Posts Tagged ‘Print on Demand’

Fans Build a Comic Company

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

When it comes to selling graphic albums,  CO2 Comics uses the oldest trick in the book. We sell direct to the customer. It makes sense to us. It is how people sold goods and services since the dawn of cash transactions. We want a relationship with our fans that is as direct as possible.

We don’t use distributors. We’ve eliminated the middle man and those added expenses.  Because of this we don’t see the need for ISBN numbers and barcodes. We think it is just as easy for readers to find our books using any popular search engine as it is to search for books on Amazon or any other online retailer. Our fans already know where to find the product. If you are reading this blog post, our online store is just a click away. Purchasing our books through our Lulu storefront is as safe and easy as any other online purchase you can make.

The reason we do this is simple. We want as much of the revenue generated from our books to go to the creators as possible. Traditional distribution systems seem to generate revenue for everybody but the creators. Typically, publishers receive not much more than 10% of the cover price and pay creators royalties only after all other expenses are met. This too often results in little or no compensation to the creator payed long after the book is published and there is always the threat of returns.

We have other ideas. Because we publish our graphic albums Print On Demand through Lulu we are able to pay our creators 70% of the revenue CO2 Comics  generates off of each book sold starting with the first book printed.

Yes, production costs are higher on individually printed books and yes, Lulu does take a 20% cut of profits from books sold on their site, but when all is said and done, creators will receive about 30% of the cover price from each book sold from our Lulu storefront. That is way better than sharing 10% after expenses are met, if they are.

Lulu reports and pays each and every month allowing for quick and steady revenue stream. Our creators get paid when we get paid and they make the lion’s share of the profit. They earned it. They did most of the work.

Revolutionary? Not at all. selling direct to the customer It is as “old-school” as it gets but people still look at us like we are renegades. We have no ISBN. We are not in Diamond’s catalog. We sell our books ourselves. This seems to translate, for some, into “not real publishers, ” “not newsworthy” and “not worthy to review.”

1st five Comico Covers

Comico's 1st Color Books

We have greatly appreciated the fan press that has recognized the pedigree of the creators we have published and shown a modicum of faith in our own publishing legacy as former publishers of Comico comics. We wish more news outlets were as committed to acknowledging works by respected, journeyed creators, historic collections and our efforts to redefine how comics can be sold in this ever changing market.

More importantly, we appreciate the fans that support us. We believe that the comic is not complete until it is read. We know that the reader’s imagination is what connects the panels and fills in the blanks making comics a unique interactive visual experience of storytelling. Our fans are responsible for the growing popularity of the CO2 Comics site. Thank you for your visits, your support on social media, and your purchases of our product.

We are building a relationship that we believe is important. One that is direct and honest. We produce great comics that you enjoy and you allow us to continue through your patronage.  We are building something special here at CO2 Comics. It is a cooperative effort between us as publishers, the talented creators, and the fans who are our loyal customers. We will build this comic company together and that will be newsworthy enough for us.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Corporate Comics, the Exodus…Again

Monday, June 25th, 2012

There has been a lot of buzz lately about creators walking away from cushy contracts at Marvel and DC to strike out on their own, the most recent being Paolo Rivera whose eloquent blog post on the subject offers wonderful insight to his personal motivation.

The reaction from fans and comic related news media would make you think that these creators are venturing to the dark side of the moon on the first experimental space vessel not built and commandeered by NASA. This reaction mystifies me because it shows a disregard of the history of comics and the vibrant atmosphere of the current comics marketplace.

People that are surprised that top rated talent are leaving the Big Two should rather be asking, “why has it taken so long?”

The pros and cons of working for corporate comic companies have been established for decades.

Sure, you get to work on characters you know and love, there’s a steady check so long as you are a hot commodity, maybe some benefits, maybe some royalties, oh and the exposure to Marvel and DC‘s huge fan base can elevate you to star status. But in the end you own nothing, you had to be careful to create only within the parameters of the existing universes or run the risk of watching a character you created make beaucoup bucks for the corporation while you get nothing in return and, when you are no longer hot or are out of favor with the editing staff, there is no work and you live as a pariah.

