Friday, February 5, 2010

Today We Flashback to Lost Universes

Here at Flashback Universe we’d like to start discussing comics in the past tense, in addition to our present and future tense articles. To that end we’re beginning a new feature we’re calling Lost Universes. We’ll discuss properties, imprints, lines, and characters from comic book universes that are no longer actively putting out books such as Valiant, the Ultraverse, Comics Greatest World and more. More to the point, we’ll be examining what was, or made these books great!

Today we’ll be giving a brief overview of some of the universes we’ll be covering over the course of this series, there will be more than we have space to list here today & please we encourage you to give us your feedback, leave us a comment, hit us up on twitter , or drop us an email and suggest any universes you’d really like us to cover.

Remember, we’re discussing comic books being published in the early nineties for the most part, in what has affectionately become known as the “comics boom”. With the “comics boom” in full swing companies could come out of the gate & hit the ground running hard without needing to take their time and build up an audience before publishing multiple titles. It wasn’t unheard of for a no -name company to sell a hundred thousand copies of their first issue of their first book early on….


"Valiant Comics is an American comic book publishing company, founded in 1989 by former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter with writer-artist Bob Layton and their financial partners. Initially packaging specialty comics, Valiant Comics became one of the largest companies in the American comic book market during the 1990s, selling more than 80 million comic books in its first five years"

 What was g
reat about Valiant was the fact that it matured really very quickly due to its core characters being from the silver age (coming with at least some fan notoriety built in) and then newer characters being built on classic archetypes for fan appeal with a creative tweak done to each one giving them plenty of originality to stand out from the big two side by side on a comic book shelf. Valiant produced such titles as: Archer & Armstrong, BloodShot, H.A.R.D. Corps, and XO-Manowar. They became fan favorites early on and really had a stranglehold on the industry during the “comics boom”, sometimes hitting sales numbers that topped that of Marvel or DC.

"The Ultraverse line was launched by Malibu Comics during the "comics boom" of the early 1990s, following the success of Image Comics & Valiant comics. The Ultraverse boasted improved production values over traditional comics (especially digital coloring and higher-quality
 paper), and a roster of respected and/or talented new writers and artists."

The Ultraverse looked really flashy and super slick due to their adoption of computerized coloring, which is kind of funny as they were known as the “writers comic book company” due to the amount of mainstream talent they hired to write their books. Those colors helped them stand out on a comic bookshelf next to DC or Marvel. Adopting the same formula used by Valiant The Ultraverse put out such titles as; The Nightman, Prime, Hardcase, & Mantra. Launching a bit later in the “comics boom” offered The Ultraverse theability to quickly break into film, television & animation ahead of the other companies at the time with the Ultraforce cartoon & a syndicated television series based on The Nightman. Unfortunately launching a bit late in the “comics boom” also hurt the Ultraverse but we’ll get to that at another time…

"Comics' Greatest World was an imprint of Dark Horse Comics. 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."

 Honestly what was great about CGW was how different they were. Darkhorse hadn’t done much in the way of traditional superhero comic books until then, choosing instead to focus on licensed material and the peripheral genres that had, as of late, not been published much by the big two. When they created CGW they infused their superhero universe with the elements that they included in their regular line of comics.

As an example Barb Wire, about a bar owner/bounty hunter in a junked out wreck of an industrial town was drawn and colored like a superhero comic but it was really more of a western themed book that had been modernized. Nearly all of the CGW titles were that way, which may not have satiated all fans' appetites but did build a strong loyalty with the type of fans that crave those particular style of comics. It was also a bold move, and one worthy of the name Darkhorse comics.

Tekno Comix was an American publishing company that produced comic books from 1995 to 1997. Tekno Comix publications featured characters and situations created by celebrity authors and others, but were primarily scripted and illustrated by freelance comics creators." ~wikipedia
Tekno Comix was a geek fanboy’s dream comic book company because they produced comics by fan favorite creators like; Gene Roddenberry, Mickey Spillane, Leonard Nimoy, Isaac Asimov, & John Jakes. Their comics wereprinted on nice paper, full colored, and well written but it wouldn’t have mattered anyhow with creator owned properties like; The Primordals, I-Bots, Mullkon Empire, Mike Danger & Lady Justice Tekno immediately covered a niche in the “comics boom” which paved the way for series like Buffy Season 8.

"Chaos! Comics was a comic book publisher that operated from 1994 until 2002. Chaos! Comics filed bankruptcy in 2002 with all characters (save Lady Death) being sold off to Tales of Wonder. Prior to the  bankruptcy, rights to Lady Death were sold to Crossgen Comics; prior to Crossgen's bankruptcy those rights were then sold to Brian Pulido & Avatar Press. Chaos! Comic’s titles included Lady Death, Purgatori, Evil Ernie, & Chastity."

The “comic boom” wasn’t the only trend to explode in the early nineties, another was the bad girl phenomenon! There were many bad girls, particular during the “boom”, and Lady Death was arguably the most popular at the time. A goddess, warrior, witch, and voluptuous dealer of death she’s been published under many comic book companies (Chaos!, Crossgen, Avatar) and even stared in her own animated feature. Her popularity was such that Brian Pulido sold her rights separately from the remaining licenses Chaos! possessed before declaring bankruptcy. Lady Death did and her creator did their part in paving the way for an entire genre of comic books, as well as rejuvenating ancillary content such as the bikini special and other “artistic print” specials.


"Cross Generation Entertainment, or CrossGen, was an American comic book publisher that operated from 1998 to 2004. CrossGen Comics, Inc. was founded in 1998, by Tampa, Florida based entrepreneur Mark Alessi who sought to create a comic book universe that was uniquely varied but also connected by a common theme that included Sigil, Meridian, Scion, & Mystic."

Crossgen was great because nearly everything about it was infused with an industry wide rediscovered excitement about what comic books could be & just as if it were fate, with Crossgen launching at the end of the “comics boom” (lots of creators could see the boom ending as the comics business slowed back down to a normal pace), it looked as if Crossgen would infuse the industry with another much needed dose of adrenalin.

A bit of an experiment of
sorts, Mark Alessi toured the country interviewing comic professionals in an attempt to find existing flaws with the way comic books were made and eventually set up shop in Florida hiring professionals who would relocate and attempt to set up a production facility that might improve upon the way comics were made.

Not since Image Comics had there been a comic book comp
any to spark such a frenzy in the industry, and like Image Comics before them, Crossgen was closely monitored by the Wizard magazine who reported on nearly everything going on at Crossgen. The excitement didn’t die down until the end either, financed like few other comic book companies before it, Crossgen launched several titles all at once and continued to build it’s stable of books at a fairly aggressive speed, which many have speculated, led to it’s downfall.

Look for us to provide a stronger focus on specific elements within the individual companies listed above in the future. We hope that you all will enjoy this new series here at Flashback Universe, and we'd really like it if you let us know what you think about Lost Universes and all of the digital comics news we bring you.
Have a great weekend,



RKB said...

First off, I think this is a great idea, and I'm really looking forward to what you have to say about the various universes and their titles.
As far as universes/companies I'd like to see covered this is me putting in a request for a post on Defiant Comics. Under appreciated I believe, but a great find in the quarter bins.

GACN said...

Valiant was my absolute favorite of all of these universes. I hope to be able to chime in on the conversation about what rocked and what did not rock.

JimShelley said...

Thanks guys - we are really excited about this series as well!

GACN - can you shoot me an email?


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