I’m a comic book creator, some of you may know. I’ve been involved in a number of “launches”, from the launch of a single title, to the launch of a whole line of graphic novels, to the launch of a whole new company. Some of those things thrived, some failed. This may be why the Ultraverse interests me so much. It was a BIG launch. To me, it was like the anti-Image (even if Malibu was publishing Image at the beginning). Malibu was putting out a line of books where “writers were the best gimmick”, instead of tons of alternate covers (although they did that as well). Image was style, the Ultraverse was substance. My opinion, anyway.
This little booklet, Unleashing the Ultraverse: Special Previews Guide, with a headline “Talented writers sharing a vision: The image of the future” was an interesting read.
It starts with an introduction from Chris Ulm, the editor of the line. It’s essentially a letter to retailers and readers. In it he says some interesting things, like, “the Ultraverse line of comics was created around a simple idea: put the story first.” “The Ultraverse is a universe that was created from the ground up to make sense.” He also says, “Expect a Prime video game” (which happened) “a Hardcase short film” (which did not happen, but a Firearm short film was produced) “and a line of Ultraverse trading cards” (again, which happened). He ends the introduction with, “Ultimately, however, the success of the Ultraverse in in YOUR hands. Evaluate the material presented here and go with your instincts. We did!”
There’s then an interview with Tom Mason and Chris Ulm. In it, he explains how they gathered together people like Mike W. Barr, Steve Engelhart, Steve Gerber, James Hudnall, Gerard Jones, Larry Niven, and Len Strazewski to create a new universe. He also reveals that the Wild Cards books, which was edited and written in part by George R.R. Martin (whose Hedge Knight books gave my career a JUMP START) helped model what a “shared universe” should be like. It’s four pages long and gets into a lot of the nitty gritty about how they planned to use the universe for their stories, the creative process of the “think tank” of writers, and the experience of the people involved.
A brief overfiew of Hardcase, Prime, and The Strangers follows. Each had two pages of art as well.
Then, a writer profile of the writers of those first three titles follows. I found this very interesting. For instance, Gerard Jones gives his take on the creation of the existing comic universes from Marvel and DC: “I think [the Ultraverse] is the most well-planned. The marvel Universe grew outward from its beginnings in a more organic fashion. The DC Universe, on the other hand, grew in a more inorganic fashion — that is, by uniting its various characters in environments after the fact. Of course, some new comic book ‘universes’ are well-planned — Valiant, for instance, is a good example — but I think that this group of writers and editors has done the best job of blocking out the rules, characters, and other disparate elements beforehand.”
James Hudnall has an interesting view of the universes as well: “The trouble with Marvel and DC is that their continuity is so messed up. Even Marvel, who used to pride themselves on a sensible continuity . . . has gotten so ridiculous with nine X-men books and such. There’s no way their continuity can make sense. We’ve figured out our history, and we’ve left room for things to be invented.” He wraps up saying, “All the creators are really into the Ultraverse; there’s none of the jaded, ‘let’s get this out’ attitude. If I wasn’t involved in this project, I’d be jealous.”
Heh. I AM jealous.