Over the last little while, comic books have taken the world by storm. From television adaptations to cinematic adaptations, they are everywhere. The medium has been around for longer than I have and will be around long after I’m gone. Through it all, through all the ups and downs, comic book publishers have come and they have gone.
In the last 30 years, the industry has seen an influx of comic book publishers pop up and create the sort of staying power that most dream of. Obviously, two of these (Marvel and DC) have been around since the dawn of time, but the rest, well, they haven’t been. And that’s ok. The industry needs new blood. But who are they? Who are the comic book publishers that have created staying power?
This list is designed to give you a small glimpse into some of the other publishers not cranking out Superman, Fantastic Four, and other mainstream titles. With that, I give you, the 9 best comic book publishers that all fans should know.
Let’s begin with one of the two giants in the industry. Marvel Comics, formerly Timely Comics, debuted in 1939 and has been a powerhouse since. Even with bankruptcy, a multitude of owner changes, and lawsuits Marvel has remained at the forefront of everything comic-related.
Aside from some of the best stories in comic history, Marvel boasts some of the most memorable characters in history. From Spider-Man to the X-Men, there aren’t many characters that haven’t achieved mainstream popularity. Lately, it doesn’t seem to matter what they touch. It all turns to gold. They are here to stay and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Oh, and let’s not even begin to talk about what they’ve done in cinema.
2. DC Comics
DC has under its umbrella what many publishers aspire to have…a never miss, do no wrong, tried and true heroes gallery that also has the best villains of all time. The Joker, Lex Luthor, Cheetah. From iconic creators to iconic stories, DC does it all. They are the Yin to Marvel’s Yang and continually boast some of the best talent comics have ever seen. For these reasons and more, they are one of the most important publishers in existence.
3. Image Comics
At the height of 1990s comic book popularity lay Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Whilce Portacio, and Jim Valentino. Frustrated by the way in which creators were compensated, the seven walked away from Marvel and DC to create a world in which creators ruled. And ruled they did.
From this simple idea spawned Spawn, Savage Dragon, The Walking Dead, Saga, and The Maxx. When Image Comics launched, its initial titles became some of the best and fastest-selling comics in history. As quickly as it was born, Image became the third biggest publisher in comics. And to this day it remains a powerhouse of the industry.
4. Dark Horse
In 1986, Mike Richardson had an idea and founded Dark Horse Comics. While working his own store, Richardson used its profits to start his own publishing company. Luck and hard work were on his side and shortly after its inception Dark Horse began to publish some of the most well-known comics in history, Sin City, Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
From there the company gained a reputation by creating licensed comic books. These included Aliens, Star Wars, and Conan. Dark Horse is a Dark Horse and it has carved out an amazing 32-year history. Therefore, it deserves to be a part of this list. If you want a good read and want to avoid the mainstream, check them out.
5. IDW Publishing
Continuously ranked as the number five publishing house, IDW (Idea and Design Works, LLC) is known for taking licensed franchises and turning them into comics.
IDW is the brainchild of Ted Adams, Alex Garner, Kris Oprisko, and Robbie Robbins. The company immediately became profitable when DC bought Wildstorm comics. Through the transaction, IDW and Ted Adams were able to acquire the clients that Adams oversaw at Wildstorm.
With their first-year profits in hand, the quartet set out to start a new venture every year. As of this writing, they have the comic book licenses to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Back To The Future, and more. IDW is a force to be reckoned with and has been a supporter of our sister company, Comics For Cause since its inception.
6. Boom! Studios
Hailing from Los Angeles and starting in 2005, Boom! Studios have become a major player in the world of comic book publishers.
The product of frustration, Boom! Studios creator Ross Richie spent his time trying to streamline the process of comic book adaptations into movies. Eventually, he opted to create Boom! inside the spare bedroom of his apartment. Four short months later the company won an award for “Best New Publisher”.
Having started the company with the promise to create world-class original stories, Boom! has since integrated licensed properties into its repertoire. These include WWE, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Jim Henson Company properties, and Cartoon Network.
7. Valiant Comics
When you’ve been founded by a legend of the industry, you’re destined to become something special. Valiant Entertainment was founded by Jim Shooter and Steven Massarsky in 1989. The company was created in an effort to publish a more streamlined universe that its characters shared. That is, it set out to create a universe whose continuity wasn’t continuously called into question or confusing.
After their launch in 1991, Valiant sent comics like Harbinger and Rai to market. Both of these titles quickly gained acclaim and found their way to Top 10 Comic Book lists for consecutive months. Valiant, through turmoil and ownership issues, has remained a constant in the comic book world. For that, it deserves a spot as a comic book publisher you should know.
I couldn’t possibly do a list without giving a nod to a Canadian publisher. Chapterhouse is a comic book publisher based in Toronto, Canada whose mission is to create a unified universe utilizing Canadian heroes. The company was started in 2015 and has grown in leaps and bounds since.
Its lineup is impressive and includes characters like Captain Canuck, Northguard, True Patriot, and Freelance. Most recently, the longtime fan, actor, and comic book aficionado Jay Baruchel joined the ranks as part owner and chief creative officer. The sky is the limit for Chapterhouse. From one Canadian to another, I can’t wait to see where they go.
9. Dynamite Entertainment
Focusing on comic book adaptations of existing properties, Dynamite has grown to be a player in the industry. Dynamite was founded in 2005 by Nick Barrucci with just one title, Army of Darkness. Within the next couple of years, very few titles were added to the list. The most prominent of these titles was Red Sonja. To drum up intrigue Dynamite launched Red Sonja “0” with a 25-cent book price. The issue quickly sold over 200,000 copies prompting the release of the $2.99 Red Sonja “1”.
Over the years Dynamite has gathered an impressive list of titles. Some of these include Xena: Warrior Princess, Highlander, Sherlock Holmes, Terminator, and Zorro. If we think about it, 2005 appears to have been a good year for comics as both Dynamite and Boom! Studios were created. Nobody knows if something like that will happen again so if it doesn’t, let’s rejoice in their dedication and staying power.