Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Mouse’

Misguided Girl Power

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

There is a revolution going on and its objective seems to be about empowering little girls. Is it really an attempt, however, to redefine the personal interests and tastes of young ladies to meet the criterion of a particular marketing agenda?

Disney, for example has been actively distancing it’s princess characters from their “damsel in distress” stereotype. Recent animated films like Frozen, Brave, and Tangled along with live action versions of Maleficent and Cinderella actively seek to portray strong female characters that exemplify bravery, courage, strength and conviction. Are their efforts more about empowering young girls or corralling, back into the fold, those that are showing interest in the strong female characters that have been popping up in superhero films?

Marvels cinematic girl power

When Disney purchased Marvel in 2009 they gained a huge library of superhero characters, many of which were dominant females. The current success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has already propelled a number of these strong women characters into the forefront. Black Widow, Lady Sif, Gamora, Nebula, Scarlet Witch, Agent Peggy Carter,  Pepper Potts, Maria Hill, Melinda May, Daisy (Skye) Johnson, and others have all proven their ability to more than hang with the male characters. They are all powerful and independent women that have proven they can take care of themselves. Do not expect to find dolls, costumes,  toys or any other merchandise depicting them, however, because they will not appeal to the boys that the superhero market is deemed to be intended for.

The girls of Big Hero 6

One merchandising company’s response to a mother in search of girl characters from Big Hero 6 for her daughters says it all:

Hi Veronica,

Thanks for your email! Here is a little background on how we develop our designs.  When designing for a new film, we are developing well before the film is released and long before we have seen the movies ourselves.  Thus, we rely on the filmmakers to provide a recommended target audience.  Disney’s target audience for Big Hero 6 is boys 5-12 and secondary are girls 5-12 and teens.  Since this is geared toward boys, we chose to focus either on the main characters (in this case Baymax and Hiro), or on just the boy characters.  We have found boys do not want girl characters on their things (eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha). Should Big Hero 6 continue to resonate in the market place I think you will begin to see more product and even fabric with all the characters including the female characters.

I hope this helps explain why you might see product this way. We enjoy hearing feedback like this. So please, continue to do so.

Best regards,

Emily Robbins Kelly

Licensing Manager

Springs Creative Products Group, LLC”

This marketing ideology goes both ways and though we would love to believe that the intent of strong characters marketed to our youth, both male and female,  is to empower our children as they develop strong personal identities, they are more likely being used to define and manipulate a specific demographic to market to.

Disney of course is the master of marketing but the House the Mouse Built has established a model of success that is frequently emulated.

So here comes DC/Warner Brothers with an attempt at cornering a superhero market targeted at little girls ages 6-12 in hopes of competing with the princesses that have owned the market since the new millennium.

DC Super Hero Girls focuses on the female superheroes and super villains of the DC comic book universe while they are young teens that are relatable to the intended audience. Iconic characterts like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Bumble Bee, Poison Ivy, Katana and others will grow as young women discovering their full super-power potential.

DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson says it all with this statement:

“DC Entertainment is home to the most iconic and well-known superheroes including Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl, DC Super Hero Girls represents the embodiment of our long-term strategy to harness the power of our diverse female characters. I am so pleased that we are able to offer relatable and strong role models in a unique way, just for girls.”

Just for girls.

This is from the president of one of the largest companies in an industry that is screaming for comics to be inclusive and diverse!

Is it not possible to create a product that appeals to a demographic like young girls without being exclusionary? Didn’t Nelson herself do that when she oversaw the marketing of Warner Brothers’  Harry Potter franchise?

