Gemstone Ends Disney License

Posted on March 29th 2009 in Disney comics, Events, United States

It looks like Gemstone Publishing will no longer be making any new Disney comics in the United States. The news comes after it was revealed last month that owner Steve Geppi is facing financial problems. Gary Leach, who has been doing art and editorial work for US Disney comics for over two decades, reported on the DCML yesterday that “Gemstone is not renewing the Disney comics license, and won’t be putting out any more issues”. This sad news means the end of Disney comics in the United States, at least those with classic Disney characters like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Gary added that “Disney is looking for someone else to take the license” and he believes that they do have some candidates, although nothing is nailed down at this point.

Desperate Donald, by Carl Barks

I am very saddened by this news and will miss the wonderful Disney comics that Gemstone produced in the last years. Since starting in 2003, Gemstone has released a total of 280 Disney comics. The run includes 65 months worth of Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories and Uncle Scrooge, their prestige format titles which featured new European material as well as classics by Carl Barks and others. The last two issues came out in November 2008; Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories 698 and Uncle Scrooge 383 are still available on Amazon here and here.

Gemstone took over the license in June 2003 from Gladstone Publishing after an absence of Disney comics in the United States of 4 years. Now we are about to enter another period without classic Disney comics in the United States. I hope that Disney will soon find another publisher to take on the challenge and that Gemstone’s staff will be able to continue their amazing work there.

Disney comics by Gemstone Publishing



Mar 29, 2009
6:40 am
#1 JeffConn wrote:

Here’s hoping that the new Disney publisher will do some common sense things that Gemstone didn’t or wouldn’t do. Like making affordable comics. The 64 page $7.99 prestige format may have been good for age 40+ collectors like me, but it sure as heck isn’t good for kids. Disney comics are for kids first and foremost, so make them 100+ pages on cheap paper, and distribute them to newstands. Disney comics need to be at the local grocery store, B&N, Disney Store, Wal-Mart, and Hudson airport newstand. Make Disney comics visible again.

Mar 29, 2009
1:55 pm
#2 Arthur wrote:

@JeffConn: That’s what Gemstone intended to do back in 2003 when they started. This press release says: “These Disney comics will be available at major booksellers and wholesalers including Barnes & Noble, Borders, Walden Books, and Baker & Taylor, as well as specialty stores. Diamond Comic Distributors will handle the distribution of the comics throughout the United States and Canada.”

But it didn’t work out. They also tried the cheaper comics with Donald Duck and Friends and Mickey Mouse and Friends ($2.95), but those didn’t even last as long as the expensive titles.

I totally agree with you that the comics need to be even cheaper and sold at your local grocery store to succeed. That’s how it has worked in Europe for decades. Walk into any bookstore or grocery store in Holland, France, Germany, Italy or Denmark and there’s piles of them. I really wonder if there will ever be a US publisher capable of meeting that challenge. Maybe with help from Disney? They had a high distribution of Disney Adventures and Disney Magazine until a few years ago.

Some popular European Disney comics also have a lot of non-Disney editorials, about movies and music. They’ll have movie stars on the cover next to Donald or Mickey. Maybe that’s what the US needs, a magazine with a mix between comics and popular editorials to appeal to a larger group of kids. Surely it would be a great channel for Disney to spread the word on their TV shows, movies and consumer products.

Mar 29, 2009
3:28 pm
#3 JeffConn wrote:

@Arthur: Gemstone’s approach to the newsstand was disingenuous. They sold to a handful of chain bookstores, but their focus was always the comic book store. Which was natural, since Geppi owns a distributorship for comic book stores. Why would he give content to the competition? And the comic book store is a slowly dying breed, one reason for that being the Diamond monopoly.

As for the 32 pages for $2.95, these books came out when other kid friendly comics were selling for $1.95 to $2.25. Their only try at truly cheap comics were those horrible 16 page comics with easily ripped covers, one of which focused on Neighbor Jones, for crying out loud.

As for what the next Disney publisher should try, i would look to the Japanese manga model. Shonen Jump sells for $4.99 for 300 pages of comic content. It’s on cheap paper. Save the glossy crap for the collected editions. Plenty of other content in there too. It’s a good value for the buck, which pleases readers. It’s got a price tag similar to other magazines on the newsstand, which pleases retailers.

Mar 30, 2009
3:51 am
#4 David Gerstein wrote:


Whatever you thought of the rest of our line, the Neighbor Jones title and 16-page comics were Gladstone II products some twelve years ago—not ours.
As for Gemstone, our $2.95 32-page comics had 30 actual comics pages. Our $2.25 competitors had 20-24 actual comics pages. It shakes out to the same price.

Don’t let me get bogged down in technicalities… I’m as glum as anyone here.

Mar 30, 2009
8:47 pm
#5 Torsten Adair wrote:

Almost every market has been tried by almost every publisher (including Disney) and nothing succeeds. Boom! seems to be the only active American licensee, producing Muppet and Pixar titles. Checker is reprinting/collecting CrossGen. Slave Labor Graphics has tried some original stories with minimal success. Tokyopop produce Cine-Manga of Disney properties, but never seemed to succeed. Kingdom Comics might succeed by re-imagining Disney properties.

The European model was tried, and succeeded as Disney Adventures magazine, spinning off a comics-only magazine. Gladstone II tried cheaper editions. Disney tried a mainstream approach, hoping to ride the speculator boom. Gemstone catered to collectors with trades and to young readers with digests. Marvel partnered with Gladstone to distribute titles to newsstands, as well as producing movie tie-ins.

The only format not tried? Black-and-white “phone books”. Something like Shonen Jump or Essential Spider-Man. (Hey, if someone will shell out $100 for black-and-white hardcover Barks stories, why not $4.95 for 300 pages of Disney comics & stories & games & …)

Are the classic characters marketed well in the U.S.? Do kids see them? And where are the tie-ins for Goof Troop and House of Mouse? (Or One Saturday Morning?)

My best to the Gemstone staff. You produced some excellent stories, and I wish you all well.

Mar 30, 2009
10:12 pm
#6 Michael Grabowski wrote:

I can’t understand why the Disney corporation seems hell-bent on selling the continuing adventures of its characters in crappy DVDquels can’t be bothered to get into marketing these comics to its consumers as well. These should be available at Disney Stores, at the theme parks, at Disneyana conventions, and other places Disney fans go. The best books are at least as collectible as those *@#% pins they love to make. They should be promoted on the TV networks and the websites. There’s a wealth of work-for-hire material that can be reprinted for almost nothing, with European artists busily producing more all the time.

What’s really frustrating to me is seeing this golden age of classic comic book and newspaper strip reprinting projects go by without any major attempts to re-present the Taliafero Donald Duck strips, Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse adventures, the gorgeous Silly Symphonies serials, or the classic Dell comics. Barks is more than adequately covered, and I’m grateful for the handful of recent Gottfredson stories in C&S, but I cling to my quickly-deteriorating Gladstones from the 80’s and 90’s for the great stuff they published.

David Gerstein, thanks for all you did for the various publishing efforts over the years. You produced a precious set of books that I now enjoy sharing with my kids.

Aug 7, 2009
1:30 am
#7 Peridot Gem wrote:

The work of Gemstone’s staff is amazing always.The end of Disney comics in the United States is a sad news but I hope that Disney will soon find another publisher and publish new edition soon.All the best.

Trackbacks to this post. Thanks for the linkage.

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Arthur Disney Comics Worldwide is an unofficial website with information on Disney comics and magazines from around the world. With approximately 50% of the market, Disney is the largest publisher of children's magazines and comics (excluding manga) in the world!

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