type of small ongoing royalties from profits generated by their work.

For those of us that grew up worshiping Marvel and the creators that brought so much excitement into our lives,  it is a dream come true to see Marvel attempting to treat the creators fairly and compensate them for their contribution.

Unfortunately the realization of this dream is just a mirage.

In less than a month Captain America: The Winter Soldier will burst into theaters and the granddaughter of Cap’s co-creator, Joe Simon, celebrated it’s impending release with a lovely tribute intended to remember her grandfather’s most significant contribution to the world of comics.

Megan Margulies http://meganmargulies.com/ writes about how her grandfather, who passed away in 2011 shortly after Captain America the First Avenger was released, was always so proud of his creation. She subtly points out that he had reached a settlement with Marvel in 2003 that relinquished all of his rights to the character for a an amount of money so small it left the most meaningful part of the agreement being that his name and the name of co-creator Jack Kirby was required to be displayed during the opening credits of any Captain America movie.

She describes seeing his credit on the film as a great source of pride for her and Joe’s extended family as they all represented him at the LA premier of the film.

As much as anyone can appreciate being recognized for our accomplishments we all know that pride is wonderful but, at the end of the day, that and a cup of coffee ain’t getting anyone anywhere.

Dig a little deeper and read Megan’s 2013 Fourth of July tribute to her grandfather and you realize that, in her own poetic way, she wants the world to know that this man that co-created one of the greatest superheroes of all time lived a very modest life until his death at 98.

He lived in a small messy apartment that he shared with mice and a squeaky armchair. His most prominent piece of furniture was his ink splattered drawing board. The family found it necessary to sell off most of his art, a piece of which her fiancé bought for her from auction in remembrance of her grandfather.

This humble and loved man was proud of his creation but he and his family never had and never will benefit from the incredible wealth that Captain America is able to generate.

So, in my opinion, Megan’s tribute reads like an eloquent concession speech given by someone who has lost a great battle.  She took the high road and showed tremendous sportsmanship, choosing to focus on Joe Simon’s legacy rather than the ugly details.

Megan has taken the same road as the Kirby family who have finally lost a bitter war with Marvel over their father’s stake in not just Captain America but many of the characters in the Marvel Universe.

The Kirby’s, in defeat, have similarly focused on preserving Jack’s legacy by actively promoting a positive image of his contribution to comics, and managing a wonderful Kirby4Heroes campaign to aid the Hero Initiative.

It fascinates me that Marvel can pick and choose those that they are willing to compensate in an effort to manipulate public opinion while those that have been most responsible for their vast wealth are perpetually denied.

To me, it is a crime to march a creator’s family on to a stage to promote a film whose movie premier alone probably cost more than the settlement that Joe Simon received.  It is a travesty that the actors portraying the characters make more for one film than Joe Simon and Jack Kirby made in their lifetimes. It’s a shame that the profits generated from these films could support a small country yet the heirs of these creators find themselves selling prints on etsy, surely not for the fun of it.

CigarJoeDesigns

it is a huge mistake to read Megan Margulies tribute to her grandfather and get so overwhelmed by the tremendous respect and pride that she has for what Joe Simon accomplished that we fail to remember that he and his family are victims of an unscrupulous corporation that will deny fair and reasonable compensation to the families of their greatest creators.

Marvel, you had us going there for a second, but compensating creators needs to be more than a PR stunt. Make it a retroactive and significant part of your corporate strategy and then we will all be impressed. Until then, enjoy watching creators die in poverty while your execs and shareholders get fat at their expense.

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



Hollywood Hell

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

It is Oscar Season in Hollywood. Congratulations in advance to all the losers! I’m not talking about all those folks that were lucky enough or talented enough to be nominated but those that will never even be invited to ceremonies or get a sniff of the knobby trophy.

I’m talking about all of the dedicated artists without which most of the films we see would never be made. The men and women that create, design, animate, sculpt,  draw and paint relentlessly to produce a reality in two and three dimensions that ultimately comes alive on film. The people that make a measly paycheck compared to the actors, directors, and producers that rake in millions. The saps whose microscopic credit flies by on the screen so fast it is nothing but a blur.

Congratulations to you all and thank you for another incredible year of cinema that would have been shit without you!

Sounds rough, I know, but any one who describes themselves as an artist of any sort knows that they, with few exceptions, wear a permanent “Kick Me” sign especially when it comes time to being valued and paid for their work. This is not just in Hollywood but in all creative fields including comic books.

