Posts Tagged ‘Super Heroes’

The Olympics, Superheroes and Comic Books

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

I grew up watching the Olympics during the Cold War. The Olympic games to me were as much a competition between athletes as it was a battle between Democracy and the Communist Block. It was, in fact, an epic conflict driven by propaganda, heavily promoted by both sides.

As a young boy fascinated by superheroes and comic books, the athletes easily grabbed my attention. They were living super heroes! They were the fastest, strongest, most agile, determined men and women on the planet competing head-to-head in a war of good verses evil on a global stage. Like superheroes their uniforms were emblazoned with logos and distinct colors that identified their allegiance to the flag of their country.

Every competition played out like an adventure from a comic book. Each athlete was a character with a unique story and a goal, motivated by love of country and principles of political righteousness and good sportsmanship. Their struggles unfolded before our eyes as the tension of suspense  played out to the tune of the Olympic anthem and climaxed with “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

There is a sense of life-and-death finality to the results of the Olympic games that make the drama so great. For most of the athletes, their dream to win a gold medal and stand atop the podium representing their country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Few get the chance to redeem a failure since the Olympic games occur only every four years, closing the window of peak performance for even the greatest athletes. At least for the athletic careers of many of the competitors, winning the gold requires a do-or-die mentality that adds to the heroism of their efforts.

Even the setting of the Olympics is an environment of futuristic fantasy. The host city of every Olympic game spares no expense to create a sporting plaza that exceeds the expectations of modern technology. Arenas with state of the art architecture and technology, built to accommodate a one-time audience that gathers from around the world creating the illusion of a global, peace-loving community. Behind the scenes however always lies the intrigue of threat from terrorists, protestors and criminal minds focused on using the visibility of the Olympics to draw attention to their heinous acts.

The parallel perspective of athletes to superheroes dates back to the mythological origins of the ancient Greek games heralding the battle between the great gods Zeus and Kronos for dominance of the world and the adventures of the demi-god Hercules who it is said was the only contestant at the first Olympic games though he did manage to wrestle his father,  Zeus to a draw.

Today’s Olympic athletes are faster, leaner, stronger than those that I watched as a child. Advances in media technology give audiences of the world  a high definition view of every ripple in their muscles, every bead of sweat on their brow and every fiber  in their aerodynamic uniforms that have changed dramatically since the modern Olympic games have begun.

Today’s athlete’s uniforms make them look more like characters from comic books than ever before with shiny, tight and skimpy designs made to enhance their performances. Olympic athletes and photographers even find ways to prove that the popular comic book device known as the broke back pose is possible to achieve. The vast audiences prove  that the Olympics and their many sponsors have not forgotten how to use sex successfully as a marketing tool.

With all of the similarities between the Olympics and super hero comic books it would be nice if the millions of people that are watching the Olympics world-wide would saunter over to a local comic shop and discover for themselves that the widely considered small niche market of super hero comics may have a broader appeal than the general public suspects. It may not be just a small male demographic that enjoys looking at muscles, defined figures, sexy images, and thrilling to adventurous competition focused on world dominance after all. Just keep that Olympic torch out of the comic shop please.

Enjoy the games. Let the comics begin!

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 Great Comic Book Flood of 2011

Monday, June 6th, 2011

August 31 is becoming a benchmark day in comics. Remember that date in 2009? That was the day Disney bought Marvel for roughly four billion bucks and we all suspected that the comics industry would change forever. It didn’t.

This year all the current hullabaloo is about DC Comics’ announcement that it will renumber and revamp its entire line beginning with the release of the all new Justice League Number One to be released on…you guessed it…August 31. This too is expected to change the world of comics forever. It won’t.

Regardless what they say, do or plan, the big two have only goal and that is the market dominance of their perspective trademarks. You can’t blame them, it’s big business, but their focus is not really on the comics. You can believe that if you want to, but the real value of both brands is in film, licensing and merchandising of their trademarked intellectual property and has been for a long time.

The big two are so protective of their properties and dominating roles that they share exclusive trademark ownership of the term “Super Heroes.”

Marvel and DC do not want competition in the marketplace that they have comfortably controlled for decades when it comes to folks in tights, but the growth and success of independent publishers and unique comic related properties that have demonstrated an ability to succeed are causing them to tighten their grip on the market.

Remember When?Both companies have always employed the ultimate biblical equalizer, the flood, when they found it necessary. The advent of the Direct Market has made the flood an even more effective tool since it has established what amounts to be a captive audience with limited spending resources. Whenever Marvel or DC have detected a threat to their market share, either one or both have simply increased their output and financially drowned their competition.

Pour one for our Homies

The first significant wave of independent publishers in the 1980’s,PacificCapital, Eclipse, First, Comico and others, all fell victim when Marvel flooded the market with X-Men spin-offs that were met with DC counter productions. The market could not bear the glut and the indies were the casualty.

DC’s announcement of a relaunch of their entire line of 52 titles is business as usual. A flood of epic proportion of first editions with variant covers, day and date digital content, print and digital combo packages and the final nail in the coffin…return-ability.

Marvel is not going to sit by and get waxed. They will counter. Independents, look out! You may as well not even plan to publish from September on, or at least until the novelty wears off. Break out the water-wings the Great Comic Book Flood of 2011 is coming and it will not be pretty.

Comic fans, if you love the medium, it is time to stop acting like lemmings. How many decades do you have to read story after story of the same old stuff? Is it possible to really do anything new or interesting with these characters that the big two have been milking for seventy years? Get real. The answer is, “NO!

It is time to support new material if you really want to read exciting NEW comics. There are plenty of publishers out there putting out great, truly original material either in print, digitally or on the web. Marvel and DC are not going anywhere. You can get a fix of your favorite character at any time but please don’t, as a fan, be responsible for propagating a marketplace that stifles the opportunity for the creation and success of exciting new characters by exploiting blind brand loyalty and worse, the zeal of speculation.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

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