|Former type||Comic publisher|
|Founder(s)||Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta|
|Key people||Geraldine Pecht (art director)
Bob Schreck (art director)
Mark Hamlin (sales and marketing rep)
Comico: The Comic Company was an American comic book publisher, headquartered in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Its best-known comics include the Robotech adaptations, the Jonny Quest continuation written by co-creator Doug Wildey, and Matt Wagner's Mage: The Hero Discovered and Grendel. Once considered a major contender on the American market, Comico went into bankruptcy in 1990, although it continued to sporadically publish books until 1997. In 2009, two of Comico's original founders launched an original webcomics site called CO2 Comics, which they claim is the reincarnation of Comico.
Comico was founded in 1982 by a group of artists and publishers who had previously printed a local school paper called Duckwork in the Norristown area. Their first book, Primer #1, attempted to establish a large black-and-white line, featuring the premiere stories of Victor, Slaughterman, Az, Mr. Justice and Skrog. Only Slaughterman, Az, and Skrog made it out of the pages of Primer #1.
Primer #2 would premiere what would be Comico's flagship title for most of its existence: Grendel. Matt Wagner's Grendel quickly leaped from Primer into three issues of its own black-and white-series before Comico ended its black-and-white titles in 1984 with Primer #6. (Sam Kieth's character The Maxx—later to have his own Image Comics title—was first seen in Primer #5.)
The move to color
In March 1984 Comico introduced its color line of comics with:
- Mage: The Hero Discovered (hand-painted pages)
- Evangeline — Chuck Dixon's first comic writing venture with co-creator Judith Hunt's pencils and hand-painting, and Ricardo Villagran's inks
- Elementals by Bill Willingham (in flat color).
Although an ownership dispute led to Evangeline moving to First Comics to be continued for two more years, Comico landed a major license in Robotech. 1985 saw the debut of three Robotech series (with a schedule that released a Robotech comic book once every two weeks), as well as Next Man in 1984 and Justice Machine in 1986. (Another ownership dispute led to Next Man moving to another publisher, but this was offset by Comico's acquiring Elementals from the defunct Texas Comics.)
The company continued to pick up other licenses, producing a Jonny Quest series (and Jezebel Jade spin-off), Star Blazers series and Max Headroom graphic novel. Ken Steacy illustrated a Harlan Ellison graphic novel. Dave Stevens's The Rocketeer and Space Ghost also made the line-up.
While Comico had proven to be a serious contender as a major independent comic company, a mid-1986 decision to distribute to the newsstand market spelled the end of the comic company. This significantly raised the number of prints for each issue, but also increased the number of issues being sent back that did not sell. Refunds for those returned issues ate into the publisher's budget very quickly (and, among other things, they had trouble paying their printing bills). In response to this, Comico began to push out a number of new titles, aimed at spreading out the number of returned comics between various titles. In 1988 they began distributing their titles to the bookstore market, and in 1989 partnered with DC Comics to distribute their comics to a wider market.
Despite these measures, however, and with the end of the Mage, Grendel and Robotech series, much of the reliable revenue for the company dried up. Many of the company's long-time artists and publishers jumped ship and, by 1989, Comico had cancelled half its titles and was deep into bankruptcy. (Fish Police and Trollords were picked up by Apple Comics, while The Trouble with Girls was acquired by Malibu Comics and Justice Machine and The Maze Agency went to Innovation Comics.) Comico suspended operations in 1990, with E-Man #3.
In 1990, the owners of the company sold Comico to Andrew Rev, who released the rest of the original staff and began working on relaunching the company. With the planned relaunch, Rev held onto as many of the original Comico series he could.
Most significantly hit were Matt Wagner's creations Mage and Grendel. Mage II: The Hero Defined, expected out in 1989, was not published until the late 1990s. Both Comico and Wagner had jointly copyrighted Mage and Grendel, and with Comico in bankruptcy, that half of the copyright was claimed as a company asset. A two-part Batman/Grendel crossover, Devil's Riddle and Devil's Masque, was written and drawn by Wagner and colored at the time of the Comico series, but was delayed by Comico's bankruptcy. It was eventually published by DC in 1993. Wagner regained sole copyright of Grendel that same year, and, much later, Mage, publishing the series through Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics respectively.
