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The Scoop On 4 Seconds!

4 Seconds has scored a high-profile feature over at Diamond Comic Distributors SCOOP!

Diamond Comic Distributors

Scoop is a free, weekly email newsletter from Gemstone Publishing and Diamond International Galleries “produced for the benefit of all who enjoy the hobby of collecting.” Scoop’s article is an interview with Karl Kesel and I about our original comics story, 4 Seconds, which you can read for FREE over at Mark Waid’s THRILLBENT!

4 Seconds

Here’s a quote from Karl on the 4 Seconds “digital difference” —

Digital allows for a level of subtlety and sudden change that you can’t come close to in print. If you show a crowd on a subway car and then digitally flick to the next frame where the only change is one character has turned his head a bit – your eye immediately keys in on that change and is drawn to it. In print, with those two panels next to each other, that small change would be a lot less apparent, if not lost completely … These make digital comics more cinematic than print, yet they remain comics – static images that you move through at your own rate.

Read the full interview HERE, and read 4 Seconds HERE!

Thanks to Scoop and ace interviewer Tom Mason for their coverage of 4 Seconds!

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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.

Ultraverse!

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

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.

Firearm

Firearm

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

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

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

LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS

Tom Mason On Hating Mister Miracle #19

“… I hate this comic with all my heart.

And it has nothing to do with the creative. It’s all business. Mister Miracle was one of the titles created by Jack Kirby when DC triumphantly gloated over his arrival from Marvel. I remember the big ad campaigns; for months DC touted “Kirby Is Coming!” followed by “Kirby Is Here!” It was a big deal and DC made the most of it, splashing Kirby’s name in bold letters wherever and whenever possible.

Now with the revival, less than 36 months after the last Kirby issue, there’s no mention of Jack anywhere at all. None.

That’s right, but it’s also so very wrong. Nowhere in this issue at all does anyone bother to credit or mention Jack Kirby.”

(more…)

The Sun Shines On Malibu

The Sun Shines On Malibu

Thanks to all who participated in or attended my Malibu Comics Retrospective panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2012!

The event was even more dynamic than the above image would indicate!

Our far-ranging look back at Malibu Comics concentrated on the origins of the company, Malibu’s willingness to try something new, the company’s legacy of creator rights, and Dave Olbrich’s infamous “squirrel story” (which he had forgotten, until Tom Mason filled him in).

Tom Mason, Chris Ulm, Dave Olbrich, and Scott Rosenberg, courtesy of the Longbox Graveyard Instagram feed

I was a little too ambitious with my agenda and the later days of Malibu — including the launch of Image Comics and the Ultraverse, and Malibu’s sale to Marvel — got short shrift. We continued the talk in the hallway outside the meeting room, but it’s safe to say we had more to say than we had time to say it in. Maybe we’ll reconvene for another presentation at a future show.

We didn’t get a chance to show it at the panel … but here are the television commercials used to launch the Ultraverse twenty years ago!

You can view the slides assembled by Chris Ulm for the panel over at Slideshare. Plenty of Malibu goodness there (and you can find most of those images at my Malibu Comics Pinterest gallery, too!)

You can also read about the panel over at Comic Collector Live and Bleeding Cool.

And a couple videos have turned up, first from YouTube, Part 1

Here is Part 2

There is also this video on Facebook.

Thanks again to all who attended or participated in the panel, and thanks to San Diego Comic-Con for hosting our retrospective!

Longbox Graveyard author Paul O’Connor flanked by Horace Austin (left) and Keith Callbeck (right) — thanks for attending the panel, guys!

Tom Mason On The Malibu/DC Comics Deal That Wasn’t

“The DC deal was first in the wind when Paul Levitz approached Scott Rosenberg at a WonderCon distributor party in 1994. It was one of the last big open bar con parties. In May of that year, at an impromptu Board of Directors meeting with Scott Rosenberg, Chris Ulm and me and our investment partners WSE in Tulsa, it was urged that we pursue Paul ASAP. A secret meeting was arranged at the Universal Hilton in Universal City between Scott, myself, Dave Olbrich, Chris, Paul, Bob Wayne and Bruce Bristow. This was followed a short time later by a secret dinner meeting at a Chinese restaurant in Woodland Hills, where the prior participants were joined by Lillian Laserson, DC’s then in-house legal person. All were in agreement that a deal should proceed. DC even picked up the check.

“Shortly thereafter, the potential acquisition was turned over to Warner’s Mergers & Acquisitions department in Burbank for due diligence. The M&A people would come into the office after hours and scurry out with boxes of files & records so that a potential deal could be kept secret. Negotiations continued throughout the summer and as Malibu’s sales fell (because at the time the industry was in a state of free fall as the investment bubble was bursting), Warner kept lowering its offer – we suspected they were trying to find that magic number where they could acquire the company for the cheapest possible price before Malibu’s finances were permanently damaged. And Malibu needed to be sold. The company was losing $200,000 a month. WSE was pushing hard to get back their investment and Malibu’s once-strong video game division had collapsed (because of rapidly-changing game platforms and mismanagement) and the comic book portion was holding up both halves of the company.

“The potential sale to DC was still a secret by the San Diego Con that year, and it looked like a deal was about to happen. Ulm and I had a not-so-secret breakfast meeting with Paul at the convention and he really wanted the company and wanted to grow it. One thing that was clear was that he was less interested in the characters and the Ultraverse and more interested in the organization itself – how things were run, how fast we could get things done, and ideas for what the company wanted to do next, beyond the Ultraverse.

“After the convention, we took a few people on staff into our confidence and held an off-site retreat to figure out ways we could work together with DC. Aside from restoring, we hoped, market confidence in the company and benefiting from the kind of business stuff people don’t really think of (access to new markets, better printing discounts, increased overseas sales, potential for greater newsstand/bookstore space, plus DC’s trade collection policy that collected stuff and kept it in print), we had a couple of short-term boosts that we wanted to fiddle with. I believe it was an idea from Hank Kanalz about bringing in Green Lantern (this was when GL was still a much lesser character in the DCU) for a line-wide crossover event. None of us were interested in Flash, Atom or Hawkman. The GL idea never made it out of committee and was never pitched to DC, because the winds were about to quickly change.

“Shortly after the retreat, there was some kind of Oregon-based convention that was affiliated with Dark Horse. Word had apparently been around the con that Malibu was close to a deal with DC. That prompted a post-con call from Marvel’s then-head Terry Stewart to Dave Olbrich and ask if the rumors were true. Marvel wanted in and, we were told, been instructed to buy the company to keep it away from DC (the reason why would make a good panel discussion). Because of various time factors, Marvel then had 7 days to do the due diligence that Warner had been doing for several months.

“And now…I’ve said too much!”

— Tom Mason, former VP Marketing for Malibu Comics

(For more inside information on the secret history of Malibu Comics … including the birth of Image Comics and the fate of the Ultraverse … be sure to see Tom at Longbox Graveyard’s Malibu Comics Retrospective panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Thursday 7/12, from 2-3PM in Room 32AB!)

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