Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Comics’

The Alternate Reality of Dark Horse Comics

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Mike Richardson, the publisher of Dark Horse Comics made it very clear that winners do attempt to rewrite the history books, creating an alternate reality that would make any comic universe proud when he made this statement:

“I don’t know if anyone understands today that we spearheaded the creator-owned movement. Image was years away, and any kind of company that offered those rights and those freedoms hadn’t happened yet. We spearheaded that, and I think that fact has been lost over the years.”

Mike Richardson

People that know anything about creator owned comics and especially those that actually care about creator owned comics definitely do NOT understand the point that Mr. Richardson is attempting to make because it is a complete fantasy with no basis in historic reality, whatsoever.

Dark Horse does not even have the longest history of publishing creator owned works of current comics publishing companies. Hell, even Marvel and DC were writing creator owned contracts and offering royalties to creators before Dark Horse even opened its doors! The Big Two had to in response to a gang of Independent publishers that were successfully producing creator owned comics that posed a significant threat to their market share while siphoning away top talent.

Creator ownership is a simple concept. You create it, you own it and that is how copyright law works. Since 1976 the creator owns the work from the instant it is created wether it is filed and registered or not. This excludes, however anything created work for hire in which case it belongs to the company that commissioned the work on their behalf. If you open a comic book or any other work and it says “© Joe/Jane Creator” it is creator owned.

What you do with your creation after you create it is a different story. In the comics industry it was common practice for a creator to sell the entire rights of their creation to a publishing house. This was usually done in the hopes of getting steady work and in the case of some of the more savvy creators a small stake in royalties. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to Superman for $130 while Bob Kane, reportedly, always held some small stake in Batman.

This practice of buying properties outright was unlike typical book publishing where authors retained their copyright and were paid an advance by publishers for the rights to publish their work then paid royalties on each book sold. This publisher/creator  relationship would endure for a specified term outlined in an agreement which would also include termination clauses and opportunities for revision of rights to the creator.

So this concept of creator ownership has never been anything new, it was just outside of the business tradition that had been established by comic companies who argued that the low price of comic books made them such a low yield product royalties would be negligible.

A quick history lesson for Mr. Richardson since he obviously missed it:

It was the Underground Comix movement in the ’60s and ’70′s that proved that creators could self publish and develop markets to sell their material in. If anybody spearheaded creator owned comics it was this group.

Just a few Creator Owned comics published before Dark Horse existed

When the Direct Market was created by Phil Seuling in 1972 he created a distribution system that was user friendly for creator owned comics. Bud Plant’s Comics & Comix published some early creator owned comics like The First Kingdom by Jack Katz which began in 1974 the same year that Mike Friedrich began publishing Star*Reach. Mike was a huge advocate of creator ownership and represented a number of great comic talents as their agent. By 1977 Heavy Metal hit the racks with creator owned material while Aardvark Vanaheim and WaRP Graphics were self publishing Cerebus and Elfquest respectively. Dean Mullaney formed Eclipse in 1978 and we witnessed the first defectors from Marvel when Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy create Sabre which was also one of the first graphic novels.

Just a few publishers of Creator Owned Comics

The floodgates opened in the 1980′s and a strong wave of publishers all with creator owned contracts poured on the scene, Pacific, First, Comico, Capital, Aircel, Vortex, Fantagraphics, Continuity, Mirage and others all produced creator owned projects well before Dark Horse showed up.

These publishers refined the model that Dark Horse adopted. ADOPTED! Dark Horse may have spearheaded survival in the volatile comics market that sank most of those early publishers by the middle of the ’90s but they certainly did not spearhead the concept of creator ownership.

Each of the publishers had their own way of exploring the terms of the contract with creators. I can only speak for what we did at Comico and we were always proud of how creator friendly and generous our contracts were. Comico paid full page rates that were comparable to those paid by Marvel and DC. In those days that averaged about $200 a page for writing, pencils, inks, lettering and coloring. We paid royalties after each issue broke even which was roughly after 30,000 were sold at which point we split the net 50/50! In those days it was not uncommon for an issue to sell between 60,000-100,000 copies so creators did quite well and they completely owned their property.

