Posts Tagged ‘superhero’

‘Captain America’ Cries the Red, White and Blues

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Anyone out there who has remotely cared about how comic creators have been screwed out of even the tiniest morsel of the tremendous profits  generated by Hollywood’s superhero bonanza had to let out a huge guffaw after reading a recent Variety  interview with Chris Evans, who will star as Captain America throughout a contracted six film run for Marvel Entertainment. His commitment is now half completed with this past weekend’s blockbuster release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The star spangled actor seems fairly constrained when talking about the trials and tribulations of portraying the famed First Avenger, careful not to raise the ire of Marvel studio execs but can’t help himself from peaking the nerves of their stingy bean counters with a little help from Avenger cast ring leader, Robert Downey, Jr.

Evans says Marvel will often send him pictures of “Captain America” action figures that are molded after his likeness, but that he doesn’t profit from the merchandising. “I see my nephew wearing underwear with my face on it,” says Evans. “I’m like ‘what’s going on?’ But for some reason, (no money comes) my way.” Adds Downey: “Nobody gets anything from the toys, and nobody ever will.” Then he promises: “I’m working on it.”

What if?

It’s a hoot seeing these mega-stars crying over the money they are not making especially after they all made such a big scene about renegotiating their contacts going into Avengers 2 after the original Avengers film grossed over $1.5 billion world-wide, ranking it number three in all-time box office sales. Adding fuel to the fire was the huge discrepancy of pay between stars. Downey made $50 million for his role as Iron Man while other Avengers  made as little as $200,000 for their silver-screen super-heroics generating comments like, “On what planet is that fair!”

True to form, Marvel continues to “strong-arm and bully” the talent, wether it is an aging comic book creator or a celebrated Hollywood actor, with threats of law suits and dismissal of service held against detractors. Marvel considers talent to be expendable so long as they control the Intellectual Property of their vast library which they protect with the might of Odin to the point that even Disney power suits stand clear.

As each new Marvel film exceeds expectations and rings up record revenue it becomes more apparent that Marvel is as mythic as its heroes and villains when it comes to sheer greed. Soon their brand will be synonymous with companies like Walmart and McDonalds whose employees require government assistance to survive because they are paid and treated so poorly.

Maybe the high profile whining of celebrities like Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and others will bring attention to Marvel’s unscrupulously tight fisted business ethics. Maybe the stars and the public will finally gain sympathy for the Kirby family who do not see one red cent from all of the characters that Jack Kirby co-created, without which none of these actors would have a role to play or complain about in the first place.

Unions in Hollywood are powerful, they have the ability to freeze the industry. Should the writers and actors become sympathetic to the plight of comic creators and their heirs, some justice could still come to those that have been denied fair compensation for their contribution to both the Marvel and DC Universes for decades. Maybe the courts will finally recognize the injustices that they’ve been catering to as they suckled the teats of big business.

Let’s root for the Marvel films to be so successful that  the stars can’t stand watching the vast amounts of money that is sure to elude them. Put them in the shoes of Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Ditko, Jerry Siegle, Joe Shuster and a long parade of other comic creators that worked for a lousy page rate under the shackles of a work-for-hire agreement and never saw royalties when their creations became films, toys or underwear.

The stars representing beloved heroes will put an unmistakable face on the unfair practices of Marvel and DC that a comic creator hunched over a drawing board or typewriter never could. Maybe then the world will appreciate the injustices that many of us have known about for decades and some things will change in the comics industry.

A perturbed Chris Evans is a great start. His character, Captain America, represents the American Dream and has stood for all that is fair and good in this country since his creation by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1941.

It is only right that Captain America should now lead this charge against the corporate greed and bullying that grips our nation, exemplified by Marvel, the self proclaimed builders of our modern mythology. There is more than a man behind that shield he carries, there is the heart of a nation that cannot be taken away. It is time we all stand behind that red, white and blue shield together to defend what we know  is morally right. It is time for a battle cry! America, Assemble!

Gerry Giovinco



Worlds Apart – Stan Lee and Alan Moore

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

A recent review by Bob Duggan of Clifford Meth’s Comic Book Babylon led off with the title The Real Heroes and Villains in Comic Books. It featured spot illos of a typically exuberant Stan Lee and brooding Alan Moore beautifully rendered by Michael Netzer.

The arrangement of the portraits beneath the title insinuates, at first glance, that Smilin’ Stan, with Spidey dangling in the background, represents the heroes and Scowlin’ Alan embraces the villainous dark side.

According to Duggan’s review, however, both Lee and Moore are described by Meth as victims that belong to a long list of creators that have been taken advantage of by the corporate comic book giants, Marvel and DC.

It is a huge stretch from most perspectives to imagine Stan Lee as a victim of the comics industry while Alan Moore could easily be anointed the poster child for the royal reaming that begets comic creators. This contrast added greatly to the irony of the header of the post and was a wonderfully divisive way to catch the attention of readers, especially those sympathetic and knowledgeable about creators rights issues.

