Fans were saddened to hear the news that DC Comics would be shutting down its legendary Vertigo imprint, which was responsible for publishing some of DC's most iconic mature comics. The move comes with news that DC would be launching a new line of different imprints geared towards different audiences, but the loss of Vertigo still hit hard.
The decision to cancel Vertigo reminded us of a number of other comic book imprints we've seen over the years that have faded into obscurity, and oddly enough, a lot of those imprints are from Marvel Comics. So today we are going to take a closer look at a few forgotten Marvel Comics imprints that we've seen over the years.
10 NEW UNIVERSE
While the New Universe imprint of Marvel Comics is one of the most well-known imprints on this list, it is also considered one of Marvel's biggest failures. The New Universe imprint was conceived by Jim Shooter and launched in 1986 with eight brand new series featuring brand new characters who all existed within the same shared universe, separate from Marvel.
There was a ton of hype for new characters like Star Brand, Nightmask, and Mark Hazzard, though unfortunately, inconsistencies with the concept of the imprint, the characters, stories, and frequently changing creators all led to the fall of the New Universe, though some of the characters have reappeared in the mainstream Marvel Universe.
9 STAR COMICS
Most of the imprints discussed today were created with the intention of telling more adult and mature stories that the regular Marvel Comics universe didn't really allow. Star Comics is the exact opposite, in that it generally published titles geared towards a more youthful audience. The imprint launched in 1984 borne out of a deal with children comic publisher Harvey Comics, though when they backed out Star Comics was created instead.
Star Comics debuted with an adaptation of The Muppets Take Manhattan and followed that with a number of licensed animated series adaptations as well as toy-related adaptations. However, the most popular series released that still holds our attention today is undoubtedly Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham, who most recently appeared in Spider-Verse: Into The Spider-Verse.
8 EPIC COMICS
Jim Shooter launched Epic Comics for Marvel with the goal of allowing creators control while retaining ownership of published content, following the success of Epic Illustrated, an adult anthology magazine similar to Heavy Metal. Publications from Epic Comics were only available through the direct market and featured higher-quality production than regular Marvel releases.
Jim Starlin's Dreadstar was one of the first titles released by Epic, which began to release Marvel-related stories as well as original properties. This led to iconic works like Silver Surfer: Parable, which teamed Stan Lee with French artist Moebius. This also led the way to Epic becoming one of the first American publishers to reprint translated international comics like Moebius' The Incal or the classic anime Akira.
In the final years of Epic Comics run, horror novelist Clive Barker would bring his Hellraiser movie property to the imprint as a licensed property. While Epic would eventually end and Hellraiser would go on to be published elsewhere, a relationship between Barker and Marvel formed, which resulted in the launch of the Razorline imprint.
The imprint featured four books based on the premises of Barker, though with different creative teams. Clive Barker's take on the various comic tropes resulted in series like Ectokid, Hyperkind, Hokum & Hex, and Saint Sinner. Unfortunately, the line launched during the mid-90s boom that saw a number of new comic universes created, and the Barkerverse was canceled after only one year.
Speaking of the mid-90s boom, one of those newly created superhero universes came from the independent Malibu Comics, which itself was an amalgamation of a few other independent comic companies. Malibu Comics would go on to launch the Ultraverse line of comics in the early 90s, which featured a tight shared universe and attracted some attention towards the company.
Then the comic crash happened partly due to an oversaturation of the market, and Malibu was quickly purchased by Marvel Comics, who promptly canceled the remainder of the companies ongoing series. They would relaunch the Ultraverse imprint for a single "Black September" event that saw the Malibu characters crossover with Marvel characters before legal problems caused the permanent closure of the line.
5 PARAMOUNT COMICS
In 1996, Marvel entered into a brief partnership with Paramount Studios, the TV/Film studio behind franchises like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. Marvel and Paramount made plans to produce comics on these franchises, with the first being a comic adaptation of the recently released Mission: Impossible film.
This was followed up by two Star Trek crossovers with the X-Men, which led to the publication of four solo Star Trek series based on the four released series in the franchise at that time. Unfortunately, Marvel and Paramount split, Paramount Comics disappeared, and the two companies wouldn't work together again until partnering up to release a little movie called Iron Man.
4 AMALGAM COMICS
One of the most short-lived imprints while also being one of the most successful is Amalgam Comics, which was a partnered universe created between Marvel and DC Comics in 1994, following the legendary Marvel vs DC/DC vs Marvel crossover series that saw the two universes blended together after voter-determined battles between characters.
Amalgam Comics featured such blended characters as Dark Claw (Batman/Wolverine), Super-Patriot (Captain America/Superman), and even teams like the JLX (Justice League/X-Men). The imprint released two separate waves of comics over a two-year period, with fans fondly remembering the ambitious crossover event.
3 MARVEL KNIGHTS
We couldn't talk about Marvel Comics imprints without discussing its Marvel Knights line, which basically saved the company from the 90s bust and its recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Marvel decided to outsource four of its titles to Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti's Event Comics, who would hire the creative teams while Marvel would distribute the series.
This led to the launch of Marvel Knights and the first four titles: Black Panther, Daredevil, Inhumans, and The Punisher. These titles brought in new creators to Marvel like Brian Michael Bendis, Garth Ennis, Michael Avon Oeming, David Mack, Steve Dillon, and Quesada and Palmiotti each providing art as well. The experimental take on these characters proved to be insanely popular and launched a new era for Marvel Comics, with Joe Quesada soon taking over as the editor-in-chief of Marvel.
2 MAX COMICS
MAX Comics is easily one of Marvel's most recognized and celebrated comic imprints, largely due to the mature nature of the comics in the line and the creators involved. The line was launched in 2001 following Marvel Comics high profile break with the Comics Code Authority, which resulted in its adult-only line of comics.
One of the standout titles in the MAX line of comics is undoubtedly Warren Ellis' run on The Punisher which began with the Born mini-series and ultimately helped renew the character's waning popularity. Other characters like Squadron Supreme, Deadpool, and Nick Fury all got the MAX treatment as well, but the line might be best known for releasing Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos' Alias series, which would introduce the fan-favorite Jessica Jones into the Marvel Universe.
1 ICON COMICS
Following the success of Image Comics in the 90s, which took control of the creator-owned market and offered comic writers and artists a different way to distribute comics while retaining ownership of their creations, Marvel responded by creating Icon Comics. This served as a way for Marvel's superstar writers and artists to produce their own creator-owned comics while still working for Marvel.
Unfortunately, given the rise of these stars in the comic industry, the main creators behind the Icon imprint like Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis have moved their respectively-owned properties away from Icon, largely leaving the imprint dormant.