Posts Tagged ‘Wonder Woman’

Comics and a Tale of Two Extremes

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

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The past week has been quite interesting regarding comics and censorship. It is a tale of two instances each depicting an extreme point of view. Both circumstances raise serious questions about how we view our rights as citizens of this country.

The first issue is about Duke University freshman, Brian Grasso, and his refusal to read the required graphic novel, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Citing his conservative Christian beliefs, he feels that reading the graphic novel violates, for him, the teachings of Jesus that forbid exposure to pornography because the book includes images of female masturbation and oral sex. His thorough explanation of his decision is well presented but has made him the target of great opposition and ridicule.

Unlike a previous incident where Tara Shultz and her parents petitioned Crafton Hills College to eradicate a number of graphic novels from the curriculum because they contained nudity, sex and violence, Grasso accepted that his decision of self-censorship was his choice and was content that he could still have a fulfilling college career without partaking in the offending material. His only request that he could have been made better aware of the graphic images before he encountered them was no different than a Vegan requesting accurate ingredient labeling. How dare he?

The other issue that eventually turned out to be a farce was about a little girl that was sent home from school with a letter that informed her parents that her Wonder Woman lunch box violated their dress code policy that forbids violent images.  The manufactured school defined “violent characters” as “those who solve problems using violence,” and confirmed that superheroes certainly fall into that category.

The ruse went viral fooling many who bought into the story took offense to the imaginary school’s position. But what if this were real? Many schools have policies in place that do, in fact, prohibit merchandised characters, superheroes and violent images.  Overlooking the fact that the images on the hoax lunch box displayed no violence, Wonder Woman has long been a role model for young women, and that superheroes, in general, show great restraint regarding the use of their strength and powers, using them primarily to protect the defenseless, any school’s policy, though well intended, is an unapologetic form of censorship that has the potential to be more dangerous than the violence it intends to curb.

Observing the facts that schools bemoaning superheroes because they solve problems with violence probably have no problem accepting currency depicting dead war generals and that the Bible itself can be pretty racy at times, inspiring plenty of images of naked people throughout history, we can cast judgement on the players in either situation all we want, but we cannot lose sight of our rights of free expression, our freedom of choice and our freedom of religion.

Brian Grasso, has every right to be a conservative Christian. He has every right to choose not to read that book. He has as much right as Amy Bechtel had in creating it and the Duke administrators had in approving it as suitable material for their curriculum. We may not all agree with his views but we must respect his right to have them and his freedom to express his opinion, which he did eloquently and without violence while encouraging rational discussion.

The schools with the no-violent-image-rules have their rights too, especially if they are a private

institutions, but the message they are sending is ominous. Images are not violence. They are art. They are a form of expression that displaces the use of violence. Images and words are how we communicate. They open a dialog to resolutions before someone gets smashed in the face. Adventure stories and pictures on paper are made with spilled ink. Violence spills blood. More importantly, the school’s intent to block images, especially those that are so ingrained in popular culture, sends a message that our freedoms of expression and choice are no longer important. We are teaching our kids to have no imagination, no voice, and to submit with no opposition. That is not America.

Brian Grasso stood up for his unpopular beliefs in writing and did not intend to force his beliefs on others. He deserves credit for that! Do not prevent our children from doing the same. Encourage art. Encourage, consuming it. Engage with your children in their expression of all of their ideas and their consumption of the ideas of others. The world will be a better and more peaceful place because of it.

Grab a comic book and sit down with your children. Read it with them and discuss the conflicts, the tensions, the decisions the characters make and the resolutions of their actions. Discuss how the story could have ended differently. Talk about the virtues of the heroes and the motivations of the villains. Recognize that there is value in the adventures of those superheroes that far exceeds any violence that might be portrayed. Share this with your child and you will be the superhero in their life that matters.

Sometimes it takes an extreme point of view to get our attention before it is too late. The idea of political correctness has been a hot issue of late. Nobody wants to be offended. The sad truth is that someone always will be. It is impossible to please everyone. The worst thing we could do is to sacrifice our rights, especially our freedom of expression, in a vain effort to make everyone happy.

Imagine a world without superheroes, and you will probably imagine a world without hope. Imagine a world without art, and I’ll bet you can’t.

Gerry Giovinco

Rebuilding Riverdale At Whose Expense?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

The magic number must be 75! It is no mistake that Marvel, DC and now Archie Comics, all of which published their premier iconic characters between 1938 and 1941, have rolled out celebrations of their 75th year anniversary finding interesting ways to reboot their entire universes in the process.

DC rebooted with Flashpoint, then The New 52 and now Convergence. Marvel is rebooting with Secret Wars and the establishment of Battleworld. Now Archie is planning to “Build a New Riverdale” with a controversial Kickstarter.

