I find myself feeling a little bit nostalgic, after buying some old comics on Ebay and seeing adverts for Ultraverse. Remember that?
Once upon a time Marvel acquired Malibu Comics (god knows why, they were doing pretty badly as it was), and with it came a whole host of new and interesting characters within Malibu’s Ultraverse.
The whole premise was, I suppose, a little bit like a cross between traditional superheroes and Marvel’s New Universe. It wasn’t too throwaway either, you had talent like James Robinson, Warren Ellis, George Perez and Mike W Barr working on the books, to name but a few.
Marvel did a whole lot of promotion for some bizarre reason, giving the marketing a big push. They cancelled every Malibu title and had an event called Black September. The titles were then relaunched under a joint Malibu/Marvel imprint. Believe it or not, there was even a short-lived animated TV show based on Ultraforce (which I adored) and a live-action tv show based on Night Man, created by Steve Englehart, that lasted for two years.
Lest we forget, I’m coming to my point. I suppose there’s two points actually. The first one is brief and juicy. I love drama.
Any little story about a feud or something that never came to be, and I am totally there. Alan Davis suddenly leaving ClanDestine? I want to know why! Bust-ups between Louise Simonson and Liefeld? Byrne and Claremont? Claremont and Morrison? Morrison and Miller? Gimme, gimme gimme bitchy comments please!
I hope one day there will be a documentary or book produced about what it take to make X-Men, and what kind of fight Bryan Singer had with the studio. Juicy, juicy. Malibu Comics seems to be more of the same. Apparently Joe Quesada would love to bring the characters back, but he legally can’t, and he can’t say why! Ah, it drives me crazy!
There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to people who used to work for Malibu. It is here and contains such excitable quotes as “So Disney has acquired Marvel. I think it’s a day for all Malibu alumni to pause and reflect. And may Disney treat Marvel as graciously, wisely and magnanimously as Marvel treated us!”. Girlfriend!
My second point. It always interests me to see how comic companies try and incorporate characters into their universe that they’ve bought elsewhere. I believe Captain Marvel is probably the first example of this? I might be wrong, but I can’t think of any others. Dc sued Fawcett because Captain Marvel looked a whole lot like Superman (*cough* they’d have a field day if Rob Liefeld had been born in that era) and then when the company went bust due to all the legal trouble, DC bought up Fawcett and started using Captain Marvel. (And were later sued by Marvel and told they couldn’t use the name Marvel on any titles, hence the title always having been called Shazam!)
I suppose Marvel incorporated their own superheroes into their Silver Age, by bringing Captain America back in a cube of ice. Even DC tried to amend their Golden and Modern ages by ret-conning and weaving things together. It doesn’t always make logical sense, but you just have to look at it as another universe with it’s own set of rules. (I just watched an episode of The Simpsons that retconned Marge and Homer’s single life into the 90′s. Major headache).
DC’s Crisis was an excellent way of bringing Charlton characters into the DC Universe, and in my opinion the most successful incorporation I have ever seen. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Giffen used characters such as Blue Beetle in his run on Justice League.
So what went wrong with Malibu? Maybe Marvel tried too hard? There were crossovers aplenty, with a ton of talent. Ellis and Perez on Ultraforce/Avengers for example. They shook things up a little and moved Black Knight, Juggernaut and Sienna Blaze (don’t ask) into the Ultraverse, and had a crossover featuring Phoenix resurrected into the Ultraverse too. In hindsight, maybe not a good idea.
I think Marvel tried too hard, and they also kept the two universes separate. Bad move. It makes me sad, because it would be so interesting to see a character like Prime (who is essentially a Superman/Captain Marvel hybrid) interacting in the normal Marvel Universe.
When it comes to blending characters, I truly believe subtle is the way to go. A slow build-up and you don’t feel like these characters have just been stuck-on. I don’t think the Milestone characters working into the JLA came across too well for that reason. For people who haven’t been reading comics for 15 years, they feel a bit jolted. Who are these characters, and why are they suddenly Justice League members? Hopefully the Archie superheroes will work a bit better, they’ve been making cameos in other books as a means to bringing about curiosity, and I think that works pretty well too.
It also reminds me of the sheer mess that was DC Vs. Marvel and the ensuing “Amalgam” universe. Some of it was pretty fun, but on the whole, it was a bad move. Sometimes you don’t need a huge explanation, things just need to happen. Then again, that’s what they did for Star Trek/X-Men and look how that turned out.
Sometimes, maybe it’s just a case of oil and water. I really do wish Ultraforce would come back though.