|Type||Privately held company (subsidiary)|
|Owner||Marvel Entertainment, LLC|
Epic Comics (also known as the Epic Comics Group) was an imprint of Marvel Comics from 1982 to 1996. A spin-off of the publisher's Epic Illustrated magazine, it published creator-owned work unconnected to Marvel's superhero universe, and without the restrictions of the Comics Code. The name was revived by Marvel in the mid-2000s for a short-lived program inviting new writers to pitch series proposals to the publisher.
Launched by editor-in-chief Jim Shooter as a spin-off of the successful Epic Illustrated magazine, the Epic imprint allowed creators to retain control and ownership of their properties. Co-edited by Al Milgrom and Archie Goodwin, the imprint also allowed Marvel to publish more objectionable content (sometimes explicit) without needing to comply with the stringent Comics Code Authority. Epic titles were printed on higher quality paper than typical Marvel comics, and were only available via the direct market.
The first project was Dreadstar, a space opera by writer-artist Jim Starlin, published November 1982. Dreadstar had first appeared in the Epic Illustrated magazine in issue #3. Subsequent titles included Coyote by Steve Englehart; Alien Legion (a war series set in outer space created by Carl Potts, but written by others); Starstruck, a satirical space opera farce about female freedom fighters by Elaine Lee and Michael Wm. Kaluta; Six from Sirius, a sci-fi title by writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy; Sisterhood of Steel, a saga of elite women-warriors by Christy Marx and Mike Vosburg; and Void Indigo, a controversial title written by Steve Gerber.
The line branched out later with historical fiction (Black Dragon), social commentary (The One, Marshal Law), humor (Groo) and fantasy (Moonshadow, Elfquest). However, initial sales were disappointing, so in order to give the line a boost, popular Marvel writer-artist Frank Miller and artist Bill Sienkiewicz were commissioned to develop Elektra: Assassin, featuring the ninja assassin from the Daredevil comic book.
Although Epic was meant to be mainly a creator-owned line, Elektra: Assassin became only the first title featuring Marvel characters published by the imprint. Others included Meltdown, a painted mini-series featuring Havok and Wolverine from the X-Men; Iron Man: Crash; a resurrected Tomb of Dracula; and the miniseries Silver Surfer: Parable, dealing with messianic themes, written by Stan Lee with art by French comics storyteller Moebius). Marvel then commissioned writer and Marvel editor Archie Goodwin to create original characters for a Mature Readers superhero line for Epic Comics. This took the form of The Shadowline Saga, a storyline spanning four different titles in 1987.
Epic was also notable as one of the first American comic publishers to release material originally produced in other countries, such as the Moebius graphic novels Airtight Garage, The Incal and Blueberry, published here in English translations by Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier. Epic also published Katsuhiro Otomo's manga classic Akira, with translations by Marvel staffer Mary Jo Duffy and colors by Steve Oliff.
As well, Epic, now edited by Potts, licensed a variety of literary material, the best known of which were the Clive Barker novels and stories, including Hellraiser, Nightbreed and Weaveworld. Other adapted works included William Shatner's Tekworld, the Wild Cards anthologies, and William Gibson's Neuromancer.
During this decade, Epic published the four-part miniseries Atomic Age, a 1950s-style science fiction story reimagined from a contemporary perspective by writer Frank Lovece and artists Mike Okamoto and Al Williamson, the latter two of whom won the Russ Manning Award and an Eisner Award, respectively, for their work there, and brought out the action-oriented Heavy Hitters line with material from Peter David (Sachs and Violens), Howard Chaykin (Midnight Men), Gerard Jones (The Trouble with Girls), Joe Kubert (Abraham Stone), Ron Lim (Dragon Lines), and Steve Purcell (Sam & Max). A subsequent comic-book sales bust, however, prompted Marvel to end Epic in 1994. In late 1995, the line was temporarily brought back to complete the reprinting of the Akira manga. Epic was ended again when that series was completed in early 1996.
In 2003, the Epic imprint was brought back, with two stated goals: to scout for new creator-owned projects, and to offer new talent a chance to work on lesser-known Marvel properties. Marvel editors contacted industry columnists, such as Cleveland Plain Dealer and Newsarama columnist Michael San Giacomo, Ryan Scott Ottney, Comixfan's Eric J. Moreels, and Sword of Dracula creator Jason Henderson, to ask for new comic pitches using existing Marvel properties. San Giacomo created his own character, Phantom Jack. Henderson created "Strange Magic", a story about a hitherto-unknown daughter of Marvel's Doctor Strange. Moreels was creating a super-team featuring various Australian Marvel characters. An open call for submissions was issued, which prompted a huge response, and resulted in months-long delays in reviewing submissions. The option of submitting creator-owned pitches was quickly downplayed and then discontinued.
The new Epic received considerable attention with Trouble, a miniseries by Mark Millar that supposedly would retcon the Spider-Man mythos by revealing details from the teenage years of May Parker and Peter's mother, but although all the main characters sported names any Spider-Man fan would recognize, there was no explicit revelation that they were in any way connected to their Marvel Universe namesakes. Other comics in the line, including a Crimson Dynamo title, were produced by lesser-known talents, and the line was canceled. A number of solicitations also were canceled. Titles that were in progress when Marvel's new management ended the line were consolidated under one cover with the title Epic Anthology Presents, which was canceled after the first issue. San Giacomo requested that the rights to Phantom Jack be returned to him, and it was not included in the anthology. The story was published instead by Image Comics and returned in 2007 through Atomic Pop Art Enterprises.
Since 2013, the Epic brand is used for Marvel's Epic Collection trade paperback collections. The logo can be found on the back cover of said collections.