Comics' Greatest World (abbreviated as CGW) was an imprint of Dark Horse Comics, launched in 1993 by "Team CGW"note with the intention of giving Dark Horse its own superhero pantheon like DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Unlike the majority of Dark Horse's output at the time, all CGW characters and concepts were fully owned by Dark Horse Comics. The original idea was to make 16 issues (four arcs of four issues each) where every arc was set in a city with its own superheroes, antiheroes and villains, all set in a Shared Universe. Although every arc is independent, all of them are connected by "The Vortex", an interdimensional rift that provokes the creation of metahumans all over the USA. Each city has a distinct theme and tone to provide something for every kind of reader, with a controlling editor for each one to keep the vision and the continuity consistent between titles.
The four cities were:
- Arcadia: An affluent but extremely corrupt and decadent Vice City with Art Deco architecture.
- Golden City: A seemingly utopian city ruled by superheroes.
- Steel Harbor: A lawless Rust Belt city where super-powered gangs fight for control.
- Cinnibar Flats: A small nondescript desert town neighbouring a top-secret military base that tries to keep "The Vortex" under control.
The initial 16-issue maxiseries, called Comics' Greatest World, was a sales success, and several CGW ongoing titles were immidiately launched. The following year, a 12-issue weekly Crisis Crossover series called Will to Power was released which shook up the status quo.
Sadly, the line was an early victim of the 90s comics crash and sales dropped sharply after 1994, prompting Dark Horse to cancel most of the CGW titles and rename the imprint Dark Horse Heroes in 1995. With this restructuring the city branding and controlling editors were dropped, and there was less focus on inter-title continuity (although crossovers between the titles still happened). Dark Horse Heroes also incorporated characters not part of the original CGW continuity, such as Hellboy and The Mask. The rebranding was not enough to save the imprint and by 1996 all remaining titles save for its most popular one, Ghost, were cancelled and the Dark Horse Heroes brand was dropped. The line came to a definitive end in 2000 when Ghost ended its run.
In 2012, Dark Horse Comics made a new attempt at a shared superhero universe with the imprint Project Black Sky. It featured reimagined takes on some CGW heroes along with original and public domain superheroes. Unfortunately, this relaunch was largely unsuccessful, and the imprint was retired in 2015. There was also a limited series by Joe Casey, titled Catalyst Comix, that brought back some of the more minor CGW characters and dropped them in a story about the end of the world.
For more info, you can see this article in The Other Wiki and this one in the Dark Horse Wiki.
Comics' Greatest World and Dark Horse Heroes titles<!—index—>
- Agents of Law (6 issues, 1995)
- Barb Wire (9 issues, 1994-1995)
- Barb Wire: Ace of Spades (4 issues, 1996)
- Barb Wire: Movie Special (1 issue, 1996)
- Barb Wire: Comics Magazine Specialnote (1 issue, 1996)
- Catalyst Agents Of Change (7 issues, 1994)
- Comics' Greatest World (16 issues, 1993)
- Comics' Greatest World Sourcebook (1 issue, 1993)
- Dark Horse Heroes: Revelations (1 issue, 1995)
- Division 13 (4 issues, 1994-1995)
- Ghost volume 1 (36 issues, 1995-1998)
- Ghost volume 2 (22 issues, 1998-2000)
- Ghost/Batgirl (4 issues, 2000)
- Ghost/Hellboy Special (2 issues, 1996)
- Ghost & The Shadow (1 issue, 1995)
- Ghost Handbook (1 issue, 1999)
- Ghost Special (3 issues, 1994-1998)
- Godzilla vs. Hero Zero (1 issue, 1995)
- Hero Zero (1 issue, 1994)
- King Tiger & Motorhead (2 issues, 1996)
- The Machine (4 issues, 1994-1995)
- The Mask Strikes Backnote (5 issues, 1995)
- The Mask: The Hunt For Green Octobernote (4 issues, 1995)
- The Mask World Tour (4 issues, 1995-1996)
- Mecha Special (1 issue, 1995)
- Motorhead (6 issues, 1995-1996)
- Motorhead Special (1 issue, 1994)
- Titan Special (1 issue, 1994)
- Out of the Vortex (12 issues, 1993-1994)
- Will To Power (12 issues, 1994)
- X (25 issues, 1994-1996)
- X: Hero Special (2 issues, 1994)
- X: One Shot To The Head (1 issue, 1994)
- A Decade of Dark Horse
- Ghost story in issue #2
- Dark Horse Comics
- X stories in issues #8-10 and #19-20
- Mecha story in issues #21-22
- The Machine story in issues #23-24
- Dark Horse Extra
- Ghost story in issues #19-22
- X story in issues #28-31
- Dark Horse Presents
- Vortex story in issue #144
- Ghost stories in issues #145-147, Annual 1999 and Annual 2000
- Diamond Previews
- Ghost story in issues 1997/09-1998/07
- San Diego Comic Con Comics
- Barb Wire story in issue #3
- Motorhead story in issue #4
Comics' Greatest World provide examples of:
- '90s Anti-Hero: Being made during this decade, like more than the half of the superheroes are marked as this, with X being the "poster boy" of this trope.
- Aborted Arc: Many, due to most titles in the line being cancelled very abruptly with no time to resolve the major plot threads. Only Ghost, X and Out of the Vortex got proper conclusions.
- The crossover miniseries between Vortex and Nexus, teased in the final issue of Out of the Vortex, was cancelled before it was even released.
- Action Girl: Some of the most known characters from this imprint are strong women with their own titles or leadering groups. Ghost, Barb Wire and Catalyst's Grace are the most known ones.
- Alternate Company Equivalent: CGW was the (brief) intent of Dark Horse to get its own superhero pantheon as The DCU and Marvel Universe.
