Top Five Ultraverse Comic Book Movie Properties

Longbox Graveyard #112

Editor’s Note: This week’s guest blog is a special treat — a look at the buried treasure that is the Ultraverse from two men who were there at the start! Along with a host of high-powered comics creators, Chris Ulm and Tom Mason played critical roles in the foundation of the Ultraverse, which might just be the greatest comic book universe you’ve never heard of! In an age where Marvel is bringing Ant Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy to the movie screen, the time may be right for the Ultraverse’s return!

Take it away, Chris & Tom!

Hey, Disney executives and producers with a Disney deal in your hand or a desk on the lot — have we got some ideas for you! As you know, your Marvel Comics properties are all locked up and tied together to create a Marvel Movie Universe that mirrors the founding comic books.


But, if you look on the fringes of Marvel’s super-hero properties, you’ll find a few gems in the Ultraverse, a universe of comic books that Marvel purchased from Malibu Comics back in 1994. There are several titles that could be pulled out to start their own tentpoles separate from the Marvel Universe.

Here (in no particular order) are our top five!


Mantra, Adam Hughes

Creator: Mike W. Barr, debut issue pencils by Terry Dodson

High Concept: Ancient Warrior Knight Reincarnated In The Body Of A Soccer Mom!

There’s nothing you guys love more than a body-switching movie. It’s been a reliable box-office performer ever since Freaky Friday. Sometimes, you have such a switch-crush that you’ll make two of them in the same year. In Mantra, an eternal warrior named Lukasz is killed but reincarnated into the body of a woman, Eden Blake. Now, you’ve got a manly-man warrior with the attitudes of a guy from centuries before stuck in the body of a single mom with two kids and an ex-husband. However you pitch it, it’s Highlander meets Switch and that’s either comedy gold or high drama.



Creator: James Robinson, debut issue pencils by Cully Hamner

High Concept: Film Noire Detective Hunts Super-Heroes

Too many super-heroes? That’s what the so-called pop culture critics say. Somehow four super-hero movies in one year is too much for them and they need more idiotic rom-coms or weepy historical dramas instead. If you’re one of “those” people, then Firearm is your antidote: he hunts super-heroes. He’s no angry vigilante, though. He used to be in a British secret agency called The Lodge, but he “retired” and moved to California to set up shop as a private eye. But his cases are far from normal and usually involve crossing paths with both good and bad super-heroes, including the super-hero serial killer called Rafferty.


Prime, Boris Vallejo

Creator: Gerard Jones and Len Strazewski, debut issue pencils by Norm Breyfogle

High Concept: Boy Living In A Man’s Body

The big man of the Ultraverse, he’s Superman and Captain Marvel all in one. A boy named Kevin Green transforms himself into a super-hero by “building” a super-strong hero shell around himself. The shell is built from organic liquid skin that ejects from his body. And when he transforms back, the body withers and spits him out. But that’s not the best part — he’s super strong and has basically all the powers of Superman, but he’s controlled by Kevin, a 14-year-old boy, with a boy’s experiences and emotions. So the world’s most powerful super-hero is an inexperienced, hormonally-charged teenager. The teenager never goes away — he’s always trying to masquerade as an adult. Once again, that’s either comedy gold or high drama.


Rune, Barry Windsor-Smith

Creator: Chris Ulm and Barry Windsor-Smith, debut issue pencils by Barry Windsor-Smith

High Concept: Twisted Twilight

Rune was a walk on the dark side. Rune, an ancient energy vampire, had many guises through the history of mankind: alien, sorcerer, beast, god, devil. Now he is dying of cancer and only the blood and energy of super-humans can stave off imminent death. Rune has it all: secret societies, government conspiracies, teenage romance and a story that spans the history of humanity.

The Strangers

The Strangers, Rick Hoberg

Creator: Steve Englehart, debut issue pencils by Rick Hoberg

High Concept: Passengers Assemble!

Random passengers on a cable car get struck by energy and find themselves changed beyond recognition, with strange powers. Who becomes a hero? Who tries to hide? Who uses their newfound powers for evil? These are the questions that drive the strangest collection of super-heroes ever assembled. While suited to film, this property seems tailor-made for episodic television in the tradition of Lost or Under The Dome, with seemingly random characters thrown together, and then tested in the crucible of paranormal circumstances!

Malibu Comics Co-Founders

Malibu Comics Co-Founders Tom Mason, Chris Ulm, Dave Olbrich, and Scott Rosenberg at their 2012 Comic-Con Reunion

Drawing from classic super-hero comics, hard science fiction, horror and epic fantasy, the Ultraverse was known for its epic premises and imaginative takes on classic tropes. Many of the best concepts could not have been realized as movies because the state of the art for CG was not up to the task in 1993, and the audience was not sufficiently literate in all things comics. Now, that’s all changed — comic books drive box office world wide and it’s about time the strange and wonderful corridors of the Ultraverse were explored on the silver screen!

