Short-Stint Imprints: A Look Back at DC's Defunct Lines

<i>by <a href=http://www.twitter.com/graemem>Graeme McMillan, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>DC Entertainment's realignment of the Vertigo imprint just before the holiday season <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/dc-promotes-harras-kanalz.html>moving the line under the auspices of new Senior Vice President Hank Kanalz</a>, and <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/post-karen-berger-vertigo-changes.html>the naming of Shelly Bond as the new executive editor of the line come March</a> offered welcome signs that the line will continue past its 20th anniversary in 2013, despite many's fears after Karen Berger announced her departure at the start of December. <p>Not all DC imprints have had such longevity, however, and the publisher's back catalog is filled with lines and initiatives that sadly didn't work out for various reasons. Here are 10 of the best. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

CMX

DC's attempt to get into the manga market, CMX lasted six years despite initial controversy when it was revealed that <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20080319015127/www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA509540.html">material such as <em>Tenjho Tenge</em> was being edited</a> so that it would be able to market to a wider audience. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> Likely <em>Tenjho Tenge</em>, if only for the amount of attention its editing received. Alternately, Fred Gallagher's <em>Megatokyo</em>, a webcomic that CMX collected in print editions. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> Sadly, none of the CMX titles remain in print at DC Comics, although Viz has taken over <em>Tenjho Tenge</em> (uncensored) and Dark Horse has <em>Megatokyo</em> now.

MINX

A line aimed at teenage girls that lasted a little over a year, Minx is these days relatively unsung despite putting out some great Young Adult graphic novels, including work by the likes of <em>Glory</em>'s Ross Campbell, <em>X-Men: Legacy</em>'s Mike Carey and Brian Wood. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> <em>The Plain Janes</em>, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg's imprint-launching graphic novel and the only series in the line to get a second volume before Minx was closed down. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly's <em>The New York Four</em> moved over to Vertigo for its follow-up, the sensibly-titled <em>New York Five</em>, in the process establishing the no-ads, black-and-white single issue format used by Sean Murphy's current <em>Punk Rock Jesus</em> mini.

PIRANHA

DC's first attempt at a mature readers line, Piranha was founded in 1987 and made it through to 1994 (before being overhauled and reborn as Paradox Press, which lasted until 2001). Despite putting out some amazing work including Marc Hempel's <em>Gregory</em> and <em>Epicurus the Sage</em> by William Messner-Loebs and Sam Kieth the line never really found enough of an audience, or an identity, as can be evidenced by the fact that it also published not one but <em>two</em> comics about Prince. Yes, the musician. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> <em>Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children</em>, an ongoing anthology by Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman that established the tone for the line. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> Piranha's best-selling (and most well-remembered) title was <em>Why I Hate Saturn</em>, launching Kyle Baker's solo career and setting a bar for the line that very few other titles even came close to reaching.

FOCUS

One of DC's irregular attempts to provide alternatives to the traditional superhero, Focus or DC Focus, as it was alternatively called offered stories of people with super powers that didn't involve costumes or even fighting crime. That clearly wasn't something that the readers of 2004 wanted, though. Despite four strong titles, the imprint was dead by mid-2005. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> Steve Gerber, Mary Skenes and Brian Hurtt's <em>Hard Time</em>, about a teen in jail as his psychic powers emerge, managed to survive the imprint and get a second series as a "DC Comics"-branded title, as well as a recent collected edition. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> <em>Hard Time</em>'s continued status under the DC brand.

IMPACT!

By 1991, comics may not have been just for kids anymore, but there weren't that many comics <em>for</em> kids at DC, either. Hence the creation of Impact! Comics, a superhero line aimed at younger readers and using the licensed Red Circle characters from Archie Comics. Sales weren't where they were supposed to be, sadly, and an attempt to relaunch the line with the miniseries Crucible (featuring work by Mark Waid and Joe Quesada) sadly ended up as the imprint's swan song. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> <em>The Comet</em>, Impact!'s longest-running series, started off as a straightforward superhero title but as cancellation loomed, creators Mark Waid and Tom Lyle decided to go crazy, assuming they had nothing to lose, and the end result was some inspired lunacy. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> Despite a more recent attempt to use the Red Circle characters by DC in 2008, all of the Impact! books are out of print and the characters part of Archie's <em>New Crusaders</em> series.

