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Strannik
01-27-2007, 08:35 PM
Since discovering the joys of discount bin shopping, I've stumbled upon all sorts of obscure comics I never would have otherwise noticed. Among with other things, I discovered a number of titles set in shared universes that were either published by someone other then Marvel and DC or exhibited noticeable divergences from the multiversal structure each other above-mentioned companies established within their creative cosmos. Some of those universes turned out to be pretty interesting, while others... not so much. This is my attempt to offer a brief analysis/opinion of each universe and my own thoughts on what I would do in the unlikely event that I would ever get a chance to revamp/revive them. Comments, corrections and criticisms are strongly encouraged.

Aftermath Universe
Publisher:Devil's Due Publishing
General Summary: In 2004, Devil's Due attempted to launch a superhero universe. It was to be loosely connected, with each title standing on it's own while adding something to a bigger tapestry. The universe was to have a distinctly modern feel in terms of design, plotting and characterization. Big emphasis was to be placed on realistic motivations. And, most importantly, it was marketed as a universe for superhero fans who didn't like being bogged down in continuity. The big concept was that this was a mundane world which was only recently introduced to super-powered beings. Or, at least, that was the theory.
In practice, what we got was four concepts. A team of college students gaining superpowers (Defex). A member of a samurai clan turned assassins for hire going on missions(Blade of Kumori). An insurance agent being drawn into a conspiracy involving super-powered beings (Infantry). And finally, a famous superhero turning to the dark side (Breakdown).
Now, the first three titles presented superpowers as a new, unusual thing that was just starting to enter public conscience. In the fourth title, on the other hand, the hero has been adventuring for five years, fighting a number of super-powered antagonists.
Can you see the discrepancy here?
Ultimately, we never found out how those two seemingly dissipate concepts were supposed to fit together, if at all, because the line was canceled less then a year after it's debut.
My Opinion: It seemed to me that the creators never figured out what they wanted the line to be - a series of unconnected tales of a cohesive, integrated universe. If it was the former, I can forgive the above-mentioned inconsistency. But, if it is supposed to be a shared universe, that should not even exist. Furthermore, I don't think it was a good idea to introduce to concept of with so much history in the line that made it's newness and accessibility such an important part of it's marketing campaign. Quite frankly, I don't think Breakdown should have been published at all. Maybe several years down the line, when the universe had a chance to establish itself, but not from the get go.
That aside, Defex suffered from a number of lapses of logic and rather uninvolving storylines, which was only somewhat remedied by solid characterization. Runaways showed that there was more to be done with teenage superteams then the classical X-Men/Titans formula, yet, in the end of the day, this is precisely what Defex was. I haven't read Infantry as of this writing. Blade of Kumori definitely had potential, offering solid characterization and an interesting premise. Plus, I love pulp heroes. Given that the line was canceled before half of the titles could even complete their initial story arcs, it is hard to make judgment about the universe as a whole.
Current Status: Canceled.
Chances of Revival: Low, though not altogether impossible.
My Take: Personally, I would start the whole thing from scratch, launching it as a single title and branching off spin-offs depending on reader demand. It would focus on Blade of Kumori, Infantry and Defex cast. Breakdown's protagonist, Jeff Carey, would act as a superhero for a while and only turn dark a few years down the line (if at all).