Yet, Stan Lee and Alan Moore are a perfect choice to if not solely for their contributions as the most influential writers of superheroes in the industry outside of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. Where the creation of entire genre of Superhero comics rests on Siegel’s shoulders, Lee and Moore’s influence anchor pivotal changes in how superheroes were portrayed that redirected the entire industry at different points in its history.

Despite their similar accomplishments both men also took decidedly different roads regarding their creative achievements and celebrity. In many ways the two men are worlds apart from each other.

Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

There is a strong argument as to how much creative responsibility Stan Lee had in regards to the creation of most of the Marvel Universe during its heyday in the early 1960′s. Lee himself readily admits the roles that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had in fostering the creation of Marvel’s most iconic characters that are now worth billions of dollars. But Stan is and always has been a company man and has held fast to the work-for-hire relationship that denies creators and their heirs, especially those of Kirby and Ditko from any royalties.

To his credit, however, Stan bucked the system by developing and marketing one character that no one could take away from him. He recreated himself. With the impending success of the new Marvel line of comics Stan quickly transformed from your typical clean cut, white collared middle aged editor with thinning hair to a flashy guy with a mustache, sideburns, toupee, shades and a polyester wardrobe indicating that his new image consultant was probably the young and attractive Flo Steinberg, Marvel’s own Gal Friday. He certainly wasn’t getting fashion tips from Sol Brodsky.

While he was busy scripting snappy dialog full of trendy colloquialisms that endeared Marvel characters to a hipper, slightly more mature audience and redefining the genre he was sure to build his own celebrity with his new look, lecturing at colleges, doing voice overs on cartoons, writing Marvel Origin books, and plastering his name on every Marvel comic that opened with “Stan Lee Presents.” Stan’s monthly Soapbox was exactly that, not just a tool to promote Marvel Comics but a forum to promote Stan the Man and was where his now famous slogan “Excelsior!” first buried deep into the souls of his fans.

Today at 91 years of age, Stan is as vibrant and famous as ever. He has managed guest appearances in nearly every Marvel blockbuster an tonight will appear on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.. He is worth over two hundred million dollars and in large part due to his own success at making his name synonymous with Marvel rather than royalties received from  each character he co-created.

Stan has done what he does best. He took care of himself and worked hard at it and though he has always been incredibly diplomatic, he has never stepped away from company lines regarding creators challenging the work for hire agreement. He never used his celebrity or leverage of any significance to correct or influence the draconian practices of the industry.

Alan Moore opened the doors for superheroes to engage a more mature audience. His work filled with complex themes and refined writing that raised comics to a level  recognized as literature. A true artist, his preference was to have his work speak for itself. Respect the work and you respect Alan Moore. Simple as that.

In the 1980′s when Moore’s work rose to critical acclaim and redefined the medium there was no question that he was the new Golden Boy. His trademark long hair and looming bearded persona always projected an image of the quintessential artist. His work has always spoke for itself and he is regarded by most as the greatest graphic novel writer.

For this reason alone it was with great celebration that DC penned a “creator owned” deal with him and Brian Bolland for Watchmen. A deal that would be manipulated and bastardized for decades to follow, culminating in a Watchman film that disregarded his lack of approval and the insult of a prequel series of comics titled Before Watchmen that mocked his authorship of the  greatest selling graphic novel of all time.

Moore has had a tempestuous relationship with publishers throughout his career that has led many to point fingers at him as the common denominator and has driven him into a personal exile from most comics and fandom.

Alan Moore, is a man who is more concerned about respect for his work than he is about money and has, as in the case of Watchmen, declined receipt payment as a matter of principle to protest his dissatisfaction. Few can understand how anyone could be so idealistic to reject the kind of money he has turned away, thus fueling the impression that he is an irrational man which he is anything but.

Moore, lately, has a new take on superheroes calling them a cultural catastrophe.’ The man that elevated the horizon for an entire medium is now denouncing the genre that he is responsible for transitioning. He is now receding from public life to work uninteruppted. In his wake is an entire generation of creators that are watching their greatest influence turn his back and walk away from them.

Alan Moore has been a high profile victim but he has often been in a position to capitalize tremendously despite his abuse. He has chosen retreat and rejection of compensation as his defense where he could have redirected that “tainted” money toward a fund to champion creators rights that seem dear to him, personally, yet he chose not to.

Stan Lee and Alan Moore both had the amazing ability to change the course of an entire genre. Their lofty positions gave them both an opportunity to make a difference regarding the rights of creators and neither took up the mantle. In Clifford Meth’s book, apparently they are both portrayed as victims of sorts, clearly Moore has received the shorter stick, but neither are in a position to cry poverty like so many others.

These are two men that made a career out of defining heroes but never found the hero in themselves.

This issue of creators rights is an important one in the comic book industry and should never be taken lightly by any fan or professional. Any book like Comic Book Babylon is a must read and Meth should be applauded for its compilation as well as his personal efforts in defense of the late Dave Cockrum.

