In the 1950s, fans of the TV series "I Love Lucy," "Perry Mason" and "The Abbott and Costello Show " could follow the adventures of Ricky and Lucy, Perry and Della and Bud and Lou in comic books and on the newspaper funny pages.
These comics, long out of print, have found a new life thanks to Malibu Graphics Publishing Group, one of the top five producers of comic books and graphic novels in the United States.
The Westlake Village-based company, which has several successful super-hero lines (Youngblood, Exiles, the Protectors), tapped into the nostalgia craze three years ago with its movie and television division.
Its comics and graphic novels include such TV classics as "Lucy," "Abbott and Costello, "The Three Stooges," "Perry Mason" and "Sherlock Holmes," as well as the more recent series "Planet of the Apes," "Alien Nation," and "Robotech." (The film titles include "Plan 9 from Outer Space," "Re-Animator" and Puppetmaster.")
The television and movie comic books sell up to 350,000 copies a year, said Malibu Graphics Publishing president Scott Rosenberg. The most popular edition for kids is the series based on the animated show "Robotech," which sells an average of 25,000 copies per month, although recent TV series such as "Alien Nation" and "Robotech" appeal to all ages.
"I Love Lucy," which is published sporadically, is the most popular in the nostalgia line, selling approximately 150,000 copies a year.
"Once you get into the nostalgic ones, (the appeal) is definitely older," Rosenberg said. "We get letters from 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-year-olds--lawyers and doctors--who are thrilled."
For "Lucy" and "Stooge" fans, Malibu also publishes collectors' editions, where a limited number, about 10,000, are printed with an embossed cover and usually with more pages and a thicker cover stock.
Rosenberg said Malibu started the comics line because "we actually believed in them from the beginning. We really wanted to do these and we thought they would do well."
Although it was easy to line up "Three Stooges" and "Alien Nation," Rosenberg said, it took a while for CBS to give Malibu the rights to publish "I Love Lucy."
Malibu's writers create new stories for 'Alien Nation" and "Robotech" comics, but in the case of "I Love Lucy," "Perry Mason," "Abbott and Costello" and "The Three Stooges," Malibu reproduces the comic books and strips as originally published in the 1950s by such companies as Dell Comics and St. John Publishing.
"These comics were written back then and we didn't want to change that," Rosenberg said. "You get the feel of the '50s. They were drawn with the sensibilities of that time instead of the '90s approach. We have the '90s approach to most of the rest of our lines, but we wanted something that is really nostalgic."
Some of the comics are all color. Others are black and white.
An "I Love Lucy" comic features an average of five separate stories and the drawings are based on the likeness of the series stars: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley.
The characters in 'Alien Nation," on the other hand, do not resemble the cast of the canceled Fox series. Some of the actors, Rosenberg said, didn't want their likeness duplicated for the comics.
"I Love Lucy" and "The Three Stooges" have been published in 3-D and come with their own 3-D glasses. "The 3-D is really for kids," Rosenberg said. " 'I Love Lucy' in general appeals to adults, but the 3-D makes them an all-ages appeal."
Malibu's TV-based comic books range from $2 to $3. The 3-D editions sell for $3.95 and collectors' editions go for $5.95. Graphic novels are priced from $9.95 up. \o7 For more information call 818-889-9800.\f7