I have always been impressed with Dark Horse. They became the company that Comico was always intended to be. Comico discovered new talent,  worked with established pros,  had success with licensed properties and was highly innovative and focused on quality, but  unfortunately made mistakes that led to the company’s failure. When I look at the success of Dark Horse I see confirmation that Comico had many of the right ideas as did most of those early independents that made for one of the most exciting eras of comics history.

It is an insult to see those accomplishments dismissed by a respected guy like Mike Richardson who obviously did his homework but rather than give credit where it is due, chooses to rewrite history to benefit his latest marketing plan.

He is not alone, Image shares the same glory complex, as if they were the first Independents, the first pros to walk away from Marvel and DC but they never would have had the chance if it were not for a host of others that did it over a decade earlier and built a viable market for them to succeed in.

Acknowledging history goes a long way towards gaining the respect you desire. Why waste energy and goodwill fabricating history when you should be focused on making and celebrating your own.

Out of respect I did leave a voicemail for Mike Richardson with his administrative assistant, hoping to get a better insight to why he believes his position but as of this writing the call has not been returned. I guess it got lost in the alternate reality of Dark Horse Comics where the accomplishments of true pioneers no longer exist.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Bigger is Better!

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Anyone who has been following The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese by Don Lomax as it progresses weekly here at CO2 Comics knows that BIGGER is better!

Don’s morbidly obese super hero packs a BIG punch when he is wearing that Ring of Rings and is hell-bent on protecting his lovely, elfin sweetie, Oshna! The fact that he is fat just means that the rotund hero has more weight to throw around. Bad guys beware!

The adventure is BIG too! Captain Obese dukes it out with common thugs, the police, Neo-Nazis, the Vigog Dragon, hordes of Swamp-Nads, Mud-Hole Maggot Suckers, a New Jersey biker gang and, worst of all, Oshna’s  daddy!

DON LOMAX, photo credit The Register-Mail, Nick Adams, Associated Press

Captain Obese creator Don Lomax is a BIG talent in comics and has enjoyed a career that has lasted over thirty years. Don, whose first professional comic work was Atilla the Frog for Heavy Metal in 1979 has been a journeyman as a comic creator with work appearing in a long list of publications for such publishers as Pacific, First, Fantagraphics, Warp Graphics, Apple Comics, Dark Horse, Marvel, DC and Transfuzion Publishing. Don has also done an enormous amount of comics for adult magazines, as well as strips for specialized markets about truckers, cars, law enforcement, and model railroading!

Check out Vietnam Journal

Don once told me he just has a BIG need to make comics. Ever since he was a young boy reading EC Comics in bed at night, thrilling his desire to be frightened, he knew he wanted to create comics. Don says that he has to draw comics, it is just his nature. He managed to sketch his way through his tour of duty in Vietnam back in the late sixties and it was those images that he brought back that ultimately led to his most celebrated work, Harvey Award nominated Vietnam Journal.

We couldn’t be happier working with a creator like Don Lomax who has comics just running through his veins. That’s why The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese fit into our BIG publishing plans so well.

Captain Obese NOW AVAILABLE!

When it came time to produce our first CO2 Comics graphic albums, there was no doubt that  The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese by Don Lomax would be part of our BIG release that included Heaven and the Dead City by Raine Szramski and Ménage à Bughouse by Steve Lafler.

If you are one of the lucky ones that have already purchased any one or more of these graphic spectacles you can attest to the BIG decisions that we made as publishers. Take note that we refer to the products as graphic albums rather than the, now, popularly accepted term of graphic novel. This is in part homage to the late great comic creator and illustrator Jean Giraud better known as Moebius who played a major role in ushering beautifully packaged, perfect bound comics from Europe to America.

These books were referred to as graphic albums and had a BIG impact on us regarding the potential of publishing comics. The paper was better, the color was more brilliant and the art was BIGGER. Compared to traditional comic book size of 6.625″  x 10 .25″  the  8.5″ x 11″  format  somehow seemed to be more respectful of the art, allowing it to breathe, giving the reader an opportunity to enjoy it more.