In the end, this is a story about David and Goliath both with an opportunity to make a difference. As usual it is the Davids of the world like Clifford Meth that stand up and fight while the Goliaths like Lee and Moore draw all the attention but, in the end, are ineffectual when it matters most. Worlds apart in more ways than one.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Super Pope – Redefining the Hero

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

You have to hand it to Pope Francis! In just a few short months since he has been elected, he is redefining not just his role as Pontiff but also what it means to be a hero to millions of people around the world. His opposition to the vast inequalities between the rich and the poor,  his mandate to be merciful rather than judgmental and his inclusive attitude  has already gained him the title of “The People’s Pope.” Time Magazine and the leading gay magazine, The Advocate, both herald him as  “2013 Person of the Year.”

Amazingly, Pope Francis’ words and actions appeal not just to his Catholic constituency but to people of all denominations and level of faith.  His approval rating has soared as high as 69% among all people in the United States, 80% of which are not Catholic!  He is, without question, a Super Pope.

Is it fair to compare the Pope to a superhero? Probably as fair as comparing superheroes to Jesus Christ who the Pope is said to represent.

Zack Snyder’s film Man of Steel made no bones about comparing Superman to Jesus. Snyder was so heavy handed in his biblical analogies that he probably should have cast The Bible star, Diogo Morgado, instead of Henry Cavill to play Kal El.

In Man of Steel, Superman is sent to Earth by his father to be a god among us. He is raised by common folk, sports a beard, strikes crucifixion poses, walks on water, turns himself over to authorities and sacrifices himself to save the world. This all sounds too familiar to Christians until Superman snaps Zod’s neck and kills him for a reality check.

Comparing Superman to Jesus was previously left mostly to scholars analyzing literature, theology, and modern mythology, not hammered down our throats in comic books or movies.

Since his 1939 debut in comic books, it has been widely acknowledged that Superman’s young  creators,  Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were heavily influenced by their Jewish heritage and that Superman was their fanciful interpretation of the expected Savior that has been promised by God. This would  indicate to Christians, who believe Christ to be the Savior, that Superman is a metaphor for Jesus.

Jesus, however, did did not fly around in blue long johns and a red cape. Though He performed miracles, He did not  exhibit the ability to run faster than a speeding bullet, be more powerful than a locomotive or leap tall buildings in a single bound. He definitely did not kill anyone.

Pope Francis, like Jesus does not exhibit bombastic superpowers and, so far, no miracles have been attributed to him, yet.  (The Church is a strong believer in miracles that numerous Popes have been credited with.)

As for the colorful uniform, Pope Francis has denounced many of the gaudy Papal accessories that might actually associate him more closely  with Superheroes. The new Pope wears simple white garb instead of the lavishly ornate robes, hats and shoes of his predecessors. Instead of a golden throne, he sits upon a plain, wooden one. He has even traded in the famed, bulletproof Popemobile for a used 1984 Renault 4L.

Pope Frances is less like Superman and more like Clark Kent. This is where he redefines the hero. Pope Francis does not elevate the spectacular, he praises humanity. He focuses away from the rich and powerful and embraces that which is common. He recognizes and promotes the power of numbers that is in the hands of the less fortunate. He delivers a message of fairness and sharing that inspires hope more than the symbol on Superman’s chest.

A former nightclub bouncer, Pope Francis speaks the language of the street. He recently responded  to Rush Limbaugh’s “Marxist” charges with clever comments that rang around the world:

“The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

When targeting the abuse of Trickle Down Economics he is quoted as saying:

“The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor.”

Pope Francis speaks to all people in words they can understand and the people are listening. Does this make him a hero?

Heroes are born out of desparation. Superman was a wonderful remedy for the angst that was post depression, war era America. His popularity peaks in times of turmoil. Today, however, Superman has come to represent that which is all powerful. He is lead by the hand of corporate greed and is immune to the perils of the general population when cities are destroyed during one of his fictional epic battles and now he is willing to kill.  Superman has lost his humanity.

We are in desperate times. The global economy pits the rich against the poor in an ever widening gap that Superman cannot close.  A new hero is needed but this time he is not delivering a punch but a message. Pope Francis lets us know that the new hero is not among us. It is us! Our power is our humanity. That has always been the true power of all great heroes. Superman has lost this power but  it is definitely the power of this new, Super Pope.

Gerry Giovinco



The Weather Outside is Frightful and Comics are so Delightful…

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Christmas is just a week away and Mother Nature is doing her part to set the mood for the Holiday Season ’cause, “baby, it’s cold outside!”

Growing up, I had a sure-fire remedy for “cabin fever” or “winter blues” when the snow was piled high and it was too bitter to spend an entire day outside sledding on the slopes, building a snowman or engaging in a raucous snowball fight. I would just hunker down with a big pile of comic books and bask in the warm glow of mind-bending, four-color adventure.

