Comic Legends: The Truth Behind Dark Horse's Shared Superhero Universe

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

Click here for Part 1 of this week's legends.


Dark Horse Comics' "Comics Greatest World" was released in response to the boom in superhero shared universe of 1992/1993.


I'm Going With False

Right around 1993, superhero comics were just about hitting critical mass in terms of how many different comic book superhero universes that the industry could handle at once. It seemed like every other comic book company wanted to get in on the shared superhero universe game, as Marvel and DC had been having so much success with it and then Valiant came in and THEY were having so much success with it all.

In 1993, Malibu (who had helped Image Comics launch the year before) started their own shared superhero universe called the Ultraverse.

Right smack in the middle of 1993 was Dark Horse Comics suddenly throwing their hat into the ring. Dark Horse Comics had begun as a creator-owned company that had then moved into doing comics based on licensed characters, like Star Wars and Aliens and Predator. However, in 1993, they launched "Comics Greatest World," a shared superhero universe where all of the characters were owned by Dark Horse Comics. The unique approach to this universe launch is that they launched 16 titles over four weeks for a buck apiece, and each one was set in a unique city - so four cities had four titles each.

Each city would be handled by a unique editor who would also write the comics that came out of that city. Barbara Kesel had Arcadia, Chris Warner had Golden City, Randy Stradley had Steel Harbor and Jerry Prosser had The Vortex.

Some of these characters ended up being very successful...well, the first three I've listed here, at least - X, Barb Wire and Ghost...

Like a lot of these things, it went over REALLY well at the start but then it hit hard times and only a handful of the titles survived.

In any event, the logical view of this situation is that Dark Horse saw how everyone else was having success with a shared superhero universe, so they decided to do one themselves.

However, reader Mark G. wrote in to note that he kept seeing the following phrase (which clearly originated on Wikipedia and was just accepted by many other sources), " Originally conceived in 1990, it took three years for the line to be released, which led to an industry-wide perception that it was created to capitalize on the speculator mania of the early 1990s."

I originally featured a Barbara Kesel quote from Wizard #23 where she said that it wasn't until the 1992 San Diego Comic Con that they came up with the idea for the project, but Mike Richardson wrote in to say that that is not the case, that it was being worked on for a few years and it had nothing to do with the boom in shared universes (which would be the case if it predated 1991 or so). If Mike says so, that's enough for me.

So sorry for the initial wrong answer there, Mark!

Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:

Did Robin Williams Vow to Never Work for Disney Again Over a Dispute Over the Size of the Genie on the Aladdin Movie Poster?

Check back later today for part 2 of this week's legends!

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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