These days, comic books and Hollywood work in tandem to create incredible films and, for the most part, it is the people that created the comics in the first place that see the least revenue from the giant blockbusters they inspire.

To be sure there is a line of creators seeking compensation for their contributions outside the Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros. offices. In many cases settlements are made secretly, behind closed doors, in an attempt to shore up any floodgates ready to burst.

These agreements are band aids on a wound that never heals because though it may satisfy the immediate creator in question it casts an illusion of harmony that deludes other creators into a false sense of security in their professional dealings, giving the corporate gatekeepers the upper hand.

It is this overwhelming attitude that disregards the value of creators that makes them vulnerable to predators in the industry and in society itself.

This is why people  like Shia LaBeof feels it is his it is his right to plagiarize source material at will and mock the convention of copyright ownership. Comic artist Dan Clowes is a victim whose work and career has been violated, yet it is Labeouf that is defensive like a rapist dismissing an accuser.

It is this creative disregard that allows artists at the top of the food chain, like Spike Lee, to scoff at designer Juan Luis Garcia and respond with malice when Garcia sought to be paid for work that had been stolen from him by an unscrupulous ad agency hired by the filmmaker.

Juan Luis Garcia has disappeared, a mere hiccup to a respected independent filmmaker that had an opportunity to publicly respect the value of the work of another artist that was just trying to make a living. Spike Lee chose to bury him instead, more concerned with protecting his own bottom line than the integrity of the arts.

It is this pervasive sentiment that opens the Kirby heirs to criticism for seeking compensation for their father’s contribution in creating the multibillion dollar Marvel Universe.

The professional hell that artists experience everyday may not always compare to the injustices in Hollywood but it is prevalent every time someone asks that work be done for free or well below market value because it will “offer exposure” instead, every time time an artist is asked to do work on speculation, never to be paid, and every time they do work-for-hire and see no residuals from an unexpected success.

The world is a difficult place for any profession these days. Everyone from the plumber to the baker is struggling to make ends meet while the moguls at the top get rich off of their hard work. Artists are often dismissed because at least they have the joy of “doing what they love.” That is no excuse for fair compensation for the work that they do.

Next time you watch a film pumped out by Hollywood, take the time to sit through the credits and absorb the enormous amount of people that it took to make that single movie. Imagine how many of them are artists with great aspirations and who are now wondering where their next paycheck is coming from. Learn to appreciate and value their work and creativity because these are the folks in the trenches of Hollywood Hell and the film you enjoyed would not exist without them.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Ode to Oswald

Monday, April 30th, 2012

One would think that of all the major conglomerates in the world, The Walt Disney Company would have the greatest empathy and respect for creators who have made bad deals that resulted in their characters being torn from them. Disney, in fact owes its own success to it’s founder’s resolution resulting from having his creation hijacked by corporate greed.

Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks

In 1927, Walt Disney and his chief animator Ub Iwerks signed a deal with producer Charles Mintz to create a character so they could sell animated shorts to Universal Studios. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit became Disney’s first major success. Walt Disney, always striving for quality, saw his budgets becoming more costly and approached Mintz for more money. To Disney’s surprise Mintz outlined a plan where Walt would receive 20% less and was informed that Mintz contractually controlled the rights to the character and could produce cartoons without Disney. In fact, Mintz had already secured the services of all of Disney’s animators with the exception of Ub Iwerks. Disney refused to take the cut and walked away from his association with Mintz leaving his successful character behind.



Vowing to never let anyone else own his work again Disney started his own studio with his brother, Roy and Ub Iwerks, introducing the world to Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s initial start was slow going but Disney’s willingness to embrace the new technology of sound in film propelled the mouse to international stardom when he released Steamboat Willie in 1928.


The Walt Disney Company’s success since has been unparalleled and though Walt himself is often quoted as saying, “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing–that it was all started by a mouse,” he must have been justifiably  haunted by the loss of  Oswald the Rabbit. It must have also been a thorn in the corporate culture of the entire company that Oswald had been orphaned because when Bob Iger was named CEO of the company he told Walt’s daughter, Diane, that he intended to bring Oswald back to Disney. Nearly eighty years after the character was estranged from Disney, Bob Iger did just that.