There was a time when working in comics was the most loathsome career path for a writer or artist. Lousy page rates, no royalties, rights or recognition. You worked in comics merely as a stepping stone into advertising, television or film. This was true until the sixties when Marvel, or more accurately Stan Lee, made working in comics seem almost glamorous. The money got a bit better and creators began imagining actual careers in the field. By the late seventies creators began to realize that even though their names were plastered all over the books, they were still not getting much in return for their efforts and especially their unique creations which were now wholly owned by the corporation they worked for.

Creator’s eyes were fully opened in 1978 when the first Superman movie was released and they watched Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster battle for morsels of the enormous profit generated by the character they had created and sold for $130 nearly forty years earlier.

It became clear that there was a deficiency in the business model of the comics industry. Why was it necessary for the comics publishers to fully own the copyrights and trademarks of all the intellectual property they published? Other book publishers do not operate this way and neither do other forms of entertainment where royalties and residuals support creators long after their work is created. Don’t get me wrong, there are good and bad contracts  everywhere necessitating the need for lawyers and agents but it sure is nice to have the opportunity to negotiate your terms.

The success of the Underground Market in the sixties and the rise of the Direct Market in the late seventies created opportunities for comic creators to work outside of the traditional corporate confines of the comic industry. Creators, disgruntled by the usual terms with which they worked at corporate comic companies, turned to the successes in these markets and began to strike out on their own. Many targeted the Direct Market that had established a secure venue for such properties as Jack Katz’ s First Kingdom, Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark, and Richard and Wendy Pini’s Elfquest. This defined a new model where creator’s could find success owning their own characters and marketing direct to the distributers with the benefit of minimal risk provided by guaranteed pre-orders and a no-return policy.


Alternative publishers took note and began contracting creators defecting from the corporate comic companies, offering creator owned contracts that included fair page rates, and royalties. The eighties opened the door for true creators rights and as the alternative competition gained a foothold in the industry, the corporations  began offering publications that were vehicles for creator owned properties and they structured some type royalty arrangements.

Since the inception of the Direct Market there has always been an opportunity for creators to have alternative options. Marvel and DC, however, have maintained  a strangle hold on the Direct Market which they control by sporadically flooding the market with superfluous content in an effort to successfully drive out or contain alternative publishers. There have, however, been a few exceptions where talent has been able to break free with enormous success and plenty of other instances where independent creators have had comfortable, rewarding careers by most standards.

The Direct Market is no longer the panacea it once was for comic creators who now realize how easily the market can be manipulated by the Big Two and the near monopoly of its primary distributor.

Fortunately the internet has provided a wide open space for creators to play and have direct access to the customers themselves. Print on Demand providers and affordable, minimum-quantity print runs has eliminated most of the upfront risk of comic production and crowd funding has created an avenue for advance orders establishing revenue streams.

Competition is brisk and there are more comic creators than ever before, presenting a huge variety of unique creations that go well beyond the constrictions of the superhero genre. The distribution of digital content for mobile devices is giving comic creators the opportunity to reach new markets that just a year or two ago may have seemed impossible.

This is possibly the best and most challenging time to be a comic creator ever.  Working for a corporate comic company is now a choice, not the only viable option if you intend to have a career in comics. Corporate creators have a better understanding of their role as  cog in the corporate wheel and are more careful as they juggle being creative without abandoning rights to personal creations.

Corporate comics are once again a stepping stone to a respected career but creators no longer need to leave the comics industry. They just need to declare their independence and take control of their destiny as comic creators.

The revolution to establish these freedoms for comic creators has spanned decades. There have been many victories and many casualties. Alternative companies have come and gone, creators have basked in the limelight then vanished from the radar. Some have celebrated success while others have anguished over failure. Through it all it has been the audience that has benefited the most, paying witness to a variety of comics that would never exist if they were limited only to the corporately owned IP of two publishers.Next week, as a nation, we celebrate the independence of the United States of America, a country that established freedoms and inalienable rights that did not exist prior to the signing of the Constitution. Those same rights grant us the opportunity as comic creators to freely express ourselves through our work and to pursue a free and open market. As a comic creator, take a stand  and be independent. As a comics fan, support independent, creators and publishers.

