Posts Tagged ‘Warner Brothers’

Creator’s Rights: The Rise of the UNDEAD!

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

For anyone who thought that  the Work for Hire clause, whether it was specified in a contract or stamped on the back of a check, was the final answer regarding creator’s rights; think again!

The battle for creator’s rights is experiencing a ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE of its own as issues once considered dead and buried by corporate gate keepers are raising their hoary heads and experiencing triumph against the devil himself.

Appropriately, Ghost Rider, the supernatural motorcyclist who sold his soul to the devil and consequently bursts into hellfire complete with a flaming skull whenever he encounters evil, has become the latest character championed by the challenge of his creator.

Gary Friedrich settled a deal with Marvel after the Second Court of Appeals decided that the work for hire contract signed in 1978 was ambiguous on the topic of copyright renewal.

His victory has highlighted the fact that there can be hope against what appears to be insurmountable odds especially after Marvel had knocked him down for the count and even won a countersuit against him for trademark violation seeking retribution of $17,000 for monies he made from selling autographed prints of Ghost Rider at comic conventions.

Never give up the fight!

Creator’s rights has been a battle going on in this industry since it began and every time the issue seems dead it claws back from the grave. Jerry Siegle and Joe Shuster were zombies extraordinaire. No creators fought back so frequently and so often reviving dead issues and achieving a number of victories along the way, than these two. Even after their own deaths their family still haunts DC and Warner Brothers with challenges.

The huge popularity of superheroes in film has certainly stirred the dead more than any other event. The immense profits made from films and merchandising of comic book characters that were unimaginable decades ago have breathed new vigor into aging creators who may have given up the fight long ago but now see the fortunes that are slipping through their fingers.

Suddenly a few of these stalwart underdogs have played a winning hand.

It is important to pay close attention to victories because they are often shrouded in secretive settlements that, though they may satisfy and reward the challenges of the creator are designed to ultimately protect the stake of the corporate holder. Terms of agreement that require secrecy lend little support to other challengers except to grant hope that they too can come to a settlement that will satisfy their unique complaint.

Stan Lee took Marvel to task in 2002 for royalties owed for characters he co-created.  He was awarded a $10 million settlement in 2005 according to Marvel’s first quarter operating results that year. This of course begs to question, what about Steve Ditko and the Jack Kirby estate?

Archie Comics settled with Ken Penders regarding rights to the characters he created while working on stories for Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles comics. His characters have shown up in reprints, comics, and video games. Victory in hand, he now has his sights set on Sega and Electronic Arts. Sega would not event participate with Archie in the original proceedings making Archie’s defense more laughable than it was. Penders plans to utilize the characters he created in a graphic novel series entitled The Lara-Su Chronicles.

Jim Starlin’s relationship has seemed so warm and fuzzy with Marvel since it was revealed that Thanos, a character he created, would be a major player in the Avengers film franchise as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Little has been made public, but one can only assume that a settlement has been reached since Starlin can prove that he created Thanos before he even came to work for Marvel.

Recently, in a congratulatory comment  to Gary Friedrich made via Facebook and Twitter, artist Bob Layton publicly stated that  he and David Michelinie had settled with Marvel over rights issues to a character created during their long run on Iron Man.

Does this activity indicate that the tide is turning? Is it possible the the courts are finally recognizing what we have known for years; that creators of intellectual property in the comic industry have been grossly taken advantage of? Is public sentiment starting to influence the position of the courts and the corporations? Is the work for hire practice of the major comic companies finally damaging the value of their good will?

A lot of creators have been cheated over the decades. A lot of challenges have laid buried beneath heaps of residue from corporate greed, abuse and the creator’s fear of reprisal.

There is a tremor now. That which was once thought dead is rising from the loosened earth. Like the Ghost Rider, injustice is igniting its fury. A new day is coming and that which was dead will be no more. Creator’s Rights will rise like the undead and the  APOCALYPSE will be waged upon corporate greed.

Gerry Giovinco



Revolution?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

There has been a lot of talk lately about a creator ownership revolution.

Are we kidding?!

Can we seriously refer to it as a revolution, now?

This whole idea of creator ownership and creator rights goes way back. What creator wouldn’t be hesitant to sell away the rights of their creation or just fritter it away on a work for hire contract, but hey, if you wanted to work in comics that’s how things were done.

Steve Gerber

Howard The Duck

The late Steve Gerber was the first guy I remember to have the guts to stand up and buck the system. The thumbing of his nose at Marvel who ironically was haggling trademark issues with the then adversarial Disney corporation over Steve’s brilliant creation, Howard the Duck, was the shot heard around the world for comic creators.

