Compared to some, Barry Blair had a relatively short career in comics, but it would be an important one. As a writer and artist, Blair was known for producing manga-styled comics through Aircel Comics such as Elflord, Samurai, Dragonring, Warlock 5 and Blood ‘N’ Guts. He passed away in 2010, leaving behind a legacy of comics that we are going to discuss over the new couple of months. In this first column, we are going to introduce Blair’s background and introduce some of the comics that he produced, and that Outland Entertainment is going to be reintroducing to comics fans.
The history of comics is filled with interesting stories of how people became comic publishers. The birth of Aircel Comics is one of those interesting stories. Initially the Canadian company was known as Aircel Insulation, and when the loss of a governmentcontract threatened to dissolve the company Blair convinced the owner to shift the company’s emphasis from producing insulation to producing comics. In 1985 Aircel began publishing, jumping in just as the black and white comics boom ushered in by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was starting.
As Aircel would produce some quality books like Blair’s Elflord and Warlock 5 that would garner attention and an audience. Unfortunately this boom almost as quickly went bust and by 1988 Aircel Comics was having financial troubles. In order to alleviate these financial troubles, Blair would enter into a partnership with Malibu Comics that saw Aircel merge with Malibu imprint Eternity Comics, even though both would still exist as imprints. Malibu is probably best known as the publisher of the initial wave of Image Comics in 1992.
It was under the ownership of Malibu that Aircel would produce its biggest and lasting hit: Lowell Cunningham’s Men In Black. That Men In Black. Although the comic did not strongly resemble its media offspring, it did spawn the movie and Saturday morning cartoon franchise. The comic was much darker in tone than the movies, and also featured paranormal elements like werewolves and vampire in addition to the aliens that would take center stage in the movies. Blair would edit the comics.
Talking a little about Blair’s comics that we will be discussing in the coming columns. Elflord was a fantasy series strong influences and inspired by Elfquest by Richard and Wendy Pini. In fact, eventually Blair would work for Warp Graphics on various Elfquest titles. This series was high fantasy with a light touch, even though darkness lurked beneath the surface of the stories. Dragonring was a high octane pulp adventure strip, with elements of horror and science fiction. Warlock 5 was a blend of fantasy and science fiction and multi-world travel. All of these comics filtered through Blair’s unique perspectives, as we will see through this column as we explore them and other of his works.
In January of 2010, Barry Blair died of an undiagnosed brain aneurysm. His creations live beyond him, an ongoing testament to his creativity, join us as we explore the worlds of his creation.
This is the 1st of our brand new series of guest posts. These columns will focus on Barry Blair's legacy and are brought to you by Christopher Helton.
Christopher Helton writes about pop culture, comics and gaming at his long-running Dorkland! blog, and as a writer for the Bleeding Cool website.
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