Posts Tagged ‘Superheroes’

Halloween and Comic Books: A Frightful Pair

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Last week’s blog Before Cosplay there was Halloween got me thinking that Halloween and comic books have a much deeper and horrific connection than dressing as our favorite character.

Though your average person may immediately think “superheroes” when they hear the term comic book, any comics fan knows that comics as a medium covers a vast array of genres of which superheroes are currently at the forefront.

Just look at the offerings here at CO2 Comics and you will see a sampling of the broad range of topics that comics can cover.

Actually, throughout the late 1940’s to the very early 1960’s, it was horror comics that filled the newsstand shelves. The terrifying comic books had such a dominant impact on the industry that they ignited a witch-hunt fueled by Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s writings in his book Seduction of the Innocent. The ensuing hysteria led to hearings by the  Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and resulted in the comics industry adopting a self-imposed form of censorship called the Comics Code Authority.

For many the true terror was not the content of the comic books but watching them being burned and censored in a place like America where the freedoms of speech and press were being so harshly violated.

Comic books continued to have mildly scary themes with plenty of monsters, vampires and werewolves but they were watered down for decades until different forms of distribution allowed underground and  independent publishers the opportunity to produce comics without the vice of the Comics Code Authority.

Now there are plenty of truly scary horror comics available again to inspire the many ghouls and zombies that will wander from door-to-door this Halloween.

The monsters you encounter in forms of fiction like comic books are a healthy reminder that good and evil are relative, measured only by the extremes of each other. Horror stories allow our imaginations to witness the fear of indescribable terror without physically experiencing it. They allow us to develop defenses that will hopefully protect us from the real monsters that lurk in the world.

So grab a flashlight and a good horror comic book then crawl under the covers in a really dark room and read till you are scared to death! Then remember, when you are celebrating this Halloween, that some of those monsters in frightening costumes may be real.

If you are not careful you could easily become a bloodied victim, dismembered and buried in a shallow grave while your eyeballs float, suspended in a thickened liquid that fills a vintage mason jar capped with a rusty lid, proudly tucked away on the top shelf of a mildew encrusted Frigidaire in the basement of a quaintly-painted, suburban townhouse inhabited by an unlikely serial killer named Pinky Silverberg, the innocent looking, wide-eyed waif  who sold you that scary comic book at your local comic shop.

Happy Halloween!

Gerry Giovinco



Superheroes Sell Porn to Children

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

There has been a trend lately to reinvent the images of our favorite superheroes so they seem more realistic and mature in an effort to appeal to an audience that is growing older. Ironically, porn parodies of these same superheroes tend to focus on the brightly colored costumes that superheroes wore when they were deemed too juvenile.

The porn companies appear to value the highly recognizable trademarks of the colorful costumes more than the comic companies do. While Marvel and, more significantly, DC are toning down flashy costumes,  the porn companies are cashing in on all those primary colors!

Which makes you have to wonder, who are they selling their films to?

Superheroes are going through an identity crisis of epic proportions. They want to appeal to everybody so bad that they can’t decide which costume to wear. Now they now have a closet full  spandex variants designed to appeal to each the different target audience.

Lay out a bunch of licensed merchandise and you will clearly see that toys and action figures made for little kids are adorned with the bright and bold costume colors that we have all come to recognize as representative of the world’s greatest superheroes.  As the products become targeted at an older consumer, the  costumes become darker and grittier to the point where they are almost  unrecognizable. This is all a grand scheme to progressively target market. It all makes reasonable sense until you introduce porn into the mix.

An investigative blogger once directly asked Warner Bros., Time Warner Inc., DC Comics, Liberty Media Holdings if they were using superheroes to sell porn to children, insinuating in her open letter that they must be profiting from the porn. Why else would they not be attempting to stop the obvious damaging trademark infringement of properties targeted at the youth market?

We have asked similar questions here at CO2 Comics and the obvious answer is that the porn companies are protected by the use of parody which never explains why DC was able to defend their trademark before, in the 1970′s, when they blocked a film titled XXX Superwoman which was later released as Ms. Magnificent.


Just the fact that people are objecting and asking questions should be enough to argue that there is infringement going on. The longer it is allowed to persist  the tougher it will be to fight if the companies want to.

