HarperCollins Index

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?

Amazing Heroes Ads

In the mid-80s, Eclipse were regular advertisers in Amazing Heroes, a magazine about comics published by Fantagraphics Comics. The ads are mostly focused on specific comics, but there’s a series featuring some very smarmy-looking models telling us that comics aren’t for kids any more.

I wonder whether they published these ads in other venues, too, but perhaps that would have made even less sense. Perhaps the idea behind these ads are less about attracting a new readership (which is what the text is all about), but more about stroking the ego of people who are already reading comics from Eclipse? “You, too, is probably as smart as this bespectacled Wall Street Journal-reading douchecanoe?”

Of course, if they had run these ads in The Wall Street Journal it might have made more sense… but in venues like that the reaction would 100% be “eh? Eclipse Comics? What’s that then?”

Very grown up.

In addition to that series of ads, I’ve picked some of the more interesting ads that are kinda actually trying to sell specific comics (and books). I think they’ve got a kinda interesting graphic identity going here…

These ads are from Eclipse’s “imperial” period, when their coffers were presumably pretty flush from the Pacific bankruptcy buyout and the success of Miracleman, Scout and Airboy, and before the flood which wiped out their back issue business.

Airboy Index

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During Eclipse’s Imperial phase (i.e., when they started publishing a bunch of series… and most of them took off (i.e., 1986)), Airboy (along with Scout) was the series with most visibility. The main series was published every two weeks, and there were a bunch of spin-off mini-series and special published at the same time.

Clive Barker Index

Starting in 1989, adaptations of Clive Barker works (all taken from his short story collections Books of Blood) became a major concern at Eclipse Comics.

In additions to the works covered below, Eclipse published a portfolio, a trading card set called “The Box of Blood” and Hellraiser trading cards.

Independent Comics Group Index Index

Independent Comics Group was an imprint of Eclipse Comics. It was originally used as the imprint for the final two issues of Twisted Tales, a book Eclipse took on after Pacific Comics went under. Why use a separate imprint and leave the Eclipse logo off the cover? I don’t know, but we (I mean I) could speculate that Eclipse wanted to keep some percieved distance between themselves and the sometimes grisly contents of that book.

Eclipse then recycled the imprint a year later for a series of officially sanctioned indices of popular DC Comics series. They managed to get 27¹ issues published before they abandoned the venture apparently due to low sales.

In addition, they weirdly enough published one single comic book under that banner: Naive Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas, which was a spoof of a spoof of a spoof of an homage, and also Directory to a Non-Existent Universe, which is a spoof of this series of indices.

I didn’t mean to cover any of these books in this blog series, but I got curious and did the Koalas and one of the index series and then the parody book.


¹) Thanks to Roger Noble for clarifying and for noticing the Twisted Tales bit.

Claypool Index

In 1993 time, Eclipse had almost stopped publishing comics themselves. They were packaging graphic novels (mostly adaptations) for HarperCollins, who published and distributed the books to the bookstore market. That left Eclipse with nothing but non-sports trading cards to publish themselves, which they did prodigiously.

Enter Claypool Comics: Despite what seemed to be the assumption at the time, Claypool was apparently not an Eclipse imprint or front, but instead a completely independent publisher who outsourced the practical details of publishing (production work, sending the books to the printers, collecting the money from the distributors) to Eclipse.

And it meant that the “Eclipse” portion of the solicitation form wasn’t blank during this period.

All these series continued after Claypool (sort of) severed their ties with Eclipse, and three of them continued to be published until 2006. Elvira, for instance, reached issue 116 before Claypool owner Richard Howell was forced to shut down when Diamond, the sole comics distributor at the time, stopped carrying their comics.

I say “sort of”, because Eclipse Comics editor-in-chief catherine yronwode continued to do their back issue sales for many years through her Comics Warehouse.

Distribution Index

Eclipse did the distribution for a couple of comics lines (Ken Pierce Books, Claypool) as well as kinda-sorta co-publishing some other books (most of the Acme books listed Eclipse as the ones who “released” the books, but didn’t publish them), but they also would distribute other random books; sometimes mentioned in the indicia and sometimes not.

Footnotes:

* Eclipse is mentioned in the indicia

† Eclipse is not mentioned anywhere in the book, but catherine ⊕ yronwode (the editor-in-chief at Eclipse) lists the book on her web site.

‡ Eclipse isn’t mentioned anywhere, but the book was listed in an “On the Stands” on the inside front cover of another Eclipse book, so the Eclipse connection should be taken with a grain of organic Maldon salt.