Chaos Cosmos
Publisher: Chaos! Comics
General Summary:More horror universe then superhero universe. It grew out of Brian Pulido's Evil Ernie stories. Most of the characters were either supernatural or had supernatural ties. Many of the storylines were, quite literally, apocalyptic in scope and utilized a number of dark themes. In other words, angst galore. There was some kind of Crisis-style storyline that rebooted continuity, but the readers never got a chance to see what it entailed, because the company went bankrupt and most of it's assets, save Lady Death, were sold to Tales of Wonder.
My Opinion:The line had a few interesting ideas, but they were often impaired by sub-par writing and reliance of clinches. The fact that the company capitalized on the Bad Girl craze didn't do it any favors. Still, I have a soft spot for Chastity, a punky vampire with a genuine sense of humor (a rarity among her peers).
Current Status: Basically, Chaos Cosmos is split into two parts. Brian Pulido still owns Lady Death. Since Chaos! Comics' bankruptcy, he's been publishing her adventures through Avatar Press, building up a new supporting cast and a new set of spin-off titles. The rest of the characters went to Tales of Wonder. Last year, they licensed Evil Ernie and Purgatori to Devils Due Publishing, who proceeded to revamp Purgatori and plug the original version of Evil Ernie into Hack/Slash universe. The titles Devil's Due published were miles above the originals, but the sales were low, so someone (probably Devil's Due) pulled the plug. Since then, there has been no word on those characters.
Chances of Revival: Depending on which part. The first part is, obviously, active. The second part might be revived, should Tales of Wonder choose to license them to someone else. It might be possible for two sides to reach an agreement and pull both pieces together, but I'm not holding my breath.
My Take: Personally, I don't care about Chaos Cosmos as a whole. I wouldn't mind doing a revamp of Chastity. But it would have to be a revamp rather then a continuation.

CrossGen Universe
Publisher: CrossGen Comics
General Summary: A mostly science fiction based universe with certain mystical elements. Most titles took place several millenniums in the future, when humanity is scattered across the known universe, inhabiting a wide variety of worlds with varying level of technology. By that time, the knowledge of Earth was largely lost, with some planets being ignorant of the fact that there were any other human beings outside their planet. Some of those worlds invoked genres in classic literature (which was due to creators' efforts to diversify the line). Arcadia seemed like a variant of 19th century UK-centric Earth, Han-Jin was essentially a world of wuxia films, Quin had elements from LofR/Forgotten Realm type fantasy novels, etc. Each title was set on one of those worlds, with each world mostly unaware of the others. The story opened when the mysterious God-like Creator, aided by the Adviser, set out on a quest to give Yin-Yang-like markings known as Sigils to seemingly random individuals all over the universe. The markings bestowed powers upon their users that seemed to be dictated by each Sigil-bearer's personality. To aid those individual, the Advisor spit himself off into various avatars that assumed the guises Sigil-bearers could trust and guided them through various trials and tribulations that awaited them. This did not please the God-like First, who saw the emergence of Sigil-bearers as a challenge to their supremacy. And that was pretty much the basic set-up
My Opinion: To be honest, I am biased about this particular continuity. I got into comics thanks to CrossGen. I followed their titles all the way until the end and was very sad when the company finally went out of business. That said... I liked a couple of things. I enjoyed the diversity of genres present in CrossGen universe, as well as the overarching mystery. I also like the fact that, contrary to what many people seem to say, you really didn't need to read all the titles in order to follow through. I was able to pick three titles (Scion, Mystic and the Way of the Rat) without ever feeling like I was missing anything. If all else failed, I could always rent some CrossGen trades at my local library or ask the members of CrossGen forums if any other title revealed something that was important to the big picture. Also, I genuinely enjoyed the characters, the plots and the environments CrossGen offered. While, in retrospect, some of the titles had rather simplistic plots, I do think the universe overall holds up pretty well.
Current Status: Part of Disney's vast library of intellectual properties. Some of CrossGen's non-CGU properties were revived by Disney, but same couldn't be said for CGU itself. Recently, Disney contracted Checker Books to reprint some of the original CrossGen issues, but the likelihood that we'll see any new material or the endings of the story arcs that never saw print is unlikely.
Chances of Revival:See above.
My Take: I'd pick up the story right where Negation War left off and develop it from there. At the very least, I would like to provide some closure for the old plot threads and focus on publishing some of the more popular titles.

