Sabre (Eclipse Comics)
Sabre (1978), one of the first graphic novels.
Cover art by Paul Gulacy
|First appearance||Sabre (August 1978)|
|Formats||Original material for the series has been published as a set of ongoing series and graphic novels.|
|Publication date||Graphic novel
August 1982 - August 1985
|Number of issues||Graphic novel
Billy Graham (#2-9)
Jose Ortiz (#10-14)
Sabre (subtitled Slow Fade of an Endangered Species), published in August 1978, is one of the first modern graphic novels and the first to be distributed in comic book shops. Created by writer Don McGregor and artist Paul Gulacy, it was published by Eclipse Enterprises, whose eventual division Eclipse Comics would publish a spin-off comic-book series.
Publication history 
The initial project of Eclipse Enterprises, the graphic novel Sabre is a 38-page, black-and-white, science fiction swashbuckler in which the self-consciously romantic rebel Sabre and his companion Melissa Siren fight the mercenary Blackstar Blood and others to achieve freedom and strike a blow for individuality, all amid a futuristic Disneyland-turned-torture-chamber. It was published in August 1978 with no ISBN number. A second printing was published in February 1979.
As McGregor described the project's genesis in the Afterword of the original edition, writer-editor Jim Salicrup, who in 1976 was toying with the idea of producing a weekly newspaper tabloid, asked McGregor to write a weekly adventure comic strip. McGregor had unsuccessfully pitched a feature called "Dagger" to Marvel Comics, for which he wrote features including "The Black Panther" and "Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds":
'Dagger' became 'Sabre'.... I took the character and the idea and began to flesh it out to Jim. I wrote three weeks of continuity for the strip, and added a prospectus for the general direction of the series. I approached [Marvel artist] Paul Gulacy with the 'Sabre' idea by telephone. ... Paul decided that his style would not comfortably in a weekly comic format, and I had already realized that it was difficult creating a new world [and a] new time period, as well as character that would have only one page a week to introduce all of those ingredients as well as plot developments and thematic qualities. How could we move an audience emotionally? Apologetically, I told Jim I would work on another project for him in the future.... [Later, friend and comics fan] Dean Mullaney saw the presentation piece for 'Sabre' [and] read the detail prospectus. [I said,] 'I'll take a percentage of the book. I'll gamble the year [it would take to do].' ... Dean contacted his rock musician brother, Jan, and not long after that they created their own company, Eclipse Enterprises. Sabre was their first enterprise.
He later wrote, "I think i took a token sum of money from Dean Mullaney ... of $300. I wanted Dean to be able to afford to do the book. He invested in the book for over a year. Everyone else was paid over their [usual] page rate."
Described on the credits page as a "comic novel" (the term "graphic novel" not being in common usage at the time), it was followed in 1982 by a 14-issue comic book series (cover-dated Aug. 1982 - Aug. 1985) by McGregor and, consecutively, the artists Billy Graham and Jose Ortiz. The first two issues reprinted the graphic novel in color. It featured many comic book firsts, such as graphic childbirth and a kiss between gay men.
The first graphic novel to be sold in the new "direct market" of comic-book stores, the book, priced at a then-considerable $6.00, helped prove the new format's viability by going into a February 1979 second printing.
As publisher Dean Mullaney recalled in 2008,
...[B]ack then all we needed were fans starved for something good, and storeowners willing to pay up front in order to get new comics to sell. I also published a Sabre poster in December 1977, partially to appease people for the delay in the graphic album, but also to generate more working capital. Then I [spoke with] Phil Seuling, the only distributor to the comics market at the time. Phil put his reaction to my pitch on paper and handed it to me: a cartoon of Phil's head, hair standing straight up, saying, '$5.00 [sic] for a comic book!!!!' ... He agreed to take 200 copies and sent a solicitation out to his stores. A short time later, I got a call from Phil telling me to get over to his office. I thought he wanted his money back, but as it turned out, the reaction to his solicitation was so good that he wanted to double his order. Before Sabre saw print, Phil had upped his order several more times, and based on the strength of his continuing orders, we went into a second printing!"
Eclipse published a 10th-anniversary edition of the original graphic novel (hardcover, ISBN 0-913035-65-3; trade paperback, ISBN 0-913035-59-9) with a new Gulacy cover and Jim Steranko logo. A 20th-anniversary edition was published by Image Comics in 1998, and a 30th-anniversary edition by Desperado Publishing in 2008.
- Sabre (Eclipse, 1978) at the Grand Comics Database
- McGregor, Don (August 1978). "Afterword". Sabre: Slow Fade of an Endangered Species (Eclipse Enterprises). pp. Afterword 2–3 (unnumbered).
- McGregor, Don (2008). "Sabre: The 30th Anniversary Intro". Sabre: 30th Anniversary Edition (Dallas, Georgia: Desperado Publishing). p. 5 of introduction, unnumbered. ISBN 978-0-9801479-1-9.
- Sabre (Eclipse, 1982 series) at the Grand Comics Database
- "Web of Horror Index". Enjolrasworld.com. 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
- Sabre (Image Comics, 1998) ISBN-10 0-9130-3566-1, ISBN 978-0-913035-66-5