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.
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), mostly using their credit cards.
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.) Things started off well for the company, with its books being sold in 7-Elevens nationwide (in addition to comic book specialty stores), and earning praise from critics and hobbyists alike for its reprints of classic newspaper comic strips.
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. Blackthorne also suffered from the contemporaneous financial troubles of the Los Angeles-based distributor Sunrise Distributors. Sunrise went bankrupt in 1988, and although Blackthorne (along with fellow West Coast publisher Fantagraphics) sued the distributor, they were never able to recoup their losses. This in turn led to Blackthorne being audited by the federal government in 1988.
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. 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.
By mid-1989 the company was outsourcing its operations, 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.
Blackthorne 3-D Series
Licensed and reprint titles
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Sanford, Jay Allen. "The History Of Comic Books In San Diego: The '80s," San Diego Reader blog (September 14, 2008).
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Comics publisher pins stellar hopes to Moonwalker." San Diego Business Journal (March 6, 1989).
- ↑ "Blackthorne in 7-11s," The Comics Journal #108 (May 1986), p. 19.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ "Blackthorne Cancels Color Comics Line, Will Refocus on Licensed Product," The Comics Journal #117 (September 1987), p. 15.
- ↑ "Sunrise announces it may not pay some publishers until July," The Comics Journal #115 (April 1987), p. 24.
- ↑ "Two Publishers Sue Sunrise Distributors," The Comics Journal #120 (March 1988), p. 8.
- ↑ "Sunrise Creditors Meet," The Comics Journal #122 (June 1988), p. 22.
- ↑ "Blackthorne Audited," The Comics Journal #124 (August 1988), pp. 12-13.
- ↑ "IRS Pursues Blackthorne," The Comics Journal #125 (October 1988), p. 13.
- ↑ Hudson, Laura. "The 5 Greatest Michael Jackson Moments in Comics," Comics Alliance (June 26, 2009).
- ↑ "Blackthorne Temporarily Contracts Operations," The Comics Journal #130 (July 1989), pp. 27-28.
- ↑ Hardie, Mary. "Cash-strapped comic book maker hits hard times again," San Diego Business Journal (January 22, 1990).
- ↑ "Blackthorne Struggles to Stay Afloat," The Comics Journal #134 (February 1990), pp. 7-8.