Let’s start off with a list of all the comics, and then there’s a summary after that.
There! That’s the lot.
I started this blog series in early February, and here we are now in May, so it took me about three months to cover Aardvark-Vanaheim and Renegade Press. The bulk of the reading required for this series was taken up by a single title: Cerebus. The 300 hundred Cerebus issues, alone, are more than the 278 non-Cerebus issues published by these two intertwined companies. (But then again, I bailed after 150 Cerebus issues.)
To recap briefly: Aardvark-Vanaheim was started by Dave Sim and Deni Loubert in 1977. They got divorced, and Loubert started Renegade Press, taking all the non-Cerebus series with her in 1985. Renegade Press ceased publishing in 1988, and Cerebus continued until the early noughties. (Isn’t that what we agreed to call that decade? No?)
Unusual for a comics company that went under, Renegade apparently didn’t owe anybody any money — not even the printer. Loubert managed to pay everybody (even if sometimes later than some of them wanted), and wound down Renegade in a somewhat orderly fashion, instead of going bankrupt.
There had been rumours of Renegade shutting down for half a year before it happened — which in itself was detrimental, because it means that distributors are more likely to decide not to pay you if they can get away with it, creators being more skittish about committing to doing a book with the company, and comics buyers perhaps avoiding your books, since they’re just going to get cancelled anyway.
Reading interviews with people from around this time, it seems like some people thought that being published by Renegade was a kiss of death: If that logo was on the cover, shops were less likely to carry your book.
I thought this was pretty strange at first blush: Renegade had some series that were pretty well liked, and had a somewhat high profile (as these things go). There’s Flaming Carrot, Wordsmith, Ms. Tree, The Silent Invasion, Cases of Sherlock Holmes… Books that would continue (at least for a while) after Renegade shut down.
But then there’s the rest, and you can kind of go “oh yeah” — if you’ve been landed with these books, perhaps that would make you sceptical. Because some of the books Renegade published were pretty bad? Some of them have charm and are unassuming, so you can’t really … work up much of an ire towards them, but amateurish junk is amateurish junk, even if it has charm.
And it engenders distrust if you publish a lot of that.
Which Renegade did.
Comics buyers are also notorious cheapskates. Renegade published (mostly) 24 page comics, printed on the worst newsprint on the stands, for $2. This was at a time where Marvel published comics at 75c, and other alternative publishers tried to at least give some semblance of “higher class” by using better paper or getting a club-house feel going, and there’s nothing of that from Renegade: You just get the floppiest of floppies.
And did I mention the ads? No? Here’s one that announces all the publications from January 1986:
It’s certainly an… aesthetic? But this sort of thing certainly isn’t classing up your $2 24-page newsprint floppy.
But the thing is: As a teenager, I overlooked all of this, and I bought almost everything Renegade published, because Renegade would publish oddities that nobody else would have taken a chance on. I’m not sure you can say that Friends, Love Fantasy or Kafka were actually… good… but they were weird as fuck. At least they tried to do something different. And that was enough for me.
I’ve enjoyed re-reading these books — even the horrible ones.
OK, let’s round off this with an index, vaguely separating the books into vague groups:
The biggest groups here are “Reprints” and “Humour” and “Action” and “Adventure”, I guess?