And then there is the other problem. The featured characters have been icons in a market that has been dominated by boys and men  for decades. They have been sexualized, objectified, tortured, and even raped in comic books. Are these the characters we want our six-year-old daughters to identify with?  Sure, these will not be the stories that will be exposed to in the “just for girls” club, but what happens when the young, new converts look across the aisle at Wonder Woman in a titillating “broke-back” pose or see Batgirl in bondage, or Harley Quinn in a maniacally bloody rage on the cover of another comic in the local comic shop How do we explain the sexy pinups of those strong female role models when our daughters want to go to a comic con? How do we prevent the stand-off when feminists and sexists clash, as they continue to, over images such as the sexy covers parodied by Frank Cho?

This is why corporations protect their trademarks. Their value lies in their broad appeal which is preserved by avoiding being offensive in general. The best trademarks appeal to everyone and you only have to look as far as Mickey Mouse for a stellar example. Nobody messes with Mickey!  But DC has tarnished their trademarks from the inside out, focusing  primarily on the interests of an audience of young to middle age men.  The characters that DC is now trotting out for little girls may have been meant for young readers forty or fifty years ago but have long grown away from being suitable for that audience. It will be  like making Betty Page comics for little girls. She can be drawn wholesomely and have wonderful, empowering  adventures but what happens when the girls discover that Betty grows to be a pinup queen with a troubled life that led her into exile?

DC has a lot of work to do. They either need to clean up their house and redefine the integrity of their trademarks or create new iconic characters that are suitable for the intended audience. If they want to empower little girls, allow them to feel included instead of separated. “Just for girls” is no better than “back of the bus.” Why can’t we all be able to pick up a comic, enjoy a cartoon, or play with a toy and enjoy it because we like it, not because some corporation told us we should?

Because target markets make it easy to sell product. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Girls can like superheroes, that doesn’t mean that they need to see men or women in comics be subjugated.

Boys can like princesses, that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate a strong male or female character. When our culture strives to empower each other equally and as individuals. Not how we or some corporate marketer thinks they should be. That’ is s when we will all be superheroes and it won’t matter who likes pink or blue.

This is not to say that there can not be all kinds of comics and all kinds of superheroes. Walk into a book store or a library and you will find sections dedicated to personal interest, appropriate age group or subject matter. Comics and characters need to be better defined in a similar way so that audiences can identify them and easily determine what appeals to their personal interest or maturity level. Marvel did this successfully with their release of Daredevil on Netflix, a platform that allowed for a more violent and mature content, a far cry from the PG-13 Avengers fare that will appear across the board in media and merchandise. Daredevil will also not be popping up on party plates and kiddie underwear and nowhere did Daredevil show runners describe the series as “Just for Men.”

Gerry Giovinco

Trademark Deadmau5 Trap

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Joel Thomas Zimmerman, the EDM DJ/musician best known as Deadmau5,  has just encountered the world’s best mouse trap: U.S. Trademark Law.

Nobody keeps the mice away better than the Disney corporation when it comes to protecting their trademarks especially when it comes to defending Mickey Mouse and that famous pair of ears.

Canadian born Zimmerman, whose stage schtick includes performing in an oversized, robotic looking mouse head,  has flown under Disney’s litigious radar for the last decade, successfully trademarking a graphic of his mouse head in countries throughout the world. Now that he is attempting to register his trademark in America, Disney is challenging the mark claiming that it is too similar to their iconic symbol and may cause them harm by confusing consumers.

The trap is triggered, but does Zimmerman get out a Deadmau5 or a live one?

Some will argue that Disney has no basis in their contention. Deadmau5 poses no competition for Disney big focused on different markets. Deadmau5 can be interpreted as a parody and protected by fair use laws. The Deadmau5 logo is different enough. A nice piece in the Daily Trojan titled “Disney’s legal battle with Deadmau5 has no basis” does a good job defending the argument.

But when it comes to copyright or trademark issues, the solution is never that simple.

The problem with U.S. Trademark law is that the advantage is almost always on the side of the big guy. Why? Because it requires a trademark to be continuously defended or risk losing it. Unless you have deep pockets like Disney, who can aggressively afford to go after  every potential infringer?