Back in the 1970′s comics offered a different sense of comfort than they seem to do today. Maybe it was the newsprint that they were printed on. It had a different texture than the glossier, bleached-white paper stock of today’s comics.

Chemical Color Chart

The ink was absorbed into the surface of the more porous paper, softening images against an écru background, delighting the eyes with a loud yet, limited palette of just 62 colors (64 if you counted black and white) laid flat in each field of the dynamically drawn images they filled.

The soft touch of newsprint, as satisfying on a cold day as a fuzzy, heavily patterned, acrylic sweater, was complemented by a distinguished odor of pulp that is still easily conjured by memory alone decades later.

Comic books were more wholesome then, bound by the editorial constraints of the Comics Code Authority.  A cold  afternoon of reading stacks of assorted comics and sipping hot cocoa  left the heart, body and imagination feeling as stoked as a flame dancing in an open hearth.

I can’t imagine that experience being the same for readers of comics today as temperatures plunge into the teens and below to kick-off another long winter. Happily though, comics are still the answer to many on a frigid day.

Contemporary comic readers sit nestled under warm blankets often reading comics in the dark, illuminated by the electrons on the screen of their tablet or computer instead of the glow a crackling fire.

Those that prefer their comics on paper, handle them gingerly and slip them into the sterile confines of a mylar sleeve before tucking them away into an indexed long box instead of lovingly tossing them back into a  pile.

Stories that were delivered complete in one 32 page issue are now rare. An afternoon reading dozens of random comics is now spent engages with just one lengthy graphic novel or several issues of a collected “event.”

“Wholesome” is no longer a word to describe comics in general, but delightfully it has been replaced with “diverse.” Comics are no longer relegated to just fans of superheroes and funny animals. Comics have come of age and finally tackle so many subjects that there is assuredly a comic out there for nearly everybody.

Comics are delivered in books, magazines, pamphlets, websites and apps. They can be accessed anywhere at anytime. Comics are everywhere for everyone.

A reader could easily spend a winter reading just the comics posted for free here at  CO2 Comics or lounging with the several graphic novels and two volumes of COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection that we have available on our Christmas Wish List.

So, if you go to your window and discover that the weather outside is frightful, remember that comics are still delightful, there’s really no place to go, “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

Gerry Giovinco



SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 3

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Corporate Greed: There was a time when there was such a thing as the American Dream. It was predicated on the idea that if you worked hard, lived a good life  and saved your money you will achieve success. The American Dream manifested itself  differently in comic books where it was represented in the very beginning of the industry by downtrodden sons of immigrants during the Great Depression. Their vision was that of the meek attaining tremendous powers and using them to protect and serve their community. Their creations, which launched a genre known as superheroes, represented “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”

The recent PBS documentary Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle did a wonderful job bringing attention to these idealistic virtues of superheroes and comic books. What it neglected to do, however,  was show that superheroes of today also represent the continued victimization of their creators and their families and have become the iconic representation of Corporate Greed as the two monolithic media corporations Time/Warner and Disney, the parent companies of DC and Marvel respectively, seek to control, dominate, and protect their intellectual properties. They do this by the use of Draconian creator contracts, militant trademark enforcement of not just their characters but the word superhero itself, and by putting a stranglehold on the markets where other comics are sold and distributed.

This is what I see as the greatest failure of the documentary. That it supposedly represents superheroes as being a significant part of our culture. That superheroes are the modern American mythology. That superheroes represent Truth Justice and the American Way. That Superheroes are everywhere consumed by the imaginations of everyone. The documentary fails because it focuses solely on the superheroes represented by Marvel and DC and consequently  becomes a tool that empowers their domination and control of the entire genre.

Corporations are quickly corralling us all into a culture that is dictated by them. There was a time when culture would influence decisions made by a corporation but now media has such a firm embrace on our cultural psyche that they can manipulate our every whim. As corporations like Time/Warner and Disney seek to control trademark ownership of public domain characters from every fable, myth, legend, story and comic book they have a lock on each and every one of us that goes much deeper than our pocketbook. They control the extent our imaginations and the marketability of our creativity, personally and as a culture.

Superheroes were born from comic books for one reason. No other medium besides comics gives any person the opportunity to create so vividly a story that is so fantastic and so unimaginable about a person with incredible superpowers and their adventures. Comics let us deliver that idea to an audience in a precise and visually stimulating way with very little expense.

Imagine that the images that could be drawn on a page by a poor immigrant teenager with a pencil and ink were so fantastic that it required over forty years of technological development before they could be made believable on film! Today, it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make a superhero action film but a superhero can come alive in a comic for next to nothing. The creator of the next great superhero could be a young kid publishing that story right now for very little cost on the internet, reaching millions of people around the globe in an instant.

That is the power of comics. That is the power of unfettered culture. That is the biggest fear to these big corporations, that the next great superhero will fly right under their nose and take the world by storm and they will not own a piece of it.

So Corporate Greed does what it does best and attempts to create tunnel vision for everyone it can with documentaries like Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle. They create a new mythology that everyone is expected to believe, that the Marvel and DC superheroes are the only game in town.

