The Strangers # 2: “Hey! Hugh! Get Off’a McCloud!”

strangersissue2The Strangers # 2
“Jumpstart!”
Written by Steve Englehart, Illustrated by Rick Hoberg, Tim Eldred & Larry Welch
Lettered by Tim Eldred, Colored by Keith Conroy
Edited by Chris Ulm

Yes, this is the issue where we start off with one of the most groan-inducing bits of alleged humor that the Ultraverse ever saw. Even in 1993, a joke involving the old television show McCloud was pushing it in terms of being relate-able for the audience.

Moving on from there, we see our new group of heroes continuing their pursuit of answers. After a quick origin recap, we begin to see the early stresses about who will be the leader of the team — Elena is the natural person to do it, given her personality and her experience but Bob is someone that people relate to and he’s a little less in-your-face when it comes to ordering people around. We also get some neat scenes as both Candy and Dave experiment with their powers and learn a bit more about their limitations.

All of this leads to The Strangers discovering the homeland of Yrial — a floating island, hidden behind a magical cloud. If this sounds like something out of an old pulp novel, that’s because it is. Our heroes are captured but Dave’s continuing path of power discovery leads to their freedom — but not before Bob learns that not only can he transform items, he can also transform languages! Yes, it was a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, it turns out that Yrial’s people are a mysterious bunch who worship something called the Starfoam and who may have knowledge of the entity that granted our heroes their powers. The tribe’s leader orders Yrial to accompany The Strangers back down below, both learning from them and teaching them of their ways.

The issue ends with Bob officially christening our team as The Strangers.

Hmm. I love this series but I felt that this particular story was a major misstep. It was simply too early to abandon the down-to-earth feel of the first issue and go gallivanting around on a floating island. When we return to the more “mundane” world of superhero action in issue 3, this story feels all the more unusual. Plus, Yrial was by far the least interesting member of the team to me… and while the rest of the group was tied together by their origin, Yrial’s early inclusion seemed to weaken the bonds that held them together.

Art-wise, it’s solid as Rick Hoberg continues to do some lovely work on the facial expressions. Still no costumes (aside from on the cover) but they’re coming, for good or bad!

Speaking of the cover, I don’t really care for this one — for a posed image, it looks pretty busy.

Things will pick up in issue three as TNTNT is introduced!

Night Man: The Origin of a Superhero (Sort of…)

As part of a shared universe, The Night Man could crossover with other characters and other books very easily. Three issues in, The Night Man crossed over with Freex. And not long after that, there was a crossover with Solution, Solitaire, and Prototype. The shared universe of the Ultraverse was an intentional and careful part of the creation.

But the interesting thing about The Night Man is that he was crossing over before he was The Night Man, to the point where his origin story didn’t actually occur in his own book. Instead, in the three months before The Night Man comic appeared, his origin played out in three issues of The Strangers.

Here is the origin of The Night Man as it appears in The Strangers…

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What I realized while considering this was that this actually works as a simple two page comic! Accident, consequences, eyes opening.

The other thing I realized: if you didn’t read this in The Strangers, it doesn’t get a clear presentation in the first issue of The Night Man. It is presented in an almost abstract way, as if it is not important because it was already shown.

More about this in the first episode of The Night Man Podcast…

~ Ben

Prototype from Ultraverse Origins

One of my own personal favorite Ultraverse titles was Prototype! I’ve always been a sucker for Iron Man-like characters, and this one had some really interesting aspects. For example, this comic was not only about Jimmy Ruiz, the new Prototype, but it also followed the challenges of Bob Campbell, the middle-aged former Prototype.

Check out this awesome page from Ultraverse Origins #1 written by Tom Mason & Len Strazewski, drawn by Dan Jurgens & Terry Austin! To provide some perspective, this comic was released the same month Prototype #6 was on the shelves. Click the image to enlarge!

Prototype Ultraverse Origins by Dan Jurgens and Terry Austin

Such a cool character with so much potential. A real shame he’s not around today.

