Posts Tagged ‘Walt Disney’

Ode to Oswald

Monday, April 30th, 2012

One would think that of all the major conglomerates in the world, The Walt Disney Company would have the greatest empathy and respect for creators who have made bad deals that resulted in their characters being torn from them. Disney, in fact owes its own success to it’s founder’s resolution resulting from having his creation hijacked by corporate greed.

Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks

In 1927, Walt Disney and his chief animator Ub Iwerks signed a deal with producer Charles Mintz to create a character so they could sell animated shorts to Universal Studios. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit became Disney’s first major success. Walt Disney, always striving for quality, saw his budgets becoming more costly and approached Mintz for more money. To Disney’s surprise Mintz outlined a plan where Walt would receive 20% less and was informed that Mintz contractually controlled the rights to the character and could produce cartoons without Disney. In fact, Mintz had already secured the services of all of Disney’s animators with the exception of Ub Iwerks. Disney refused to take the cut and walked away from his association with Mintz leaving his successful character behind.



Vowing to never let anyone else own his work again Disney started his own studio with his brother, Roy and Ub Iwerks, introducing the world to Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s initial start was slow going but Disney’s willingness to embrace the new technology of sound in film propelled the mouse to international stardom when he released Steamboat Willie in 1928.


The Walt Disney Company’s success since has been unparalleled and though Walt himself is often quoted as saying, “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing–that it was all started by a mouse,” he must have been justifiably  haunted by the loss of  Oswald the Rabbit. It must have also been a thorn in the corporate culture of the entire company that Oswald had been orphaned because when Bob Iger was named CEO of the company he told Walt’s daughter, Diane, that he intended to bring Oswald back to Disney. Nearly eighty years after the character was estranged from Disney, Bob Iger did just that.

In 2006, Iger traded away sportscaster Al Michaels from Disney’s ABC and ESPN to NBC Universal for the rights to Oswald and a few other minor assets! Oswald the Rabbit came home to much pomp and circumstance and immediately became a co-star in Disney’s popular video game Epic Mickey where Oswald rules Wasteland, a world inhabited by, what else, forgotten characters. The Disney merchandising machine is slowly including Oswald in all things Disneyana but more importantly there is great satisfaction that Oswald is home where he belongs with his step-brother Mickey.

It is exactly this corporate culture righteousness that needs to be implored now that Disney owns Marvel Entertainment. A long trail of Marvel Comic creators have seen their characters harvested to the tune of literally billions of dollars with no compensation paid to the originators or their heirs beyond a meager initial page rate. Adding insult to injury these same creators are not even being acknowledged for their roles as creators in film credits for what can only be legal posturing. This is more than an injustice, this is a cultural travesty! Films like The Avengers have an opportunity, nay, a responsibility to properly credit the creative minds that laid the foundation for generations of entertainment by these characters. The audience has a cultural right to know the accurate history of these characters and the medium that they are derived from.

I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators. I imagine that Walt Disney is rolling in his grave (or cryogenic chamber if you buy into that legend) at the thought of his own World of Tomorrow being such an unscrupulous, greedy, and callous place.

Maybe someday, just as The Walt Disney Company experienced the joy of the triumphant return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back into the fold of the Magic Kingdom, the legacy of the true original creators of the Marvel Universe will be fully embraced and that same joy can be experienced by those creative pioneers and their heirs.

As Stan Lee, the only Marvel co-creator unabashedly and perpetually credited would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s time that Disney, Marvel, and Stan, himself, live up to that motto and do the right thing.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


COMICONOMY the Economics of Comics

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Pirates! Pirates everywhere!

It was just over a week ago when everyone was banding together to trash SOPA and PIPA. We can agree that, as creators, nobody likes pirates but we hated the idea of losing our rights to innocently pirate, ourselves. The idea of being shut down, fined or arrested for sharing music, images or video that we “borrow” for use  on our blogs and/or favorite social media brought together a nation of internet users that rallied to crush those bills and won an indefinite reprieve.

