Altered Reality: The Ultraverse Before and After Black September

Welcome Ultra-fans to the Super-Blog Team-Up! Today the Ultraverse Network is part of a crossover banding together several different blogs under the banner of Parallel Worlds and Alternate Realities! Each blog in this crossover will focus on alternate versions of their favorite characters and niches.

Super-Blog Team Up

Here at the ULTRAVERSE NETWORK, we’ll explore how the Black September crossover altered the continuity of the Ultraverse.

When Malibu Comics was purchased by Marvel, the entire Ultraverse line was cancelled and restarted. Only a few of the more popular series were rebooted and relaunched, with some being radically altered. The history and continuity of the Ultraverse was retroactively changed in numerous ways, and a number of characters simply ceased to exist (or in the new continuity, ceased to have ever existed). The story covering this reality-altering event was labeled “Countdown to Black September”, which ran through Ultraforce vol I #8-10, Ultraforce/Avengers Prelude, Avengers/Ultraforce, & Ultraforce/Avengers. Each of the rebooted and relaunched Ultraverse books started with a special “∞”-numbered issue identified as part of Black September.

Ultraverse Black September Infinity

Confession time, I’m not an expert on the post-Black September Ultraverse. I was a big Ultraverse reader when Malibu launched the line, but after the Marvel buy-out I drifted away. For this post, most of what I’m sharing has come from research or information shared by other Ultra-fans. In the coming weeks and months I will update this post if we uncover any further continuity changes. Additionally, I strongly encourage you readers to contribute any missed continuity changes in the comments.

In this post we won’t be recapping the Black September event itself (read it or Google it if you are curious). Instead we’ll be focusing on the retroactive continuity changes (retcons) that resulted from Black September; not to be confused with story-driven character changes. For example, while the changes to Mantra after Black September were dramatic, they were progressions of the story, not retcons. In the post-Black September continuity, Lukasz still inhabited the body of Eden Blake, and then the Mantra power was transferred to Lauren Sherwood. Therefore no retcon occurred. Night Man was another character who experienced dramatic changes from progression of his story as opposed to retcons.

Ultraverse Black September - New World Order

Below is a list of continuity changes (retcons) found in the post-Black September Ultraverse:

  • Prototype – One of the biggest retcons was the elimination of Jimmy Ruiz from the history of Prototype. When Malibu first launched the Ultraverse, Jimmy Ruiz was a teenager working for UltraTech piloting the new Prototype armor. Ruiz replaced the former pilot of the Prototype armor, Bob Campbell. Campbell was forcibly retired after losing his arm on the job. While Ruiz struggled in his role as Prototype, he proved himself on many occasions and was a valued member of the Ultraforce. In the post-Black September continuity, Ruiz was written out of continuity and Bob Campbell was retconned as the only Prototype to have ever existed. Campbell was a member of the Ultraforce and had never suffered the loss of his arm. As far as we know, Campbell was retconned to replace Ruiz in all of his adventures.
  • Hardcase – Hardcase (alter ego Tom Hawke) was one of the premier Ultraverse heroes when Malibu launched the line. In the post-Black September continuity, Tom Hawke existed but never became Hardcase. Since he never became Hardcase, it seems likely that his team called “The Squad” also never existed.
    Here is where it gets a little confusing. A little more than a year after the Black September reboot, Hardcase made an appearance (even though he’d been retconned out of existence). Hardcase returned wearing his original uniform and informed the Ultraforce that he knew about the alterations to the history of the universe. When Black September occurred, he was apparently shunted into a limbo dimension. According to Mark Bourne, a former editor of the Ultraverse titles, Hardcase’s appearance occurred because the creative team wanted to return the stories to the original Ultraverse continuity. Marvel Comics filed for bankruptcy before that story could unfold and the Ultraverse line was canceled. The final Ultraverse story, Future Shock, addressed some of these altered reality plot threads.
  • Choice – Choice was a supporting character in the Hardcase title. Her origin was deeply-rooted in the history of “The Squad”. She never appeared in the post-Black September Ultraverse, and we can assume she was written out of continuity due to her ties to “The Squad”.
  • Contrary – Contrary was a mysterious character, tied into the origin of the Freex (or most likely tied into), and founder of the Ultraforce. She organized the Ultraforce team and provided their technology. She was also known for manipulating people to further her own agenda. In the post-Black September continuity, she was written out of continuity and ceased to have ever existed. Personally, I think Marvel got rid of her because they thought she was robbing Emma Frost’s M.O. and wardrobe.
  • Rune – Rune’s origin was altered slightly in the post-Black September continuity. In the original Ultraverse, Rune began as a barbarian on an alien world who ate the flesh of a dragon to gain it’s strength. In the post-Black September continuity, Rune began in Africa and consuming the dragon was removed from his history.
  • Solitaire – Solitaire escaped Black September relatively unscathed. The only real post-Black September alteration is the mystery of what inspired Solitaire to begin his quest in becoming a hero. In the original Ultraverse continuity, he was inspired after he witnessed a battle between Hardcase and Headknocker which most likely didn’t happen in the post-Black September continuity.
  • Ultraverse history – Another minor retcon in the post-Black September continuity was that Marvel’s Infinity Gems were woven into the origins of the Ultraverse itself. In the post-Black September continuity, the entity on the Moon who triggered the Jumpstart effects was apparently awoken by the disruption of the space/time continuum caused by the Infinity Gems.