If they get enough of our attention and enough of our money and can control enough of the distribution system (we are to believe there is only one real comic book distributor) maybe we won’t notice that there is a world of other comics and superheroes out there. Maybe we won’t notice that many are much more entertaining and original than the seventy-five-year-old rehash of Superman or that fifty-year-old not-so-fresh take on Spider-man.

It is our job as true fans of the medium of comics and the genre of superheroes to remain vigilant and to ensure that the wealth of accurate information about what we love is not forgotten because the true archives of the past is the fertile ground from which a fruitful future will spring regardless how much manure is spread on the dried up wasteland of lies that the corporations want us to believe.

Yes the title of the documentary got it right. When it comes to superheroes there is a never ending battle to tell the truth about the comics industry, seek justice for creators, and to not fall victim to corporate greed because what we usually get told in documentaries like this is just a pile of very pretty bullshit that panders to the big guys.

Previous links to my perspective on this documentary can be found here:

SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit

SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 1

SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 2

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes™: The Never Ending Bullshit

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is a three part documentary that recently has been airing on PBS. If you hurry you can also watch it streaming on the PBS website right here.

On the surface this series seems to be a beautifully produced and thoughtful presentation about the history of superheroes and comic books in America and their influence throughout the world.

Most comic fans that grew up reading comics or enjoying superheroes in any era will wax nostalgic as they see the devotion that is poured into the process of documenting how the creators of superhero adventures were influenced by the world around them.

The highlight of the series for me were video interjections by legendary comic creators, many of whom have already passed away. Watching Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Jerry Robinson, and Carmine Infantino speak about comics couldn’t help but choke me up.

The series also did a wonderful job of representing women in the industry with video commentary by Ramona Fradon, Jennette Kahn, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson, and Christina Strain.

I would love to say that this was a benchmark documentary about the history of comics but I can’t because what I witnessed was more like propaganda mechanism for Marvel and DC. This series in all of its splendor effectively trivialized any accomplishments in the battle for creators rights. It completely ignored the influence of the Direct Market. It  erased the impact of decades of Independent comics with the notable exception of Image. No mentions off the tremendous impact that European or Japanese comics had.

I realize that it is unrealistic to expect every last detail of a 75 year history into a three hour documentary. I also recognize now, more clearly than ever, why the word superhero and the derivatives of it should not be allowed to be used as a trademark jointly by Marvel and DC exclusively.

What this series did effectively accomplish was to blur the distinction between the history of Supeheroes™ and the history of Comic Books as a whole by defining the impression for the general public that Superheroes™ = Comic Books and that Comic Books = Marvel and DC with the tip of a hat to Image, apparently the only independent to successfully publish another unique superhero.

NEWS FLASH! There are many independent publishers that have made comic books that featured superheroes! Superheroes also exist in other media and in other countries. All characters represented in the superhero genre are NOT owned by only Marvel and DC as much as they would like you to think that. This was not represented at all in this documentary and I believe it is unfair to dismiss the accomplishments and struggles of so many who also had great superhero stories to tell.

“Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” is typical of the type of bullshit that big corporations do to gloss over the undesired truth.  “Smear lipstick on that pig and everyone will be happy and buy into what we have to sell.” ” Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Truth be told, there could have been a three part series just on the battles that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster fought over their rights to Superman or the battles that Jack Kirby had with Marvel for compensation and to have his art returned.

There could be a three part series on the rise of the Direct Market and how the barrage of  quality Independent publishing in the 1980′s had  Marvel and DC on the ropes.

There could be a three part series on how the internet and digital delivery has changed how comics are created published and viewed.

They would all represent true and vital information for anyone interested in an accurate history of the never ending battle of creating superheroes and comics in a market dominated by corporate interests intent on squelching any potential competition to their mythic intellectual property that they gained from the exploitation of the imaginations of mostly young, impoverished children of immigrants searching for and expressing their own American Dream.

If you have watched the series and got that great warm and fuzzy superhero nostalgic rush, I want you to know that I had it too.  I also have a tremendously deep appreciation for the medium of comics and a tremendous respect for the genre of superheroes and though it is wonderful to see the genre presented in such a positive light I think it would be great if audiences understood and valued the true history of superheroes and not the mythology of the mythology influenced only by two enormous corporations.

Next week I will begin a series of my own on this blog that will take a closer look at how “Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle” diluted the real history of superheroes.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Naked Superheroes?

Monday, June 17th, 2013

There is a battle going on. David verses Goliath (in this case two Goliaths) as independent comics publisher Ray Felix jumps into the ring against Marvel and DC in defense of their allegations that he infringes on their joint trademark of the word superhero when he uses it in the title of his work, A World Without Superheroes.”