In 2006, Iger traded away sportscaster Al Michaels from Disney’s ABC and ESPN to NBC Universal for the rights to Oswald and a few other minor assets! Oswald the Rabbit came home to much pomp and circumstance and immediately became a co-star in Disney’s popular video game Epic Mickey where Oswald rules Wasteland, a world inhabited by, what else, forgotten characters. The Disney merchandising machine is slowly including Oswald in all things Disneyana but more importantly there is great satisfaction that Oswald is home where he belongs with his step-brother Mickey.

It is exactly this corporate culture righteousness that needs to be implored now that Disney owns Marvel Entertainment. A long trail of Marvel Comic creators have seen their characters harvested to the tune of literally billions of dollars with no compensation paid to the originators or their heirs beyond a meager initial page rate. Adding insult to injury these same creators are not even being acknowledged for their roles as creators in film credits for what can only be legal posturing. This is more than an injustice, this is a cultural travesty! Films like The Avengers have an opportunity, nay, a responsibility to properly credit the creative minds that laid the foundation for generations of entertainment by these characters. The audience has a cultural right to know the accurate history of these characters and the medium that they are derived from.

I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators. I imagine that Walt Disney is rolling in his grave (or cryogenic chamber if you buy into that legend) at the thought of his own World of Tomorrow being such an unscrupulous, greedy, and callous place.

Maybe someday, just as The Walt Disney Company experienced the joy of the triumphant return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back into the fold of the Magic Kingdom, the legacy of the true original creators of the Marvel Universe will be fully embraced and that same joy can be experienced by those creative pioneers and their heirs.

As Stan Lee, the only Marvel co-creator unabashedly and perpetually credited would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s time that Disney, Marvel, and Stan, himself, live up to that motto and do the right thing.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


Baseball Cards, Slurpee Cups and Comic Books

Monday, June 20th, 2011

It has been popular lately to reminisce about personal early comic book reading experiences. We all remember the moment that our imagination was permanently captured by the medium and, of course, the experience is unique for everyone. Don Lomax who’s CAPTAIN OBESE comic is a feature here at CO2 Comics recently talked about his early comic reading experiences and how they influenced his comic creating in this interview.


As for my own experience, comic strips were my first introduction to sequential art. I remember, when I was a very young child, anxiously looking forward to the Sunday paper each week so I could sprawl out on the floor and be mesmerized by the colorful pictures that seemingly came to life on the expansive sheets of paper. I couldn’t read but I had a good sense for what was going on especially in the action comics I was drawn to like Buck Rogers, Prince Valiant, Popeye, Alley Oop and Dick Tracy.

Buck Rogers, Prince Valient, Popeye, Alley Oop, Dick Tracy.

Silly Putty made reading the comics more tactile as I was fond of capturing the images on the rubbery clay and distorting them with seemingly limitless possibilities.  This was probably how I conjured the first notion that I could exercise my creative urges with comics.  A long weekend afternoon of rolling gleefully on sheets of newspaper  would leave me fully smudged with cheap ink, my toddler’s clothes permeated with the musty odor of newsprint and my imagination broadened with the endless creative potential that was  exhibited in those color drenched comics.

My local newspaper, the Norristown TIMES HERALD had a weekly supplement for children, it was a four-page, black-and-white,  pull-out called TINY TURTLE that was mostly a cartoony activity sheet that encouraged children to color, draw, do puzzles, read and learn. It featured a monthly calender and was always specific to the season. This came in the Saturday edition of the paper ensuring that my childhood weekends were fairly occupied by my local press.

Gerry Giovinco after open heart surgery

Collections of Charles Schulz’ PEANUTS were my first recollection of enjoying comics bound by covers. My uncle would bring the pocket book size collections over to amuse me while I recovered from open heart surgery. I was nine years old and I would read them front to back before ever putting them down. They were the best distraction from my physical ailments and proof that laughter was, in fact, the best medicine. Nothing was funnier to me than the exploits of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang and I would torture my family by reading the gags aloud and describing the pictures. Somehow the jokes were never as funny when I retold them but my own sides still split with laughter upon each retelling.

I was an avid reader in grade school and gravitated toward adventure and mystery stories. I remember enjoying series books like The BOBBSEY TWINS, The HARDY BOYS and TOM SWIFT. During this time I remember Big Little Books capturing my attention as well.  Big Little Books were chock full of illustrations on every other page and I found myself just as drawn to the images as I was toward the words.

