Posts Tagged ‘Underground Comics’

Comics on Campus

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

This past week I had the pleasure of sitting in on a free lecture “Comics and the Art of Visual Communication” by legendary comic creator and theorist, Scott McCloud www.scottmccloud.com who was out promoting his new graphic novel, The Sculptor.

The event  was hosted by Rutgers University at their Camden, NJ campus. This was the same campus that hosted the second annual Camden Comic Con just a month ago where CO2 Comics presented a panel on our experience as independent publishers reuniting with some of the crew from our days publishing Comico comics back in the 1980’s.

It is so exciting to see the medium of comics finally being accepted by the great halls of higher education! When I was in college back in the early 1980’s at the Philadelphia College of Art, the administration and faculty showed complete disdain for the medium describing it as derivative and kitsch while vowing to break me of my interest in this lowly form of art. It is ironic that now, renamed the University of the Arts, they boast about  graphic novel writer Neil Gaiman’s inspirational commencement speech in 2012where they also presented Gaiman and Pulitzer Prize winning, editorial cartoonist Tony Auth each with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts!

My, how times have changed!

More and more colleges and universities are including comic art or graphic novel courses into their curriculum. Some are beginning to build robust libraries dedicated to collections of comic books. Because of the rise of the graphic novel format and the popularity of comic related adaptations into other forms of media, educators have begun to take the comic medium seriously and since the first publication of Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics in 1993, educators have had a blueprint for teaching the subject.

My experience at PCA was not unusual. Comics history is wrought with degradation by  educators who widely considered it a form of base communication with no educational merit. Comics were believed to contribute to the delinquency and corruption of the minds of young readers. This notion was exasperated further by Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent. Discussion among educators was more focused on how to steer readers away from comic books than to encourage them. Many even resorted to public burnings of the comics!

This sentimentality was buffered slightly by the comic industry’s 1954 adoption of a self imposed censorship called the Comic Code Authority which warranted against  any corruptive material in comics in the wake of a U.S. Congressional inquiry. It stood for decades as possibly the most rigorous form of censorship of any American medium.

Somehow, comics managed to still find a way to be interesting and in the early 1960’s with the help of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Marvel Comics discovered how to appeal to young adults despite the shackles of the Code. The interest in the medium by college students in that era developed a fertile foundation for the future generations of comic creators to grow from.

Stan Lee recognized the interest of the college students and brought his show on the road as evidenced by this recording of Stan addressing students at Princeton University in 1966. Marvel comics spoke to the youth movement of the sixties. Those comics empowered some to create more comics that grew with the readers and reflected the unrest of the new culture that was rising.

Comics evolved throughout the seventies and eighties giving rise to the underground and independent movements that aborted the Comic Code, fought for creators rights and developed a new distribution system that allowed the unfettered medium to flourish. By the dawn of the new millennium comics were poised to explode as a form of powerful artistic expression.

Then came the internet, digital distribution, and print on demand.

Few mediums have benefitted so greatly by modern technology to put both the literal and visual power  into the hands of a single creator. From this has come great works of expression that need to be digested by those interested in learning and understanding the powerful form of visual literature known as comics.

Colleges and universities have figured this out and are actively reaching out to communities to share the mechanics of this exciting medium that has had such an incredible impact on popular culture.

A quick browser search revealed a few programs since the beginning of the year at schools like Vassar,  William & Mary, University of FloridaOhio State University, The University of Hartford, Drake University, and Northern Illinois University.

Those combined with the stops on Scott McCloud’s tour which have already included Mississippi State, Wittenberg University, Champlain College, and Rutgers University make it a wonderful time to be enlightened about the true cultural value of the comics medium and how it extends so far beyond what many know as just superheroes or funny animals. If you love comics, you may want to get to know them better at a college campus near you.

Take the time to check with colleges or universities in your area to see if they are promoting any public lectures on comics. Some provide courses that may be accessible to you. I promise you will be impressed by the diversity of the group that attends, it will be what you expect from any college, a broad mix of age, gender, and culture and everyone had a great time. Special thanks to Rutger’s Digital Studies Center, the Office of Campus Involvement, the Chancellor’s Office, the Department of English, and the Department of Fine Arts for pulling their resources for a great event that covered so many disciplines.