Strannik
01-27-2007, 08:36 PM
Dakotaverse/Milestone Universe
Publisher: DC Comics/Milestone Media
General Summary: Dakodaverse is a world in the mold of the more conventional superhero universes, with one important difference - the said heroes were much more diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. To say that it was a "black line", as some people have dubbed it at the time, would be a disservice to all the groups that were represented on it's pages.
The events in Dakotaverse centered on the fictional town of Dakota. In 1992, the so-called Big Bang gave a number of individuals supernatural powers. Up to that point, superpowered beings largely operated behind the scenes, but with the sudden explosion of superhumans, they were suddenly thrust in public eye. The newly created superhumans became heroes, villians and, in case of Blood Syndicate, an ever-shifting combination of the two. As the titles developed, it became clear that Big Bang was a product of a complex conspiracy that span all titles and quite a few supporting characters. Even after all the pieces were revealed, the line was still going strong, only to eventually fall victim to declining sales.
My Opinion: Honestly, upon first discovering it, I thought that the line is home to some of the most inexplicable costumes I've ever seen (the Genesis universe has since took over this dubious honor). However, once you get past that, you find yourself in a universe full of complex, all too human characters and stories that held up surprisingly well. As the years went on, the writing improved across the board. and some of the costumes actually grew on me over time. I was particularly impressed with the Long Hot Summer crossover, which managed to resolve quite a few long-term plots across the entire line while at the same time , it's driving conflict was a very real-world problem with very realistic consequences. It's no accident that while the tie-ins starred the heroes, the actual mini at the heart of the crossover was about ordinary people who were caught up those events. This intersection of normal and abnormal pretty much sums up the line at it's peak.
Current Status: Milestone Media and DC Comics are currently trying to work out some kind of publishing deal, since, for some reason, the rights are split between the two parties.
Chances of Revival: Given that they've been trying to figure it out for over a decade, I'm not holding my breath.
My Take: I would assume that Big Bang happened in 1993 (as per the first issue of Icon) and pick up the story in real time. It would focus on the descendants of the existing characters (enough time has passed to facilitate as much) and brand-new heroes, with older heroes playing supporting roles.

DEFIANT Universe
Publisher: Defiant Comics
General Summary: A universe based around a rather provocative idea - in addition the the physical, mundane world, there is a world shaped by human imagination, as well as emotions, urges and desires. Those who can tap into this world are able to gain extraordinary abilities. However, those interactions are perilous, as they blurred the lines between the two worlds, causing all sorts of mischief. Long time ago, a prince from the dream world, along with his wife, attempted to bring balance to the two worlds, only to have their efforts sabotaged by those who felt that this would cause the destruction of their world. This severely damaged the dream world, throwing everything into disrepair and unleashing all kinds of unpleasantness. This came to the head in 1990s, when an increasing number of human beings begin to gain powers. While some used them benevolently, others sought to use the damaged dream world for their own purposes. And within the dreamworld itself, a number of dream creatures had agendas of their own.
In spite of all of this, the mundane portion of DEFIANT Universe was just that - mundane. The laws of physics were largely honored, the story unfolded in real time and even the most fantastic actions tended to have realistic consequences. Most of the unusual activities took place under the surface, unseen by the larger populace, though many people living on the fringes of society are aware of them.
My Opinion: To be honest, the writing could be better. Some of it was due to the fact that some of it was, quite simply, dated even then. The whole "teenagers don't really talk like that" thing that I found so off-putting about Valiant Comics' Harbinger is very much in force here. Older characters, by contrast, fare considerably better. That said, the line boasts some decent characterization and believable personalities. The characters came from a wide variety of backgrounds. They were, for the most part, average people who found themselves embroiled in situations they were ill-prepared for (shades of New Universe and Valiant Universe here)Some of the titles that started out kind of weak grew stronger, which is always a plus.
Current Status: After Defiant Comics went bankrupt,it's properties went through several hands, eventually winding up at Random House, out of all places.
Chances of Revival:Well, these days, Random House does publish graphic novels. However, it has very little reason to publish revivals of obscure properties. Unless there is a demand, I don't see it happening.
My Take: The line ended with the (uncompleted) Schism crossover, which saw all the major bad guys winning and the good guys forced into retreat. I'd pick up the action a decade or so later (depending on how much time passes in real time), with good guys fighting a covert guerrilla war against the bad guys. I'd introduce some new characters as well as re-introduce some old ones, who, in many cases, would be changed by the events that occured during "missing time". Most of the story would be told through the eyes of the newbies - it's more reader-friendly that way.

