Posts Tagged ‘Mike Schmidt’

Branding Jack Kirby

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The Fall Classic is upon us and here in the Philadelphia area we baseball fans have reason to be excited! The Phillies are making their fifth trip in a row to the playoffs, hoping to reach the World Series for the third time in four years!

Sports and comics have a lot in common, challenge, conflict, victory, colorful uniforms drenched in primary colors and heroes, plenty of heroes. In sports heroes come and go. A hero one day may be the goat the next. Some heroes become legends and their exploits border on the mythic. The greatest tragedy in sports is when the most idyllic of heroes fall from grace crushing the hearts of all their faithful fans and admirers.

Phillies fans, though currently enjoying a great era of success, have a long history of witnessing failed efforts so the few highlights in their history shine like beacons. We all know that the Phil’s first World Series Championship, won in 1980, would never have happened without, then first baseman, Pete Rose.

It was a great team and had been for a few years with heros like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone and other greats but the acquisition of Pete Rose made the difference. He was Charlie Hustle, Mr. Baseball.  Even when Rose played for the opposing Cincinnati Reds, as much as he was a hated rival, he had to be admired. Pete Rose was the kind of player every fan wanted on their team, hard working, skilled and doggedly determined to win.

Pete Rose defined everything that was great about baseball and was one of the sport’s greatest heroes.  When he was banned from Major League Baseball in 1989 and later from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 because of his admissions to gambling and betting on his team, his situation ignited a firestorm of contention among baseball fans that continues today.

Many believe that Pete Rose’s banishment from Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame is unfair, deprives fans of an accurate accounting of history and is a hypocrisy when compared to the inductees that are known drinkers, wife beaters, drug users, etc.

Pete Rose at the Museum in Cooperstown

But this is Charlie Hustle, and when I heard that there was a Pete Rose Museum in Cooperstown I gloated at the thought of Mr. Baseball erecting a gleaming shrine to himself right in the shadow of Baseball’s hallowed Hall of Fame redirecting the foot traffic through his doors and reaping financial rewards and well deserved glory from adoring fans ravenous for memorabilia with his name on it. I imagined Pete standing in his door thumbing his nose at Major League Baseball, then going to the bank, everyday.

In actuality the Pete Rose Museum is a modest hall of memorabilia on the second floor of a brick building a block away from the Hall of Fame sitting atop the Mickey Mantle Museum and Pete Rose continues to face his life sentence with dignity and respect to the sport that he so loved.

So what does this all have to do with Jack Kirby?

Pete Rose’s story in some ways reminds me of Jack Kirby’s story. Kirby dedicated his life to the mastery of the comics medium he loved. In the eye’s of many, he was the greatest but for all his accomplishments he was denied the final rewards of his endeavors, some rights to the many, many characters he created. Jack Kirby’s characters continue to make millions of dollars for the corporations that claim the rights while his heirs continue to fight for some reasonable compensation.

Heated discussion has continued for decades as to what is fair in the case of Jack Kirby and other comic artists with similar issues that will probably never be settled.

My thought is that maybe, like in the case of Rose’s museum, focus should be trained away from the monolithic industry and aimed at the man himself, or in this case, the King, Jack Kirby.

It is time that the name Jack Kirby become a brand that is synonymous with all that is great and can be great about comics. Beyond all the characters that Jack Kirby created, there is a style that is distinctive solely to him a style that has affected pop culture for decades.

Imagine a Jack Kirby retail store that sold only product that was derived from Kirby’s original creations. Sure, it would look like a comic shop littered with product produced by Marvel and DC but the retail revenue instead of meager royalties  from the wholesale revenue would go to holders of the Jack Kirby store who would either be the heirs or someone who pays the heirs for the rights to use Jack Kirby’s name.

How about Jack Kirby comic conventions? Kirby Con International? There might be a few bucks to be made there!

The Jack Kirby brand in a strange turn could license rights from Marvel and DC to produce all kinds of Jack Kirby branded merchandise. Everyone makes money and the Kirby legacy lives on providing the heirs with fiscal security for generations.

Kirby’s distinctive style could lend to clothing designs that could rival anything on the market today. Instead of Coogi, stylish folks could wear Jack Kirby. Why not?

