Jumpstart Your Collection: Ultraverse Premiere #0

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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.

Happy New Year from the Ultraverse Network!

Happy New Year from all of us Ultra-Fans! To celebrate, we’re presenting the cover to Ultraverse Year Two! Enjoy!

Okay, sharing this cover is a bit of a cheat.  The Ultraverse Network is technically starting it’s second calendar  year, but we’ve really only been around a few months.

Regardless, have a very Happy and Ultra New Year!

Ultraverse Year 2

Break-Thru Crossover w/ Comic Book Time Machine

Sludge3On Ben’s other comic book podcast, he tackles the topic of Sludge, covering the first three issues of Steve Gerber’s Sludge, exploring the themes, stories, differences between Sludge and Man-Thing, and, of course, the way that Sludge fits into the Ultraverse’s first big crossover event, Break-Thru!

You can listen here: http://comicbooktimemachine.com/sludgeUV

 

Jumpstart Your Collection: Gold Holographic Covers

Ultraverse Gold Holographic CoversThe Ultraverse is a dead universe. For now, hopefully. That means no new comics have been produced since 1996, but that also means there is a finite amount of books to collect. And the good news is that most of these books can be found on the cheap.

My contribution to the Ultraverse Network will be from the collector’s angle … I have spent years trying to track down all these books and a big part of that was figuring out which books actually existed. So we’ll start from the top with the gold holographic covers.

Ultra-collectibility rating: 10/10

To me, these are the books to have. The silver holographic books are the ones most people remember, since they were distributed for the first issues of seven launch titles: Prime, Mantra, Hardcase, Strangers, Prototype, Exiles and Freex. Malibu printed 5,000 of each of these to be given out as retailer and fan incentives. These were quite the hot ticket back in the mid-1990s!

But I never even knew the golds existed until a few years ago when I started spotting them online. You don’t see them very often, but they are out there. According to a post from the Ultraverse Facebook group, Malibu publisher Scott Mitchell Rosenberg was asked at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con for the story behind the gold covers. He said there were 200 printed of each of the seven titles, also to be given out as incentives. Nobody really knows how many were actually distributed. I’m guessing a bunch of them were tossed out when Malibu was closed down after the Marvel purchase but I don’t know that for sure.

Some are easier to find than others. My entirely unscientific observation from years of following eBay auctions is that the easiest to spot are Mantra, Protoype and Exiles. Freex is a little tougher. Prime is tougher still. And Hardcase and Strangers are really rare. In a typical year I see anywhere from 10-20 auctions with these. Last year somebody sold 10 gold Mantras in a single batch(the auction said it was some type of warehouse find). Five years ago a set of all seven sold for $150; this year individual golds have been selling for up to $40. It’s not impossible to put together a set, but it will take a lot of time and effort unless you just get lucky (like the dude who got all seven at once).

By the way, these books are beautiful! Holograms were not that unusual back then, but the effect works stunningly well when it takes up the entire cover.

One note about the Ultraforce holographic cover. It’s also gold, but was printed seperately. There is no silver version of this book, and there are 5,500 golds. It’s easy to find; I bought 20 from Mile High for $32 total in 2007. So lets just not include that book when we are talking about the others.

“Atom Bob Brought You Down! Remember The Name!”

The Strangers #10The Strangers # 10
“The Door To Doom!”
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by Rick Hoberg and Tim Eldred
Edited by Roland Mann

This issue starts off with a really fun cover as The Strangers are engaged in undersea combat with some sort of demon that’s partially emerged from a rift of some kind. At first glance, it’s kind of confusing as to where they are and what’s going on but I find myself spending a lot of time looking at it and it’s got some definite energy so I give it a thumb’s up.

Story-wise, the team has finally found the coordinates that Yrial gave them and they end up traveling through a rift into another dimension — one inhabited by a demon king named Bastinado. Bastinado has a peculiar way of talking that’s amusing but it also sort of undercuts the threat we’re supposed to be feeling. Here’s some examples: “Bastinado! Bastinado me! you t’ink Bastinado foolish — Bastinado no speak your words good!” Honestly, Bastinado, you speak English as well as some folks that I know around here. You’re fine, really.

After an epic battle, Atom Bob steps up to the plate and kicks Bastinado’s ass, pretty much single-handedly. The team then departs, having learned some powerful secrets about Yrial’s people that they believe will help convince the chief to let her go… or else they’ll spill the beans about what they know.

If it sounds like I’m giving the plot short thrift, it’s because I am.

I want to talk about something very specific here — in the previous issues we’ve seen Bob struggling with his role on the team. Is he a leader? He’s clashed a bit with Elena because while people naturally gravitate to Bob, she’s the one with the actual experience running groups. In this issue, she saves his life at one point, leading to a bruised ego on his part.

And that leads to something else we’ve seen from Bob — a desperate need to prove himself, not just as a hero but as a man. He’s tried and failed to impress Choice, Electrocute and Elena. While the implication is that Elena and Bob may have gotten physical between last issue and this one, he still feels like he’s a failure in her eyes. He wants to show everyone that he’s strong, capable and potent. In the battle with Bastinado, we see Bob’s power really come to the fore and he looks almost demonic in battle, with his eyes glowing red and with him shouting his name, demanding that everyone take note of him.

I generally try to stay away from spoilers for later in the series, instead pretending that we’re all reading these books for the first time as I review them. But all of these story points really come to fruition down the line and it’s worth noting that Englehart has planted these seeds early on. It’s a remarkable bit of plotting and character building.