Eclipse Universe (Airfighters Group)
Publisher: Eclipse Comics.
General summary: Strictly speaking, most Eclipse titles were supposedly set in a single shared universe, as per Total Eclipse crossover. However, I don't think anyone thought this was the case until the crossover was published, as, aside from the few titles that did have links, there was no effort to link the entire line prior to that. Furthermore, some of the titles in question went on to be published elsewhere after the company's demise. So, for the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to be talking about a group of titles that were linked to Chuck Dixon's revival of Hillman Comics' public domain properties - namely Airboy and it's immediate spin-offs, Sgt Strike/Strike minis, Prowler and (maybe) the revival of Black Terror. With that in mind, we find ourselves faced with mostly realistic, grounded universe with certain science fiction/mystical elements. The concept of spandex-clad superheroes running around fighting super-powered villains was largely alien to this world. Some of the more outlandish aspects of the original Hillman stories were often subtly adjusted and altered to fit a more realistic mold. Most heroes and villains seem to be more pulp-inspired rather then superheroes in the classic sense of the word.
My Opinion: As a fan of pulp fiction, I embraced the overall sensibility of those titles. The characters were compelling and fully realized, which more then made up for occasionally ham-fisted, predicable plots. Airboy in particular struck a decent balance between action and characterization. I also enjoyed how real-world history, issues and individuals managed to share the stage with some of the more otherworldly, fantastic concepts without it ever feeling grating or obnoxious. All and all, I like.
Current Status:Purchased by McFarlane Productions, along with the rest of Eclipse' assets.
Chances of Revival: depends on what, if anything, Todd McFarlane wants to do with those properties. The original Hillman characters are in public domain, so they can and, as a matter a fact, have been used, but the Eclipse versions can't be used without McFarlane's permission. So technically, anyone can revive those characters - so long as they are nothing like their Eclipse incarnations.
My Take: Personally, I'd go with "taking advantage of the public domain status and doing my own versions" option I mentioned in above paragraph.

StrikeForce Albert
01-28-2007, 05:14 AM
Why did you have to bring up Crossgen. As soon as I got back into comics I bought a ton of thier TPBs and loved them. Then they went out of bussiness, when El Cazador and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang were 2 of my favorite books. :(

Strannik
01-28-2007, 02:06 PM
Extreme/Awesome/Arcade Universe
Publisher:Image Comics, Extreme Studios/Maximum Press/Awesome Entertainment/Arcade Comics.
General Description: Originally Rob Liefeld's portion of Image Universe. Except Image Universe started to fall apart fairly quickly as each Image creator saw to pursue his own vision. Rob Liefeld's portion was officially, and, dare I say, rather memorably,severed from Image continuity during the Shattered Image crossover. Since then, the universe has been its own entity, though Erik Larsen did give Rob permission to use some of his characters during the late 90s (as always, the less you think about Image continuity, the better). During the Awesome Comics years, the whole universe was revamped by Alan Moore, only to have the whole thing collapse do to various factors. Since then, it was sporadically published through Arcade Comics.
As for the universe itself, it started out the way many Image universes started out - an evocation of Marvel Universe with a few slices of DC and a hardy sprinkling of fighting video game mentality. The line dabbled in gothic themes during the mid-90s, pushing the boundries somewhat, but nothing really came of it. Thanks to Alan Moore, the line became one huge Silver Age comics with Modern Touch panache/homage. After that, it has been an awkward mix of all three.
My Opinion: The original universe wasn't much to talk about. Whatever good ideas Liefeld and his co-writers had (and there were a few) were buried under bad writing and incomprehensible art. As with many comics of that era, action tended to take center stage, sub-plots were picked up and dropped without explanation and the whole thing could barely maintain anything resembling a cohesive direction. Under Alan Moore, the writing and just about everything else improved tremendously, but...Well, look at it this way. Alan Moore got a chance to recreate a whole universe to do with as he pleases. He could have launched all sorts of new, innovative ideas. Instead, he chooses to create a huge homage to Marvel and DC. I know that he probably wanted to make some kind of point about the value of Silver Age superheroes, but it still feels like a tremendous wasted opportunity. Still... can't argue with good writing.... too much. All and all, I think that if someone could actually try to do something different with the line, it could become something great. Until then... pass.
Current Status: Entirely at the mercy of Rob Liefeld's chronic lateness.
Chances of Revival: Unlikely if it's still produced by Rob's studio. Maybe if someone licensed the characters from him...
My Take: I've written many, many notes on the topic of this universe's revamp, but it would be too long to post here. Suffice to say, it would be a total reboot, with most of the elements of previous runs erased altogether.