His collaboration with Jack Kirby on Destroyer Duck published by Eclipse Comics, an early Independent publisher, was an example of what was to come in regards to creator rights and ownership.

Destroyer Duck 1

Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby of course was the King of comic creators and he too required the support of comic creators everywhere in a battle for his rights which has yet to be settled years after his passing.

Creators have fought the good fight. They have educated themselves on copyright issues. They have marketed their works, self published, merchandised, licensed and have experimented with formatting in both print and digital.

Creators have brought diversity to the medium exploring genres well beyond superheroes. Their efforts have been awarded with film deals and other opportunities never afforded to comic creators back in the day.

This dynamic climate for creators has been in the making for over thirty years. It’s not a revolution, its a resolution to what was unfair in the industry for decades.

So why all of the sudden rhetoric? Why all of the jitters?

Because there is an air of complacency.

Distribution is one of the key ingredients to independence for the creator. The early days of the Direct Market, made it a haven for independent publishers and innovative creators. Without the Direct Market there would be no diversity in comics today. Marvel and DC have been happy to let a small niche of unique product proliferate but have always been quick to flood the market when there were signs of significant competition rising.

The Direct Market is suffocating as the demand for print shrinks and the biggest casualties will be the small publishers that publish the creator owned works, inciting an exodus to digital content distributors.

These same distributors have access to an enormous library of Marvel and DC works. If the big two were happy to flood the market of the monthly pull list, do you think they would care if they drowned the digital market with 70 years of available monthly content?

Remember, this is not just Marvel and DC we are talking about. Those guys in the New York offices actually love comics and probably enjoy a lot of the diverse content out there but Warner Brothers and Disney will need and want to protect their intellectual properties.

The best way to guarantee that Superman and Spidey have no competition is to make sure there can be none.

Comics are too easy to produce, publish and distribute compared to any other visual entertainment medium. Its too easy for another Mutant TurtleSpawn, Scott Pilgrim, or Wimpy Kid to sneak up and take market dollars.

TMNT, Spawn, Scott Pilgrim, Wimpy Kid

It is naive to think that the monster corporations are not intent on controlling digital distribution.

Revolution? No.

Wake up call?

YES!!!

Creators have got to be smart and protect the market for each other. We need to focus on innovative ways to market comics to the new generation of digital readers. Keep the sources open. Capitalize on the web. Be creative about sourcing revenue from free content as well as monetized downloads.
Be a community.

Beware of the competition. It is not each other. It is the super powers that be.

Most of all, value your creative freedom. It has been fought for for decades. Now is the time that we may have the greatest opportunity in front of us.

Let’s not let it slip away.

Making comics because I want to!

Gerry Giovinco


The Comic Company: Licensed to Thrill

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

A number of comic book companies today fill their product line-ups with licensed properties. IDW, Boom, Darkhorse and Ape are among the most significant publishers outside of Marvel and DC who have found value in acquiring licensed properties from other media outlets.

The idea is simple and is a marketing tool used by scores of merchandising companies in nearly every industry. Find an intellectual property with high visibility. Purchase the rights to make an exclusive product featuring the property. Benefit from the sales generated by the customer recognition of the popular property.

Badda Boom, Badda Bing!

Licensing and merchandising is nothing new. Saint Paul built Christianity on its basic premises by marketing the popular teachings of Jesus as a new religious product.

Merry Christmas,” two thousand and ten years later!

Comic books have used it since the beginnings of the industry. The first comic books featured licensed syndicated newspapers comics that were reprinted in color.

It shouldn’t have been a big deal in 1983 when Comico licensed the rights from Harmony Gold to publish the English adaption of the popular Japanese animated series MACROSS. But it was and it became an even bigger deal that put Comico on the map as a major player in the comic industry.

Robotech/Macross #1 cover, Comico 1984

At the time, and please correct me if I’m wrong, Comico was the first independent comic company to enter into a licensing deal other than one that was of a creator owned property. Only Marvel and DC had a lock on that side of the market and, to the best of my knowledge, no one else was even considering it.

Comico’s deal was innocent enough. It was built on the enthusiasm of Carl Macek for his project that he was working on with Harmony Gold and the Comico crew’s collective interest in Anime. Comico enthusiastically became the first American licensee of MACROSS.

At the same time DC acquired the rights from Revell to publish ROBOTECH, based on a line of toys designed around assorted transforming robot molds that Revell had purchased from a toy company in Japan. When the first issue was published by DC it was clear that a number of the robots in ROBOTECH were from the MACROSS series and many of the other robots were from other series that Harmony Gold also held the rights to.

