Adaptability: A History of Marvel’s Licensed Comics
Adaptability: A History of Marvel’s Licensed Comics by Jerry Whitworth
Today, comic books are being adapted for film and television at an incredible rate, the industry quickly becoming the go to source for summer blockbusters and highly rated television. However, comic books’ origins lie in licensing and reprinting the content of other companies. While during comics’ earlier years, publishers like National Publications, Dell Comics, Gold Key Comics, and Charlton Comics were the kings of licensing, Marvel Comics (born from the ashes of Timely and Atlas) would enter the fray in the Bronze Age and make adapting licensed material into an art form. An earlier example comes from the estate of Robert E. Howard whose creation Conan would be adapted by Marvel in 1970. Conan the Barbarian by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith would be a monster hit for Marvel (the original series running for 275 issues ending in 1993), spawning the mature spin-off magazine Savage Sword of Conan (also written by Thomas) which proved to be another hit (running 235 issues over twenty one years). Striking gold, Marvel began pulling in more Howard creations soon after like Kull (starring in three series between 1971 to 1985 and a one-shot in 1989), Thulsa Doom (Kull’s nemesis who became a foe of Conan and Cormac Mac Art under Marvel), Bêlit (pirate queen and Conan’s beloved), and Bran Mak Morn (king of the Picts). Thomas and Smith would create the villainous Kulan Gath who, through the arrangement Marvel had with Howard’s estate, would become closely associated with the Conan franchise (adapted later in other companies’ depictions). The creative duo would also produce Red Sonja, loosely based on Howard’s Red Sonya, who proved to be another sales juggernaut.
A seemingly female version of Conan, Red Sonja would go on from being a supporting character in Conan’s book to star in Marvel Feature, three ongoing series, a feature film (with comic adaptation), and one-shot from 1975 to 1995. Like Kulan Gath, Sonja would become the Howard estate’s property and live on under the pen of various other publishers. Conan would go on to be featured in Savage Tales, a newspaper strip, five more ongoing series from 1974 to 1996 (King Conan lasting fifty five issues across nine years), and comic book adaptations of two Conan feature films starring burgeoning action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The sword and sorcery characters of Robert E. Howard would not be the only fuel for the engine of Marvel’s licensing as characters like Michael Moorcock’s Elric (in the pages of Conan the Barbarian), Edwin Lester Arnold’s Gullivar Jones (in Creatures on the Loose and Monsters Unleashed), John Jakes’ Brak the Barbarian (in Chamber of Chills and Savage Tales), and Lin Carter’s Thongor (in Creatures on the Loose) were adapted for the four color page. Marvel would try their hand at several characters in the similar vein as Conan, most notably Killraven (albeit switching out monsters and magic with aliens and advanced technology). Based on an alternate future following the events of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds where the Martians return to enslave mankind, Killraven was a slave forced to compete in gladiatorial combat that rose to become a freedom fighter. Also along the science fiction route, series Worlds Unknown would adapt the stories of authors like Frederik Pohl, Edmond Hamilton, L. Sprague deCamp, Harry Bates, Fredric Brown, A. E. van Vogt, and Ted Sturgeon as well as adapt the film The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (in 1975, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad would be adapted in Marvel Spotlight). While Conan helped get the ball rolling on Marvel’s success in licensing characters, those licenses were not limited to sword and sorcery.
Starting out in pulp magazines like Conan, Doc Savage would make his way to Marvel in 1972 in an eight issue series as well as a reprint edition and eight magazines in 1975 to cash in on the release of the film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze to theaters. Doc would also team-up with the Thing in an issue of Marvel Two-in-One. In 1973, Sax Rohmer’s famous character Fu Manchu would become an important component in the creation of the original Marvel character Shang-Chi acting as the hero’s father and nemesis. Film franchise Planet of the Apes would become a high profile license for Marvel in 1974 as a magazine series (twenty nine issues from 1974 to 1977), comic book adaptations of all five films, the eleven issue series Adventures on the Planet of the Apes, and took on new life in Britain under Marvel UK. Interestingly enough, the first collaboration between Marvel and DC Comics would come in 1975 when Marvel planned on adapting L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and DC the 1939 film based upon the book produced by MGM. The companies would decide to combine their efforts to produce MGM’s Marvelous Wizard of Oz. The following year the two publishers came together again to jointly produce Superman vs The Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century. Marvel would tackle the land of Oz again but without DC Comics in 1975 with The Marvelous Land of Oz and 2009 with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. For 1976, Marvel would begin publishing Marvel Classics Comics adapting various books including Dracula, War of the Worlds, Frankenstein, and The Arabian Nights (re-approaching the concept again in 2007 with Marvel Illustrated) as well as an adaptation and monthly series based on the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (introducing original Marvel character Machine Man). The following year would be a big one for licenses obtained by Marvel.