While losing Wagner's characters, Rev did manage to buy Elementals for his restart. Comico began printing again in 1992 with various Elementals-related comics, and in 1993 flooded the market with various one-shot Elementals specials. They also created the Northstar imprint, which published material from 1991–1995. Budgetary problems and conflicts with creators over payments led to the company's presses going silent again until 1995, with yet another Elementals title (running three issues), and various Elementals spin-offs never making it past their first or second issues. Comico's line ended in 1997 with Elementals Sex Special vol. 2, #2, illustrated by Frank Quitely and Elementals: The Vampires Revenge #2, the second installment of a four-issue limited series starring the spin-off character Ratman, illustrated by Kelly McQuain.
In July 2009, Comico co-founders Gerry Giovinco and Bill Cucinotta announced the launch of the webcomics site CO2 Comics. The site hosts several of the comics from the Comico Primer, including work by Reggie Byers, Bernie Mireault, Rich Rankin, and Neil Vokes.
Other titles (selected)
- Elementals Sex Special
- Elementals: The Vampires Revenge (Ratman)
- Fish Police
- The Jam Urban Adventure
- Jezebel Jade
- Jonny Quest
- Justice Machine
- Max Headroom — graphic novel
- The Maze Agency
- Next Man
- The Rocketeer
- Sam and Max
- Star Blazers
- Space Ghost
- Trollords (picked up from Tru Studios)
- The Trouble with Girls
- The World of Ginger Fox
- "New Publishers Proliferate in Summer", The Comics Journal #75 (September 1982), p. 19.
- "Evangeline Caught in Ownership Dispute," The Comics Journal #97 (April 1985), pp. 13-14.
- "Changes at Comico: Evangeline and Next Man Out, Elementals In," The Comics Journal #103 (November 1985), pp. 11-12.
- "Comico Owes Printer $700,000," The Comics Journal #118 (December 1987), pp. 11-12.
- "Comico Hits Bookstores," The Comics Journal #123 (July 1988), p. 14.
- "DC to Publish, Distribute Comico," The Comics Journal #126 (January 1989), pp. 17–19.
- "Comico Cancels Half Its Line," The Comics Journal #128 (April 1989), pp. 5-6.
- "Three Former Comico Titles Find New Homes," The Comics Journal #129 (May 1989), pp. 13-14: about Fish Police, Trollords, and The Trouble with Girls; and The Maze Agency, which had not yet found a new publisher.
- "Comico Suspends Operations," The Comics Journal #138 (October 1990), p. 8.
- "Comico Sold," The Comics Journal #137 (September 1990), pp. 9-10.
- Parkin, J.K. "Comico 2.0? Company founders return on the web," Robot 6 (Comic Book Resource) (July 6, 2009).
- "Comico's Comeback," The Comics Journal #139 (December 1990), p. 8.
- "Newswatch: Whither Comico?" The Comics Journal #140 (February 1991), p. 12.
- "Newswatch: Rev Keeps Comico, Buys Into Northstar," The Comics Journal #141 (April 1991), p. 20.
- "Newswatch: Grendel to Get New Home?", The Comics Journal #145 (October 1991), p. 28.
- "Batman/Grendel Series Moving Ahead," The Comics Journal #158 (April 1993), pp. 26.
- "Caveat Creator: Creators Accuse Independent Publishers of Untimely Payment," The Comics Journal #156 (February 1993), pp. 18-20.
- "Newswatch: Comico Revs Up for Return," The Comics Journal #175 (March 1995), pp. 26-27.
- Comico at the Comic Book DB
- Bill Cucinotta interview, David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #5 (July 1983).
- Gerry Giovinco interview, David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #5 (July 1983).