31 Days of Comics Challenge: Day 4

First Comic Series You Seriously Pursued

I had to consider what the word “pursued” means to me.  I’ve already talked about comics I like and comics I recommend — I don’t want to retread the same ground.  So I have to define the word “pursue” as something different.

I will consider “pursue” a basically a synonym of “collect” — and by “collect,” I mean a near-obsessive impulse to track down every hard-to-find back issue of a complete series.  I have taken this approach with only a few series.  One of them is a strange little title called Elflord.

Elflord was a light-hearted fantasy comic about elves, trolls and wizards.  The main characters were Hawk Erickson, a raven-haired fighter, and Windblade Greensleeve, a  white-haired magic-user.  An Elfheimbane and a Sidhe, tied together by a mysterious destiny that neither understood.  Series creator Barry Blair depicted his elves looking and behaving like human teenagers, so the stories never got too heavy or complicated.  The characters were charming, naive and often humorous, with adventurous plots that galloped along like old-time serials.  The villains never got more menacing than Nendo, a witch with a body like a balloon.

But the story of Hawk and Windblade doesn’t start in the mystical land of Elfheim.  It starts with a Canadian insulation company….  Aircel Insulation existed in Ottawa in the early 1980s.  The company was largely dependent on government subsidies to survive, and those subsidies were abruptly canceled in 1985.  In a move that could only have happened during the independent boom of the 80s, employee Barry Blair convinced his boss to switch the company’s focus from insulation to comic book publishing.  Incredibly, this completely saved the business.  Thus was born Aircel Publishing, one of the more successful independent publishers of the 1980s.  One of their offerings was called Men In Black.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?

The comics market began to contract in the late 80s.  Blair, now fully in charge of Aircel, sold the company but retained ownership of his characters.  He rebooted Elflord multiple times (with Night Wynd Enterprises; Mad Monkey Press; Davdez ArtsPeregrine Entertainment; and WaRP Graphics).  Meanwhile, the Aircel name ceased to exist when Marvel Comics bought out Malibu in 1994.

Sadly, Barry Blair died in 2010 of a brain aneurysm.  He would not see one of his reboots reach the heights of popularity won by his early Elflord series.  But the story of Aircel Publishing is still one of the great success stories in comic book history.

Tomorrow: A Great Love Story