A Fine Looking Group of Strangers

As much as I like Rick Hoberg’s art, my favorite single image of The Strangers was actually drawn by a superstar artist not usually associated with The Ultraverse. Bryan Hitch delivered this awe-inspiring image and I have to say that I sometimes wonder if the group’s popularity wouldn’t have been a bit better if the series had featured a slicker art-style than what we usually got from Hoberg. Rick Hoberg was solid and did a fine job but it was also a little old-fashioned, at least to my eyes.

Anyway, let’s all agree that this particular image really pops, shall we?

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Ultraverse Podcast: Prime of Your Life, Episode 01

Ultraverse Podcast: Prime of Your LifeThe Ultraverse Network proudly presents the inaugural episode of … ULTRAVERSE PODCAST: PRIME OF YOUR LIFE!

In this episode, co-hosts the Irredeemable Shag and David provide a brief publishing history of Malibu’s Ultraverse, and review these #1 issues: Prime, Hardcase, The Strangers, Freex, Exiles, and Mantra!

Thanks for listening! Next week, the first episode of The Night Man Podcast!

Countdown to Ultraverse (Network)

Prior to release of the first Ultraverse comics, Malibu distributed a free giveaway featuring previews of upcoming titles. This giveaway, referred to as “Countdown to Ultraverse,” featured profiles on the first several series. With our Ultraverse Network officially launching tomorrow, this seems the ideal time to refresh everyone’s memory of those early days!

We won’t make a habit of sharing an entire comic, however, this particular issue was free and for promotions. Click the images below to enlarge.

Countdown to Ultraverse

The inside front cover featured a key to identifying all the characters on the cover…

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Page one featured an editorial by Chris Ulm…

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On with the entries! Hardcase, Prime and The Strangers all received two-page spreads…

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The remaining titles all received a single page…

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Interestingly enough, there were three slightly different versions of, “Countdown to Ultraverse.” In addition to the cover above there was another version with the same artwork, except Hardcase is yelling, “Catch”. In the third variant, Hardcase is still yelling “Catch”, but there are serial numbers appearing in the top right corner. Since this particular version promoted the first trading card series, I’ve included the advertisement appearing within this giveaway!

Ultraverse Preview Skybox Trading Cards

Such great promotional material! An excellent way to generate hype for the Ultraverse!

Be sure to check back here tomorrow for the launch of our network, and the release of our first podcast!

Network Promo — UN000

Ultraverse NetworkIt’s coming! The Ultraverse Network, celebrating the unusual and unlikely and underappreciated Ultraverse!

Our team will be bringing you podcasts and posts that will explore and examine the characters, creators, and storylines of this comic book universe that captured our minds and imaginations!

Here is our first promo!

The Strangers – “Jumpstart!”

strangers_issue1The Strangers # 1
“Jumpstart!”
Written by Steve Englehart, Illustrated by Rick Hoberg & Tim Eldred
Lettered by Tim Eldred, Colored by Paul Mounts
Edited by Chris Ulm

And so it begins! The Ultraverse really gets going in this story as 59 random people onboard the Powell Street Cable Car in San Francisco are struck by an odd lightning bolt from the sky. While the passengers appear to be unharmed, a driver is struck in the head by a piece of shrapnel, leading to him becoming — wait. That’s another Ultraverse title entirely! Let’s stick with the folks who will become The Strangers, okay?

We’re quickly introduced to the majority of the cast, as many of them are watching as jerk millionaire J.D. Hunt is fondling a compliant young woman named Candy. His actions disturb many of the passengers and several of them toss Hunt off the cable car just before the lighting bolt hits home, preventing him from becoming one of the recipients of power.

What’s that, you say? Recipients of what-now? Well, it seems that the people struck by the bolt are changed… Candy seems quite different in personality right away and bolts off from J.D. Hunt, much to his dismay. Bob Hardin and Hugh Fox, students at the San Francisco Art Institute, quickly learn that they they are able to transform matter and explode shrapnel from their body, respectively. Elena LA Brava, fashion designer, is able to hit anything that she aims for, Dave Castiglione is able to utilize various powers by changing through the colors of the spectrum. Sixth grader Leon Balford finds that he has superspeed, which helps him in avoiding some of the local toughs in his neighborhood.

When a mysterious woman (Yrial) appears at the site of the cable car accident, many of those affected are drawn back to the scene, hoping to find answers. After battling Yrial, who speaks some unfamiliar language, the group elects to follow after the fleeing woman and discover the full truth about what’s happened to them. As one of them says, “This morning we had nothing in common — we were all strangers!”, prompting this response from Bob, “And now… now we’re all stranger than ever!”