As a comic community declare every Independence Day as Independent’s Day and applaud a bright future for the art of creating comics.

Thirty years ago as two of the co-founders of the alternative comics publisher Comico the Comic Company, Bill Cucinotta and I were focused on these same ideals. Through Comico we had many triumphs yet succumbed to tragic failures.

We never lost the dream.

This Fourth of July weekend we will celebrate our third year in our new publishing incarnation as CO2 Comics. We will be rejoicing our continued freedoms as Independent Publishers, armed with technology that did not exist thirty years ago, experience, and a continued love for comics. Our Declaration of Independence will be the announcement of three new print publications that will be immediately available to our readers.

We know how exciting it is to publish comics beyond the walls of the corporate comic companies!

So next time you hear about a comic creator’s exodus from the corporate comic world just remember, “it ain’t anything new.” It is an opportunity created by the efforts of many over many years.  Show your support, buy their comics and celebrate their independence!

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


Original Comic Art and Digital Comics: The Common Bond

Monday, May 28th, 2012

A stroll around a comic convention is a lot different today than it used to be when it comes to experiencing original comic art which for me, as a young aspiring comic artist, was the highlight of any show. I would always immediately venture directly towards artist alley where pros and amateurs alike would form a welcoming community of comic art practitioners. To me it seemed less like an opportunity for the creators to market their work and more of a joyous reunion of folks with a common bond: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Maybe it is just a product of comic conventions no longer being the casual events they used to be, held in basement ballrooms of fading city hotels with the most sophisticated displays being a hand lettered card stock sign hung on a pipe and drape background.  Professional comic artists were not viewed as the superstars they are today. They were heroes that we related to more like a favorite uncle who always new how to appeal to our inner child. Their art touched us in a personal way that established a relationship that was respected between them and their fans.

Those were the days when you did not wait in line to meet your favorite creator. At best you gathered around their table and shared as a group, listening to their stories, watching them sketch, and learning from their teachings which, though small casual tidbits of technique, were gems of insight into the magical world of creating comics.


Stacked high on their tables would be pages of original art that could be thumbed through and purchased  for prices as low as ten or fifteen bucks! The opportunity to scan through those pages was a chance to stare into a window of a professional comics bullpen. Each page told a production story that was highlighted by the scents of bristol board and india ink often commingling with odors of white-out and rubber cement.

To be able to view those pages and see script notes in a corner, blue lines behind lettering, pen strokes appearing as a texture on the surface and brush strokes laying a deep wash in large shaded areas with a barely visible “x” etched in pencil beneath was a hands-on lesson in every page.

I always got a kick out of seeing revisions. Panels or words would be cut out with an x-acto and replaced with art that was cut to fit perfectly into the hole and secured from behind with a strip of masking tape. Splash pages had photostat logos pasted on leaving a trail of ever yellowing rubber cement beneath.

Every page was art, yet each was also just a mechanical, a production board from which final films would be photographed on large upright “stat” cameras. Each was a path of history, chronicling the creation of the page through the hands of the writer, penciler, letterer, inker, editor and production hand. Void of color, the line art resonated with a power of its own lending a new found appreciation for comics in black and white that would empower the independent comic publishers of the day.

It is still possible to marvel at original art at conventions but the atmosphere is so much more hurried that it is difficult to be absorbed into each piece. Those “uncles” are slowly passing away leaving a void where once was a nurturing wisdom behind the craft of each page. In its place is a new energy that is equally intoxicating, a new brand of comic artist with an entrepreneurial spirit hawking their own works.

It is  thrilling to see the new, unlimited variety of comics, invigorating to see the community widening to include a wave of talented women that was always sadly lacking in that bygone era. What is missing is the original art, replaced by an ernest need to sell small print runs and assorted related merchandise or to direct readers to a growing web-comic. The art exists, but digitally, and can be panned easily on an iPad evoking a sterile creative process free of the sensory stimulators that fueled a personal romance with comic production in my formative years.