I guess we are all in agreement that it’s OK to pirate a little bit, so long as nobody is profiting directly from the pilfering. It is, after all, free advertising, right? As a creator, what could be better than seeing your work go viral and having the whole world find out about it besides, you know, being paid for it?

The real pirates, the bad guys, are the ones with those vicious torrent download sites, scanning entire issues of comics, ripping entire DVD’s of major motion pictures, and cataloging music by the truckload for downloads as mp3 files. Those guys are rapists! They literally rip the food right out of the creators’ mouths by preventing them from benefiting from sales that were lost to the downloaders. The downloaders are the pirates’ accomplices, they are pirates too, red handed with stolen goods and the first ones to share an innocent link or post tainted content.

So, SOPA and PIPA have been dead for barely two weeks and everyone is already screaming about how we have to take down the pirates. Comic artists everywhere are starving and nobody wants to pay for comics, especially if they can get them for free. What are we to do?

Kill the pirates! Shut them down!!

Please, just don’t use SOPA or PIPA.

Almost symbolically, good ol’ SEAL Team 6 heroically trashed a real-world, pirate compound in Somalia and rescued two aid workers that had been kidnapped. Nine pirates were killed. Everyone is happy!

This all got me to thinking. Pirates are a motivated lot, as are most bad guys. They don’t steal and plunder just for the fun of it. They do it  for the money. They gather up a ton of treasure and then they bury it on a deserted island. The downloader’s reward is free comics but the mastermind must be making a fortune to be willing to risk federal charges.

The pirates have figured out how to make money with comics while giving them away for free! Those rat bastards! If only we were that smart! Comic creators could be happy again.

Well Golly! Web comics have been using the same business model as the pirates for years now with varying degrees of success. We use it right here at CO2 Comics! Yet it is always a struggle to justify giving comic content away for free because it flies in the face of the old distribution system, the same system that has a stranglehold on the industry’s move to a digital market.  We are so afraid not to make a nice buck off a sale in a micro niche market that we are unwilling to make a small return on each sale in a potentially monolithic market or let graphically rich, free content drive streams of traffic through a sponsored website.

Free content drives every major website on the internet wether it is a search engine, a social network, a news agency or whatever. Who pays to use Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!,  Wikipedia, or Twitter? They are all among the top ten sites in the world and all worth BILLIONS of dollars! Content that is free to consumers has driven entertainment industries for decades. Newspapers,  radio, and television have all been huge beneficiaries of delivering free content.

Build a big enough comic reading audience in a free and open market and you will see the number of book sales begin to rise to numbers not heard of in decades. There is plenty of evidence that free web content has helped the sales of trades. Retailers will be happy to see a parade of new clientele march through their doors. We won’t have to read blog posts by comic artists crying duress driving down their power of negotiation to corporate publishing scum by playing a vulnerable hand. Free content also neutralizes piracy by taking away their only incentive to attract comic readers to their torrent sites.

Comic art has more value than we are daring enough to place on it. Let the work declare its own value and surprise yourself. Always remember that Disney is built on the back of Mickey Mouse and Time-Warner on the shoulders of Superman. Walt Disney believed in Mickey and let Mickey’ s success establish the worth of his company. Seigel and Schuster, in a fit of desperation,  sold Superman, a comic that nobody else wanted, for a lousy $130 and made someone else rich beyond their dreams.

Which creator would you like to be?

Let’s learn from the pirates. Comics are treasure even when they are free. We are in a position to command the destinies of our creative properties. Do not let senseless fear jeopardize the future of the industry. Take time to analyze and understand the market. Take control.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


Branding Jack Kirby

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The Fall Classic is upon us and here in the Philadelphia area we baseball fans have reason to be excited! The Phillies are making their fifth trip in a row to the playoffs, hoping to reach the World Series for the third time in four years!

Sports and comics have a lot in common, challenge, conflict, victory, colorful uniforms drenched in primary colors and heroes, plenty of heroes. In sports heroes come and go. A hero one day may be the goat the next. Some heroes become legends and their exploits border on the mythic. The greatest tragedy in sports is when the most idyllic of heroes fall from grace crushing the hearts of all their faithful fans and admirers.

