Posts Tagged ‘Murphy Anderson’

The Comic Company: Direct Marketing with Style

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

In 1987 the Comico graphic novel The World of Ginger Fox was wowing readers with its action, adventure and style. Lucky for us all this brilliantly executed work is available in serialized form right here at CO2 Comics where it is updated weekly!

Ginger Fox Cover

Ginger Fox attracted a lot of attention because, not only was it written by Mike Baron, one of the top talents in comics it was illustrated by a young and outrageously gifted Mitch O’Connell who’s work was already infiltrating pop culture.
Mitch’s art had a signature style that had already caught the eye of Playboy magazine and propelled Ginger Fox into a larger arena than the Direct Market could provide at the time.

A creative director at Jordan Marsh, which was a big department store chain in New England but has since been absorbed by Macy’s, took notice and evolved a plan to turn a negative into a positive.

Jordan Marsh had been heavily criticized in the press for a “Jack and Jill” themed ad campaign that many felt targeted white’s only and slighted other races in their demographic. They needed to patch things up with their minority shoppers.

The idea was to create a comic that had the feel of “Archie” with a multi-cultural cast to support the Jackson and Jillian characters. The characters would be presented in numerous situations that would allow for wardrobe changes where they would model the outfits that were being sold in Jordan Marsh’s Style-o-rama department for young men and women. Text boxes with pointers would be used to describe the products and their prices.

The call rang out to Comico. We knew how to get Mitch and we knew how to make comics that looked great. Who else would you call, Ghostbusters?

I flew up to Boston a few times to work out the details of the campaign and I wrote the script. Mitch of course provided the art which was colored by Linda Lessman.
L. Lois Buhalis provided the lettering and Maggie Brenner had the editing chores.

This was to be Jordan Marshes fall catalog and though it had a playfully spooky theme to the story it was not particularly about Halloween.

Style O Rama cover, click to see the catalog

The finished product was stunning and was used as a direct mail ad to be distributed to mailboxes throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. (Sorry Vermont!)

The effectiveness of the mailer was questioned by the venders of the outfits who would have rather seen actual photos of their products but Advertising Age magazine, the leading source for news in the advertising industry, awarded it as one of the best Direct Marketing campaigns of 1987!

Best of Advertising Age

We also produced a few full-page newspaper ads to support the campaign. Though they were black-and-white, they they were just as stylish and beautiful as the color comic which was separated by Murphy Anderson’s Visual Concepts.

Style O Rama newspaper ads

As I mentioned in previous blogs Murphy’s son, Murphy Jr. was a master at creating effects in flat-color comics. His specialty was an effect that looked like acid washed denim which was the rage in the late 80’s. Needless to say it was used often in this sixteen-page catalog that was disguised as a comic book.

Jillian makes a point

I’m sitting here re-reading the comic twenty-three years later and I notice a line that had to be changed for political correctness and was never quite as funny as it was intended (heck it barely made sense.) In the first panel on page 8, Jillian originally points out to Jackson that his fly is open. This is what was suppose to cause the fit of embarrassment in the next panel that is lost on the reader in the final copy.

It’s amazing the power one word balloon can have!

The most influential word balloon I can think of is the one that graces the cover of CO2 Comics very own publication as the logo of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection.

Comics Interview Standard Edition

That balloon represents the voices of a generations of comic professionals and fans that provide unique insight into the heart and soul of the comic industry over the last seventy years.

If you are not familiar with COMICS INTERVIEW stop over at http://www.comicsinterview.com/purchase.html for a little sample of what the excitement is all about.

If you love comics and the history of the industry you will love this collection.

There you have it! I am not ashamed to blatantly plug a product that I so passionately believe in. When you get your copy, you’ll be wanting to tell your friends about it too!

Making Comics Because I Want To!

Gerry Giovinco

The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 3

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Lou Brooks Drug Store

Color in comic books had a specific look for fifty years prior to the 1980’s. Flat color was the norm and part of the charm of the comic books that I grew up reading. There was just something about that limited palette and those pronounced dots that seemed to define the medium as much as the words and pictures that they illuminated. Others agreed and focused on this idiom when referencing comic art in pop culture.

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein and Lou Brooks are two artists that took full advantage of exploring the idiosyncrasies of comic book color establishing themselves as masters of Pop Art.

