Posts Tagged ‘Marvel’

Vocal Minority vs Silent Minority in Comics

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

The so-called “vocal minority” in comics has been getting a lot of attention lately due to reactions generated by Raphael Albuquerque’s request to pull his controversial variant cover for Batgirl #41 and  Image co-founder Eric Larson’s criticism of the newly designed Wonder Woman costume.

To be clear, the term “vocal minority” today’s current comic speak for  the voice of feminists and their supporters who rally against sexual exploitation and violence against women in comics.

In the case of Albuquerque’s cover, the artist responded to threats of violence made towards critics of the cover. He respected and agreed with the concerns of the “vocal minority” that felt the image strongly implied rape and was not consistent with the current direction of the current Batgirl story line. DC honored his request and replaced the cover with a more appropriate variant.

Regarding, Erik Larsen,  well, he just had a meltdown. He  lambasted the big two on twitter for “placating a vocal minority at the expense of the paying audience by making more practical women outfits.”

Janelle Asselin did a nice piece on the subject that should be read at Comics Alliance. Her conclusion that the comics industry is changing and fans and pros that have perpetuated a sexualized  and violent comic market for decades need to realize that the industry is not just about them any more should be applauded for the sole purpose of pointing out that for too long the industry has been dictated by a  “silent minority.”

This group’s  intentions for publishing comic books over the last few decades is a lot different than what had gone before.

Many of the iconic comic characters that we enjoy today were created at a time when it was necessary to appeal to the widest audience possible. For this reason and later for the approval of the Comics Code Authority, comic publishers went out of their way to create wholesome, unoffensive characters with broad appeal. I was just good business for the market at the time.

The costumes worn by superheroes were designed to emulate the exotic and powerful costumes of circus entertainers that inspired the imaginations of the young and old alike. The capes, tights and body suits  came from strongmen, acrobats, aerialists and dancers because it was their costumes that the public equated with what was powerful  and  fantastic.

They were simple and much more innocent times.

The characters became powerful trademarks recognizable by people around the world. They were licensed and merchandised to promote tons of product all on the strength of the characters recognizability and good will.

The image of superhero on a product stood for “Truth Justice, and the American Way.”

This all changed in the late 1980′s and 1990′s. Comic book sales became relegated strictly to comic shops and the Comic Code lost its authority. A new crowd took over the reigns at the publishing houses. Comics were no longer being made for the largest audience. They were being made to appeal to a finite group of like-minded, adult, male fans and creators who wanted their comics mature, violent and sexual. This “silent minority” assumed the market and would control it entirely today if it were not for the success of Manga in American bookstores and the purchase of Marvel by Disney.

Manga with its attention to wide subject matter, strong character relationships and dominant female characters attracted women readers and eventually drove them into the comic shops shaking up the boys club that proliferates there.

Disney, with their solid focus on branding has capitalized on their merchandising machine and made Marvel characters household names like never before. The appeal of the superhero has not been this great since World War ll.

But DC continues to tarnish their established trademarks from the inside-out finding new ways to offend and alienate a wider market that includes women that respect themselves and a youth market that is not ready for stories about sex, rape, extreme violence and vulgar language.

The new fans are not discovering what they expect when they walk into comic shops because comic books have changed.

Our culture assumes that superheroes are for everyone. We like to consider them our modern mythology. Like it or not, this is what they have become. When they are used as a tool for exclusion, misogyny, or racism it should be expected that a discussion will occur. One that should remain peaceful and dignified. Anyone that invokes the use of violence to prove their point should not be tolerated.

Let’s be civilized.

Superheroes are just a small part of the ever growing comics industry. There is plenty of room for comics and graphic novels to be created to appeal to every minority group out there no matter how silent or vocal they are. But we will all be best served if the publishers, creators and fans encourage the creation of new characters to drive those stories so the old characters can retain the ideals intended by their original creators.

You see, I am a member of another minority. One that remembers when comics were fun colorful and exciting. The good guy always won. The women were beautiful and their clothes stayed on. I don’t remember cringing at violence because it was never extreme and I never worried about being offended by reading a story about my favorite character. I would like to see those characters that I grew up with, remain the pure icons that they were. But it is already too late. If I want to read those comics I have to pick up an omnibus collection.

Alan Moore did it right when he created the Watchmen. He gave us something new for a more mature audience without corrupting  classic characters.

And then he wrote The Killing Joke where Batgirl was stripped, mutilated, and permanently disabled which has now led us to the furor over Albuquerque’s cover.

Where is Yvonne Craig when we need her?

Gerry Giovinco

Secret Wars: The Disneyfication of Marvel

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

In case you have not heard, the Marvel Universe as the world has known it since 1961 is ending. Why not? Death sells. So knock off the whole thing and reboot from scratch. The idea is so original they are calling the event “Secret Wars,” like that was never used before.