No coincidence that, as copyright law stands today, characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Prince Namor, The Human Torch, Archie and most of the gang living in Reverdale are sitting on the precipice of public domain as their copyrights, whose duration is 95 years from first publication, are set to expire within the next 20 years.

All three publishers are scrambling to recreate their brand to distance the next generation of consumers and those that follow from the classic versions of their characters guaranteeing that their origin stories and adventures will  be considered outdated and unmarketable. In the meantime, trademarks of every variation of those characters, their costumes and logos which can be prevented from ever expiring will be maintained an marketed as aggressively as possible.

So while Archie is rebuilding Riverdale and seemingly throwing out any style guide that remotely looks like the characters originally designed by Bob Montana, they are just ensuring that nobody else can tell a story about life in Riverdale without infringing on their trademark. Soon Archie and the gang will have as many different looks and styles as Batman has logos.

The funny thing is Archie wants our help and is seeking $350,000 on a Kickstarter campaign to do it!

Why?

According to Archie publisher Jon Goldwater, they just want to get the new product to market as fast as possible and have their funds tied up in a deal to expand digest distribution into Target and Wal-Mart stores.

What is Target and Wal-Mart’s sudden interest in Archie all about? If they wanted comics wouldn’t they be going after Marvel or DC first? Something is in the wind. Probably the “Riverdale” TV series that will soon be coming to FOX. All that exposure has got to be killing them!

In their rush to market these new projects by selling direct to the audience through Kickstarter, they also managed to offend their most ardent supporters, the retailers in the Direct Market. They should’ve seen that coming! Publishers like Marvel, DC and Archie are the bread and butter of the Direct Market retailer. When these publishers venture into a direct-to-customer distribution system they simply cut the retailers out at the knees.

Retailers are not the only victims. So are Indy publishers that have come rely on crowdfunding as a means to generate precious preorders on a product that may not meet the sales requirements of distribution through Diamond. A company like Archie, seeking a huge some of money in a campaign will crowd out smaller publishers, especially those that are now producing comics that compete directly for the audience that Archie has appealed to  for decades.

This is the same technique that Marvel and DC employed in the 1980’s when they were threatened by the emergence of successful independent publishers in the fledgeling Direct Market. They simply flooded the market. More product does not mean that consumers will spend more money. Consumers have a limited amount of funds and when more product is introduced into a market it only means that the consumer now has to make choices on how they spend their money. The winners are usually the ones that have a big enough budget to promote their product and an already committed audience. That is not the small indy publisher.

How many Kickstarter campaigns have you read about in the news feeds this week besides Archie’s?

Point made.

If Archie reaches their goal, that is $350,000 that is not going to other crowdfunding campaigns. It is also $350,000 not venturing into a comic shop.

Archie wants to rebuild Riverdale by strip-mining the resources of the current comics market all in an effort to erect a bulkhead that will secure them from public domain which is intended as a reward for a culture that supported their work for 95 years. In the process they describe themselves as small and scrappy, yet tread on those publishers that  genuinely meet that description. Their campaign does not even offer great rewards! Supporters are asked to pay twice as much for product that will soon be available in stores.

Archie is a company that has been around for over 75 years with celebrated characters that have been in films, cartoons and live action series on TV. They have managed to maintain a presence with their comics outside of the Direct Market with their digest format, a  feat that even Marvel and DC cannot claim. Now they have a deal with Target and Wal-Mart and a television deal with FOX, yet they still need $350,000 of our money to launch three new comic books, something the’ve been capable of doing themselves with no problem for three quarters of a century. Sounds like an easy way to get a lot of free advertising with a major dash of greed.

Not-so-poor or  little Archie wants our help but remember who loses in this one… everyone but Archie Comics. If their campaign is a success, they are laughing all the way to the bank, where they should have gone for a loan in the first place.

Gerry Giovinco

Vocal Minority vs Silent Minority in Comics

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

The so-called “vocal minority” in comics has been getting a lot of attention lately due to reactions generated by Raphael Albuquerque’s request to pull his controversial variant cover for Batgirl #41 and  Image co-founder Eric Larson’s criticism of the newly designed Wonder Woman costume.

To be clear, the term “vocal minority” today’s current comic speak for  the voice of feminists and their supporters who rally against sexual exploitation and violence against women in comics.

In the case of Albuquerque’s cover, the artist responded to threats of violence made towards critics of the cover. He respected and agreed with the concerns of the “vocal minority” that felt the image strongly implied rape and was not consistent with the current direction of the current Batgirl story line. DC honored his request and replaced the cover with a more appropriate variant.

Regarding, Erik Larsen,  well, he just had a meltdown. He  lambasted the big two on twitter for “placating a vocal minority at the expense of the paying audience by making more practical women outfits.”