This  may seem to be just overreaction of a conservative view except that the corporations that preside over these characters are so viciously aggressive when it comes to protecting their trademarks and have such deep pockets that it is very believable that they could stop the porn  if they really wanted to.

Maybe it is just another tier of the grand marketing scheme: bright colors for little kids; dark and gritty for mature readers; bright colors with an “X” for porn.

Just so we don’t get confused, since Halloween is upon us, check out the “slutty,” brightly-colored, licensed superhero costumes being made for young women these days. (many are described as  “adult” but are sold in the “teen” section) Then ask  how off-base this discussion is while bashing DC on their next round of licensed, sexist t-shirts.

Gerry Giovinco



The Secret Identity of Robin Williams

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

There was no mistake that Robin Williams came into public awareness like most of our favorite superheroes do, in a garish costume that hid his identity. His was bright red with silver trim, his faced masked by the dark visor of a ridiculously huge space helmet. His character’s name was Mork from the planet Ork.

Rather than hide the identity of Robin Williams, Mork propelled him into public stardom, revealing his super powers. Where Mork could point his finger and make amazing things happen, Robin could do something greater. He could make the whole world laugh.

What an amazing ability he had to bring joy to a world that so needed it. His humor was spontaneous, infectious and, seemingly, never ending.

But Robin had another identity and power that he hid from us his entire life. One that we wish he had never shared. He had the ability to make the world weep.

Sure, we saw glimpses of this ability in his many brilliant dramatic roles. He knew how to reach into our hearts and stir up those feelings that moved us.

We were positive that was simply great “acting.”

The “real” Robin made us laugh!

This is what most of us wanted to believe, until his final “act” when Robin succumbed to his hidden self and demonstrated his other, more nefarious power, crushing the world with sadness.

Fortunately, he could only use that power once. Though his secret identity has been revealed, the shock and the sorrow brought by it will soon ebb,  overshadowed by the lasting  power of his laughter and talent that  the world will forever recognize him by.

Most of us can never say we actually knew the man. Those that were fortunate enough to call him friend or family wish they could have known better what only he knew about himself. He took his true identity, with all its pain, to his grave.

We can only know what the existence of Robin Williams continues to mean to us each, individually. His loss has taught us all to look deeper into ourselves and each other, to see beyond the surface, no matter how brilliant or dull, how perfect or damaged. To realize that we all have our own secret identities.

We all wear a faux self  that masks our true identities.  It is our secret defense mechanism that helps us to survive our greatest fears of the world and ourselves.  Call a it a facade, personality, likeness or attitude, it gets most of us through each day and through our lives.

Through this personal filter, most of us will chose to remember the Robin Williams that brought us so much joy. I can’t speak for him, but I will choose to believe that this is how he would like to be remembered.

Thanks for the happiness, Robin, whoever you are.

Signing out, Nanu Nanu…

Gerry Giovinco



Fan or Foe

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Face it fans have a lot to say especially when they disagree with decisions regarding the object of their obsession. This is true if you are a fan of anything be it fashion, cars, sports, films or comic books. Hardcore fans are preoccupied with detail and often deputize themselves as  guardians of that which they are focused.

The rise in popularity of the superhero genre has sounded a call to arms among comic book fans who are determined that their beloved characters are handled with the utmost respect but is their effrontery a good or bad thing for comics?

A recent Forbes article Hollywood Doesn’t Care About ‘Fanboy’ Approval addressed this issue candidly after fan fury arose over the dismissal of Edgar Wright as director of Ant Man.

The key point in the observation by Scott Mendelson is that Hollywood has no interest in ‘converting the converted.’ Why focus on the small radical fringe that will flock compulsively to a superhero film like a moth to a flame when the real money is in the sea of casual consumers who have no eye or patience for nuance or substance but will spend their money on colorful  “shock and awe” that appeals to the lowest common denominator?

This is the true irony for fans of comic books. Most of the comic characters that are currently being adapted into film were originally created to appeal to the broadest and most base market. Comics as a medium has expertly exploited stereotypes, simple plots, garish colors and bold imagery to attract consumers for decades.

Fans of the medium, however, have slowly taken over the industry. Comics have matured and gained greater respect as a literary medium. Comics have become more sophisticated in all areas of execution as they now to appeal to the exclusively refined taste of Fandom.