Comico Graphic Novels

We chose this size when we produced our graphic novels as publishers of  COMICO the Comic Company as well. GINGER FOX by Mike Baron and Mitch O’Connell,  GRENDEL, DEVIL BY THE DEED by Matt Wagner and Rich Rankin, NIGHT AND THE ENEMY by Harlan Ellison and Ken SteacyRIO by the legendary Doug Wildey and ROBOTECH by Mike Baron, Neil Vokes and Ken Steacy, all had the benefit of this BIGGER format.

CO2 Comics Graphic Albums NOW AVAILABLE!

The term graphic album seems to fit our CO2 Comics publications better as they are each collections of the works. In the case of Heaven and the Dead City it is a newly developed work by Raine Szramski that unfolds weekly unveiling each new chapter over a period of time. Ménage à Bughouse is a collection of three previously published graphic novels by Steve Lafler that is also experiencing a weekly posting of its content on our collective site.  The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese by Don Lomax is a collection as well of chapters that were previously published as back-ups by Warp Graphics in the 1980′s and is also experiencing weekly serialization on the web here at CO2 Comics.

Now that we are all in agreement that BIGGER is better it is a good time to point out that this is only the beginning. We have just published our first graphic albums under the CO2 Comics imprint and have BIG plans for more in the future. CO2 Comics has planted a seed that we expect to grow into something big that all comic fans will enjoy.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


The Great Comic Book Flood of 2011

Monday, June 6th, 2011

August 31 is becoming a benchmark day in comics. Remember that date in 2009? That was the day Disney bought Marvel for roughly four billion bucks and we all suspected that the comics industry would change forever. It didn’t.

This year all the current hullabaloo is about DC Comics’ announcement that it will renumber and revamp its entire line beginning with the release of the all new Justice League Number One to be released on…you guessed it…August 31. This too is expected to change the world of comics forever. It won’t.

Regardless what they say, do or plan, the big two have only goal and that is the market dominance of their perspective trademarks. You can’t blame them, it’s big business, but their focus is not really on the comics. You can believe that if you want to, but the real value of both brands is in film, licensing and merchandising of their trademarked intellectual property and has been for a long time.

The big two are so protective of their properties and dominating roles that they share exclusive trademark ownership of the term “Super Heroes.”

Marvel and DC do not want competition in the marketplace that they have comfortably controlled for decades when it comes to folks in tights, but the growth and success of independent publishers and unique comic related properties that have demonstrated an ability to succeed are causing them to tighten their grip on the market.

Remember When?Both companies have always employed the ultimate biblical equalizer, the flood, when they found it necessary. The advent of the Direct Market has made the flood an even more effective tool since it has established what amounts to be a captive audience with limited spending resources. Whenever Marvel or DC have detected a threat to their market share, either one or both have simply increased their output and financially drowned their competition.

Pour one for our Homies

The first significant wave of independent publishers in the 1980′s,PacificCapital, Eclipse, First, Comico and others, all fell victim when Marvel flooded the market with X-Men spin-offs that were met with DC counter productions. The market could not bear the glut and the indies were the casualty.

DC’s announcement of a relaunch of their entire line of 52 titles is business as usual. A flood of epic proportion of first editions with variant covers, day and date digital content, print and digital combo packages and the final nail in the coffin…return-ability.

Marvel is not going to sit by and get waxed. They will counter. Independents, look out! You may as well not even plan to publish from September on, or at least until the novelty wears off. Break out the water-wings the Great Comic Book Flood of 2011 is coming and it will not be pretty.

Comic fans, if you love the medium, it is time to stop acting like lemmings. How many decades do you have to read story after story of the same old stuff? Is it possible to really do anything new or interesting with these characters that the big two have been milking for seventy years? Get real. The answer is, “NO!