Should a trademark be challenged for any trivial reason by a giant corporation like Disney who can drag you through the courts endlessly in a legal battle that will exhaust all of your financial resources. Your attempt to trademark is doomed because you will be bankrupt before a judge ever tries your case. Most settle or give up. Those that don’t usually end up as a bloodied “example.”

This system assumes that the public is too ignorant to recognize distinguishable differences in any graphic or other form of trademark. It is compounded by companies that manipulate their trademark constantly to intentionally blur the line. This is why a simple graphic like Disney’s Mouse Silhouette or DC’s Batman logo, #6 is presented in so many different ways including shapes and colors. It is now impossible to to create a simple mouse or bat logo without incurring retribution.

This has cost pop culture some great works over the years. Among the many casualties, Captain Marvel was crushed for his supposed similarities to Superman, and Howard the Duck was never the same after Disney challenged him compared to Donald Duck. These were innovative and dynamic characters that had their feet swept out from under them in their prime because of the trademark trap.

Imagine what the world would be like if Pat Sullivan, the producer of Felix the Cat, would have challenged Disney’s trademark, siting that Mickey Mouse was so similar and heavily influenced by the famous feline who had predated Mickey on film by nine years and was, at the time, the first and most successful cartoon character of the era. It was an image of Felix, after all, that was the first cartoon character star of television.

Imagine a world with no Mickey Mouse and possibly no Disney. Mickey Mouse  managed to escape the trademark trap and, in doing so, ensured that nobody else would get out alive.

Deadmaus, however, may have a leg to stand on because Disney has not been a good little mouse either. Zimmerman has countered with a copyright infringement allegation, claiming that Disney used his 2009 hit “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” without his permission and payed no fee for the use of it. Disney claims otherwise but has yet to prove it.

This could be a life or death struggle for the career of Zimmerman. According to Billboard,  the battle has already “cost him dearly”
A victory for Deadmau5 would give a lot of little guys hope, but not everyone is ready to chew off a leg to get out of a trap.

Good luck Deadmou5, I hope your stage name is not your prophecy but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Gerry Giovinco

Superheroes Defenseless Against Porn Parodies

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

There has lately been a rash of porn parodies featuring superhero characters stripped from the pages of comic books, television, and the multiplex. Now, it is safe to say that most of these characters have grown up and appeal to a much more mature audience than the 9-12 year old demographic that they were originally intended for. They reflect a darker, grittier motivation for their deeds and are far more fallible in their actions and judgement. They are no longer  the Dudley Do-Rights of a bygone era when their exploits were performed with a scout’s honor and a righteous smile.  Despite the graying tenant of fighting for “truth justice and the American way,” superheroes still represent a moral fiber that justifies them as heroic to audiences of all ages. So why are the owners of these characters allowing their trademarks to be tarnished under the guise of parody by pornographers?

Nothing against porn, but it is what it is, and for every person that enjoys it there is another that finds it offensive. Porn is entertainment that comes in the form of videos and magazines the same vehicles as comic characters and they currently share a similar demographic of sexually active young adults. Superheroes have run around in skin tight costumes since their inception and have always been accused of arousing some form of sexual fantasy of the reader. As the target age of comic readers has matured, sex has become a more significant theme in mainstream comics with major characters fornicating on rooftops and defining themselves with a variety of sexual orientations. Pornography featuring these characters may be less of the parody that they are described as being and more of a logical extension of the fantasies of the, now, more mature fan base of superheroes.

In the past few years, Porn Parodies of Superheroes has practically established an industry in and of itself. So why are porn companies able to produce video after video featuring “parodies” of these trademarks that are so accurately detailed to match feature films, television shows and comic books  with no contention from the trademark owners?

Superheroes are extremely valuable trademarks, each representing a character franchise for some of the biggest corporations in the world. These trademarks are worth billions of dollars and are licensed to endorse products sold to everyone from toddlers to adults. They are trademarks that generally avoid being offensive in any way, like the omission of Nazi Swastikas in the Captain America movie, in an effort to broaden their appeal. Marvel and DC even jointly own trademark of the word Superhero and variations of it in an effort to protect it.

Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communications are all pit bulls when it comes to protecting their valued trademarks most recently unleashing the dogs on a California birthday party company rented out characters wearing unauthorized, counterfeit costumes depicting their well known characters despite a disclaimer on the company’s site that read, “Look-a-like Characters are not officially licensed. We DO NOT USE OR HAVE COPYRIGHTED OR LICENSED MATERIAL, COSTUMES, OR NAMES. We also aren’t affiliated with any companies that hold copyrights so don’t ask for characters relating to copyrighted names.”

This disclaimer resembles the similar disclaimers used on the porn parodies that read,  “This movie is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with any entity owning the rights to the characters parodied therein or the work being parodied. Specifically, this movie is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with DC Comics, Warner Communications Inc., E.C. Publications, Inc. or Marvel Characters, Inc.”

The key word here seems to be Parody which protects the potential copyright or trademark infringer under the veil of “Fair Use” in copyright law. Does the claim of parody hand over the keys of a valued copyright or trademark to any Tom, Dick or Harry? No. Though the line that constitutes what is acceptable as parody is very shady, each case should be judged uniquely to determine if any harm is being caused to the trademark. Issues that weigh heavily on the court concern how much commercial value the trademark adds to the work of parody and does content that is sexual or distasteful potentially harm the trademark. Hmmm….you think someone might have a case?

Ben & Jerry’s did just last month when they tackled the Ben & Cherry’sseries of exploitive porn films using parodied names of their famous ice cream flavors. The porn company chose to pull the series from the shelves and destroy them.

DC itself battled pornographers way back in the seventies when a company tried to produce a porn parody of Superwoman. Their challenge forced the pornographer to change the costume and the name of the character to Ms. Magnificent.

Also in the seventies Disney legally crushed the Air Pirates, a group of underground cartoonists that published comic book parodies of famous Disney characters exploiting sex and drugs.

Why the sudden hands-off position regarding these porn parodies now? Some say the big companies don’t want to create publicity that might promote the porn. One would think that their lack of action would appear to be tacit endorsement of the product, despite what the disclaimer on the films might state.

I have not seen these films but a quick look at the safe for work trailers shows impressive attention to detail, great costumes and props and decent enough production quality to make these films, at least momentarily, easily mistaken for the regular film or TV productions of the originals. Now there are even animated porn parodies to mimic the cartoons of superheroes.

Its hard to imagine that these films with all their special effects, production quality and hardcore sex don’t present a greater threat to the public image of the superhero trademarks than the unauthorized costumes of a party company who sends costumed performers to a five-year-old’s birthday.

Some might say, “Who cares? It’s parody, get over it! Don’t be a stick in the mud! Freedom of speech! Boo!”

Shut down for trademark infringement.

I’m sorry, but I’m offended. Not by the pornographers, but by Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communication because they have proven that they are willing to relentlessly pursue anyone else who would infringe on their trademarks to the point of ridiculousness as shown by this very  brief rundown of challenges:

DC’s assault on Fawcett Publications claiming that Captain Marvel infringed on Superman.

Disney going after Marvel arguing that Howard the Duck infringed on Donald Duck forcing Howard to have to wear pants forever more.

Marvel going after WWF for the use of Hulk Hogan.

Not to mention the millions of dollars that Marvel and DC spend on legal fees to guarantee that they will never have to pay royalties to writers and artists that created characters that have made billions for both companies.