New Universe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
General Summary: In mid-80s, Jim Shooter, the then-EiC of Marvel Comics had an idea - create a brand new universe that would be more realistic and would be based in science fiction rather then science fantasy and fantasy in general that became a norm in Marvel Comics. With that in mind, he launched a universe that would move in real time and would be more or less exactly like our own - until the mysterious White Event granted super-powers to random people. Since then, the set-up has become something of a cliche, but at the time, it was revolutionary. Unfortunately, many writers either didn't get the premise or tried their best to get around it, which led to complications when the later writers tried to bring it more in line with the initial premise. Furthermore, when Jim Shooter was fired from his position, the line was allowed to petter out and die. At least by the time it did, it was more in line with Jim Shooter's original intent then it was when it started out.
My Opinion: As I mentioned before, things didn't go exactly according to plan the first time around. Many titles seemed like Marvel pitches that were retooled for New Universe or, failing that, like writers who found themselves unable to write without falling back on superhero genre cliches. On the other hand, when it worked, it worked pretty well. Many characters were fairly well-rounded people whose reaction to their newfound abilities were realistically portrayed. DP7 and, to lesser extent, Starbrand and Psi-Force, succeeded in that regard. Marc Hazzard, which didn't feature anything supernatural, also boasted strong characterization and promising, if occasionally lacking plots. Nightmask and Spitfire tried had potential which they, for one reason or another, failed to quite reach. The rest, quite frankly, sucked. As mentioned before, the entire line improved across the board, save for the mess that Starbrand descended into (because John Byrne was a vindictive git). Overall, the line had great promise that was only partially fulfilled. However, it was a precursor of much better books, setting precedents that would later become standards and asking some challenging questions before almost anyone else. The line should be respected for that much, at least.
Current Status: In the midst of revival by Warren Ellis. However, it's a complete reboot. The original New Universe is still in limbo until further notice and will probably stay this way.
Chances of Revival: See above.
My Take: After the news of Ellis' revival hit the internet, I came up with ideas for revival of some of the characters that Ellis didn't plan on reviving (at least from the getgo). This version would focus on characters from DP7, Mark Hazzard and Psi-Force, mixing and matching the casts as they tried to figure out what was happening to them. Sort of like Heroes, minus the overarching quest. I also had an idea as to how to bring back the original universe, but, on close examination, I'm not sure if anyone should bother.

To be continued...

Reptisaurus!
01-30-2007, 06:28 PM
Interesting stuff.

I wonder why none of these "universes" have never really taken off? They're all more, like, thematically unified than, say, the Marvel Universe.

The whole "universe/continuity" thing is basically a big 'ol marketing gimmick, but it's a GOOD marketing gimmick, and it's strange it's never been successful.

I'm not a super huge fan of 'em, mind. By their very nature they impose a tad more editorial control than I'm comfy with, but given the insane-bordering-on-scary-fanatical level of devotion some people have to the Marvel marketing gimmick and the DC marketing gimmick, it seems weird that fandom en masse hasn't glommed onto one of these new improved marketing gimmicks.

Individual comments:

Liefeld-verse: I never read any of these pre-Alan Moore. An' even speaking as someone who thinks that DC DEFINITELY peaked in the sixties art-wise, and PROBABLY peaked in the sixties in terms of writing...

