Friday, June 2, 2017

Comic Book History: Some of the publishers who are no longer around

This is not an obituary of the following comic book publishers.  I mean to suggest what to search for, and what these comics offered.

I loved the experience of buying, reading, and collecting comics.  My intention is to point your possible interest area in the right direction.

Some comments prior to writing more about each publisher.  Many of the comics were in Black and White versus the world of color most all comics have now.  The writing and art are less smooth in conjunction than the current world of comics.  Despite the present comic book industry's more perfected finished product, many of these comics, however amateurish, are better.  I think that the truth is, the stories meant more at the time.  That isn't to say these comics are universally better than the present day comics.  It is to say that, despite some wonky spelling, some less than professional looking art, and black and white pages, the works are better because the concepts were  new, the efforts were energetic, and I felt that the works were worth my time and money.


In themselves the comics put out by Aircel were often good, but never, actually great.  They were interesting, always, and they often showcased the work of exceptional talent Barry Blair.  But, when the black and white comic glut hit, the orders of their books crashed.  They were a nice change from the mainstream, in that the worlds explored, the stories told were different, interestingly portrayed, and weren't attached to the years and years of continuity that the mainstream comic companies had placed before themselves.


Comic books companies like Marvel and DC had such a large part of their market that new companies stood little chance to compete.  Distribution, Publicity and simply brand loyalty were areas that this company had to do without, and it couldn't last.  But, however unfortunate the beginnings, the works were created with some love, energy, and quality.  Sadly, some of the works were put together in patchwork fashion, and what you did was reboot your expectations every comic.  Sometimes it worked, other times, not.  Known name talents like Rich Buckler, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Neal Adams and more, contributed to the comics, which, were lost on the news stand compared to their competitors.


Blackthorne Publishing was the after birth of the remnants of Pacific Comics, a company that was made for the new direct market world of comics.  The employees were former Pacific Comics staff, and the works they produced were aimed at a niche that they perceived existed.  Initially they were successful, and they had a market presence that was considerable.  But, the format of 3D was only so interesting, and more and more the books were perceived as simply gimmicks, not works of a lasting quality or interest.  They put out a number of parody comics, and they were only as popular as the comic reader was attuned to the works they were parodying.  I greatly enjoyed the Dick Tracy reprints that Blackthorne put out, they were well done, and kept me coming back.  I am glad to have read them.

The publisher fell apart when investments in properties did not return on the investment.  Declining sales of product meant that the failed investments became a very important aspect in the viability of the company.


I consider Eclipse to be my favorite comic book publisher.  For many reasons.  They were innovative, daring, different, and still created comics that were incredibly well done.

Two brothers created Eclipse comics, Jan and Dean Mullaney in 1977.  They created one of the first ever Graphic Novels, by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy called SABRE.  Later they produced numerous successful comics, that, in their tone, genres, and focus were absolutely new for the time.  This included publishing works from Japan that were at that time rare, new, and high quality.  They had studio partnerships with Viz comics who still exists, and Studio Proteus. 

They published a comic in the middle 1980s that featured child birth, vividly expressed.  They had heroes, but few in "costumes".  The comics were crisply written, edited and drawn.  And while they provided an incredible amount of entertainment, they were almost completely different from the rest of the market.  The difference is why, perhaps, they didn't rise to the top.  But for creative work artistic quality, they were great.

The death of the direct market, a flood wiping out their back issue archive, and divorce between Dean Mullaney and chief Editor Cat Yronwode made the situation for Eclipse to survive untenable.


Trident Comics was based in Leicester, UK, specializing in black and white comics created by British creatives. It was a partner company to Neptune Distribution, which released the works into the market.  As you might be aware, I am a fan of a shitload of UK talents.  Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Paul Grist and Mark Millar were featured.  They were excellent, if raw, and I missed them when they disappeared from the comic scene.  The collective library of Trident Comics is worth searching for and acquiring.

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