Janelle Asselin did a nice piece on the subject that should be read at Comics Alliance. Her conclusion that the comics industry is changing and fans and pros that have perpetuated a sexualized  and violent comic market for decades need to realize that the industry is not just about them any more should be applauded for the sole purpose of pointing out that for too long the industry has been dictated by a  “silent minority.”

This group’s  intentions for publishing comic books over the last few decades is a lot different than what had gone before.

Many of the iconic comic characters that we enjoy today were created at a time when it was necessary to appeal to the widest audience possible. For this reason and later for the approval of the Comics Code Authority, comic publishers went out of their way to create wholesome, unoffensive characters with broad appeal. I was just good business for the market at the time.

The costumes worn by superheroes were designed to emulate the exotic and powerful costumes of circus entertainers that inspired the imaginations of the young and old alike. The capes, tights and body suits  came from strongmen, acrobats, aerialists and dancers because it was their costumes that the public equated with what was powerful  and  fantastic.

They were simple and much more innocent times.

The characters became powerful trademarks recognizable by people around the world. They were licensed and merchandised to promote tons of product all on the strength of the characters recognizability and good will.

The image of superhero on a product stood for “Truth Justice, and the American Way.”

This all changed in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Comic book sales became relegated strictly to comic shops and the Comic Code lost its authority. A new crowd took over the reigns at the publishing houses. Comics were no longer being made for the largest audience. They were being made to appeal to a finite group of like-minded, adult, male fans and creators who wanted their comics mature, violent and sexual. This “silent minority” assumed the market and would control it entirely today if it were not for the success of Manga in American bookstores and the purchase of Marvel by Disney.

Manga with its attention to wide subject matter, strong character relationships and dominant female characters attracted women readers and eventually drove them into the comic shops shaking up the boys club that proliferates there.

Disney, with their solid focus on branding has capitalized on their merchandising machine and made Marvel characters household names like never before. The appeal of the superhero has not been this great since World War ll.

But DC continues to tarnish their established trademarks from the inside-out finding new ways to offend and alienate a wider market that includes women that respect themselves and a youth market that is not ready for stories about sex, rape, extreme violence and vulgar language.

The new fans are not discovering what they expect when they walk into comic shops because comic books have changed.

Our culture assumes that superheroes are for everyone. We like to consider them our modern mythology. Like it or not, this is what they have become. When they are used as a tool for exclusion, misogyny, or racism it should be expected that a discussion will occur. One that should remain peaceful and dignified. Anyone that invokes the use of violence to prove their point should not be tolerated.

Let’s be civilized.

Superheroes are just a small part of the ever growing comics industry. There is plenty of room for comics and graphic novels to be created to appeal to every minority group out there no matter how silent or vocal they are. But we will all be best served if the publishers, creators and fans encourage the creation of new characters to drive those stories so the old characters can retain the ideals intended by their original creators.

You see, I am a member of another minority. One that remembers when comics were fun colorful and exciting. The good guy always won. The women were beautiful and their clothes stayed on. I don’t remember cringing at violence because it was never extreme and I never worried about being offended by reading a story about my favorite character. I would like to see those characters that I grew up with, remain the pure icons that they were. But it is already too late. If I want to read those comics I have to pick up an omnibus collection.

Alan Moore did it right when he created the Watchmen. He gave us something new for a more mature audience without corrupting  classic characters.

And then he wrote The Killing Joke where Batgirl was stripped, mutilated, and permanently disabled which has now led us to the furor over Albuquerque’s cover.

Where is Yvonne Craig when we need her?

Gerry Giovinco

Before Cosplay There Was Halloween

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Now that comic conventions have become huge cultural events, cosplay, the act of dressing as your favorite character and parading around at conventions, has been getting a lot of attention in large part due to its incredible growing popularity.

When I participated in what were then just called Costume Competitions wearing my signature THING costume back in 1979 there were only a handful of brave folks that would take the stage. Nothing compared to the legions of cosplayers that attend cons today.

What an outlet for creative costumers cons have become. As I think back on it, before science fiction and comic conventions, the only opportunity to get dressed up and run around like your favorite character was Halloween.

Just for this reason, Halloween was my favorite holiday. (Or at least a very tight second to Christmas!) Nothing was more fun than donning costumes with my brothers and pillaging the neighborhood for candy with my grandmother who, small in stature at 4’8″,  would also disguise herself as one of the kids just to help keep our group identity obscured.

It didn’t take long for us to graduate from the conventional costumes made by Collegeville or Ben Cooper but I will never forget those vacuum formed masks and cheesy,  one-piece coveralls. They came in all kinds of characters. The first I remember having was Porky Pig printed in a fluorescent orange color to aid visibility at night.