Stan Lee has turned his name into a brand. Can you say Walt Disney? Why not Jack Kirby? Forget about the characters and turn the legacy of the man into the commodity. Is he not the King, after-all?

In terms of strategy, I guess this would be considered “Beat them at their own game.”

Just an idea, inspired by a guy who never gave up.

Go, Phillies!

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

Bang for the Buck

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Lately I’ve been sifting through the concept of the value of comics. What is a comic worth? What am I willing to pay to read a comic book, either in print or digitally and more importantly, what should I expect readers of comics that I publish to want to pay?

The question is a hotbed for discussion but for now I’m just going to float some thoughts.


The comics that originally hooked me on the medium I did not pay for. I read comics in the newspaper and though that paper which my parents bought was probably fifteen cents an issue back then, to me the comics were free. I read Peanuts comics that had been reprinted in pocket sized paperback books that were given to me by my uncle who got them second hand as returns, more free stuff. I read comic books as part of my experience going to the barber, sure someone coughed up the twelve cents that each comic cost somewhere along the line, but I read them for free then left them there for the next kid that would come in to get a buzz cut.

By the time I was actually carrying real change in my pocket, I already knew that I liked comics and when a quarter was burning a hole in my pocket It was a good bet that I would spend it on baseball cards, candy, or a comic book. All three items had a social value that could not be measured in terms of coinage. These were things that were shared with friends.

“You give me some Skittles and I’ll give you some Good & Plenty.”

“I’ll trade you my double of Mike Schmidt for your double of Johnny Bench.”

“You can read my copy of Captain America while I read your copy of Bat Man.”

While the candy was eaten, leaving little evidence other than tooth decay and an obesity epidemic, baseball cards and comic books had a way of accumulating and representing some type of feel-good value, either as fond memories of friendships or quiet escapes to fantastic worlds of celebrated heroes.

For some of us, the tattered piles of well read comics and hand flipped cards became collections and a desire to preserve the treasured artifacts generated something new – inflated value driven by speculation and scarcity.

Ironically, as the collector market grew, the cover prices rose and the traditional newsstand market shrunk into oblivion, alienating the casual reader that had long been the bread and butter of the comics industry.

Thirty-two page comics that were once a dime and offered, often, more than one complete story now sell for upwards to four bucks for a fraction of a story that will take a dozen issues to complete. Buying comic books is no longer a casual, impulsive, social practice. It is a commitment, a speculative purchase that requires the added investment of archival storage products such as mylar sleeves, acid free boards, long boxes and an accounting system. It takes a special person to be this motivated. Comic books are no longer for everyone.

Enter the graphic novel. Comics in a real book with a perfect bound cover that is card stock or even hard back! The complete run of a story arc fits between the covers that may contain a dozen issues or more of previously published material for a reasonable book price. A story that may have cost thirty-six to forty-eight dollars in pamphlet format can now be had for less than twenty bucks and looks fine on a bookshelf with no need to box or preserve in plastic. Better yet, I can find it in the library and read it for free. Boy, suddenly as a casual reader I’m reading comics again!

What’s that? Comics are all over the internet? For Free? Web comics…WOW!  More comics than I know what to do with featuring every type of genre imaginable. Some OK, some lousy, some great! I can build a library just by bookmarking the sites I like and return to my favorites every day, every week, once a month. Occasionally I’ll find a new gem and share the link with my friends on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, you name it. “Hey I’m really digging that CO2 Comics!”

I can read comics on my phone? On a tablet? I need what? An App? Then I can download the comics I want for how much? $1.99?  $.99? Free?  OK, I’ll try a free one. That’s pretty cool let me share it with my friends. Hmmm. What kind of device do they use? Is this app compatible with their platform? I can’t share my download?

Wait a minute. I can read a lot of web comics on my phone and tablet and I can share from those devices. I’m cool. Web comics rule.