If they do not go after the pornographers These trademark owners make a mockery of everyone else they ever targeted and they imply that they either condone the treatment of their characters or are somehow invested in the production of these pornographic films. I think they owe it to all the little guys that they have trounced over the years because they infringed by hand painting a bat on their shingle or Mickey Mouse on a daycare wall. They owe it to all the creators they have robbed of fruitful twilight years. They owe it to all the fans who have emotionally invested  in wholesome entertainment. They owe it to every little kid that went to bed in superhero pajamas to at least pretend to protect their IP from infringement from pornographers so that we can believe that they at least tried to preserve the integrity of characters that have idealized heroism for three quarters of a century.

If Ben & Jerry’s, ice cream manufacturers, can stand their ground, why can’t  Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communications, the stewards of iconic superheroes, grow a pair and at least TRY to defend their precious property?

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

Comics, Everyone?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Click to see the full version

Sometimes you come across some amazing stuff on facebook like this photo that popped up and blew me away .

The photo of a man-child smoking a cigarette at the ripe-old-age of four and reading a Mickey Mouse comic book conjured thoughts of poster children for Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent. A chuckle or two later I was envisioning future Marvel and DC editors ensuring that the medium would grow and mature with their personal tastes leaving behind the more innocent subject matter that they enjoyed as children along with the audience it catered to.

This little kid would grow up to be one of the Comic Book Men from Kevin Smith’s new television venture on AMC, completely immersed in the medium, trapped in a twilight zone that only those of us who grew up with similar experiences could appreciate. I mean, there were girls that read comics when we were kids but 99.99% of them were able to shake off their passion for Archie and Lil’ Lulu.  Something about comics always seemed to be a guy-thing and a certain kind of guy, derogatorily identified as geeks.
Of course we know that the stereotype, epitomized by The Forty Year Old Virgin and The Big Bang Theory is not really true.  Guys that like comics just know something that people who don’t read comics do not. The comic medium is very special. It is a door to visual fantasy that has only recently been able to be matched by animation and live action film enhanced by CGI at a tremendous cost to the producers.

Thanks to Manga and more specifically Shojo, more women than ever have been bitten by the comics bug and it is this influx of the feminine touch that is beginning to blow the medium wide open. Web Comics, Indy Comics and even some of the mainstream comics are developing a sensitivity to all audiences. The idea of comics being limited to a narrow scope of genres is quickly becoming past history. We like to think that this broader scope is reflected here at CO2 Comics and we wany our readers take the time to explore our share of all that variety.

I hope that a show like Comic Book Men will make the effort to include more women into the club. The X-Men have women why can’t the Comic Book Men. Team Unicorn in their Katy Perry “Califoria Girls” parody entitled “Geek and Gamer Girls” sure had a lot of fun with the concept of women being included in this new world order of comics for everyone.  Who knows, maybe some day  there will be more comics for kids too, which will be fine by me so long as the little ones don’t light up while they read.

Comics are flammable after all.

Just ask Dr. Wertham.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

COMICONOMY the Economics of Comics

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Pirates! Pirates everywhere!

It was just over a week ago when everyone was banding together to trash SOPA and PIPA. We can agree that, as creators, nobody likes pirates but we hated the idea of losing our rights to innocently pirate, ourselves. The idea of being shut down, fined or arrested for sharing music, images or video that we “borrow” for use  on our blogs and/or favorite social media brought together a nation of internet users that rallied to crush those bills and won an indefinite reprieve.

I guess we are all in agreement that it’s OK to pirate a little bit, so long as nobody is profiting directly from the pilfering. It is, after all, free advertising, right? As a creator, what could be better than seeing your work go viral and having the whole world find out about it besides, you know, being paid for it?

The real pirates, the bad guys, are the ones with those vicious torrent download sites, scanning entire issues of comics, ripping entire DVD’s of major motion pictures, and cataloging music by the truckload for downloads as mp3 files. Those guys are rapists! They literally rip the food right out of the creators’ mouths by preventing them from benefiting from sales that were lost to the downloaders. The downloaders are the pirates’ accomplices, they are pirates too, red handed with stolen goods and the first ones to share an innocent link or post tainted content.