The scary thing is that, as much as this smacks of the usual mockery of fan’s intelligence perpetrated by DC Comics, this all makes perfect sense if you have stock in Disney, Marvel’s parent company.

Amazingly it has taken six years for this to happen but Marvel is finally on the verge of being Disneyfied.

What could be more Disney than uniformity? The House of the Mouse is the master of the style guide. Homogeny is the backbone of their marketing genius. Marvel however, though it has a particular identity recognized only by a specific subculture who understand the nuances of the superhero genre, is a mish-mash of styles and continuity that requires a doctorate in nerdgasm to fully grasp.

The development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a wonderful job of solidifying the continuity of a core group of characters for the masses. Now is the time to pull in the rest of the properties and neatly align them so they all make sense to the common folk. Enter Secret Wars where all realities collide and are rearranged into one neat package.

Secret Wars comes complete with a color coded map of the new world that all the Marvel characters will exist in and is named “Battleworld.” It is eerily reminiscent of early maps of the Magic Kingdom in “Disney World.” Could it possibly be the foretelling of a Super theme park west of the Mississippi? Check those land acquisitions in the Navada Desert. More likely is it just mind soap to guide us subliminally into their marketing mouse hole.

And what about that re-use of the Secret Wars name? Does it play into giant marketing scheme to tie in all of Disney’s major properties together under one neat umbrella?

Secret Wars,  Star Wars VII , Captain America: Civil War, Star Wars VIII , Avengers: Infinity War 1,  Avengers: Infinity War 2, and Star Wars IX are all released consecutively over the next five years.

That is a lot of “War” titles all being calcified by a Disney owned video game called “Infinity” (imagine that) that allows players to interact with figurines from all of Disney’s properties  including Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars. An entire generation will unwittingly galvanize the new Disney Empire of properties into a single mega universe.

By 2020 all things Marvel and Star Wars will be “infinitely” as Disney as Donald Duck and Goofy!

A reimagining of the Marvel Universe does one more important thing. It redefines characters that are more than half way to a date with public domain. By 2020 a significant number of major Marvel character’s origin copyrights will be due to expire in less than forty years. New origins will update the characters with current audiences and extend the copyright of the new origin 95 years!

Oh, and if you think Marvel an Disney won’t be putting the screws to Fox during all of this, think again. Expect to see familiar mutants suddenly becoming transcended Inhumans and the Fantastic Four innocuously bottled up till Fox finally caves in on their deal.  New continuity can take all of those Fox held characters right out of the timeline with no argument and completely derail their profitability as film franchises.

The Emperor rules the Universe and the Emperor is a mouse.

Gerry Giovinco

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



Superhero Movies: Careful What You Wish For

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Recent announcements made by both Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers have indicated that in the next six years there will be approximately forty superhero films released! Comics Alliance has posted an incredible infographic designed by Dylan Todd that details the specifics as they stand now:

That is more than four new superhero films each year from Marvel and DC! This is also not counting any other geek-friendly science fiction films like Star Wars, Star Trek or any number of alternative comic related films!

What have we done? What did we wish for?
Is it possible that the superhero film will become mundane if it hasn’t already?

Will the flood of films, compounded by the plethora of related television shows ruin the thrill of anticipation that used to exist when comic book fans simply longed for a film that could do any superhero justice?

There was a time when it was an annual event just to watch the special effects laden The Wizard of Oz on television. Audiences looked forward to it as a special occasion because it was the one time out of the year that you could always count on to see something spectacular.

Younger generations today do not have that same appreciation because, thanks to modern technology, this classic film can be seen around the clock, throughout the year on a variety of devices. The concept of availability on demand has taken away the urgency that drove families to gather around the television and reverently enjoy it.

This is the same lack of urgency that is responsible for short runs of films at the box office. When great films came out, the line wrapped around the multiplex and down the block for tickets. Films stayed in the theater for six months at a time because it was the only opportunity to see them. Why rush to the theater now when a film will be on Blu-ray in three months? Before videos were available audiences waited three years in hopes that a film would come to television someday.

There was nothing, however, like waiting for a good comic book movie to be made. Superheroes are a special breed of character whose abilities are so fantastic that, for generations, what could only exist on the printed page and in our imaginations could not translate, believably, to film. Comic book fans longed to see a superhero film done right. They had suffered through so many cheesy attempts with only a few that garnered even a modicum of respect.

It was a milestone in 1978 when the Superman film was promoted with the slogan, “You’ll believe a man can fly!” It was a wish come true. For the first time ever, the greatest superhero of them all was finally presented in a relatively believable fashion on film.

