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Deathmate was a six-part comic book crossover between Valiant Comics and Image Comics. Designated by color rather than issue numbers (namely Yellow, Blue, Black, and Red) plus two book-end issues, Deathmate Prologue and Deathmate Epilogue, the main books were written as so they could be read out of sequence. Created at the peak of the comic book speculator boom of 1993, the entire project was heavily promoted, but was wrought with production delays, with the Image books (Black, Red, and Prologue) coming out severely behind schedule and out of sequence (Red shipped several weeks after Prologue).
The plot evolved around a chance meeting of two characters, Solar from Valiant and Void from Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.s, published by Image. As the two became lovers, their joining would mean the destruction of both comic book universes.
It is notable that only half of the Image founding members chose to take part. Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, and Todd McFarlane were not involved, although Al Simmons makes a brief character appearance in Deathmate Red.
Books from Valiant
- Deathmate Prologue
"A Love to End All Time"
Story: Bob Layton
Pencils: Barry Windsor-Smith
Inks: Jim Lee
Story: Bob Layton
Pencils: Rob Liefeld
Inks: Bob Layton with Danny Miki and Dan Panosian
- Deathmate Yellow
"Jerked Through Time" (featuring characters from Archer & Armstrong and WildC.A.T.s)
Story: Mike Baron
Pencils: Bernard Chang
Inks: Rodney Ramos
"Cat and Mouse" (featuring characters from Ninjak and WildC.A.T.s)
Story: Jorge Gonzalez
Pencils: Don Perlin
Inks: Mike Manley
"The Dying Game" (featuring characters from H.A.R.D. Corps and WildC.A.T.s)
Story: David Michelinie and Bob Layton
Pencils: Mike Leeke
Inks: Tom Ryder
"Revalations and Recruitments" (featuring characters from Shadowman and WildC.A.T.s)
Story: Bob Hall
Pencils: Mark Moretti
Inks: John Dixon
- Deathmate Blue
"Battlestone vs. Magnus Outlaw!" (featuring characters from Brigade and Magnus: Robot Fighter)
Story: John Ostrander
Pencils: Jim Calafiore
Inks: Ralph Reese
"Secret Forces" (featuring characters from Secret Weapons and Cyberforce)
Story: Joe St. Pierre
Pencils: Sean Chen
Inks: Kathryn Bolinger
"Sacrifices" (featuring characters from Harbinger, Brigade, and Cyberforce)
Story: Maurice Fontenot
Pencils: Howard Simpson
Inker: Gonzalo Mayo
"Supremely Darque" (featuring characters from Solar and Supreme)
Story: Kevin VanHook
Pencils: Peter Grau
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Books from Image
- Deathmate Black (featuring characters from Gen¹³, WildC.A.T.s, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Cyberforce, and X-O Manowar)
Story: Brandon Choi and Eric Silvestri
Pencils: Brandon Peterson, Brett Booth, Marc Silvestri, J. Scott Campbell (as Jeffrey Scott),
Scott Clark, Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, and Whilce Portacio
Inks: Scott Williams, Sal Regla, Alex Garner, and Trevor Scott
Story and Pencils: Rob Liefeld
Script: Eric Stephenson
Additional pencils: Jeff Matsuda, Rich Horie, Dan Fraga, Cedric Nocon, Dan Pacella, Anthony Winn, Marat Mychaels
Inks: Danny Miki, Jon Sibal, Marlo Alquiza
- Deathmate Epilogue
As Image books were plagued with deadline problems at the time, it was very little surprise to either fans, retailers, or critics that their books would also arrive late, unlike the books published by Valiant, which arrived on schedule. Despite that, the books were ordered in heavy quantities by retailers, but when shipping dates were not met, orders were cancelled and the books were re-ordered. By the time the books finally did arrive, fans generally lost interest, leaving many retailers with numerous unsold copies.
In a retrospective interview with Newsrama on the rise and fall of Valiant, Bob Layton (former editor in chief) lambasted the whole affair, regarding it as an "unmitigated disaster." As the Image artists were notorious for failing to meet deadlines, Layton allegedly flew out to Los Angeles, went to Rob Liefeld's residence and refused to leave until Liefeld was able to pencil his contribution to Deathmate Prologue, which Layton ended up inking in a hotel room.
"I literally had nothing to do with most of those projects," Layton revealed, "Deathmate was thrust upon us because (Steve) Massarsky and Jim Lee were best buddies at the time and had privately arranged the crossover."
For retailers, Deathmate was disastrous, but due to the tying up of cash flow from books that were arriving late, especially given the $4.95 USD cover price (at the time, the average comic book cover price was less than half of that). Also due to waning fan interest as they waited for books to arrive, the re-orders were lowered once the initial orders were cancelled. The Valiant Deathmate books (Prologue, Blue, and Yellow) had print runs of over 700,000 copies, but by the time Deathmate Red was eventually released, it had a print run of 250,000. Even still, retailers were left sitting on many unsold copies.
At the time, comic book distributors would only allow unsold books to be returned if they were six months late. For retailers already dealing with constantly late books from Image, this indirectly caused many comic book shops to close. Partly due to the lateness of Deathmate (although more to do with the lateness of Image books in general), the window was eventually decreased to two months, but by then the majority of the shops' fates had already been sealed.