A few years ago I had an itch to reread the Dark Dominion series from Defiant Comics. Not having my original issues readily available I went to ebay to see if I could get them at a reasonable price. Plugging “Defiant Comics” into the search led me to a vendor selling not only every issue of Dark Dominion, but nearly every single issue published by Defiant between 1993 and 1994 for $30. My pulse quickened as I realized I could own a nearly complete universe. He was only missing the two issues of Prudence & Caution and the Warriors of Plasm and Dark Dominion zero issues.
It was easy enough to track down Prudence & Caution, but the zero issues come as a series of trading cards that puzzle together when placed in order in a binder. There were vendors on ebay selling the fully collected trading cards complete in binders, but while searching I came across someone selling six boxes of Warriors of Plasm cards and four boxes of Dark Dominion cards. The price for all 10 unopened boxes was $20 which at the time seemed like a smart purchase.
When adjusted for inflation everything I purchased (not including the multiple boxes of trading cards) would have cost me more than $220 in 1994. I only had to spend a little more than $50 so I could read the storyline of an entire shared universe. Having this revelation I realized if I could do it with Defiant I could very likely do it with the other mothballed universes from the 90s.
Some quick googling showed me I wasn’t alone. There’s a vibrant forum dedicated to Dead Universes at Valiantfans.com and a number of blogs documenting efforts to collect entire universes. The magnitude of collecting universes varies. Some collectors are only seeking to have a complete storyline. Others are trying to acquire all of the variant covers and ashcans. On the more extreme end are collectors collecting everything related to the publisher’s universe from action figures to promotional swag to television pilots.
Personally, I’m mostly interested in collecting for the purpose of reading the stories of these universes. Tragically, most have never been collected into trades and in many cases legal kerfuffles make the likelihood they ever will slim at best. That means mining ebay and long boxes at comic shops for the lowest priced floppies.
Of course, Dead Universes stretch all the way back to the Golden Age. For my own personal sanity I’ve limited my current reading to universes that were launched and started to fade between 1991 and 1995. This includes, but is not limited to, Defiant, Malibu’s Ultraverse, Comics Greatest World, and Valiant.