Yes, Marvel and DC share the trademark of every variation of the word/term  superhero and pounce on anyone that uses the word to promote any goods or services related to entertainment, toys, apparel, etc. Sort of…

They seem vulnerable to pornographers who have a field day exploiting parodies of all the major superheroes as was detailed in a previous blog post Superheroes Defenseless Against Porn Parodies.” Parodies of the individual characters is one thing but the pornography industry has proven that the word superhero is too generic to be a trademark. They use it everywhere without  the special disclaimers they use to  cover their overexposed behinds in every other instance.

Video intro from Vivid's latest Superhero release Iron Man XXX

Axel Braun, lead director of Vivid Entertainment’sSuperhero” imprint (How is an imprint a parody?!) likes to brag about their extensive team of entertainment lawyers and how they insure that they are always within the boundaries of the parody law.They use the word superhero blatantly in the imprint’s logo that simply reads “Vivid XXX Super Heroes.”It is on the cover of all of their DVD’s. It is in the title sequence of the videos and previews. They even have a magazine titled “Vivid XXX Superheroes Magazine” that is on its 27th issue.

Various other porn producers released titles like “Chasing Pink 4 ‘Superhero,’” “Superhero Sex-o-rama,” “Superhero Sex Therapist,” and “Pornstar Superheroes” throw the word around like yesterday’s funny pages.

Superhero trademark gone wild

Superheroes is a word that obviously represents what the pornographers are producing and selling just as it represents what Marvel and DC are producing and selling: Characters possessing special powers that wear costumes with capes and masks. They are selling the same thing! Despite what they may be doing in the context of a story isn’t a superhero a superhero even if they get naked?

If pornographers can use the word so freely with no contention it must be a generic term. Confusing right? Doesn’t confusion of a trademark constitute infringement?

Porn parody aside why is the word Superhero still not generic enough for it to be abandoned by the courts as a trademark?

Google superhero and 47.6 MILLION results show up with plenty of links that employ the word superhero as part of their name. Here are a few websites, mostly commercial, from the first three pages of the search:

http://www.thesuperheroquiz.com/

http://www.superherohype.com/

http://www.superherodb.com/

http://www.superherostuff.com/

http://www.superherolife.com/blog/

http://www.schoollunchsuperheroday.com/

http://superherojs.com/

http://www.superherosupplies.com/ I love this one!!!

http://superherodashstl.com/

http://www.reallifesuperheroes.com/

http://www.superheroesthemovie.com

http://www.superherorocks.com/fr_home.cfm

http://www.superheroclubhouse.org/

http://www.superheroes5k.com/

More evidence that the word is generic?

Kids play Superhero in school yards all over and every day forcing overly concerned educators to coin the term Superheroplay. This term refers to kids using their imaginations often acting out as imaginary superheroes with imaginary powers.

There is even a National Superhero Day when everyone is encouraged to be a superhero for a day and news stations ask parents to send in letters explaining why their child is a superhero, not why their kid is Bat Man or Spider-man. Why is their kid Super Jane or Super Johnny?

There is even a growing trend of real-life superheroes patrolling the streets!

Marvel and DC were bold enough to  argue that the word superheroes uniquely defined their products and services and seized opportunity to pull the wool over some blind trademark officer who failed to recognize that the word had been in use since 1917 and specifically  described the entire genre of comics for decades.

Their weak argument is less valid, today. Superheroes have become part of our culture. Superheroes is  a word we use to describe exemplary performances grounded in values of moral behavior (unless of course they are porn stars). It is a word that is ground into the lexicon of our daily lives like other, once trademarked, words such as aspirin, escalator, kerosene, thermos, and zipper that have all been deemed generic.

It is time that the ownership of this trademark is successfully challenged. Maybe the fine lawyers at mysuperherolawyer will take up the cause. They defended their own use of the word successfully!

Ray Felix is fighting the good fight.  The genericization of the word will allow other comics publishers working within the superhero genre to accurately promote their projects to audiences that continue to hunger for fresh and exciting superhero stories that are not limited to the editorial policies of Marvel and DC.

Become a superhero and support Ray Felix. Help free the word superhero from trademark bondage. Renewal of the trademark registration is in 2016. If the courts do not deem it generic by then a unified front might be necessary to free the word.

Why should the Porn Industry be able to sell superheroes and other comics publishers can not. Maybe we can so long as our superheroes get naked. Hey, it works for them.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

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


Superheroes Defenseless Against Porn Parodies

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

There has lately been a rash of porn parodies featuring superhero characters stripped from the pages of comic books, television, and the multiplex. Now, it is safe to say that most of these characters have grown up and appeal to a much more mature audience than the 9-12 year old demographic that they were originally intended for. They reflect a darker, grittier motivation for their deeds and are far more fallible in their actions and judgement. They are no longer  the Dudley Do-Rights of a bygone era when their exploits were performed with a scout’s honor and a righteous smile.  Despite the graying tenant of fighting for “truth justice and the American way,” superheroes still represent a moral fiber that justifies them as heroic to audiences of all ages. So why are the owners of these characters allowing their trademarks to be tarnished under the guise of parody by pornographers?