Phillies fans, though currently enjoying a great era of success, have a long history of witnessing failed efforts so the few highlights in their history shine like beacons. We all know that the Phil’s first World Series Championship, won in 1980, would never have happened without, then first baseman, Pete Rose.

It was a great team and had been for a few years with heros like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone and other greats but the acquisition of Pete Rose made the difference. He was Charlie Hustle, Mr. Baseball.  Even when Rose played for the opposing Cincinnati Reds, as much as he was a hated rival, he had to be admired. Pete Rose was the kind of player every fan wanted on their team, hard working, skilled and doggedly determined to win.

Pete Rose defined everything that was great about baseball and was one of the sport’s greatest heroes.  When he was banned from Major League Baseball in 1989 and later from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 because of his admissions to gambling and betting on his team, his situation ignited a firestorm of contention among baseball fans that continues today.

Many believe that Pete Rose’s banishment from Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame is unfair, deprives fans of an accurate accounting of history and is a hypocrisy when compared to the inductees that are known drinkers, wife beaters, drug users, etc.

Pete Rose at the Museum in Cooperstown

But this is Charlie Hustle, and when I heard that there was a Pete Rose Museum in Cooperstown I gloated at the thought of Mr. Baseball erecting a gleaming shrine to himself right in the shadow of Baseball’s hallowed Hall of Fame redirecting the foot traffic through his doors and reaping financial rewards and well deserved glory from adoring fans ravenous for memorabilia with his name on it. I imagined Pete standing in his door thumbing his nose at Major League Baseball, then going to the bank, everyday.

In actuality the Pete Rose Museum is a modest hall of memorabilia on the second floor of a brick building a block away from the Hall of Fame sitting atop the Mickey Mantle Museum and Pete Rose continues to face his life sentence with dignity and respect to the sport that he so loved.

So what does this all have to do with Jack Kirby?

Pete Rose’s story in some ways reminds me of Jack Kirby’s story. Kirby dedicated his life to the mastery of the comics medium he loved. In the eye’s of many, he was the greatest but for all his accomplishments he was denied the final rewards of his endeavors, some rights to the many, many characters he created. Jack Kirby’s characters continue to make millions of dollars for the corporations that claim the rights while his heirs continue to fight for some reasonable compensation.

Heated discussion has continued for decades as to what is fair in the case of Jack Kirby and other comic artists with similar issues that will probably never be settled.

My thought is that maybe, like in the case of Rose’s museum, focus should be trained away from the monolithic industry and aimed at the man himself, or in this case, the King, Jack Kirby.

It is time that the name Jack Kirby become a brand that is synonymous with all that is great and can be great about comics. Beyond all the characters that Jack Kirby created, there is a style that is distinctive solely to him a style that has affected pop culture for decades.

Imagine a Jack Kirby retail store that sold only product that was derived from Kirby’s original creations. Sure, it would look like a comic shop littered with product produced by Marvel and DC but the retail revenue instead of meager royalties  from the wholesale revenue would go to holders of the Jack Kirby store who would either be the heirs or someone who pays the heirs for the rights to use Jack Kirby’s name.

How about Jack Kirby comic conventions? Kirby Con International? There might be a few bucks to be made there!

The Jack Kirby brand in a strange turn could license rights from Marvel and DC to produce all kinds of Jack Kirby branded merchandise. Everyone makes money and the Kirby legacy lives on providing the heirs with fiscal security for generations.

Kirby’s distinctive style could lend to clothing designs that could rival anything on the market today. Instead of Coogi, stylish folks could wear Jack Kirby. Why not?

Stan Lee has turned his name into a brand. Can you say Walt Disney? Why not Jack Kirby? Forget about the characters and turn the legacy of the man into the commodity. Is he not the King, after-all?

In terms of strategy, I guess this would be considered “Beat them at their own game.”

Just an idea, inspired by a guy who never gave up.

Go, Phillies!

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco



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