Completely agree with you. There were a few really, really good issues here, but Silver Age retreads are boring. (Plus the superhero books were way below the war and humor books in terms of quality, and the Superman books were a notch down on the GOOD, Schwartz edited superhero books....)

There were a few really good issues here; THe Kirby tribute was touching and appropriate, but this felt perilously close to "Alan Moore gives us a lecture on comics history," and I've never been a Moore-in-lecture-mode fan. Wish he'd approached this like he did WildCATS, where he remixed the basic elements into something new and interesting.

New Universe: Warren Ellis is bringing back the New Universe? *Snicker* Just what the world needs. ANOTHER Ellis project that isn't as good as Transmetropolitan. I liked Psi-Force as a young'n.

Airboy: What other titles were there besides Airboy and knock-offs?
I've got a pretty good run of Airboy and it's solid comics. Not up there with Zot! or Beanworld or Neil the Horse. But better than most of what Marvel tDC were giving us at the time. Still, I (and I think most folks) tend to see these as an afterthought to Eclipse' creator owned titles.

Dakotaverse: The art is kind of nineties/horrible a lot, but this was a really strong concept. Maybe the best multi-creator universe ever. I'm generally not a fan of "realisticer" superhero books, but 90% of the Milestone books I've read were pretty darn solid, dealing with serious stuff but not overly dreary with a sense of humor. If Macduffie does get Milestone back up and running, I'd support the line, 'specially if he could get some different artists. Love to see John Romita Jr. drawing Static or Xombie.

Aftermath: These looked interesting, and I was planning on buying some of their books. But then I forgot, and they dissapeared. If it wasn't for this thread I might never have thought of 'em again.

Chaos: I'll always have fond memories of Cronin making fun of Brian Pulido. Never read any of these, looked stupid.

Although I think that a horror universe ala Steven King is a pretty cool idea, if handled with a little more subtlety.

Crossgen: Didn't like their "universe" at all, and I don't think the Sigil stuff added anything to the books. (Although Negation was my absolute favorite Crossgen title.) I miss Crossgen, and I appreciate the level of genre variety, but if they bring the titles back I hope their a little less... Consistent, maybe? All the art looked alike and none of their books were really horrible or really good. The whole enterprise just felt kinda... distant? Impersonal?

If Crossgen could rebuild itself and concentrate on the stuff they did write and fix the stuff they did wrong, I bet they'd make a killing.

yo go re
01-31-2007, 10:56 PM
There's the big "Comics' Greatest World" universe that was Dark Horse's attempt to get into superheroes. The most successful things to come out of it were probably Barb Wire and Ghost, I think. They started with four sub-groupings of four books each.

I was really surprised that the Valiant/Acclaim stuff wasn't on your list. They started out by mixing Gold Key revivals with new characters, and the entire things was very strong at the start. Not so much by the end, of course. Except for a sudden uptick immediately before they closed doors - Quantum and Woody, anyone? Their biggest success story might be Turok, since he actually got a few mediocre videogames after Acclaim bought the deal. Shadowman also had a fw games, but they were forgettable at best. When Acclaim went belly-up, they took most of the properties with them.

In the middle of that, Jim Shooter also did that "Warriors of Plasm" thing that caused some kind of brouhaha with Marvel at the time.

Speaking of Marvel, there are the superhero books Malibu did right before they were bought by Marvel - those got a Saturday morning cartoon and a toy line. Prime, Hardcase, Sludge... Night Man even had a live-action tv show.

Also, Marvel's own Epic imprint gave us the Shadowlands Saga, which is a large, complex universe that spans the entirety of human history. I just got into that one a few months ago, and despite being firmly entrenched in the '80s, the stories have held up pretty well. Biggest success? Terror, Inc.

Reptisaurus!
01-31-2007, 11:17 PM
I was really surprised that the Valiant/Acclaim stuff wasn't on your list.