Some folks question the status of other characters from the original Ultraverse who didn’t appear in the post-Black September continuity. Such as:

  • Freex – It’s not specified if these characters existed in the post-Black September continuity. Since Contrary was erased from existence (it was strongly hinted Contrary was involved with the creation of the Freex), it’s possible the Freex were as well.  Freex member Cayman did appear in the post-Black September continuity in Ultraforce and the All-New Exiles, but he never made any mention of the Freex.
  • The Strangers – I’m a little blurry on this one. While The Strangers did not appear as a team in the post-Black September continuity, member Zip-Zap is reported to have appeared in a later Prime issue. Unfortunately, I’m not able to verify that appearance. Does anyone else know of it?

While the post-Black September Ultraverse was a very different place for our favorite heroes, all other changes were story-driven rather than retcons. Again, I’ll happily update this post if any further continuity changes are identified. My thanks to the following Ultra-fans for their assistance with research on this post: Mark Bourne, Derek Crabbe, Ryan Carpenter, Neil Robertson, Bruce Reville and Sean Koury! Thanks guys, stay Ultra!

Super-Blog Team-Up Links

As mentioned, several different blogs have teamed-up today to cover Parallel Worlds and Alternate Realities! While we’re featuring the Ultraverse here, you should visit these other comic blogs to see how they spotlight their own favorite characters and niches today. Visit them now, visit them later, and visit them often!

Our thanks to the Super-Blog Team-Up for inviting us to participate in this fantastic crossover!

The Night Man Podcast, Ep. 4: “Who Is the Night Man?”

Night Man Podcast LogoThis episode: “Who Is the Night Man?”

In this third episode, the question “Who is the Night Man?” gets asked and almost answered, and Night Man faces a new foe. It’s the first appearance of the NAME Rhiannon…but not the first appearance of the character!

Thank you so much for listening!

Ben’s other podcasts:

Jumpstart Your Collection: Pins

uvpins

Remember these? Of course you don’t, unless you are one of the few people who bought them when they were first offered. There are three different pins featuring Ultraverse characters Mantra, Rune and Prime and they actually look quite nice. I think the term is “cloisonne” which is a French word that means “small metal art for under 10 bucks.”

Ultra-collectability rating: 7

I give these a 7 because although they are a great off-the-beaten path collectible, you just don’t see them very often and there doesn’t seem to be much of a demand. I bought all three of mine for under $5 shipped. I’ve picked up an extra Rune pin for a buck off eBay. See? Cheap. But at the same time, they’re kind of hard to search for. Looking for “Rune pins” turns up all kinds of weird stuff. “Prime pins” and you get Transformers, etc. “Mantra pins” gets you some guitar stuff. Very rarely are these things on eBay; currently there are none.

You will have to be patient to track these down, especially the Mantra pin (the only time I have ever seen one of those is the time I got all three at once). That’s not to say that there isn’t some dude somewhere with a giant box of these in a storage locker, but that is true of a lot of Ultraverse collectibles. It’s hard to tell what is really out there because right now there isn’t much of a market for this stuff.

But someday …

BREAKING NEWS! Spider-Prime Cameo in Spider-Verse #2!

I’m stunned. When we started the Ultraverse Network, I never suspected we’d be posting Ultraverse-related content from a brand new comic! The anthology series Spider-Verse #2 hit the stands yesterday from Marvel Comics, written by Dan Slott, Kathryn Immonen, Jed McKay, and others; with art by Mark Brooks, David Lafuente, Sheldon Vella, and others; and a cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli.

You may find this hard to believe, but the long-lost fan-favorite character Spider-Prime has a cameo appearance in this book!! Check out the page below (click to enlarge)!

