Look, just go read the entire Wikipedia article on Deathmate.

§ May 1st, 2020 § Filed under market crash, publishing, retailing, valiant § 4 Comments

So the other day I saw that comics artist Dan Panosian had posted a photo from the Deathmate promotional tour he and other artists did in the 1990s. (Here’s another pic showing more of the particpants.)

For those of you who weren’t there in the comics field during the ’90s, or were there and have since buried those memories. Deathmate was a high-profile intercomany crossover event between Image Comics and Valiant Comics. It…had some scheduling issues, shall we say, mostly on the Image side, with one chapter (Red, as they were IDed by color not issue number) coming out after the Epilogue. End result…sold well at first, then customers just kinda gave up on it partway through, leaving retailers with plenty of unsold copies.

I’ve noted Deathmate on this site here and there before, mostly in the context of how it was a symptom of/contributor to the comics market crash of the ’90s. I remember having boxes of these things in the back, and aside from a very brief flurry of interest in Deathmate Black due to it having an early appearance of the now mostly-forgotten Gen13, there were no aftermarket sales. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true, at one point at the previous place of employment we brokered a deal to sell 100,000 copies of our overstock to someone-or-‘nother for literally pennies apiece, and thus were we rid of these things. We got a nickel each, and we were glad for it.

Anyway, back to the tweet…I retweeted Mr. Panosian’s tweet with the comment about how “I’m here for Deathmate content,” which amused him. In the ensuing exchange we had (in which I assured him I wasn’t making fun, I’m genuinely interested in this period of comics) he asked “did it ever finish?”

Okay, you know publishers done screwed up when the folks who worked on the comics don’t even know if the series ever completed. I let him know “well, yes, technically” and that was that.

What amazes me most about Deathmate is how it should have been a slam dunk. Valiant was red hot, Image was red hot, a series pairing up all their characters written and drawn by strong creative teams (and they were!) should’ve sold like each copy was bagged with an original Incredible Hulk #181. And as I recall, the initial installments sold very well…and dropped off almost immediately after that. Even I tried only the first couple of issues and gave up (I think primarily because I was interested in the Valiant characters, but not so much the Image ones). The long delays on many of the books didn’t help, and despite it being emphasized that you could read the installments in any order, that apparently wasn’t true. All in all, it turned out to be a huge mess, and you should really read former Valiant honcho Bob Layton’s thoughts on the topic.

I am curious if any of you folks out there braved the entire series. My opinion of the project is based somewhat on those two issues, but mostly on the retail end of it, where I could probably have built a house using the leftover copies. I’m also curious if anyone is trying to revisit it today, as Valiant is a current thing again and, I don’t know, maybe someone out there has an interest in early Image publications? (If so, send them my way, I’ve got some Spittin’ Image to sell them, too.)

One last thing…as I was looking up those tweets, I found this one where I posted a pic of an original promotional poster for the Deathmate event. Being the wag that I am, I noted the optimism of the poster declaring the event as taking place “over the summer.” But then Twitter pal Corey outwagged me with “they didn’t specify only one summer” and fair play, sir. Fair play, indeed.

4 Responses to “Look, just go read the entire Wikipedia article on Deathmate.”

  • Snark Shark says:

    “where I could probably have built a house using the leftover copies”

    I was going to ask, what was the person who bought your overstock doing with them, turning them into BRICKS?

    “entire series”

    it sucked, esp. @ 4.95 apiece! the valiants slightly less crappy than the image issues.

    “Spittin’ Image”

    some things should juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust be recycled!

  • Snark Shark says:

    “where I could probably have built a house using the leftover copies”

    I was going to ask, what was the person who bought your overstock doing with them, turning them into BRICKS?

    “entire series”

    it sucked, esp. @ 4.95 apiece! the valiants slightly less crappy than the image issues.

    “Spittin’ Image”

    some things should juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust be recycled!

  • Jack says:

    I had every issue of Deathmate but, of course, Red. I think the primary problem with it was that all it really was, as a crossover, was a series of those “alternate future, everyone dies” stories, and even in 1993 we’d already had a load of them.

    Plus, while Valiant was popular, early on everyone was showing up for Image. I said ages ago here that 1993 was a crazy time in comics, where there was this energy in the stores caused, in no small part, by Image. When the Image creators took their time showing, everyone bailed on Deathmate.

    Says everything about it that I never read the Red issue and seemingly understood the crossover regardless.

  • Thom Heil says:

    Wildly late and nonsensical? Sounds about right for early Image.

    I wonder – if someone, anyone at the time had demanded quality storytelling and some level of professional behavior, would the whole boom and bust ever have happened?

  • Leave a Reply