[Innovation Comics]

The revival of interest in Lost in Space in the early nineties culminated in the 25th Anniversary Boston celebrations. However, it was the astonishing appearance of Innovation's Lost in Space comic book in 1991 which kept interest on the boil and finally gave starved fans something to savour after so many years.

The fact that this comic ever came off the printing press is remarkable in itself as David Campiti, editor and publisher explained in issue 1 of the comic:

"Last year, in New York I was with Viacom's Howard Berk discussing their various properties. 'Out of this list, the only thing I see here that excites me is Lost in Space,' I told him. 'But I couldn't see doing it like the silly '60s TV show - that was positioned to compete with Batman in the ratings.'

We finished our leisurely talk about comics in general and I got up to leave 'Tell me,' he said 'what would you do with Lost in Space if you got it.'

My answer, a sequence I thought up on-the-spot, off the top of my head, is what you see printed as the first three a pages of this issue. His response was 'I don't see a problem with that.' And the rest is history."

Where so many others had tried vainly before, David Campiti, had succeeded in performing a minor miracle. He had acquired the rights to legally produce a story based on the original TV series. Certainly one highlight of the new comic was the fact that Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson in the original TV series, had accepted a position as a consultant/writer. Bill had been a little skeptical when David Campiti first told him that Innovation acquired the comic book rights to Lost in Space explaining: "I figured if DC couldn't do it, and Marvel couldn't do it, then Innovation couldn't do it." In fact, Bill remained unconvinced until a month later when David Campiti gave him a copy of a signed contract between Innovation Publishing and Viacom. Apparently while the Irwin Allen Estate had owned film and television rights to Lost in Space, the publishing rights strangely enough were owned by Viacom. Now convinced, Bill gladly joined the team: "I am happy to be part of this project. I know Innovation is dedicated to making this book as good as it can be. I'll be around to write a few issues and offer my opinion on the overall direction of the series."

The connection with the original TV series did not stop there, Mark Goddard, who originally played Major West, also helped in writing one issue (Issue 7). The other remaining cast members also seemed very interested in the progress of the new comic book as Bill Mumy explained:

"Everybody in the cast gave me their feedback on the comic and enjoyed it a lot, especially Jonathan Harris and June Lockhart. Both of them were tickled by it...It was great to have everybody feeling activated again after so long. For instance, none of us get residuals, which is a source of frustration, because the show has never gone off air - it's always running somewhere and we never get a dime from it, so it's nice to find that people still care about the characters."

Despite all this, the comic got off to a rather shaky start. The premiere issue was widely criticized for having been printed too dark. Fortunately this problem was soon rectified. Another criticism was that the comic was placing too much emphasis on the sexiness of the female characters. In the early issues every opportunity to show the cleavage of Judy and Penny seems to have been exploited to the full. The "pretty girl" art was deliberately done to establish tension between Penny and Don, but it prompted some fans to start calling the comic "Sex in Space" and "Breasts in Space." Caving into pressure this aspect was noticeably toned down in later issues.

The comic book proved an instant success and soon became the flagship for Innovation. It had far exceeded all expectations. After the first year David Campiti was able to proudly ask: "How often does a non-super-hero direct sales comic book sell out of a 66,000-copy print run? Not too often in our estimation." In fact fan reaction was so overwhelming that Innovation felt obliged to include a "letter column to tackle some of the more insightful letters." David Campiti explained: "Simply put, we've received more mail on Lost in Space than all other books Innovation's published combined!" Judging by the numerous letters published in the letter column, surprisingly many buyers of the comic didn't normally buy comics. They were simply drawn to it by their love of the TV series. Others simply expressed their gratitude that finally the Space Family Robinson story was being retold minus the camp of the TV series.

For many fans the letter column was a highlight as much as the comic book itself. It made closet fans realize that they were not the only ones who had a passion for the old TV series. Letters flooded in from all over the world: The UK, South America and Australia. Lost in Space was back and what's more, it seemed here to stay! But was it?

The first sign that things were not all rosy at Innovation came in issue 13 (Issue 1 of 12 in a proposed series by Bill Mumy titled Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul.) We learn from this issue that David Campiti has left Innovation, the company he had founded 4 1/2 years earlier. His reasons hinted at possible financial problems: "While I enjoy the writing, the discovering great artists, and swinging the licensing deals, I'm not enamoured with preparing spreadsheets or reading P&L statements. I decided to look for something that would make me more comfortable." Co-editor, George Broderick Jr. now took over all editorial responsibilities. As things turned out only 5 more issues of the comic were to be published. Issue 18 (Part 6 of 12) would become the last.

Months later the true story behind the demise of the comic was revealed. Apparently the Innovation staff were told on December 27th 1993 that "December 31st is your last day." One of the original investors who had funded the start up of Innovation had called in his loan. Being the only secured creditor, he took over the assets of the company including office furniture, back-stock and physical film of separated issues. George Broderick Jr. later explained: "I'd have to be a real idiot to say it was a surprise - just the way things were being done gave us an indication. Over the last three or four months, I had been discouraged from licensing new titles or projects, and activities involving additional costs were postponed until 1994."

To say fans were shocked and disappointed by the cancellation of the Lost in Space comic would be an understatement. No one was more disappointed than Bill Mumy who had completed a 12 issue story, which only half had reached the printing press:

"It was very frustrating when Innovation went out of business in the middle of my story, Lost in Space is just this continual kind of tease to me. I wrote this 12 part story that really resolved so many things I had been dying to resolve in Lost in Space over the years. I juggled five different subplots all at once for this big payoff in the story and I was very proud of that piece of work. It was selling fine, but Innovation had problems with other titles. And after six issues were out, Innovation disappeared."

Bill tried unsuccessfully to find a new publisher for his story. "I'm trying to sell Lost in Space and it's such a weird thing. You can't get licensing for the merchandise, just the publishing. And the big guys don't want to pick it up and I wasn't aggressive about finding it a home with the little guys. It just withered away at the halfway point in my story. But the story's completely finished! So if someone wants to publish it ..."

With the release of a feature film, Lost in Space, now almost upon us there is a possibility that Bill Mumy's story will eventually be picked up in the not too distant future. Let's hope so.

References/Further Reading

Airey, Jean & Johnson, Kim Howard. "Lost in Babylon." Starlog May 1995 Issue 214: 32-35

Mitchell, Flint. "Interview: David Campiti and George Broderick." Lisfan 7 1992: 20-28

Mitchell, Flint. "Interview: Mike Okamoto." Lisfan 7 1992: 29-30

Mitchell, Flint. "Interview: Matt Thompson." Lisfan 7 1992: 31-32

Mitchell, Flint. "Interview: Terry Collins." Lisfan 7 1992: 33-37

Ware, Glenn & Mumy, Bill. "Lost in Space comic closes." Alpha Control February 1994 Vol. 2 No. 8: 33-36

Ware, Glenn & Thompson, Maggie. "Innovation closes doors." Alpha Control February 1994 Vol. 2 No. 8: 20-21

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