After a nearly four-year absence in the U.S., Disney Publishing is re-entering the comic book market through a licensing deal made with Gemstone Publishing. Under the agreement, Gemstone will have access to Disney's classic characters including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Gemstone also hopes to develop titles including new material that has been produced overseas, said Steve Geppi, president of Gemstone.

Gemstone plans to publish comics in two different formats. Beginning in June, the company will release 64-page, $6.95 volumes geared to collectors; the first two titles will be Walt Disney Comics and Stories and Uncle Scrooge Adventures. The second format will be a perfect-bound 128-page book tentatively priced at $4.95, for the general market. The books will feature a combination of comics, said Geppi, and could come in the form of anthologies or theme-based books (e.g., Christmas). The first title will be published next summer, but Geppi said a regular publishing schedule has not been set.

Distribution will be handled by Gemstone's sister company, Diamond Comic Distributors, which will sell the comics into the comic store market, while its newly formed Diamond Book Distribution division will market the line to bookstores and mass merchandisers. Geppi said that while the new comic books will be appropriate for adults and children, he is really aiming at the five- to eight- year-old audience "so that they will know what a comic book is. We are trying to develop the next generation of comic book readers."