Posts Tagged ‘Primer’

Black History Month: Reggie Byers – Comic Book Publishing Pioneer

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Reggie Byers Victory Productions

We are not always aware of when we are witnessing history being made. Such is the case of comic book creator  Reggie Byers who has the distinction of being one of the first African Americans to own a comic book publishing company.

Byers did not realize that in 1985 when he self published SHURIKEN #1 under his Victory Productions imprint that he was a pioneer. His intent to satisfy his personal urge to publish comics would establish him as a groundbreaker for black comic creators in this specialized arena of popular culture dominated by white men.

Click to read Crescent

CO2 Comics’ relationship with Reggie Byers, whose comic CRESCENT is a proudly presented feature on our site,  extends back over three decades to 1982 when he first knocked on the door of our former comic book publishing house Comico in  Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Comico at the time was a fledgeling company publishing black and white comic books in the Direct Market composed completely by young men who had met in high school and college, all unified by friendship and a desire to make comic books.

Reggie  had graduated from Norristown Area High School in 1981, a year after my younger brother, Tom. My father also taught there. They would often tell me about his creative exploits and love for comics so, though I had never met him, I was well aware of his talents and was excited to finally meet him. His arrival at Comico was fortuitous for us all and he was immediately welcomed into our ranks.

Reggie’s assignments increased as work became available while the company grew and eventually began to produce color comics. He started out as a self proclaimed gofer, then editor of Primer, our new talent showcase,  and eventually, because of his mastery of the Japanese Anime style, he became a penciler on ROBOTECH The Next Generation.

Reggie Byers and a new shipment

Reggie had watched Comico grow from the ground up and had learned the ins-and-outs of the business along with us all. The money he made from penciling ROBOTECH became his seed money for his personal enterprise and in 1985 he launched his independent comic company VICTORY PRODUCTIONS featuring the adventures of his own character SHURIKEN, a female martial artist named Kyoko Shidara who became a freelance bodyguard after discovering that she had been working as  bodyguard for a criminal organization.

Shuriken 1 by Reggie Byers

SHURIKEN was an immediate success in the Direct Market where it enjoyed the support of all the distributors prompting a second printing that elevated sales to over 20,000 units, an amazing circulation for a black and white comic book. These numbers were assuredly influenced by the success of Eastman and Laird’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and supported by the thriving speculator market at the time. Also significant was  Reggie’s growing popularity as penciler of the wildly successful ROBOTECH series which also included the talents of  other African Americans, Mike Leeke, Dave Johnson and MACROSS production assistant,  Aaron Keaton who were also school friends of Comico founders.

The Victory line

Reggie immediately invested his profits from SHURIKEN sales into other titles created by his close friends, Chris Etheredge and Robert Durham, expanding the Victory line to include KOMODO AND THE DEFIANTS by Etheredge, along with PHASE 1 and SHRIKE, both by Durham.

Victory Productions stood out in the Independent comic market as a company driven by three African American comic creators producing a broadly inclusive product line that featured a team of black superheroes, an Asian ninja, a Native American warrior and an anthropomorphic ensemble.

Questioning the significance of Reggie Byers’ role as possibly the first successful black comics publisher I was not surprised that Reggie had previously not considered his role as such because the creative group that we had all surrounded ourselves with at the time was so focused on creating great comics that race was never an issue. The fact that it has taken any of us thirty years to recognize his contribution is less of an embarrassment and more a tribute to the respect we all had for each other as friends, colleagues and comic creators.

I sought confirmation instead from prominent historian of African Americans in comic books, Professor William H. Foster lll who sited the example of Orrin Evans who published a single issue of ALL NEGRO COMICS in 1947 before being locked out of the industry by the big companies at the time.

Professor Foster said that the mid ’80s offered an opportunity for many independent comic publishers, a number of which were African American but because of poor listing of dates and management of records it is hard to confirm with accuracy who came first. He said with fair certainty that Reggie Byers would easily be considered in the top five candidates though because of his large sales figures on the early issues of SHURIKEN he is probably the most significant African American comic book publisher of that independent era which preceded a 1990’s boom in African American publishers.