Well it DOES say to be continued. :)



Also, Marvel's own Epic imprint gave us the Shadowlands Saga, which is a large, complex universe that spans the entirety of human history. I just got into that one a few months ago, and despite being firmly entrenched in the '80s, the stories have held up pretty well. Biggest success? Terror, Inc.

I've never even heard of that one.

What else? Wildstorm, which is actually still doin' pretty well. That Neal Adams... thing. Continuity? Was that a universe? There's the Archie universe, which might not count 'cause it's all built around one character. Alan Moore's ABC line which turned into a universe in the last minute. There was a sort-of-cohesive Image-verse once. And, of course, the Disney-verse. (http://bullyscomics.blogspot.com/2007/01/crisis-on-infinite-small-worlds-after.html)

Strannik
02-01-2007, 06:26 PM
TEKNO Multiverse
Publisher: Tekno Comix/BIG Entertainment
General Summary The company was founded by a group of attorneys who had a bright idea - pay a bunch of popular writers from various fields to come up with concepts which they would then pay other people to turn into actual comics. Along with people involved were Leonard Nimoy, Mickey Spillane, John Jakes, Tad Williams, Neil Gaiman and (posthumously) Gene Roddenberry and Isaac Asimov. Around the time the company was founded, the internet has entered public conscience, which prompted Tekno Comix to try to capitalize on the hype, which they did with almost cyberpunkish zeal (seriously, some of their editorials on the subject, as well as their grandiose pronouncements about the greatness of Internet haven't aged well. At all). The comics it published operated within a loosely defined multiverse, with each title operating in their own universe. Aside from occasional crossovers, there was very little interaction between the various universes. Neil Gaiman' concepts were a special case. His original pitch involved four character interacting in a single title. However, somewhere between publication, the characters were split between three titles (Mr Hero, Teknophage and Lady Justice) which interacted in it's own mini shared universe. The central concept of this universe was that there was this ancient dinosaur-like creature known as Teknophage who used his vast psionic powers and considerable resources to conquer every planet in sight and exploit it for profit (all while indulging his sadistic whims and perverse sense of humor). He was opposed by David Cain, a wizard whose connection to Teknophage was never quite clear, Mr. Hero, a robotic footsoldier of Teknophage that wound up on the side of good, and Lady Justice, a Spectre-like entity that possessed women in effort to carry out it's rather brutal form of justice, moving from host to host every time a host died. Lady Justice was also destined to eventually kill Teknophage - just as soon as she can find a host that can actually fight him on equal terms.
Unfortuntely, we never got to see how this storyline (or any other Tekno Comix storyline, for that matter) get resolved, because, for all the innovative concepts and cyberspace fetishism, the company went bankrupt in 1997.
My Opinion: You'd notice that I've spent an awful lot of time talking about Neil Gaiman's corner of the Tekno multiverse. That's because I think most of the other stuff (well, the parts that I've read anyway) was, at best, fairly average. Neil Gaiman's universe... well, it was interesting. But, while Mr. Hero was good and Lady Justice kept on jumping back and forth between decent and great, Teknophage may well be one of the best comics to be published in the 90s. Between fully realized characters, complex, engaging plots, imaginative settings and some of the most memorable acts of villainy ever committed to comics, this is a truly awe-inspiring comic experience that, unfortunately, got lost in the pile of drek and mediocrity. The other books added an extra layer to the experience, making it all that more richer. It is truly a shame that we'll probably never get to see a battle between Lady Justice and Teknophage, but... it was awesome while it lasted.
Current Status: All Tekno Comix properties are currently owned by Hollywood Media Corp. I am not sure what (if any) stake the originators of the ideas have in those properties.
Chances of Revival: If any Tekno Comix properties wind up being turned into movies, maybe. Otherwise, highly unlikely.
My Take: Honestly, I wouldn't even dream trying to top the originators of the Neil Gaiman's corner of Tekno Multiverse. I'd leave it as it is and try to hire the writers with enough skill to do the concepts justice. Other then that... well, I don't care that much about the other titles, to be honest.

