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Twenty Years Ago Today: Marvel Buys Malibu Comics

If you were on the staff of Malibu Comics, twenty years ago today you would have found this memo in your mailbox:

Marvel Buys Malibu

That memo from Malibu Comics President Scott Rosenberg was supposed to mark the end of the beginning for Malibu, but it ended up being the beginning of the end. Founded in 1986, Malibu had made their mark for a wide-ranging black & white comics publishing slate, before launching Image Comics and later publishing the Ultraverse, but by 1994 the handwriting was on the wall: Malibu needed to sell. Narrowly surviving the comics crash of 1993, Malibu was on borrowed time, and had for months been in secret negotiations to sell to DC Comics, before Marvel got wind of the deal and swept in to grab Malibu from their rivals, a largely-defensive purchase intended to protect Marvel’s comic book market share.

Marvel Buys Malibu

Few of the optimistic predictions of the “Employee Fact Sheet” would come to pass. Marvel would file for bankruptcy in 1996, and after a brief attempt to meld the Ultraverse with the Marvel Universe, Malibu Comics would shutter in 1997.

At its height, Malibu Comics employed approximately 150 full-time employees, including a film division, an interactive division, and offices in both California and England. They also provided work for hundreds of freelance writers and artists (including your humble narrator!). Malibu’s vast library of superhero properties — including the Ultraverse — passed on to Disney when they acquired Marvel in 2009. Disney has been mum on any plans to develop Malibu’s properties for film, but that didn’t stop us from identifying “Prime” Ultraverse candidates for the big screen!

Marvel Buys Malibu

It is interesting to speculate what might have become of Malibu had their sale to DC Comics gone through. DC’s purchase of Wildstorm in 1999 shows the company was able to support an autonomous west coast publishing studio, and many of Wildstorm’s people and properties remain a vital part of DC Comics to this day.

Malibu, on the other hand, has vanished into the halls of Disney, vaulted away like something from the last shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Is there hope for the Ultraverse in an era when unknown properties like the Guardians of the Galaxy are a box office smash?

Keep the faith, Ultraverse fans! Wilder things have happened!

Ultraverse

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About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published once a month or so at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on November 3, 2014, in Business and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Fascinating.

    I’ll have to pull out those few Ultraverse comics I own and have another look at them. They take on a whole new perspective now.

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  2. I liked the Ultraverse. Until Marvel bought them and melded it with their universe. I am a Marvel man but by ’93 most things Marvel sucked big time.

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  3. From Ultraverse, Prime wasn’t bad, but I loved James Robinson’s Firearm (I think I still have the VHS movie around somewhere).

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  4. Thanks for posting this Paul. The whole discussion brings back a flood of memories, both good and bad. If the wheel had turned just a few degrees in a different direction, who knows!

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  5. Interested folks need to join our Ultraverse page on Facebook. Tons of fascinating discussions and participation by some of the principals from Malibu, including Tom Mason who has been incredibly generous with his time responding to questions and comments, along with former editor Roland Mann. Scott Rosenberg even drops in occasionally.

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  6. fascinating lesson of malibus final fate. for sadly the characters are till maybe some one reminds disney about them that they have them along with the main marvel ones. are stuck in the vault keeping song of the south company

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  7. Loved seeing these original documents and your memoir, Paul.

    You say the Ultraverse characters vanished into the vaults of Disney. Do you know what that reminds me of? The Charlton characters that got absorbed into the vaults of DC. Look what happened to them! I am now primed for UltraWatchMen.

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  8. So how were the sandwiches?

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  9. Reblogged this on The Unspoken Decade: 90's Comic Book Blog Extraordinaire and commented:

    My pal Paul has a great article here, so I thought I’d pass it on to everyone here! We will be back VERY SOON with the next installment of The Golden Age! We won’t be Unspoken much longer!!!!!

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  10. The sandwiches were excellent, Ray. In fact, they became part of a long-running joke among the staff whenever there was earth-shattering company news…

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  1. Pingback: Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 11/12/14: Howard Chaykin said three things. The second came between the first and the third. — The Beat

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