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Caliber Comics or Caliber Press was an American comic book publisher founded in 1989 by Gary Reed. Reed, who had a chain of bookstores, began publishing with the release of two titles acquired from Arrow Comics - Deadworld and The Realm. Other initial launches included Caliber Presents featuring Vince Locke, Mark Bloodworth, Tim Vigil, James O'Barr, and Guy Davis; the first issue of Baker Street co-created by Reed and Guy Davis, and the initial appearance of O’Barr’s The Crow.
Reed arranged with "POCKET CLASSICS", a series of illustrated books similar in design to Classics Illustrated to be released to the direct market via Caliber Press. Over 40 titles were distributed. The interest in literary works continued for Caliber when in 1991, a new imprint designated as Tome Press was launched. Tome featured material centered on history and biography in addition to literature. Over 65 different Tome Press titles would be released on subjects as diverse as the Russian Revolution, The Alamo, Amelia Earhart, El Cid, Jack London stories, reprints of classic art print series, and dozens of others.
After the initial launch, Caliber expanded by bringing in new creators and projects. Jim Calafiore was first published with his graphic novella, Progeny. In Grafik Muzik, Mike Allred introduced his Madman character, Kevin VanHook's Frost series which was the storyline for the film released in 2002, Ted Slampyak's Jazz Age Chronicles, Philip Hester's Fringe, Stuart Immomen's Playground, John Bergin's Ashes, and other titles such as Go-Man, Northguard, Varcel’s Vixens, and more.
Caliber had ventured into licensed comics with their early release of Moontrap, the science fiction film starring Star Trek’s Walter Koenig and the production of a comic for Troma Films called Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo, but it was the full color adaptation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show that proved the most successful. Another licensed property was Mechanoids from Palladium Books.
The expansion of Caliber continued with some notable projects including Michael Lark's Airwaves, Silencers from Mark Askwith and R.G. Taylor, and Negative Burn, the anthology title that would run for 50 issues.
In the early 1990’s, Caliber launched two new imprints, Gauntlet and Iconografix. Gauntlet was an action based line and the leading titles were U.N. Force, Bezerker featuring work from Rob Liefeld and Angel Median, Patrick Zircher's Samurai Seven, and Serpent Rising based on the stage play. Iconografix dealt with more obscure and cutting edge material that included humor comics as well as comics often referred to as the "slice of life." Included here were the first issues of Ed Brubaker's Lowlife, Meatcakes from Darcy Megan, Bound & Gagged from Michael Aushenker, and a number of projects from Dave Cooper, Jason Lutes, and Matt Howarth.
In late 1993, Caliber merged with the Stabur Corporation. Reed became President of Stabur as well as staying on with Caliber. Caliber began to produce special comics for Wal-Mart including the series of Big Bang Comics (which later would have a long run at Image Comics), Stormquest, and a number of literary adaptations including a version of Frankenstein. Caliber also produced some records and a specialty magazine, ARC, for distribution outside of comics.
In 1993, the principles of Stabur were involved in starting up a new toy company with Spawn creator, Todd McFarlane. Reed is named Vice-President of McFarlane Toys while still running Stabur and Caliber. Jim Pruett was hired to take over some of the editorial duties of Caliber. Reed would stay with McFarlane Toys until May of 1996.
Caliber expanded in the mid-1990’s with titles such as David Mack's Kabuki, Brian Bendis' AKA Goldfish and Jinx, Mark Rickett's Nowheresville, Mike Carey and Michael Gaydos on Inferno, and in 1995, Caliber launched the sub imprint of New Worlds. These were titles that loosely connected and included Raven Chronicles, Helsing, Seeker, Saint Germaine, Red Diaries, Black Mist, and others. Although not an actual shared universe, the settings and characters could crossover with each other and often did.
As Caliber expanded, more editorial staff was hired to handle the growing line of comics. Moebius Comics launched and fan favorites Mr. Monster and Maze Agency returned. Caliber handled the distribution of Amazing Comics that featured the work of Mike Deodato. Brian Lumley’s Necroscope and Whitley Streiber's Communion series were signed on for comic releases. Jon Sable from Mike Grell was announced but never came out.
Caliber also started a new imprint in 1997, Tapestry Comics, that featured an "all ages" approach and the initial releases were Explorers, Patty Cake, Pakkins' Land, Dreamwalker, and others. The line was heavily praised but sales were disappointing.
As the overall comic market declined with the consolidation of the distribution system, Caliber slowly cut back on the number of titles. Caliber found some success of producing comics that appealed outside of the usual comics market with some of the Tome Press titles including Sherlock Holmes Reader, which had the majority of its sales outside of the traditional comic stores.
The demise of Caliber can be attributed primarily to the problems associated with the Spawn Power Cardz game. Caliber had invested heavily in time and money to launch the collectible card game and had great potential with purchase orders. However, the printer of the card game was running behind in production and outsourced the collation of the game to another printer who didn’t understand the random assortment of the cards. When the game appeared with improper collation, the purchase orders, which exceeded over two million dollars, were cancelled. Although a lawsuit was filed and Caliber won, by the time the judgment came, it was too late. In addition, the printer declared bankruptcy and Caliber was left only with portions of the unusable product.
In 2000, Caliber released the last of its titles and Gary Reed moved on to concentrate on teaching college biology courses. Recently, Reed has been reviving many of the Caliber titles with reprints of collections and all new series, initially from Image Comics, then from Transfuzion Publishing.
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