Reggie, himself, confirms that he had been solicited for guidance by BROTHERMAN publisher Dawud Anyabwile, who in 1989 known as David Sims launched his family owned company  Big City Comics that is often recognized as having ignited the contemporary Black Comics/Superhero movement that became exemplified later by the success of Milestone Comics.

Rob Durham, Chris Etheredge, Steve Williams and Reggie Byers

Victory lasted only two and a half years before becoming one of the many victims of the comic glut and eventual crash of the market that also was partially responsible for the bankruptcy of Comico. SHURIKEN was absorbed by Malibu Comics after Reggie did a brief run of BLADES OF SHURIKEN for them. Malibu eventually sold to Marvel and now Shuriken occasionally is featured as a mutant character in their broad stable of superheroes.

Reggie went on to develop characters for other ventures such as JAM QUACKY for JQ Productions in the ’90s and CRESCENT which he self published before giving CO2 Comics the opportunity to present it here on our site.

Currently he is  focused on empowering young people. With that mission in mind over the last 20 years Reggie and his wife, Dionne have developed their most influential property THE KIDZ OF THE KING featuring ten multicultural angels disguised as teenage superheroes who lift up the Word of God and battle against the demonic forces that attack the children of the world.  It has been produced in comic book form and as an animated feature. Reggie is also working on a graphic novel depicting the story of Jesus Christ based on the four Gospels in the Bible.

Always humble, Reggie gushed at the idea that he played such a significant role in the history of African Americans in regards to comic books and popular culture.

It is a common notion that it is hard to gain respect in your own back yard, but not in our neighborhood. We at CO2 Comics have always been proud to be associated with him as a comic creator and delighted to have known him as a friend for all of these years.

We hope that now he will be acknowledged by fans critics and historians alike for the recognition he deserves for his significant role not just in the African American community but in the creative community of the comics industry.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



The Comic Company: Comics Interview #5

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

In an effort to promote CO2 Comics‘ ongoing, monumental project, David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection, we have established a COMICS INTERVIEW Facebook page. Please, if you have not done so already, stop by and “LIKE” the page and share it. It is becoming quite a trip down Memory Lane.

Random posts of quotes and photos of comic creators who were interviewed in the magazine have evolved into a photo feature that we like to call the Quote of the Day. The positive buzz generated by this feature encouraged us to generate more content and so began a staggered release of cover images from the issues that have been reprinted in the first two volumes of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection.

COMICS INTERVIEW #5 surfaced quickly and brought back a tidal wave of memories. That was the issue where Bill Cucinotta and I, as part of the fledgeling Comico crew that also included our former partner Phil LaSorda and SKROG inker, Bill Anderson, were interviewed by David Anthony Kraft, himself,  in a New York coffee shop.

The event is so much like a dream that we often have to remind ourselves just how it came to be. We were all young guys full of hopes and ambition living the best times of our lives. Those were the days that, as comic creators, Bill and I  look upon with the greatest fondness. We were taking chances, creating our own material and attempting to do what others said we couldn’t; build a comic company from scratch.

Primer #1

We had published our first black and white comic, Primer #1 in October of 1982 and a few months later, in February 1983,  David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW #1 hit the stands.  We knew right away that this was a magazine that we wanted to be associated with and Bill, who was always focused on ways to promote our comics in the Direct Market, was quick to contact David Anthony Kraft to set up advertising arrangements.

It was very easy for all of us to be star-struck. Dave was one of our heroes, having written and edited for Marvel for years. We had all cut our teeth reading his work and suddenly we were dealing with him on a regular basis. It was not long before we were referring to him as DAK.

Dave was much more than a business associate. To us, he was a mentor, filling our heads with knowledge about the comics industry including inside stories and tons of “of the record” anecdotes. More than that, he was a friend. Dave understood that we were possibly biting off more than we could chew but he was always willing to nurture our enthusiasm and offer respected criticism.

This support started with that first conversation he had with Bill regarding advertising which resulted in a trade deal where we ran Interview ads in our comic books and Dave ran Comico ads in his magazine. This allowed us to build a respected presence in the market with no cash expense and to have more reasons to call Dave on a regular basis.

