Saturday, July 11, 2015

Camelot 3000 #1

The late 1970s and early 1980s brought huge changes to the comic book industry.

Before then comic book publishers sold their comics through magazine and book distributors.  

That meant that comic books (like magazines) were sold on newsstands across the country.  

Every drugstore, five and dime and mom and pop shop carried comic books if they carried magazines.

Like magazines, retailers could return unsold comic books to the distributor who in turn would send them back to the publishers for a refund.

As the price of magazines rose comic books rose too, but a slower rate.  Magazine distributors took notice that their profit on comic books was much lower than on comic books so distributors started to cut back on comic books. 

Comic books often were not placed on shelves or only a few scattered titles.  Comic book publishers found their profits dropping as distribution dried up.

Along came the direct sales market that allowed comic book publishers to sell directly to comic book shops with no return policy.  Numbers began to climb and publishers recognized that developing product that sold only through direct market sales could turn a profit.

Marvel and DC Comics began producing direct sales titles.  About that same time small publishers began to pop up that sold exclusively to comic book shops via direct sales.

Since comic books sold mostly to serious collectors (many who were getting older) both Marvel, DC and other publishers began producing titles with more 'mature' themes and stories.

In 1982 writer Mike Barr presented a new story idea to DC Comics.  It updated the Arthurian legend and was aimed at an older audience.

At first DC balked and turned down the idea but soon relented.

Accompanying Mike Barr was British artist Brian Bolland who provided the pencils. Few knew of Bolland's work, except those who read Britain's Judge Dredd.

Since DC Comics was importing many of its writers and artists from the British Isles Brian was a perfect choice.

This was time when the internet and e-mail did not exist.  Inter-continental mail and package delivery was in its infancy. While coordinating the writing and art proved somewhat difficult-resulting in missed deadlines-the series did see completion nearly a year behind schedule.

Camelot 3000 is important for a few reasons.  First, it was printed on more expensive Baxter paper and on Letterpress.  It was one of DC Comics' first direct market series and its very fist maxi-series limited to 12 issues.

The series was a huge success.  Fans loved the story and especially Bolland's ever improving artwork.

DC had a hit on its hands and soon other direct sale series would follow.