Any Marvel/Miracleman comic, due to notorious legal wrangling over the rights to the characters and stories. The rights were acquired by Marvel in 2009, but only for the original 1950s/1960s Marvelman stories, the scripts from the Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman stories, and the rights to use the characters in new stories. While this means that the Gaiman stories can be reprinted, Neil's run completed, and new Marvelman stories published, the Moore stories are still off-limits due to Marvel having to renegotiate with the artists, among which includes Rick Veitch, who has been singled-out as being a potential hold-out due to his disdain for Marvel.
The Miracleman/Marvelman comics are coming out, but as per a negotiation with Marvel, they aren't allowed to use Alan's name on the books, hence his being referred to as 'The Original Writer'.
Due to Disney's infamous lawsuit, Air Pirates Funnies, a 1970s underground comix series unauthorized by Disney which depicted Disney characters in sexually-explicit situations, is completely out of print. Original copies are valuable, although the series has made appearances on the internet.
Alan Moore's Marvel Pastiche series 1963. Also Alan Moore's few-but-canonically-significant Doctor Who comics, because of Moore's strained relations with Marvel UK.
Jon Muth's gorgeous graphic novel "Dracula: A Symphony in Moonlight and Nightmares", published by Marvel Graphic Novels in the early 90's, hasn't seen the light of day for years, despite it being one of the best and more unique adaptations of Stoker's novel and would be of great interest to Dracula fans.
For that matter, a majority of the works published under Marvel Graphic Novels have lacked reprints, the exceptions being most of the ones featuring Marvel characters that have been reprinted or included in other collections.
Legion of Super-Heroes fans have long suffered due to politics involving the comic's most famous writer-turned-head of DC Comics Paul Levitz. Levitz, known for vetoing the collection of stories whose writers and artists are out of favor with DC Comics for various reasons, has long refused to collect his Legion run in TPB format, going so far as even stopping the popular and commercially-successful LOSH Hardcover Archive series due to it having reached the point where his first issues on the book were published, just so that he could use the lack of his books released to justify his corrupt policies of who gets their work collected. This has had a detrimental effect upon the Legion franchise as, save for the Great Darkness Saga (which was out of print for over a decade), the only way to buy the Legion was to pay $50 a volume for the DC Archives, which while being a comprehensive collection of all Legion stories, consists mainly of the Adventure Comics era, which are at best a mixed bag qualitywise. The Legion's 1980s run, where Levitz took over the franchise and made it into a hit series, remained uncollected and unseen until two years ago when Levitz (to tie into the return of the Pre-Zero Hour Legion) released two volumes collecting the first 13 issues of Legion V3, ironically even as "The Great Darkness Saga" has once again fallen out of print.
The post-Levitz Legion also suffers this and then some. The controversial V4 run by Keith Giffen and the Bierbaums remains uncollected. The 1994 reboot had its first eight issues and a later storyline involving a retread of the Great Darkness Saga collected, but nothing else. Part of this was due to artist Oliver Coipel, who drew four and half years of the reboot leaving DC to go work for Marvel, leading to Levitz blacklisting him and refusing to collect any of the Legion stories he drew in TPB. Also, when the last 1994 Legion reboot story (a crossover special with the 2002 Teen Titans relaunch) finally see the light of day as part of a Teen Titans TPB, the collection omitted the final pages of the story, where the Legion rally together as their world is destroyed and they are cast outside of the known universe to rot for all time. To add insult to injury, the critically-panned 2004 reboot has, save for a single issue, been completely collected with the last year of the book seeing print not just in softcover but also hardcover.
An infamous case is Hellblazer, which has huge chunks of the series uncollected. Although original series writer Jamie Delano's work is finally in the process of being reissued in trade paperback (as of 2010 everything from Issue #1 through "The Family Man" is available), not one issue of Paul Jenkins's forty-issue run on the title has been collected, despite this including some of the series' pivotal events such as Constantine's encounter with God, rescue of Astra from Hell, and creation of his own demon-self.
