A Look Back At The Strangers #1

When it comes to the Ultraverse, there is often something enjoyable to read. I enjoy reading about superhero teams, specifically X-Men from Marvel Comics and Justice League from DC Comics to name a few. I also enjoyed Freex and UltraForce from the Ultraverse. What I like about superhero teams is that I get to discover varied characters (the good, the evil and the ones in between), witness how they develop and act when something big or problematic happens.

With The Strangers #1, published by Malibu Comics in 1993 as one of the launch books of the Ultraverse, I experienced another bout of enjoyment and engagement but in a rather unique way.

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Cover of The Strangers #1 with art by Rick Hoberg.

Written by Steven Englehart with illustration done by Rick Hoberg (whose work was inked by Tom Burgard), the story begins with a shot of life going on in San Francisco. Several characters riding a jammed cable car get distracted when a man and a pretty lady (both seated) do the “wild thang”.

Because of the disturbance, three guys grab the arrogant guy (separating him from the lady) threw him out of the cable car. Immediately after that, the cable car suddenly gets hit by a bolt of energy (perceived as lightning) from the clear sky causing the vehicle to start slipping downwards until it hits a car and its passenger.

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Bob and Hugh start to notice something strange.

Then a series of things begin to happen. Candy (the lady earlier) acted strangely as the arrogant guy called her attention. Art students Bob and Hugh witnessed the sudden formation of a bag of apples. The kid Leon discovers his new ability to run fast and make sudden turns. Dave witnesses a momentary transformation of himself. Fashion designer Elena gets inspired to create something heroic.

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Leon’s ultra speed realized while Candy walks pretty.

You must be wondering – how is the quality of this old comic book?

In terms of storytelling and characterization, this is pretty good work done by Steve Englehart. The way I see it, this is a story about strangers (truly living up to the title) who got changed as a result of a single incident that affected them. Each of the members of The Strangers were nicely and efficiently introduced. A creative approach was used to present their respective abilities which made sense as the events unfolded. By the end of the comic book, I really felt very engaged and excited to anticipate the next issue.

When it comes to dialogue, I like this exchange between Bob and Hugh.

“You know what I think?”

“No, what do you think?”

“I think it must have something to do with the lightning that hit us!”

“Nonsense! Lightning does not work like that!”

“You got a better idea?”

As for the visuals, Rick Hoberg’s art (inked by Burgard) combined with the color design by Paul Mounts is still very wonderful to look at. The facial expressions are convincing, the action has impact, the visualization of the super powers is pretty creative and there are lots of small details on the backgrounds (people, city environment, etc.) that are worth examining.

Overall, The Strangers #1 is a fun and engaging old comic book to read. Never mind the financial value it carries right now. Focus more on its story and art, as well as the other details that reflect the talents of its creators. More importantly, the experiences of discovering something fresh and getting to know brand new characters really defined this comic book.

The Strangers #1 is highly recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

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A Look Back At Ultraverse Premiere #0

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.

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The front cover drawn by Jim Lee!

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.

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Tom Hawke/Hardcase with his lovely teammate during his time with The Squad.

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.

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This opening of the Freex short story starts very strongly.

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.

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I love this art of Prime by the late Norm 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.

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The best back cover of any superhero comic book of the 1990s!

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.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

A Look Back at Solitaire #1 of the Ultraverse

When you fight evil, you do it alone.

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Solitaire in action in Solitaire #1 published in 1993 by Malibu Comics under their Ultraverse line of comic books.

The concept of vigilante figures taking the fight against crime alone backed with resources (in the form of weapons) is a long running tradition in superhero comic books. DC Comics has its iconic Batman doing lots of detective work and fighting criminals many times on his own. Similar stories were seen with the Punisher and Daredevil over at Marvel.

When Malibu Comics launched the Ultraverse line of superhero comics in 1993, they added variety into the big mix. They had their own parallel to Marvel’s Punisher and DC’s Batman in the form of Solitaire and they boldly launched a comic book series of the character.