At the start of 1977, Marvel would adapt the film Logan’s Run into a seven issue mini-series. Marvel’s chief competitor DC Comics would produce an ongoing series based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan for five years (continuing the same series from Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics that spanned twenty four years) before losing that series (and the character’s license) to Marvel. Instead of keeping that twenty nine year trend going, the publisher decided instead to re-brand the series as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1977) under the pen of Roy Thomas and John Buscema (Thomas largely the go to writer for licensed adaptations following his success with Conan) for twenty nine issues across two years. Just as DC adapted Burroughs’ other famous character John Carter of Mars while having the license, Marvel did the same but chose to give the property a feature series. For the two years Marvel had the license, Carter starred in John Carter, Warlord of Mars by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane taking place during the events of A Princess of Mars. The publisher would tackle the franchise again in 2011 with John Carter: A Princess of Mars. The same year Marvel obtained the Burroughs’ license, they also licensed and produced comic book series for Star Wars (114 issues, including a Return of the Jedi mini-series and two magazines, across nine years), Godzilla (twenty four issues across two years), horror film The Deep, and the Human Fly (based on real-life stuntman Rick Rojatt and written by Bill Mantlo, a creator who would in time become Marvel’s new go to guy for licensed series). Its been said that sales of Marvel’s comics during this year were poor and the incredible success of Marvel’s Star Wars adaptation saved the company from ruin. Also in 1977, Marvel would begin producing the series Marvel Comics Super Special.
As Marvel Classics Comics focused on adapting books to comics, Marvel Comics Super Special largely focused on adapting music bands, films, and television to comics. Adapting the likes of Kiss, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Beatles, Jaws 2, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Meteor, Xanadu, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Dragonslayer, Blade Runner, Annie, The Dark Crystal, Rock & Rule, Krull, The Last Starfighter, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Buckaroo Banzai, Sheena, Dune, Santa Claus: the Movie, and Labyrinth across nine years, several features led to their own series and issues were broken up into short mini-series. Blood would be drawn from the members of Kiss and added to the red ink of their initial comic appearance’s publishing. Bill Mantlo would adapt the television series Man from Atlantis for a seven issue comic book series in 1978 with art from Frank Robbins and Frank Springer. Marvel that same year would also publish another Robert E. Howard character in Cormac Mac Art, a Celtic pirate barbarian, teaming the character with Conan, Kull, and Red Sonja in a Marvel Treasury Edition (bringing him back a year later in Savage Sword of Conan). When Buck Rogers in the 25th Century hit the airwaves in 1979, Gold Key Comics published a comic adaptation whose first three issues were collected and reprinted by Marvel in a “Giant Movie Edition.” Battlestar Galactica, which started in the magazine Marvel Comics Super Special, would be expanded into its own series that same year running for twenty three issues across two years. Also in 1979, toyline Shogun Warriors (featuring toys based on Japanese animated series adapted for American audiences) would become a Marvel comic book series (though, series created by Go Nagai would be excluded as Marvel was not awarded the license to adapt them outside of advertisements in Marvel titles). That same year, Marvel UK would obtain the license to produce comics based on the Doctor Who franchise in Britain. Most notably in 1979, two of Marvel’s most revered licensed series would be produced under the same man.
