Wednesday, February 25, 2009

History for the Independant 101: A Next 100 lesson Pt. 1

Planet Griffin has been studying history. Those of us who will be the Next 100 must take stock in the history of this business--- especially now that the indie field is threatened with being driven back into the underground by big business.

Let's call this the New 101, shall we?

I'm amazed at how far we've come in the comics society... After the publishing of the infamous Seduction of the Innocent by Frederick Wertham (1954), the scathing indictment of comic books began. A Senate subcommittee hearing would scare the comics industry into creating the well-known Comics Code of Authority--- During the time of it's inception, the big, bad granddaddy of the comics medium was none other than William Gaines, creator and operator of EC Comics (try to imagine Marvel or DC today, and you get an idea of EC then).

With the CCA in place, Marvel began to compete, scaling down the numbers of Gaines publications and eventually forcing EC out of business. The age of superheroes had truly began.
Take a minute to actually read the guidelines of what the CCA actually was and you'll see the pattern emerge rather quickly:

General Standard A:

  1. Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
  2. No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.
  3. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
  4. If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  5. Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation.
  6. In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  7. Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
  8. No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.
  9. Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal's activities should be discouraged.
  10. The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.
  11. The letter of the word "crime" on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word "crime" shall never appear alone on a cover.
  12. Restraint in the use of the word "crime" in titles or subtitles shall be exercised.

General Standard B:

  1. No comic magazine shall use the word "horror" or "terror" in its title.
  2. All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
  3. All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
  4. Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
  5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

General Standard C:

All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.


  1. Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
  2. Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.
  3. Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.


Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.


  1. Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
  2. Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
  3. All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
  4. Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.

Marriage and Sex:

  1. Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor shall be represented as desirable.
  2. Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
  3. Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for moral distortion.
  4. The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.
  5. Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.
  6. Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
  7. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

Code For Advertising Matter:

  1. Liquor and tobacco advertizing is not acceptable.
  2. Advertisement of sex or sex instructions books are unacceptable.
  3. The sale of picture postcards, "pin-ups," "art studies," or any other reproduction of nude or semi-nude figures is prohibited.
  4. Advertising for the sale of knives, concealable weapons, or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.
  5. Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.
  6. Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.
  7. Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
  8. To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to the fact and avoid misinterpretation.
  9. Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the advertising code.
Kinda makes sense after you read it...
Nowadays, the code has disappeared, Gaines did, in fact, have the last laugh, and the freedoms unheard of back in the day are now commonplace. Or are they?

If any of this sounds a little familiar to the old-schoolers out there, it may remind you of the historic Diamond Retailer's Con way back in 1994, when Frank Miller gave a keynote address that shocked the industry and shed light on what was really going on back then. Times have changed, to be sure, but if you look rather closely at the state of affairs as of late, you'll see that the more things change, the more they remain the same... Marinade on that and give feedback.

Learn the history people... Or be doomed to repeat it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Next 100: John Aston and the grindhouse experience of Rachel Rage!

For those of you who are joining us for the weekend edition of Planet Griffin, we welcome you one an all to the continuation of the Next 100--- to the next wave of indie creators whose visions innovate and makes you wonder where your mind can go! Today's entry is definitely different... And it's definitely dedicated to all my grindhouse goodfellas.

Anyone who's followed Planet Griffin since the beginning knows my love affair for the old-school grindhouse daze of the 70's ( 42nd Street Forever, people!) and the ever deepening role it plays on the pop culture medium ( Example: Anybody catch the double feature commercials ads for Terminator/Dollhouse on FOX lately?). I said a year ago that the lo-fi, grindhouse stylings would catch on in the comics medium and I'm happy to see the interesting fruits it's bearing! Hard times can be a mother, but it's blessing in disguise can always be found in the mother of invention. John Aston out of South Carolina figured that out--- and the proof of that can be found in his ongoing webcomic, RACHEL RAGE!