Swamp Thing suffered this for years with several major issues (the last four issues of Len Wein's original run on the title, the first Alan Moore Swamp Thing story) uncollected until most recently as DC began re-releasing the TPBs in hardcover. Still, stuff like Nancy Collins' back-to-basics run and Grant Morrison and Mark Millar's controversial runs on the title remain uncollected, as does the Marty Pasko run (Saga of the Swamp Thing #1-19), the last 4-5 issues of which are crucial for setting up the bulk of Alan Moore's plotlines in the book.
Spider-Man suffers this as well — Marvel has done a lousy job collecting and keeping in print most of the character's defining storylines. While both Essential Spider-Man and Essential Spider-Man have now reached Roger Stern and Peter David's legendary runs (and the first third of David Micheline's legendary run on Amazing Spider-Man released as an omnibus), good luck if you are wanting to find most of Spidey's stuff like DeMatteis and Gerry Conway's Spectacular Spider-Man or Tom DeFalco's Amazing Spider-Man.
An omnibus of Roger Stern's run is now pending for release in April 2014.
Mark Bagley did a Spider-Man web-comic around the 2000s that seems to have mysteriously dropped off the face of the Earth, with nothing being reprinted and the comic not appearing on Marvel's website.
The bulk of Bill Mantlo's work as a comic creator remain uncollected. While Marvel has recently announced two oversized TP Bs collecting the first 40 issues of his Hulk run and most of his Spider-Man stuff is available in the Essential line, his Micronauts and Rom work remains in legal limbo hell while his Alpha Flight run (featuring early pre-fame artwork from Mike Mignola and Jim Lee) is still not collected.
Any Daredevil that isn't Frank Miller's or part of the 2000s Marvel Knights reboot. In particular, Ann Nocenti's run has only ever received two collections (One, out-of-print, Daredevil Visionaries collection of Typhoid Mary and one more recent collection of Lone Stranger) despite running far longer than either of Miller's runs and featuring artwork not only by fan favourites John Romita Jr and Lee Weeks, but art from Steve Ditko, Mark Bagley, amongst others.
A lot of 1990s Marvel stuff remains uncollected, even with Marvel recently making headway in collecting it via their "Marvel Classics" line. The 1990s Guardians of the Galaxy series; Nightstalkers (which brought Blade back after fading away into comic limbo and resolved several major dangling plotlines from the 1970s The Tomb of Dracula series); Thunderbolts, Generation X; and X-Man has yet to be collected.
Thunderbolts, Generation X, and X-Man are now being collected and while the 90s series has yet to be collected, all of the Guardians of the Galaxy material from the various anthology comics Marvel originally published them in have finally been collected.
Marvel has announced that the Jim Valentino run on the 1990s GOTG series (ie the first 26 issues or so) is being released in TPB format in 2014, most likely to capitalise on the release of the upcoming film.
DC has its own 1990s stuff that has yet to be collected, be it obscure cult favorites (Major Bummer; Darkstars; Young Heroes In Love) to major books that are a no-brainer for collecting (the 1990s Robin series; the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern run of Ron Marz; L.E.G.I.O.N.; Mark Waid's Flash run; Peter David's Aquaman, Supergirl and Young Justice runs). While DC has released "Best Of" volumes of the early Rayner Green Lantern stories, their attempt to do a comprehensive collecting of Kyle's Green Lantern run failed to sell enough to justify further volumes. And the Robin thing is even more insulting, given that Nightwing and Birds of Prey (other Batman spin-offs) have received numerous TPBs over the years collecting the bulk of those two series.
Young Justice only had one TPB released. The book ran for six years and over 50 issues, and saw strong sales throughout that time, but DC has never seen fit to put any real effort into collecting it — not even after the success of the Young Justice cartoon!
Stormwatch Team Achilles and Wildcats V3.0 only had the first year's worth of stories collected, as both comics were critical darlings with poor sales, leading to them being put down and replaced with more traditional versions of the concepts that have been largely panned by fans of the "Eye of the Storm" books.
Wildcats 3.0, at least, is finally being collected in full in two large trade paperbacks - just in time for Wildstorm's shuttering.