- Badass Normal: Out of all the major CGW characters, Barb Wire is the only one with no superpowers or extraordinary abilities. She still manages to take on superpowered opponents thanks to her wits, skilled marksmanship and having powerful friends.
- Beware the Superman: Titan was an unstable metahuman who can't control himself during some missions, and that eventually rebelled from his team to make his own rules. He can be considered as the Ur-Example for villains like Superboy-Prime.
- Bounty Hunter: Barbara Kopetski, also known as "Barb Wire", is a bar owner and part-time bounty hunter in order to pay for her bar, The Hammerhead.
- The Cape: Titan is initally set up as an archetypical superhero, being a clear Superman Substitute, but it's quickly subverted as it's made clear he's an unstable jerk before his eventual Face–Heel Turn. Mecha, on the other hand, is a straight example, being one of the few unambiguously good heroes in the setting.
- Continuity Reboot: Decades after this imprint ends, Ghost, X and Barb Wire get their own reboots to be part of Dark Horse again.
- Crossover: The heroes have various crossovers with other characters from Dark Horse as well as with other publishers.
- Dark Horse Comics: Godzilla (with Hero Zero), Hellboy (with Ghost), Nexus (with Vortex, cancellednote )
- More than a crossover, there's an entire arc called Hunting the Heroes, in which heroes and villains from CGW has to fight the Predators.
- The Mask: World Tour is a miniseries about Big Head in the universe of CGW and fighting against all the heroes and villains of this universe.
- Ghost appears in one number of Adventures of the Mask, the comic book inspired by The Mask animated series. Also in one cover of her regular series, she appears with three kids in Halloween, disguised as Big Head, Hellboy and Madman.
- DC Comics: Batgirl II/Cassandra Cain (with Ghost)
- Others: The Shadow (with Ghost)
- Dark Horse Comics: Godzilla (with Hero Zero), Hellboy (with Ghost), Nexus (with Vortex, cancellednote )
- Cyberpunk: Various of the themes of the imprint screams Cyberpunk everywhere:
- Steel Harbor city looks like being transplanted from Mad Max movies.
- Some heroes like The Machine and Mecha are humans that can transform into robots or have mechanical parts mixed with flesh, like in Cyberpunk stories.
- Early-Bird Cameo: X first appears in Dark Horse Presents presenting the character. Part of these appearances are later used for his first solo issue, which is also the start of CGW. These issues were later compiled in X: One Shot to the Head Compilation Rerelease.
- Face–Heel Turn: Will to Power is the direct continuation of CGW and the main plot is about Titan and his way to converts from a superhero into the Big Bad of that series.
- Flying Brick: Titan.
- Guns Akimbo: Various superheroes that aren't super use (a lot of) weapons to make justice in their own way.
- Heel–Face Turn: After being the Big Bad of the Golden City arc, Warmaker was reformed by Grace and now he's part of Agents of Change group in Will to Power and in Catalyst: Agents of Change regular series.
- In Name Only: The Movie of Barb Wire has few-to-nothing in common with the story of this badass heroine nor the universe of CGW, with Pamela Anderson as Barb Wire, being a movie that's only Best Known for the Fanservice.
- Ironic Name: The city of Arcadia, not just not being a peaceful countryside as the trope, also isn't idealistic in any sense.
- Meaningful Name: Apart of the characters, heroes or villains, every arc of CGW is called as the city they appear. The only exception is the final arc Out of the Vortex, which isn't called as the town it appears, Cinnabar Flats.
- My Hero, Zero: Here there's a superhero that literally is called "Hero Zero". In this comic a young boy named David MacRae comes across a space crystal which latches on to his chest. The crystal allowed David to turn into a hero from space known as Hero Zero. As the website ComicVine describes him, he's a cross between Iron Man and Ultraman, since his power suit is similar to the former but he can grow his size and fight against giant monsters as the latter. Even he had a crossover issue in he fought against Godzilla noneless.
- The Protagonist: Every major arc/city of CGW has its own protagonist:
- Arcadia: X.
- Golden City: Grace.
- Steel Harbor: Barb Wire.
- The Vortex/Cinnabar Flats: Hero Zero.
- Will to Power: Titan.
- Retool: Joe Casey's Catalyst Comix took some of the more forgotten CGW characters and took them in a radically different direction, averting both Reed Richards Is Useless and Status Quo Is God.
- Series Mascot: X and Grace are considered as this for the imprint, being both major characters on the series.
- Shared Universe: Every city on the series has its own cast of unique heroes and villains, but every city has a connection between themselves and even various characters from different cities know each other.
- Shining City: Golden City is not just the only city that isn't a Wretched Hive, also is an idealistic and futuristic city, which also is guarded by a group of superheroes to keep it perfect.
- Smug Super: Various of the villains of the series are this... and also Titan.
- Superman Substitute: Titan, a cocky and prideful Superman-esque superhero part of Agents of Change that eventually made a Face–Heel Turn in Will to Power.
- Supernatural Martial Arts: King Tiger.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: X and Ghost despise each other, yet they are frequently forced to work together due to their common enemies. They vocally express their mutual loathing throughout their teamups.
- Vengeful Ghost: Ghost, a dead woman who came back as a ghost and looks about who was the one who killed her.
- Villain Protagonist: Law, the villainous metahuman introduced in Division 13 becomes this in the titular Agents of Law series where he takes control of Golden City and rules it with an iron fist.
- Wretched Hive:
- Arcadia is seems as this, a city full of corruption and violence with their heroes being mostly Vigilantes.
- Steel Harbor is a lawless place close to post-apocalyptic dystopian future stories.
- Cinnabar Flats was a normal town until "The Vortex" appears, changing the town for worse.