This 28-pager is packed with information and takes a lot longer to read than most modern comics. Englehart really delivers with witty dialogue that helps differentiate the large cast. Rick Hoberg’s pencils are a far cry from those of my favorite comic book artists (George Perez, Alan Davis, etc.) but he delivers with some great panels showcasing facial expressions and poses.

This issue introduces a number of important concepts — the Jumpstart event itself, J.D. Hunt and the Night Man. While we don’t get any of the heroes in their costumes or with their code-names yet, it’s easy to see where it’s all going to come from since Elena is busily sketching away costume designs in the story.

Re-reading this book, I was struck by how enlightened Englehart was in terms of subtly introducing topics such as misogyny and homosexuality. Elena is beautifully depicted by Hoberg throughout and I found myself quite drawn to the character, more so than I was when I first read this story back in (gulp) 1993.

Candy’s lingerie gets quite a few interesting reactions in the story and while I appreciate the lovely form that Hoberg graced her with, I’m looking forward to seeing her a bit more covered up in future issues.

In the next issue blurb: “You’ve been here at the beginning of The Strangers and the secrets of the Ultraverse! Strangers # 2 keeps it rolling next month in: HEY, HUGH, GET OFF’A MY CLOUD!” As we’ll see at the start of the next issue, that title is actually not quite correct… leading to one of the more groan-inducing moments in the series.

Can’t wait, can you? We’ll be back soon with a look at issue two.

Wrath of Aladdin Targets: Solitaire

The Wrath of Aladdin Podcast accesses Aladdin’s classified files on all ‘Ultra’s’.

We will showcase Ultra characters of note, examine why they where so great, and look at what made them fun. Our first target: Solitaire, written by Gerard Jones – Penciled by Jeff Johnson – Inked by Barbara Kaalberg.

Target: Solitaire

The Night Man Approach

I’d done the definitive Batman, and I’d co-created Shadowman, but when Malibu asked me to co-create the Ultraverse and help populate it, I decided to go for the ultimate expression of the dark loner theme – the man who comes around at night – The Night Man. He existed in a “San Francisco of the mind” – SF the way it would be if the cool things from all its past, like Playland-at-the-Beach, still existed today. It’s the SF that held the Maltese Falcon, and the one with the Transamerica Pyramid.” ~Steve Englehart

night man v1_1-01One of the coolest and most unique aspects of The Night Man, particularly when you look back from the reboot era we are in now, is that The Night Man was contently evolving as a character. I suppose that has more to do with Malibu’s Ultraverse being new and then never really getting the chance to be old before it was purchased by Marvel and then consumed by the 90s crash of the comic industry but regardless of the reason: it made the character unique.

The Night Man was just a regular guy who’d “put his time in at the gym/dojo” like everyone else was doing at the time. Then after he being caught in an automobile accident he could hear people’s thoughts and was struck with a nasty case of unshakable insomnia. This prompted him to don a costume and a secret identity as he pursued those with more evil thoughts – particularly since he couldn’t go to the cops and ask someone to be arrested for there thoughts.

This meant that Johny Domino became a seamstress as he created and continually adapted his costume. He became an electrician and computer engineer as he established new forms of communication and computer link ups that were new at the time. He became a contractor and mechanic as he built a hiding place in his home and in his car for the costume. Johny “Night Man” Domino was always learning new methods to track men and hunt them down as well as he took to the streets night after night as The Night Man.Capture

When he was faced with battling magic and magical beings such as werewolves The Night Man evolved once again into another kind of being all together – one harnessing the essence of black magic that required quite a few sacrifices in order to harness the power he sought out in order to continue being The Night Man. One such sacrifice was the need to consume nutrients from food but rather from human organs. This same quest led to The Night Man traveling to another dimension (The Marvel Universe) and two distinct Johny Domino’s existing at the same time – one in each universe.

Assuming that the Ultraverse hadn’t been jammed into a desk drawer never to be pulled out again and had always continued running or had been revived what where would the characters be at? What would they be doing? What would The Night Man be doing?