As far as superheroes were concerned, I remember a Captain America knock-off that had a triangular shield printed on the mask bearing the words “American Hero.”  We also had a Batman outfit that just wasn’t quite the same Batman we were watching on that famed 1966 series. Other kids had Wonder Woman, Superman, Spider-man, Hulk and not many others of cape-and-spandex fare.

In an attempt to dignify one of my favorite heroes my first homemade costume was of Batman. I pieced together a black cowl and a cape draped over a gray sweatshirt and pants with black rain boots and swim trunks. I was pretty young at the time and my efforts were rudimentary but I had the bug. Each year after that, it became a badge of honor to craft my own costume and to outdo the one from the year before.

Eventually, it seemed like a shame to put so much effort into a costume for a few hours of enjoyment only on Halloween. Then I discovered comic conventions. What an outlet for the costumer in me! Not only did conventions happen throughout the year, the competitions created an atmosphere that ensured the costumes would be creative and well made by like-minded people that appreciated each other and their skills.

Cosplay has since grown into a phenomenon developing a culture of its own.

Halloween has evolved too. Costumes are no longer vacuum formed and packed in pie boxes. They come in all shapes and sizes with accessories to match. Superheroes abound in costumes with built-in muscles or sexy variants of most of the world’s favorite characters that have been popularized in almost every medium. It is as if the two worlds of Cosplay and Halloween have collided to make one big, year-long, costume extravaganza.

For costumers, this is almost too good to be true and that is a concern.

Halloween has become so popular, communities have become defensive to prevent it from getting out of control. Small towns now limit the hours of Trick-or-Treating to as few as two.  Some cancel the evening altogether and offer a festival or a parade in an effort to control some random acts of violence, mischief, or safety hazards.

Cosplay is experiencing growth pains of its own with issues of privacy and sexual harassment becoming a prevalent discussion causing conventions to establish rules and regulations that will eventually reign in the casual antmosphere that conventioneers have come to enjoy.

A few rotten apples, once again, will ruin it for the whole bunch.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We could all agree to be civilized and respect each other’s dignity by simply attempting to act like the heroes we admire. Is that expecting too much cosplay fantasy in a real world or do we have to ask the hard question we ask every Halloween, “Trick or Treat?” and be satisfied with what we get?

Hopefully, no rocks.

Happy Halloween!

Gerry Giovinco



Remember When Comics Smelled Like…Pot?!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Remember when comics smelled like newsprint?

Not anymore!

If you haven’t heard, DC Comics plans to publish a Harley Quinn comic book that smells like cannabis. It’s true! You can read the story here.

What the hell are they thinking?!

I will never understand the marketing geniuses at DC Comics and their complete disregard for the respected value of their intellectual property.  When is their parent company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, going to reign those idiots in?

Without getting into a deep discussion about comics now appealing to a more mature audience than those that many of us grew up with, let me remind everyone that DC Comics and all of their characters represent a significant brand that is largely responsible for Warner Brothers Consumer Products being the fifth largest global licensor. They lag not far behind number one, Disney, who has been bolstered greatly by their  acquisition of Marvel and Star Wars and who will probably remain top dog forever.

When will DC understand that the strength and value of a company’s intellectual property is based solely on the public’s perceived value of that brand.

Forbes describes it this way{

“Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).  Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed.  But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.”

Entrepreneur says:

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

Both of these well informed marketing resources feel that the concept of branding can be “simply” defined, yet DC and Warner Bros. apparently have no clue or they wouldn’t be intentionally making and promoting comic books that smell like pot!

DC’s characters have achieved their brand value over their seventy plus year history based on a universal appeal of what the general population considers wholesome, heroic characters. This is why their images are available on everything from baby toys to shot glasses, They are safe (socially innocent) and have wide appeal.

What is the theory behind potentially damaging that brand by associating it with cannabis,  an illegal  Schedule 1 substance under US federal law?  Are they just daring a Dr. Wertham wannabe to stir up another witch-hunt on comics or the superhero genre all for the sake of a publicity gimmick?

Could you imagine Disney making or licensing any product  that intentionally smelled like pot?

“Get your Pocahontas Peace Pipe with realistic cannabis smell!”

Just wrong on so many levels!

Disney famously and aggressively brought down The Air Pirates for publishing an underground  parody comic where their characters imbibed in the weed and other nefarious deeds! They go after everyone, big and small mercilessly to protect their brand under all circumstances.

Just ask Deadmau5.

Only porn companies seem to be immune from big entertainment companies like Disney and Warner Bros., but there has to be more to that story.

Protecting a brand and its public perception is paramount to most large corporations. This is why we often hear of sports stars and actors losing endorsement deals because they did something stupid or illegal.

