What is the one thing I love most about superhero comics of the 1990s? It’s easy – the Ultraverse! Launched in 1993 by Malibu Comics during the late stage of what is now called the Comic Book Speculator Boom in Amerca, the Ultraverse was a line of superhero comic books featuring all-new characters and concepts which were the result of intense brainstorming by the founders of the Ultraverse.
Back in mid-1993 here in the Philippines, I first got to discover the Ultraverse through print ads in comic books and take note that the Internet was not yet publicly accessible. By June that year, I visited a comic book store in BF Homes, Paranaque and was astonished to see the store’s wall with multiple Ultraverse comic books on display. With my limited funds at that time, I only managed to buy Freex #1 and Mantra #1. By the end of the evening, I greatly enjoyed what I read and became an Ultraverse fan ever since.
As the months passed by, I enjoyed reading more Ultraverse comic books. What was also fun to read were the special double-sized UV comic books, the Ultraverse Double Feature comic books (flip comic books) and then there was the Ultraverse Premiere #0 comic book which had a cover of Mantra drawn by the great Jim Lee! This is the one comic book I am taking a look back at.
So what Ultraverse Premiere #0 and what made it special other than having a cover drawn by Jim Lee? Released in late 1993, the comic book is a showcase of separate stories featuring Prime, The Strangers, Rune, Hardcase, Mantra and Freex. It is also a showcase of the respective talents of a big mix of writers and artists that include Len Strazewski, Tom Mason, Gerard Jones, Steve Englehart, Barry Windsor-Smith, Rick Hoberg, James Hudnall, Mike W. Barr, Norm Breyfogle and others.
Given its release date, the stories served as preludes leading to the stories told in the launch comic books. For example, the Hardcase story shows Tom Hawke/Hardcase with his team called The Squad performing what turned out to be their last mission leading directly to the events that started Hardcase #1.
The story of Mantra in the comic book however was presented more like a side-story. Lukasz is already shown as Mantra with her mystical powers and revealing outfit in place. The short story adds a nice perspective on the personality of Mantra as well as her burden of having to take care of a daughter.
The Rune segment meanwhile was a look at the making of the character involving Barry Windsor-Smith and his art. In the text written by Chris Ulm, what caught my attention was the following segment.
After writing up the concept in the Ultraverse bible, I shortly added Rune to “Fusion”, the story of a conspiracy to develop the ultimate biological weapon by a covert group called Aladdin.
Of course, there is also the fine story of Prime by Len Strazewski and Gerard Jones with great looking art by the late Norm Breyfogle. Remember in the early pages of Prime #1 when the overly muscular superhero claimed he saw the school coach touch the young girls? That got emphasized in the Prime short story in this comic book.
And then there is the one very memorable whole page art of Prime by Breyfogle.
The stories and art, in my view, were done with a lot of passion by the creators. They make Ultraverse Premiere #0 a worthy comic book to collect even though Marvel (which acquired Malibu Comics in the mid-1990s) screwed the Ultraverse and left the characters and concepts in limbo with no clear sign of any revival coming.
Last but not least, there is this great art of the Ultraverse characters done by Art Nichols at the rear of the comic book.
Art Nichols’ work on the back cover is fantastic and timeless in my view. It’s great multi-character art that truly captures the spirit of the Ultraverse!
If you are going out to buy old comic books, I strongly recommend Ultraverse Premiere #0.
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