Posts Tagged ‘super hero’

Misguided Girl Power

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

There is a revolution going on and its objective seems to be about empowering little girls. Is it really an attempt, however, to redefine the personal interests and tastes of young ladies to meet the criterion of a particular marketing agenda?

Disney, for example has been actively distancing it’s princess characters from their “damsel in distress” stereotype. Recent animated films like Frozen, Brave, and Tangled along with live action versions of Maleficent and Cinderella actively seek to portray strong female characters that exemplify bravery, courage, strength and conviction. Are their efforts more about empowering young girls or corralling, back into the fold, those that are showing interest in the strong female characters that have been popping up in superhero films?

Marvels cinematic girl power

When Disney purchased Marvel in 2009 they gained a huge library of superhero characters, many of which were dominant females. The current success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has already propelled a number of these strong women characters into the forefront. Black Widow, Lady Sif, Gamora, Nebula, Scarlet Witch, Agent Peggy Carter,  Pepper Potts, Maria Hill, Melinda May, Daisy (Skye) Johnson, and others have all proven their ability to more than hang with the male characters. They are all powerful and independent women that have proven they can take care of themselves. Do not expect to find dolls, costumes,  toys or any other merchandise depicting them, however, because they will not appeal to the boys that the superhero market is deemed to be intended for.

The girls of Big Hero 6

One merchandising company’s response to a mother in search of girl characters from Big Hero 6 for her daughters says it all:

Hi Veronica,

Thanks for your email! Here is a little background on how we develop our designs.  When designing for a new film, we are developing well before the film is released and long before we have seen the movies ourselves.  Thus, we rely on the filmmakers to provide a recommended target audience.  Disney’s target audience for Big Hero 6 is boys 5-12 and secondary are girls 5-12 and teens.  Since this is geared toward boys, we chose to focus either on the main characters (in this case Baymax and Hiro), or on just the boy characters.  We have found boys do not want girl characters on their things (eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha). Should Big Hero 6 continue to resonate in the market place I think you will begin to see more product and even fabric with all the characters including the female characters.

I hope this helps explain why you might see product this way. We enjoy hearing feedback like this. So please, continue to do so.

Best regards,

Emily Robbins Kelly

Licensing Manager

Springs Creative Products Group, LLC”

This marketing ideology goes both ways and though we would love to believe that the intent of strong characters marketed to our youth, both male and female,  is to empower our children as they develop strong personal identities, they are more likely being used to define and manipulate a specific demographic to market to.

Disney of course is the master of marketing but the House the Mouse Built has established a model of success that is frequently emulated.

So here comes DC/Warner Brothers with an attempt at cornering a superhero market targeted at little girls ages 6-12 in hopes of competing with the princesses that have owned the market since the new millennium.

DC Super Hero Girls focuses on the female superheroes and super villains of the DC comic book universe while they are young teens that are relatable to the intended audience. Iconic characterts like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Bumble Bee, Poison Ivy, Katana and others will grow as young women discovering their full super-power potential.

DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson says it all with this statement:

“DC Entertainment is home to the most iconic and well-known superheroes including Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl, DC Super Hero Girls represents the embodiment of our long-term strategy to harness the power of our diverse female characters. I am so pleased that we are able to offer relatable and strong role models in a unique way, just for girls.”

Just for girls.

This is from the president of one of the largest companies in an industry that is screaming for comics to be inclusive and diverse!

Is it not possible to create a product that appeals to a demographic like young girls without being exclusionary? Didn’t Nelson herself do that when she oversaw the marketing of Warner Brothers’  Harry Potter franchise?

