Sunday, July 27, 2014

ECLIPSE remembered

(This is a piece written in 2004 that was well received at the time by readers and friends.  Unfortunately the site it came  from was hacked.  We lost innumerable articles.  But a site online kept this in its archive, and I am reprinting it to avoid losing it a second time. )

When I announced the results of the signed comics contest and the favorite comic publisher informal poll I said I liked ECLIPSE comics. To my relative horror I received many emails from people saying who dat? And someone who PUBLISHES comics wrote to say did I mean to say Enigma from Vertigo. No I did not mean Enigma. I mean a publisher who created comics and cards and all sorts of wonderful stuff.

The Company and their books

Eclipse Enterprises, was a company that published comics, graphic albums, and trading cards from 1977 to 1994. Eclipse went out of business in 1994 but their legacy lives on in most successful
marketing ideas in comics. The publishers Dean Mullaney and cat yronwode were self described hippies but the product they put out appealed to everyone. They did horror, such as M and TAPPING THE VEIN under Steve Niles’s Arcane imprint. They did action, such as SCOUT or AIRBOY or WINTER WORLD usually featuring writing by Chuck Dixon or Tim Truman or drawn by Tim. They did super heroes, MIRACLEMAN by Alan Moore and other great talents. They did humor as in Larry Marder’s BEANWORLD. They did Manga, KAMUI and APPLESEED. They were among the first to release a Graphic Novel, SABRE. Later they helped popularize collected editions of serialized comics, along with ultra special hardcover editions with sketches. They paid royalties and allowed creative talents to keep their properties.

So why did they go bankrupt? I cannot speak for their fiscal policies but first the craze and hype for multiple covers and other gimmicks at IMAGE, MARVEL and DC who all were competing for a shrinking market made ECLIPSE less viable. At the same time the double bust of comics and cards in the 90s probably had something to do with the demise.

I asked former Eclipse talents this question:

"What was it about the comic book Publisher Eclipse that made its output so excellent for its time, somewhat dated for the 90s and now strangely resurgent in relevance? What publisher today is most like Eclipse in its outlook and output?"

Chuck Dixon answered:

"Dean Mullaney is what made Eclipse Comics what it was. The ultimate
guerilla marketer. Absolutely ruthless and one of those guys you were glad to have on your side. The guy has forgotten more about selling, printing and publishing comic books than most people in the business today.

His hit and run philosophy of publishing was to put out the greatest
variety of material and help it find its audience. Mainstream super
heroes, funny animals, political commentary, avant garde, crime,
horror and the uncatagorizable. Every trend was exploited and new
trends created along the way. Eclipse's output was the most eclectic, and at times outrageous, of its era. It matched Dean's restless nature and his willingness to take crazy chances. Eclipse didn't have the muscle of the big boys but stayed in the ring with a series of lightning fast jabs and dizzying footwork. Eclipse was the first in with manga. The first to exploit the comics/trading card connection.  The first graphic novel. Never played safe. Never went the easy route. Never rested.

There is no comic book company like Eclipse today. But there's also no company that doesn't owe a debt to the wacky, bohemian, abrasive little company created by Jan and Dean with two grand borrowed from their mom."

A couple of the talented people of Eclipse.

Timothy Truman, armed with gold short sword and pistol wrote the magnificent work SCOUT and is rumored to be working on a variety of secret projects. Chuck Dixon who wrote many books at ECLIPSE such as AIRBOY and WINTER WORLD is armed with two pistols and firing into the camera, is a mainstay at CrossGen, returns to DC with Richard Dragon and has a couple projects about to be announced being held in his hip pocket until the time is right.

(These references are amazingly dated by now, but I wanted to keep them in just for the date of the article being in context).

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