So, SOPA and PIPA have been dead for barely two weeks and everyone is already screaming about how we have to take down the pirates. Comic artists everywhere are starving and nobody wants to pay for comics, especially if they can get them for free. What are we to do?

Kill the pirates! Shut them down!!

Please, just don’t use SOPA or PIPA.

Almost symbolically, good ol’ SEAL Team 6 heroically trashed a real-world, pirate compound in Somalia and rescued two aid workers that had been kidnapped. Nine pirates were killed. Everyone is happy!

This all got me to thinking. Pirates are a motivated lot, as are most bad guys. They don’t steal and plunder just for the fun of it. They do it  for the money. They gather up a ton of treasure and then they bury it on a deserted island. The downloader’s reward is free comics but the mastermind must be making a fortune to be willing to risk federal charges.

The pirates have figured out how to make money with comics while giving them away for free! Those rat bastards! If only we were that smart! Comic creators could be happy again.

Well Golly! Web comics have been using the same business model as the pirates for years now with varying degrees of success. We use it right here at CO2 Comics! Yet it is always a struggle to justify giving comic content away for free because it flies in the face of the old distribution system, the same system that has a stranglehold on the industry’s move to a digital market.  We are so afraid not to make a nice buck off a sale in a micro niche market that we are unwilling to make a small return on each sale in a potentially monolithic market or let graphically rich, free content drive streams of traffic through a sponsored website.

Free content drives every major website on the internet wether it is a search engine, a social network, a news agency or whatever. Who pays to use Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!,  Wikipedia, or Twitter? They are all among the top ten sites in the world and all worth BILLIONS of dollars! Content that is free to consumers has driven entertainment industries for decades. Newspapers,  radio, and television have all been huge beneficiaries of delivering free content.

Build a big enough comic reading audience in a free and open market and you will see the number of book sales begin to rise to numbers not heard of in decades. There is plenty of evidence that free web content has helped the sales of trades. Retailers will be happy to see a parade of new clientele march through their doors. We won’t have to read blog posts by comic artists crying duress driving down their power of negotiation to corporate publishing scum by playing a vulnerable hand. Free content also neutralizes piracy by taking away their only incentive to attract comic readers to their torrent sites.

Comic art has more value than we are daring enough to place on it. Let the work declare its own value and surprise yourself. Always remember that Disney is built on the back of Mickey Mouse and Time-Warner on the shoulders of Superman. Walt Disney believed in Mickey and let Mickey’ s success establish the worth of his company. Seigel and Schuster, in a fit of desperation,  sold Superman, a comic that nobody else wanted, for a lousy $130 and made someone else rich beyond their dreams.

Which creator would you like to be?

Let’s learn from the pirates. Comics are treasure even when they are free. We are in a position to command the destinies of our creative properties. Do not let senseless fear jeopardize the future of the industry. Take time to analyze and understand the market. Take control.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

The Comic Company: Licensed to Thrill

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

A number of comic book companies today fill their product line-ups with licensed properties. IDW, Boom, Darkhorse and Ape are among the most significant publishers outside of Marvel and DC who have found value in acquiring licensed properties from other media outlets.

The idea is simple and is a marketing tool used by scores of merchandising companies in nearly every industry. Find an intellectual property with high visibility. Purchase the rights to make an exclusive product featuring the property. Benefit from the sales generated by the customer recognition of the popular property.

Badda Boom, Badda Bing!

Licensing and merchandising is nothing new. Saint Paul built Christianity on its basic premises by marketing the popular teachings of Jesus as a new religious product.

Merry Christmas,” two thousand and ten years later!

Comic books have used it since the beginnings of the industry. The first comic books featured licensed syndicated newspapers comics that were reprinted in color.

It shouldn’t have been a big deal in 1983 when Comico licensed the rights from Harmony Gold to publish the English adaption of the popular Japanese animated series MACROSS. But it was and it became an even bigger deal that put Comico on the map as a major player in the comic industry.