Are you listening Disney?

About The Authors:

Chris Ulm was a co-founder of Malibu Comics and the Editor-In-Chief of the Ultraverse, which was based on his original development. He co-created the Ultraverse title Rune with artist Barry Windsor-Smith. Chris Ulm is now CEO and co-founder of Appy Entertainment, a leading mobile games development studio.

Tom Mason was a co-founder of Malibu Comics and the company’s Creative Director. He co-created the Ultraverse title Prototype with writer Len Strazewski. Mason is currently an Emmy-winning writer-producer in the big, wide world of television.

Thanks, Tom and Chris, for making your case why the Ultraverse is ready for its close-up! What do you think of their list? Did they forget your favorite Ultraverse character? Should Marvel go with their own C-list characters rather than develop these Ultraverse properties? Does the loyal devotion of Facebook’s Ultraverse group indicate the Ultraverse still has the capacity for mass appeal? Sound off in comments, below!

IN TWO WEEKS: #113 Ben Urich: Role Model in a Sea of Heroes



About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published every now and then at!

Posted on September 25, 2013, in Lists! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I think these are great ideas. They are just the tip of the iceberg though. The Ultraverse was so loaded with excellent characters and stories (and a few not so great) that you could
    argue for most of them to have their moment in the spotlight. Bottom line is I would pay to see any Ultraverse movie.


  2. Hi Aron – thanks for the comment. We tried to pick properties that could stand alone outside the Marvel Universe and be their own tentpole. Also, we tried to avoid characters that had analogs already within Marvel. For example, I love Prototype (especially since I co-created it with Len Strazewski), but onscreen it’ll look like Iron Man Lite (or Iron Man, Jr.). Prototype could still be done conceptually, but you have to change the visual, and that’s a hard leap for a producer to make just looking at the comics.


    • I think Sludge fits into the same category as Prototype when it comes to movies — though not nearly so well known as Iron Man at this point, there just isn’t enough to distinguish Sludge from Swamp Thing or Marvel’s own Man-Thing.

      But I have a soft spot for Sludge, and not just because Steve Gerber consented for me to write an (ultimately unpublished) Sludge script. Over time, Alec Holland/Swamp Thing has become a multi-dimensional character, but out of the box I think Sludge had him beat. Making our protagonist a sewer monster instead of a swamp monster creates a much more varied environment for superhero/crime tales, and having the soul of our character be a corrupt cop gave him an internal as well as an external struggle. The poor creature is consigned to the dust bin of history, but he could have been a contender!


  3. I occasionally picked up comic books at the supermarket back in the 90s, read them, then threw them into a trash bag I kept in the garage. 10 years later, I was moiving into a new home with a new wife, and she asked if she should “throw that bag of comic books away? I started looking through them and found that many were Ultraverse titles, and I began re-reading them. Then I started buying back issues, Mantra at first, because I wondered what happened to the character. And then I went on to other titles, and somewhere along the way, became a collector — I now have probably about 99% of everything ever published under the Ultraverse Banner. And the comments here are spot on, but so much more could be said. This was a whole new universe, built from the ground up, by some of the most gifted artists and writers around at the time. Mantra will always be my personal favorite — there was so much more that could have been done, like exploring the world that apparently existed inside of his/her cape, and the polar opposite character of Necro-Mantra. But there were other characters and titles that deserve consideration — The Night Man, for example, who ultimately exists in two universes AND who has a very complicated relationship with a woman who appears to be his mother. I just wouldn’t want any new vist to the Ultraverse be done cheesy, or strictly for laughs. There was some interesting dynamics to many of these characters that are ripe for development as either films, TV shows, or what so many of us would love to see — bringing back the Ultraverse comics in some fashion.


  4. Remember when the Ultraverse and Marvel intersected? I loved the Exiles, what with Juggernaut and Sienna Blaze on the team. It was like WCW and WWF merging together.


    • Marvel kind of inherited the Ultraverse — the complexity of the deal that brought Marvel and Malibu together is beyond the scope of this post — but what is clear is that Marvel basically had no idea what to do with these Ultraverse characters. Shut it all down? Leave it alone? Promote it? Mash it together with a bunch of Marvel’s B-characters? It was all made up on the fly.

      Chris Ulm, co-author of this piece, owns what is likely a singular piece of Marvel/Malibu swag — a rather high-end leather jacket with Prime and Spider-Man embroidered on the back. It’s bizarre, and that’s exactly why Chris splashed out the cash to own it. Even as the deal and the companies were coming together, an inescapable sense of unreality hovered over everything.