And then there is the other problem. The featured characters have been icons in a market that has been dominated by boys and men  for decades. They have been sexualized, objectified, tortured, and even raped in comic books. Are these the characters we want our six-year-old daughters to identify with?  Sure, these will not be the stories that will be exposed to in the “just for girls” club, but what happens when the young, new converts look across the aisle at Wonder Woman in a titillating “broke-back” pose or see Batgirl in bondage, or Harley Quinn in a maniacally bloody rage on the cover of another comic in the local comic shop How do we explain the sexy pinups of those strong female role models when our daughters want to go to a comic con? How do we prevent the stand-off when feminists and sexists clash, as they continue to, over images such as the sexy covers parodied by Frank Cho?

This is why corporations protect their trademarks. Their value lies in their broad appeal which is preserved by avoiding being offensive in general. The best trademarks appeal to everyone and you only have to look as far as Mickey Mouse for a stellar example. Nobody messes with Mickey!  But DC has tarnished their trademarks from the inside out, focusing  primarily on the interests of an audience of young to middle age men.  The characters that DC is now trotting out for little girls may have been meant for young readers forty or fifty years ago but have long grown away from being suitable for that audience. It will be  like making Betty Page comics for little girls. She can be drawn wholesomely and have wonderful, empowering  adventures but what happens when the girls discover that Betty grows to be a pinup queen with a troubled life that led her into exile?

DC has a lot of work to do. They either need to clean up their house and redefine the integrity of their trademarks or create new iconic characters that are suitable for the intended audience. If they want to empower little girls, allow them to feel included instead of separated. “Just for girls” is no better than “back of the bus.” Why can’t we all be able to pick up a comic, enjoy a cartoon, or play with a toy and enjoy it because we like it, not because some corporation told us we should?

Because target markets make it easy to sell product. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Girls can like superheroes, that doesn’t mean that they need to see men or women in comics be subjugated.

Boys can like princesses, that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate a strong male or female character. When our culture strives to empower each other equally and as individuals. Not how we or some corporate marketer thinks they should be. That’ is s when we will all be superheroes and it won’t matter who likes pink or blue.

This is not to say that there can not be all kinds of comics and all kinds of superheroes. Walk into a book store or a library and you will find sections dedicated to personal interest, appropriate age group or subject matter. Comics and characters need to be better defined in a similar way so that audiences can identify them and easily determine what appeals to their personal interest or maturity level. Marvel did this successfully with their release of Daredevil on Netflix, a platform that allowed for a more violent and mature content, a far cry from the PG-13 Avengers fare that will appear across the board in media and merchandise. Daredevil will also not be popping up on party plates and kiddie underwear and nowhere did Daredevil show runners describe the series as “Just for Men.”

Gerry Giovinco

Super Hero September is Great for Comic Books

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I have been waiting for decades for Marvel and DC to step up to the plate and aggressively promote comic books.  Not just movies, toys and merchandise featuring their characters, but comic books. That is, after all, what they do right? Make comic books?

In 2011 DC surprised me with their promotion of the New 52. It was a huge promotional campaign across all media but was unfortunately  more focused on the derailment of their iconic characters’ established identity in popular culture as they redefined them for a changing market. Ever since, DC has made one marketing blunder after another to the point where there is even a site that tracks the number of days since DC did something stupid.

Their efforts, no matter how misguided, did generate interest and drive new people into comic book shops though I believe it frustrated long time fans by bastardizing the characters that they had loved for decades.

One thing DC did, according to the Hollywood Reporter, was establish September as a promotional battleground that has now instigated a devastating counterattack of heroic proportions by Marvel/Disney.

September is now Marvel Super Hero September  encouraging fans to “Power up like a Marvel Super Hero!”

Lately, after a very respective run of hugely successful films that have ecstatically (unlike DC) maintained the integrity of their long standing source material, Marvel can do no wrong. Combined with the added resource of the Disney Marketing Machine, Marvel is now a pop culture juggernaut. (FOX pun intended).

A visit to the Super Hero September web page is evidence of the things that Marvel is currently doing right in this marketing campaign.

1. Masthead includes mega blockbuster characters from all of their hit films, carefully spotlighting a couple of female characters and their new successful franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy. (Note: no X-Men!)