I know I’m getting a lot of comic creators steamed right now talking about all this free stuff but I’ve realized something. None of us pay for the comics we read. Nope. We pay for the distribution of the comic! We pay for how the art is put in front of our eyes. We pay for the books, the paper,the shipping,  the app provider, you name it. The retailer, the distributor, the publisher all get a cut. Yeah I know that the creator made some money off the comic but let’s be honest, they got paid as little as negotiably possible for the right to distribute the comic in a particular format, then the publisher gave them their art back. We don’t pay more for a comic because a better artist drew it.  We pay more for it because it is on better paper. If more books sell then the creator, if they get royalties, gets more money. The great creators may get paid more in advance because publishers know in advance that the book will reach more readers because that creator’s name is on the cover.

The value of the comic is determined by how many eyes look at it. Search the internet. The value of the content of any website is determined by how many people see it. That’s how television and radio work too. What do you think those Nielson Ratings are for?  So let’s be real. What would you look at first, something you had to pay for or something that was free? Be honest!

The goal of the comics industry should be to get comics in front of as many people as possible. The more people that read the product the more the value of the intellectual property increases. How? More circulation equals more advertising dollars, more merchandising, more licensing, more demand for more.

Marvel and DC accomplished this a long time ago. Their characters reached the tipping point decades ago when they became icons of our culture. Their comic books could disappear off the face of the Earth and people would still recognize their logos, know their mythology and by more stuff that relate to them because even without the comic books, the planet is plastered with film, television, and merchandise featuring the characters.

Disney understood this when they paid four billion dollars for Marvel. Disney is not in the business of publishing comics, they do not even publish their own iconic characters.  Disney is in the business of putting characters in front of as many eyes as possible and keeping them there. They have done this successfully since 1928 recreating value with each new generation by introducing them to the same product that their great grandparents enjoyed as children. Snow White, Cinderella, Bambi, Pinocchio, you name it. Disney took a concept, made it great, made it once, and built an empire.

Marvel and DC can sell their comics for four bucks, if they only reach thirty thousand readers, who cares? They’ve already won the war. The small publisher trying to compete with them cannot succeed at a comparable price point. Small publishers trying to keep their price “respectable,” with a few rare exceptions, will never reach the wider audience especially without the merchandising machine behind them and the big competition knows this. They also know that as creators and small businesses, we have to eat and busting our butts making comics for peanuts will not put food on our families tables. Bye-Bye small competition.

Call it an obsession, a passion, maybe even a disease but some of us just have an inexplicable need to make comics. It’s what we love. It’s how we express ourselves creatively. It would be great if we could all actually make money doing it. We at CO2 Comics have put our faith in the web comic format, for us it is the best and most cost effective way to reach our growing audience.  It is a slow arduous task, building an audience from scratch but it takes faith, perseverance and commitment. Most of the creators that feature work here on CO2 Comics support themselves by other means, you know, real jobs, including Bill and myself. We create time to make our comics available to our readers often sacrificing time with family or a good nights sleep.

Our comics are delivered to you free of charge. Enjoy them, share them and please come back and do it again. We will continue to provide great comics here and the larger our audience gets the greater the value will be of each comic on this site. Your patronage by simply reading and sharing will generate advertising revenue, spawn the development of printed product so you have the opportunity to adorn your book shelves with your favorite stories if you wish.  Your interest in characters found here will generate merchandise featuring them and promote interest in potential licensees. You, our readers, have the power to make this venture a success without spending a dime to read the comics published here.

This web comic business model is a simple yet dynamic one that has been around now for about a decade. CO2 Comics is just one of hundreds of sites that have already changed the face of comics forever. There is more diversity, more options, more creative opportunity to make comics than ever before. It is an exciting time to be a comic artist and a comic fan and who wouldn’t want to see it continue? As a reader this is your opportunity to make a difference in the success of the comics medium. Simply by sharing your favorite sites with friends you become a distributor of sorts, rewarded with a continued stream of amazing comic content.

So, if you want more BANG for the buck, now is your chance. Support the little guys that are braving the turbulent tides of technology to reinvent the comic market and support free content simply by reading and sharing what you enjoy. You have the power and you know what Stan says comes with that…

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

Baseball Cards, Slurpee Cups and Comic Books

Monday, June 20th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Gerry Giovinco after open heart surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain America 167

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

Captain America Slurpee Cup

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

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

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

Making Comics Becuse I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

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