Another Father’s Day is looming and as we plan to celebrate dads everywhere I’m getting a little introspective. I am a father of two college students who are excitedly anticipating their future armed with a contemporary education, all the conveniences of modern technology and the promise of continued innovation.
Their world is so much different than the world I experienced when I was their age. Like most fathers I have romanticized about the era I grew up in especially when it concerns pontificating about my own accomplishments. That kind of nostalgia sometimes can make it hard not to resent some of the changes that have been brought by younger generations more relatable to my kids. I then have to recognize that my children and their peers want exactly what I wanted when I was young, an opportunity to be daring, make a difference, and stake a claim.
My focus coming out of college was on the comic book industry, and though I was well versed in the history of comic books and had a deep respect for long established characters and their creators, I was sure it was time for a change.
When I started publishing Comico comics in 1982 with my current CO2 Comics partner, Bill Cucinotta and the LaSorda brothers, we were among a pioneering group of independent publishers that tampered with everything in an effort to make comics better. We effected creator ownership, genre content, production techniques, paper stock, color, distribution, marketing and new package formats. One of the major accomplishments of that era was the eventual eradication of the Comic Code Authority.
The independent comic book publishers of the 1980’s made a difference and I will always be proud to have been a part of it!
The comic book industry had changed forever and continues to. It is no longer an industry that is locked into the regimented formula that it maintained for much of its first forty years of history. Yet, sometimes I find myself resentful of new changes and how they may fly in the face of my nostalgia. I have to remind myself of my involvement in why comics today are not my father’s comic books and why the comic books of the future will not be mine.
Now, when I look at modern comics, I consider myself “old-school” even though CO2 Comics continues to wade through the future by publishing on the web as a creator collective while implementing POD printing, customer direct marketing, and sharing an unheard of 70% of net profits with creators on print projects. These are all things that were not plausible thirty years ago. I still have to consciously embrace new directions for comics for the sake of the future of both the medium and the industry.
That is not to say there is no value in “old-school,” which can too often be more accurately defined as fundamentals.
When we were publishing ROBOTECH back in the 1980’s, Harmony Gold and Revell brought in an old marketing guru named, Irv Handelsman to kick off the licensing bonanza that was ROBOTECH. Irv claimed to have been responsible for the creation of the Mickey Mouse Club and, among other properties, represented Jay Ward Production’s popular characters including Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Bullwinkle the Moose, Boris and Natasha, Dudley Do-Right, and several others.
Irv was as “old-school” as they came! He was the stereotypical old Jewish salesman with a frumpy polyester blazer, mismatched neck tie and dusty briefcase. We would watch in amazement as he would schmooze potential licensees in a private suite at Toy Fair and ring up accounts left-and-right while we secretly mocked his primitive techniques that today would appear lifted from episodes of Mad Men.
More importantly, Irv was a legend in his own mind and got the job done because, I’m sure, at one time he was an aggressive innovator that discovered what worked for him and stuck with it. He also had established himself within a network of toy manufacturers and his reputation for success preceded his techniques.
I think of Irv whenever I feel discriminatory about being “old school” just as I think of the excitement and challenge of tackling the future with new ideas and I realize that there is room for both.
Being an innovator of anything, especially a medium like comics is like being a parent. We have to enjoy our children while we have them, do our job as best we can as parents, then let them go so they can blossom into the best they can be so they can continue to pave the way for the future.
Today’s comic books are not your father’s and, most likely, tomorrow’s will not be yours. Change is good. It is the hope of the future.
Happy Father’s Day!