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 Freex #1

I want to say that I am a fan of Marvel’s X-Men. Given the long publication history as well as how many creators – most notably Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio – defined and redefined them through the ages, the X-Men for me is the best superhero team comic franchise from Marvel.

Back in 1993, Malibu Comics launched a new line of superhero comic books called the Ultraverse and there I was inside a comic book store along Presidents Avenue, BF Homes, Paranaque one time struggling to decide which of the many Ultraverse launch titles displayed to buy with my very limited budget. As I was very fond of the superhero team dynamics of the X-Men, I bought Freex #1.

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Cover of Freex #1.

Written by Gerard Jones with art by Ben Herrera (inked by Mike Christian), Freex #1 introduces Ray/Boomboy (a guy who lived hidden from the public due to his abnormal body), Valerie/Pressure (a very bitter lady who could produce steam or plasma out of sweat), Lewis/Anything (a guy who could reshape his body), Angela/Sweetface (who has several fleshy tentacles from her body) and Michael/Plug (a digital escapee).

The comic book emphasizes the five individuals’ respective struggles with not only their abilities but also with being social outcasts. This eerily parallels Marvel’s X-Men in more ways than one. The big difference is that the Freex do not have a mature adult to guide them nor do they have a large estate to hide and live in. Clearly the Freex are in a desperate situation to survive and realize their destiny.

In terms of storytelling, the pacing is fine and for the most part character development or spotlight was noticeably invested on three of the five Freex which is understandable since the comic book had only twenty-five pages of story and art. In terms of spectacle, there presentation is nice and the action scenes nicely reflect what the characters could do.

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Valerie Sharp’s flashback.

Going back to character development, I find Boomboy’s back story to be the most interesting. Due to his rock-like appearance, his family had no choice but to hide him in the basement for an unspecified number of years. Unsurprisingly he became very lonely and he dealt with loneliness by reading a book about a certain literature classic.

Due to his high consumption related to his abnormal condition, Boomboy’s family realized that feeding him was too costly and they found a place where he could be transferred to and receive special care. Thinking that he would end up like a slave at the new place, Boomboy naturally rebels and forcefully leaves the house causing damage.

For the first time, Boomboy explores the suburban exterior while causing people nearby to panic as he looks like some monster to them. The uncertainty for him ended when Lewis meets and welcomes him.

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It truly is very hard to be social outcasts.

Very notably, Boomboy claims that “Huck” (actually Anything) saved him and went on to really believe in him.

Being an X-Men fan, I noticed that Freex has some similar themes with Marvel’s superhero team in the sense that there is a group of individuals with special abilities (or abnormalities as some would call them) who are noticeably rejected by members of the local society they live in. Valerie said it correctly: So we are here, right? Living in some locked-up squat, stealing to eat with the cops all over us!

Valerie’s words captured the desperate situation of Freex. They don’t have a mature leader to look up to. They cannot go back to where they came from. They cannot reunite immediately with the people who care for them. They are already rejected by the local authorities.

Overall, I find Freex #1 as engaging as it was when I first read it way back in 1993. It has aged nicely with its fine mix of drama and spectacle composed with a more mature audience in mind. If you are a comic book collector looking for 1990s concepts or if you want something similar to the X-Men or even DC Comics’ Teen Titans, then I recommend this comic book.

It’s too bad that Marvel bought out Malibu Comics and shut them down. As of this writing, Freex and the rest of the Ultraverse characters and concepts are all in limbo and remain unused by Marvel for decades now.

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Freex with a stronger superhero look they adapted later in their short-lived comic book series.

Still I can imagine the unlikely scenario that Marvel Studios (under the orders of their parent company the Walt Disney Company) would revive someday the Ultraverse properties in a limited way without cannibalizing their very own superhero properties already in use in movies. I think Freex would make an interesting animated series or as a video game or as action figures. Truly there is still good entertainment potential with Freex similar to the other Ultraverse franchises.


Thank you for reading. If you found this article to be 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.

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