Marvel to Tell 'Epic' Stories Once Again: Long-Awaited Imprint Relaunched

This isn't your father's Epic Comics.

That was the message Marvel Comics conveyed in a telephone press conference on Wednesday. While the original Epic Comics from 1980s pushed the envelope for what a major comics publisher would print and was an early haven for creator-owned publishing, giving the world such books as the ultraviolent superhero parody "Marshal Law" and the anthology title "Epic Illustrated," this time around, Marvel is stressing creator freedom instead of creator rights. And while there will likely be plenty of men in tight Spandex beating each other into a stupor, the relaunched line will again be stretching the expectations of what Marvel will publish, when it kicks off with a romance comic.

The line is officially announced in the pages of "Marville" #7, the final issue of that series, which Marvel president Bill Jemas said he saw as the sort of comic that would fit well in a new Epic line. Books like "Marville" and "Ultimate Adventures" would have more of a future, Jemas suggested, if they were operating under the lower operating costs of the new Epic line:

"Get yourself together, your artist, your writer, your colorist ... the whole ball of wax to make a comic book. ... The sweat work comes from the creative team, not from the editorial staff," Jemas said. "The biggest restriction for telling stories is economic. ... We really want to have the wide-open creativity, but we haven't been able to afford to do that. With the creative teams handling their own workload, we don't have as many resources taxed, and we can provide them more realistically for their labors of love.

"We're hoping that the broader creative charter will help us find new fans."

"You'll find a lot more experimental stuff in there," editor-in-chief Joe Quesada told the press conference. "Since the cost is lower for us, the risk is lower, and hopefully we'll be able to keep the books around a little longer."

On July 2, the first title in the new Epic line hits stores: "Trouble" #1. The first of a five part series, the book is a romance comic written by Mark Millar with art by Terry and Rachel Dodson. The covers for the series will make a clear statement that this book is a break with normal Marvel comics, as they features photos, rather than traditional comic art.

Having said that, Epic won't be all romance comics and experimental works.

"We are not opposed to any form of Marvel publishing. If you decide to write about Spider-Man, you either have to be better than [Spider-Man writers] J. Michael Straczynski or Paul Jenkins, or find a way to approach Spider-Man that's radically different. It can be done; the Ultimate brand didn't exist several years ago.

"You probably have a better bet as a creator to bring back classic Marvel characters. ... People would love to see Silver Surfer or Dr. Strange make their comebacks. [With Epic, it's] much easier for us to do those kinds of books that will probably score in the 20-30 thousand unit range, and that will make those books doable."

Now, for those who thought that Epic equated with "creator-owned," Jemas set the record straight: "Finally, yes, we will do creator-owned books," he said. "But creator-and-owned-and-controlled is no more the function or no more of the goal of Epic than it is of the industry in general. ... Epic as a model opens up the ability for us to publish creator-owned works on a first class basis in a way we couldn't do under the main Marvel line."

The nascent Epic Comics Web site lays out the basics:

EPIC Comics is a new Marvel imprint under which we will publish comics written and illustrated by YOU. Anybody will have the opportunity to submit work for consideration by EPIC's submissions editor.

EPIC enjoys more favorable economic parameters than Marvel (and other publishers for that matter) so we can publish books that others can't.

EPIC strives for a broader creative scope than Marvel (and other publishers for that matter) so we can publish a wider array of stories than others would.

By freeing writers and artists from many of the economic and content restrictions of traditional comic publishing, EPIC hopes to provide a forum for a new generation of comic creators to reach the next generation of readers.

Marvel spokesperson Michael Doran said that the company would begin taking open submissions in the coming weeks.

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