Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

Who Cares that Comic Creators Get Credit?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

As comic characters continue to roll out of the pages of comic books and into other forms of media, especially television and film, we are discovering a greater interest in who created what. This piqued curiosity is surely the bi-product of heated battles that were fought on behalf of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as the recent settlement regarding the characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby for Marvel.

It is a sad fact of comic book history that creators have most often been taken advantage of by the publishing houses that retain the rights to characters that they created. Many had long careers but were only rewarded by meager, hard earned page rates. They saw no royalties or benefits and in the early years little, if any, credit for their work. Most never even saw the return of their original art. Too many have passed on or continue to live in obscurity, without healthcare and certainly no compensation from their creations which have spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

To be fair, some progress has been made, and in recent years attentive creators and their families have been able to establish some undisclosed agreements that have satisfied both sides. These accounts, however,  are few and far between.

The foremost concern for many creators is not money but rather an acknowledgment of their creative contribution in the form of credit on the screen. This has been demonstrated most recently by a Facebook post from the daughter of the late illustrator, Al Plastino, the co-creator of Supergirl a character that will soon be the focus of a new television series.

She writes:

“Facebook friends, we need you help.

Please help us get Al the credit he is due and all the creators who have died recently and will not see their characters come to life on television or in the movies. They never received any pensions, or health insurance, nothing at all. How disappointing that DC has waited until these gentlemen have passed away to begin producing programs like Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legion of Super Heroes,.Not looking for royalties. Just an acknowledgement of all the work these men put into building the DC brand. All the guys who have drawn or created characters when they were at the height of their popularity. Many nights I saw my father working in his studio to meet deadlines from the editor. At one point, Dad was handling 5 different strips for DC and United Media. Go to the DC website or their facebook page and let the syndicate know. You can do so much more for Al than any lawyer could. You helped Al get the Superman/Kennedy art into the Kennedy library where it was supposed to have been for the last 50 years and for that I am eternally grateful.

go to http://www.dcentertainment.com/#contact

MaryAnn Plastino Charles”

Why is a fleeting credit so important to creators or their families? Why should we care?  Few of us even notice, or stick around for the credits to roll at the end of a film. Those of us that do, understand that the greatest reward to a creator is to be recognized for his or her contribution to our culture. A simple acknowledgement goes a long way.

Think of the closing scenes of the Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion get their awards. A diploma, a testimonial and a medallion were all it took to make the respective characters each feel fulfilled. The tokens were material acknowledgement of who they were and what they accomplished. This is the value of credit to a comic creator especially one that has created a character that has become iconic. It is the fulfillment of their destiny as a comic book creator, to experience immortality vicariously through their creation.

But our society has become desensitized to these simple but important details. Too many of us want to cut to the chase and just consume. There is a sense of entitlement that is too quick to dismiss the value of the effort those involved in creating our entertainment. This is ironic because now, more than ever before, all that information is easily at our fingertips.

A quick Wikipedia search will tell you all you need to know about who created nearly any character with links to biographies of the respective creators.

Supergirl, She was created by writer Otto Binder and designed by artist Al Plastino in 1959.”

The modern Flash, “starred Barry Allen as the Flash and the series assumed the numbering of the original Flash Comics with issue #105 (March 1959) written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino

Green Arrow, Created by Morton Weisinger and designed by George Papp, he first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in November 1941.”

The Legion of Super-Heroes, “The team first appears in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.”

With all of this information so readily available why is it so difficult to ask that they be credited on the screen? Some could argue that so many creators have influenced the current stories being told that the effort becomes daunting. This, however, becomes more of a reason to signal out appropriate credits.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for example, does a nice job of crediting Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. but what about characters like Deathlock created by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench, Quake created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto or Mockingbird first written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Barry Smith? This is just a short list of the many characters that have appeared or are expected to appear in this ongoing series that has proven pivotal to the development of the MCU.

It is important for the world to know that the genre of superheroes did not just come from the fertile minds of a few. The genre is the result of the exceptional talents of a huge number of individuals whose work has been woven into a fabric of an expansive and growing mythology that has become entrenched in our popular culture.

For those of us that care, it is our responsibility to ensure that these creators and their efforts are not forgotten. It is the fans, collectors, historians, teachers and practitioners of the medium who will ultimately maintain the database of information that preserves the integrity of the history of what these comic book creators have accomplished. Hopefully our enthusiasm will be infectious enough that others will take notice and a greater appreciation of those unsung heroes will flourish.

Share if you care.

