Revolutionary Comics

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Revolutionary Comics
Parent company Infinite One, Inc.
Status Defunct, 1994 (21 years ago) (1994)
Founded 1989 (26 years ago) (1989)
Founder Todd Loren
Country of origin United States of America
Headquarters location San Diego, California
Key people Todd Loren, Herb Shapiro, Jay Allen Sanford
Publication types Comic books
Nonfiction topics Music, Biography, Sex
Fiction genres Horror
Imprints Carnal Comics

Revolutionary Comics (1989–1994) was a U.S. comic book publisher which specialized in unauthorized profiles of entertainers and professional athletes, as well as a line of erotic comics. They are best known for their flagship series Rock 'N' Roll Comics. Founded by Todd Loren, Revolutionary Comics was based in San Diego.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

After some success with Musicade, a mail order music memorabilia company, Loren formed Revolutionary Comics in 1989. The publisher's first title was Rock 'N' Roll Comics, a line of unauthorized comic book biographies of rock stars prompted in part by the success of a 1986 Bruce Springsteen parody comic called Hey Boss.[citation needed]

Rock 'N' Roll Comics[edit]

Main article: Rock 'N' Roll Comics

Early issues of Rock 'N' Roll Comics contained straight biographies in comic form and Mad magazine-style parodies. The parodies were later dropped. The line featured unlicensed biographies of rock stars, told in comic book form but geared for adults, often with very adult situations (nudity, drug use, violence, etc.).[1] The comic sported a cover tagline reading "Unauthorized and Proud of it." Some musicians featured in the comic were supportive, while others threatened legal action. The resulting media exposure garnered Rock 'N' Roll Comics huge sales of their early issues.[2]

A later injunction[3] led the company to expand its distribution network outside traditional comic shops, getting their products into music and gift retail outlets which had never carried comics before. This independence from the comic book direct market served the company well, as sales continued to rise from issue to issue.[4]

Revolutionary's only other title at first was the bimonthly Tipper Gore's Comics and Stories, an EC-inspired horror anthology which lasted five issues. Other one-shots and short-lived titles followed, but the heart of the company was Rock 'N' Roll Comics, which continued to sell large quanitities.

Expansion[edit]

By the early nineties, Revolutionary Comics was among the top three selling independent comic companies in the U.S.[citation needed] Loren brought on his father, Herb Shapiro, to be vice president of the growing company, while Jay Allen Sanford, who’d worked for Loren’s Musicade and was writing for Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics, became the line’s head writer.[1] New music titles were launched, most notably Rock 'N' Roll Comics Magazine and Hard Rock Comics, as well as a line of "Experience" limited series, on such subjects as the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd (the latter of which the band liked well enough to include in their official Shine On CD box set).[citation needed]

In 1991, Revolutionary started a line of unauthorized sports biographical comics, which eventually included such titles as Baseball Superstars Comics, Baseball Legends Comics, Sports Superstars Comics, and Sports Legends Comics.

Carnal Comics[edit]

Main article: Carnal Comics

In 1991 Loren launched Carnal Comics, an adults-only imprint, to publish Lyndal Ferguson's erotic anthology series Sexpot, SS Crompton's Demi the Demoness, and Allen Salyer's Pineapple Perfume. Printer troubles led to some delays,[citation needed] but the first three Carnal Comics titles were released all at once in 1992. All only lasted a single issue.

Loren murder and company reorganization[edit]

After Loren's June 1992 murder,[5] the company continued for two more years, under Loren’s father and with Sanford serving as managing editor. During those years, Kiss participated in a three-issue biographical series called Kiss Pre-History, and other new music titles were launched, such as British Invasion and Alternative Comics. The erotic imprint's next title, the limited series Carnal Comics: Sarah Jane Hamilton was also successful, selling in numbers almost as high as Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics (which, while in decline, along with all U.S. comics publishers at the time, were still selling 15,000 to 20,000 copies per issue).[citation needed] The Hamilton limited series was the last title published by Revolutionary.

Dissolution and legacy[edit]

Herb Shapiro decided to close the company in summer 1994, in part because of debt accrued by a failed color sports comic line.[6] In the end, Revolutionary published more than 300 individual issues.