Born out of his love for 70's cult actress Pam Grier ( Undisputed Queen of the Blaxploitation era, don'tcha know!), John created OldeTowneComix.Com as the platform to which he produces his one-man show of the continuing exploits of '...a tough southern pecan who struggles to survive in a nightmarish American Gothic... ESPECIALLY upon learning that her real father is a corrupt lawman controlling all the nightmares she's experienced... And then the bloody fun begins...' The series is a 3 act crime tale, currently in Act 2 and standing tall at a whopping 241 full color images!

The real magic to this webcomic lies in its presentation. The onsite
viewer is set up to view like a movie screen with each panel of the comic designed like a still frame of an old Z-grade film print from 1975 , complete with the grainy scratches and the whole nine. ( Try imaging Bendis' POWERS in a theatre slide show and you begin to get the idea.) The look and feel is immersive once you begin reading the 'film', and those old school memories of sticky floors, bad seating, and audience members yelling at the screen come flooding back--- and in this medium, that's the real goal of any story: to pull you in and hold your attention... That fact alone makes this site shine.

John Aston is currently looking at print options for Rachel, anxiously looking forward to supplying the demands of his ever- growing audience. ( Believe me, folks, his site presentation is definitely attracting attention!) I seriously applaud John's efforts in completing the Rachel Rage saga in its entirety. Check it out for yourselves at and tell'em the infamous RodBuddah sent you!

We here at Planet Griffin support John Aston's endeavor and welcome him as a member of the Next 100!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fan Or Fiction: A thought for those that stay hungry

I came across an interesting story the other day concerning an incident that took place at the NYCC last weekend. Apparently, a young man approached the artist table with a few prints for the artist to sign. Once it was noted that the prints were run-offs from the young man ( and not produced by the artist or Marvel), the artist refused to sign them, citing his ability to make a living was compromised by accepting to do such a thing. This prompted the young man to get angry and storm away from the crowded table. The admittedly flustered Marvel artist was mainly peeved at the fact that someone would pirate the prints out of fear that they would wind up on EBay or Craig's list, as well as the fact that the work he presents on his page'... is done mainly for himself w/o any pay from his company...'

Well, we here at Planet Griffin completely understand the piracy issue is a dicey one at best, and that in today's cash-strapped times, most people are financially forced into reconsidering the ideas of obligation over impulse--- but secretly, those same people still dream about desire before duty--- simply put: if the opportunity presents itself, people are gonna get it how they can get it! A Fact Undeniable.

Getting protective of your work is something I understand, but the context is different (something I'll address in a moment...). Take a minute to consider a few things before you go shell to your next appearance on the convention set...

For starters, why do you display work online in the first place? Obvious answer is to be noticed, of course... You're displaying your work on the WORLDWIDE WEB, where the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly exists. It's a little pretentious to assume that someone out there isn't gonna try something--- whether fan or fiction. You want a fan base without the hangups that come with it... Can't have it both ways... If a fan gets inventive for a memento online, you can't trip... As long as the RIGHT-CLICK exists, none of us are safe.

It's all part of the job.

Also, why not protect yourself with code blockers or other safeguards if your fears are that bad?
Hackers are gonna do what they've gotta do regardless of who says what, so what can you do?

Now, in the matter of someone ad-hocking 'your' work, remember: someone approached you with an interpretation of work that you don't even own! If it's Marvel work, then diffusing that situation would've been easy: " I'm sorry, but by signing a bootleg print of Marvel work, I'm opening myself up to liability issues with the company should any of this show up on eBay or something..." Put the ball in his court and wait for the answer. The difference I mentioned earlier is the work itself... Marvel work is more of a corporate entity, as opposed to a personal piece of work like a self-owned character.

Think about how that sounds: If someone IS gonna take a ripped print--- of a character property THAT I DON"T OWN--- and sell it on eBay, is it YOUR pocket that takes the hit, or the company? Especially when the company is paying you for your SKILLS, and not for your defense of their policies. Again, the liability issue... Check your contracts' fine print, I guess...