Spider-Verse #2 - Spider-Prime Cameo

Did you see him? No? I didn’t the first time either. How about if we zoom in and circle it for you…

Spider-Verse #2 - Spider-Prime Cameo

Yup, that’s Spider-Prime! Admittedly, it’s a really brief cameo. Heck, it’s like one-eighth of a cameo, but they managed to sneak him in!

Now, let’s think about this for a minute. It’s been nearly 18 years since we’ve seen our favorite Ultraverse characters in print. We started this Network just about three months ago, and now we’re suddenly seeing the return of an Ultraverse character?!??! Coincidence? I THINK NOT!! … okay … it’s totally a coincidence, but it’s still fun to claim it was our influence. :)

If you are an Ultraverse completest (and I know there are a bunch of you out there), be sure to pick up Spider-Verse #2, in stores now! You’ll find the cover below.

Spider-Verse #2 cover

My thanks to Steven Boyd of the Facebook Ultraverse Group for the image and the heads-up!

 

The End of the World! Sort of.

The Strangers #11 cover by Rick HobergThe Strangers # 11
“Detour”
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by Rick Hoberg & Tim Eldred
Edited by Roland Mann

As the title suggests, this story veers away slightly from the main arc surrounding Yrial. That’s not a bad thing, however, This issue not only features some amazing artwork from Hoberg & Eldred (particularly in depicting the various locales our heroes find themselves in) but Englehart’s character work truly shines — especially with Zip-Zap.

In this story, The Strangers have escaped from the world of demons they were in last issue, only to find themselves on an odd planet composed of pieces of many different worlds. Zip-Zap not only saves the team from certain death at the beginning of the tale (borrowing a gimmick from The Flash) but he then puts the together the true nature of this world, befriends some locals and even challenges The Entity who gave them their powers to actually do something useful. We really get a good feel for something that I’ve always felt to be the case — Leon is the heart of this team. I’d argue that Candy, ironically, is the “soul” embodying their mutual desire to figure out who they are and what they can be but Leon is the kindest of them all. To him, nobody is truly a Stranger — they’re just somebody he hasn’t gotten to know yet.

Elena also comes out and makes a strong statement about being the leader of the team in this issue — and nobody challenges her on it. In fact, Bob seems to endorse the idea and they two of them sneak away for some alone-time, which doesn’t go unnoticed by others. We get some more Hugh & Candy loving, as well, while Dave obviously feels left out as the group is breaking into little romantic cliques.

While the issue doesn’t progress the Yrial storyline very much, I still really enjoyed it. Englehart is at his best at times like this — multi-issue epics where he can mix-and-match the heroes in different settings and get deep into their emotional connections. While I wouldn’t put this story on the level of something like The Celestial Madonna storyline from Avengers, I can’t help but see echoes of such in this issue and others.

A truly fine example of why this title deserved a much longer lifespan!

Jumpstart Your Collection: Ultraverse Premiere #0

up0

Ultraverse Premiere #0 (remember the zero issues?) is a book that was forged in the fires of early 1990s comics gimmickry. It also went hand-in-hand with the early days of the Ultraverse, and the only way to get this book was to send in five coupons cut (or copied) from Prime #1, Hardcase #1, Strangers #1, Wizard Magazine #23, and Malibu Sun #26; you could also pick up a “wild coupon” from Freex #1 and Mantra #1 if for some reason you couldn’t find one from the other books. Once you had all the coupons you would mail them away and a couple of months later you’d get a comic in the mail. Nice!

This book featured a collection of short stories for all of the early Ultraverse books and also had a cover by superstar artist Jim Lee. It’s a nice-looking book, kind of hard to obtain and plenty of talented artists and writers were attached.

Collectible, right? Not really.

Ultra-collectibility rating: 3/10

Don’t get me wrong, this is a cool book to own and a nice piece of Ultraverse memorabilia. But even though it seems like it should be rare, eBay has been clogged with this issue for years. At any given time there are 10-15 listed, often for a buck or two. The only recent sales since October were for $1.45 and $2.04. Mycomicshop.com has one listed for $1.10. Mile High Comics has a NM copy for $7.70, although you could probably knock a few bucks off that with one of their codeword sales. But why bother? This is a book you can find on the cheap pretty much anywhere you look and for a lot less effort than it took to clip and mail in all those coupons back in 1993.

Ultraverse Podcast: Prime of Your Life, Episode 06 – Freex CD-Romix

Ultraverse Podcast: Prime of Your LifeIt’s the sixth episode of ULTRAVERSE PODCAST: PRIME OF YOUR LIFE!

In this very special episode, we share an audio adaptation of Freex #1 from the CD-Romix! Happy New Year!

Thanks for listening!