The first Comico ad ran in Comics Interview #3 and our ads became a staple in the magazine for years to come. Lucky for us, we really hit it off with Dave and suddenly we were on a train to New York to be interviewed in issue #5.

Dave must have really been amused by us.  We were a bunch of goofy kids with big dreams that only seemed possible because we didn’t  know better. Our naiveté was our biggest strength; that and an unbridled enthusiasm to create comics.

Gerry Giovinco, Bill_Cucinotta & Phil_LaSorda

We dove into our interview with such a flurry that a half hour into it Dave realized his recorder had not recorded a word we said and we would have to start over. It was typical of  our hit-and-miss approach to making comics. If we didn’t get it right the first time, learn from the mistake and make it better next time.

It is embarrassing, now, to read our ramblings, recognizing in hindsight how amazing it was that we would be able to steer Comico to become a powerhouse in the industry and  establish standards and milestones that would influence the creation and success of future companies like Dark Horse and Image.

Dave, in all his wisdom, was able to see in our comics  what he referred to as “a contagious enthusiasm that transcended their shortcomings.”

Of the entire interview the most significant words were written by Dave in the introduction where he recognized Comico for the pioneers that we were as publishers.

“Comico, the comic company, is among the newest and most ambitious of the independent publishers springing up in the field. Comico’s five titles – AZ, SKROG, SLAUGHTERMAN, GRENDEL and PRIMER – are distributed through the direct-sales system and are available exclusively in comics shops or by subscription.

What is, perhaps, most surprising about such an enterprising endeavor is that all of the comics creators are ( at least, for now) essentially unproven and unknown. Starting from scratch, on such a scale, is virtually unprecedented under the circumstances.”

Our presence in COMICS INTERVIEW #5  marked a coming of age for us.  We shared the issue with industry legends, Stan Lee, Dick Giordano, Wendy and Richard Pini! To be included with this iconic group, for us, was a dream come true. It was time that we were taken seriously by the industry, fans and, most importantly, ourselves.

Future issues of COMICS INTERVIEW would chronicle our achievements as our line grew. Features about The Elementals in issue #17 and ROBOTECH in issue #23 were evidence that we were a company on the move, adapting to survive and prosper. More would follow and Comico, as a company,  managed to maintain a lifespan as long as COMICS INTERVIEW itself.

Comico, unfortunately has gone the way of every other independent publisher of that era. Bill an I however are still plugging away, as enthusiastic as ever but with quite a few battle scars to show for it.  We still look to Dave as a mentor and friend and knew that when we started publishing as CO2 Comics we had to re-establish our relationship with COMICS INTERVIEW.

We are now on a long journey to package the entire 150 issue run of that memorable magazine in an eleven volume set. Two volumes are complete and the third is in production.

As Dave says, “It is a labor of love.” And what’s not to love? For us, everyday is a trip back to the “good old days” and a reminder of the enthusiasm that keeps Bill and I making comics just because we want to.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Self-Publishing is a Virtue

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Self-publishing is often perceived with a certain disdain that I always struggle to understand especially when it concerns publishing comics. Self-publishers are usually viewed as purveyors of “Vanity Press” or unrefined rebels, void of editorial and quality control, rather than the enlightened, creative entrepreneurs that they often are.

For the record, I have always considered myself a self-publisher though I have spent a lot of time publishing the works of others. I self-published my first comics in high school. Those comics were printed on a mimeograph machine and distributed from class-to-class and sold for a nickel apiece.

In college, where I met my long time publishing partner Bill Cucinotta, we published a student newspaper, DUCKWORK , with a bunch of like-minded friends that all had an interest in comics.  We were doing our own thing and doing it collectively so I still considered what “we” published as self-published.

Few people remember or realize that Comico began as a self-publishing venture. Our earliest projects all featured comics that we created ourselves.  AZ, Skrog, and Slaughterman were each works of the individual Comico partners, Phil LaSorda, Bill Cucinotta, and myself. Primer was intended an introductory product for our personal projects but became our first vehicle to present the works of others, most notably our former DUCKWORK pal, Matt Wagner, and his signature work Grendel.

