|Headquarters||Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Dave Cooper, |
Aircel Comics (Aircel Publishing) was a Canadian comic book publisher founded by Barry Blair, based in Ottawa and active from 1985 until 1994. In 1988, it merged with American publisher Eternity Comics, itself an imprint of Malibu Comics, and in the late 1980s was taken over by Malibu before ceasing publication. It was the original publisher of The Men in Black, the 1990 comic book on which the Men In Black film series was based.
Aircel blended historical and futuristic fantasy from different cultures as the underlying theme for each comic series. It featured high-quality colour covers with black-and white interiors. Canadian artists such as Dave Cooper, Denis Beauvais, and Dale Keown got their start at Aircel. Charles de Lint also scripted several comic books for Aircel in the mid-1980s.
Aircel was originally a manufacturer of foam insulation. When the government discontinued its contract with the company, employee Barry Blair convinced the owner to shift the company's focus to comic book publishing, which was experiencing a boom. Blair ran the publishing operations, and Aircel's initial talent line-up included him, Dave Cooper, Patrick McEown, and Guang Yap.
Aircel released its first books in 1985: Samurai, Dragonring, and Elflord, all of which featured line art in a style borrowed from manga, which was fairly new to the North American market. In 1986, illustrator Denis Beauvais and writer Gordon Derry collaborated with Blair to create Warlock 5, which featured realistic mixed-media and airbrushing techniques. The Maelstrom series was released shortly thereafter.
In the late 1980s, the independent comics market contracted, hurting niche publishers such as Aircel. Blair struck a deal with Scott Mitchell Rosenberg of Malibu Comics in which the larger publisher would be "lent" Aircel to publish a number of titles, in return for financial assistance. This resulted in a de facto merger with the Malibu imprint Eternity Comics. New illustrators assumed responsibility for continuing some of the existing series (e.g. Elford vol. 2, Warlock 5 vol. 2), which led to ownership disputes over some of these titles. Ultimately, Aircel terminated most of its previous titles and pursued erotic-themed comics with Malibu.
In 1990, Aircel published the series The Men in Black, by Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers. In 1992 the series was optioned by producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who developed the idea into the film Men In Black, which became the basis for a film and TV franchise.
- Munn, Bryan. "Barry Blair, 1959-2010," Archived 2015-01-09 at the Wayback Machine Sequential: Canadian Comix News & Culture (Jan. 5, 2010).
- "Eternity Merges with Aircel," The Comics Journal #125 (November 1, 1988), p. 19.
- "Eternity/Aircel Adventure," The Comics Journal #138 (October 1990), p. 19.
- "Newswatch: Barry Blair Ends Malibu Contract, Starts Own Firm," The Comics Journal #144 (September 1991), p. 7.
- Reynolds, Eric. "The Rumors are True: Marvel Buys Malibu," The Comics Journal #173 (December 1994), pp. 29-33.