Gerry Giovinco

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



The Power of Independence

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

I fell in love with comics as a kid and eventually it became my dream to be a cartoonist. All I knew was that comics were incredible and the writers and artists were my heroes! The people that created the comics I loved stood on a pedestal in my eyes and were as big a any celebrity.

Surely the people that were responsible for the adventures of my favorite superheroes were as rich and famous as I expected.

I wanted to make comics and be like my heroes, so I immersed myself in everything I could find about the medium.

In the 1970’s there were not a lot of options. There were only a few comic book companies and there was not  much information on how to actually make comics. If you wanted to make comics it seemed that the only opportunity was to learn to draw in the acceptable style of those few publishing houses and don’t dare create any new characters unless you were willing to give them away to those publishers for a mere page rate that was as skimpy as could be.

How was it possible that the comic industry was the ghetto of the entertainment field? Most creators looked at working in comics as a slimy stepping stone to a bigger career in advertising,  television or film. Achievement wasn’t breaking into comics, it was breaking out.

Fortunately there was a generation of comic fans that had the same starry-eyed perception of comics as I did and were unwilling to accept the cold, hard truth that working in comics was a dead-end street.

One by one, these comic enthusiasts struck out into the world championing the medium that they believed in. They knew that the simple combination of words and pictures had power and was able to capture the imagination of large audiences. They believed that the people that had the ability to create these comics deserved to control them and to profit from them. They believed in creative independence.

It is not surprising that this independent movement began in head shops where underground comics gained a foothold in the imagination of popular culture and etched out a business model for grass root distribution to seedy establishments peppered around the country.

Soon comic shops began to spring up in similar fashion offering a fix of a different nature. The Direct Market for comic books sprouted in back-alley garages, flea market booths and trunks of cars. It was this testament to the love of comics and independent entrepreneurship that created opportunity for independent comic publishers to begin to achieve success and compete directly with the giants in the industry.

Just a few publishers of Creator Owned Comics

The Independent Comic movement has been going strong now for nearly forty years and has changed the face of comics forever. Comics are no longer a dead-end street but are now a viable art form with venue opportunity lurking at every corner.

Comics is no longer a medium controlled by just a few publishing houses with strict style limitations. Comics can be published by anyone and distributed globally thanks to current technology. Like any medium or business, it is a delicate balancing act between success and failure but it is invigorating to at least have the opportunity to try.

When I think back to how I imagined comic creators as rich and famous I realize how naive I was to believe that talent equaled wealth. I am glad however that I never lost the dream that making comics might equal happiness. Those of us that have that need  to make comics know that it is the same obsession that drives every artist, athlete or professional that does what they love.

Independent Comics created the opportunity for anyone with that drive to actually be able make comics. Independent comics opened the door to an endless possibility that did not exist unfettered in this medium when i was a kid.

This is why CO2 Comics continually celebrates  Independent Comics and deliberately was founded on Independence Day. We are determined to acknowledge that there is always more to comics than what the big companies have to offer.

Independent Comics have proved that comics are a unique form of creative expression and their richness is not found in the money they make but in the people that make them.

At CO2 Comics every day is Independence Comic Day!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Dixon and Rivoche: Critical of the Right

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Give Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche a lot of credit. They certainly stepped outside the box in an effort to promote their new book, a graphic adaptation of Amity Shlaes’ THE FORGOTTEN MAN, by attacking  comic industry liberals in their Wall Street Journal OP-ED piece, How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman.”

They managed to generate a lot of interest  and even had the opportunity to tout their book, published by Harper Perennial, on FOX NEWS!

Thank God that most of the hardcore conservatives that pay attention to these narrow-minded resources couldn’t care a rat’s ass about comics or they would have seen through the thin veil of deception that is so brilliantly dissected  by Janelle Asseline in her Comics Alliance piece, “Superhuman Error: What Conservatives Chuck Dixon & Paul Rivoche Get Wrong About Politics In American Comics.”

In their effort to be Uber Americans by defending the Political Right, Dixon and Rivoche tread on one of the most valued American liberties that comic creators have fought decades for, the right to freedom of speech and expression which is protected by the First Amendment.