It was only fitting that when Bill and I began publishing on the web as CO2 Comics the first features we launched were our earlier works Skrog and Slaughterman . We were self-publishers again!

Because we do enjoy publishing others, we set up CO2 Comics as a cooperative venture where we work closely with creators to present their work on our site. When we do publish works in print we consider the creators our partners and insure that they receive the lion’s share of net profits from sales of their books.

I don’t ever want to lose my perception of being a self-publisher because I consider it a virtue and a right. Cat Yronwode, esteemed comics critic, and editor once questioned our rights to publish what was admittedly amateurish material. Her comment in the Comics Buyer’s Guide sent me into a tizzy back in 1983 because I am so adamant about a creator’s right to have control over their work which is my primary  endorsement for self-publishing. I argued that as Americans we should have the right to publish whatever we want and that the market will determine our fate.

Self-publishing, in fact has integral responsibility for the birth of our nation. Forefather, Ben Franklin, was a self-publisher and champion of freedom of speech. He used his press, his writings and his publishing skills to inspire and encourage the American Revolution. He valued those rights and so should we as comic creators.

This is the sense of independence that comic creators needed when it became obvious that the big comic publishers were taking advantage of them. By the late seventies when people started demanding rights for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster followed by champions for Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby it became obvious that alternative publishing was necessary in the comics industry

For us, like many others, self-publishing was the answer.  Thanks to the nature of the Direct Market in the comics industry at the time, self-publishers could easily get their foot in the door. A lot of good and bad publishers proliferated but what became clear was that comics could be more than just superheroes and the opportunity for diversity in the medium exploded.  Self-publishing opened the door for creative opportunity that may not have existed otherwise.

The new generation of comic creators with this expanded view of the medium quickly moved to the world wide web and launched a self publishing assault  that proved anything is possible when creating comics. Stick figures capably replaced the anatomically exaggerated superheroes as dominant reading material on the web.

Now, with digital advancements in printing and distribution, the opportunity to self-publish is as accessible and affordable than ever before leaving the greatest challenge to be that of being discovered by an audience.

More than ever, self-publishing is the doorway to creative freedom. As creators, now is the time to encourage each other to embrace the opportunity to swelf-publish, to control your intellectual property and not be victimized by unscrupulous publishers who continue to exploit the antiquated work-for-hire business model.

This is our goal at CO2 Comics. We recognize that not every creator wants the burden of all the details that self-publishing requires wether it be on the web or in print. We want CO2 Comics to be a safe haven for projects to be published while creators retain ownership and control over their property.

More importantly we intend that creators are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve and would warrant as a self-publisher because we know personally what a virtue self-publishing is.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 3

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Comico Primer #1-6

The financial risk of making comics is a cold hard issue that affects every business.   It is a gamble that is made, based on educated guesses, that an investment will return a profit worthy of the effort and expenses involved. Like with gambling, there is an excitement to the nature of this process that drives entrepreneurs to engage in these risks. It is not for the weak of heart.

I remember having a conversation with my younger brother, Tom, on this subject. He and I were both prone to start up businesses. I had participated in the launching of Comico the Comic Company and he was involved in some real estate ventures. My brother compared our activities to that of our grandfathers, both of which had been active gamblers that bet heavily on ponies, cards, craps, and sports. According to Tom, we had a genetic gambling disorder that was manifested by our affinity for business risk.

Launching Comico, however was not as risky a proposition as publishing comics had been in the past as I discussed in Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 2.

For the first four decades of the industry, publishers bore the burden of most of the risk involved, making all the investments in production and marketing in anticipation of sales made on consignment. Comico had the benefit of distribution in the Direct Market where most of the risk fell on the retailers.

During the late sixties and early seventies, thanks in part to the success of underground comics that were being sold in head shops, a market of comic book specialty shops began to spring up operating out of flea markets, garages and small stores. Phil Seuling, the organizer of the original New York Comic Art Convention ventured into distribution with his East Coast Seagate Distribution company. He had developed a plan to buy direct from comic book publishers with the promise of no returns. For the publishers this meant guaranteed sales.