Art-wise, things are very strong here. I liked the demons and any time Hoberg gets to draw Elena in a swimsuit is fine by me. There’s a nice shot of several team members in their costume that’s almost pin-up worthy, as well.

At the back of the book is a tribute to Jack Kirby, with remembrances from various people in the Ultraverse family. Well worth checking out.

Another great issue – the book has definitely hit its stride!

 

Keep Norm Breyfogle & James Hudnall in your thoughts

It’s been a tough holiday season for some of our favorite Ultraverse creators. Both Norm Breyfogle (co-creator and artist on Prime) and James Hudnall (co-creator and writer of Hardcase and The Solution) are having serious health issues right now.

Over on Norm Breyfogle’s Facebook page the following was posted:

Norm Breyfogle“This is Barb I’m norm’s ex from California. Norm won’t be answering any txt’s from you friends out there. Norm just had a stroke and is in the hospital. Please keep him in your thoughts and your prayers. At this point norm is expecting a full recovery but time will tell.”

Over on the Ultraverse Facebook group, Michael Novotny posted this message about James Hudnall:

James HudnallA few weeks back, James was on his way to begin a new job in Texas when he developed a diabetic tumor on his leg — some really serious stuff, which ultimately resulted in his having his foot amputated. As if that is not bad enough, James is a long way from his home near San Diego, no friends or family around, they apparently would not hold the job for him, and lately, he has developed a serious staff infection and will require additional surgery — and it’s Christmas.

Michael also made a very thoughtful suggestion that all Ultraverse fans send James Hudnall a Christmas card! For details and an address, visit his post on the Ultraverse Facebook Group.

The Ultraverse Network wishes both Norm and James a speedy recovery! Please keep both these great guys in your thoughts during this holiday season. You may reach each of these creators via Facebook — Norm Breyfogle on Facebook; James Hudnall on Facebook.

Arr! Here Be Pirates!

The Strangers #9 cover by Rick HobergThe Strangers # 9
“Taken By This Guy!”

Written by Steve Englehart
Layouts by Rick Hoberg
Pencils by Steve Skroce
Inks by Tim Eldred
Edited by Roland Mann

Let me start by saying that this is one of my all-time favorite issues of The Strangers. There’s some seriously whacked-out stuff that goes on in here but it’s delightfully strange and I love it.

Our heroes are in hot pursuit of answers when we begin our story, intent on following up on the coordinates given to them by Yrial before she was taken away by her people last issue. As such, they’re boarding a yacht in the Caribbean and we get some incredibly awesome character work from Englehart here — we get to see more of Hugh and Candy’s romance, which while extremely physical does seem to include some genuine emotional connections, as well. Hugh seems to recognize that he’s lucky in this relationship and doesn’t want to screw it up. Meanwhile, romance is brewing in other quarters, as well — Bob has taken an interest in Candy’s physical attributes while Elena is admiring him, in turn. There’s some fun stuff where Elena is thinking how strange it is that age 31, she’s the “old woman” of the group. She decides to try flirting with 19-year old Bob to prove that there’s some life left in her!

Meanwhile, Leon continues to prove that he’s really the heart of the group as he worries about Yrial. Leon is usually the one who shows the most genuine concern about the other members — especially Yrial, with whom he bonded early on. It’s a sweet side to his character and I’m glad that Englehart didn’t go the “angry black youth” route with the character.

Once they decide to take a break on an island they’re passing, we get to see my favorite parts of the issue — Cap’n Scar and his gang of Ultra pirates: Scar himself is able to absorb powers via a scar on his chest; Gecko is a lizard man; Sandblast is basically Marvel’s Sandman; Yardarm is able to stretch his arms; and Sangre seems stronger and faster than a normal woman. The villains talk in pirate-speak and attack passing ships, looting them for all they’re worth… and they’re thrilled to see The Strangers. Why? Because they were also on the cable-car in issue one! When they got their powers, they decided to become pirates.

That’s right!

They decided to become pirates.

I adore that. I do wonder — did they talk like pirates before they got their powers? Did they always have a fondness for nautical stuff? Or did one of them pitch it to the others as a gimmick? I’d really like to know! It just doesn’t seem like something a normal group of people would do. Rob banks? Sure. Get revenge on bullies from school? I could see that. Start hanging out in the Caribbean talking like pirates and dressing like one? Huh.

Anyway, The Strangers defeat the bad guys and leave them for the Coast Guard to pick up. They then resume their trek towards the coordinates that Yrial gave them. In terms of progressing the “epic” from last issue, this one didn’t do much but it gave us some great character moments and the villains were a blast so I give it an enthusiastic thumb’s up!

The art here is by Skroce, following Hoberg’s layouts, and the stuff is gorgeous. Everyone looks great and the action scenes are never confusing. I love the designs on the pirate villains, too.

Great stuff!

Next issue: The Door to Doom!

Lady Killer Joins Your DC Heroes RPG Campaign?

Lady KillerIf you’re a fan of classic roleplaying games, you probably remember DC Heroes, a much beloved game published by Mayfair back in the 1980s. A number of people still play this system and over at writeups.org, you can find a number of heroes that have been statted up and are ready for play.

Lo and behold, one of them is Lady Killer from The Strangers! Sébastien Alexandre Andrivet did the honors and I’m sure he’d appreciate hearing some feedback if you use her in your campaigns.

Here’s a handy page listing all their Ultraverse writeups — you’ll have to keep clicking through the pages to see them all.

Enjoy!