The film was a huge success but good superhero films would still be hard to come by. Superman quickly ran his course after a few attempts as did the Batman films but it wasn’t until 2000 that CGI technology became sophisticated enough to allow for believable X-Men and Spider-Man films.

Four major superhero franchises in a twenty-five year period generates anticipation!
Since then there has been about forty superhero films from the big two in the last twelve years and now they are planning on doubling that production!

production!

Who would have ever thought that superhero films could become so commonplace? But with the threat of public domain looming over Golden Age characters in the next twenty years and Silver Age heroes not far behind, the time to cash in on those classic superheroes is now or never.

Fans finally have their wish that good superhero films can be made but now have to hope not to be overwhelmed by them. Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? If it is up to Marvel and Warner Brothers, we are going to find out.

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes Sell Porn to Children

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

There has been a trend lately to reinvent the images of our favorite superheroes so they seem more realistic and mature in an effort to appeal to an audience that is growing older. Ironically, porn parodies of these same superheroes tend to focus on the brightly colored costumes that superheroes wore when they were deemed too juvenile.

The porn companies appear to value the highly recognizable trademarks of the colorful costumes more than the comic companies do. While Marvel and, more significantly, DC are toning down flashy costumes,  the porn companies are cashing in on all those primary colors!

Which makes you have to wonder, who are they selling their films to?

Superheroes are going through an identity crisis of epic proportions. They want to appeal to everybody so bad that they can’t decide which costume to wear. Now they now have a closet full  spandex variants designed to appeal to each the different target audience.

Lay out a bunch of licensed merchandise and you will clearly see that toys and action figures made for little kids are adorned with the bright and bold costume colors that we have all come to recognize as representative of the world’s greatest superheroes.  As the products become targeted at an older consumer, the  costumes become darker and grittier to the point where they are almost  unrecognizable. This is all a grand scheme to progressively target market. It all makes reasonable sense until you introduce porn into the mix.

An investigative blogger once directly asked Warner Bros., Time Warner Inc., DC Comics, Liberty Media Holdings if they were using superheroes to sell porn to children, insinuating in her open letter that they must be profiting from the porn. Why else would they not be attempting to stop the obvious damaging trademark infringement of properties targeted at the youth market?

We have asked similar questions here at CO2 Comics and the obvious answer is that the porn companies are protected by the use of parody which never explains why DC was able to defend their trademark before, in the 1970′s, when they blocked a film titled XXX Superwoman which was later released as Ms. Magnificent.


Just the fact that people are objecting and asking questions should be enough to argue that there is infringement going on. The longer it is allowed to persist  the tougher it will be to fight if the companies want to.

This  may seem to be just overreaction of a conservative view except that the corporations that preside over these characters are so viciously aggressive when it comes to protecting their trademarks and have such deep pockets that it is very believable that they could stop the porn  if they really wanted to.

Maybe it is just another tier of the grand marketing scheme: bright colors for little kids; dark and gritty for mature readers; bright colors with an “X” for porn.

Just so we don’t get confused, since Halloween is upon us, check out the “slutty,” brightly-colored, licensed superhero costumes being made for young women these days. (many are described as  “adult” but are sold in the “teen” section) Then ask  how off-base this discussion is while bashing DC on their next round of licensed, sexist t-shirts.

Gerry Giovinco



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

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerry Giovinco



Remember When Comics Smelled Like…Pot?!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Remember when comics smelled like newsprint?

Not anymore!

If you haven’t heard, DC Comics plans to publish a Harley Quinn comic book that smells like cannabis. It’s true! You can read the story here.

What the hell are they thinking?!

I will never understand the marketing geniuses at DC Comics and their complete disregard for the respected value of their intellectual property.  When is their parent company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, going to reign those idiots in?

Without getting into a deep discussion about comics now appealing to a more mature audience than those that many of us grew up with, let me remind everyone that DC Comics and all of their characters represent a significant brand that is largely responsible for Warner Brothers Consumer Products being the fifth largest global licensor. They lag not far behind number one, Disney, who has been bolstered greatly by their  acquisition of Marvel and Star Wars and who will probably remain top dog forever.

When will DC understand that the strength and value of a company’s intellectual property is based solely on the public’s perceived value of that brand.

Forbes describes it this way{

“Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).  Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed.  But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.”

Entrepreneur says:

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

Both of these well informed marketing resources feel that the concept of branding can be “simply” defined, yet DC and Warner Bros. apparently have no clue or they wouldn’t be intentionally making and promoting comic books that smell like pot!

DC’s characters have achieved their brand value over their seventy plus year history based on a universal appeal of what the general population considers wholesome, heroic characters. This is why their images are available on everything from baby toys to shot glasses, They are safe (socially innocent) and have wide appeal.