Needless to say there was lot of wrangling going on but Carl Macek and Harmony Gold held the trump card. They had an entire animated series that could be adapted to TV in the American market. As Stan Lee would say, “‘Nuff said!”

Revell and Harmony Gold worked together to build the ROBOTECH franchise that took America by storm. Harmony Gold proved their honor by awarding Comico the rights to the comic book resting it from DC since we had the original deal for the actual story.

Comico's 1st Color Books

Comico had already established its ability to produce quality product with its first color offerings, MAGE, EVANGELINE, ELEMENTALS and MACROSS. Our production and success of the ROBOTECH comics helped the marketing team behind ROBOTECH to attract more licensees and before long the ROBOTECH logo was everywhere.

Others took notice and soon we were being contacted others, most notably Hannah Barbera who was looking for a publisher for Thundarr the Barbarian. Our interest, however, was in one of their long dormant properties, Jonny Quest.

Jonny had been off their radar for so long that the people we were dealing with thought that it was a Filmation property and were surprised to discover it in their own archives.

Jonny Quest was a huge success for Comico and other properties were soon to follow. Space Ghost, Gumby, and Starblazers were all big hits. We also set our sights on Max Headroom and though we did initially acquire the property and began marketing it, creative differences arose between the editorial staff, creative team and the owners of the property, Chrysalis Records. Max Headroom never became a Comico comic book.

Other comic companies picked up where Comico left off, finding success in licensed properties. Others found even greater success in licensing their own properties following in the insanely successful footsteps of Eastman and Laird’s nearly immortal Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Now, more than ever before, with the advent of digital content and the internet, we have to closely examine what is the true value of the comics that we make. Is it the comics themselves or is it the intellectual property they are derived from?

We all would love to make money selling our comics and I can tell you from experience that you certainly can but folks, the real money is in the properties themselves.

Disney and Warner Brothers both know this and are in the process of redefining the IP of Marvel and DC for success in the long haul while producers throughout Hollywood are rummaging through comic properties regularly looking for the next Mutant Turtle.

The Internet is the comic creator’s opportunity to develop and establish rights to a property while reaching an audience that is global. Protect your assets, invest your skills and let the best properties sell themselves. This is the greatest time ever to be a comic creator. Take advantage of it!

Hey, I know the economy sucks and the market is in tremendous flux but guess what? That is exactly how it was when Mickey and Superman showed up both borne on the backs of failure and surrounded by the Great Depression. Their strength was the brilliance of their property which still shines today.

Comic properties can have tremendous economic power and there is plenty of proof. Don’t be discouraged if you are a creator or a fan. The future for comics is bright.

David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Vol 1

CO2 Comics is going into 2011 as optimistic as anybody! The content of our site is growing steadily and our readership is expanding rapidly. We have published our first book, David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection Volume 1 and have new products on the horizon.

But our biggest achievement is the honor That Bill and I have of posting the great comics that have been trusted to our site by creators that we love and respect so that all of our valued readers can enjoy them.

Thank you everyone for this opportunity to do what we enjoy most.

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco

CO2 COMICS and HARMONY GOLD Celebrate ROBOTECH Anniversary at ZENKAIKON 2009

Monday, November 9th, 2009
zenkaikon_1

Chris Kalnick, Mike Leeke, Gerry Giovinco, Neil Vokes and Tommy Yune

This past weekend at Zenkaikon 2009 held in King of Prussia,
Pennsylvania, CO2 Comics and Harmony Gold USA collaborated
to reunite members of the Comico crew that first published
the ROBOTECH comic series.

25 years after the 1984 publication of Macross #1 which would
become ROBOTECH The Macross Saga with issue #2,
Comico and current CO2 publisher Gerry Giovinco along with artists,
Mike Leeke, Neil Vokes and Chris Kalnick, who all also feature work
on the CO2 Comics web site, gathered together as guests for a
ROBOTECH panel discussion hosted by Harmony Gold Creative Director, Tommy Yune.

zenkaikon_2

Chris Kalnick, Mike Leeke, Gerry Giovinco and Neil Vokes

The panel focused on the past, present, and exciting future of the
ROBOTECH franchise with emphasis placed on the upcoming
ROBOTECH film to be produced by Warner Brothers.

zenkaikon_3

Chris Kalnick, Neil Vokes, Lisa Hayes character, Gerry Giovinco, Mike Leeke and Tommy Yune

An estimated 9,000 attendees arrived to attend the Zenkaikon,
overwhelming the convention with with their huge array of
cosplay costuming.

Thanks to Harmony Gold and Zenkaikon.


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