It is time to support new material if you really want to read exciting NEW comics. There are plenty of publishers out there putting out great, truly original material either in print, digitally or on the web. Marvel and DC are not going anywhere. You can get a fix of your favorite character at any time but please don’t, as a fan, be responsible for propagating a marketplace that stifles the opportunity for the creation and success of exciting new characters by exploiting blind brand loyalty and worse, the zeal of speculation.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 1

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Comico’s switch from black-and white to color in 1984 added heavily to the learning curve we required to make comic books. We were young guys learning by the seat of our pants, making lots of mistakes but growing with each ounce of education we received “the hard way.”

Jumping to color would be an adventure for several reasons. World Color Press who was printing most of the newsstand comics at the time had no more room in their schedule for the Indy publishers. They were the experts in printing comic books on newsprint which had been the standard since comic books were first published in America.

Indy publishers turned to other options to print color comics which included better paper stock by necessity since most printers were not set up to print what was considered low numbers on newsprint.

Bright, white, glossy stock came into vogue and presented a surface that could better handle full-color images that would not hold up well if printed on newsprint. But comics were still dependent on the traditional black line art that held the color.

Full-color separations that were made from line art that had been simply painted-in produced nasty ghosting of solid magenta, cyan and yellow when images came out of register which could easily happen when printing low runs. Several thousand prints could be made before registration could be fully adjusted forcing the opportunity for a lot of waste and driving up the unit cost of each book.

The black line art had to be held on its own plate and the colors needed to be added on another layer which would later be separated into the four print colors, CMYK. This is done easily today in Photoshop but in the early eighties there was no digital solution.

Doug Wildey

An early maverick attempt by Doug Wildey on his Rio comic, which was published by Eclipse Comics then later compiled by Comico, provided an interesting solution.

Doug Wildey's Rio

Doug painted his colors on tracing paper that he laid over his black line art. The tracing paper was shot and separated then registered to the films of the black line art. This created a beautiful, ethereal watercolor look but provided very fragile originals that warped easily and were difficult to preserve.

Other people were experimenting with different solutions.

Early Pacific Comics-Captain Victory and Starslayer

In the summer of 1983, while in California to attend the San Diego Comic Con, we paid a visit to Pacific Comics. Pacific was not just one of our biggest distributors, it was also one of the trailblazing alternative publishers of the early Indy movement. Founders Bill and Steve Schanes and editor David Scroggy were great hosts. While giving us a tour of their production department, they took the time to show us how a new approach to coloring comics that they were using worked.

The Gray-Line System required that a negative film was made from the original black-and-white comic art. This negative was sized at 60% of the original size which was equal to the actual print size of 6×9″ for the final comic.

Blackline on acetate transparency

From the negative a positive transparency of the line art was made. The lettering on the negative would then be masked with rubylith and, using a dot screen, a 10% gray, positive print was made on photostat paper.

Greyline

The transparency and “gray-line” had registration marks and were aligned and hinged using a single piece of tape. The colorist would paint the grey-line layer, frequently reviewing the art by flipping down the transparency to see what the final image would look like.

Blackline & Grayline combined

The gray-line gave the colorist an accurate guide for which to apply color on a separate layer. If ghosting were to occur due to registration errors the faint image of the gray-line was barely noticeable.

The photostat paper that was used had a polymer base that made the gray-line very durable and stable. They would not shrink or warp when the color, which was usually water based, was applied.

Unfortunately, the surface of the paper was not absorbent at all. Painting with translucent watercolors and dyes was difficult, often creating a streaky or smudgy look especially in areas requiring larger coverage.

The Gray-Line System was an answer to the coloring dilemma but it was not the only one.

To be continued…

 

Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco

Making History

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The Fourth of July. Independence Day. The birthday of America. A time to appreciate the rich history of our country. A history that makes us uniquely American. History is what makes us who we are, biologically, emotionally, intellectually, and creatively. The choices we make about our future are tempered by lessons learned from accomplishments, mistakes, tragedies, losses, and victories. We can never truly control our destiny but history is our only guide for navigating the unknown future.

CO2 Comics Homepage

The Fourth of July. Independents Day. The birthday of CO2 Comics. We are one year old and we appreciate every minute of it. For us, it is a celebration of the moment in time when we first, publicly revealed our web site http://www.co2comics.com/. It is the celebration of the culmination of years of dreaming, experimenting, hypothesizing, observing and anguishing over history. The history of comics. Our place in the history of comics. How we will use that history to navigate and pioneer the future of comics at this, the Dawn of the Digital Age.