      • As short-lived as the universe may have been, it’s pretty badass that they got an Ultraforce cartoon out of it. I was well into high school when it came out so I was out of the Saturday Morning Cartoons phase of my life (I’m back now!), but I knew of its existence.


        • Ultraverse checked a lot of the boxes — there was a TV show, an animated series, toy lines, video games, a couple low-budget short movies (Firearm and Hardcase, as I recall), and even a couple genuine big Hollywood pitch sessions for properties like Rune. The candle burned brightly, just not very long.


  5. Michael Novotny wrote: “I just wouldn’t want any new vist to the Ultraverse be done cheesy, or strictly for laughs.”

    And that’s where you and I must differ. I’m not at all concerned about that. It’s like fretting about Ben Affleck as Batman or how the next Avengers movie will top the first. That kind of stuff is so far out of my control that my voice doesn’t exist. If they did The Strangers as a TV show, they’d probably strip out the traditional costumes, mix up the ages of the characters and make them more TV-beautiful and alter the super-powers so they could be budget-friendly enough for a weekly series. None of that would bother me.

    Same with Mantra. A lot of what played so well on the page wouldn’t work on either the big or small screen – and I could see a version where some of the gender-switching stuff was mined for comedy (either big laughs, or the dramedy kind) and that she never appeared in her costume until the big final battle. If it was a good movie, I wouldn’t care. And if they made a Prime movie and a Mantra movie and never connected them or referred to them as “Ultraverse,” that wouldn’t bother me either because – hey! – somebody made a Prime movie and a Mantra movie.

    Maybe Englehart or Barr would feel differently since they created those projects, but I would feel the same if changes were made to Prototype. At the Ultraverse Founders Conference in Scottsdale, I had the original pitch for Prototype – it was a two-sentence sketch of a “idea” and was called “Company Man.” It was Len who started tossing out ideas and suggestions and we kept building on each other’s stuff and the end result is that it became much better (and included contributions from editor-in-chief Chris Ulm and artist Dave Ammerman). So I would want anyone who made that into a movie to build on the original and infuse it with their own thinking – yeah, it could suck, but it could also be awesome.

    I love Elmore Leonard’s books and they’ve made good movies and bad movies out of them, but the books and my love for them remains untarnished.

    One of my best friends was convinced that based on the casting of Michael Keaton, the Tim Burton Batman movie would ruin it for all future super-hero movies. I’ve never let him live that down. I didn’t think Men In Black would do as well as it did and I was right there in the room and met some of the people involved and knew the creator. And I know people who thought making a Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show spin-off of the failed movie was the worst idea ever. As I’ve gotten older, I’m happy just to see what happens when something finally rolls out.


    • And as I’ve gotten older, I’m happy just to wake up in the morning!

      What a couple of wicked old men we’ve become.

      It always seemed to me the best a creator could hope from their work being optioned for Hollywood was good money up front, lunch on the set, and a quickie with a starlet in the wardrobe trailer. But then I’ve always been easy to please. Regardless, any individual’s ability to control the film interpretation of their work is remote at best, so just enjoy the ride, you know?

      (Says the wicked old man).


  6. Ultraverse was just what the Doctor ordered in its early days. I would love see a return of these characters as they were..not timely updates that strips away the original look and feel of the characters.

    Marvel did it with its New Universe by bring back the characters from that universe but they were not what they were in the original books. I was disappointed! So if Ultraverse comes back I hope its in its original incarnation!


    • I dunno … the look/feel of the Ultraverse was pretty firmly rooted in its day, not sure it has aged all that well, despite the strength of the concepts we’ve noted here. It is that combination of conceptual strength and relative obscurity that makes these properties to suited for film. They have deep and considered comic book DNA but at the same time are completely fresh and original for movie audiences.

      Alas, I do not think it will happen …


  7. Hey Disney, there’s this awesome two-issue arc of Prime called “Bad Chemistry” that would make you a fortune as a box office blockbuster!


  8. I would love to see Ultraverse properties developed into films. Left out of this list was Night Man. But aren’t there legal problems with the Ultraverse stemming from the agreement that Marvel made with it’s creators?


    • My discussion with Malibu “insiders” tells me a couple things … first, that it isn’t really about the money, and second that the whole thing remains mysterious after all these years. But we are seeing a thaw. Topaz was in the last Thor picture, and there was a Rune HeroClix figure recently. In the fullness of time I expect we will see Marvel reach out and use those characters … but with the FF and the X-Men still to come, Marvel won’t be hurting for new characters any time soon. Check back in ten years!


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