The Ultraverse was a line of superhero comic books (as well the official name of the universe they were set in) published by the Malibu Comics company during the 1990s. Although Malibu already produced some superhero comics, they decided to forgo them for all-new, interacting universe (which was believed to be one of the reasons why DC Comics and Marvel Comics dominate the American comic book industry). They hired several professional artists and writers —including noted Science-Fiction writer Larry Niven — to develop the characters and ideas on which the comics would be based. These creators were lured in by an offer to share a part of the royalties.
The central concept of the Ultraverse was the "Godwheel": a flat planet the size of a solar system, with technological civilizations in one side and magic-using ones in the other. All of the power sources seen in the series came from the Godwheel, as did some of the characters. However, for the most part the general population of Earth was unaware of this, and the appearance of super-powered individuals — known as "Ultras" — was believed to be a recent phenomenon. Many of the Ultraverse characters were alternate company equivalents of existing heroes, though usually given a distinguishing twist, sometimes even a controversial one.
The Ultraverse comics featured art and stories comparable in quality to anything Marvel or DC were offering at the time. Despite this, the crash of the speculator market for comics in the '90s forced Malibu to sell the line to Marvel Comics, who tried to integrate the characters to their multiverse in a story that featured the then-popular Infinity Gems. All the Ultraverse series were relaunched in altered forms (including Cosmic Retcons to their continuities). This proved unpopular with the fans, even with Marvel characters such as The X-Men's Juggernaut added in, and the line was canceled soon after.
A one-shot called Ultraverse: Future Shock resolved many of the loose ends of the canceled series, and revealed that both the original Ultraverse and the "Marvel" version still existed, in separate realities.
Marvel still owns the rights to the Ultraverse characters, but are wary of using them again allegedly due to royalty issues with the characters' creators and former Malibu exec Scott Rosenberg.
The main Ultraverse characters are:
- Hardcase is Tom Hawke, a former superhero (his teammates were killed by a mysterious robot) who turned to life as an actor. He eventually discovers that he's been the victim of a conspiracy due to the fact that his powers come from nanotechnology. His series lasted for 26 issues, from June, 1993 to August, 1995.
- Prime is Kevin Green, a boy with the ability to "grow" an organic Power Armor in the form of an adult superhero. His original series lasted for 26 issues, from June, 1993 to August, 1995. Vol. 2 lasted for 15 issues, from October, 1995 to December, 1996. 41 regular issues in all. Plus a mini-series, an annual and a number of one-shot crossovers with other characters.
- The Strangers are a bunch of unrelated people from San Francisco who gained superpowers when a mysterious "lightning bolt" struck the trolley they were all in, and who decided to stay together as a superhero team. Notable for featuring one of the rare openly gay male heroes in superhero comics. The series lasted for 24 issues, from June, 1993 to May, 1995. There was also a special.
- The Freex: A team of superpowered, freaky-looking teenagers. As infants they were among "dozens" of infants injected with nanotechnology by a mysterious nurse who hoped to spread superpowers around. As teenagers they manifested said powers, which affected their lives in various ways. They searched for others like themselves and ended up bonding together, mostly because they had nobody else to turn to. Contrary, who might have been the mysterious nurse, tried to recruit them for her school of other Ultra-powered teenagers, but they did not trust this Evil Mentor and were always on the run from her. The series lasted for 18 issues, from July, 1993 to February, 1995.
- Mantra is a beautiful sorceress who was really an ancient male warrior trapped in the body of a divorced mother. The protagonist Lukasz (sic) is an eternal warrior involved in an endless war. One of several such warriors, since the sorcerer leading them ensured virtual immortality for them. Whenever Lukasz or his fellow warriors were killed, their souls were preserved and then allowed to possess new human bodies. Their latest battle did not go according to plan. The sorcerer himself fell and the others souls were disembodied. The sole survivor Lukasz awakes in a new body, that of Eden Blake. For the first time in his existence, Lukasz has to cope with being a woman. The original series lasted for 24 issues, from July, 1993 to August, 1995. Vol. 2 featured a Legacy Character. Mantra II was Lauren Sherwood, the teenaged babysitter to the original's children, who finds herself accidentally inheriting the powers and identity. The series only lasted 7 issues, from October, 1995 to April, 1996. A total of 31 regular issues from both series, plus a mini-series and a couple of one-shots.