Trips to the barber shop were where I first encountered comic books. I remember there being two magazine racks in the back of the shop, one for the men and the other for the boys. The men’s rack was chock full of PLAYBOY magazines and the best way to get a glimpse of their voluptuous subject matter was to spend as much time as possible by the other precariously close rack that contained comic books.

Though the comics were at that point a precocious end to a means, I would spend a lot of time thumbing through them and I soon discovered that there was a difference between the Marvel and DC comics. The DC comics at the time had a lot of short stories in them and I found that I could enjoy them more because I could get a full story while I waited. The Marvel comics always left me hanging and though I found the images and story more dynamic, I would always be left disappointed, not knowing how the story ended.

As I became a little more independent I would make frequent trips to the local 7-11 convenience store that could be reached through a network of shortcuts through neighbors’ yards. The mission was always the same, milk and bread for Mom, baseball cards and Slurpees for me and my brothers.

The Slurpee cups at the time had images of baseball players on them and my brothers and I were avid collectors, especially hunting for cups of our beloved Phillies.  We were always on the prowl for cups featuring our heroes Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt. Inevitably we had stacks of those baseball cups featuring stars from every team in MLB. This went on for a couple of seasons then one day everything changed. The Slurpee cups featured something different… Marvel characters!

Captain America 167

I had already been picking at comics and had, despite my earlier convictions about Marvel comics, recently been enamored with issue #167 of CAPTAIN AMERICA and the FALCON by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema. I remember rushing home and reading it beneath a peach tree in my back yard on a particularly balmy fall day, I then spent  the afternoon recreating the cover while sitting at the dining room table.

Captain America Slurpee Cup

The Slurpee cup completist in me along with the Marvel story arcs  fueled my need to collect the comics and soon I was a master at knowing the delivery dates of the magazines of every convenience and drug store in my immediate area. I started collecting only CAPTAIN AMERICA then titles that featured CAPTAIN AMERICA soon I found Cap crossing over into title after title and before I knew it I was hooked on the whole Marvel Universe.

In the process I was collecting those Slurpee cups too and found that I loved to copy the classic images off the cups. I probably learned more about drawing the human figure from those images on the cups than any single other resource at the time.

By the time I got to high school my fate was sealed. I knew I wanted to make comics when I grew up and that became the focus of my education until I left college to co-found COMICO the Comic Company.

Making Comics Becuse I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


Father’s Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Two weeks ago we ran a blog post here at CO2 Comics titled The King and The Man that compared excerpts of interviews with Stan Lee and the late Jack Kirby who recollected their dramatically opposing perspectives of the creation of the FANTASTIC FOUR and much of the Marvel Universe.

The post sparked an animated debate throughout the internet in forums and discussion boards on comic related sites, highlighted for us at CO2 Comics by a brief and pleasant correspondence with the son of a legend, Neal Kirby who politely defended the validity of his father’s position.

This week as, we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, Neal Kirby has delighted us again by offering CO2 Comics the opportunity to post a very touching Father’s Day letter that he has written as a tribute to his dad.

Those who follow our posts regularly know that Tuesday is our feature blog day and that this would be our last blog before Father’s Day. By coincidence, today is Flag Day. What better day to honor the man that gave us the original star spangled superhero, CAPTAIN AMERICA?

We are proud and humbled to be able to present to you this letter from Neil Kirby to his father and the father of superhero comics as we have known them, Jack “King” Kirby:

Happy Father’s Day; Glad You’re Not Here

Jack Kirby and son Neal, Photo © Neal Kirby

I’ve just turned 63 and my fathers’ been gone over 18 years, but I still cry when I think of him, especially when I see one of those overly realistic WW II shows, and I see him as a young man trudging through northern France dodging machine guns, mortars, and those dreaded ‘88’s, until his feet froze inside his boots.   I cry when I think of all the nights I spent in his little 10X10 studio in the basement of our Long Island home (“the Dungeon”) watching a Brooklyn Dodger game or Victory at Sea on a little black and white TV in a wooden cabinet.  Most of all I miss watching him create and draw.  He would sit there, hours on end, pipe or cigar in mouth, right hand flying over the page, sometimes simultaneously writing story notes or script in the margins for the mythology that became the Marvel Universe.   And always surrounded by bookcases full of his beloved books: history, mythology, Science fiction – especially the pulps!