Japanese toy company Takara had a desire to break into the larger American market, contracting the Mego Corporation (who produced toys for DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and more) to adapt its Microman toyline resulting in the series Micronauts. The series would prove to be extremely popular but gained new heights one fateful Christmas morning. Marvel writer Bill Mantlo (who previously worked on the Human Fly and Man from Atlantis as noted) watched his son Adam open Micronauts toys for the holiday and the miniature figures drew the creator’s interest. Going to then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, Marvel acquired a license to produce comics on the series which would run for seven years (well outliving the toyline) across two series and two mini-series (one series guest-starring the X-Men co-written by Mantlo and Chris Claremont) with ninety issues produced. Original characters Marionette, Arcturus Rann, Bug, and Captain Universe would be created over the course of the series with Captain Universe appearing across many comic series at Marvel and Bug returning to prominence in the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy (along with Mantlo’s original character Rocket Raccoon). In addition to the success of Micronauts, Mantlo would strike lightning again that same year.
Well known board game developer Parker Brothers wanted to enter the lucrative action figure and burgeoning electronic toy markets combining these efforts in the toy Rom. With a desire to generate some buzz about the product, they commissioned Marvel to produce a comic series based on the figure. Given Bill Mantlo’s success with Micronauts, editor-in-chief Jim Shooter plotted the first issue for Rom: Spaceknight handing the project to Mantlo. Though the Rom toy performed terribly, the comic book series proved to be another hit (again outliving its licensed product) running for seven years across nearly eighty issues teaming with virtually every major hero at Marvel and guest-starring in various titles like the Incredible Hulk, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Marvel Two-in-One. Parker Brothers would go through various transitions throughout the years, merging with Kenner, bought by Tonka, and eventually purchased by Hasbro. Several attempts have been made to resurrect Rom but Hasbro has either proven to be hesitant or asked for more money to license the property than publishers are willing to invest to see the hero return. Marvel would produce the limited series Spaceknights in 2000 (sans Rom) and employ those characters in the event Annihilation. Rom has popped up over the years in some Marvel titles with his name withheld and in his human-esque form (his robotic design owned by Hasbro).
Publishing an adaptation for Star Trek: The Motion Picture in its magazine Marvel Comics Super Special, Marvel would expand the franchise into its own series in 1980 for two years across eighteen issues. Similarly, the first three Indiana Jones films were adapted in Marvel Comics Super Special only to become a monthly series in The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones in 1983 for three years across thirty four issues. Dragonslayer would get the Marvel Comics Super Special treatment, this story broken up into two comics, with For Your Eyes Only given the same service (Octopussy would be published just as a magazine). Marvel would later adapt the animated series James Bond Jr. in 1992 into a twelve issue series. Early in 1982, Marvel would produce a one-shot adaptation for the film Time Bandits and Ideal Toys’ motorcycle themed Team America would become deeply engrossed in the Marvel universe including gaining its own series. Michael Moorcock’s Elric would get the spotlight in the second issue of Marvel Graphic Novel in the story “Elric: The Dreaming City” adapted by Roy Thomas and P. Craig Russell. As noted, Blade Runner and The Dark Crystal were adapted in Marvel Comics Super Special which each were reprinted into two-issue comic series. These stories in 1982 pale to what other license Marvel acquired that year.
Hasbro, wishing to re-brand its G.I. Joe toyline to capitalize on the growing action figure market, approached Marvel to assist in this effort. The result was the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero franchise which included new toys, an animated series produced with the comic publisher’s burgeoning Marvel Productions, and a comic book series at Marvel. Editor and writer for Marvel Larry Hama would largely become the godfather of the franchise where even today G.I. Joe is largely associated with the creator who was critical in the development of characters Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow (arguably two of the most recognized characters in G.I. Joe). The success of G.I. Joe’s re-branding has meant huge success, both in the past and through today with two blockbuster live action feature films produced. For the Marvel comic itself, the series ran for twelve years across 155 issues with spin-off title Special Missions (twenty eight issues over three years), a series of one-shots in Yearbook, mini-series The Order of Battle, The European Missions reprinting the Action Force adaptation of the franchise in Europe (mingling G.I. Joe with the Action Man toyline), and the reprint series Tales of G.I. Joe.