2. They offer a contest that promotes their brand, establishes the good morals that we all expect from our favorite superheroes, builds a mailing list and offers a great prize: a trip on a Disney Cruise ship. (How many times can you promote a corporate product in one sentence?)

3. Impressive list of retail partners that includes: Hasbro, Kmart, Party City, Payless, Target, Walmart, Hallmark,Disney Store and their own on line Marvel Shop.

4. Comic books! My initial, jaded scan of the site seemed to confirm my suspicion that, once again comic books, would be overlooked by an eager attempt to sell toys and movies but to my surprise I easily found several links to available comic books throughout!

5. Comics for Kids! This has been a peeve of many that comics have matured leaving little for the youth market. Marvel tackles this head on with a line for young readers with comics available digitally and it print.

6. Links to comic shops!  Again I suspected that comic shops would play no fiddle to the big chains but in most places on the site where comics are presented in print there is a big fat link to the Comic Shop Locator Service!

7. Sharing. There is a relatively subtle button that seems redundant to the marvelkids.com button in that it sells young reader books, but on the surface it brilliantly commands, “Share Your Universe.”  This statement does two wonderful things that every brand craves for. It hands “ownership” of the brand to the fan and it tells them it is worth sharing, “you do not need to be alone in your enjoyment of this brand.”

There is so much more that is positive about what Marvel is doing with this campaign including promoting it on Disney owned ESPN in the height of football season that a book could probably be written on the marketing strategies involved.

This is obviously a big win for Marvel but it could be a huge win for the comic book industry in general.  Comic books are being promoted on a global scale in a positive light for the first time ever. This is not an event like the death of a character, this is a brand-wide promotion. It is time to ride the wave and make sure that everyone in comics benefits from the traffic that Marvel will continue generate.

Comic shops have shown their ability to grow where traditional bookshops have been failing. They need to prepare to further capitalize on the success that Marvel is generating by directing the broadening audience to the wide selection of subject matter made available by indy publishers. The consumers may be coming in for Marvel superheroes but they can discover a much broader world than they expected, the world of comic books if those in the industry choose to show them the way.

When it comes to comic books, let September be for super heroes just leave the rest of the year for everyone else. Thanks, Marvel!  Maybe DC will learn something.

Gerry Giovinco



Mark Millar is Right!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Mark Millar’s assertion that a Justice League film is “an excellent way of losing $200 million” is dead-on but not for the reasons he stipulates.

The idea that the characters that comprise the membership of Justice League of America are outdated is insane. The core group of founding members of the JLA; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, are not only iconic characters, they have literally established and defined the entire superhero genre over their 75 year history.

Where the powers-that-be at DC and Warner continually fail and why a JLA film would tank is that, for some reason, these classic characters are considered by them as never good enough, never mature enough, never edgy enough. The properties are constantly the subject of reboots to make them more relevant, more gritty, more believable. In the process these characters have become unrecognizable to generations of fans that have an idealized passion for the originals.

Marketing geniuses that license the DC properties understand this passion and that is why classic images of these characters adorn every product imaginable from Converse sneakers to slip covers for car seats. You don’t see licensees rushing to conform to likenesses of these characters from DC’s New 52. Why? Because the reboots of these characters are a bastardization of the classics whose only purpose is to distance copyright and trademark enforcement from the original creators.

There is a reason that these characters have been around for as long as they have. Something about them has struck a deep cultural nerve that has allowed them to be ingrained into our society. They are beloved.

Leave them alone already!

I was watching a designer on the Rachel Ray show the other day who was expounding on the enduring virtues of classic design. Classics never go out of style. Update with accessories! This has been lost on DC.

Stan Lee has always said that a great character should be easily defined by a simple statement. The JLA lineup has that in spades to the point where just the name of each character defines most of them. These are the characters audiences want to see in a film not a convoluted mess like they saw in the film Green Lantern.

