Books and comics may have survived disruption but magazines really haven’t and the great 21st century newsstand massacre just claimed another victim as Harris Publications announced that they were shutting down, effective immediately.
Only a few old timers will know why I mention that here: although at the end it was mostly a publisher of magazines about guns, gardens and cars, it was once a comics publisher, mostly with titles it picked up from the end of Warren Publishing, including briefly Creepy and Eerie (which James Warren sued to reaquire), but for a much longer period Vampirella, which reigned at the forefront of “bad girl” comics of the 90s. Harris sold Vampi off to Dynamite in 2010 where it is still published in various forms.
Harris Comics as a line ran until 2008; beside Vampi, its main output, Harris published Ethan van Sciver’s Cyberfrog and Harsh Realm, by James Hudnall, Yanick Paquette and John Ridgway, a title most notable for being turned into a TV series by the X-files Chris Carter.
News stories note that the shutdown came only a month after longtime publisher Jonathan Rheingold had rejoined the company as chief revenue officer. Rheingold is a figure well known to 90s comics folks, although his most recent comics tour of duty was at Marvel as V.P. Custom Solutions & Ad Sales, a position he left in January.
I had a bunch of friends who worked at Harris over the years and their office was near my hood so I stopped by once in a blue moon. I vividly remember one trip to visit and seeing stacks of hairdo magazines in a hallway. Hairdo magazines used to be a thing, and you can still find them in salons, I reckon, as a guide to figuring out what you want your hair to look like, but Harris published a ton of them over the years. On that particular visit I picked up one and flipped through it; although the pub date was contemporary, the hairdos looked like they could have come from the 70s. I guessed Harris was good at recycling things.
Anyway, it’s only a minor footnote in comics publishing history, but RIP Harris Publications.
The closing statement, which was sent to Folio, is below.
It is with great sadness that we are announcing the closing of Harris Publications. For nearly 40 years, Harris Publications has been a mainstay in enthusiast publishing.
We are extremely grateful for the tremendous contributions of our employees, past and present. The hard work and dedication of our creative, sales, circulation and operations teams and the talents of our freelance editors, writers, photographers and designers are what allowed us to continue delivering thoughtful and beautiful magazines to our readers.
The magazine publishing industry has been through turmoil in the face of the rapid ascendance of digital media, changing consumer content preferences, magazine wholesaler struggles and consolidation in the supply chain. We have tried mightily to persevere against these forces, but have been unable to overcome these challenges.
I remember them giving me comics to review for Usnet newsgroups. I have an almost complete collection of Cyberfrog from them.
Yeah… there are segments of magazine stands which contain multitudes of variants on a subject.
Hairstyle magazines are one.
Wedding magazines are another.
Fashion and home design… similar.
All are mostly advertising, with a few photo essays describing something, maybe a few articles which can be quickly updated for the next season or year.
Few people subscribe to these titles. They are there to offer advice on the latest styles, to give inspiration to the reader looking for new ideas.
This makes me wonder… what was the ultimate fate of Welsh Publishing after Marvel acquired them?
And of course, the founder of Harris Publications in 1977 was Stanley R. Harris, who was Myron Fass’ partner in Countrywide Publications. Which was responsible for the b/w comics magazine Eerie Publications and the color comics MF Enterprises put out in the mid-1960s, as well as a few others. Harris broke up the partnership when Fass beat him up in 1977 and started Harris Publications.
The Grand Comics Database indicates Harris published comics from 1991 to 2009. Vampirella was clearly the cornerstone of their comics business.
Well, I guess there goes that money they still owe me.
I vaguely remember the auction of Warren Publications assets and Stan Harris came in with one bid of $10,000 and left all the comic book dealers stunned. Slam dunk, he grabbed all the artwork. (I think Joe Koch from Brooklyn snagged the Warren magazine back issues.) Afterwards he received a deluge of letters from the creators stating that if he intended to use their material to reprint, they were entitled to payment. Personally I did some cartoons for him for one of his electronic mags. Still kinda of sad that another print publisher folds.
I really loved Harris Comics. Vampirella by Harris was really an incredible achievement. Under Harris Vampirella went from Icon to a modern legend. So much talent worked in Harris.
Johnny Reingold and his crew of wonderful people was what brought Jow Quesada, Amanda Conner and I to their doors to do a lot of fun work over a few years. I am still friends with all of them, and I thank Harris for these wonderful people n my life.
Some fun titles, and I still have a couple of issues of James Robinson/Joe Jusko Vampirella series.
I worked at Harris Comics starting as an intern in college from 1993 to 2001. We were a small department within a large publishing company, which gave us very little money to work with but a lot of freedom. Not every comic we published was perfect but we were all comic book fans and always tried to publish the best comics possible that we’d want to buy and read ourselves.
Some of the highlights include bringing in Mark Millar (before he was MARK MILLAR) to write Vampirella, working with Amanda Conner and Jimmy P, commissioning Joe Jusko to full paint every page of two Vampirella issues, and discovering a teenage Ethan van Sciver, who has obviously gone onto a lot of big things in comics.
We also published three Vampirella / Lady Death crossover issues – I’m pretty proud of the work of all three, which weren’t just quick cash-in one-shots but tried to really create a solid interesting reason why the two characters would meet and how they’d interact together.
Yeah was an Art director there for 5 years in the early 90’s. Gotta say it was good memories and great people. Even liked Stan.
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