Though Seuling originally held a monopoly on this market, it eventually sprang into a network of distributers spread across the country. Retailers would anticipate how many copies of each title they would need. Generally they derived these figures from knowing the interest and buying habits of their customers. They would place their order with their distributer of choice, sometimes paying in advance. The distributor would then place their order with the publishers, generally with a deal to pay thirty days after the books were delivered.

1st five Comico Covers

When we began publishing Comico back in 1982 we took full advantage of this system. We solicited our original comics, Primer, Az, Grendel, Skrog, and Slaughterman, with Xerox copies of art three months before the books would ship. A month before printing we would know exactly how many books we would need to print and could anticipate if we would profit from the product or not. We knew in advance what risk, if any, we were taking.

Retailers and distributors, however, were taking the chances on an unknown product based on photocopies and promised enthusiasm from young publishers. They knew that comic collectors were excited about acquiring first issues of comics that may one day be a successful feature making that first issue valuable. Collectors were speculators, gambling that their investment would one day pay big dividends.

Retailers ran the risk of not having a comic and seeing their customers run to another retailer. Distributors could not afford to not have the comics available for fear that their retailers would run to another distributor. So when our first comics, which were rudimentary at best, had been rejected by every distributor we were given a golden opportunity when Bud Plant placed the first order of a mere 100 books. We knew that if Bud Plant had books then every other distributer would have to have them. We got on the phones and before we knew it we had enough orders to justify a print run!

Comico enjoyed great success in the Direct Market. Our orders which began at modest numbers of less than 3,000 an issue escalated to over 300,000 a month in the matter of a few years.

Ironically, Comico’s downfall came when we took on the risk of the traditional Mass Market where we took a chance against the returns of the old consignment market. We bet that the recognition value of the licensed properties we produced like ROBOTECH, Starblazers, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and Gumby would insulate us from returns.

We gambled and lost.

Next week in Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 4 we will take a closer look at the risky business of speculation and why crowd funding is the future for comics publishing.
Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Holy Crap

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

AZ #2

I recently had an opportunity to reread and old blog post by Tom Spurgeon on his site The Comics Reporter. In the blog post Tom takes a look at one of our old Comico publications, AZ by our late partner Phil LaSorda.  Tom questions the cultural impact that such an obviously crude attempt at making comics may or should have on the market and the medium.

Now I along with my current publishing partner Bill Cucinotta who was also a partner back in those early Comico days may be biased but we also have a unique perspective just by having been there. We know, retrospectively, that the work we did in those days was seminal at best and was often criticized as being crap. It is easy to look back and be embarrassed by our rudimentary attempts to both create and publish comics. The irony, I suppose, is that as rudimentary as that material was, we are both still very proud of it for many reasons, so much so that we published it all again, right here on CO2 Comics.

Slaughterman #1

Skrog #1

SLAUGHTERMAN and SKROG may not have had many more redeeming qualities than AZ but they were all cornerstone publications that established a foundation that Comico, one of the most influential independent publishers of the eighties, was built on. For this reason alone, despite their critical ineptness, yes, they had, and continue to have cultural impact.

I remember a scathing review by Cat Yronwode in the Comics Buyers Guide that questioned, “who gave us the right to publish such crap?” My fiery response was that we all have the right to publish what we want to in America and that, crap or not, it will be the market that decides the success of the product. I wish I had those CBG articles today.

One thing we did well at Comico, in those early days, was to learn from our mistakes. It did not take long or us to realize our success would come from publishing others. It was, however, our relationships that we had developed hanging in artist alleys at comic conventions, and our ability to relate to young and maturing talent that allowed us the opportunity to work with the likes of Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Sam Kieth, Chuck Dixon, Judith Hunt, Neil Vokes, Rich Rankin, Reggie Byers and many many others.

We also published a new talent showcase called Primer where we published the earliest work of many other budding artists who were not quite ready for the Big Two.

Comico Primer #1-6

To me the biggest impact that Comico had on the comics industry, was that it gave evidence that if a handful of guys with apparently limited talent and experience could build a company that at one time was ranked #3 behind Marvel and DC in monthly sales, then maybe, just maybe, anybody can.