- The Exiles, a team composed of Ultras who gained their powers from a disease known as the "Theta Virus". Although marketed as an ongoing series, this was actually a miniseries where all the main characters died suddenly in the end; this was done as an intentional Wham Episode. Lasted for 4 issues, from August to November, 1993.
- Prototype is James Ruiz, a man hired by a high-tech company to test their Power Armor suit. The comic also follows the story of Robert Campbell, the previous Prototype who lost his arm due to an accident. The series lasted for 18 issues, from August, 1993 to February, 1995. There was also an issue #0, but otherwise Prototype mostly appeared in team books.
- Firearm is Alec Swan, Badass Normal private detective who specializes in cases involving Ultras, using a special gun. His series lasted for 18 issues, from September, 1993 to March, 1995. There was also an issue #0. A second series was called Codename:Firearm, lasting for 6 issues (June-September, 1995). But this one focused on Firearm II/Peter Cordova Lopez, a regular family man who discovers the submerged memories of his previous identity. Said identity being a Deep Cover Agent for an organization which also had connections to Swan.
- The Solution: Super-mercenaries for hire. Consisting of Dropkick, Outrage, Shadowmage, and Tech. They typically faced other mercs, such as Black Tiger, Bloodshed, Casino, and Incoming. Their series lasted for 17 issues, from September, 1993 to February, 1995. There was also an issue #0.
- Night Man is Johnny Domingo (alias: Johnny Domino), a Jazz musician who was also empowered by the same "bolt" that affected The Strangers; having gained the ability to hear the thoughts of evil people, he became a costumed crimefighter. Notable for being the only Ultraverse character to actually have his own (short-lived) live-action TV series. His original series lasted for 23 issues, from October, 1993 to August, 1995. Vol. 2 only lasted for 4 issues, from October to December, 1995. A total of 27 regular issues. Plus a few one-shots.
- Sludge: Basically Swamp Thing except made of toxic waste. Frank Hoag was a Dirty Cop, affiliated with The Mafia. When his employers commanded him to murder another cop, Frank refused, even threatening to turn evidence against them if anything happened to the other guy. Their reply was not unexpected. They tried to kill Frank himself, within a Pharmaceutical Company under their ownership. The body was bathed in chemicals and thrown into a sewer. A chemical reaction brought him back to life. But in an entirely new form and with some mental issues. His series lasted 12 issues, from October, 1993 to December, 1994. There was also one special. A second special intended to flesh out his background was never completed, but its script became available on the net.
- Solitaire: A crimefighter whose only mission was to destroy one criminal cartel: his father's. Anton Lone grew up believing his father was a businessman. At 9, Anton experienced the disappearance of his mother. Courtesy of his father. At 14, he discovered his father was performing a large scale Insurance Fraud. Orchestrating the destruction of much of his real-estate property in bombing incidents, just to get the insurance money. By his late teens, Anton discovered his father was orchestrating bloody coups in the Caribbean. Turning on the old man, Anton tried leaking information to the press. Resulting only in a number of murdered reporters. Trying and failing to hinter his father in any way, Anton eventually grew depressed. He tried to commit suicide. Only to find himself reviving, granted a Healing Factor by an experiment of his father. Now genuinely super-powered, Anton goes on a campaign against his daddy. The series lasted 12 issues, from November, 1993 to December, 1994.