The market, however, has shrunk, with the appeal now focused on a very finite base. The casual reader has been turned toward the door. Comics are no longer just for anybody and everybody. Reading comics has become a commitment. A required appreciation of back story, and a learned sense of visual literacy along with an elevated speculative value of the product that requires  mylar sleeves and a grading system is deemed necessary to fully enjoy a comic today.

Gone are the days when a comic could be read on impulse, folded and tucked in a back pocket to later be shared with several friends before finding its way into the trash heap.

Hollywood recognizes the impulse appeal of superheroes. They value them as eye candy, bubble gum for the mind and pop corn at the multiplex.

The best superhero movies that are made can please both audiences. They adhere to the archetypes of the source material that has allowed it to become engrained in our society as a form of modern mythology while taking advantage of advances in technology to embellish it with a sense of realism.

Fans have to decide if it is better that comic related films can appeal to the masses in a way that guarantees profitability and a continuous saturation of superheroes into our popular culture or to enforce the refinement of the medium so that it appeals only to those with a fanatic interest in the medium.

The wonderful thing is that, as true fans of comics, we can have it both ways. Let there be cheesy, fun superhero films that attract broad attention so that fresh blood can be introduced to the culture that creates comics. Pulp fiction never prevented great novels from being written  so why should pop culture driven superhero films prevent great comics and great film adaptations of them?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Song of the Sketchbook

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Bill Anderson has been delighting us all with his Facebook posts of sketchbook drawings that he acquired on a convention run with the Comico gang back in 1983. You can see his wonderful collection of sketches here.

What a flashback it was not just to see work by all the great artists that are included but to see images drawn by the Comico crew that included Matt Wagner, Reggie Byers, Will Brown, Vince Argondezzi, Phil LaSorda, Bill Cucinotta, and myself, all done over thirty years ago!

I have to say that seeing those drawings and reveling in the raw energy that exists in spontaneous sketches was quite an inspiration for me to crack out my old sketchbooks, for a personal shot of nostalgia, and to crack down and start a new one.

Anyone who has ever kept a sketchbook knows that they are visual diaries that preserve not just ideas but unfettered strokes of genius that may escape from the mind of an artist through the tip of some rendering implement be it a pencil, marker, pen or brush.

Rarely is there much sense of order in a sketchbook and that is what makes them exciting. Images jump from doodles to notes to fully rendered illustrations, randomly, revealing inner secrets of the artist’s talents that can easily be lost when applied to a more finished work.

A sketchbook reveals an artists soul. The images are the lyrics to a melody that flows from a creative hand in a staccato of strokes.

I received my first sketchbook when I was just ten years-old and I still have it. In it are drawings that are far from spectacular, most lifted from old Preston Blair cartooning books. There are, however, crude drawings of my first comic strip character, Little Sailor Boy, and my first attempts at drawing superheroes that signify a starting point in the timeline of my life in comics.

I have a modest collection of sketchbooks that I have accumulated over the years. Some are from my  days at the Philadelphia College of Art, others from my years at Comico and still more from various periods in my life.

An occasional trip through them is a reminder of projects left unfinished, ideas left unrealized, and  a nostalgic look at the gestation projects that came to fuition. Exposed are moments of creative brilliance, signs of potential untapped and a beacon begging for more.  Sketchbooks can be our own biggest cheerleaders.

I wish that I had kept more sketchbooks. To my regret, however, I was a doodler and jotted ideas and drawings on everything I could find: napkins, notebooks, bond paper and post-its. I have folders stuffed with sketches and portfolios with more but sadly, many sketches ended in the abyss of the dreaded the circular file; the trash!

Somewhere there is a garbage man curating a gallery of my work because I was not as diligent about keeping a sketchbook as I should have.

So in front of me is a brand new sketchbook with a hundred blank pages of creative possibility waiting to be addressed. It’s like a garden waiting for seeds to be planted so that new projects can grow. New comics that need to be made.

I plan to share a few of them here at CO2 Comics, but not before I encourage all you creative types out there to dive into your own sketchbook, if you haven’t already, and plant a few seeds of your own. Let  your sketchbook sing your praises and encourage you to make some great art and even greater comics. When you’re done  don’t forget to share your talents with the rest of us.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Camden Comic Con a Pleasant Surprise

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Going to a new comic book convention is a leap of faith, whether you are a guest, vendor or an attendee.  So many things can dampen the experience. Poor organization, lousy attendance and inhospitable management have ruined many comic conventions and guaranteed that there will not be a second.