I believe we created an opportunity for creators to get bold enough to publish their own work or feel more confident when presenting it to others. We all did it as artists, looked at other work that we considered weak and say, “hey, I’m at least as good as this, if this can be published than so can mine.”

Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta & Phil LaSorda

We may have been naive or overconfident when we launched Comico but we had one mantra that we held to that was first spoken by Phil,  “We don’t want to look back years from now and regret that we didn’t try when we had the chance.” To us, the fear of failure was never as great as the fear of never having the opportunity to make comics professionally.  To do what we loved.

Today the internet is the greatest thing for young comic artists and for the entire medium. Anyone can publish on the web and, yes, there is a ton of incredible crap out there but more people than ever are taking a shot making comics and we fans of the medium are the winners because tremendous comic talent that may have never tried before is now offering our eyes a feast of variety that has never existed in comics.

So to answer Tom Spurgeon’s quote: The question that many of us near comics ask — if only to each other — is if the art form can survive without the occasional cycling back to cruder efforts like this one, unpretentious material devoid of any hope for life or riches beyond its publication schedule that helped revitalize the art form four or five times during a low ebb.”

No! The art form, or more accurately the medium of comics or any medium for that matter, cannot survive without a cycle that includes cruder efforts. No crude efforts would imply no young talent and with no young talent to revitalize a medium, that medium will die a death of eventual mediocrity.

To paraphrase McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, “When you’re green you grow. When you’re ripe you rot.”

So, be brave and create! Express yourself as well as you know how and be willing to show the world.  Make mistakes. Learn from them. Never stop growing. But when you do someone new will begin making their own mistakes and we will all have the pleasure of witnessing their adventure.

Holy crap, it’s the circle of life, comics style.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


The Comic Company: In The Black

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Anyone who has been reading this blog over the last couple of months knows that it is intended to be a trip down memory lane focusing on the accomplishments of Comico the Comic Company and its relevance to the comics industry both then and now.

Bill Cucinotta and I were both founding partners of Comico, giving us both a unique authority on the subject. Though I get the credit line at the bottom of the page, these words wouldn’t get to you without Bill’s diligence and tireless effort to design and post the blog along with all of the other chores as he maintains the entire CO2 Comics site on a daily basis.

We are both dedicated to bringing our audience great quality comics and remembering the history that brought us here. Not just the history of our experience publishing Comico comics, but the history of the industry that inspires us to be part of it.

We know that our readers appreciate the notes on history too. It is reflected the traffic to the site and the comments made on the threads. Thanks for your enthusiastic support!

In 1987 Comico took a trip down memory lane with the publication of Comico BLACK BOOK our fifth-anniversary special.

Comico Black Book cover

Creative Black Book 1986

When I conceived BLACK BOOK I readily admit that I was a candidate for the Swipe File. A year earlier I had the opportunity to provide comic book lettering to go along with parody images of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! for the 1986 edition THE CREATIVE BLACK BOOK (www.blackbook.com) which is a huge creative directory for people in the creative industry.

My good friend Angela Corbo, who had grown up in my neighborhood and attended PCA briefly with Bill and myself, was working in the production department of the THE CREATIVE BLACK BOOK. When it was decided that their theme required comic lettering, I was her first call.

My lettering on the Creative Black Book 1986, Click for larger image

Gerry Giovinco Black Book photo

I had lettered all of Comico’s early black-and-white books; Primer, Az, Grendel, Skrog and Slaughterman. This was a great opportunity to work on such a prestigious project and I jumped at the chance.

With the publication of that work behind me, the name BLACK BOOK stuck in my head. I couldn’t help but attach it to another directory, that of a historical chronology of the first five years of Comico.

The Comico BLACK BOOK was published in comic book format and featured our trademark, wrap-around cover design. It read more like a catalog of our entire inventory with a historical time-line that ran the bottom of each page highlighting moments of achievement and publication dates.

My favorite page was the centerfold that listed the names of the impressive 155 creators that had worked with us those first five years.