Young Jack Kirby, Photo © Neal Kirby

Captain America 1

For those of you familiar with the world of comic books, the name Jack Kirby is instantly synonymous with being the greatest comic book artist – ever.  Captain America, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Thor, and the Silver Surfer; just to name a few out of hundreds.  Those with also a modicum of knowledge of comic book history are also aware that my father was either the creator or co-creator of almost all the Marvel characters he had a hand in bringing to the public.

First appearances of Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, The Hulk, X-Men and Thor

If your unfamiliar with the comics industry, and just enjoy super-hero movies, you will notice my fathers’ name on some screen credits, usually buried at the end of the movie; sometimes, as in the recent “Thor” release, coming third after someone who had no hand in the characters’ creation other than being the editor-in-chief’s brother.  Unfortunately, for the past several years, some in the comics industry who have had the benefit of longevity have used the opportunity to claim to be the sole creator of all of Marvels’ characters. Must be great to be the last man standing.  It would seem that being backed by the public relations department of a large corporation buys access into the 24/7 news cycle.

Marvel movies based on Kirby creations

My father, to the contrary, was the most humble person I ever knew, probably to his detriment.  If you were to ask anybody who ever knew him they would tell you that was his most endearing trait. Taking credit for someone else’s work was just not in his make-up.  His super heroes did not consider themselves to be super or heroes.  There was no ego involved.  His goal through his characters was to be the defender of the little guy; the just and noble whose role, whether chosen or thrust upon them, was to protect those who through no fault of there own could not defend themselves.

Kirby Family 1961, Neal, Roz, Susan, Jack and Barbara up front, Photo © Neal Kirby

Maybe it’s now time for those still in the industry and comic book/super-hero fans, the “little guys,” to speak out.  Demand fairness not just for my father, but also for all those who have unjustly had their creative credit stolen from them.  As my father would say, “Show a little moxie!”

So Dad, I love you and miss you, but I’m glad you’re not here; not here to see others take credit for the characters you selflessly created over the years for the enjoyment of millions of children and adults.  But God, I sure wish you were the last man standing.

Neal Kirby 2011


The King and The Man

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Jack Kirby & Stan Lee

Recently my son Michael had to write a high school essay, choosing from a list of subjects considered to be the most influential Americans. Surprisingly, or not, Stan Lee was on the list for his significant role in the cultural impact that Marvel Comics has had on our society.

Mike’s decision to pick Lee as his essay subject was a simple one, knowing that he would have access to plenty of reference material in my personal library including Stan Lee’s interviews in David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW the Complete Collection Volume One published right here at CO2 Comics.

My son’s approach to his essay was standard fare, family bio, life experiences, significant achievements, and cultural impact all of which focused, of course, on Stan Lee’s involvement in the creation of the iconic characters at the center of the Marvel Universe. His twist was to point out that, though Lee’s creations do have a significantly positive cultural influence,  these characters and Marvel have so heavily dominated the comic book market for so long that they have oppressed the creative growth of of the comics industry for decades. What a kid!

No sooner did Mike hand in his paper, I found myself being directed by The Comics Beat to the infamous 1990 Gary Groth interview with Jack Kirby that is now posted in its entirety in the archives of The Comics Journal website. Kirby boldly takes credit for having created all of the major Marvel characters single-handedly and accuses Lee of having only ever written the single word “Excelsior!” This interview is a truly mind-blowing read that flies in the face of the history that Stan Lee has recounted repeatedly over the years. If you have not read it, make sure you do!

What a different paper my son would have written!

Of course there are two sides to every story, and my experience in this field of comics has taught me that the creative ego can absolutely convolute one’s memory, especially when it comes to ownership of an idea or a concept. Haggling over the notion of Lee and Kirby’s roles in the creation and success of Marvel and its characters may go on forever just for this reason.

Demonstrating this point are two contradicting excerpts, one from each of their individual interviews, that focus on the conception of the FANTASTIC FOUR.