Even NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodel, one of the most powerful men in professional sports, has come under fire for his mishandling of the recent Ray Rice domestic violence case.

Companies are pulling endorsements left and right from NFL teams for public backlash stemming from ongoing disclosure of similar instances and many are asking for Goodel’s resignation.

By those standards some jackass at DC should be out of a job already.

DC has been treading on thin ice for years now, slowly chipping away at the shiny veneer of beloved characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman,  trading them in for a darker, grittier, more sinister fare.

Will the cannabis scented comic book finally be the tipping point? I doubt it, but they are seriously pressing their luck.

What’s next? Micro dot variants?

Don’t be surprised if the Comic Code Authority gets reinstated over this one.

We will all have DC to thank.

Gerry Giovinco



But She-Hulk is a Porn Star!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Uh oh! MAN OF STEEL screenwriter, David Goyer stepped on a land-mine when he commented on a recent podcast that the She-Hulk character was essentially Porn.

His comments:

“I have a theory about She-Hulk. Which was created by a man, right? And at the time in particular I think 95% of comic book readers were men and certainly almost all of the comic book writers were men. So the Hulk was this classic male power fantasy. It’s like, most of the people reading comic books were these people like me who were just these little kids getting the shit kicked out of them every day… And so then they created She-Huk, right? Who was still smart… I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could fuck if you were Hulk, you know what I’m saying? … She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck.”

Of course, and rightfully so, this set off a firestorm of reaction among fandom and even solicited a defensive comeback from the legendary Stan Lee.

Face it, the subject of sexism in comics has been a sensitive one since the earliest days of the genre. How can you have male and female characters that are overly endowed in every physical aspect, running around in skin tight costumes and not expect someone to address the issue?

As fans of the genre of superheroes most of us have become desensitized to many of the sexual idioms and become defensive when someone points out the “elephant in the room,” but it is there, and this time she is big, green and busty.

The question is, why is there a double standard? Why is it OK for a male character to pop every vein and muscle, bulging to such incredible proportions that his clothes rip off? Why could he cavort around, all green and half-naked on prime-time television during an era when Fonzie had to be toned down but a female character in a comic book cannot do the same thing without her being analyzed as porn?

The perception that comics are made by men for a predominantly young male audience is the primary culprit. As more women become involved in the creative process and the female audience expands to one that is a more evenly balanced we are sure to experience an evolution in this sensibility. But will the changes be in a reduction of the use of sexual idioms or the acceptance of those idioms by the audience?

Judging by the heightened sexuality of all media since the creation of She-Hulk in 1980, sexploitation has the upper hand. As evidence, superheroes are currently the bread and butter of the porn industry and, in-fact’ She-Hulk herself is a bonified  Porn Star under the guise of “parody.”

Maybe David Goyer is working in the wrong end of the film industry  if his perception of female characters is so sexist and exploitive. We can only imagine what his take will be on the Wonder Woman character as she appears in the Batman vs. Superman film that is currently in production. Will she be there strictly as an Amazonian porn star that only Superman can fuck?

Why not?

Goyer couldn’t help but have Superman break Zod’s neck in MAN OF STEEL. What’s a little foreplay with a golden lasso while Batman makes out with Cat Woman in the back of the batmobile?

Sounds like an Axel Braun movie to me.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Comic Fans, Rejoice!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

What a time to be a fan of comics!

Face it, we all like to wax nostalgic and can be certain that the era in which we grew up was without doubt the best.

Comic fans, however do have an appreciation for the history of their favorite medium and have managed to classify it in specific ages: Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Modern Age and Digital Age. Each worthy of distinguished respect for their accomplishments and significance to the medium.

I, personally, was most heavily influenced by Bronze Age comics and the Independent Movement of the 1980’s and can easily justify the greatness of the material of those periods, but as a comic book fan and a fan of the superhero genre I have to admit  there was a feeling of isolation that all comic fans can relate to. One that is now quickly and amazingly eroding away.

Most fans of comics at any time in the last millennium with the exception of the initial fans in the 1940’s know that being a fan of comics was akin to being the black sheep in the crowd. We were alone in our endeavor to enjoy and collect comics, lucky to have any friends or allies that might have shared our passion.

Lone fans had to hunt for their randomly accessible comics and comic related merchandise.  Small groups of hardcore fans looked forward to gathered at small regional annual comic book or science fiction conventions. Successful cons drew just a few hundred attendees. They were intimate gatherings that solidified a mutual respect for the medium and willingness to ignore of the exclusion of fandom by society.

Comic fans wore a badge of honor that most described as geek or nerd but certainly never cool. Occasionally the things that comic fans were interested in burst into popular culture in the form of fads, most of which were quickly dismissed  by the masses.

My, how times have changed!