Lou Brooks Disgrace Me

The production process that produced the color in comics was intended to print color on highly absorbent newsprint with rubber plates on web offset presses at the World Color Press plant in Sparta, IL. Color separations were done by Chemical Color Plate in Bridgeport, CT. The colors were made by combinations of three percentages, 25%, 50% and 100% of each of the primary colors; blue (cyan), red (magenta) and yellow to be printed with the black line art. CMYK refers to these four colors used in printing.

A layer would be produced for each percentage of each color making nine layers of film that would be compressed to form three negatives, each containing the three percentages for its corresponding color. There was one more film for the black plate which would print the line art. The printing plates would be burned from these final four films.

Colorists used a guide provided by Chemical Color Plate to assist them in making their own color guides for each page that the separators would interpret into films.

Chemical Color Chart

By the 1980’s the alternative independent publishers that began peppering the comic market were using better, whiter paper and were able to produce better color. Many comics were printing with processed or full-color using the coloring techniques that I’ve described in my earlier blogs on this subject. Some publishers were still attracted to the notion of flat color but realized that they were being limited by the old color guide.

The 64 colors with the course dot grid intended for newsprint produced harsh, garish colors on the brighter paper stock. A new color percentage of 70% was added for each color producing 124 different colors as shown by this color guide produced by Eclipse Comics in 1983 and again engraved by Chemical Color Plate. The line screen also changed from 60 to 120 lines per inch making the dots less noticeable on the printed page.

Eclipse Color Chart side 1

Eclipse Color Chart side 2

Murphy Anderson

By the time Comico was ready to make our transition to color there was a new color separator in town. Renowned comic illustrator Murphy Anderson had entered the field with his own company, Murphy Anderson Visual Concepts Inc. that he operated with his son, Murphy Jr.

Murphy had a different scheme for producing colors. By making a minor shift in the color percentages and adding two shades of black Murphy could stretch the color palette to 372 colors! The new formula was 20%, 50%, 70% and 100% of each of the primary colors plus an addition of 10% and 20% of black to every color on the palette.

Elementals 2

Our first color books had been produced using processed color techniques and we were very happy with the results but our next project, Bill Willingham’s Elementals was a clear superhero comic and we wanted it to look like one. We all felt flat color was the way to go and we only had one choice when it came to choosing a separator. Murphy Anderson’s company was already doing most of DC’s prestige work and had proven his incredible quality. Murphy is also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and proved it with his patience bringing us up to speed on his technique.

In 1987 I designed a color chart that had long been missing from the process. It soon became a staple in every production department in the industry. I would imagine that it would have been the last of the color charts for comics since not long after the computer took over most of the color chores as we know them today.

Comico Color Chart - Click for larger view

I might like to mention that this complex looking piece was not done on a computer. It was done the old fashion way by creating a mechanical with typesetting, tech pens, x-acto knives, photostats and a good old waxer. Of course the color separations were done by hand as well.

To be continued…

Gerry Giovinco

Making comics because I want to!

The Comic Company:
The Studio

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Gerry Giovinco and Bill Cucinotta

 

Superman has the Fortress of Solitude. Batman has the Bat Cave. Hugh Hefner has Playboy Mansion. (That lucky bastard…)

The great heroes always had a secret lair, a home base, a castle of sorts. These mythic headquarters become a trademarked extension of the person themselves and ad to the legacy of grandeur attributed to their deeds and accomplishments.

 

Gerry's space at the Studio

 

I always had a fascination for a “clubhouse” mentality. I remember being about four years old and having secret meetings with my younger brother, Tom, in a dark closet illuminated only by our dim nightlight which we had drug in before we closed the door. This was our secret place, and though I’m sure my parents knew where we were, it gave us toddlers a sense of independence and awareness of self that we didn’t have when we were supervised by adults.

Two years later, Batmania would grip the world. All my brother and I could dream of was our very own Bat Cave buried beneath our house. We would spend hours scheming secret entrances to our gloriously imagined hangout.

As the years passed, there was always some kind of toy cabin, clubhouse, or tree house that anchored my activities with my three brothers and friends.

 

Room with a view

 

This continued into college where I would hole up with Bill Cucinotta and the other so-called Ducks in our commandeered DUCKWORK office on the thirteenth floor of the Philadelphia College of Art.

Given my own propensity for a hangout it is no surprise to me that the defining catalyst for Comico becoming tangible was the availability of office space at 1547 Dekalb Street in Norristown, PA.