Jack Kirby from the 1990 The Comics Journal #134 interview with Gary Groth:

I came in [to the Marvel offices] and they were moving out the furniture, they were taking desks out — and I needed the work! I had a family and a house and all of a sudden Marvel is coming apart. Stan Lee is sitting on a chair crying. He didn’t know what to do, he’s sitting in a chair crying —he was just still out of his adolescence. I told him to stop crying. I says. “Go into Martin and tell him to stop moving the furniture out, and I’ll see that the books make money.” And I came up with a raft of new books and all these books began to make money. Somehow they had faith in me. I knew I could do it, but I had to come up with fresh characters that nobody had seen before. I came up with The Fantastic Four. I came up with Thor. Whatever it took to sell a book I came up with. Stan Lee has never been editorial minded. It wasn’t possible for a man like Stan Lee to come up with new things — or old things for that matter. Stan Lee wasn’t a guy that read or that told stories. Stan Lee was a guy that knew where the papers were or who was coming to visit that day. Stan Lee is essentially an office worker, OK? I’m essentially something else: I’m a storyteller. My job is to sell my stories. When I saw this happening at Marvel I stopped the whole damned bunch. I stopped them from moving the furniture! Stan Lee was sitting on some kind of a stool, and he was crying.”

Stan Lee’s version from his 1983 interview in Comics Interview #5 conducted by David Anthony Kraft and Jim Salicrup:

Jack never pushed me to do superheroes. What happened was, one day, Martin Goodman called me into the office –– this is when Jack and I were doing all of those monster stories –– and Martin, who was the publisher at the time, said: “You know, Stan, I’ve just seen some sales figures for this DC magazine” –– it may have been JUSTICE LEAGUE, but I no longer remember -– “it is doing pretty well. Maybe we ought to do some superheroes.” And I said, “Fine.” And he said, “Let’s do a team like the JUSTICE LEAGUE.” And I said, “Fine.” I went home and wrote an outline, a synopsis for the FANTASTIC FOUR. And I called Jack, handed him the outline, and said: “Read this. This is something I want to do. And you should draw a team.” Jack , of course contributed many, many ideas to it. And I would venture to say that Jack and I co-created  THE FANTASTIC FOUR, in a way –– although the name was mine, the characters were mine, the concept was mine, originally. But he never pushed me to do superheroes. Jack was at home drawing those monster stories, until the day I called him and said: “Let’s do the FANTASTIC FOUR.”  I think Jack is really –– I don’t know what to say, I don’t want to say anything against him. I think he is beginning to imagine things.”

FF plot

Stan Lee’s interview happened about seven years prior to the Jack Kirby interview but it was obvious that Lee was responding to the same allegations which Kirby continually made and stood by until his death in 1994.

Regardless of who you believe or which side you defend, when it comes to cultural impact, it is impossible to imagine Marvel Comics or their characters without the influence of either Jack Kirby or Stan Lee. Kirby’s dynamic images and visual storytelling not only established the standard idioms of the comics medium and superhero genre, they defined the graphic footprint that became Marvel’s trademark. Stan Lee brought an infectious enthusiasm to Marvel that was difficult to ignore. Stan Lee’s Soap Box bristled with the same hip banter that was present in the dialog espoused by the characters he is credited with scripting. He built a relationship that brought together the readers, the characters and the Bullpen that formed bonds with fandom that were much deeper than ink on paper.

Listen to this audio file of a recording called “The Voices of Marvel” made available  through the fan club  Merry Marvel Marching Society and you will understand why Stan Lee’s influence goes beyond what he may or may not have created or scripted. He was the cheerleader.

http://www.dograt.com/2007/09/23/the-mmms-records-remastered/

The reality is that Jack Kirby and Stan Lee simply represent two different types of men. Jack Kirby was an amiable, creative genius who’s imagination knew no boundaries. He created for two primary reasons, to comfortably support his family and to express his ideas. Any reward beyond that was secondary to his nature, by the time he realized his loss it was too late.

Stan Lee had his eye on the prize his whole career. He continues to live for the fame and the fortune. He believed in the Marvel product and aggressively sold it with a huckster’s gleam in his eye that exists to this very day.

The irony is that Stan Lee himself clearly defined their roles with flashy nicknames, Jack “King” Kirby and Stan “The Man” Lee.

There was a chemistry that brought these two, very different, gentlemen together at the perfect time in history to create a magic that ushered in Marvel and the Silver Age of comics. Had they not united, what would have become of either man? What would have become of the comics industry?

All differences and injustices aside, the important thing is that both of these men need to be remembered for the joy and energy that they brought to comics, our culture and each and every one of us that were inspired by their careers. Generations from now, they will both continue to be revered for their creative contributions to comics, a medium which is just beginning  to realize its potential. I think both men would be satisfied with that reward of creative immortality.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco



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