Their endorsement of the Comics Code Authority, which was a direct product of McCarthy era conservatism and possibly the most strict code of censorship of any American medium, flies in the face of anyone who truly loves and values the most basic and fundamental principles of freedom set forth by the founders of this country.

It was particularly odd that both gentlemen conveniently ignored the comics history of the 1980’s where creators rebelled against the big publishers of superhero comics  and defined the potential of the Direct Market by working with Independent publishers that defied the rules of the Comics Code Authority.

Both Dixon and Rivoche saw their first works published by Independent publishers in 1984. (not the 1970’s as stated.)  Chuck Dixon’s EVANGELINE which, originally published by Comico, told a tale about a nun with a gun that was an assassin for the Vatican.Canadian Paul Rivoche illustrated Mister X published by Toronto based Vortex. His story was about a mad scientist that induced his own perpetual sleeplessness with a fictitious drug. These were not comics that any of the Code publishers would consider touching at the time!

It is ironic that these pioneers of “moral ambiguity” in comics should be so vocally opposed to its current existence in the medium!

The success and proliferation of similar independent projects eventually led to Marvel and DC’s softening and ultimate departure from the Code. This was  an orchestrated effort to compete with and eradicate Independent comics publishers  who had gained substantial  market strength.

The market dictated the newfound liberal mores with which comics were created! If audiences did not clamor for these new “left-minded” ideas we would all be reading comics with the seal of approval on it today. Worse, comic books would most likely have faced an inevitable extinction.

The comics of the 90’s that the two chose to credit with the moral departure were created by a  wave of young talent that cut their teeth reading comics and being inspired by the likes of Dixon and Rivoche. These upstarts recognized that it was time for a jailbreak and sought to distinguish themselves as the New World Order in comics.

Dixon and Rivoche are among many creators moderately associated with the old guard, despite their groundbreaking achievements, to be trampled by the inmates intent on running the asylum, finally free of the restraints of oppressive censorship (a page torn right from Dixon’s own Batman stories.)

Jerry Ordway has similar gripes but does not blame left leaning politics in his plea for work, Life After Fifty.
For many, like Ordway, it is rather an overwhelming lack of respect and appreciation for the contributions of creators that in the past would have been revered industry-wide.

Fortunately the Independent movement (not just of the 80’s and 90’s but that of the 70’s  Underground Movement, the Web Comic  Movement of the 00’s and the current Digital Movement) has solidified the rights that creators have to express themselves freely through the medium of comics. There is a now place  and an opportunity for any kind of comic regardless of “right” or “left” leaning politics. This is good for everyone, especially those with idealistic American values.

Without this new, expanding market for comics there would be no publisher that would have been interested in THE FORGOTTEN MAN, a comic not about superheroes and not targeted specifically at children. That would be a real shame.

Dixon and Rivoche should have remembered their true roots and celebrated their masterful execution of their own creative rights rather than endorse a close-minded, faux conservatism that could potentially crush other creators’ rights to freedom of speech and expression in a new witch-hunt reminiscent of the one perpetrated by Dr. Fredrick Wertham that led to the development of the restrictive Comics Code Authority.

Dixon and Rivoche need to ask themselves which Right is more important; the creatively inhibitive conservative views of the Political Right or our Inalienable Right to free speech and expression that has given comics the opportunity to flourish?

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



A true, capitalism-endorsing conservative would let the market decide.

Independents Day

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Hoist the flag! Fire up the grill! Shoot off the fireworks! Americans love the Fourth of July and go to great measures to celebrate because it represents the one thing we all hold dear. Freedom!

We take freedom for granted too often. It takes harsh reminders, like spotting a limbless veteran saluting the flag as tears of pride well in their eyes at a small town parade, to remind us that the freedoms we enjoy continue to require great sacrifice and diligence.

Everyone wants to be free to be able to live their life as they choose, to express themselves and not be oppressed. It does not matter who you are. Freedom is an inalienable right.

Comics have been at the forefront of the battle for freedom since Benjamin Franklin published the first known editorial cartoon in America.  “Join, or Die” appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. The simple language of comics that combines words and pictures to communicate reaches broad audiences and has been used extensively as a tool of propaganda and information promoting freedom since its inception.