Phil LaSorda’s older brother Dennis had just purchased a duplex in which he planned to operate his physical therapy practice. He offered Phil, Vince Argondezzi and me the opportunity to operate Comico from the space in the adjacent half of the building that he had no immediate plans for.

The iron was hot.

Comico, which until this point was as much a dream for Phil, Vince and me as that Bat Cave under my house, was about to become real. This was the moment of truth. It was time to “shit or get off the pot.”

Vince chose to leave the porcelain vacant and, though he would contribute his comic Mr. Justice to Primer #1, his partnership with Phil and me had ended.

 

Fred the Duck. Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta and Phil LaSorda

 

Phil and I had grown used to the idea of a third person in the partnership. It especially came in handy breaking stalemates on important decisions. We turned to Bill Cucinotta who had been my right hand man while publishing DUCKWORK at PCA.

Bill knew the Direct Market of the comics industry very well because of his experience working retail at Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt in Philadelphia. As a partner, his knowledge gave us an edge that we did not have before.

 

Partners

 

Comico’s partnership was once more a triumvirate and we had our own headquarters dubbed simply “Comico Studios”. We generally would refer to it just as The Studio never intending to confuse or compare it to The Studio in Manhattan where Bernie Wrightson, Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith hung their hats.

 

Recently I have heard stories from various Comico fans that had found their way to Norristown and decided to look up the Comico headquarters which, in their mind, was a shining tower of architectural wonder. They were surprised to find that it was simply an old three-story, stone-fronted, duplex building that was once a family home with a wooden porch located on the corner of a busy street in a tired industrial town whose glory days had long passed.

Our main activities took place in what would have been the living room and dining room of the original house, complete with very dated orange, shag, wall-to-wall carpet that covered beautiful hardwood floors. Eventually the bedrooms would become offices as our staff expanded.

At the time all of the guys that hung out at the studio were college age and we had a very fraternal sensibility that had carried over from our DUCKWORK experience.

We tended to play as hard as we worked and seemed to never leave the building, often crashing on the couch or cots that we had brought in for the many all-nighters that were pulled to meet deadlines or to just hang out. The pizza shop on the opposite corner made it easy for us to always have food and drink.

Our families forgot who we were.

Posters and art covered the walls. There was a riddled dart board that was used to shake out those punchy moments in the wee morning hours. It was not unusual to find the mantel of the fire place lined with empty beer bottles.

 

Bill Cucinotta and Bill Anderson, Trashed and too close for comfort

 

This would all change eventually as Comico became more of a business and less of an adventure but those early days harbor all of the most romantic memories of young guys setting out to conquer the world of comics as they knew it with little more than hope, a dream and some talent.

 

Reggie Byers and a new shipment

 

We would get visitors. Many with portfolios or scripts in hand. Some just curious. The visitors that thrilled me the most though were heros that provided inspiration so great that I get misty thinking about their visits even today.

Murphy Anderson whose Visual Concepts Inc. was our flat color separator and would visit often.

Joe Kubert, whose school we offered a small scholarship to, and whose sons eventually worked on our books, stopped in to say hi.

Dick Giordano along with Pat Bastienne would stop by for holiday parties.

All of them are comic book legends.

They would marvel at our humble space and it would take them back to stories of the good old days when they, themselves were kids in the industry holed up in hotel rooms knocking out an issue by committee overnight.

The twinkle in each of their eyes as they reminisced is something I’ll never forget.

When I write these articles, I get that twinkle and I remember why I love making comics.

It is more than the art of it. More than the love of the medium. More than the camaraderie of other comic artists.

It is being part of it all.

Being part of the history of all the folks that made the comics that put a smile on the face of a reader young or old.

 

Gerry Giovinco, Reggie Byers, Phil LaSorda, Bill Cucinotta. Neil Vokes (in back), Matt Wagner, Rich Rankin

 

Being part of a unique tradition of a wonderful medium and passing it forward to the next generation.

 

Snowmageddon trashed the front porch

The clubhouse is a lot different today. It exists in a technological wonder called the internet. It is not bricks and mortar like the old duplex in Norrisown. It is digital and the visitors stop in from all over the world.

Our new headquarters has a name. It is CO2 Comics.

It has an address: www.co2comics.com

Stop and visit.

Visit often.

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco


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