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Blackthorne Publishing, Inc. was a comic book publisher that flourished from 1986-1989. They were notable for the Blackthorne 3-D Series, their reprint titles of classic comic strips like Dick Tracy, and their licensed products. Blackthorne achieved its greatest sales and financial success with their licensed 3-D comics adaptations of the California Raisins, but was done in by the failure of their 3-D adaptation of the Michael Jackson movie Moonwalker.

History

Blackthorne was established in 1985 by husband-and-wife team Steve Schanes and Ann Fera, formerly associated with Pacific Comics (which had gone out of business in 1984). Schanes and Fera raised $16,000 to start Blackthorne (naming the company after the street on which they lived),[1] mostly using their credit cards.[2]

Blackthorne's first title was Jerry Iger's Classic Sheena, with a cover date of April 1985, featuring Sheena, Queen of the Jungle reprints and a new Dave Stevens cover. (The book had originally been slated as a Pacific Comics release.)[1] Things started off well for the company, with its books being sold in 7-Elevens nationwide[3] (in addition to comic book specialty stores), and earning praise from critics and hobbyists alike for its reprints of classic newspaper comic strips.[4]

In 1987, however, with the company losing money on its color line, it cancelled those titles to focus on their 3-D books and black-and-white licensed products.[5] Blackthorne also suffered from the contemporaneous financial troubles of the Los Angeles-based distributor Sunrise Distributors.[6] Sunrise went bankrupt in 1988, and although Blackthorne (along with fellow West Coast publisher Fantagraphics) sued the distributor,[7][8] they were never able to recoup their losses. This in turn led to Blackthorne being audited by the federal government in 1988.[9][10]

In early 1989, the company was still the fifth-largest U.S. comics publisher, bringing in about $1 million in sales and boasting a staff of eight full-time editorial and production employees. They published about 240 different titles a year, with an average print run of about 10,000 copies each.[2] The company made a fatal error, however, when they signed on to adapt the Michael Jackson film Moonwalker to a 3-D comic book. Blackthorne had paid enormous licensing fees for the property, and when the Moonwalker comic flopped later that year, it hit the company hard.[11]

By mid-1989 the company was outsourcing its operations,[12] and in November the company laid off eight of its nine employees, including editor-in-chief John Stephenson. $180,000 in debt, Blackthorne limped into 1990 before it finally folded.[13][14]

Titles

Original series

  • Adventures in the Mystwood, 1 issue
  • Alien Ducklings, 4 issues
  • Alien Worlds graphic novel
  • Atomic Man Comics, 3 issues
  • Blackthorne's 3-in-1, 2 issues
  • Brik Hauss, 1 issue
  • Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos, 5 issues — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parody
  • Crow of the Bear Clan, 6 issues
  • Danse, 1 issue
  • Dogaroo, 1 issue
  • Duckbots, 2 issues
  • Enchanted Valley, 2 issues
  • Failed Universe, 1 issue
  • Figments, 3 issues
  • Fragments (Black), 2 issues
  • Freak-Out on Infant Earths, 2 issues — Crisis on Infinite Earths parody
  • The Gift, 1 issue
  • Ground Pound! Comix , 1 issue
  • Hamster Vice, 6 issues — Miami Vice parody
  • Jack Hunter (Vol. 1, color), 1 issue
  • Jack Hunter (Vol. 11, Prestige format B&W), 3 issues
  • Jax and the Hellhound, 3 issues
  • Labor Force, 8 issues
  • Lann graphic novel
  • Laffin' Gas, 12 issues
  • Legion Of Stupid Heroes, 1 issue — Legion of Super-Heroes parody
  • Mad Dog Magazine, 3 issues
  • The Man of Rust, 1 issue
  • Midnite, 3 issues
  • Mr. Cream Puff, 1 issue
  • Nervous Rex, 10 issues
  • Of Myths and Men, 2 issues
  • Omega Elite, 1 issue
  • Omni Men, 1 issue
  • Operative: Scorpio graphic novel
  • Outposts, 1 issue
  • Pajama Chronicles, 1 issue
  • Planet Comics, 3 issues
  • Possibleman, 2 issues
  • Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos, 3 issues — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parody
  • Red Heat, 2 issues
  • Revolving Doors, 3 issues
  • Roachmill, 6 issues
  • Rivit, 1 issue
  • Serius Bounty Hunter, 3 issues
  • Shuriken graphic novel
  • Starlight Squadron, 1 issue
  • Street Poet Ray, 2 issues
  • Street Wolf, 3 issues
  • To Die For, 1 issue
  • Timeline Color Comics, 1 issue (?)
  • Tracker, 2 issues
  • Twisted Tantrums of the Purple Snit, 2 issues
  • Wings Comics graphic novel
  • Wolph, 1 issue
  • Xeno-Men, 1 issue
  • X-L, graphic novel

Blackthorne 3-D Series

80 issues

Licensed and reprint titles

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Sanford, Jay Allen. "The History Of Comic Books In San Diego: The '80s," San Diego Reader blog (September 14, 2008).
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Comics publisher pins stellar hopes to Moonwalker." San Diego Business Journal (March 6, 1989).
  3. "Blackthorne in 7-11s," The Comics Journal #108 (May 1986), p. 19.
  4. Harvey, R.C. "Bringing Back the Reprints" The Comics Journal #111 (September 1986), pp. 56-61: Reviews of reprints of newspaper comic strips by Blackthorne Publishing.
  5. "Blackthorne Cancels Color Comics Line, Will Refocus on Licensed Product," The Comics Journal #117 (September 1987), p. 15.
  6. "Sunrise announces it may not pay some publishers until July," The Comics Journal #115 (April 1987), p. 24.
  7. "Two Publishers Sue Sunrise Distributors," The Comics Journal #120 (March 1988), p. 8.
  8. "Sunrise Creditors Meet," The Comics Journal #122 (June 1988), p. 22.
  9. "Blackthorne Audited," The Comics Journal #124 (August 1988), pp. 12-13.
  10. "IRS Pursues Blackthorne," The Comics Journal #125 (October 1988), p. 13.
  11. Hudson, Laura. "The 5 Greatest Michael Jackson Moments in Comics," Comics Alliance (June 26, 2009).
  12. "Blackthorne Temporarily Contracts Operations," The Comics Journal #130 (July 1989), pp. 27-28.
  13. Hardie, Mary. "Cash-strapped comic book maker hits hard times again," San Diego Business Journal (January 22, 1990).
  14. "Blackthorne Struggles to Stay Afloat," The Comics Journal #134 (February 1990), pp. 7-8.

References

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