Black Sheep Comics
Black Sheep Comics is a line of superhero comics created by a consortium of smaller comic book companies as a challenge to the giants of Millennium Comics and Chicago Press Comics. Its creation was heralded with much fanfare by its unusual contract with the creative staff, sharing creative decision-making as well as profits with management. In many ways it has been viewed as a Condominium in the private sector, a first for the business world.
Black Sheep Titles
Initially, a few key "flagship" titles were introduced into the market. These included:
- Fastlane was a very unusual concept for a superhero title, mostly in that it focussed on the lives of heroes but of supervillains. Specifically, three generations of speedsters known as Fastlane #1 (now retired), Fastlane #2 (the first's nephew) and the second's son who hopes to become Fastlane #3 (his father wants him to go to college and get a white collar job).
- Academy Prime deals with a school designed for students who have superpowers. The scale of the stories tends to be intense but very personal, which has led some to call it a "teen soap opera" but admirers point out it realistically deals with issues such as acceptance, peer pressure, and tensions between generations.
- Diable Divin, a metamorphosing vigilante, one of the angels from the battle of heaven (Rev 12:4), but one who not so much fell, as sauntered down purposefully. While the angels he encounters revile him, he continues about the errands of heaven, albeit through sometimes unusual and unorthodox means.
Later additions include a series of Graphic Novels based on La Chronique des Désirs Interdits. Continuing series since the 200's include:
- Longshoreman: Rex Reinhart, a dockhand turned lawyer, then CEO in coastal Long Bay, is forced out of his company when the shipping company he works for folds under pressure from a city alderman. He's always been strong with his hands -- and when he discovers that the alderman is in the pocket of his rival, and that the corruption doesn't stop there, but that it's only part of The Enterprise -- corporate greed shaking the city he's loved his whole life to its roots, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Successfully elected to a judge's position covering the seediest part of the city, dubbed Favelville, Rex Reinhart dispenses justice by day and prepares his cases as The Longshoreman by night, handing the villains that would hurt the town he loves into the capable hands of Chloe Carnack, ADA.
- Moguai: Li Señ-bum is the oldest son of Li Masao, a Japanese businessman, and Yun Liao, daughter of Shanghai nobility. Highly athletic and trained in martial arts as a hobby, he excelled in school, and earned a place in his father's business immediately after college. In his twenties he watched his beloved fiancée, Xiracawa Suzune, gunned down, a casualty in a Yakuza turf war. Enraged and sickened at the state of the world, he turns his father's business savvy to purchasing high-tech industries. By the time he is thirty, he and his father have created the world's largest technological holding company, Samsu Heavy Industries. While they provide the world with the leading electronics, the R&D department provides Li Señ-bum those technologies that allow him to fight a one-man war against the criminal underworld, as Moguai, the Vengeful Ghost.
- The Waitress: Eleanor Stubens waited tables for years at a little diner in Plainsville, training in martial arts to protect herself on the lonely walk home to her apartment. She watched Frank and Dora Meyer raise their children, just as she raised their own. When her son Hank fell in love with the Meyer's son Albert, it took her some getting used to, but she loved them both, supporting them Green Carnation Party rallies, until one day her son Hank is killed, and Albert paralyzed. Now she fights back, protecting women, children, and any that would wear the Green Carnation. Those that would harm those under her protection are found beaten, bound, and gagged, a Green Carnation bound into their hands.
Black Sheep generated a great deal of interest when it began publication in 2008. Some critics proved enthusiastic about the daring storylines (such as the openly bisexual Dionysus hero, claiming to be a god) and the straying from expectations, such as the premier superpowered team the World-Wide Watch remaining in the background. Others decried what they characterized as a series of "stunts."
Sales have been nowhere near those of the "Big Two", but considerable interest continues to be generated since Black Sheep deliberately refrains from what its editorial staff calls "saturating the audience." Unlike most such publications, Black Sheep titles are not issued monthly but as chapters in specific mini-series or dramatic arc over a year. Thus a given title might have anywhere from from four to nine issues in a single calendar year. Executives and editors at Black Sheep say this allows less frenzied story-telling, greater attention to detail, and fosters increased interest in each issue.
Black Sheep Comics showed profit toward the end of the fourth year of operations, a surprise to investors and creators within the company. They have since enlarged their offering, increasing staff, and making themselves a stronger presence in the comic industry. They are one of the large backers of the recent, and wildly successful Congrès des Bandes-Dessinées à Zarahemla.