Released in late 1993 with story by Gerard Jones and art by Jeff Johnson and Barb Kaalberg, Solitaire #1 introduced readers to Nicholas Lone who wears a purple-and-blue costume with mask and fights criminals as Solitaire. He’s not just a brave, tough guy who daringly goes against thugs. He’s is very talented with martial arts, acrobatics and weapon use.

The comic book begins when thugs working for a crime lord called the King are about to catch a helpless lady who gets saved by Solitaire. The hero easily outmaneuvers the bad guys and he proved to them that he really is hard to hurt.

At his headquarters, the King made it clear to readers that Solitaire has been a problem to him for some time already and feels bad when the hero disrupts his operation. Solitaire meanwhile prepares himself for the next move against the King by returning to his hideout (an old theater), doing some research by computer and coordinating with his contacts on the streets.

Regarding the quality of the comic book, I say the script is nicely paced as it does a good job introducing Solitaire to readers while still having spare spotlight for the King. Within twenty-five pages, the hero got clearly defined as a man of action as well as a person with a purpose. His fight against crime is defined by key parts of his past especially with the fact that his own father – Antone Lone – is a crime lord.

When it comes to super powers, Solitaire has very quick reflexes which makes him a hard target for armed thugs. He also has healing factor which works rapidly and gives him a major advantage over the bad guys. In fact, the presence of the healing factor (which works like that of Wolverine) makes Solitaire more daring and more willing to take risks engaging the bad guys with violence. He can get stabbed and his body can be shot with several bullets and still he will recover quickly to get the job done.

Solitaire is indeed super and yet there is something intriguing with his personality. Apart from being the son of a crime lord, Nicholas Lone’s acquisition of his powers is a painful mark on him personally. This was because his father gave him those powers as a result of his attempt to commit suicide. The powers are the result of the installation of nano-machines into his body.

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Overall, Solitaire #1 is a good and intriguing read. It really comes with a flavor that makes it distinct from other superhero-versus-criminals stories and the introduction of Solitaire alone is worth the cover the price. If you can find copies of Solitaire #1 on the back issue shelves of the comic book stores, I recommend buying it as well as the other issues.

It’s too bad that the Ultraverse ended after Marvel Comics acquired Malibu Comics back in the 1990s because like Prime, Hardcase and Prototype, Solitaire is very unique and intriguing at the same time. In my opinion, Solitaire is the most defining crime fighter of the entire Ultraverse and it’s too bad stories featuring him are not too many.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to your fellow comic book geeks and Ultraverse fans. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format for you to order.

Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version

 

 

A Look Back at Macross: Do You Remember Love?

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Do I remember love? Absolutely and love comes in many different forms which I experienced in life. There is love from God and His Son Jesus as referred to in 1 John 4: 9-10 in the Holy Bible (New King James Version or NKJV).

There is also love of the family. Love with friends. Love of doing things or enjoying personal interests. Love on spreading the Good News to others.

And among those personal interests is anime and the main reason I love anime is because of my love for the Super Dimension Fortress Macross TV series of the early 1980s. Called Macross for short, that anime TV series engaged me a lot not only as a geek but also as a person. I also learned about the challenges that come with dealing with war, dealing with an enemy because they’re only different and survival.

So yes, I do remember love!

More on Macross, I am here to share to you all my revisit of what is my all-time favorite anime movie ever – Macross: Do You Remember Love? 

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Macross: Do You Remember Love? (full title – Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?) was released in Japan on July 1984 where it was greeted by very long lines of fans. The movie was made with the fans in mind and many of the same creators and talents behind the famous Macross TV series (1982-1983) returned to bring back to life all the characters, all the robots and mechs, all music and many other elements that made the series lovable in the first place.

Running less than two hours, Macross: DYRL is a big budget retelling of the first twenty-seven episodes of the TV series albeit with some new concepts and adjustments made to add depth to the movie. As it is impossible to condense everything from the said 27 episodes into a single movie, the film took key story elements from the series and came up with a plot that not only featured fresh ideas but also honored the series in creative ways. The good news about this approach is that it worked nicely.