- Rune is a cannibalistic alien stranded on Earth, who often feeds on Ultras (a rare example of a Villain Protagonist with his own series). So named because of the sentient runestone necklace that he wears. He has vampire-like abilities. He is reportedly immortal, with various storylines revealing him as active in the Hyborian Age, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Africa (posing as Anansi), The Late Middle Ages, and The Gay '90s (where he grew interested in the work of Nikola Tesla). His original series lasted for 9 issues, from January, 1994 to April, 1995. An issue #0 reprinted Rune related back-up strips from other titles. It was followed by the 4-issue mini-series Curse of Rune (May-August, 1995). Rune Vol. 2 lasted for 7 issues, from October, 1995 to April, 1996. That was followed by the 3-issue mini-series Rune: Hearts of Darkness (September-November, 1996). There was a special "giant-size" issue and various one-shot crossovers with other characters.
- Wrath: Thomas Hunter is an Agent of Aladdin, the secret organization that monitored Ultras. The series lasted 9 issues, from January, 1994 to December, 1995.
- Warstrike is Brandon Tark, a merc who has the power to see the future... but only when he is in danger. He was originally introduced as an opponent for Mantra but gained his own series.,which lasted for 7 issues, from May to November, 1994.
- Ultra Force is a team composed of several established Ultraverse heroes; it had its own short-lived animated series. The original series lasted for 11 issues, from July, 1994 to July, 1995. It started with an issue #0. The final issues added a Marvel character to the team, Black Knight/Dane Whitman. Vol. 2 featured Whitman as team leader. It lasted for 16 issues, from October, 1995 to December, 1996. 27 regular issues in total. There were also a few one-shots, mostly crossovers with The Avengers.
- Elven is Elvia Swensen, a teenage girl equivalent to Prime, with the same power, though in her case she changes into a female elf form. Her series lasted for 4 issues, from November, 1994 to February, 1995.
- Eliminator. Rick Pearson used to be among the top field agents of the Aladdin organization, until killed in a mission. But someone managed to rebuilt his remains into a Cyborg. With no memory of his previous life, Pearson is now a freelance operative. He may not truly remember the people and events of his previous life, but he gets a bloody reunion with a former partner. Eliminator starred in a 4-issue mini series (April-July, 1995).
- Siren. Jennifer Pearson is a daughter of the Eliminator. As an infant Aladdin experimented on her, trying to give her an indestructible skeleton. They failed and deemed the child useless. Allowing the "powerless" child to grow with relatives. What they didn't figure out is that they had managed to cause a mutation, but the powers would not surface until puberty. Jennifer eventually demonstrated heightened reflexes, strength, low-key telepathy, and telekinetic control over any liquid in her vicinity. As a teenager she became a thrill-seeking Classy Cat-Burglar. At first appearing as supporting character in various series, Siren was reinvented as a mercenary in her starring roles. She starred in the one-shot Siren Infinity (September, 1995), the 3-issue mini-series Siren (October-December, 1995), and a Siren Special (February, 1996). Her series included receiving training by Taskmaster and developing a working relationship with Diamondback/Rachel Leighton.
- All New Exiles. A group consisting of a mix of characters from both the Marvel Universe and the Ultraverse. Juggernaut had been exiled to a void between dimensions for some time. In the Ultraverse Amber Hunt, sole survivor of the previous Exiles, has a struggle with her enemies Shuriken and Strike (Warstrike under a new codename). In the regular Marvel Universe, Siena Blaze battles against the Reaper. The simultaneous activations of their powers sends all five of them to join the Juggernaut. Their efforts to rejoin the Ultraverse are successful, but the energy released causes massive damage in New York City. All six superpowered beings find themselves on the run from the authorities and having to rely on each other for survival. The group was introduced in the one-shot All New Exiles Infinity (September, 1995). There were some changes in their lineup, but their regular series lasted for 11 issues (October, 1995-August, 1996). They had a one-shot crossover with the X-Men.