For 1983, Marvel printed a biographical comic on the life of Pope John Paul II, adapted the popular Smurfs franchise for a three issue mini-series, and produced a series for Tyco’s US-1 electric truck toyline. Marvel would publish a series called The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior that many falsely believe was a licensed property because Remco produced a toyline based on it (thinking Remco commissioned the comic instead of the other way around). The Krull issue of Marvel Comics Super Special would be split into a two issue mini-series. The following year, Marvel would adapt the television series The A-Team for a short-lived comic series. In a scenario a bit challenging to explain, in 1984 computer game publisher Adventure International licensed Marvel characters for a series of games called Questprobe. In order to promote the games, the company commissioned Marvel to produce a limited series adapting the games (though, the company went bankrupt and only three issues were printed, the fourth printed in Marvel Fanfare, and three games released). So, they licensed Marvel Comics for its characters for a game and then licensed its game (with its original character Chief Examiner) to Marvel to make a series using their own characters. Also in 1984, Marvel would begin producing a comic series based on the Doctor Who franchise with the Fourth Doctor after reprinting his comic strip in Marvel Premiere (lasting for over two years, the series saw the introduction of the Fifth Doctor before ending). The same year, Japanese toy company Tomy partnered with Marvel to help it adapt its Zoids toyline for America. Dubbed Starriors, Marvel produced mini-comics for the toyline and crafted a four issue limited series. As noted earlier, Marvel published adaptations of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and Sheena films in Marvel Comics Super Special which would each be broken up into two issue series. Despite these various developments in 1984, two important events happened with Marvel’s licensed output that blew everything else away.
Takara, who previously developed its Microman series with Mego to make Micronauts (adapted by Marvel for comics), saw its American partner Mego cease to exist in 1983. So, it forged a new alliance with toy company Hasbro to bring its Diaclone and Microman subline Micro Change to America. Following Hasbro’s success with Marvel in G.I. Joe, the deal was brought to the comic publisher resulting in Transformers. Just as with G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the series resulted in a toyline, an animated series co-produced with Marvel Productions, and a 1984 comic book series. Also just like G.I. Joe, the series proved to be wildly popular and again like G.I. Joe is still popular (with three live action feature films and a fourth premiering next year). The Transformers comic ran for seven years with eighty issues, including various mini-series like G.I. Joe and the Transformers, Headmasters, Universe, and an adaptation of the animated film. The series would return as Transformers: Generation 2 in 1993 (crossing over with G.I. Joe) with thirteen issues for a year.
The franchise would also gain a life of its own in Britain under Marvel UK running for 332 issues adapting the American books and expanding upon them. Interestingly, when the material made its way back to Japan it would be even bigger than in the United States or United Kingdom, its animated series running in Japan for three years after it ended in America. While Hasbro planned for a fourth season of the cartoon (with accompanying toys and comics produced), the series was canceled and the plot was adapted for The Headmasters animated series that aired in Japan. Super-God Masterforce, Victory, and Zone would follow (as well as the manga special The Battlestars based on the plot of the season after Zone had the series not been canceled). Further, while Generation 2 failed in America, Japan began producing its own independent series of animated shows that regained interest, importing them to America helping rekindle interest in the US market (referred in America as Robots in Disguise and the Unicron trilogy). Marvel would again get to produce stories with the franchise in 2007 with New Avengers/Transformers. With Marvel expanding its licensing comics with the likes of G.I. Joe and Transformers, it crafted a new imprint generally for licensing while targeting a child audience (in part filling the void left by the end of Harvey Comics that closed in 1982) in 1984’s Star Comics.
Beginning in 1984 featuring The Muppets Take Manhattan issue of Marvel Comics Super Special split among three issues, Star Comics would become a massive library of child targeted titles despite only being in existence for four years. The licensed titles included Fraggle Rock, Heathcliff, Strawberry Shortcake, Get Along Gang, Muppet Babies, Star Wars: Ewoks, Care Bears, Thundercats, Star Wars: Droids, Masters of the Universe, Madballs, Hugga Bunch, Animax, Popples, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos, Defenders of the Earth (featuring Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician), Inhumanoids, Heathcliff’s Funhouse, Flintstone Kids, Foofur, SilverHawks, Air Raiders, Bullwinkle and Rocky, Masters of the Universe: The Motion Picture, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, and Count Duckula (featuring Danger Mouse). While adapting various series for toy companies and cartoons, Star Comics was home to many adaptations of Marvel Productions series.