What is the theory behind potentially damaging that brand by associating it with cannabis,  an illegal  Schedule 1 substance under US federal law?  Are they just daring a Dr. Wertham wannabe to stir up another witch-hunt on comics or the superhero genre all for the sake of a publicity gimmick?

Could you imagine Disney making or licensing any product  that intentionally smelled like pot?

“Get your Pocahontas Peace Pipe with realistic cannabis smell!”

Just wrong on so many levels!

Disney famously and aggressively brought down The Air Pirates for publishing an underground  parody comic where their characters imbibed in the weed and other nefarious deeds! They go after everyone, big and small mercilessly to protect their brand under all circumstances.

Just ask Deadmau5.

Only porn companies seem to be immune from big entertainment companies like Disney and Warner Bros., but there has to be more to that story.

Protecting a brand and its public perception is paramount to most large corporations. This is why we often hear of sports stars and actors losing endorsement deals because they did something stupid or illegal.

Even NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodel, one of the most powerful men in professional sports, has come under fire for his mishandling of the recent Ray Rice domestic violence case.

Companies are pulling endorsements left and right from NFL teams for public backlash stemming from ongoing disclosure of similar instances and many are asking for Goodel’s resignation.

By those standards some jackass at DC should be out of a job already.

DC has been treading on thin ice for years now, slowly chipping away at the shiny veneer of beloved characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman,  trading them in for a darker, grittier, more sinister fare.

Will the cannabis scented comic book finally be the tipping point? I doubt it, but they are seriously pressing their luck.

What’s next? Micro dot variants?

Don’t be surprised if the Comic Code Authority gets reinstated over this one.

We will all have DC to thank.

Gerry Giovinco



Kirby v. Marvel – The Final Countdown

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The suspense is killing me!

On Sept.  29, 2014 The Supreme Court of the United States will decide if it is going to hear the long embattled case of Kirby v. Marvel Characters, Inc.

If SCOTUS chooses not to hear the case it’s all over and Marvel retains complete ownership of everything that the late Jack Kirby had ever created to be published by them. His heirs will never benefit directly from the billions of dollars that his creations have generated for the industry giant. It will be a sad day, not just for the Kirby family and his fans, but for countless other creatives that had worked freelance as contractors in any field prior to 1976 whose creations will now be officially deemed “work for hire” with no hope of the rights ever being returned to the creator.

This would all seem to fly in the face of the intent of copyright law which, from inception attempted to protect the rights of creators and allow opportunity for revision of those rights even in the instance of commissioned work, with the sole exemption of “Work for Hire” which was not clearly defined until the Copyright Act of 1976.

Hey, this stuff is all very confusing or it would not require the brain trust of the Supreme Court to figure it out. If you don’t believe me just check out this well informed link.

The final brief offered to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Kirby side of the argument can be read here.  It is an eighteen page document full of legal jargon as one would expect but it poses several basic issues that in my mind stand out as pivotal.

If authorship copyright begins at creation and the creator only receives payment if the work is accepted, how is that creator considered an employee in a work for hire situation? What would be the status of works not accepted?

How could Kirby or Marvel have determined the work be “work for hire” if the term was not yet clearly defined by the court prior to 1976?

It is important to remember that the characters in question were created specifically between the years 1958 and 1963 when Kirby helped a then, failing company avoid  closure with a rash of successful characters that he co-created with Stan Lee, though there has been a long contention as to how much Lee contributed considering that the “Marvel Method” required the artist to plot and draw the story which would be scripted later by Lee.

Both men were happy to be getting any check at the time and were just trying to keep the ship afloat. Nobody could have expected the characters to be worth what they are today.

According to this timeline, Kirby had a productive and often tumultuous relationship with Marvel. Publisher, Martin Goodman seemed quite successful in his ability to manipulate Kirby, hashing out deals that were not always sincerely in Jack’s favor.

Kirby did eventually sign a three-year contract with  Marvel in 1975 as shown here where he committed  to do a nearly implausible 13 pages a week for $1100.  That is full script and pencils for two entire issues a month for less than $85 per page at the height of his career. If Kirby was working a normal, forty-hour work week he would have had to have churned out a complete page every three hours just to punch out on time. To consider him an employee is a disgrace.

So, it is up to the Supreme Court, but first they have to decide to hear the case. If they do it will be all fingers and toes crossed for anyone that wishes that Jack Kirby’s family will see a fair decision that will have an impact far greater than just Kirby v. Marvel

As we all gear up for the final countdown, realists know that he chances are slim in this day-and-age where a giant corporation like Marvel/Disney holds all the cards but the idealists can hope that the good guy will win, just like in the comic books.

Either way the decision will be historic and have far-reaching implications.

I know whose side I’m on. How about you?

Gerry Giovinco




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