Comico Covers

Mike Sterling reminded us a few weeks ago on his blog Progressive Ruin , that Bill Cucinotta and I had stood at the brink of a new age in comics before as publishers of Comico. We are proud that we had charged in with the likes of Pacific, Eclipse, Warp, Aardvark-Vaneheim, Capital, First and others laying the foundation for what would become The Independent Age.

Top: Bill Cucinotta, Vince Argondezzi, Phil Lasorda, Gerry Giovinco Bottom: Aaron Keaton, Andrew Murphy

Like our forefathers who fought valiantly to establish the ideals and conventions of freedom that make America what it is today, the early Independents left a trail of casualties while they set standards for creator rights, compensation, quality, format and innovative marketing in the fledgeling Direct Market. Comico, a briefly shining star in the industry, unfortunately, is among those ruins but its legacy should be remembered as should the lessons learned from all the pioneers in comics, wether they be the innovators of cave drawings, nineteenth century French publications, Gold, Silver or Bronze Age Comics, Undergrounds, Independents, and now, Digital.

Understand the past before challenging the future.

DAK

This is a lesson I learned from David Anthony Kraft one evening overlooking Georgia from his home perched high on Screamer Mountain during the mid 1980′s. The long time Marvel editor and writer and publisher of Comics Interview had a unique perspective of the history of comics because he had the opportunity to work and speak with legends that had created comics from the dawn of the industry. He appreciated my enthusiasm for change but emphasized understanding the reasoning for why comics had been made the same way for forty years.

Don’t fix what’s not broke? No. Understand the past before challenging the future.

This has been a historic year for comics. The Digital Age is blossoming. What it will be like in full bloom can only be imagined. We know that CO2 Comics will be part of it. We have seen the power of the internet. We know the potential of the downloadable content. We do not underestimate the value of the printed product. We know and respect the power of the medium of comics.

Our first year as CO2 Comics started humbly last Fourth of July weekend with just a few pages of comic art by Bill and me, an introduction and the basic structure and design elements that remain intact today. During our maiden year we have had the pleasure of being able to post the work of over twenty creators, many of which were friends with strong ties to our Comico days. We have accumulated nearly 600 pages of comic art about ten times the amount of work that had been published by Comico in its first year.

CO2 Comics Year One

The audience has been bountiful. CO2 Comics has received nearly two million hits in its first year! In 1982, when Comico began publishing, it was inconceivable to reach an audience like that. Our sales figures of the two Primers that we published in our first year were just a few thousand copies, combined.

We know that as Comico grew into a significant publishing house, CO2 Comics, likewise, will make a major impact in the comics community.

Why? Because history repeats itself.

We also know that we as publishers are older and wiser. We have a proven history of learning from our mistakes, exploring unique options, and pressing the envelope. We also know from failure. We know that Comico, for all of its successes, became a casualty, but it laid a foundation for a future. We are living in that future now and looking into the next horizon.

CO2 Comics considers our first year a beta year. In many ways it was a campaign that developed a life of its own. This next year will be even more exciting. New product will appear on the site, new comics by new creators. Digital, downloads will be developed for e-reading devices, and we will release our first products in print.

A key theme that will prevail throughout will be history. We are excited about comic history and our first print product will have tremendous historic value for the entire comic community. I would love to tell you about it right now, but it’s a surprise! Actually, it has been a tremendous amount of work, a true labor of love, and so important to Bill and I that we will announce it only when it is 100% ready to fly.

Until then we will keep the subject of history alive in our blog with a new weekly feature, The Comic Company, that explores some of the innovations we tackled in our early years of Comico. Inspired by the Progressive Ruin blog, and the interest that was generated by it, we will look at the highlights of the Dawn of the Independents and our involvement in an exciting time in comics history.

Making comics because we want to!

Making history because we just can’t help it.

Gerry Giovinco


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