Comico Black Book Spread, Click for larger image

The Comico BLACK BOOK became the chronicle of my own history at Comico. Shortly after its publication it became impossible for me to continue working at Comico for personal and professional reasons. My name remained in the publishing credits but it was clearly time for me to move on.

The book also signaled a turning point. Comico began its downward spiral. It was a company that had risen from nothing to an independent powerhouse, challenging Marvel and DC all the way into the mass market only to become a bankrupt shell of itself that would be sold into obscurity.

This is a story that has been repeated over and over by other great comic companies of the era and continues today. In its wake is a trail of incredible comics and incredible comics history. There are lessons to be learned. Observations that need to be noted. Mistakes that should not be repeated.

Comics Interview Premier Edition

This is why we are so excited to be publishing David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection. We know that it is the most transparent window into the mind-set of the comics industry at a time when creators discovered that they had some control in the future of comics.

Comics Interview Standard Edition

It is shocking how issues that shaped the industry then are relevant to issues that are shaping the industry today.

A whole new generation of comic creators needs to be aware of the insights of those who pioneered creator rights, independent publishing, the graphic novel, and the marketing and merchandising of comic franchises that are household names today.

I recently read an obituary for the Sony Walkman and it sited how Apple tapped into the elements of personal entertainment that were provided by the Walkman when it made music personal. Apple embellished upon those elements to create the success of the iPod. Apple looked back to move forward.

With the introduction of e-readers and the iPad comics will become more personal and interactive than ever just as music did. It is time for the comics industry to move forward and we all know it. Just remember to look back. Note the successes and failures. Don’t become a statistic.

When David Anthony Kraft was publishing COMICS INTERVIEW he had a keen sense for how the industry worked. He listened to the people he talked to. He saw the writing on the wall and was able to make a controlled decision to end COMICS INTERVIEW at a nice round number and at the top of its game. DAK controlled the destiny of his creation at a time when the market was in free-fall.

Because of his foresight, we now have the opportunity to enjoy COMICS INTERVIEW as a completed work, not something that was extinguished in its prime like Comico and a long list of other comics publishers.

We believe that David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection is an important work that belongs in the library of every comic creator, educator and library for all of the reasons I mentioned. Take the opportunity to see for yourself.

We think you’ll agree.

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco

The Comic Company:
Prime Time

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
 
Comico was always intended to be launched in an anthology format. The first planned publication was Comico Presents which was to feature Phil LaSorda’s AZ, Vince Argondezzi’s Mr. Justice and my own Slaughterman.

Unpublished Cover

By the spring of 1982, however, the dynamics of the original group had changed.
Vince Argondezzi was moving on and Bill Cucinotta had joined our ranks bringing with him his creation, Skrog. Other talented comic artists, Matt Wagner and the very young Andrew Murphy, lurked in the wings.

It occurred to me that the anthology format had greater potential for us than we had originally planned. Rather than be merely a vehicle to introduce our own feature characters into the Direct Market, the format gave us a venue to feature the works of the many undiscovered talents that we were becoming acquainted with on the convention circuit.
 
I saw this publication as the foundation for which all future projects would emerge. It was the first coat of paint on which we could embellish illustrious careers as comic creators. This anthology would be our Primer.
 

PRIMER #1, Cover pencils by Andrew Murphy. inks Gerry Giovinco

 
Surprisingly, I do not remember it being difficult to sell the concept and especially the name, Primer, to Phil and Bill. We all knew that, in a market with titles full of Action, Adventure, and other Epic names, Primer was as dynamic sounding as white bread but to us it perfectly described the product and what we expected to accomplish with it.
 

PRIMER #2, Cover by Matt Wagner, 1st appearance of GRENDEL

 
We had hoped that by naming our comic book Primer, readers would expect something different, that the product would lay a foundation for what was to come and, most importantly, it would ignite an interest in our budding comic company. Primer would survive six issues and be our longest running black-and-white title. It did launch Comico and prime the industry for a unique independent company that blazed trails in creative and production quality, pioneered licensing for alternative publishers, championed creator’s rights and gave Marvel and DC a serious run for their money.
 