Gerry Giovinco

Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 1

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Mixing art and business is an unfortunate necessary evil. Most forms of art, though created for very personal reasons, are not complete until they are viewed or experienced by an audience, establishing a mark on the culture of society. The vehicle by which art reaches the audience is where the business acumen is required.

The work of a comics artist reaches its audience through publishing, which until the turn of the twenty-first century required a network of production, printing, marketing, distribution, wholesalers and retailers. Every step of which required that some money changed hands. It was clearly a business.

With the dawn of the new millennium came the rise of the webcomic. Comic artists could reach their audiences by publishing comics on the internet with minimal expense and great success though little money changed hands. Creators still struggle to find ways to monetize this form of publishing and distribution blurring the line between business and hobby.

Publishing and distributing comics digitally via apps on mobile devises is an attempt at a hybrid form of distribution, combining the digital delivery of webcomics with the distribution sensibilities of traditional print publications to generate revenue. Requiring retailers, bar codes and distributors this looks more like a business model the industry is familiar with.

Today, comic creators are motivated to make comics for the same reasons most artists create in any medium, it is in their blood. Creating comics defines who they are and offers them a form of expression that they are most comfortable with.

This was not always the case. Making comics had long been merely a means to an end. Creators made comics simply to get paid a meager page rate by the publisher  and go straight to the bank.

As creating comics has matured as an art form, creators, especially those that self publish or work on “creator owned” projects,  have struggled with an identity crisis. Are they creating art, doing business, or both? Are they succeeding or failing?

This identity struggle is compounded by the perception of the public. Why would anyone make comics if they are not getting paid? Many comic creators find they have to justify the enormous amount of time they spend executing their work to family and friends who question their priorities. Ironically the loudest critics are often those that find comfort in endless hours of scrap-booking, golfing, fishing, playing video games, surfing the internet,  watching television or engrossed in fantasy football.

The reality is that there are many identities that can define a comic creator and no comic creator needs to be defined by every identity. Creator, hobbyist, professional, self publisher, independent, publisher, webcomiker, artist and business person are just some terms that can define who comic creators are. Much depends on the personal motivation of the individual comic creator. Success can only be measured by the accomplishment of the creator’s personal goals.

If a comic creator’s goal is to make money with their comics then they need to be clear that for them, making comics is a business. Regardless how much effort they put into creating the art they need to be equally involved in marketing the work wether it be to other publishers, or through self publishing. Many will discover that creating the comics is the easy part.

Jim Zub, the creator of Skullkickers, recently did a brilliant job of breaking down the distribution of revenue from an average comic book, exposing the harsh reality of the current print comic market.

His breakdown is a harsh reminder that any business is defined by risk. It requires a certain fortitude to brave the risks of any business, especially comics, where the boundaries of the frontier are in a tumultuous state of change.

There  are those that will dive in recklessly, overconfident and self absorbed with their talent and convictions and there are others that will carefully assess the risk, learn the market, take educated chances. Good business stock is found in perseverance, awareness, flexibility, diligence, quality, dependability and accountability

In the end, it may be something as arbitrary as luck that dictates success, being in the right place at the right time. No one wants to admit, however,  that succeeding at comic publishing is as chancy as winning that half billion dollar Powerball Lottery.

Risk has more recently become the burden of the comic creator where before it was that of the publisher, distributor and retailer. Next week I will take a more detailed look at how this has changed in the risky business of comics.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Mini Comics to the Packaging Revolution

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Monkey & Bird…a Love Story by Joe Williams and Tina Garceau is AVAILABLE NOW!!!

The highlight of my week was receiving a copy of Joe Williams and Tina Garceau’s printed mini comic, Monkey and Bird, in the mail. Snail mail, that is.

Back in August we featured a couple of posts by Señor Williams that outlined his experience personally  making the mini comic. He peppered his posts with so many juicy details that almost anyone could go out and make one themselves.

I’ve known Joe and his lovely wife Tina for years, we go all the way back to our college days at PCA and I am well aware of both of their incredible attention to detail and quality not to mention their brilliance as designers yet I still did not expect to be so taken by what a gem their mini comic turned out to be.

Holding Monkey and Bird in my hand as a mini comic was a defining moment for me especially after having published it as a web comic here at CO2 Comics for the last two years. Maybe my reaction is a reflection of my long history of publishing on paper or just evidence of a generational  preference for things printed on paper, but I liked it. A lot!