The first clue that a con is going to suck is usually the location.  Having a con that is in a town off the beaten path or in a cheesy venue is a major indication that the organizers have no idea what they are doing.

What could be the chance that a comic con held in Camden, New Jersy could be any good? Camden is, after all, too often recognized as  the poorest and most dangerous city in America with a crime rate that is five times the national average!

Sounds like the type of town where you would expect to find a lot of superheroes battling bad guys, not lining up for a cosplay competition.

Despite all odds, however, Camden Comic Con was a wonderful convention that I would heartily recommend to anyone, largely due to the attentiveness and management skills of organizers, Miranda Powell, Bill Haas, their staff and the support of Rutgers University whose campus hosted a safe, accessible and comfortable venue.

For a small, first-time convention organized in just two short months, so many things were done right that it is just amazing, beginning with and highlighted by the hospitality of the staff and Rutgers University. They found a way to make everyone feel appreciated which is, in and of itself, a rarity anywhere in today’s society. They even provided a delicious, complimentary lunch  to all vendors, dealers and guests! Who can not be happy when you are being fed?

Camden Comic con was a remarkably festive, one-day event that was unusually inviting, not just to the hardcore comic fan but to the entire community, opening its doors to anyone that was curious about comic books, free of charge!

Once you walked past the colorful balloon arch, picked up a few free comics left over from last years Free Comic Book Day and adorned yourself with a Camden Comic Con pin you  discovered the live band, Knuckle Puck Time playing in the exhibition area, face painting and crafts for the young children, and insightful panels that covered creative and social issues relating to comics.

There was an array of creators, publishers, and vendors occupying a space that was mercifully, not oversold especially considering that table fees were only $10 – 20 each!

Costumed fans of all ages wandered the floor, waiting for their chance to compete in the cosplay competition at the end of the day while they added immensely to the atmosphere that was enjoyed by the respectable number of 600 fans in attendance.

Hopefully this will be the first in a long tradition of comic conventions held in Camden. It was certainly a boost in the arm for the city, Rutgers, and the comic fans in the community!

CO2 Comics was proud to have been a part of this premiere event and we are admittedly biased about our experience because we had the opportunity to hang out with our long time friend and former ROBOTECH artist Reggie Byers, who we had not seen in years! Reggie’s comic CRESCENT has been popular feature here at CO2 Comics while he has been working on his pet project KIDZ OF THE KING.

We also had the wonderful opportunity to spend the afternoon next to Bob McLeod, long-time penciler and inker extraordinaire! Bob was a gracious as he is talented and we had a great time talking shop when not interacting with visitors to our tables.

My personal highlight was having the chance to finally meet a young fan that would regularly phone and send samples to me when I was Art Director at Comico thirty years ago. “Gus” was then a thirteen year-old with aspirations to create comics and I always considered it my responsibility to encourage him. It was very heartwarming to meet him as an adult that has maintained his interest in the medium knowing that  I personally had some influence on his continued enthusiasm.

So, If you can measure the success of a comic convention by its ability to bring people together, the Camden Comic Con was a rousing success and and extraordinarily pleasant surprise. I can’t wait for the next one! Hope to see you there!

You can see great pics from the convention on their facebook page and there are promises of more pics and updates on their tumblr site.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

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 2

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

JUSTICE: in Part 1 of this series I took at look at how the  PBS documentary, Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle obscured Truth by omission, enforcing  the public perception that the only superheroes that exist in our global culture are the ones attributed to Marvel and DC. There is no Justice to the pantheon of creators, publishers and characters that have made significant contributions to the impact that the genre superheroes has made as a whole on our society

If only this was the sole lack of justice attributed to this documentary. The comic book industry has a long history of injustice when it comes to the treatment of creators. To its credit, Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle, does make an attempt to identify the major sin of exploitation of impoverished, immigrant, young men during the Great Depression. But rather than identify it as a significant moral failure  it was portrayed almost as a badge of honor.

Legendary late creators like Joe Simon, Jerry Robinson, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Kubert emphatically embraced the practice of sweat shop ethics and corporate ownership of all works defining it as as business as usual.

95-year-old Irwin Hasen barked into the camera that “The companies owned everything!” , “You got nothing but a page rate!”, and “we worked our asses off!” “That’s the way it was!”