PRIMER #3, Cover by Jim Dever, featuring an early William Messner-Loebs story

 

The impact of Primer is still felt in the comics industry today.

 

PRIMER #4, Cover by Barb Ramata, first of three to be edited by Matt Wagner

The ACT-I-VATE PRIMER

I can tell you that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Bill and I were both caught blushing when IDW announced that it would be publishing The ACT-I-VATE Primer.

ACT-I-VATE has been among our greatest inspirations while developing CO2 Comics. The presumption that our Primer may have had any influence on Dean Haspiel and friends was quite humbling to us (Guys, don’t tell us if it didn’t, it might ruin the moment!). Marvel’s Marvelman Classic Primer and Alan Moore’s Americas Best Comics Primer also find use of the Primer name which I like to believe would have never been used when associated with comics before the advent of the Comico Primer.

PRIMER #5, Cover by Will Brown, featuring Sam Kieth’s Max the Hare

How-to Comic Primers pepper the internet and we at CO2 Comics have tapped the old Comico Primer for our own World Wide Web purposes.

PRIMER #6, Cover by Judith Hunt, the introduction of Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt's Evangeline. Assistant editor CO2 Comics contributor Reggie Byers.

My Slaughterman, Bill Cucinotta’s Skrog, Andrew Murphy’s Victor, and Rich Rankin and Neil Vokes’ Gauntlet, features that all ran in Primer, are now featured right here on CO2 Comics.

They have all helped us launch this new and exciting web comics collective. CO2 Comics contributor Bill Anderson also graced the pages of Primer. Primer alumni, Matt Wagner, Sam Kieth, William Messner-Loebs, and Chuck Dixon have had stellar careers as comic creators. Their earliest published works can be found in those seemingly innocuous six issues of Primer making a few of them quite valuable as collectibles.

Other talents that were featured in Primer: Phil LaSorda, Vince Argondezzi, Jim Alderman, Rick McCollum, Bill Bryan, Jim Dever, Larry Nadolsky, Francis Mao, Barb and Bernie Armata, Ron Kasman, Will Brown, Chris Windle, Ajay Mclaughlin, Mark Lantz, Michael Lail, Grass Green, Judith Hunt and Al Wiesner. Primer was, unfortunately, discontinued along with the rest of the black-and-white line when Comico made its transition to color in 1984.

Pain

Works that were planned to be published in Primer that I am sorry we missed out on were Pain by Bill Cucinotta, Panda Khan by Dave Garcia and a little pre-turtle story by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

I have quite a few interesting stories that I can share about experiences publishing Primer that will have to wait for another time.

Next week I will pick things up a bit with a look at one of my favorite “Pie in the Sky” ideas from the early days of The Comic Company.

Making comics because I want to!

Gerry Giovinco

 

 

 

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

The Gutter | Welcome Andrew C. Murphy

Friday, June 19th, 2009
Comico Primer 1

Comico Primer 1

Andrew first came to me as a talented high school student in search of a mentor program in 1982. Comico was in its fledgling days and he quickly became a dependable Guy Friday. His enthusiasm, hard work, dependability and raw talent were a rare find in any teenager and he was quickly rewarded with the opportunity to draw the cover of our first book, Primer #1 which I was lucky enough to ink.
Andrew’s own character Victor also graced that first cover and was later featured in Primer #2 which also heralded the first appearance of Grendel by Matt Wagner.

comico crew

Andrew Murphy (Top L), Phil LaSorda (Middle), Gerry Giovinco (Top R), Vince Argondezzi (Bottom L), Bill Cucinotta (Bottom R)

 Bill Cucinotta and I are thrilled to say that he is back with us again with Victor! We will begin with the original Primer feature and follow the character as he matures into Firebringer.

Andrew will also release some of the short stories that he produced for Dark Horse Presents. We expect that his story, Reflections will be posted as early as next week.

Andrew has also written a fine novel of the future Steel Sky and is an award winning Creative Director of Art for Brainworks Communications. Please click on the embedded links and support his endeavors.

Thanks for joining us again, Andrew!

 Gerry Giovinco


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