Ultraverse art, 1993
This small collection represents just a brief ride on the weirdest rollercoaster of my comic book career, working on staff at Malibu Comics from December 1992 until spring of ’94. I’ll have more to say about it when the “pro comics” section of ArtValt gets to that time period, but for the sake of this sampler I’ll sum it up thusly:
The summer of ’92 was a wild one for everyone in the comic book biz, thanks to the launch of Image Comics, a consortium of popular Marvel artists who decided to “go rogue” and publish their own superhero books. Malibu provided infrastructure during Image’s first year, and got a nice windfall for their effort. The following year, several companies (including Malibu) decided to get in on the game with the assumption that the market was big enough for everyone. Spoiler warning: it wasn’t. But that’s a tale for another time.
The Malibu editors got together with some fairly well-known writers and developed a lineup of interconnected titles called the Ultraverse. The super-powered individuals who populated this lineup were called “Ultras.” (They wanted to call it “Megaverse,” but someone else already owned that name.)
As Malibu rocketed toward a summer ’93 launch, they needed to expand their in-house production crew. Their first move (a wise one) was to invite their most dependable and productive freelancers to join the company full-time, and I was near the top of the list. They offered to move me and my little family (wife and daughter) from Michigan to Los Angeles where I would become the core member of a brand new art department. Others would join me there, and we would handle lettering, graphic design, and special projects.
Fast forward to summer ’93: as the rocket rises from the pad and hits maximum dynamic pressure, things are shaky all around us. It’s all too much, too fast. Quality is very uneven, and lots of people are in over their heads. There were six of us in the art department by this time, watching the carnival with amusement one day and dread the next. We regularly saw decisions go in exactly the wrong direction. As longtime consumers of comics, we definitely had opinions about this. But nobody was asking. So we just wrestled assignments to the floor and beat the daylights out of our deadlines.
In addition to the regular stuff, crazy projects were constantly popping up. One of these was a set of 100 trading cards to serve as a sort of mini encyclopedia for Ultraverse world. We weren’t even a year in yet, and someone already thought this was warranted. The lead artists on the different comics were tapped to draw the primary and secondary characters. But there were other subjects that didn’t have a specific go-to artist, so they came to me.
One of the better decisions the writing team made in the development phase was to put a lot of effort into world-building. They came up with companies and organizations that could play roles in stories, and even an entire fantasy world that could be explored little by little. They wanted nine of the 100 cards to represent these elements, and they tapped me to draw them. So without even breaking a sweat, I single-handedly drew almost 10% of the collection.
The set was released by Skybox in January 1994 and has since vanished into obscurity along with the Ultraverse itself. Like I said, a tale for another time.
See the entire set here
See a short Youtube doc on Malibu Comics here
See one for the Ultraverse here
The figure on this first draft of card 91 was drawn by another artist who really wasn’t ready for the gig. I redrew the character in the second draft, below.
Notice how the graphic treatment on all of these cards intrudes on the art? For no good reason at all? Stuff like that happened all the time and I was powerless to stop it.
Another illustration from the same time frame, from a comic titled Prototype. I don’t remember if it was used for anything. It might have just been a tryout.
Another weird project: a half hour live-action movie about a detective in the Ultraverse. It was part 1 of a story that continued in a comic that came bundled with the VHS tape. Which seemed like a step down to me. I thought it should have gone the other direction. But whatever. It was the first thing I ever drew storyboards for, so that was kinda cool.
Watch the film on Youtube here
Want to see more of my run-ins with the Ultraverse? Click here to find out what happened when I took a shot at trying out for a comic title. It sort of worked, but not the way I wanted it to.