What was once considered Geek Culture is now firmly embraced as Pop Culture and it appears that there may be no looking back!

The rise of the Digital Age has given us the technology to finally bring comics to life on film in ways that were never possible. Now anybody can witness what used to require the unbridled imagination of a comic fan to fully experience. Fantasy is now teetering on the brink of reality as superheroes, now culturally accepted, have invaded and flourished in virtually every form of media.

Where there used to be a day when one waited years for a good adaptation of a comic book character to hit the screen, now fans must decide which film to spend their hard earned cash on first.  This spring alone it will be possible to have Captain America, Spider-Man, The X-Men and Godzilla all in theaters at the same time!

Television, too, is rife with comic book characters both animated and live action. Gone are the days of campy caped crusaders and  bodybuilders painted green. Only Wonder Woman cannot seem to make the transition from buxom Linda Carter to a modern Amazon Princess.

Out in public generations of comic book admirers of both genders now flaunt their superhero swag in astounding numbers that would have not been thought possible a few decades ago.

Comic book conventions are now a cultural phenomenon that put Woodstock to shame as fans flock by the tens-of-thousands, fully adorned in costumes and well prepared to celebrate their affinity for all that is fantastic. Cons that used to be the stomping grounds a subclass of young men have tipped the gender scales and now attract a well balanced number of enthusiastic female fans.

Emerald City Comicon recently bragged a 52/46 ratio of women to men!

Comic book stores are surviving where traditional book stores cannot in large part due to the element of social gathering they provide to the like-minded comic book fans!

Video games let gamers interact seamlessly with comic book reality giving fans the opportunity to play out their fantasies in realtime allowing them to relate to characters like never before.

Finally there is the internet, the nexus of a booming nation of nerd loving loyalists that can gather and communicate about their favorite comics in every nook and cranny of the world wide web. More importantly it is a place for the comic creatives to post and share there work. Because of the internet, comics are accessible more than ever  and they are being embraced by everyone.

How we got here is as amazing as the fact that we are. Superheroes are now accepted as a global modern mythology rivaling that of the Greeks and Romans. This unparalleled popularity is a vindication for all of us that enjoyed reading comics with black light posters riddled full of Kirby Krackle hanging on the wall.

We were ahead of the curve, rejoicing in a future that was bound to happen. A future that could only be inspired by the magical combination of words and pictures called comics.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



There’s a Brave New World on Bergen Street

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Imagine walking into a comic shop and not seeing any comic books published by Marvel or DC. The shelves are void of Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman, Bat Man and Wonder Woman. With few exceptions, there are no superheroes, no men and women in tights and capes with bulging muscles and exploitive, break-back poses. The shelves are not overwhelmed with reboots of the same characters that we have been reading for the last seventy-five years. Seriously, how many times can you read a retelling Superman’s origin story before it gets old?

Imagine, instead, that what you find is shelf after shelf of unique and amazing comics that are created by an array of talented artists and writers that is always expanding. Comics are arranged by subject matter, social interest, artist and writer. There are comics for everybody; children, teens, adults, men and women, alike. Entire families can walk into the shop and discover comics that interest each member individually as they peruse the inviting corners of an elegantly and respectfully designed shrine of the comics medium, finding surprises at every turn.

Welcome to Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn, New York where co-owner, Tom Adams recently announced that the store will stop shelving most titles from Marvel and DC. Adams explained on Twitter that the decision, “Will enable us to better serve our customers. Strength of self contained, creator controlled comics will let us move away from double shipping, editorially driven, artist-swapping, inconsistent, tied into events/gimmicks comics. Trying to keep this a going concern/think long term.”

Bergen Street Comics will celebrate their fifth anniversary this spring. In their relatively short history they have firmly established themselves as a supporter of independent comics publishers and have hosted many creator signings and art shows including CO2 Comic’s own Steve Lafler as he toured promoting his graphic album Ménage à Bughouse.

Steve Lafler at Bergen Street Comics

Bergen Street Comics demonstrated their commitment to Independent publishers that night when they, on extremely short notice, opened their doors to Steve when his scheduled engagement at MoCCA was suddenly canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Their graciousness and hospitality exceeded our expectations and established an impressive standard of customer service that we will never forget.

The atmosphere at Bergen Street Comics will capture the attention of anyone the moment they walk through the door. This is a place that celebrates the comic medium as an art form. Framed, original comic art hangs on the rugged brick walls, displayed like fine art in a gallery. The fixtures, furniture and shelving all presented with a classic taste that invites their customers to respect and value the comics that they are about to buy.

It is not surprising that they would make this bold decision to no longer shelve Marvel and DC titles. Bergen Street Comics is a boutique that specializes in a gourmet product. They are the Starbucks of comic shops, refusing to sell a common blend of coffee that can be bought on any corner, watered down and stale from having sat in the pot too long.

