Some thoughts on FantaCo Enterprises, following up on Roger Green’s and my exchanges
This likely won’t make much sense unless you read those first — I’ll post links to my previous FantaCo and Gore Shriek posts this weekend, to provide a proper context, but for now, I just want to get these thoughts down in some form and up here.
First of all, that Wikipedia listing of what they’re calling “FantaCo/Tundra” publications seems completely offbase to me — only those comics Kevin Eastman had a direct creative hand in (Zombie Wars) were possibly co-published titles. That involves, tops, two titles, by my memory.
* I know Wendy Snow-Lang worked directly with Tom Skulan at FantaCo, period. Her excellent Night’s Children series emerged from the publication of her story “Want” in Taboo, which sprang from my being at the Necon Wendy first read that short story at, leading to my invite to her to draw it for Taboo, launching the entire process for Wendy. I don’t recall her once mentioning Tundra in connection with Night’s Children — that was FantaCo all the way, period.
* FantaCo had the Night of the Living Dead licensing in place before Tundra existed — those books were never Tundra projects, ever; FantaCo only.
* The Shriek specials — like the 1992 Jim Whiting one-shot The Bridge — say nothing about Tundra or Kevin Eastman in their indicia or contents — only FantaCo and FantaCo staff, primarily Tom Skulan (editor/publisher). In fact, Clive Barker and Steve Niles are named more than anyone other than Tom Skulan! Kevin Eastman and Tundra aren’t mentioned, period, in these titles. The Tundra logo does not appear; only the FantaCo imprint and address.
* The same goes for Vault of Screaming Horror and Tales of Screaming Horror by Gurchain Singh — FantaCo. Period. I’ve got them right here, I’ve scoured them twice.
* The FantaCo catalogues up to 1994 say nothing about any of these being anything but FantaCo product. Eastman is never mentioned, save for the Eastman-co-created titles (again, the Zombie Wars titles), nothing has anything to do with Kevin. Tundra isn’t even mentioned; only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is linked with Kevin Eastman in any and all FantaCo catalogue or in-house (comics) ads.
* My memory, too, is of some of the Tundra staff complaining internally in the Tundra offices (to me, and to each other) about Kevin doing work with FantaCo. In short, they didn’t understand why Kevin wasn’t doing the Zombie Wars books for Tundra.
For Kevin, Zombie Wars were a relief from the pressures of both Tundra and Mirage. Thus, Kevin and FantaCo benefitted, sans any formal arrangement between Tundra and FantaCo — which arguably would have cramped Kevin’s sense of fun and playing hooky, if you will.
Again, I’m happy to be corrected, but whoever is floating this FantaCo/Tundra connection needs to substantiate it.
FantaCo was capable of publishing all they published sans outside investors, like Eastman — and Tundra was history by 1993, having folded into Kitchen Sink Press, and there’s absolutely no FantaCo/Kitchen Sink crossover of publication remotely in sight. Understand, the Tundra imprint was buried as of 1993. Ceased to exist. Kevin literally left the building, as did many Tundra employees (only a few were retained by KSP). After 1993, there is no possibility of a Tundra/anyone crossover, save for the Heavy Metal ‘Metal Mammoth’ imprint which Kevin retained only for HM.
I put the greatest credence in what the creators themselves of those series (including Jim Whiting and Steve Niles) and whatever Kevin Eastman or Tom Skulan might have to say about that — if they’re talking.
I welcome any corrections to anything I may say here, or in prior or subsequent FantaCo related posts. But you’ve gotta have genuine FantaCo experience or material evidence to back your claims.
Here’s my thoughts, off the top of my head, on the broader issue of FantaCo’s closing its doors in 1998:
* Distribution was key to FantaCo — as a retailer, and as a publisher. My memory is that Walter Wang (who also had supplied comics to Moondance, the Vermont-based mail order and retail firm/chain Alan Goldstein founded) was among the first casualties Marvel exacted before going direct-only as an exclusive with the distributor Marvel purchased, Ivan Snyder’s Heroes World. Larry Shell could likely confirm that.
* A ton of retailers — literally thousands of accounts — left the comics field between 1996 and ’98. Many of those accounts were card dealers who had gotten into the comics market when speculation bubbled and burst; but many excellent, seasoned vets went down, too. I see no reason to speculate about any other reason for FantaCo closing its doors.
* Furthermore, the horror market was key to FantaCo. The ebb in the horror market after the mid-1990s must be considered, and in its true historical context.
* Mind you, DVD didn’t enter the marketplace as a measurable force until 1998-99; all of this is documented in the Blur Volumes 1-4 work I just completed, so it’s really fresh in my braincells. Prior to that, the video market wasn’t strong on sell-through, except on older catalogue titles, and most new horror titles on vhs were priced for rental (meaning $100+ when a title was new), so there wasn’t a strong retail market for videos as yet.
* Also, anime was picking up steam but not yet a viable commodity for a business like FantaCo, circa 1997-98; firms like Central Park Media and the like grew in the few years I attended video trade shows (1998-2002) from one-booth wannabes to the viable companies they are today.
* Horror merchandizing, post-Freddy Krueger, slowed to a trickle, this at a time when even the major book publishers were easing away from horror for cozier labels like “dark suspense” (and, in the video stores, “erotic thrillers”).
* Video distributors didn’t seek inroads into the comics market in any case. In fact, it was the other way around: I remember (and files/records to back this up) Diamond crashing the video trade shows, 1998-2001, seeking inroads into the video retail market to pick up the slack of the lost direct sales comicbook marketplace — really, the devastation of the 1996-97 implosion was felt everywhere, by Diamond’s exclusives and Diamond itself.
As I say, this anecdotal evidence alone provides ample reason for the shop on 21 Central Avenue to have closed its doors by 1998, having hung in there for almost 20 years — and seen the guts torn out of the view alternatives to Diamond that had existed prior to 1996-97. With Capital, Friendly Frank’s, Titan, Andromeda, etc. no longer in existence to do business with a firm like FantaCo — as suppliers or as distributors of FantaCo product — Geppi was the only game in town.
FantaCo wasn’t alone in saying, “Ah, fuck it!’ to the brick-and-mortar shopfront, and plenty of small publishers (yours truly included) had already thrown in the towel (or, in the case of Colleen Doran, Jeff Smith, etc., sought safe ground with umbrella publishers like Image for that period).
OK, I welcome discussion, input, corrections –