Eclipse entered into a deal with publishing giant HarperCollins to package graphic novels that HarperCollins would then publish and distribute. Eclipse Comics continued to publish themselves, too, and several of these graphic novels were first published by Eclipse on their own, and then re-published by HarperCollins; often in expanded editions (by bundling a short story after the main story).
So I’m not quite sure how many of these Eclipse/HarperCollins things exist, because I have the pure-Eclipse version of some of them, and the expanded version of others.
And, as you can see, HarperCollins was basically mostly interested in Eclipse’s Barker license.
So how did the collaboration go?
Here’s Eclipse publisher Dean Mullaney’s telling of the story:
We entered into a co-publishing deal with HarperCollins. Harper published Clive Barker and didn’t want us taking his graphic novels to a competitor. Harper had also bought Unwyn-Hyman, publishers of Tolkien’s work in every country but the US, and again didn’t want a competitor to have the graphic novel. They also realized that we could get the graphic novel rights to books published by other houses and bring them to Harper (this was before graphic novel rights were on the mind of mainstream publishers).
It was an exclusive deal both ways. In the beginning, it was a fantastic relationship. We did all the production and were invited to give presentations at all their sales meetings in the US and UK. They made fantastic floor and counter displays for bookstores. When they released The Hobbit graphic novel, they sold more copies in the UK alone than Ballantine did in all the US! The problems started when we asked for sales figures on the other books (Miracleman, Clive Barker’s titles, Dragonflight, Dean Koontz’s Trapped, etc.). We never—EVER—received a single sales statement. Therefore, no royalty statements. So there I was, paying advances to creators (bigger than the top rates in the field at the time—hey, we were going to be in bookstores, too!), tying up all my capital. And then nothing from Harper. No statements, no money. Meanwhile, creators were naturally asking for THEIR statements and royalitites. I explained the situation, but still never got anything from Harper. It go to the point that I had no cash left to even carry on normal business because we had laid out everything we had for advances.
All that was left to do was sell off every piece of inventory I could get my hands on, pay all the little guys (individual creators and small vendors), and stiff the large ones (printers and freight companies). And declare bankruptcy.
I still have no idea how many copies of our graphic novels Harper sold, or what they did with the money owed us and creators.
Some people thought that explanation was kind of odd, but
Eclipse Comics editor-in-chief catherine yronwode says:
For all i know, his assessment of the Harper-Collins aspect of his company’s financial woes may have been accurate, but i would not have been able to judge that[.]
Mullaney and yronwode were going through a divorce at the time, and yronwode did a column where the first letters in each line read:
Those Who Read Code Can Get The Real News Dean Has Left Me For A Woman Named Jane Kingsbury Who Has Bone Chips In Her Brain – Cat
Eclipse were also being sued by Studio Proteus, so a lot of drama was going on.
I’ve been unable to find out if anybody ever tried talking to HarperCollins. If they stiffed Eclipse Comics, that should have been a news item, you’d have thought? But perhaps Mullaney didn’t spill the beans on that bit until some years later?