Nothing against porn, but it is what it is, and for every person that enjoys it there is another that finds it offensive. Porn is entertainment that comes in the form of videos and magazines the same vehicles as comic characters and they currently share a similar demographic of sexually active young adults. Superheroes have run around in skin tight costumes since their inception and have always been accused of arousing some form of sexual fantasy of the reader. As the target age of comic readers has matured, sex has become a more significant theme in mainstream comics with major characters fornicating on rooftops and defining themselves with a variety of sexual orientations. Pornography featuring these characters may be less of the parody that they are described as being and more of a logical extension of the fantasies of the, now, more mature fan base of superheroes.

In the past few years, Porn Parodies of Superheroes has practically established an industry in and of itself. So why are porn companies able to produce video after video featuring “parodies” of these trademarks that are so accurately detailed to match feature films, television shows and comic books  with no contention from the trademark owners?

Superheroes are extremely valuable trademarks, each representing a character franchise for some of the biggest corporations in the world. These trademarks are worth billions of dollars and are licensed to endorse products sold to everyone from toddlers to adults. They are trademarks that generally avoid being offensive in any way, like the omission of Nazi Swastikas in the Captain America movie, in an effort to broaden their appeal. Marvel and DC even jointly own trademark of the word Superhero and variations of it in an effort to protect it.

Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communications are all pit bulls when it comes to protecting their valued trademarks most recently unleashing the dogs on a California birthday party company rented out characters wearing unauthorized, counterfeit costumes depicting their well known characters despite a disclaimer on the company’s site that read, “Look-a-like Characters are not officially licensed. We DO NOT USE OR HAVE COPYRIGHTED OR LICENSED MATERIAL, COSTUMES, OR NAMES. We also aren’t affiliated with any companies that hold copyrights so don’t ask for characters relating to copyrighted names.”

This disclaimer resembles the similar disclaimers used on the porn parodies that read,  “This movie is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with any entity owning the rights to the characters parodied therein or the work being parodied. Specifically, this movie is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with DC Comics, Warner Communications Inc., E.C. Publications, Inc. or Marvel Characters, Inc.”

The key word here seems to be Parody which protects the potential copyright or trademark infringer under the veil of “Fair Use” in copyright law. Does the claim of parody hand over the keys of a valued copyright or trademark to any Tom, Dick or Harry? No. Though the line that constitutes what is acceptable as parody is very shady, each case should be judged uniquely to determine if any harm is being caused to the trademark. Issues that weigh heavily on the court concern how much commercial value the trademark adds to the work of parody and does content that is sexual or distasteful potentially harm the trademark. Hmmm….you think someone might have a case?

Ben & Jerry’s did just last month when they tackled the Ben & Cherry’sseries of exploitive porn films using parodied names of their famous ice cream flavors. The porn company chose to pull the series from the shelves and destroy them.

DC itself battled pornographers way back in the seventies when a company tried to produce a porn parody of Superwoman. Their challenge forced the pornographer to change the costume and the name of the character to Ms. Magnificent.

Also in the seventies Disney legally crushed the Air Pirates, a group of underground cartoonists that published comic book parodies of famous Disney characters exploiting sex and drugs.

Why the sudden hands-off position regarding these porn parodies now? Some say the big companies don’t want to create publicity that might promote the porn. One would think that their lack of action would appear to be tacit endorsement of the product, despite what the disclaimer on the films might state.

I have not seen these films but a quick look at the safe for work trailers shows impressive attention to detail, great costumes and props and decent enough production quality to make these films, at least momentarily, easily mistaken for the regular film or TV productions of the originals. Now there are even animated porn parodies to mimic the cartoons of superheroes.

Its hard to imagine that these films with all their special effects, production quality and hardcore sex don’t present a greater threat to the public image of the superhero trademarks than the unauthorized costumes of a party company who sends costumed performers to a five-year-old’s birthday.

Some might say, “Who cares? It’s parody, get over it! Don’t be a stick in the mud! Freedom of speech! Boo!”

Shut down for trademark infringement.

I’m sorry, but I’m offended. Not by the pornographers, but by Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communication because they have proven that they are willing to relentlessly pursue anyone else who would infringe on their trademarks to the point of ridiculousness as shown by this very  brief rundown of challenges:

DC’s assault on Fawcett Publications claiming that Captain Marvel infringed on Superman.

Disney going after Marvel arguing that Howard the Duck infringed on Donald Duck forcing Howard to have to wear pants forever more.

Marvel going after WWF for the use of Hulk Hogan.

Not to mention the millions of dollars that Marvel and DC spend on legal fees to guarantee that they will never have to pay royalties to writers and artists that created characters that have made billions for both companies.

