The Walt Disney Company has most of the time not produced or published any Disney comics, but has instead let other companies do that with a license agreement, just like other companies have made toys and clothing etc. with Disney characters on them.
During a few years in the early 1990s they did produce their own comics though.
Gladstone published the
Disney comics in the USA 1986-1990.
Then the Walt Disney Company itself decided that what
Gladstone could do, Disney could do better. In 1990, Disney revoked
Gladstone's license and assembled a mixture of talent from Marvel,
Western, and Gladstone to produce new comics under the Disney Comics
label. For the first year, excessively Marvelesque Disney comics were
created. Featuring page layouts quite unlike the
traditional Disney style, the comics included attempts to adapt
then-current television series like
Duck, and film characters like Roger Rabbit, to comics.
A huge number of monthly comics began being produced.
Disney's management had alienated potential artists, however, by
continuing their policy of not returning art. Furthermore, the new
editorial style was not very successful with the audience Gladstone had
created. A now-famous
implosion in 1991 led to Disney's once-huge
lineup of titles being reduced to three monthlies, fewer than Gladstone
had ever published. Disney's management announced that the comic
division could no longer buy new stories, which caused
Lustig and Van Horn, among others, to join
Rosa in producing Disney comics for
Egmont rather than for an American office.
Despite this turmoil, the comics themselves drastically improved at the time. Duck and Mouse aficionados Bob Foster, Cris Palomino, and David Seidman were given essentially free reign over the titles (Donald Duck Adventures, Uncle Scrooge, and WDC&S) which had been heavily regimented during Disney Comics' first year. Moderate success ensued as the comics evolved more to fans' liking, and some formerly-banned Barks and Gottfredson stories achieved reprint. By 1992, the type of material appearing in Disney's comics was very similar to what Gladstone had been featuring earlier on (including American editions of Egmont's Rosa and Van Horn material).
Yet the damage had been done: the colossal sales slump experienced in Disney's first year had led to a drop of consumer interest in Disney comics in general, and an increase in sales under the post-1991 editors was not enough to satisfy the Disney Company. It was thus in 1993 that Gladstone made an offer Disney couldn't refuse and regained the license for the monthly Duck and Mouse comics.
The rights for all characters created from the 1980s onwards went to Marvel Comics though, so the continuation of this is both at Gladstone and Marvel Comics.
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