As I sit here at my keyboard, I’m suddenly realizing that I am now one of those “uncles” I came to embrace. Not that I could hold a candle to any of them but I have an opportunity to share from my experiences, as they did, only from the venue of this blog instead of a convention table. The new generation of comic creator, who creates digitally, shares too, through all kinds of forums and social networks on the internet.  An aspiring comic creator no longer has to wait, as I did, for an annual comic convention to experience the knowledge of a comic pro, they can watch a tutorial on Youtube or follow a comment thread on Facebook!

Yes, I miss the sensory experience of the creative process of comics. Yes, I wonder if creators are losing an opportunity to cash in by not having physical comic art to sell.  But it is not worth pining over any of my attachment to these relics while I am witnessing the future of comics as it blossoms before my eyes. The community of comic artists is no longer small and relegated to a musty convention hall. It is vast and continues to grow. It exists at our fingertips any time we wish to access it.

Today’s comic artists are creating much more than original art. They are creating the future of the medium. Support them any way you can if you love comics. Go read their web comics. Buy their print on demand books. Order their merchandise. Join them on forums and share ideas. Learn from them and teach others. We are all part of the same comics community that began in those old convention halls. Embrace that past and build the future.

Bill Cucinotta and I, here at CO2 Comics, are committed to both and are excited to be part of this growing comics community of artists with a keen eye on the future. No matter how comics are made we intend to maintain that common bond we always had with those comic creators in artist alley: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


Stop the Presses: Part 4

Monday, April 9th, 2012

I recently acquired a DC Comics Production Handbook that was produced in 1989. It was quite clear from the contents that the industry then was clearly moving away from newsprint and focusing on the finer production qualities of better paper stock that we are now used to.  Some explanations in the handbook contradicted information that I posted in Stop the Presses Part 3 and, being that I am always happy to stand corrected, I am sharing these new insights.

As mentioned in Part 3, World Color Press’s Sparta plant played a dominant role in comic book production from the 1940’s to the 1990’s but, though I credited this to their use of the  web offset press, the DC Handbook claims that all the Sparta newsprint comics were printed on letterpress which used plastic coated plates to press ink onto the absorbent stock. The letterpresses at Sparta could print two 32-page comic books at a time and would produce up to 15,000 copies of each interior an hour.

By the late 1980’s, DC Comics, along with every other comic publisher at the time, were exploring other printers who were producing comics on better paper stock allowing for greater color capabilities. DC used the offset presses at Ronald’s Printing out of Canada.  The manual sites that Ronald’s M1000-B offset press could produce 60,000 16-page sections (signatures) an hour which according to my math is the same speed as the letterpress.  (1 32-page book = 2 16-page signatures X 2 books = 4 16 page signatures. 4 signatures times 15,000 = 60,000 signatures an hour. No?)

According to the manual color adjustments on the offset press had to be done while the press was running  and could waste as many as 10,000 copies before a proof was okayed. Sheet fed letterpresses stop while color adjustments are made and waste far less paper.

The 1989 manual also makes a startling claim that, with all factors involved, they could not make any money on a comic book selling less than 20,000 copies! There seems to be a lot of titles below this number on current sales charts, so either production costs have dropped or the higher prices of today’s comics can support this decline in figures. I’m sure it’s not because DC likes losing money.

The DC Comics Production Handbook went into a lot of other now obsolete but fondly remembered production techniques such as color separations, blue boards, coding for flat color, photostats and even pasting up word balloons. The Digital Age of art production has changed all of those things and the comics industry got its initial taste of that with First Comics‘ 1985 publication of the all digitally produced comic book SHATTER by Peter B. Gillis and Mike Saenz.

Nearly thirty years later coloring, lettering, and even artwork is being done digitally. This is true of printing as well. Though digital printing may not be the cheapest way to print it is giving many publishers an opportunity to be able to publish in very small print runs because of the lack of set up costs. Previously much of the initial cost in printing was tied up in the production costs of films and plates requiring minimum runs in the tens of thousands before a comic could recover those costs. Now it is possible to print just one copy of a comic book and, though the unit cost is much higher than a comic printed on an offset press, there is no need to have a warehouse of unsold comics to meet the limited demand of a niche product.