The web affords us comic creators so many options to be able to present our labors of love to a potentially vast audience with minimal expenses compared to the printed product. Everything about making comics for the internet is so much more convenient and spontaneous that it has given us the opportunity as creators and readers to be able to witness the biggest creative explosion of the medium in its history. All those virtues, however, in my jaded eyes, do not supersede the experience of reading comics in print. I will always have a warm place in my heart for the tangible paper package.

mathmanauts

Mimeograph machine

It has always been clear to me that a comic is never complete until it is in front of an audience. The reader’s experience is a much a part of the final execution of the comic  as any step taken in the creative process along the way. Because I have always felt so strongly about this I began publishing my own comics almost as early as I began creating them. My first published comics were printed on a mimeograph machine. My audience had as much fun smelling them as they did reading them. I slowly graduated to photocopiers and small offset presses before finally dealing with  large, commercial, four-color presses to make Comico comics.

Comico Covers

As I sit here holding Joe and Tina’s  32 page (including covers),  full color, 4 x 5.5 inch, landscaped pamphlet that  is hand folded and saddle stitched with a good old-fashioned Swingline stapler I can’t imagine what my comic producing  experience would have been like if I would have had these production capabilities available to me back in the seventies. I would have traded tracing mimeo stencils and hand cranking purple inked copies for full-color pages spat out of an ink jet or laser printer in a heartbeat!

I did not have an opportunity to go to SPX this weekend but my fond memories of past shows include my amazement of the array of unique and creative packaging techniques that are always displayed. Monkey and Bird would have fit right in! Today’s community of independent comic artists and publishers take full advantage of the technology available to make comics that deliver an experience well beyond panel-to-panel sequential art.

Many people are pondering what is to become of the familiar pamphlet style comic that has been a fixture in the industry for over seventy years. Most believe that digital content will force it into extinction in the not too distant future, watching the sun set on a beloved package.

When I look at my little copy of Monkey and Bird, or think about what I witness at shows like SPXAPE, MOCCA, PACC and Stumptown, I see a different horizon, the shimmering rays of a new day cast by the lights of endless creative opportunity that will offer comics in print and digitally in infinite shapes and sizes. Each format, unique to its creator and not limited by the constraints of a few publishers or a single distributor.

I remember the first glimpse I ever had of this expanding possibility. In 1980 I was mesmerized by the first issue of Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman‘s anthology comic magazine RAW. The full color view out the window of a man committing suicide had been pasted on to the black and white cover of the tabloid sized periodical publication that featured an insane amount of groundbreaking comic art between its pages. The simple collage of the cover alone was enough to have numbed my creative mind for decades, especially in regards to packaging.

RAW

That, to me, was the beginning. Now, the art of making comics has firmly expanded from mastery of designing a page to the mastery of designing the whole package wether in print, on the web, or digitally for a specific device. The day where packaging that requires an entire production team is passing. The comic artist, if they choose, now has the ability to have complete control over the reading experience of the audience if they want it.

As a publisher, like CO2 Comics, today’s technology gives us the opportunity to open new doors of creative discussion with the artists that makes making comics more exciting than ever before. We plan to enjoy every minute of it!

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


Reinvention: The Stepchild of Necessity

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The Comics industry is all too familiar with having to reinvent itself in an effort to survive changing times.

Comics made the jump from newspapers to comic books addressing a new publishing trend in the late thirties.

The forties watched Superman be reinvented over and over as a whole genre of superheroes was created.

The comic book industry rescued itself from oblivion in the fifties by adopting the Comics Code Authority to placate the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency though it placed a stranglehold on much of what made comics interesting and exciting at that time.

Stan Lee

Stan Lee reinvented the superhero genre in the sixties making it viable and relevant to a new generation of readers.

Phil Seuling

The Direct Market pioneered by Phil Seuling in the seventies gave comics the opportunity to be liberated from the Comic Code Authority.

The eighties gave rise to alternative, independent publishers and the concept of creators rights.

Manga

The nineties showed the vulnerability of the Direct Market and the power of Manga in the US market.

The new millennium ushered in the the development of new formats in the wake of Manga’s popularity and the graphic novel matured as a format that began to dominate the market.

The “oughts” also ushered in an entirely new venue for comics in the internet and web comics came on the scene.

Now, as we enter the eighth decade of comic history since the invention of the comic book, (I know I am rounding it off by a few years, we’ll throw a party in 2014 to make up for it) we all have to figure out what to make of the advent of digital comics.

For the first time in history, comics have total access to a global market direct from the hands of creators free from censorship, and the burden of high production costs.

