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15 Comic Book Companies That Are Better Than The Mainstream Marvel and DC Comics

Updated October 13, 2018 574 votes 139 voters 3.1k views15 items

List RulesVote up the imprints you think produce the best comics.

Talk about world domination: For the past 50 years, two comic book companies have commanded the world of super heroes. For Marvel and DC Comics, the focus has always been on superheroes and their spandex-clad adventures, with only occasional dalliances into more realistic territory. Both publishers have spent decades building their dedicated mainstream universes, and they usually stick to that established world.

For something outside of this multiverse, Marvel and DC have launched a series of “imprints,” a place where writers and artists can explore stories not normally seen within the more mainstream comic world. While not every such offshoot is successful, the increased freedom they offer will oftentimes lead to stories that are  as good or better than their more traditional counterparts. All-time classics like The Sandman, Preacher, All-Star Superman, and more are the direct result of Marvel and DC letting creators run wild in a world outside the normal super hero tropes. Here are some Marvel and DC imprints that produced amazing comics.

  • 5

    WildStorm Productions

    Photo: user uploaded image

    WildStorm Productions has the most convoluted history of any imprint on this list. It actually started as a completely independent studio created by superstar artist Jim Lee in 1992. Lee combined the names of his two proposed titles, WildC.A.T.S. and Stormwatch to come up with the name. These comics were a big hit in the '90s, which prompted DC to eventually buy out and absorb the line in 1999, running it as an imprint thereafter. The characters Lee had invented were then slowly integrated into the mainstream DC universe, and while not all of them have stuck around, some, like Apollo and Midnighter, still maintain their own ongoing titles.

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  • 6

    Marvel Knights

    Photo: Wikia

    Marvel Knights is the only imprint on this list that is closely aligned with mainstream comics, with it being described as “just outside” the Marvel continuity. Marvel Knights was created shortly after Marvel’s bankruptcy woes in 1998 and was an attempt to attract top creators to reinvigorate less-popular characters with less editorial oversight. The mission was an absolute success. Characters like Daredevil, the Inhumans, and Black Panther all received a boost in popularity thanks to the Marvel Knights line, and fantastic creators like Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada, and Garth Ennis were brought into the fold to create some all-time classics.

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  • 7

    All-Star Comics

    Photo: DC Comics

    Rarely has a comic imprint had such a disparity in returns as DC’s All-Star line. The imprint was designed as a way to reward top-tier creative talent by giving them their own continuity with which to explore their favorite characters. On the one hand, Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman was widely renowned as potentially the greatest Superman story ever told. On the other hand, All-Star Batman and Robin was widely panned and featured Batman calling Robin “retarded,” which was just one of many steps Frank Miller has taken on the road to irrelevancy. They can’t all be winners.

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  • 8

    Amalgam Comics

    Photo: user uploaded image

    Unlike the other imprints mentioned on this list, Amalgam Comics were a true joint effort between both Marvel and DC. Born out of the epic DC vs. Marvel crossover event of 1996, this brand saw famous Marvel and DC characters “amalgamated” into various mashups. Some of the best creations include Darkclaw, a combination of Wolverine and Batman, and the wholesome Super Soldier, a mixture of Captain America and Superman. Amalgam Comics were published on two occasions in 1996 and 1997 but, since then, Marvel and DC’s relationship has cooled and collaboration has been off the table for decades.

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