200703301332Since we’re revisiting 80s comics history today, this interview with Dean Mullaney from Blake Bell’s weblog is well worth quoting. For those who came in late, Mullaney was the publisher of Eclipse Comics, a very influential and — for a time — successful independent comics publishing company that gave the world many memorable characters from Sabre to Zot. In the interview, Mullaney explains why Eclipse closed up shop in the early 90s:

The irony of all this is that, in this day and age when graphic novels are regularly reviewed in the mainstream press, the reason Eclipse went under was due to my single-minded desire to establish graphic novels in mainstream bookstores. Eclipse had signed a mutually-exclusive contract with HarperCollins to produce graphic novels. The plan was to first introduce titles by authors already known to booksellers — J.R.R. Tolkien, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Anne McCaffrey… we even had an original by Doris Lessing in the planning stages.

Unfortunately, HarperCollins didn’t, in my opinion, really understand what graphic novels were all about. And there were internal conflicts at HC, to which I was never privy, that left Eclipse holding the bag. They had given us an advance to start production, but that money ran out, and we had a full schedule in production. We never received a single royalty statement, let alone check, from HC’s sales to bookstores. The cash flow deficit eventually forced us to close up shop.

We were too far ahead of the curve. Now, of course, all the major bookstore chains have graphic novel sections.


  1. That book-sized full color version of David Wenzel’s marvelous adaptation of _The_Hobbit_ was what made me think, (back in the eighties) that there was more to US comics than Disney duck tales and Dennis the Menace stories (which I read and loved as a child in the 60s) and laughably bad DC and Marvel super-hero adventures.

  2. I licensed the rights to publish The Hobbit GN from Harper Collins while still at Random House a year before Lord of the Rings movie came out. Hey, sometimes we don’t know what we have.

  3. Boy, Wenzel’s art on that HOBBIT book was great (especially with that cover. The current non-Wenzel cover that looks like its based on the film designs kind of bugs me). Shame Wenzel didn’t go on to adapt LORD OF THE RINGS (I think I read somewhere that the Tolkien estate wouldn’t license for some weird reason like they thought THE HOBBIT was a kids book for LORD OF THE RINGS was for adults).

  4. I sublicensed the Hobbit GN for use in the SF book club and we sold it quite nicely while it was available. I also remember being in a B&N one Saturday where I was checking out the graphic novels, and a woman comes up to me asking if I worked in the store. I said no but that I could help, and out of her purse she pulled the Hobbit GN asking me if they ever adapted the 3 LoTRs books into this comics format as her sons loved it and she was so happy they were reading. I told her sadly that this never happened. Oh well.

  5. it’s good we fans finally get an explanation as to why Dean secretly emptied the company bank account, didn’t pay his artists and got a new girlfriend while breaking up with cat yronwode (per her statements)…

    It was Harper Collins fault!

  6. Don’t know what Bill Cunningham is talking about. None of what he says is true. When Eclipse went out of business, I had to start over from scratch.