Honestly, I love Canada, I once wrote a report on the country that I used, unchanged, in two different school years.*

§ October 27th, 2023 § Filed under publishing § 9 Comments

So a few of you folks popped into my comments to note that yes, you too bought Grendel off the newsstands back in ’86, along with Johnny Quest, another Comico-published property. (And then Matthew brings up the Canadian newsstand distribution of Melody: Story of a Nude Dancer, and, well, Canada being a lawless land is perhaps a topic for another day….)

Anyhoo, I spent my Thursday evening going through the mid-1980s portion of my Comics Journal, looking at the news sections and trying to find any mention of Comico’s newsstand distribution plans, along with any note of how those could have been a factor in the publisher’s demise. Alas, I found nothing, but with the caveat that one of my issues from that run is AWOL, possibly in the stacks of unsorted material that I am currently reorganizing at the house. And also, I could have just plain missed it. I should check my Amazing Heroes from the same period, when it’s not approaching midnight (as I write this), along with their Preview Specials, to see if there’s any mention there.

Well, hold on, I still have the Previews Specials here next to my desk, so let me poke through ’em real quick-like and see if I can find anything.


Nope, no mention in the Grendel entries in those.

Anyway, suffice to say Comico was experimenting with distribution outside the comic book store direct market. Much like how Now Comics would also attempt it not too much later. I am curious if Grendel ever got any blowback from “concerned parents” or news crews lookin’ for controversy, as, as the articles I was seeing in Comics Journal of the period remind me, comic content and censorship in the industry was a real hot topic. Just news item after news item of shops being harassed, publishers issuing subject matter guidelines, creators parting ways (or getting fired for complaining) with DC after announcing their content-labeling plans, complaints about the Miracleman birth issue…it was a real mess. Even putting “PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED” across the top of their comic, like Comico did with Grendel #1, wouldn’t stop anyone from startin’ any trouble with them. If anything, it would just make them a target.

That’s…probably a bigger topic than I have time to really tackle here. I was actually specifically reminded of the whole “look at the filthy comics your kids are reading!” hoohar that went around whenever comics started selling reasonably well in the last couple of decades. Lots of people always willing to hitch their agenda wagon to whatever seems popular, and if comics are popular, well, that’s a good hook to rail against the sinfulness in society and “protecting” the children. Of course now video games an’ such get much more attention, so those are more attractive to those types, so it doesn’t matter if Batman says a swear, or whatever.

So, the thing that specifically reminded me of this. I was looking up old San Diego Comic Con videos on YouTube and found this one, a San Diego news programs retrospective of their own coverage of the event over the years. It’s pretty neat seeing the sales floor and the people in costumes, and the coverage ranges from “comic books are weird” to “comic fans are weird” to “oh thank God normal celebrities and big movies are here,” but keep a lookout for the coverage in the 1990s where, gasp, adult comics are on sale here in full view of children!

So going back three or four topics, I’ll keep my eye out and see if I can’t spot any info on Comico’s newsstand distribution. Also, at one point Comico was piggybacking on DC for a bit, offering their books through DC’s distributor solicitations. That’s kinda weird too.

* BONUS: the two teachers were spouses.

9 Responses to “Honestly, I love Canada, I once wrote a report on the country that I used, unchanged, in two different school years.*”

  • ChrisB says:

    Issues 137, 138 and 140 of the Comic Journal apparently discuss the issues Comico faced before it’s demise according to Wikipedia anyway, if that’s any help Mike.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    The Journal’s Newswatch section was pretty reliably great. Good investigation and reporting, with engaging writing that makes even printing bill disputes interesting. In the grand scheme of thjngs, Don Martin’s move to Cracked was probably more important to the comics reader while the ins & outs of publishers’ financial woes would be far less attention-getting, but the Comico-Sleepeck article was well-written and worthy. Losing that kind of journalism just about everywhere is one of the internet’s greatest crimes.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    I don’t know if Gary Groth would agree that Canada is lawless, especially in the 90s…. ;-)

  • LondonKdS says:

    Now it’s “omg this comic on the Holocaust has swearing and nudity in it” or “omg this comic says it’s OK to be non-binary”.

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    My memory is that for a few years there, DC was experimenting with distributing material from smaller publishers – there was Comico (which was at the tail end of their life and included the very shortlived B&W sub-imprint that had the last published issue of Empire Lanes), but I also recall that the DC listings had books from Rebellion/2000AD and European albums from Humanoids. It was indeed an odd time for DC

  • Snark Shark says:

    “DC was experimenting with distributing material from smaller publishers – there was Comico”

    That makes sense, actually. it was Marvel DC was worried about back then, not the indies. Marvel & DC may be the big Two, but Marvel was the big ONE, really, in terms of sales. Might as well get some money from the Distro deal. I don’t think either Marvel or DC really worried about the indies sales power until possibly Dark Horse, and certainly Valiant & Image. Image took a BIG chunk of Marvels sales (or what probably would have been Marvel’s sales). Though at least two of the early Image guys did start at DC (McFarlane & Leifeld), they all got popular while working for Marvel.

    In an unrelated note, would anyone else support a petition to make it required that Rob Leifeld should be officially referred to as “The Guy Who Can’t Draw Feet”?.

  • Snark Shark says:


    Why the hell didn’t I do that?

  • Matthew Murray says:

    As LondonKdS said, there are plenty of people attacking comics for being “inappropriate” for kids, they’re just doing it in libraries for titles like Gender Queer, Flamer, and New Kid. It can be a really tough time to be a school or public librarian right now.

    Jim: The 2000ad & Humanoids stuff from DC started around 2004 and went for a couple of years. I think it led to 2000ad really developing their collection strategy (they’ve continued to use the same size as the ones that DC used), so I think it can be seen as a success for them