That movie should have been about a guy with a ring that gave him superpowers. Boom! Instead we had to suffer through the history of the Green Lantern Corps and be introduced to more characters than we were ready to digest. Seriously. I just wanted to see Green Lantern fight some bad guys and save the day with his bad-ass ring!

Marvel Entertainment gets this. They do a great job of embracing the original source material and simply defining their characters. Look at The Avengers. Iron Man – guy in a metal suit. Thor – god of thunder. Captain America – super soldier. Hulk…now there’s a study.

The Hulk was in two films that audiences could not embrace. Those films were too much about what made Bruce Banner tick. Inner conflicts. Fancy cinematography. CGI. They strayed away from what was simple yet great about the character: Make Hulk mad and Hulk will smash. Oh, and he’s green.

Director Josh Whedon understood this and gave us the Hulk that we saw in The Avengers. Suddenly the Hulk was a breakout character again. Hulk was there. Hulk got pissed. Hulk smashed. Ta-da! The audience ate it up.

The Avengers was brilliant in its simplicity regarding character development. Every character was easily defined, relying heavily on what people knew and expected from them, not from their previous individual movies as much as what we knew about them from their decades of existence in popular culture.

With The Avengers film, Marvel Entertainment had a plan to market each character through their own feature film then combine them as a super group in The Avengers capitalizing on the exact marketing strategy that Stan Lee exploited with the comic books featuring the same characters. Stan, ironically, borrowed this strategy from DC who’s success combining their own banner characters to form the JLA, in part, instigated the creation of The Fantastic Four, miraculously giving Marvel a new life.

DC would do well to reverse engineer this marketing plan by giving us a Justice League film that gives us highlights of the classic characters as we know and love them in a dynamite team adventure then spinning each character off into their own film after audiences have re-embraced the characters. This would work best if they were sure not to convolute the characters and dramatically depart from the institutions that they already are.

Good luck with that.

Maybe DC would be less likely to over think their characters if the film was titled Super Friends.

It may be that the only producers capable of making a profitable Justice League film are those in the porn industry. Those superheroes are always recognizable, even with their clothes off.

More on this rant next week.

Gerry Giovinco


Identity Crisis

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Super Hero Summer is upon us!

There is no shortage of capes at the multi-plex this year. Thor , Green Lantern, X-Men and Captain America all battle it out on the big screen for box office supremacy while, finally making it to the stage on Broadway, Spiderman is surprising pundits as audiences actually fill the seats of the production that  was expected to be a dismal failure.

With all of this high powered super heroics going on I am noticing that critics are having a difficult time being judicious with their opinions.  In general, reviewers seem to be struggling with characters that lack dimension, story lines that are too simplistic and imagery, action and effects that over power the contents of the story.

My favorite critiques usually end with a summation that reads something like, “Full of action and dynamic visuals, weak story and character development. Not completely terrible. If you are a pre-teen boy, you will probably love it.”

This is the heart of what I see as an identity crisis that plagues the comic industry and nearly every franchise that is based on super heroes.

Virtually everyone has lost sight  that the original source material for practically every  major super hero was created for children and young adults at best.

It has been a recent evolution that super hero comics and related subject matter appeal to a more adult audience. This mature audience is one that grew up with an appreciation of the nuances of the original source material and are now capable of suspending disbelief as they watch their favorite characters evolve into more mature and realistic situations and environments.

This audience is a very specific  one and I think we are finding that the average adult audiences may not have the same appreciation for the super hero characters because they are not able to make the jump from characters that they may have appreciated as children now being in these mature situations.

This is obviously something that the studios are struggling with. Who is the target market for these films? Their response seems to be everyone. The critics want it to be everyone.  But when you target everyone you have to realize that there will be a shift away from the original source material that was focused on entertaining young boys.

When my son and I get into animated discussions about the exploits of a super heroes my wife is always quick to chime in that the characters “are not real!”

WE KNOW! But that never stops our enjoyment of the fantasy and the trivia that is associated with these characters.

