Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

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



Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 4

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Over the years the business risk of making comics has shifted as has been outlined in the previous three installments of Making Comics is Risky Business.

Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3

As promised in this last article on the subject we will now take a closer look at the risky business of speculation and why crowd funding is the future for comics publishing.

When Phil Seuling developed the concept of the Direct Market in the late 1970’s he predicated it on the existence of comic book specialty shops that were springing up across the country, most of which depended on sales of collectible back-issues, the value of which were marked up considerably on many depending upon their rarity and conditions.

Though back-issues at the time were still generally affordable, they established a precedent for what would constitute speculative value. Premiere issues, popular creators, significant events and, of course, mint condition comics became sought after commodities by comic collectors who became the backbone customers of the Direct Market.

As the rising prices of collectible comics became a recognized investment, collectors began to buy multiple issues of their favorite comics, one to read and others to  squirrel away in mylar bags, preserving their mint condition and hopefully driving up their potential value.

The customers became speculators and took over the position of financial risk takers in the comic market. Professional speculators bought specific issues in quantity, artificially driving up demand and inflating aftermarket retail figures.

Retailers and publishers took advantage of the speculator market and a secondary market of collectible supplies like bags, boards and boxes sprang up.

Independent publishers benefitted greatly from the speculative nature of the market during the 1980’s as collectors feared missing the next “Holy Grail” guaranteeing that at least premiere issues of almost any title could receive respectable sales figures.

As Independent publishers began to proliferate in the market presenting themselves as serious competition for Marvel and DC, the Big Two, in defense of their reign, launched an all-out assault of first issues featuring popular characters and creators. Focusing on the speculative nature of the market they employed novelty devises like mini-series, variant covers, crossovers and events to successfully flood the competition out of the market.

By the mid 1990’s the Direct Market was a bloated mess of over-inflated and over-hyped product that nobody wanted or could any longer afford, crashing the market and even forcing Mighty Marvel into bankruptcy. Diamond stood as the only surviving distributor to a market that was once serviced by over a dozen.

Through it all the emergence of the graphic novel and the success of imported Japanese Manga paved a road into traditional bookstores challenging the Direct Market’s role as sole provider of comics to changing readership. Digital media, however was lurking in the background, poised to change how comics could be delivered to a world wide audience.

Eric Millikin's Art

The development of the web comic, which began with Eric Millikin’s Witches and Stitches as early as 1985, grew through the 1990’s and has flourished in the 2000’s, has changed the rules for creating comics completely and for the first time put the risk fully on the shoulders of the creators as, in most cases, they are the sole publishers and maintain complete autonomy of their works.

Though it requires minimal expense to post comics online, the true cost in publishing web comics is in the time it takes to create the material and cultivate the audience. Monetization of the web comics remains the biggest challenge as web comikers struggle to find ways to profit from their works. Most creators that have managed to bridge that gap have done so by rolling their web content into print product or digital downloads for mobile devices to be sold for retail.

Minimizing their investment risk, these unique independent publishers have taken advantage of today’s technology to put that risk into the hands of the consumer. Using Print on Demand suppliers like Lulu, CreateSpace, Comixpress, Ka-Blam, and others, they no longer need to sit on large quantities of expensive unsold books waiting for sales. Books are printed to order and shipped directly to customers, avoiding the need for distributors and returning a much larger portion of the profit to the publisher who is most often the creator themselves.

Steve Gerber

Finally, creators have found a way to control their properties which have been historically robbed from them by comic publishers for the last seventy years as wonderfully described by the late Steve Gerber in this recently resurfaced article Truth, Justice, & The Corporate Conscience, which I beg you to read and share with every comic creator you know.

The modern comic publisher also has a new tool at their disposal to minimize their risk and further enlist the consumer to share the burden. Crowdfunding through services like Kickstarter , and Indiegogo , capitalize on the strength of social networking and perks offered by campaign developers to essentially pre-sell comic projects.

Comic creators set a goal that represents the investment they will need to produce their project and they request financial support through pledges on these crowdfunding platforms. For various levels of financial support, rewards are offered as incentives. Though these rewards often vary considerably they generally include a printed copy of the project being promoted establishing a new form of marketing and distribution. If the established goal is not met, pledged funds are not collected and rewards are nullified.

Because crowdfunding does such a wonderful job predetermining the success of a project, some observers are viewing the phenomenon as a new form of market research avoiding the need for agents and pitchmen to sell a concept.

So, yes, making comics is risky business as has been proven over the last seventy-five years but it doesn’t have to be as risky as it has been. Now is the time for creators to take advantage of the resources available to them and take control of the direction of the industry so that they, themselves, can enjoy the riches provided by their creations rather than some domineering corporation that views creators merely as cheap disposable labor from which to capitalize on.

Carpe diem!

Gerry Giovinco


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