Digital comics, whether they are posted on the web, offered as a downloadable files or banked on a cloud can be read on devices as small as the palm of your hand or as large as the biggest television monitor you can imagine.

Digital spells freedom for creators and freedom of choice for readers. Digital offers a free world of possibility. Now how do we handle all of that potential. More importantly, how do we handle that four letter word: F-R-E-E.

We all love to have the freedom to create as we please but face it, we all need to make a buck, especially in these terrible economic times.

My suggestion is that now is not the time to get greedy. As much as we as creators want to get what we deserve, consumers are looking for the best deal possible.

I for one, as a consumer, will look at all the free content I can get before spending a dime on digital content. I will look at every free website and I know that there is a ton of great stuff that would take me years to read. Just look at the hundreds of pages of dynamite material right here at CO2 Comics. Hey, I’m in all my glory because guess what…it’s FREE! FREE! FREE!

Now, on the outside chance that I’m an unusual cheapskate, tightwad I have to wonder how the folks selling digital content for prices that resemble regular comic prices are making out.

I’ve seen the reports that brag sales of digital content for mobile devices that are ten times that of last year and I have to be impressed but what does that really mean? First I have to remember that this technology is only about a year old. How many downloads did they sell that first year? Ten times what?

Captain Visual's big Book of Balloon Art

Since July my first book for the iPad Captain Visual’s Big Book of Balloon Art, which as an e-book sells for $11.99 as opposed to a $24.95 book in print, has increased in sales by 1500%! That is an incredible increase especially in a ridiculously slow market. I bet you want to run out and see what all the fuss is about don’t you?

Well I’m happy to brag about those numbers all day but the truth is I sold one e-book in July. Go ahead, do the math. That’s right. I’ve sold 15 copies in the last six months. At the same time my print copy has sold only six times as many copies as I sold in July but that is six times three at more than twice the price.

You can see how a positive spin can influence a consumer and even a producer interested in digital content.

Publishers will often compare the success of digital content to the slacking sales of a hardback edition but neglect to tell you how the paperback is outselling both.

Digital content is a new toy for the comics industry. Don’t rush in ill informed. Don’t tie up your digital distribution rights based on clouded numbers. Don’t become a statistic in a digital bookstore with an app provider that promises you a gateway to an exciting new market that is yet to be defined.

Don’t throw away your freedoms yet.

My opinion is that digital content should be considered disposable content and should be priced accordingly.

I can’t see selling a digital comic for more than the price of a can of soda or a candy bar. I want to be ravenous about what I want to read regarding comics. I want to read as much as I can and I am not excited about storing the content the way I am excited about collecting a comic book. Sell me the comic for 99¢ or a subscription of 12 for $10 and I’ll be happy.

This is our time to reach a wider audience than we could have ever imagined. We want the world to see our comics. Our intellectual property. A hundred thousand people might be willing to spend a buck on a digital comic like they do on music but raise the price and you will see those numbers fall dramatically. Would you rather sell a hundred thousand e-comics at a dollar or one thousand e-comics at two or three dollars?

Be willing to wholesale your comics and you will find a greater audience. If you don’t believe me look at the Walmarts of the world. They find their success in selling large quantities at the lowest possible price and they are making dinosaurs out of their competition.

Marvel and DC will continue to dictate the market and control the IP of the comic world if everyone is enticed to follow their lead into overpriced content. The market for independent comic publishers will always remain constricted if we continue to price our product where only the hardcore fan is willing to pay for it.

Reach the masses by selling to their pocket change and you will have a property that everyone wants and is eventually willing to pay top dollar for.

At CO2 Comics our comics are free as I mentioned earlier. They are free because we want you to read them and we have faith that you will respect the properties and want to support the creators by buying their works or services that are or may be available for sale.

We expect that if you enjoy the material you will share it with your friends offering greater exposure for the creators and their property. You look all smart, cultured and influential and we reach more readers. Win! Win!

We also know that if you can get the work for free right here you are less likely to download from some torrent site where the creators have no control or benefit at all from the piracy of their works. Thank You!

This decade will be less about reinventing comics as it is about reinventing how comics get to the consumer. We plan to reach as many of you as possible. In the process we will make great comics that will generate revenue in creative ways for the creators.

What do we want from you? Just some respect and your willingness to spread the word. I think it’s a great deal. Don’t you?

Enjoy the next decade! We plan to!

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco


© 2009-2018 CO2 COMICS All Rights Reserved. All other material © their respective creators & companies