Dune, as already noted, was adapted in Marvel Comics Super Special and as with other issues was broken up into a three issue mini-series in 1985. Coleco’s Sectaurs: Warriors of Symbion toyline would be adapted into an eight issue series that year. Tomy would again partner with Marvel to promote Zoids this time keeping its original name and making an appeal in Marvel UK’s reprints of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars before starring in Spider-Man and Zoids. Another Robert E. Howard creation would make the transition to Marvel in the six-issue mini-series The Sword of Solomon Kane. And, yet again, the Marvel Comics Super Special issue of Labyrinth would be carved up into a three issue mini-series. In 1986, Milton Bradley’s Robotix (following its adaptation as a cartoon) would get a one-shot from Marvel. The following year Marvel adapted horror film House II: The Second Story. The year after that, failed television series Sledge Hammer! would get a very brief run at Marvel. Also in 1988, Marvel UK would secure a license to produce comics based on The Real Ghostbusters proving successful with almost 200 issues across four years. Marvel’s British arm would also secure The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers that year but only managed to last nine issues. Popular franchise Alf would find a home at Marvel in 1988 and would last almost sixty issues across four years. Marvel Graphic Novel would publish Denny O’Neil and Michael William Kaluta’s “The Shadow: Hitler’s Astrologer” that same year as the following issue was an adaptation of the film Willow. The latter issue would be broken up into a three issue mini-series.
Marvel would attempt to generate its own multimedia franchise, adapting David Oliphant’s Solarman for an animated series with accompanying comic book in 1989 but when the pilot aired in 1992 on Fox Kids failed to gain heat, it was abandoned. Tyco’s Dino-Riders toyline would be adapted for television as part of the Marvel Action Universe animated programming block with accompanying Marvel comics series. RoboCop would join the animation block as well as gaining its own comic book from the publisher. Marvel UK would adapt storytelling bear Teddy Ruxpin, animated series SuperTed and Fantastic Max, as well as the television series Crossbow with the comic William Tell. Founded in 1982, Marvel would create the imprint Epic Comics to promote creator owned projects for its talent. Beginning in 1989, adult-themed literary works would begin being adapted for mature series under Epic. These would include William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Nightbreed, and Weaveworld, Wild Cards, and William Shatner’s TekWorld. Also in 1989, Marvel would produce an adaptation of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the original work based on the property entitled Roger Rabbit: The Resurrection of Doom. In 1990 when the Family Channel produced a new Zorro television series, the character was licensed to Marvel for his own comic that would last for twelve issues. The following year would prove to be another period of significant licensed comic production.
With the film An American Tail: Fievel Goes West hitting theaters in 1991, Marvel would produce a three issue comic book adaptation. The same month, Marvel would begin publishing two comic series based on Mattel’s prolific and wildly successful Barbie toyline. The main series would span sixty three issues over five years with sister series Barbie Fashion fifty three issues over four years. Feature film Hook (based on Peter Pan) would become a four issue mini-series. The animated series Toxic Crusaders would begin to hit airwaves and Marvel would publish a comic based on the series’ central character the Toxic Avenger. The following year, the publisher would also produce a series based on the cartoon itself after the cancellation of the former comic series some months earlier. With a desire to provide a different type of product, Marvel commissioned singer Jacqueline Tavarez to become the superheroine Nightcat, performing under the name professionally as a comic was produced based on her fictionalized background. While two sequels of the video game Double Dragon were hitting store shelves in 1991, Marvel was given the license to produce a comic series based on the franchise. The sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey would get a Marvel adaptation. Marvel would also adapt the film T2 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day around this time. Turner’s Captain Planet and the Planeteers would also see Marvel adaptation as would fellow Hanna-Barbera production The Pirates of Dark Water. In what many have seen as a bizarre move even today, Marvel would obtain a license from the NFL to create a superhero based on their brand resulting in NFL Superpro.