This is the lesson that I wish producers, critics and audiences would learn. These stories should be fun amazing adventures about colorful characters that possess a strong sense of good verses evil. That is what the original stories were about and they are beloved classics of the medium. Why should they be portrayed any differently.

Trying to make rational, believable stories with these characters is like trying to do that with Santa Claus. Most of us grown-ups know that Santa is not real but we still have a warm place in our heart for all those fantastic stories we believed about him,  his reindeer, and his elves when we were kids. We are sure quick to make sure that our children get a full dose of that same fantasy and it is a tradition that is passed on from generation to generation.

I never thought that Santa’s mythology was too different from that of most super heroes, so why can’t we  be allowed to enjoy our favorite caped crusaders the same way. With pure unadulterated amazement and a willing suspension of disbelief.

My favorite super hero  movie of all time is The INCREDIBLES just for this reason. It is great ‘old-school’ fun, action and adventure that everyone can enjoy for just what it is.

Anyone who knows me will attest that I have always been a big CAPTAIN AMERICA fan and I cannot wait for that film to hit the screen! I have been closely watching the previews and my hopes are so high because from everything I see, they have this one right on the nose.

Simon and Kirby

Might I be disappointed?  Maybe.  But if they make the film anywhere close to the source material that was created by two creative giants of the Golden Age, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, it could set a new standard for how super hero comics should be adapted. My fingers are crossed!

I guess that is my biggest point. If we as comic fans can consider all those great creators from the early days of comics to be geniuses why should we be satisfied when their work is tampered with. You know what? They created that material for kids and they did a hell of a job doing it. The work was great and it still is so please give it to me full strength.

SPIDER-MAN Turn off the Dark learned that lesson the hard way. We all know the story behind the disaster that play was when it veered off into some strange mythological monstrosity. It wasn’t till it returned to the roots of the original source material that the play stood a chance. Now the audiences are coming and guess who is sitting in the seats wide-eyed with amazement and dreams of swinging from that web? Young boys who want to believe in Spider-Man and that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

How cool is that?

Please do not mistake this rant as comics are for kids!!! Comics are a medium of expression like any other medium and should be used to express any idea to any audience and I firmly believe that. There are many great adult themed comics about many different topics including super heroes and quite a few have made some great adult themed films.

This does not mean that we should no longer make comics for kids or that we can’t make super hero comics for adults. I’m just saying let’s appreciate the original source material and who it was originally created for when adapting a comic to another media and we may surprise ourself with a more successful films than we are used to.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


Father’s Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Two weeks ago we ran a blog post here at CO2 Comics titled The King and The Man that compared excerpts of interviews with Stan Lee and the late Jack Kirby who recollected their dramatically opposing perspectives of the creation of the FANTASTIC FOUR and much of the Marvel Universe.

The post sparked an animated debate throughout the internet in forums and discussion boards on comic related sites, highlighted for us at CO2 Comics by a brief and pleasant correspondence with the son of a legend, Neal Kirby who politely defended the validity of his father’s position.

This week as, we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, Neal Kirby has delighted us again by offering CO2 Comics the opportunity to post a very touching Father’s Day letter that he has written as a tribute to his dad.

Those who follow our posts regularly know that Tuesday is our feature blog day and that this would be our last blog before Father’s Day. By coincidence, today is Flag Day. What better day to honor the man that gave us the original star spangled superhero, CAPTAIN AMERICA?