It is ironic, however,  that the comic book industry has been the source of some of the most oppressive employment policies, corporate greed and censorship. One symbol stands out as an identifier of all that is bad about the industry. The stamp of approval from the Comics Code Authority. This stamp seems innocent enough and is a nostalgic reminder of the exciting comics of the Silver and Bronze Age, but if a comic bore it on its cover you know that creators had no ownership in their work, unscrupulous work for hire commitments were in place,  every panel was scrutinized by a censorship board and distribution was controlled.

Rebels of the traditional comics publishing system were easily spotted. Their comics had no stamp or, in some cases, one that mocked the Authority itself. They were the Underground Comics of the 1970’s and they lit a fire that showed future comic publishers that it was time to stand up and be liberated.

Fueled further by the struggles of writers and artists over creators rights and the development of the Direct Market a new wave of alternative comic publishers emerged, most with new and liberal views regarding creator ownership and all enjoying the freedom from the constraints of the Comic Code Authority.

These publishers became known as Independents and they redirected the course of the entire comics medium, opening the door for more mature content and variety of genre that had been missing in the industry for decades. Readers saw comics grow up. What they didn’t see was the stamp of the Comics Code Authority in the upper right-hand corner of the comic books.

The Independents fought and continue to fight the good fight, but not without casualty. Nearly all of those early Independent publishing houses are gone including Comico, the comic company that I co-founded along with Bill Cucinotta and other partners in 1982.

New Independents now carry the mantle and the fight goes on.

Bill and I have retrenched and formed CO2 Comics four years ago. It is a new type of comic company that continues to explore the boundaries of independence as a comic publisher. We publish comics on the internet, free to a massive, global audience. We work in cooperation with comic creators to create a mutual positive experience for all involved.

Most importantly we produce comic books in print with more freedom than we ever would have thought possible thirty years ago when we first began publishing.  Last year we celebrated as Independents by declaring The Power of Three. by releasing our first three graphic novels under the CO2 Comics imprint, Heaven and the Dead City, The Heavy Adventures of Captain Obese! and Ménage à Bughouse.

This year we have more in store. More great product with our own Independent stamp of approval. We are excited, but our version of Independents Day is still over a week away so we plan to build to a great finale like any good Fourth of July display of fireworks.

Join the excitement! Follow the blog, follow us on Facebook, and on Twitter. We’ll be hinting at our next three publications and expecting your stamp of approval when we finally release their availability live for all to enjoy!

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Corporate Comics, the Exodus…Again

Monday, June 25th, 2012

There has been a lot of buzz lately about creators walking away from cushy contracts at Marvel and DC to strike out on their own, the most recent being Paolo Rivera whose eloquent blog post on the subject offers wonderful insight to his personal motivation.

The reaction from fans and comic related news media would make you think that these creators are venturing to the dark side of the moon on the first experimental space vessel not built and commandeered by NASA. This reaction mystifies me because it shows a disregard of the history of comics and the vibrant atmosphere of the current comics marketplace.

People that are surprised that top rated talent are leaving the Big Two should rather be asking, “why has it taken so long?”

The pros and cons of working for corporate comic companies have been established for decades.

Sure, you get to work on characters you know and love, there’s a steady check so long as you are a hot commodity, maybe some benefits, maybe some royalties, oh and the exposure to Marvel and DC‘s huge fan base can elevate you to star status. But in the end you own nothing, you had to be careful to create only within the parameters of the existing universes or run the risk of watching a character you created make beaucoup bucks for the corporation while you get nothing in return and, when you are no longer hot or are out of favor with the editing staff, there is no work and you live as a pariah.

There was a time when working in comics was the most loathsome career path for a writer or artist. Lousy page rates, no royalties, rights or recognition. You worked in comics merely as a stepping stone into advertising, television or film. This was true until the sixties when Marvel, or more accurately Stan Lee, made working in comics seem almost glamorous. The money got a bit better and creators began imagining actual careers in the field. By the late seventies creators began to realize that even though their names were plastered all over the books, they were still not getting much in return for their efforts and especially their unique creations which were now wholly owned by the corporation they worked for.

Creator’s eyes were fully opened in 1978 when the first Superman movie was released and they watched Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster battle for morsels of the enormous profit generated by the character they had created and sold for $130 nearly forty years earlier.