Under the banner Re-Visionary Press, Sanford continued to publish the Carnal Comics imprint; he later oversaw reprints of Revolutionary titles in digital editions and graphic novels licensed in the U.S. and overseas, including a 2014 Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics series licensed to Croatian publishers.[citation needed]

Sanford and Herb Shapiro kept the Revolutionary archive intact, including over 9,000 pages of original interior artwork, around 250 original cover paintings and illustrations, and all of the scripts, production materials, and printer film used to produce the comics. The copyrights and trademarks to all of the titles Revolutionary produced are also maintained, allowing for digital distribution via iTunes, Amazon.com, and other online outlets, where the comics continue to be popular with fans of both the subjects and offbeat comic books.[citation needed]

Bluewater Productions collections[edit]

In September 2009, biographical comic book publisher Bluewater Productions announced it would be reprinting Revolutionary's Rock 'N' Roll Comics in ten monthly volumes, averaging 250 pages each. The first collections were The Beatles Experience and Hard Rock Heroes, released in early 2010. Bluewater's Rock 'N' Roll Comics collections include the Pink Floyd Experience (5 issues), followed by a color 32-page comic, Joan Jett and the Runaways, the Led Zeppelin Experience (5 issues), the Elvis Presley Experience (7 issues), Rock 'N' Roll Cartoon History: The '60s, and Rock 'N' Roll Cartoon History: The '70s. The company also reprinted Revolutionary's comic book biography of former Marvel Comics figurehead Stan Lee. Many of Revolutionary's original creators participated updating and modernizing the contents of the musical comic bios. The reprints and updates are being supervised by Sanford.

Legal challenges[edit]

The unauthorized nature of Revolutionary's biographical titles, despite their commitment to solid reporting,[1] led to legal issues from the beginning. Publisher Loren billed his company as an advocate for free speech, and actually made his case in court in a number of notable decisions.[1][7]

Rock 'N' Roll Comics #1, cover-dated June 1989, resulted in a cease and desist order from the subject band, Guns N' Roses. No lawsuits was ever filed in that case, and resulting media coverage led to the comic going into multiple printings. Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics #3 and #4, on Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe, respectively (cover-dated Sept. 1989 and Oct. 1989), did result in legal challenges over merchandising rights,[3] which the company circumvented by distributing the comics through alternative routes. Rock 'N' Roll Comics #8, featuring Skid Row, was never published at all, due to a similar injunction related to merchandising rights.[8]

Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics #12 (June 1990), an unauthorized biography of New Kids on the Block, got Revolutionary sued again.[8][9] Publisher Loren claimed the First Amendment protected the journalistic rights of his "illustrated articles" and he took the matter to the U.S. District Court in California. In April 1990, U.S. District Judge John S. Rhoades declared that Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics #12 could legally be distributed because it is “part biography and part satire.” The judge's twelve-page ruling stated that “bookstores are filled with biographies — both authorized and unauthorized — of public figures. And, while the subjects of such biographies may be offended by the publication of their life stories, they generally have no claim for trademark infringement.” Revolutionary's legal victory established that comic book biographies were entitled to the same protections as other unauthorized biographies.

Rhoades’ ruling also stated “It appears that the First Amendment may trump any claim that the plaintiffs have for trademark infringement.” The resultant order stated that Winterland Concessions Co. failed to show that the case met the standards required to issue a preliminary injunction. This dissolved the temporary restraining order prohibiting distribution. Nonetheless, the New Kids responded by filing suit for trademark infringement since their logo appeared in the comic. A settlement between the New Kids and Revolutionary was reached in August 1990. It permanently enjoined Revolutionary from “advertising, manufacturing, distributing and/or selling or otherwise commercially exploiting any publication displaying the trademark and/or logo of the New Kids on the Block, either as a group or individually.” Loren promptly reprinted the New Kids story in magazine format (Rock 'N' Roll Comics Magazine), without depicting the band’s logo anywhere in the story.

Ironically, this and the other lawsuits garnered Revolutionary worldwide press, eventually resulting in record-breaking sales for an indie comic publisher.[10]

Rock 'N' Roll Comics #61, about the band Yes, and scheduled for July 1993 release, was blocked from publication.