This all aired almost as an eyewitness testimony to to the challenges of the Kirby Family who were seeking copyright revision of works co-created by their late father Jack Kirby for Marvel during the 1960’s. It seems no coincidence that just a week after the series was first broadcast the courts denied their final attempt to appeal holding to the premise that his creations were work for hire and were owned exclusively by Marvel.

Joe Shuster, Neal Adams, Jerry Siegel and Jerry Robinson celebrate their victory over DC Comics in 1975

The series focused only on the the battle of Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster stimulated by the impending success of the first Superman movie in 1978.  They failed to mention that Seigel and Shuster had challenged DC continually since they returned from their service in  WWII and it was not until Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson led a campaign to publicly shame DC and Warner Bros. that the men saw any long term agreement that would prevent them from dying impoverished and guaranteed that they would receive credits as the creators of the character.

Jenette Kahn, former President of DC Comics,  proclaimed the Seigel and Shuster victory as a triumphant day in the history of comics as if a great blight  had been lifted from the industry when in fact it was just the tip of a huge iceberg that the audience is expected to be kept unaware of.

It is ironic that the parade of commentators  waxing nostalgic on the screen represented a number of creators and historians who have been very vocal in the area of creators rights. I can only assume that their words were taken out of context or left on the cutting room floor to create the impression  that all is hunky-dory  in Superheroland and potentially discredit their objecting positions.

Gerard Jones who wrote the scathing book Men of Tomorrow about the career spanning injustices toward Seigel and Shuster and the historic ties of comics and organized crime.

Arlen Schumer who just did a symposium at the Kirby Museum and who has been a long time vocal supporter if the Kirby contention.

Mark Evanier, a Kirby collaborator who was instrumental in supporting Jack Kirby’s  independent work and Jack’s battles with Marvel since the 1970’s

Joe Simon who settled with Marvel over rights to Captain America in 1968,

Neal Adams one of the first creators to stand up for creators rights who famously demanded the return of original art and attempted to for one of the first creator unions in comics. His Continuity comics line also stands as one of the early great independent comic book publishers if the 1980’s.

Jerry Robinson an outspoken creators rights activist who led the charge with Neal Adams to aid Seigel and Shuster,

Stan Lee who won a 10 million dollar settlement in 1992 over characters he co-created with Kirby but who has always been a self proclaimed “company man” and Marvels biggest mascot and cheerleader.

Gerry Conway who recently reached out to fans to help him receive royalties owed by DC Comics.

Marv Wolfman who has struggled with Marvel over compensation for the creation of Blade which has become one of Marvel’s early successful film franchises.

A shout out to Jerry Ordway for his suggestion to kill Superman which led to the Death of Superman event that rocked the industry in the 1990’s mocked his recent plea to get any kind of work in the current market.

The use of video of Jack Kirby, as heartwarming as it was, also belied the battles that Jack had with the industry, especially Marvel.

But the most  galling segment was video of Alan Moore quoting from The Watchmen intended to create the impression that Moore who has been adamantly unhappy with the treatment of his work and how DC has exploited his contract  and who is now watching Marvel do the same with his work on Marvel Man is somehow happy about the current conditions of the industry.

Any one who has paid any attention to the comics industry knows that Alan Moore is so disgusted with DC and now Marvel that he refuses to allow them to use his name on their products. Though it is impossible to ignore the influence his works have had on the industry it is also a mockery to show him almost gleefully quoting from his script without detailing his conflicts with the industry which are as legendary as his comics.

Intentionally ignored was an entire movement to establish creators rights in comics and decades of work by independent publishers to produce superheroes and alternative comics that are owned by their creators. According to Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle only one small band of insurgent creators ever found industry practices so unpleasant that they splintered off to form Image.

Many, Many, creators ventured away from Marvel and DC to pioneer independent works long before the boys at Image even began working in comics. To even begin a list would be a monumental task.

Justice was ignored in this documentary that focused only on a band aide applied to an open sore while a cancer looms beneath the surface. Creators continue to get a raw deal in the comics industry just as they did 75 years ago. They create heroes that represent Truth Justice and the American Way but they are victims of obscured Truth, denied Justice and Corporate Greed. Actions all masked  to conceal their true identity in this series, like the colorful superheroes they intend to glorify.

Next up is Corporate Greed. Is it really the American Way?

Gerry Giovinco




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