It became clear that there was a deficiency in the business model of the comics industry. Why was it necessary for the comics publishers to fully own the copyrights and trademarks of all the intellectual property they published? Other book publishers do not operate this way and neither do other forms of entertainment where royalties and residuals support creators long after their work is created. Don’t get me wrong, there are good and bad contracts  everywhere necessitating the need for lawyers and agents but it sure is nice to have the opportunity to negotiate your terms.

The success of the Underground Market in the sixties and the rise of the Direct Market in the late seventies created opportunities for comic creators to work outside of the traditional corporate confines of the comic industry. Creators, disgruntled by the usual terms with which they worked at corporate comic companies, turned to the successes in these markets and began to strike out on their own. Many targeted the Direct Market that had established a secure venue for such properties as Jack Katz’ s First Kingdom, Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark, and Richard and Wendy Pini’s Elfquest. This defined a new model where creator’s could find success owning their own characters and marketing direct to the distributers with the benefit of minimal risk provided by guaranteed pre-orders and a no-return policy.


Alternative publishers took note and began contracting creators defecting from the corporate comic companies, offering creator owned contracts that included fair page rates, and royalties. The eighties opened the door for true creators rights and as the alternative competition gained a foothold in the industry, the corporations  began offering publications that were vehicles for creator owned properties and they structured some type royalty arrangements.

Since the inception of the Direct Market there has always been an opportunity for creators to have alternative options. Marvel and DC, however, have maintained  a strangle hold on the Direct Market which they control by sporadically flooding the market with superfluous content in an effort to successfully drive out or contain alternative publishers. There have, however, been a few exceptions where talent has been able to break free with enormous success and plenty of other instances where independent creators have had comfortable, rewarding careers by most standards.

The Direct Market is no longer the panacea it once was for comic creators who now realize how easily the market can be manipulated by the Big Two and the near monopoly of its primary distributor.

Fortunately the internet has provided a wide open space for creators to play and have direct access to the customers themselves. Print on Demand providers and affordable, minimum-quantity print runs has eliminated most of the upfront risk of comic production and crowd funding has created an avenue for advance orders establishing revenue streams.

Competition is brisk and there are more comic creators than ever before, presenting a huge variety of unique creations that go well beyond the constrictions of the superhero genre. The distribution of digital content for mobile devices is giving comic creators the opportunity to reach new markets that just a year or two ago may have seemed impossible.

This is possibly the best and most challenging time to be a comic creator ever.  Working for a corporate comic company is now a choice, not the only viable option if you intend to have a career in comics. Corporate creators have a better understanding of their role as  cog in the corporate wheel and are more careful as they juggle being creative without abandoning rights to personal creations.

Corporate comics are once again a stepping stone to a respected career but creators no longer need to leave the comics industry. They just need to declare their independence and take control of their destiny as comic creators.

The revolution to establish these freedoms for comic creators has spanned decades. There have been many victories and many casualties. Alternative companies have come and gone, creators have basked in the limelight then vanished from the radar. Some have celebrated success while others have anguished over failure. Through it all it has been the audience that has benefited the most, paying witness to a variety of comics that would never exist if they were limited only to the corporately owned IP of two publishers.Next week, as a nation, we celebrate the independence of the United States of America, a country that established freedoms and inalienable rights that did not exist prior to the signing of the Constitution. Those same rights grant us the opportunity as comic creators to freely express ourselves through our work and to pursue a free and open market. As a comic creator, take a stand  and be independent. As a comics fan, support independent, creators and publishers.

As a comic community declare every Independence Day as Independent’s Day and applaud a bright future for the art of creating comics.

Thirty years ago as two of the co-founders of the alternative comics publisher Comico the Comic Company, Bill Cucinotta and I were focused on these same ideals. Through Comico we had many triumphs yet succumbed to tragic failures.

We never lost the dream.

This Fourth of July weekend we will celebrate our third year in our new publishing incarnation as CO2 Comics. We will be rejoicing our continued freedoms as Independent Publishers, armed with technology that did not exist thirty years ago, experience, and a continued love for comics. Our Declaration of Independence will be the announcement of three new print publications that will be immediately available to our readers.

We know how exciting it is to publish comics beyond the walls of the corporate comic companies!

