10 Surprisingly Good Licensed Comic Books

From Aliens and Predators to the Power Rangers, Buffy and beyond!

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Dark Horse Comics

It is common practice for a company to produce media campaigns to go along with a new TV show, video game or movie but this has not always been the case.

For a long time, comics were the preserve of toy companies and Saturday morning cartoons. Movies or TV shows based upon existing comic characters were the exception, but as a rule, when the latest Aliens film or instalment of Friday the 13th premiered, a comic would not be a concern.

All of this changed when publishers worked out there was money to be made from crossovers. Superman taking on the Xenomorph may not have mass-market appeal, but there was an entire generation who would devour the book.

Problems come when the licence expires or transfers to another publisher - deciding what canon is and what should remain in creative limbo, a prime example being the Devil's Due G.I. Joe book from the early 2000s.

Issues also arise from events in the comic not effecting the parent media. Sara Connor will not die in the pages of a Terminator comic book, for instance.

So when comics have no real stakes, no continuity and no shared creative vision, they become little more than glorified fan fiction. Like every rule, however, there are exceptions; those comics that fit surprisingly well into whatever overarching narrative the property has or are executed in such an artistically refreshing way that readers forget their media tie-ins.

10. Hellraiser

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Boom! Studios

Clive Barker is one of the most influential names in horror. Whether it's as a painter, writer or filmmaker, his creations have launched a thousand nightmares - none more so than the Ceneboites, a group of extra-dimensional sadomasochists who cannot differentiate between pleasure and pain.

Although Marvel held the rights to the character fans had dubbed "Pinhead", those comics only contained short stories by Barker. The man himself had been reticent to go back to these characters for fear of having himself defined by just one of his creations. So outside of the novella The Hellbound Heart, the first Hellraiser Movie and the novel The Scarlet Gospels, the Cenobites' stories had all been told by others.

Then in 2011, Boom Studios would get the rights to the Hellraiser franchise, and even more excitingly, Clive Barker himself would write the book alongside Christopher Monfette.

What followed was the story fans had wanted for years - a dark continuation of the original novella fleshing out the world of the Ceneboites and the fate of its characters in ways that were both original and in keeping with the other Hellraiser media Barker produced.


Kevin McHugh is a code-monkey by day and a purveyor of the unpleasant by night. Having had several comics published by Future Quake Press he is now moving into prose. An avid fan of punk rock, cheap horror movies and even cheaper fast-food Kevin can be found pontificating either on Twitter or over at WhatCulture Comics where he is a regular contributor. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two daughters.