We are proud and humbled to be able to present to you this letter from Neil Kirby to his father and the father of superhero comics as we have known them, Jack “King” Kirby:

Happy Father’s Day; Glad You’re Not Here

Jack Kirby and son Neal, Photo © Neal Kirby

I’ve just turned 63 and my fathers’ been gone over 18 years, but I still cry when I think of him, especially when I see one of those overly realistic WW II shows, and I see him as a young man trudging through northern France dodging machine guns, mortars, and those dreaded ‘88’s, until his feet froze inside his boots.   I cry when I think of all the nights I spent in his little 10X10 studio in the basement of our Long Island home (“the Dungeon”) watching a Brooklyn Dodger game or Victory at Sea on a little black and white TV in a wooden cabinet.  Most of all I miss watching him create and draw.  He would sit there, hours on end, pipe or cigar in mouth, right hand flying over the page, sometimes simultaneously writing story notes or script in the margins for the mythology that became the Marvel Universe.   And always surrounded by bookcases full of his beloved books: history, mythology, Science fiction – especially the pulps!

Young Jack Kirby, Photo © Neal Kirby

Captain America 1

For those of you familiar with the world of comic books, the name Jack Kirby is instantly synonymous with being the greatest comic book artist – ever.  Captain America, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Thor, and the Silver Surfer; just to name a few out of hundreds.  Those with also a modicum of knowledge of comic book history are also aware that my father was either the creator or co-creator of almost all the Marvel characters he had a hand in bringing to the public.

First appearances of Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, The Hulk, X-Men and Thor

If your unfamiliar with the comics industry, and just enjoy super-hero movies, you will notice my fathers’ name on some screen credits, usually buried at the end of the movie; sometimes, as in the recent “Thor” release, coming third after someone who had no hand in the characters’ creation other than being the editor-in-chief’s brother.  Unfortunately, for the past several years, some in the comics industry who have had the benefit of longevity have used the opportunity to claim to be the sole creator of all of Marvels’ characters. Must be great to be the last man standing.  It would seem that being backed by the public relations department of a large corporation buys access into the 24/7 news cycle.

Marvel movies based on Kirby creations

My father, to the contrary, was the most humble person I ever knew, probably to his detriment.  If you were to ask anybody who ever knew him they would tell you that was his most endearing trait. Taking credit for someone else’s work was just not in his make-up.  His super heroes did not consider themselves to be super or heroes.  There was no ego involved.  His goal through his characters was to be the defender of the little guy; the just and noble whose role, whether chosen or thrust upon them, was to protect those who through no fault of there own could not defend themselves.

Kirby Family 1961, Neal, Roz, Susan, Jack and Barbara up front, Photo © Neal Kirby

Maybe it’s now time for those still in the industry and comic book/super-hero fans, the “little guys,” to speak out.  Demand fairness not just for my father, but also for all those who have unjustly had their creative credit stolen from them.  As my father would say, “Show a little moxie!”

So Dad, I love you and miss you, but I’m glad you’re not here; not here to see others take credit for the characters you selflessly created over the years for the enjoyment of millions of children and adults.  But God, I sure wish you were the last man standing.

Neal Kirby 2011


The Gutter | HOT HOT HOT!

Monday, June 29th, 2009
Firemans Hall Museum

Firemans Hall Museum

Joe Williams is back at it again with an educational piece originally done for the Philadelphia Fireman’s Hall Museum located at 147 N 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA., to be displayed as wall murals. Hot Topics exploits the use of comics as a pure communication medium, using words and pictures to clearly educate and entertain young readers about the important subject of fire safety.
The lessons in this story are valuable and life saving!

We encourage you to send this link http://www.co2comics.com/pages/co2_hot_topics.html to parents, educators and firefighters that you know so that they can share it with their children and young members of their community. We promised that CO2 Comics would be devoted to exploring the medium of comics.

Fireman's Hall Exhibit

Joe & Tina's son Lloyd at the Fireman's Hall Exhibit

Hot Topic

Hot Topics

Joe’s works, Deadline and Hot Topics, which were both originally commissioned as marketing pieces, have been valuable examples of use of the medium outside the realm of traditional super hero or adventure stories. Looking towards the future we may find the need to create a category for this type of comic so that it may be signaled out as a viable use of the medium that is a marketable option for comic artists. Thanks Joe for the good stuff, now excuse me while I replace the batteries in my smoke detectors.

Gerry G.


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