Joe Casey's non-crossover Adventures Of Superman run remains uncollected, even though his book was widely praised to be the best of the early-2000s Superman books.
While DC has begun to make a serious effort to collect the Giffen/DeMatteis/McGuire JLI/JLA run, fans still hold onto the first JLI TPB ("A New Beginning") and not the most recent printing, based off of the first edition hardcover re-release. The original TPB contains a lengthy introduction where Giffen discusses in graphic detail how he got the job writing the book, how the roster came about, the politics that determined that he could only use Batman and Martian Manhunter as far as founding Big Seven members, and the overall tone of the book. This fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes making of this beloved incarnation of the franchise was replaced with a one-page "intro" that is extremely brief and barely mentions the behind-the-scenes stuff except in a brief aside.
New Teen Titans suffers this — vague, often butchered TPBs have been released of random stories (with the only common theme being that they are drawn by George Perez), while the only way to read the stories in chronological order is the uber-expensive "Archive" Hardcovers, with DC recently announcing that the Hardcover collecting will stop now that they've reached the point where the earliest issue number TPB would be the next volume.
DC eventually released The New Teen Titans in omnibus format, but the first volume is out-of-print and the third volume has been widely panned for both not collecting the issues DC solicited (this happens often) and for containing huge gaps in continuity between the issues that were collected.
The Transformers Generation 1UK comic stories featuring Death's Head cannot be reprinted in the US, since Marvel owns the character. Luckily, prior to IDW getting the UDS reprint rights, they were collected in the UK via Titan (who distributes Marvel's trade paperbacks in England) with Titan scoring global distribution rights, meaning that they could be grey-market imported to the States.
The situation vis-a-vis Death's Head may have been resolved, as an old Doctor Who Magazine comics story featuring Death's Head as an antagonist was reprinted by IDW.
G.I. Joe for years suffered this, especially after Marvel attempted to reprint the books only to stop after reaching #50. Luckily, IDW has picked up the ball and is now reprinting the entire series.
Matt Howarth included several real people as characters in his various Bugtown comic book series. He asked their permission to do so, but did not anticipate any future reprint market. So Howarth feels the permission only covered the original publication of the books and he would need new assent to republish the books in collected form. As he has been unable to contact several of the people involved, some of whom have since passed away, these series have never been collected.
Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo's mind-bendingly experimental Vertigo Comics revamp of Shade, the Changing Man remains unavailable for purchase, except for a 2004 TPB of the first six issues. DC likely planned to use this as a test for future TPBs, but since the first arc is the weakest of the 70-issue series, it failed to garner significant interest.
This is slowly being changing. The first volume of the series was re-released with a second in December 2009, and a third in July 2010.
Unfortunately DC has published no further TPBs since the third volume was released in 2010, so the rest of the series still remains in this category.
Many of Peter Milligan's other mindblowing comics, such as Human Target, Enigma and his Batman/Detective stories (bar the one story that was part of the Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul) have not been collected or are out-of-print, or else suffer from the same fate as Shade,the Changing Man.
Spawn issues 9 and 10 have a history of coming in and out of limbo in reprint volumes. #9, held up due to the legal battles with Neil Gaiman, the co-author of the issue who claims partial ownership of the (continuity-important) characters he introduced (Medieval Spawn, Angela and Cagliostro), and #10 because it was a CerebusCross Over issue that Dave Sim has not authorized for reprints.
This seems to be resolved, as both issues were included in the oversized Spawn Origins Collection: Book 1 hardcover book, with a letter by Dave Sim explaining the story behind the making and reprinting troubles of issue #10 included as a forward to that issue.
If you want to collect the comic stories that ran in Disney Adventures, you're pretty much gonna have to go to eBay and try to win auctions on the issues, or their reprints in Disney's Colossal Comics Collection. However, Boom! Studios is now reprinting the Darkwing Duck stories.
The Legend Of The Chaos God, a five part Cross Through story which is widely regarded as one of the greatest stories ever printed in the magazine, has never been reprinted. The only way to read it is to buy all five of the original issues online, or find page scans on the internet.