Print on Demand (POD) providers have created an opportunity for independent publishers to create beautiful editions of their publications in nearly every format imaginable. Creators and publishers just need to upload digitally formatted content to the POD providers site, usually at no cost, and order a printed proof that generally takes no more than two weeks to arrive. Once the proof is reviewed and and any changes made the books can be made available for sale or ordered in quantity for distribution.

David Anthony Kraft's COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Volume 2

CO2 Comics has taken advantage of this POD production process and has been able to produce the beautiful 640-page David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW the Complete Collection Volume One of this eleven volume project has already been made available and Volume Two is currently in production. Other new print projects will be announce very shortly so please stay tuned for the exciting news HOT OFF THE PRESS!

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


The Art of Delivering Comics

Monday, December 5th, 2011

I have said many times that I do not regard a comic complete until it is in the hands of the reader. I say his because I believe that the presentation of the material is itself a critical element that impacts the readers appreciation of the work. Most of my career in comics has been on the side of producing the final package wether it be in print or digital format. Bill Cucinotta and I take as much pride here at CO2 Comics in packaging other creator’s comics for final presentation as we do writing and drawing our own material. This was also true when we were partners publishing comics under the Comico label back in the 1980’s.

Last week I wrote about accessibility, primarily focusing on characters remaining accessible to their audience after decades of continuity that might obscure their fundamental characteristics that make them unique and even iconic. To many, however the concept of accessibility as it relates to comics refers more to the availability of product or more precisely, the delivery of the product.

Ever since the rise of the Direct Market, beginning in the late 1970’s, it seems that  the accessibility of the comic book to the general public, or more accurately the casual comic book reader, has diminished with the relative extinction of traditional mass market outlets that drove the sales in the Golden and Silver Ages of comics.

Overlooked however is the fact that comics do exist outside of both of these markets and are thriving.  Comics may be more accessible to readers now than ever before. Comics are offered in such a tremendous array of packaging and subject matter that surely there is something for everybody and comics as a medium is poised to be recognized for its ability to have universal appeal.

I am going to attempt a breakdown of venues through which comics are currently being enjoyed. some are traditional formats others are new and still others are vehicles of marketing or use of comics as a form of communication. This includes strips, panels, short form and long form presentations. Please, if I miss any don’t hesitate to to send along your suggestions.

Newspapers – strips and panels – newstand distribution, subscription

Magazines –  strips and panels – newstand  and mass market distribution, subscription, internet sales

Comic Books – long format – Direct Market, Bookstores, subscription, internet sales

Graphic Novels – long format – Direct Market, Bookstores, internet sales

Small Press – Boutique format – Direct Market, internet sales, conventions

Web comics– Any format goes including infinite canvas – usually free on internet, some by subscription, some get collected into print packages.

Digital – comics collections on disc or via subscription on web sites.

Cell phone apps– comics downloaded to cell phone

e-reader apps – comics downloaded to e-readers like i-Pad, Kindle Fire, BN Nook

Print on Demand– Comics available as books printed to order from POD producers like LULU.

Zines – usually produced as fan publications, printed at home and mailed or distributed as PDFs via e-mail

Tracts – small religious pamphlets done as comics usually handed out freely by true believers.

Educational -comics used to illustrate a point, often seen in textbooks or educational magazines. The military uses comics to educate.

Institutional– I’ve seen comics used to describe museums and historic landmarks to name a few.

Premium –  This includes everything from free comics in Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum to comics in cereal boxes.

Instructional– Comics are used all the time to show instructions from everything to setting up a computer to flight safety on airplanes.

Promotional-comics used to advertise a product in ad form or catalogue form. I’ve seen promotional comics on comics on place mats in restaurants.

Journalistic– comics journalism has come a long way and can be found as panels or strips in newspapers to magazines and on the web.

I know that there is plenty more out there, I’d love to see samples of comics used in unusual formats, it always fascinates me so please share links or upload pictures to our facebook page.