Robotech/Macross #1 cover, Comico 1984

At the time, and please correct me if I’m wrong, Comico was the first independent comic company to enter into a licensing deal other than one that was of a creator owned property. Only Marvel and DC had a lock on that side of the market and, to the best of my knowledge, no one else was even considering it.

Comico’s deal was innocent enough. It was built on the enthusiasm of Carl Macek for his project that he was working on with Harmony Gold and the Comico crew’s collective interest in Anime. Comico enthusiastically became the first American licensee of MACROSS.

At the same time DC acquired the rights from Revell to publish ROBOTECH, based on a line of toys designed around assorted transforming robot molds that Revell had purchased from a toy company in Japan. When the first issue was published by DC it was clear that a number of the robots in ROBOTECH were from the MACROSS series and many of the other robots were from other series that Harmony Gold also held the rights to.

Needless to say there was lot of wrangling going on but Carl Macek and Harmony Gold held the trump card. They had an entire animated series that could be adapted to TV in the American market. As Stan Lee would say, “‘Nuff said!”

Revell and Harmony Gold worked together to build the ROBOTECH franchise that took America by storm. Harmony Gold proved their honor by awarding Comico the rights to the comic book resting it from DC since we had the original deal for the actual story.

Comico's 1st Color Books

Comico had already established its ability to produce quality product with its first color offerings, MAGE, EVANGELINE, ELEMENTALS and MACROSS. Our production and success of the ROBOTECH comics helped the marketing team behind ROBOTECH to attract more licensees and before long the ROBOTECH logo was everywhere.

Others took notice and soon we were being contacted others, most notably Hannah Barbera who was looking for a publisher for Thundarr the Barbarian. Our interest, however, was in one of their long dormant properties, Jonny Quest.

Jonny had been off their radar for so long that the people we were dealing with thought that it was a Filmation property and were surprised to discover it in their own archives.

Jonny Quest was a huge success for Comico and other properties were soon to follow. Space Ghost, Gumby, and Starblazers were all big hits. We also set our sights on Max Headroom and though we did initially acquire the property and began marketing it, creative differences arose between the editorial staff, creative team and the owners of the property, Chrysalis Records. Max Headroom never became a Comico comic book.

Other comic companies picked up where Comico left off, finding success in licensed properties. Others found even greater success in licensing their own properties following in the insanely successful footsteps of Eastman and Laird’s nearly immortal Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Now, more than ever before, with the advent of digital content and the internet, we have to closely examine what is the true value of the comics that we make. Is it the comics themselves or is it the intellectual property they are derived from?

We all would love to make money selling our comics and I can tell you from experience that you certainly can but folks, the real money is in the properties themselves.

Disney and Warner Brothers both know this and are in the process of redefining the IP of Marvel and DC for success in the long haul while producers throughout Hollywood are rummaging through comic properties regularly looking for the next Mutant Turtle.

The Internet is the comic creator’s opportunity to develop and establish rights to a property while reaching an audience that is global. Protect your assets, invest your skills and let the best properties sell themselves. This is the greatest time ever to be a comic creator. Take advantage of it!

Hey, I know the economy sucks and the market is in tremendous flux but guess what? That is exactly how it was when Mickey and Superman showed up both borne on the backs of failure and surrounded by the Great Depression. Their strength was the brilliance of their property which still shines today.

Comic properties can have tremendous economic power and there is plenty of proof. Don’t be discouraged if you are a creator or a fan. The future for comics is bright.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Vol 1

CO2 Comics is going into 2011 as optimistic as anybody! The content of our site is growing steadily and our readership is expanding rapidly. We have published our first book, David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Volume 1 and have new products on the horizon.

But our biggest achievement is the honor That Bill and I have of posting the great comics that have been trusted to our site by creators that we love and respect so that all of our valued readers can enjoy them.

Thank you everyone for this opportunity to do what we enjoy most.