- Foxfire. Rose Autumn is a genetically-engineered Half-Human Hybrid from the future. She wields part of the phoenix Force and returns to the "present" of the Ultraverse in an attempt to avert tragic events of her timeline. She starred in a 4-issue mini-series of her own (February-May, 1996) and played a part in a Phoenix-related crossover.
The Ultraverse provides examples of the following tropes:
- Alternate Company Equivalent
- Canon Immigrant: The Exiles was originally planned as comic series for a different continuity. However, creators thought the characters and the storyline would work for the Ultraverse.
- City in a Bottle: The subterranean Fire People.
- Clothing Combat: Lady Killer from The Strangers is a fashion designer turned superhero. Her power is perfect aim and every part of her costume is designed so it can be used as a weapon. Most common is using her sash as an entangling weapon.
- Crossover: When Marvel Comics acquired Malibu, they had a massive crossover. This was a unique crossover in that it affected the Ultraverse continuity and for a few months, two Marvel characters crossed over into the UV and joined their ranks: The Black Knight and Juggernaut. This crossover also introduced the seventhth Infinity Gem but it seems as though Marvel ignored it.
- Death Dealer: Casino
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After a bit of time travel, the heroes of the "original" Ultraverse saved the Marvel version's.
- Evil Sorcerer: Boneyard
- The Gambler: Casino
- Gender Bender: Mantra
- Government Conspiracy: Aladdin, so named because of their supercomputer, "Genie".
- Having a Blast: Grenade from The Strangers has the ability to project explosive energy outwards from his body (most commonly focused through his chest).
- Hot for Teacher / Hot for Student: Prime and Elven, because of their adult superforms, sometimes suffers these.
- Hot Witch: Mantra
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The Sportsmen, who take it a bit further than usual.
- Ki Manipulation: Dropkick of The Solution is trained in the "Trine Style" of martial arts which allows him to fire ki blasts.
- Magic Pants: Initially averted with Kevin Green; his clothes always dissolve or shred when he summons his Prime body, so he's naked when he reverts back. Played straight later on when he finds a way to preserve his clothes even as Prime.
- Meta Origin: The Godwheel.
- Muck Monster: Sludge. Frank Hoag was a Dirty Cop who was killed and covered in chemicals by an explosion before his body was dumped in a sewer. The chemicals had regenerative properties and tried to heal Hoag, but combined the sewer substances with his body, transforming him into a huge mass of living slime.
- Mutagenic Goo: Dirty Cop Frank Hoag is killed in an explosion that showers him in chemicals before his body is dumped in the sewers. The combination of the chemicals and the sewage cause him to transform into the monstrous Sludge.
- Older Alter Ego: Prime; Elven
- A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Scar and his crew from The Strangers.
- Pirate Girl: Sangre, one of Scar's Raiders.
- Really 700 Years Old: Mantra, Rune, and Hardcase villain Rex Mundi.
- Scary Scarecrows: Lord Pumpkin
- Sexbot: Elctrocute of The Strangers was originally constructed as this. The 'Jumpstart' event that gave the other Strangers their powers granted her sentience and allowed her to transcend her programming.
- Sexier Alter Ego: Prime; Elven
- Stripperific: Mantra and Contrary are the biggest instigators, what they wear barely qualify as outfits.
- Super Gender-Bender: Mantra. Originally a male warrior, he gained magical powers after his soul was transferred into the body of a woman.
- Touched by Vorlons: The "bolt" that created The Strangers and Night Man was actually sent by a starship stranded on the Moon.
- Toxic Waste Can Do Anything: Dirty Cop Frank Hoag is killed in an explosion that showers him in chemicals before his body is dumped in the sewers. The combination of the chemicals and the sewage cause him to transform into the monstrous Sludge.
- Universe Bible: In a very rare case for American comics, everything about the Ultraverse was planned ahead before creating the characters that would star in it.
- Where Are They Now: The Future Shock comic allows us to see the fate of the characters years in the future. Most are OK.
- World Shapes: The Godwheel is flat, and about as wide as half the size of our solar system.