For countries that still publish Disney Comics, Brazil sometimes suffers from this despite publisher Editora Abril being prone to republish old stories instead of new, imported ones (as locally produced are sporadic ever since they closed their studio in 2001). Some comics are heavily sought, be old magazines or recent ones (as their distribution is sometimes cumbersome, and the online store doesn't warn when they'll stop selling certain comics), particularly collections such as The Complete Works of Carl Barks.
Archie Comics seems to rarely reprint stuff involving their (Non-Pureheart) superhero output: They themselves put out three trade paperbacks in the early 2000s on certain characters.
Archie is offering many of the stories as part of its New Crusaders digital subscription service starting Spring 2012.
The pulp style comic series ''Starblazer books, despite some incredibly good stories and a small but very loyal fandom is doomed to obscurity by the refusal to reprint any stories even as a collection. The old books themselves are getting increasingly hard to come by as time takes its toll.
ElfQuest, while an excellent series, hasn't been reprinted since 2003, its quarter-centennial, and the only full-ish reprints—the Father Tree Press 20th anniversary Readers Collections—are getting harder and harder to find as time goes on. On the plus side, all of it—and even never-printed material from aborted series—is available on the official website.
Some of the original chapter pages got redesigned without chapter titles for later editions, and the original versions aren't available on line. The website also omits miscellaneous cartoons, promotional art, artwork for editorial page borders, and even one editorial that's lettered in the shape of a wolf's head.
The original ElfQuest: Wavedancers series was withdrawn because of a dispute between the Pinis and its creators and cannot be legally reproduced.
The issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles written and illustrated by Rick Veitch (issues #24-26 and 30 of Volume One of the original Mirage run, plus the story "North by Downeast" initially serialized in Plastron Cafe #1-4 and later colorized and given a conclusion in the two-part Casey Jones mini-series) face problems when it comes to reprints as Veitch never signed away those rights. Possibly the TMNT stories by Rick Arthur (who did TMNT Vol. 1 #41 and a short story called "Lucindra" in Turtle Soup (vol. 2) #1) fall into the same trap, though there's no confirmation from anyone involved with the franchise (though see below). Frank Bella, who did the two-page gag story "Pesticide" in Turtle Soup (vol. 1) #1, also never signed away reprint rights, which leads this troper to believe that the same thing happened with the other story in that special (save for one done by Mirage regular Eric Talbot which was later reprinted, a crossover story with Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo which has been reprinted times, and one by Steve Bissette who did sell the rights to his TMNT-related work). Some of the other TMNT short stories and Vol. 1 issues done by freelance writers and artists during the late 1980s and early 1990s may also have legal problems, but in some cases it's hard to tell since Mirage's contracts could be a bit loose regarding reprint rights at the time.
Update: Rick Arthur has told this troper that the only intellectual property he owns from TMNT Vol. 1 #44 is the character of Lucindra and nothing else. Also, veteran comics writer Paul Jenkins never signed away the rights to his contributions to TMNT Vol. 1 #43. Megaton ManDon Simpson still owns the rights to his TMNT parody short stories, "Teen Techno Turtle Trio Plus One!' from Shell Shock and "Alternative Turtles on the Moon" from the color Turtle Soup series (I assume that Mirage didn't buy out those stories since they're just parodies), same with Fred Hembeck's TMNT back-up strip from the third printing of TMNT Vol. 1 #2. Most other TMNT stories should face no legal problems from being reprinted, although IDW may go the extra mile in getting permission from and compensating the owners of guest characters such as Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon and Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot (since Dave Sim has no probleming with anyone else using his character Cerebus, yet IDW still got Sim's permission and paid him in order to reprint the TMNT issue that guest stars Cerebus).
Unlike its popular American cousin, Sonic the Comic has yet to be collected into volumes. The series is extremely hard to find (as everytime you search for it the Archie's comics come up instead), though there are sites specifically made for buying issues of the comic. It's still hard to get certain issues though.
Entire companies suffer from this trope. If you like First Comics in the 80s, only American Flagg has seen a reprint: books like Jon Sable Freelance, Nexus, The Badger, Grimjack, Dynamo Joe, and Mars languish in obscurity. A lot of the output of companies like Malibu, Eclipse, and Comico are similar. For more obscure companies, like Neal Adams's Continuity Comics, not even graphic novels exist.