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco

The Gutter:
Land of the Free

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

The debate over free content on the internet is heating up to a fever pitch and it is getting ugly. Discussions about piracy and devalued intellectual property with regards to comics, fueled by a terrible economic climate and rapidly changing technology is generating hysteria among comic creators and those of us who love the medium.



At the heart of it is free content on the web of which I am a strong supporter.

This does not mean that I do not respect the value of the work! If anything, I appreciate its value more.

Comics as a medium has a power that few mediums have. It has the ability to connect with the masses in a genuine way. The creator can convey their concepts through words and pictures and deliver it directly to the reader with a minimal amount of production in between. This can be a photocopy, a printed page, a jpeg or a web site.

Creators have the opportunity, now more than ever, to reach the largest possible audience, unencumbered. More importantly, they have control of their work. The creative opportunities are endless but shouldn’t there be some compensation for all the hard work that goes into making those comics? Absolutely.

Then why do I, Bill and the rest of the fine creators here at CO2 Comics, give our work away for free?

We know that good comics attract readers like a light bulb attracts moths.

This is no secret!


Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst knew it in the 1880’s when they put a free comic supplement in their newspapers to sell more copies and attract more advertisers.

The first American comic book Funnies on Parade was given away as a promotional tool by Proctor and Gamble in 1933.

Bazooka Joe comics have been given away free with bubblegum since 1953.

Free comics are nothing new. They have launched the industry and made money for publishers, promoters and packagers for over a century! In the process many creators worked for peanuts and others made tons of money.

For the record, I consider comics in newspapers and magazines to be free content the same way I consider the prize in a Cracker Jack box or the Happy Meal toy to be free. We all know that we are somehow paying for that little premium but it just seems like an added bonus and that’s what makes it special.

I remember reading the top ten grossing entertainers list in the 1980’s and being surprised to find Charles Schultz and Jim Davis up there with Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby. Those comics that I perceived as free content in the newspaper sure made a lot of money.

Excuse me while I venture out to my mailbox. Let’s see what is in here today. More catalogs. Who sends this crap to me? I don’t ask for this stuff! Full-color, well produced magazines with nothing but ads in them from every company imaginable.

These things are produced better that almost any comic on the market and I get them for free.

What a waste of content and paper. Do you think? This stuff would not be in my mailbox if the sender did not know that if they sent out enough of them they would make a lot of money. I sure wish they were comic books.

In 1987 Comico made a sixteen-page fashion catalog for Jordan Marsh that was bulk-mailed to households in New England. It was a comic book that featured the characters wearing the clothes that the department store was selling that fall. I wrote the story and Mitch O’Connell did the art. It was selected as one of the best direct mail ads that year by Advertising Age Magazine. I’m sure it sold a lot of clothes.

Comics are powerful marketing tools folks! Do not kid yourself! There is a reason that Mickey Mouse built Disney and Superman built Warner Brothers.

Free content on the internet is not much different than free content in my mailbox except that it can reach a larger audience with minimal expense. If my free content is comics, I believe that I will attract more people to my site where those visitors will be exposed to product and advertisers that will generate revenue to support the creators that make the comics.

If you are enjoying free content on the internet; if you are especially enjoying the free content here at CO2 Comics, do yourself and us all a favor. Share the comics with your friends! Allow the free comics on the internet to reach the widest audience possible!

Support the creators by buying product that they may have for sale: original art, graphic novels, related merchandise. Support the advertisers that chose to promote on our sites.

Enjoy the free comics product as much as possible and the comic creators will enjoy success and creative freedom that they have never known in this field.

This is not revolutionary stuff. It has worked in newspapers, television, radio and sports forever. Don’t let an old-school, failed system of distribution and marketing of comics suffocate this medium. Now is the greatest time to be a comics creator. Now is the best time to be a comics reader. Now is the time to build the profitable and prolific future that the comics medium should enjoy!



Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco

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