If they do not go after the pornographers These trademark owners make a mockery of everyone else they ever targeted and they imply that they either condone the treatment of their characters or are somehow invested in the production of these pornographic films. I think they owe it to all the little guys that they have trounced over the years because they infringed by hand painting a bat on their shingle or Mickey Mouse on a daycare wall. They owe it to all the creators they have robbed of fruitful twilight years. They owe it to all the fans who have emotionally invested  in wholesome entertainment. They owe it to every little kid that went to bed in superhero pajamas to at least pretend to protect their IP from infringement from pornographers so that we can believe that they at least tried to preserve the integrity of characters that have idealized heroism for three quarters of a century.

If Ben & Jerry’s, ice cream manufacturers, can stand their ground, why can’t  Marvel, Disney, DC and Warner Communications, the stewards of iconic superheroes, grow a pair and at least TRY to defend their precious property?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Free Comic Book in My Mailbox!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

I am always amazed at the quantity and quality of the junk mail that arrives in the form of catalogs via the United States Postal Service nearly each and every day. Printed in full color on glossy stock, perfectly bound and usually fairly thick containing, sometimes, hundreds of pages of content. I have one that just came from Dover Saddlery (yes, we have horses) that contains 352 pages!

Why couldn’t some of these be comic books or contain comics in them? You can bet that I would spend more time hunting through them if I knew I would find a comic feature that I could grow attached to.

The Superhero Catalogue with SNYDERMAN , art by Joe Kubert

Back in the late seventies there was The Superhero Catalogue published by Superhero Enterprises featuring the character Snyderman drawn by the legendary Joe Kubert.  The whole catalog was laid out like a comic book and sold every available superhero merchandise imagineable.  I went nuts every time I got one in the mail!

Read the Jordan Marsh catalog by Gerry Giovinco and Mitch O'Connell

Back in the eighties Comico produced a fashion catalog for Jordan Marsh that was packaged in the form of a comic book. The catalog, illustrated by Mitch O’Connell and scripted by me, actually won awards from Advertising Age Magazine as a direct mail promotion.

The Disney Catalog for a brief time inserted previews of the W.I.T.C.H. comic that was packaged similar to popular manga. You know I looked for that when it came for my kids. I always wondered why more catalogs didn’t do the same, especially now with the popularity of comic heroes in all forms of media.

To my surprise a catalog doing its best to mimic the idioms that define comic books recently showed up in my mailbox, sent by the most unlikely source, UMBC, an Honor University in Maryland.

Click here to view the UMBC Catalog

My son, who is a senior in high school with great academic standings has attracted the attention of the admission boards of many colleges who now flood our mailbox daily with richly produced catalogues, most of which feature beautiful pictures of sprawling campuses, active student lifestyles and, of course, esteemed learning environments which is to say that they all look the same.

UMBC, regarded by CBS 60 Minutes as one of the most innovative schools in the country, proved their ability to step outside the box by sending my son an admissions catalog cleverly disguised as a comic book. It was trimmed to comic book size with thirty two pages, chock full of panels and text boxes, and, though there was not a single word bubble with a pointy little tail, a very stylish Anime font was used throughout. The covers featured students striking heroic poses, one even wearing a mask, posturing to the prevalent  theme of Change the World.”

My immediate reaction as a comic art enthusiast was of pure amazement that an institution of higher education would embrace comic books to attract students. I remember a time when even kindergarden teachers scorned comics as fodder for the ignorant and uneducated. Hell, Mitt Romney probably believes that comic books are all that 47% of Americans are capable or willing to read. Why not? Obama reads them!

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

But times are changing. Comics do get much more respect these days, especially since the advent of the graphic novel. Even University of the Arts, a school that scorned comics when Bill Cucinotta and I attended back when it was the Philadelphia College of Art, has a new attitude towards comics They must!  They had Neil Gaimen, celebrated comic author of Sandman and Coraline, deliver the Keynote Address at their 2012 graduation ceremony! He  was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts along with another comic creator, Philadelphia Inquirer editorial cartoonist Tony Auth.

UMBC Marketing Director, Erika Ferrin, explained that this edition of the admissions catalog which they refer to as a viewbook, was part of an ongoing Heroes campaign that has been very successful for the university.

Inspired by the popularity of Harry Potter, Twilight and superhero films with the teen market, Ferrin chose to focus on the heroic attributes of those characters when marketing to graduating high school students. She realized that students that came to UMBC had unique intellectual and creative abilities that, when honed at the university, allowed them to realize their potential of heroically impacting the world.

Erica worked with in-house designers Erin Ouslander and Jim Lord to develop the visuals for the campaign of which the viewbook evolved from. The end result is a beautifully packaged presentation printed on very heavy stock, intelligently designed and very respectful of the comics medium which they took great pains to research while developing the graphics which were all rendered from the ground up without using a comic or manga template program. The catalog has enjoyed a distribution of upwards to 50,000 copies most of which were delivered by mail.

This type of innovation is what makes UMBC a leader in education. It’s the type of innovation that the comics industry needs to employ to expand the marketplace. I know I’d like to see more comic books in my mailbox. How about you?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


© 2009-2014 CO2 COMICS All Rights Reserved. All other material © their respective creators & companies