People want to experience quality, variety and atmosphere. They want a special experience that they feel entitled to and they want to share that experience with others. Great comics deserve the opportunity to be presented this way, as a rich and robust medium that will tickle the taste-buds of the imagination leaving the reader wanting for more.

A store like Bergen Street Comics can offer some hope for comics in print, especially those that are produced with a particular aesthetic that extends to the entire package. Printed books can offer a viscerally tactile experience that cannot be equally matched digitally. Independent publishers that recognize this understand the power of producing a boutique worthy product and will be energized as more stores adopt the model that Bergen Street Comics has.

This is not the end of superhero comic books. There will always be a place where bland or bitter coffee is available for those with a less discerning tastes. But, Bergen Street Comics has demonstrated that finally it is time for a little Frappuccino with our comics in this brave, new world where superheroes no longer have to dominate the local comic shop.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed Part 1

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

TRUTH: The PBS documentary, Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle flashed onto the screen revealing in it’s title the first and, in my opinion, major obscured truth of the series. How do you accurately tell the history of superheroes without disclosing that the word Superheroes is jointly trademarked by Marvel and DC? This information is not mentioned at all during the entire three hour series and is not even noted in the credits.

The concept of superheroes is then immediately defined as modern American mythology, American gods, American pioneers and an American art form. If It is so American why does the series focuses almost entirely on the properties of only Marvel and DC excluding a huge array of other publishers (mostly American) that have produced superhero comics over the last 75 years? This would be like doing a documentary of the history of the automobile in America and only focusing on product made by  Ford and General Motors.

The documentary  does mention that at one time, just two years after the publication of the first appearance of Superman, there were as many as two dozen publishers putting out 150 comics based on superheroes though only Timely (Marvel), Quality and Fox were named and all of the characters shown are currently owned by Marvel or DC. There is then a fifty year gap until the next publisher of superhero comics is mentioned and that is Image formed by a renegade group of Marvel artists.

One character highlighted as having dominated Superman in the market notably because his alter ego is the young boy, Billy Batson, was Captain Marvel.  There was no insight, however that “The Big Red Cheese” had been published by Fawcett and that DC had won a trademark infringement suit against Fawcett claiming that Captain Marvel was too much like Superman and shut him down. No insight that Marvel hijacked the trademark  before DC could license the rights to the property in 1972 before finally purchasing it entirely in 1991. No dirt to tarnish the super clean image of Superheroes. No dirt to tarnish Marvel and DC.

Superheroes are part of the fabric of our lives as Americans. The concept of superheroes is referred to every day by average people. The idea of being the best, having unique ability, and a desire to conquer obstacles is fundamental to the American Dream. Superman may have defined the concept but it is our culture that has embraced it. We deserve the whole truth.

It is a mistake to reduce a documentary about superheroes to a promotional piece for two major corporations whose only real interest in the characters is their bottom line. I would have expected more from PBS. I would liked to have seen more about all the different perspective of superheroes from different cultures and different media.

Where were the superheroes from books, cartoons and video games that are not from the big two?

Where were other Golden Age superheroes Blue Bolt, Captain Courageous, Captain Future, Doc Savage, Fantoman, Fighting American, Mandrake the Magician, The Spirit, Spy Smasher?

Where were Mighty Mouse, Underdog, Super Chicken, Blue Falcon, Space Ghost, the Mighty Heroes, the Incredibles?

Where were superheroes from other comic books? No T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, DNAgents, Elementals, Justice Machine, Zot!, Badger, the Tick, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Where were the other female Superheroes besides Wonder Woman, such as Black Cat, Miss Espionage, Moon Girl, Sheena Queen of the Jungle?

There is a seemingly endless list of alternative characters that could at least have been referred to but were not. I assume because it would not have been in the best interest of the holders of the Superhero trademark, Marvel and DC.

“Truth Justice and the American Way” is the byline that has become synonymous with superheroes yet the truth in Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle has been distorted by omission. That which did not glorify Marvel and DC was swept under the rug and the few foibles that were presented, necessary to humanize the corporations, were quickly acknowledged, rectified and dismissed like the resolution of a 1960’s sitcom according to this documentary.

Just as the series distorts Truth it also turns a blind eye to Justice especially regarding creators rights. Next week I will shed my opinion on that in part two of SUPERHEROES™: The Never Ending Bullshit – Truth, Justice and Corporate Greed

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Saving Superheroes from their Gatekeeper

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Just two years ago Advertising Age magazine listed DC Comics as one of America’s hottest brands. Though the referred to it as “a move fraught with risk,” they applauded DC for reworking every character in the New 52 as an effort to broaden their audience appeal.