Marvel would get their next video game license in 1992 with Defenders of Dynatron City (the game’s developer would also release an animated film). The same year, Marvel would publish a series based on professional wrestling company WCW: World Championship Wrestling. Hanna-Barbera would animate a series based on Steve Moncuse’s Fish Police comic and Marvel would reprint several issues of the book (except in color for the first time). Animated series The Ren & Stimpy Show would be adapted by Marvel resulting in a forty four issue series and two one-shots that lasted four years which helped inspire a new imprint in Marvel Absurd. The following year, Marvel would partner with Protestant publisher Thomas Nelson to produce a series for original Christian superhero the Illuminator. The superhero film Meteor Man would also premier in 1993 and Marvel would adapt it for a mini-series. Animated series Biker Mice from Mars and King Arthur and the Knights of Justice would see their shows adapted into mini-series. In 1994, popular MTV animated series Beavis and Butthead would become an ongoing series which was folded into the Marvel Humor (later Marvel Absurd) imprint. The series would last two years over twenty eight issues. Also that year, animated series Mighty Max would be licensed briefly by Marvel UK and was published as a series. Feature film The Coneheads (based on a sketch comedy series on Saturday Night Live) would be adapted for a mini-series. Disney’s popular programming block the Disney Afternoon would also be licensed to Marvel and become published as an anthology comic. Such series adapted included DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Bonkers, and Aladdin. The following year would see numerous licenses for Marvel.
In 1995, taking advantage of their Disney license, Marvel would produce a series based on the popular animated series Gargoyles. That same year, Marvel produced the series Disney Comic Hits! The comic featured content from various Disney movies including Pocahontas, The Lion King, Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Little Mermaid, and 101 Dalmatians. Marvel licensed the Phantom and created a series for the character (likely in preparation for the character’s feature film in 1996). Later that year, fellow King Features character Flash Gordon would also get his own series featuring art by the legendary Al Williamson (one of the artists most associated with the character). Marvel would also adapt the animated series Skeleton Warriors and the film Casper (in 1997, Marvel would get the license to produce a Casper series). Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, one of the most popular shows for children on television at the time, would make its way to Marvel adapting its feature film and second season. Concurrently, Marvel published a flip book featuring stories based on the third season of Power Rangers on one side and fellow Saban property VR Troopers on the other side. The following year, another Saban property in Masked Rider would also be adapted. Also in 1995, the final series for Marvel Absurd was published in the comic book Earthworm Jim based on the video game (and featured in an animated series at the time). Also, Marvel would produce content for the band Kiss in the form of Kiss Classics (reprinting the first issue of Marvel’s Kiss with a preview of the band’s upcoming magazine) and the magazine Kissnation the following year.
Despite happening over the course of a few years, part of the fan identified period known as the Dark Age, 1996 has been associated with the so-called Great Comics Crash where the bubble burst for the industry when the move to the direct market and collapse of the speculator market came together to nearly wipe out the entire industry. Marvel suffered considerably, filing for bankruptcy in 1996. Following this, the company pulled back considerably on its licensing content. That year, Marvel entered into an arrangement with Paramount Studios to produce comics for their properties. Forming the imprint Paramount Comics, properties adapted included Snake Plissken, The Mighty Heroes, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: First Contact. It wouldn’t be until 2006 when Marvel again would dive deep into licensing content.
Monte Cook, co-designer of the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons and writer of its Dungeon Master’s Guide, would adapt the campaign he used to playtest the new system to create his new d20 system setting Ptolus published through Malhavoc Press. Marvel would adapt the work in 2006 for the mini-series Ptolus: City by the Spire. Some months later, Marvel entered into an agreement with video game developer Bungie Studios to produce a graphic novel on its popular video game series Halo. The success of this book would begin a continued collaboration resulting in four more comic series thus far. Near the end of 2006, Marvel entered into an arrangement with publisher Dabel Brothers Productions where they would take on their publishing of its extensive catalog (generally licensed adaptations). Such works included Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, George R. R. Martin’s The Hedge Knight, Orson Scott Card‘s Tales of Alvin Maker series and Wyrms, Raymond E. Feist’s Magician Apprentice, Kinley MacGregor’s Lords of Avalon series, and R.A. Salvatore’s Highwayman. Around the same time, Marvel worked out a deal with soap opera The Guiding Light where one of the soap’s characters gained super powers in the show and a mini-comic featuring her would be printed within various Marvel titles. In recent years, Marvel has adapted content from Stephen King, specifically The Dark Tower series, The Stand, and N., Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Philip K. Dick’s The Electric Ant, and Derrick Storm from the television series Castle. Disney would acquire Marvel Comics in 2009 and in preparation for the release of the film TRON: Legacy, Marvel would adapt the original film and later produce TRON-inspired variant covers for its comics and published the mini-series TRON: Betrayal.
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