Revolutionary's sports titles also faced legal challenges. In 1993, the company lost a lawsuit filed by the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins over the use of their logo in one of Revolutionary's sports comics.[11] In 1994, the company settled a suit brought by football player Joe Montana based on one of their comics.[12]

Documentary film[edit]

In 2005, BulletProof Film released a documentary titled Unauthorized and Proud Of It: Todd Loren’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics. The documentary features interviews with Loren's family, surviving "Revolutionaries," comic book colleagues, adversaries, supporters, and past and present rock 'n' roll stars featured in Revolutionary’s comics. Appearing in the film are Alice Cooper, publishers Gary Groth (Fantagraphics) and Denis Kitchen (Kitchen Sink Press), famed groupie Cynthia Plaster Caster, underground painter and cover artist Robert Williams (known for his controversial album art for the first Guns N' Roses LP), Jay Allen Sanford, Gene Simmons (audio only), and more. The documentary also details the San Diego police department's investigation into Loren's murder; interviews with Loren's coworkers and family members suggest that the police failed to follow up on all available leads.

The documentary was released on DVD in April 2012 by Wild Eye Releasing, under the title Unauthorized: The Story of Rock 'N' Roll Comics. The DVD includes over two hours of bonus footage, interviews, news footage, and art galleries, and liner notes by Sanford.

Creators associated with Revolutionary Comics[edit]

Titles published (selected)[edit]

Music[edit]

  • The Beatles Experience (8 issues, Mar. 1991–May 1992)
  • The Elvis Presley Experience (7 issues, Aug. 1992–Apr. 1994)
  • Elvis Shrugged (3 issues, 1991; one-shot, 1993)
  • Hard Rock Comics (20 issues, Mar. 1992–Nov. 1993)
  • Kiss Pre-History (3 issues, 1993)
  • The Led Zeppelin Experience (4 issues, 1992–1993)
  • The Pink Floyd Experience (5 issues, 1991–1992)
  • Rock 'N' Roll Comics (63 issues, July 1989–Nov. 1993)
  • Rock N' Roll Comics Magazine (7 issues, July 1990–Nov. 1992)

Entertainers and politicians[edit]

  • Contemporary Bio-Graphics (8 issues, 1991–1992)
  • Star Jam Comics (10 issues, Apr. 1992–Mar. 1993)

Sports[edit]

  • Baseball Legends Comics (19 issues, Mar. 1992–Sept. 1993)
  • Baseball Superstars Comics (20 issues, Nov. 1991–Aug. 1993)
  • Sports Legends Comics (11 issues, 1992–May 1993)
  • Sports Superstars Comics (16 issues, Apr. 1992–Aug. 1993)

Other titles[edit]

  • Tipper Gore's Comics and Stories (5 issues, Oct. 1989–July 1990)
  • Carnal Comics: Sarah-Jane Hamilton (May–July 1994)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Peisneraug, David. "Part Ramones Biography, Part Dreamscape," New York Times (Aug. 8, 2013).
  2. ^ "New Kids vs. Revolutionary": Rolling Stone (Apr. 1992).
  3. ^ a b "Rock 'N Roll Comics Distribution Interrupted," Comics Buyer's Guide, #829 (Oct. 6, 1989), p. 1, 28.
  4. ^ Fogel's Underground Comix Price Guide, 2006.
  5. ^ "NewsWatch: Todd Loren Slain," The Comics Journal #151 (July 1992), p. 11.
  6. ^ Groth, Gary. "Revolutionary In Financial Disarray," Comics Journal #164 (Dec. 1993).
  7. ^ Groth, Gary. "Todd Loren - First Amendment Advocate Or Lying Sack Of Shit?" Comics Journal #138 (Oct. 1990).
  8. ^ a b Herrmann, Brenda. "Rockin' Comics: Super Heroes Of Music Play An Exciting New Venue — the World Of Cartoons," Chicago Tribune (October 20, 1991).
  9. ^ "New Kids On The Block Sue Revolutionary," The Comics Journal #136 (July 1990), p. 17.
  10. ^ "New Kids on the Block vs. Revolutionary Comics," San Diego Reader blog (Sept. 13, 2007).
  11. ^ "Newswatch: Revolutionary Told to Ice Penguin Usage," The Comics Journal #159 (May 1993), p. 19.
  12. ^ "Joe Montana Suit Settled," The Comics Journal #168 (May 1994), pp. 38-39.

Sources consulted[edit]

  • Revolutionary Comics at the Grand Comics Database
  • Revolutionary Comics at the Comic Book DB
  • Brent Frankenhoff, The Standard Catalog of Comic Books (2002), p. 333
  • Comic Buyers Guide #1621 (2006), p. 87
  • Johnson, J. "Remember Todd Loren?", Comics Buyers Guide (June 16, 2006)
  • "Todd Loren's Rock 'N' Roll Comics," Bay Area Reporter (May 11, 2006)

External links[edit]