That is what every owner of a brand wants, universal appeal. That has been the power of comics and superheroes in particular, for generations. They have had appeal to everyone as a general whole. Who wouldn’t want a character that represents “Truth, justice and the American way” as their trademark?

Few characters in the world are as iconic as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, followed by the supportive cast of the Justice League of America and the rest of the DC Universe. That is why you can you can find their images licensed on every product imaginable from baby toys to automobiles.

It is obvious that once Marvel was bought by the merchandising masterminded Disney Corporation, Time Warner and DC felt they needed to step up their game to prevent Supes, Bats, and WW from being overshadowed by the likes of Spider-man and those damn Avengers.

Rather than polishing up the classic style guides and reminding markets why their product was responsible for the entire genre of superheroes and has stood the test of time having been viable for seventy-five years, they decided to “shake things up” by making their product more edgy, gritty, trendy, socially relevant, sexy, modern, and violent.

Viola! The New 52.

There is evidence that this move has certainly perked up comic sales and generated some new found publicity, though much of this is related to the sinister speculator market.  There also seems to be an influx of new readers, woman in particular, who appeared to be absent from the comics scene just a few years ago.

But has all this change really been good?

Say what you like, the damage is done as evidenced by a stirring, must-read, fan letter to DC, eloquently and passionately written by Gabrielle Friesen, who could not have spelled out more clearly how DC has set the time bomb that is destined to annihilate their, once invaluable IP.

Her diatribe is lengthy and painful to anyone who has grown up loving comics. She details, situation after situation where DC has taken beloved characters that she enjoyed since childhood and subjected them to rape, torture, murder, exploitation, mindless prejudice and persecution all for the sake of “broader audience appeal.”

A brief synopsis can be found in this quote from her letter but seriously, please read the whole thing:

“You want to know something DC? You’re the super villain here. Your company is Doomsday. Lumbering, stupid, terrible, leaving a path of pain in its wake, killing beloved superheroes left and right. Fans like me? We’re Superman (and this is the only time I have ever identified with Superman). We’re brave and smart and powerful, and we want the world to be good and safe. We want our comics to be good and safe. And you are pummeling us down, but Superman rose up again. The Death of Superman was a stupid, and ultimately temporary move on your part. More and more fans like me are leaving, using our superpower of the dollar, withdrawing it, and warning everyone we know not to come near the radioactive toxic waste heap that is your company, that it won’t give them superpowers, only hurt them. We’re going to outlast you; whether its your company collapsing because dominant culture dudebros are not enough of a market to support your behemoth weight, or whether you pull through, get a new editorial team, or just wise up to the fact that more than just dudebros exist in the world, that people love your characters but not the way you treat them, that consumers are smart and have power. You are bleeding out and actively resisting a tourniquet, spitting in the face and insulting the medic offering it to you.

Comics were started by the downtrodden. Superman, the alien immigrant, was created by Jewish men. Wonder Woman was created by a man wishing for women’s equality. Superheroes protect the weak, not those who seek to dominate. You’ve forgotten your roots, and completely assimilated to dominant, oppressive culture.

You are in control of beautiful characters. Kind, compassionate, flawed human characters. Characters who want the world to be better, who help the downtrodden, who rescue kittens from trees and save lives. People who can fly.

But you’re stuck on the ground, actively digging yourself deeper into mud.”

What trademark owner wants to get this letter from a fan? What licensee who paid tons of money to secure the rights to plaster their product with DC superheroes wants to know that these characters are no longer the wholesome bundle of Americana they thought they bought into?

Does Fisher-Price, Mattel and every other maker of children’s toys and apparel want to know that DC editorial thinks it’s humorous that one of it’s major characters were the subject of an art contest where they were to be shown naked in a tub attempting to commit suicide a week before National Suicide Prevention Week?

(Yes, weeks after this contest created a n offensive stir in the industry, DC has yet to take this link down from their site.)

If a sport star or celebrity had this kind of attention focused on them, you know that companies would be pulling endorsements left and right. Ask Tiger Woods, Lance Armstong, Mel Gibson and Paula Deen, just to name a few.

There were high hopes when Diane Nelson was hired lead DC after her tremendous job with the Harry Potter franchise. Is she even paying attention? Would she allow the Harry Potter property to be defiled the way the DCU is? Doubtful! What would J.K. Rowlings say?

Gabrielle Friesen is right. Fans do have the power of their money and their voices. These characters may be copyrighted and trademarked to DC Comics but they belong to us as a culture. It is the people that have embraced them and spent their hard earned dollars to establish them as the icons they are today. Superheroes are vulnerable after all, endangered by their own gatekeeper.

It is time that true fans save their favorite superheroes before it’s too late, before there is a complete meltdown of the entire DCU.

“Up, up and away!”

Gerry Giovinco




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