HELIX

An attempt to do for science-fiction what Vertigo had done for horror, the Helix imprint only lasted two years. But what a run: The line featured new work by Garth Ennis, Howard Chaykin, Warren Ellis, Walt Simonson and Chris Weston among many others, during its short tenure before being folded into Vertigo. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> Warren Ellis' and Darick Robertson's <em>Transmetropolitan</em>, which moved to Vertigo when Helix ended. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> If <em>Transmet</em> isn't enough (and it is), Michael Moorcock's <em>Multiverse</em> series and Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra's <em>Bloody Mary</em> both got collected editions under the Vertigo brand.

MILESTONE

Less an imprint proper and more a separate company publishing through DC Comics, Milestone's initial run of titles lasted from 1993 through 1996 and included a crossover with the mainstream DC Universe via the <em>Worlds Collide</em> event. In addition to putting out some groundbreaking comics, Milestone also had a reputation for discovering talent, with John Paul Leon, JH Williams III and Tommy Lee Edwards just three of the artists who got their start with the line. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> Milestone's take on the Spider-Man archetype, <em>Static</em>/<em>Static Shock</em>, proved popular enough to headline his own cartoon series, making him far and away the line's most visible hero. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> DC announced a deal with Milestone to use the characters in the DCU in 2008, leading to Static joining the Teen Titans (and getting a short-lived solo book as part of the New 52) and <em>Xombi</em> being relaunched for a short while. Since the cancellation of <em>Static Shock</em>, however, it's been very quiet from the Milestone corner of DC...

ZUDA

DC entered the world of webcomics with 2007's Zuda Comics, which not only saw the publisher offer all-new webcomics, but also invite submissions from new creators to join the site. Zuda lasted until 2010, when DC began to release titles digitally through ComiXology and shuttered the imprint to focus on digital releases instead of webcomics. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> Jeremy Love's award-winning <em>Bayou</em>, a magical realist take on the myths and horrors of the American South in the 1930s. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> <em>Bayou</em> along with another series, <em>High Moon</em> continued as digital releases for some time after the closing of Zuda, and print collections of both series remain available.

ALL-STAR

DC's answer to Marvel's Ultimate line offered big-name creators providing out-of-continuity takes on big-name characters... at least, in theory. Only two of the four announced series actually saw print, and of those two, only one actually managed to reach completion, with the second being promised new branding (<em>Dark Knight</em> replacing <em>All-Star</em>, to firmly tie it into Frank Miller's other Batman titles) if and when it continues. <p><b>Signature Book:</b> For the spectacle and unexpected craziness alone, it could only be Frank Miller and Jim Lee's <em>All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder</em>. Love it or hate it, it was a title that demanded a response. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> <em>All-Star Superman</em>, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's love letter to the Man of Steel, remains a high-water mark for not only the character in recent decades, but also the creators themselves.

WILDSTORM

Wildstorm started life as a reaction against the corporate hierarchies of DC and Marvel, and ended it as not just an imprint of DC Comics, but with the Wildstorm Universe officially part of the larger DC Multiverse of 52 different realities. Outside of the mainstream superhero line, Wildstorm offered creators a chance to own their work and create in genres that Vertigo wouldn't necessarily have been the best place for, as well as a home for creators you might not have expected to see at DC at all. Remember Alan Moore's <em>America's Best Comics</em> line...? <p><b>Signature Book:</b> <em>WildCATs</em>, perhaps...? Although, given the impact that the title had when it initially launched, perhaps <em>The Authority</em> would be a better choice. It seems difficult to imagine in today's landscape, but there was a time when Wildstorm led the industry in terms of superhero innovation. <p><b>Lasting Legacy:</b> It's actually difficult to define Wildstorm's legacy within DC these days; the characters have been folded into the New 52 universe, but it's arguably more important that Wildstorm was what brought Jim Lee to DC, starting the chain of events that made him co-publisher of the company. And Wildstorm lives on, in spirit if not in name, as the West Coast comics and digital division of DC Entertainment, headed up by Hank Kanalz... who is now also in charge of Vertigo. It all comes full circle, in the end.

Short-Stint Imprints: A Look Back at DC's Defunct Lines

Date: 08 January 2013 Time: 09:05 PM ET