The story begins in space where the Macross SDF-1 was already moving with tens of thousands of people living in a city inside its metallic structure. During a big attack by the Zentradi (giant alien humanoids), some Zentradi soldiers infiltrated the city inside SDF-1 and among people affected is the star singer Lynn Minmay. Coming from nowhere, pilot Hikaru Ichijyo used his Valkyrie to rescue Minmay from a Zentradi soldier as well as from certain death of the free fall that followed. Because he saved Minmay’s life, Hikaru was spared from military punishment for disobeying Lieutenant Misa Hayase during battle.

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Because a relationship between Hikaru and Minmay developed, the two dated and even managed to sneak out of the space fortress with a training aircraft to explore the ring of planet Saturn. The two got caught by Lieutenant Hayase (accompanied by Minmay’s relative and manager Lynn Kaifun) but before they could return to the Macross, they got attacked by Zentradi forces nearby. The plot deepens further as soon as they got captured.

As it involved Shoji Kawamori (whom I met during the 2017 AsiaPOP Comicon Manila), Haruhiko Mikimoto, Narumi Kakinouchi, Kentaro Haneda, Sukehiro Tomita, Arihirio Hase, Mika Doi ad Mari Iijima, Macross: DYRL carries so many elements from the TV series that strongly resonated with fans.

Mari Iijima is fantastic in her dramatic portrayal of Minmay and she also proved excellent in her singing of classic Macross songs Sunset Beach, Zero-G Love and Shao Bai Lon. The standout song of all, however, is Do You Remember Love composed by Kazuhiko Kato and Iijima’s performance of it was also excellent.

When it comes to spectacle, Macross: DYRL is a stunner even by today’s standards. The visuals are great to look at. The triple-transformation of fighter planes into robots (Valkyrie, Gerwalk and Battroid) are always delightful to watch. The action is plentiful and at the same time very fast-paced for the eyes to enjoy. Heck, even the character redesigns of the Zentradi alone made this movie have an edgy and somewhat dark feel.

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The beauty of it all is the fact that the all the animation is hand-drawn the old-fashioned way! No computer-generated polygons shaded with cels here. Every frame of animation was labored by the animators and the colors used remain lively to look at.

With regards to storytelling, the movie has a solid narrative even though it lacked some background explanations. Of course, there were questions raised like why are the Zentradi and Meltrandi gender-isolated and each have an army? (note: in the TV series the Zentradi is composed of males and females). Why is the origin of the Macross SDF-1 in the movie different from what was portrayed in the anime series? Why is the Supervision Army non-existent?

The good thing about the narrative is the shorter yet engaging portrayal of the Hikaru-Minmay-Misa love triangle. As this is a movie, the triangle’s conflict is minimal and free of the excess baggage of what was portrayed in the TV series. Without spoiling too much, I can say that the development of relationships between Hikaru with Minmay and with Misa is believable. There is no way any viewer can complain that Hikaru is boyish (his trait in the TV series) when deciding whom to love.

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As it was made for the fans, newcomers will unsurprisingly have some trouble understanding Macross: DYRL, its concepts and characters. They can enjoy the visuals and spectacle if those are what they are looking for. Still Macross: Do You Remember Love? can serve as an inspiration for newcomers to start digging the past of Macross by watching the 1980s anime TV series (especially the first 27 episodes).

Conclusion

There is no doubt that Macross: Do You Remember Love? remains a truly great anime movie to watch and it is truly a classic in every sense of the word. Being a big budget retelling of the first 27 episodes of the Macross TV series, this movie serves as the fans’ bridge to the past and yet it also moves the entire franchise forward in terms of artistry, expression and quality. There is so much to love in this movie – the characters, the robots, the transformations, the action, the sci-fi concepts and more.

With its undeniable greatness, Macross: Do You Remember Love? is ultimately why I remember my love for anime.

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Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to your fellow Macross and anime fans. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format.

Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version