Comic Legends: Why Did Marvel REALLY Buy the Ultraverse?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and sixth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

Just like the last two weeks, one legend today, one tomorrow and one Sunday.

Let's begin!


Marvel purchased Malibu Comics (and thus, the Ultraverse) for their superior coloring technology.



Launched in 1993, the Ultraverse was Malibu Comics' attempt to debut a shared universe like Marvel and DC (and their immediate inspiration, Valiant Comics).

Here's a timely Christmas card they did back in the day...

RELATED: The Malibu Ultraverse: 15 Things We Still Miss

In 1994, the comic book market took a huge hit and Malibu Comics was struggling financially. They ultimately sold the company to Marvel at the end of 1994. Marvel canceled all of the Ultraverse titles and then re-launched some of them, but revamped and often with some relatively low-level Marvel characters mixed in, as well (like Black Knight was now the leader of Ultraforce and Juggernaut and the Reaper were on a new Exiles team and Loki and Adam Warlock popped into the Ultraverse to say, "What's up?"

Then, by 1996, the Ultraverse was gone. Marvel could barely sustain its own titles, let alone titles imported from another comic book company. And now, twenty years later, we haven't seen an Ultraverse comic book since.

Due to that odd little fact, people have long told an interesting story, that Marvel did NOT buy the Ultraverse for their titles and intellectual property, but in fact they purchased Malibu Comics because Malibu had great coloring technology and Marvel wanted said technology for their own titles, so they just bought the whole company and figured, "Hey, if we can also make some money with the characters, so be it, but the coloring is the main thing."

I've been asked this question MANY times over the years. The earliest I can see quickly is that reader Jason H. asked about it in 2008, but I'm sure someone asked about it before then, even.

So anyhow, as to the answer, no, it was not because of the coloring system.

My old pal, Harvey Jerkwater, discussed the issue YEARS ago (to which you might ask, "So, Brian, if the issue had been resolved before you even started doing Comic Book Legends Revealed, why haven't you done this legend much, much earlier? Like eleven years ago, say?" to which I would answer, "My bad"), and Tom Mason, one of the founders of Malibu Comics, came in to discuss the issue of the coloring department being the key issue:

Marvel didn't buy Malibu for its coloring department. After Marvel bought the company, they tried to dismantle the coloring department immediately by bringing in a group of consultants to crunch numbers to prove it was too expensive to maintain. Marvel had a long-term agreement with a coloring house in Ireland and preferred to send books out of house instead of using inhouse technology. Also, the head of Marvel's manufacturing department at that time was from the old school and had no idea how computers worked.

It was only after the place in Ireland was overloaded and a couple of Marvel editors were trying to get late books back on schedule that they reluctantly shipped books to Malibu for coloring. When that worked out well, word got around and other editors started pulling books from Ireland and requesting Malibu's coloring.The mythology of the Marvel's coloring desires and the goal of a west coast presence were created by Malibu as a way of slowing down rumors that Marvel would just cancel the UV titles as soon as the deal closed. The real reason that Marvel bought Malibu was to keep the company out of the hands of DC which had been negotiating to buy the company since April/May of 1994.

(My pal Tim asked me WHY it was so important to keep it out of DC's hands. The issue is that Malibu had enough market share that DC could pass Marvel in market share if they added Malibu, and Marvel did not want that).

In addition, one of the editors at Malibu, Roland Mann, went into even greater detail about why it would be absurd to buy Malibu for the coloring:

Re: the coloring. Yes, it is true that Malibu had the premier/state of the art coloring at the time. However, let me assure you, it would have been FAR cheaper for Marvel to simply hire the coloring staff away. Image “stole” several of our top colorists as they began to come on strong. Marvel could simply have hired the entire crew for less than 1/10 of what they ultimately paid. Not only that, they COULD have simply hired only 1 of about 10 of the color “captains” and built their own in-house system. IF the reason for the purchase was the coloring system, why did they shut it down in about a year and a half? I’ve never heard the “printing” thing before, but that is very laughable. Printers are available to anybody and everybody. Malibu was not using an exclusive printer. Marvel could have used the same one withOUT purchasing the company.

I think that about does that.

Thanks to my old pal, Harvey Jerkwater, and thanks to Tom Mason and Roland Mann for the information!

Check out some Christmas-related legends from Legends Revealed:

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this week's legends! I think it will be about Transformers...and the X-Men!...Kinda...

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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