Actually, most of the First Comics books mentioned has been reprinted in some form. The exception is Dynamo Joe.
Marvel's current policy is to not maintain any inventory. Once they print a trade or hardcover and send it out you'd better hope it doesn't sell out because unless it's a really popular series it's not going to get a second printing. This means that there are trades just two years old that are already out-of-print. Some of them are trades released to replace older out-of-print collections, which is as ridiculous as it sounds.
DC has a similar policy. The first Teen Titans omnibus was out of print by about mid-2012 despite having come out in September of the previous year. Their, much-panned, oversized hardcover reissue of Batman: Year One is now out-of-print (although that may be because it was widely panned, especially by David Mazzuchelli himself). Absolute Watchmen is out-of-print, and there are many others.
Until recently, the Batman storyline Knightfall only had two of its three acts collected as a trade paperback - Knightfall and KnightsEnd, but not KnightQuest. However, on May 29, 2012, one part of the KnightQuest storyline, "The Crusade" - which chronicled Jean-Paul Valley's stint as Batman - was finally released. However, "The Search" - which had Bruce Wayne hunting down the kidnapped father of Robin Tim Drake - has yet to be released collected. In addition DC also omitted a few stories from the first volume that serve as build-up to the main Knightfall arc, The Sword of Azrael (which was previously collected elsewhere, but is now out-of-print) and the Troika arc, a four issue arc that more-or-less finishes the KnightSaga.
DC also declined to reprint Contagion, Legacy and Cataclysm. All three are big Batman arcs, all three somewhat lead into No Man's Land, and Legacy contains appearances by Bane, Talia and Catwoman, three characters you'd think DC would want to reprint stories of, considering
The Lost Ones, a comic book by former Archie Sonic writer Ken Penders, only saw one issue printed, and it sold very poorly. As a result, even if you use the internet to help you, you're very unlikely to find it. The closest it got to a rerelease was being put up on Ken Penders' website, and even then, it's only the first few pages.
Fish Police, which was independently released for its first 11 issues, has had several reprints of the early issues. Comico reprited issues 1-4 in a colorized trade, and then reissued 5-11, but went bankrupt after printing issues 12-17. The series was picked up for Apple Comics for issues 18-26, after which Marvel did colorized reprints of issues 1-6. Issues 1-4 were again reprinted in a trade by IDW in 2011, but so far, everything afterward remains hard to find.
Marvel's satirical comics Not Brand Ecch and What The?! have never been reprinted, despite being popular titles and often requested.
A possible reason for no reprints of What The?! is that it often took (affectionate) jabs at then-current writers,artists, and other Marvel staffers. Since many of these people no longer work for Marvel, it would likely confuse some readers, and look like theyre taking shots at their former employees.
Now that BIONICLE is officially over, it's getting harder to find the Papercutz reprints of the comic series, let alone the originals from LEGO Magazine or the Lunchables comics. Luckily, reproductions on the Internet are available with a bit of digging.
Almost none of the hundreds of Golden AgeGreen Arrow stories have ever been reprinted; as far as DC Comics are concerned the character apparently began with Jack Kirby in 1958.
Gnorm Gnat, Jim Davis's first comic, has never been published, not even on the Garfield site. A few strips have appeared here and there, but to see the rest one would probably have to find old copies of The Pendleton Times from the 70s.
Dick Tracy has few reprints available and in the case of the Max Collins era strips (which were critically acclaimed) few have ever been reprinted, save the various sequences collected in the Anniversary editions. Fantagraphics is releasing The Complete Chester Gould Dick Tracy archive editions however, and The Collins Case Files are currently on its third volume.
The Perishers was only ever reprinted in paperback collections. Worse, the early volumes didn't reprint the strips in chronological order. Classic 60s strips are currently being reprinted in the Daily Mirror, resized somewhat to fit, with new colour, and occasional textual revisions for topicality. One can only hope the original versions are being safely preserved somewhere.