Comics are everywhere. They are so ingrained in our culture that idioms like word balloons, panels, page layouts, effect splashes, production techniques and genre references are so common place they are easily taken for granted.

It is time for comic creators to lose the sensibility that they are purveyors of a fringe medium whose target audience is a focus group of geek culture and recognize that comics as a medium is one of power through its ability to communicate effectively to the masses in a simple, cost efficient manner. This cultural repositioning of the medium will be necessary for creators to establish their value to a market that will witness an ever increasing demand for this wonderfully versatile medium.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


The Gutter: The NEW Direct Market

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

2011 is just days away and the whole world is brimming with hope for better economic times. That’s what New Years is all about after all, a clean slate, a new beginning, a new resolve.

Personally, I hate the word hope. It is such and ineffectual state of mind. Hope, to me, is the most meager last resort in an effort to achieve or acquire a goal. If it is necessary to resort to hope, then it is assumed that all other efforts have been exhausted and failed.

Hope has managed to achieve a state of popular acceptance because of its blind faith nature. Those calling upon hope can equate it with placing their aspirations in the hands of God, a higher power or the Universe.

We are much too quick to resort to hope. It is too convenient and too acceptable.

So, I am unwilling to hope that 2011 will be a better year. I am determined that 2011 will be a great year especially for CO2 Comics.

New beginnings require change if we intend to see improvement. This is not Groundhogs Day where we can afford to keep repeating what has gone before.

Change is good!

The biggest change is how readers are going to get their comics.

Direct!

Not Direct Market but Direct to Customer.

I know I just blasphemed the market that has supported the entire industry for the last thirty years and made it possible for independent publishers to be able to sell their comics to a target market but it is time to acknowledge that for the comics industry to grow we are going to have to step outside of the comforts of the Direct Market to reach new audiences.

Dak Franklin

Direct to Customer is not really change it is the embracing of the oldest form of marketing with the most modern tools available. Ben Franklin did just this when he created the first mail order catalog to sell directly to his customers without ever meeting them. He could not have done it without a printing press and a postal service.

Today we have something better than a printing press and the postal service, we have the internet and digital downloads. In the blink of an eye comics can be delivered to your computer, cell phone or e-reading device.

Just a few of the comics at CO2 Comics

CO2 Comics delivers free content via our website with new updates daily. Award winning comic creators like Bernie Mirault, Mike Baron, Mitch O’Connell, Don Lomax and Frank Thorne top off a list artists that present two dozen features and hundred of pages of comics for your reading enjoyment.

The printing press and the post office still offer an opportunity to put physical book in our readers hands. Digital printing presses now give us the opportunity to print one book at a time. This Print on Demand method of publishing gives us the opportunity to produce books and ship them to you hot off the press.

Comics Interview On Sale, Premier Editions retire New Years

CO2 Comics first print publication, David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Volume 1, is a beautiful 680 page black and white book that is offered in two different paperback and hardback editions. The Premier editions which feature a classic style logo that has been available for a limited time only are set to expire on New Year’s Eve. Be a Direct Customer and get your limited edition while you still have a chance.

Direct to Customer comics, whether they be digital or print have the opportunity to find comic readers that may never make their way into a comic shop. Good comics will light a fire in the new readers making them want more and inspire them to share their interest with others.

Sharing the experience of good comics will promote the industry better than any marketing strategy. Word of Mouth is always the best promotion and thanks to social networks like Facebook and Twitter Word of Mouth spreads faster than ever before.

It will be the sharing experience that drives the customer back to the comic shops. Comic shops and comic conventions will be the homes of the culture of the comic enthusiasts. Comic shops will become cultural institutions where fans of the medium gather to share, educate and communicate face-to-face with others that enjoy the same interest.

2011 will be a dynamic year of change in the comic industry as digital content develops a stronger foothold. We all need to work together to enthusiastically promote the medium rather than resist the dramatic changes in format and marketing. A unified front will benefit everyone and ensure economic success for creators, publishers, distributors, and retailers alike.

This is the greatest opportunity for a new beginning since the first comic book was published let us all take advantage it. You can bet CO2 Comics will.

Happy New Year!

Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco



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