Back In the mid 1980's Jim Shooter could do no wrong at Marvel Comics as EIC. The man was considered a genius who had walked into Marvel in 1978 and quickly changed the fortunes of the company In no time. Shooter's tough management style and directness at his workers had elevated many to learning their craft of creating comics. The Shooter years are considered the 2nd golden era at Marvel Comics and one where the man had saved the company.
When Jim Shooter took the job at Marvel the company had went through a number of Editors In Chief at the company once Stan Lee quit the job. So with Jim Shooter using his talents as a leader he managed to save Marvel. The deal with Star Wars helped of course. But It was mostly under Shooter a lot of the books were given fresh directions and his pushing made better stories.
Of course with such a hard nosed leader like Jim Shooter , at times he could fail. One of his big failures was In fact the New Universe. And that failure likely pushed the exit door on Jim Shooter quicker than anyone would ever imagine.
The idea behind the New Universe was a simple one. There would be a whole other Universe created at Marvel Comics. This with celebrating the original Marvel Universe which turned 25 that year. The plan was to start this new Universe with a group of books. Of course Shooter's idea was more books in that New Universe line. The accountants over the company advised that some older Marvel books needed to be cancelled to make these new books happen.
So to launch these new books in 1986 , a group of older established Marvel titles was to be cancelled. One of them was New Defenders (Defenders for you older fans of the title). The New Defenders was a long running title which 3 years earlier had a radical change of direction and the former un-official team suddenly was becoming an official team by Beast . The book was pushed into cancellation to make way for the New Universe.
This same situation happened with comedic effect for Power Man & Iron Fist. That long running team-up series featuring 2 radical different characters ; Luke Cage and Danny Rand had saved both characters in the 1970's. A weird idea of a team series had made both characters very popular and the 2 would go on to have a long running title into the 1980's. Of course when the New Universe was conceived and approved , Power Man & Iron Fist's book was deemed to be cancelled to make way for that series.
Of course this entire plan seemed to be evident for a good while as Marvel suddenly started to destroy sales on the book to justify cancelling the long running series as Christopher Priest brought up online at his blog. The series was taken off its monthly schedule and became a Bi-Monthly series the final year or two. Where its sales went down to the low 100,000 a month. (Today that type of series would be applauded....then it was considered low selling)
Denny O'Neil was more angry that this book was announced as being cancelled as well in 1985. The 125th issue had O'Neil have Priest kill of Danny Rand to show his anger at Marvel and Jim Shooter's decision to cancel the unique team-up series. Priest didn't want to kill Rand , but he was told either he'd do it or O'Neil would find someone else to do it. So he listened to his boss.
Another book pushed the same way into cancellation was Dazzler. Which also is very unique because Dazzler itself was considered one of the biggest success stories of the early direct market in LCS in the early 1980's. The #1 issue launched with a huge number of sales. But as time went on the series itself dropped in sales and it took was suddenly pushed into a Bi-Monthly schedule. The book was cancelled in early 1986 to make way for the New Universe and the character was weirdly promised a spot in a spin-off X-Men title called X-Factor (But that never happened as we know) .
In all the books cancelled had sales today we would look back and ask "Why" ? Because all 3 books had sales over 100,000 level and were pushed into cancellation mode with them in bi-monthly then out . Then however it made sense , ok it made no sense with Power Man & Iron Fist as It seemed like as Priest claims Marvel wanted to have that book end as we saw but with Dazzler and New Defenders , I get why those books were ended for the New Universe.
Once the titles was launched as we see they quickly started to fizzle out . Quite a number of New Universe books never made it past that 1st year . 4 of the 8 launch titles was cancelled within a year due to low sales. The last few were barely hanging on and slowly cancelled within a 2nd and 3rd year respectively . The New Universe itself slowly was phased out beyond guest appearances in other books the next 20+ years and Warren Ellis decided to radically revamp the concept in the mid 2000's.
Shooter himself had alienated many behind the scenes and the failure of New Universe sped up his exit from the company. Deemed his baby of course , the New Universe failure is deemed as one of his big miss steps and gets some jokes. In all you have to wonder if Shooter hadn't thought up New Universe , would he have survived longer at Marvel ? Would his exit have happened a few years later ? Because his exit was coming as we know , but this seemed to be the hammer to make it happen quicker.
Also ...Imagine the Possibilities had they not forced 3 of these long running titles into cancellation. 2 of them they have tried selling again as concepts since they did this. Defenders has been dusted off 4-5 times since the 1990's and each time has been cancelled due to the problems there. Power Man & Iron Fist as well as a concept has been tried as well a few times and It too has failed since then. It seems giving these long running titles a break for a few years crippled them in the eyes of the fanbase and they never came back to them.
So imagine if the New Universe was never conceived ....how much farther would New Defenders have ran ? Would it have ran into the 1990's ? Could it have been a title that made it to the 200's had no one gotten involved and was revamped along the way as it had when the older team members departed with the change to New Defenders ? How much farther would Dazzler have ran ? Could it have made it to 100 and been a long running female title and one Marvel could trumpet as being a long running female driven book in a market where at the time there wasn't really a long running female character with a book ? And one at that point ?
Then you have Power Man & Iron Fist. A popular team-up series. Imagine if Danny Rand hadn't taken a break for a good few years til his return in Namor by John Byrne. Imagine what would happen if that book kept running. How far would it have ran ? And not had a break taken and cancellation.
Its hard to not look back and imagine where those books could have went if they weren't cancelled for Kickers Inc and Mark Hazzard.