The key element of commercialism in big business revolves around the selling of style--- that's how it works. Sigh... The battle of style versus substance continues...

I'm not knocking interpretations, mind you, but unless someone approached you with a HellBoy rip and you're Mike Mignola, don't freak out to badly. Spider-man has a LOOOONG line of artists standing behind him (take it how you will), and it will remain that way LOOOONG after we're gone. Piracy is like that as well.

Keep yer flagon of ale raised high, Maties!

After reading something like this, people are bound to think that I'm an anti-corporate, anti-mainstream, tried-and failed model of a disgruntled postal worker. Not at all. I'm actually a big fan. This is merely one-man's opinion standing in the face of the obvious. Just remember that its the fans AND the foes ( that's right, haters too) that keep us in business. Period.
Now, if you'll excuse me--- I've got new RZA in my treasure chest;)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Next 100: Myron Macklin, ArtNinja at large!

Taking a brief respite from all the rant and devoting a moment to rave about a member of 'the Next 100'. For those who have noticed my own work as of late, the color palette ( otherwise known as the 'visual color soundtrack') is the creation of this man--- Myron Macklin, owner and design shogun of the Charlotte N.C. based studio, ARTNINJA.

The brand of ArtNinja has graced several international magazines, including a kick-ass spread of the SPIRIT in the COMIC BOOK ARTIST MAGAZINE tribute to the great Will Eisner. Currently, Myron is hard at work on a graphic novel project of his own, while still devoting time as letterer and color supervisor on my own graphic novel, FIERCE CREATURES.

Of course, you don't have to take my word for it--- check out his red-hot design site, (check my Fierce Worlds sidebar for easy access) and brace yourself for the future magic this guy's about to produce!

Which reminds me... PLANET GRIFFIN is looking for those who would like to rank among the NEXT 100! Pundits, Send your comments! Haters, do your job and send the hate mail!! Start spreading the word that THE NEXT 100 are coming!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Ringside Seat

Continuing from my last post, this is a big dedication to ALL of my Next 100 brothers and sisters out there, maintaining the fight in a comics landscape that's been laid low. Despite the troubles that plague the industry right now, the future is actually brighter than many of us let on.

For example... Lets take a trip into the WayBack Machine for this one...

For those of you who remember the days of the distributor wars of the early 90's--- when Image first came into play, when the DC bullpens were abuzz with rumors of a merger with some conglomerate called TimeWarner, when black publications like independant coalitioned Amara and DC-owned Milestone were firing shots across each others bow for no reason, and when Marvel was licking it's wounds because of the Image explosion--- there was a little known distro known as Cold Cut. Cold Cut & Diamond squared off toe-to-toe with one another; Cold Cut playing Apollo Creed to Diamonds' Ivan Drago. With Diamond's plans of forming exclusive contracts, Cold Cut had no fight left--- well, we all know what happened to Apollo.

Fast forward.

Diamond operates with a retailer base of about 4300 worldwide to date. Within the past year, an upstart known as Haven Distributors have come along and have quickly established themselves as number 2 behind Diamond with a retailer base of about 2300... And growing!

To many people out there, no one really knew what a Haven was, much less if any kind of alternate operating system existed out there. Imagine my surprise to discover that Haven is the reformation of Cold Cut Distribution! On top of that, it seems that Diamond's minimum sales cap of $6200 ( that's right--- more than the previously aforementioned $2500 that was speculated on earlier. ) is just the seed of revolution that Haven needed to have their offices flooded with calls from new clients looking for an alternate, cheaper distro... Just goes to show that what is past is prologue.

New round 2.

To all my Next 100 out there, I say this:

The most dangerous realization in the existence of power
is an idea. The idea is what created power in the first place, so
its only ironic that power would attempt to destroy the very
thing that created it... Which it can't.

We hold the future frontrow tickets to the next match... Underdogs versus Big Dogs-on-the-porch... Care to place your bets?