Sabre. Artist: Paul Gulacy.


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Eclipse Enterprises
Creators: Don McGregor (writer) and Paul Gulacy (artist)
First appeared: 1978
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By the late 1970s, graphic novels, such as this one, had been around for a long time. But the term itself was only then coming into use. Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit, is often cited as having pioneered the form with A Contract with God, but here's a story that was very nearly contemporary with that seminal work. Sabre: Slow Fade of an Endangered Species, by writer Don McGregor (The Black Panther, War of the Worlds) and artist Paul Gulacy (Master of Kung Fu, King Faraday) came out at almost the same time as the Eisner work, in 1978. In fact, it's said to be the first graphic novel ever produced solely for the comics Direct Market. It also was instrumental in establishing …

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… Eclipse Enterprises, first publisher of Groo the Wanderer, as one of the new companies that were responsible for the directions the comic book industry took in the 1980s.

Eclipse started out with the purpose of presenting graphic novels such as this one, Detectives, Inc. (1980) and Stewart the Rat (1980) to the comics-reading public. It was a sci-fi swashbuckler, in which a larger-than-life hero, Sabre, rebels against the oppressive regime with his one true love, Melissa Siren.

It was also Eclipse's first venture into publishing. A few years later, the company was ready to try full-color periodical comics such as Ms. Tree and Aztec Ace. One of its first projects in this venture was a bimonthly Sabre title. The first two issues, dated August and October, 1982, reprinted the graphic novel, which had originally been black & white, in standard comic book format. As a regular color comic book, Sabre reached a whole new audience.

It continued reaching a new audience, as the story continued into fresh territory with #3 (December, 1982) — but without Gulacy. The third issue was drawn by Billy Graham (Luke Cage, Vampirella), who isn't related to the TV evangelist. Also starting with the third issue, it slipped from its bimonthly schedule. The 4th issue was dated March, and the 5th July.

Tho not a great deal was made of this in the series, it attracted at least minor attention due to the fact that Sabre was black and Melissa was white. But by that time, such innovations were becoming old hat to the reading public, as were such one-time shockers as homosexual kissing.

Since Eclipse wasn't subject to such public-standard enforcers as The Comics Code Authority, it also attracted attention for at least a smattering of nudity. This mostly consisted of an occasional glimpse of Melissa, undraped, but it came to a climax in the 7th issue (December, 1983), in which Melissa gave birth to Sabre's child, depicted in all its gynecological glory.

This can be a magical event, overflowing with intense joy, as anyone who has experienced it, or even been present when it happened, can attest. However, Graham's textbook-perfect illustrations failed to capture it — in fact, it's a good question whether it can ever be captured second-hand, at all.

The 10th issue (June, 1984) had one last new artist, José Ortiz (Krypto, The Simpsons). But the title had apparently run through its propensity to attract new audiences. It ended with #14 (August, 1985).

Sabre wasn't seen again in new adventures. However, Eclipse published a 10th anniversary reprint at the scheduled time. The 20th anniversary edition, which came long after Eclipse had folded, was published by Image Comics (Spawn, Witchblade).


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Don McGregor & Paul Gulacy.