COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS OF THE PAST
Second Edition 6/09/2017
By Alex Ness
As a continuing feature, I continue considering the publishers of the past. Sadly, this edition contains some publishers who the industry is bereft by their absence.
Neal Adams was the 1970s most famous and arguably popular artist. He was paid well and used his power to get certain changes in the industry. He began a studio with a number of talented artists, all of whom became somewhat clonish in pencils to the Neal Adams style. When Continuity Publishing began publishing comics they all had a corporate look, and for my experience, seemed to be vehicles solely to show the art of the studio. The writing was weak, and somewhat bad. However, I know people who bought every issue.
Comico: The Comic Company
COMICO was a company that had a number of hit series, and some of the best talents of comics had work appear there. Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Mike Gustavich, Tony Isabella and many more Big Two talents had work there. Grendel is probably the best remembered since it remains in cycle, but Justice Machine was good, and Elementals featured pencils and words from FABLES creator, Bill Willingham. Sadly, the company was not consistent and failed, at some point before its fall, to keep quality works coming out. The various titles that were owned by the creative talents moved on, and at least one big one, Elementals was a subject of copyright ownership fights.
Cross Generation Entertainment
CROSS GENERATION Comics were born from a millionaire's dream to create more than superhero comics. Mark Alessi funded and helped develop a comic book universe where the powers were inter related, and the universe was meant to be woven tightly to make every book have more than just a single story. The company used the studio system to create the comics, and had a look about them. The stories were genuinely good, and the art was pretty. But, the thing that held down any bit of CrossGen was the comic book universe aspect. The times it was used as part of a story it slowed down and felt artificial rather than organic. Adventure comics, mythological, science fiction and fantasy were all part of the buffet of comics offered by CrossGen. Mark Waid, Tony Bedard, Chuck Dixon, Ron Marz and Barbara Kesel all are good to great writers, and despite the limitations of story, they overcame to create truly enjoyable tales. By the time the end came about, the publisher had spent lots of money, received little for it, and these quality works faded from view.
Eclipse and First are my two favorite defunct comic book publishers. Whereas Eclipse published almost all kinds of genres, Firsts was more focused, on fantasy, superheroes, and dystopian futures. Mike Grell's Jon Sable was an adult tale of a bounty hunter, problem solver. Timothy Truman and John Ostrander's GrimJack was a stellar badass. Howard Chaykin's irreverent American Flagg asked what do we do with our patriotism and failed dreams. Mike Baron wrote Badger, a martial arts multi personality action comic, as well as the future assassin, Nexus, who was compelled to kill the evil doers his dreams tell him to kill.
First was a comic company with oodles of readable books, and my wife liked two of their creations, Jon Sable and Dreadstar. I think, if you ask who was reading comics in the 1980s, girls/women were not nearly represented in fandom. My wife's mark of approval suggests to me that these comics were more adult, more thoughtful than most.