Posts Tagged ‘Marvel’

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



Super Hero September is Great for Comic Books

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I have been waiting for decades for Marvel and DC to step up to the plate and aggressively promote comic books.  Not just movies, toys and merchandise featuring their characters, but comic books. That is, after all, what they do right? Make comic books?

In 2011 DC surprised me with their promotion of the New 52. It was a huge promotional campaign across all media but was unfortunately  more focused on the derailment of their iconic characters’ established identity in popular culture as they redefined them for a changing market. Ever since, DC has made one marketing blunder after another to the point where there is even a site that tracks the number of days since DC did something stupid.

Their efforts, no matter how misguided, did generate interest and drive new people into comic book shops though I believe it frustrated long time fans by bastardizing the characters that they had loved for decades.

One thing DC did, according to the Hollywood Reporter, was establish September as a promotional battleground that has now instigated a devastating counterattack of heroic proportions by Marvel/Disney.

September is now Marvel Super Hero September  encouraging fans to “Power up like a Marvel Super Hero!”

Lately, after a very respective run of hugely successful films that have ecstatically (unlike DC) maintained the integrity of their long standing source material, Marvel can do no wrong. Combined with the added resource of the Disney Marketing Machine, Marvel is now a pop culture juggernaut. (FOX pun intended).

A visit to the Super Hero September web page is evidence of the things that Marvel is currently doing right in this marketing campaign.

1. Masthead includes mega blockbuster characters from all of their hit films, carefully spotlighting a couple of female characters and their new successful franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy. (Note: no X-Men!)

2. They offer a contest that promotes their brand, establishes the good morals that we all expect from our favorite superheroes, builds a mailing list and offers a great prize: a trip on a Disney Cruise ship. (How many times can you promote a corporate product in one sentence?)

3. Impressive list of retail partners that includes: Hasbro, Kmart, Party City, Payless, Target, Walmart, Hallmark,Disney Store and their own on line Marvel Shop.

4. Comic books! My initial, jaded scan of the site seemed to confirm my suspicion that, once again comic books, would be overlooked by an eager attempt to sell toys and movies but to my surprise I easily found several links to available comic books throughout!

5. Comics for Kids! This has been a peeve of many that comics have matured leaving little for the youth market. Marvel tackles this head on with a line for young readers with comics available digitally and it print.

6. Links to comic shops!  Again I suspected that comic shops would play no fiddle to the big chains but in most places on the site where comics are presented in print there is a big fat link to the Comic Shop Locator Service!

7. Sharing. There is a relatively subtle button that seems redundant to the marvelkids.com button in that it sells young reader books, but on the surface it brilliantly commands, “Share Your Universe.”  This statement does two wonderful things that every brand craves for. It hands “ownership” of the brand to the fan and it tells them it is worth sharing, “you do not need to be alone in your enjoyment of this brand.”

There is so much more that is positive about what Marvel is doing with this campaign including promoting it on Disney owned ESPN in the height of football season that a book could probably be written on the marketing strategies involved.

This is obviously a big win for Marvel but it could be a huge win for the comic book industry in general.  Comic books are being promoted on a global scale in a positive light for the first time ever. This is not an event like the death of a character, this is a brand-wide promotion. It is time to ride the wave and make sure that everyone in comics benefits from the traffic that Marvel will continue generate.

Comic shops have shown their ability to grow where traditional bookshops have been failing. They need to prepare to further capitalize on the success that Marvel is generating by directing the broadening audience to the wide selection of subject matter made available by indy publishers. The consumers may be coming in for Marvel superheroes but they can discover a much broader world than they expected, the world of comic books if those in the industry choose to show them the way.

When it comes to comic books, let September be for super heroes just leave the rest of the year for everyone else. Thanks, Marvel!  Maybe DC will learn something.

Gerry Giovinco



It’s a Story about Jack and Jillian

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The story is pretty simple, really.

A young girl grows up knowing that her grandfather is one of the most talented and prolific comic book creators of all time. Unfortunately, he passes away before she was born and she never has a chance to meet him and to share a granddaughter’s love personally. Her entire life she hears stories about his generosity and accomplishments. As she grows into a young adult, she is surrounded by characters he created or co-created as they have become icons in popular culture. This all instills in her a great sense of pride and a strong attachment to maintaining her grandfather’s legacy. She creates and manages a successful, annual campaign intended to celebrate his birthday by raising money in his name and generates tens of thousands of dollars for a worthy charitable organization.

Nobody goes up a hill and dumps a pail of water on their head.

This Jack and Jill tale is a love story that continually gives back.

This is a story about Jack Kirby and his granddaughter, Jillian Kirby who, once again, is asking for our support for her Kirby4Heroes Kirby4Heroes.com campaign that this year celebrates what would have been Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday.  Jillian’s goal this year  is to raise $15,000 for The Hero Initiative, an organization that provides much needed support to comic creators that have fallen on severe hard-times due to health issues, age, and lack of income.

This charity is important to Jillian because she understands that some of the practices of the comic industry were not always fair to the people that created the comics we all enjoyed, leaving many of them destitute while characters they created continue to generate large revenue for the publishing houses.  Her grandfather was as much a victim of these practices as anyone but was always able to support his family and maintain a respectable lifestyle until his death. This is what she hopes for other comic creators who were not as lucky.

She has  gone “up the hill” merely to take the high road with no intention of “tumbling after.”

Jillian has chosen not to dwell on the widely publicized legal disputes involving her grandfather, family and Marvel. Her campaign is not intended to to support her or her family in any way other than maintaining the goodwill and legacy of her grandfather’s name by helping others in need and insuring that the contribution of Jack Kirby to the comics industry and popular culture is never forgotten.

Her efforts are noble and selfless and provides the comic industry with yet another positive female role model to be applauded.

She can’t do it alone and she needs all of our help.

August 28th is Jack’s birthday and comic shops across the country have joined Jillian’s campaign to donate a percentage of their sales that day to The Hero Initiative. Do your part by endorsing them with your patronage!

Of course there are other ways that you can become involved!

To find out visit Kirby4Heroes.com or HeroInitiative.org You can also join the Kirby4Heroes Facebook page where Jillian and her family post wonderful memories and art from Jack Kirby for everyone’s enjoyment.

What better way can you think of to wish the King of Comics a happy birthday than to help others in his name. With your continued support this Jack and Jill story can be “happily, never ending!”

Gerry Giovinco



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



DC Comics’ Participation Plan – Magical Mystery Money

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

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

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

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

Everything looks rosy!

Depending on who you believe…

Chuck Dixon, Steve Bisette

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

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

Gerry Conway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait for it…

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

Kiss that paper trail goodbye!

Can anybody say Comixology?

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

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

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco




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