So next time you hear about a comic creator’s exodus from the corporate comic world just remember, “it ain’t anything new.” It is an opportunity created by the efforts of many over many years.  Show your support, buy their comics and celebrate their independence!

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


Work-for-Hire Under Fire

Monday, August 1st, 2011

The heirs of Jack Kirby took a huge hit last week when a judge in New York ruled against them. The determination that all of Kirby’s creations were protected by a 1909 Work-for-Hire copyright law insured that those creations remained the property of Marvel/Disney.

Many had hoped for a different outcome that would have seen aged comic creators and the heirs of deceased comic creators finally enjoy at least some substantial reward from the works that made fortunes for the comic companies that exploited them.

Naturally there is outrage from supporters of the creators, fans who appreciated the talent and creativity of the people that created the iconic characters that we have all grown to love and which have become ingrained in the fabric of  the medium and popular culture worldwide.

Folks with less of an emotional investment in the history of the medium seem more than willing to side with the comic book companies siting their investment, risk and marketing expertise as the reasons those institutions have earned and deserve the windfalls derived from these same works.

The discussion gets heated because both sides are right, not just from their own perspective but from the dial of the moral compass as well where choices were made and agreements established in a time where no-one could have anticipated the longevity of the properties and the monumental successes to be derived.

The true long-term potential of comic book characters and how it may affect the coffers of the comic book creators did not seem to be such an issue until the technology in film developed to the point where we all believed that a man could fly. The first Superman movie opened the doors for the comic book blockbuster and ignited the first significant challenge from the creators of the character that had sold their rights away decades prior. Over thirty years later that battle is still not completely resolved and may never be.

The problem stems from how the business of comic books was done from its inception in the age of the Great Depression. Young, hungry artists signed away their work happily just to have a job and be able to feed their families. Most artists looked at comics as a mere stepping stone into  the more revered fields of advertising, illustration and design. Many used pseudonyms to ensure that they would not be stereotyped by their work in comics which was not considered with high esteem at the time. Those that left comics for the more reputable work rarely looked back.

By the mid sixties Marvel had created an atmosphere where creators began to feel like they could have a career in comics and enjoy it. With Marvel’s success came contracts, benefits, and enough work to be able to depend on and DC soon followed suit.

The notion of Work-for-Hire, however, remained the norm and, for the Big Two, generally remains the same today especially regarding the characters that are the staple trademarks of each company.

The judgement against the Kirby heirs emphasizes one thing, Creators BEWARE of this business model. If you ever expect to reap full benefit from your creations, seek  other options. Thankfully today there are plenty.

Traditional publishers of other works have generally reserved the copyright for the creators and negotiated royalty arrangements that created financial opportunity for both sides. That is not to say that other media were not capable of taking advantage of the talent. Plenty of stars in film, television, music and sports had to suffer as examples of why their industries all needed to change compensation standards.

The conclusion of the recent NFL lockout is proof that negotiation is reasonable and necessary  on a regular basis to insure some type of perceived fairness in any entertainment industry. Their current deal will be renegotiated in ten years in which time much may change.

The chance for new start-up companies to offer different business models that offered creators the opportunity to retain ownership of their rights and to share in profit was perhaps the greatest opportunity that was derived by the creation of the Direct Market in comics. These virtues had already existed in the Underground Market but the opportunity to generate a more mainstream product and compete directly with Marvel and DC gave many creators new options. Companies like Eclipse, Pacific, Capital, First and Comico, generated creator owned lines of color comics in the eighties that set the foundation and the standards for future independent companies with similar creator values.

Today, the Internet and Digital forms of comic distribution are offering complete autonomy for creators as we demonstrate just one option in our collective cooperative here at CO2 Comics were creators own 100% of their properties. Because of the internet there are more comic artists in the world than ever before.  Finding ways to successfully generate revenue remains a risky proposition but the opportunity to reap full benefit is now where many believe it belongs, in the hands of the creators.

As we all look toward the future of the Comics Industry I hope we remember the heavily licked wounds of the many creators that were retrospectively victimized by their lone Work-for-Hire option. The list of creators is long and sad but it can end with a simple choice not to work under those conditions, ever. If you do, expect no sympathy when you cry for additional merit compensation and fail to get it because your choice will have been an educated one that we all know the unfortunate answer to.

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco



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