Triumphant Universe
Publisher: Triumphant Comics
General Information: Triumphant titles took place in a science fiction universe with occasional dash of superheroic elements. The whole thing seemed to derive inspiration from 30s pulp science fiction. Triumphant Comics deserve special mention because, where Tekno Comix fetishized Internet, they fetishized speculator market. Billing themselves "the Collector's Universe", they went out of the way to take advantage of virtually every gimmick of that age while shouting from the rooftops that they were the ideal company for any right-thinking collector. Taking the concept into the realms of unconscious self-parody, each issue of every title had a unique number (and by issue I mean an actual, physical floppy). The goal was, apperantly, to collect the entire print run. So, when the Speculator Bubble bust, it was a small wonder that the company vanished along with it.
My Opinion: While many concepts definitely had promise, the line was marred with below-par writing. As for art, while personally, I think it's perfectly acceptable, I can see why people might be put off by it. Honestly, I am tempted to pick up more issues just to see if this thing goes anywhere.
Current Status: I wish I knew. The company is obviously out of business, but I'd be damned if I knew what happened after that.
Chances of revival: Not bloody likely.
My Take: I'll need to read more issues before I can think of a concrete plan. The concepts themselves, like I said, were promising and can be rehabilitated.


To be continued...

Alan2099
02-01-2007, 10:23 PM
Some of the most memorable acts of villainy ever committed to comics?

Mind going into a bit more detail of what those acts where? I'm curious.

Mr Blinky
02-03-2007, 06:30 PM
Ah, memories...

I remember with great fondness Defiant's Good Guys. I know what you mean about unconvincing teen dialogue, but I loved the protagonists' clumsy, quixotic approach to superheroics. Plus, nifty art!

Will you be looking at Dark Horses' Comics Greatest Worlds line? It looked like it had promise.

CGW trivia facts that I know:

For a professional bounty hunter, Barb Wire has a real eccentric dress sense.

Hero Zero is a massive, clumsy oaf.

King Tiger can take down the Mask!!! :eek:

Was this the line that brought us Catalyst: Agents of Change? I don't know what the book was like, but that's a hella cool name! :D


Will you be looking at Jim Shooter's Broadway Comics? All I can recall about this line was Fatale: a comic featuring a female protagonist with such impossibly colossal breasts that even by 'bad girl' standards she was pretty damn ridiculous.

Froggy
02-03-2007, 07:30 PM
Speaking of the milestone crew, didnt geoff johns want static in teen titans?

Alan2099
02-03-2007, 08:33 PM
Will you be looking at Jim Shooter's Broadway Comics? All I can recall about this line was Fatale: a comic featuring a female protagonist with such impossibly colossal breasts that even by 'bad girl' standards she was pretty damn ridiculous.

Ah yes, I remember she used to be the butt of many jokes in my circle of freinds ... The only girl to make Lady Death look flatchested.

MartinRedmond
02-06-2007, 07:53 AM
I liked Warriors of Plasm. I think all those universes fail because creators break the readers' comfort zone which DC and Marvel keep their characters in.

Strannik
02-06-2007, 05:35 PM
Okay. I'm going to try to finish the list of universes. Then, and only then am I going to reply to everything... but that's what I get for not posting more promptly.

Anyway, back to the show.

Top Cow Universe

Publisher: Top Cow Productions/Image Comics
General Description: Top Cow Universe is a curious beast. Originally, it ws the part of larger Image Universe and was made up of Cyberforce and Strykeforce. The books had a number of connections to Jim Lee's books, to the point where they were a little universe-within-a-universe in their own right. Eventually, though, Top Cow Productions struck out on it's own, even briefly leaving the Image publishing umbrella at one point. After Shattered Image event made the separation between the universes official (well, as close to official it was ever going to get), Top Cow Universe became a continuity in it's own right and remained this way to this day.
One of it's most distinguishing features lies in Top Cow's output. It started out with publishing what was arguably the most blatant X-franchise clones under the Image banner. However, over the years, the line shifted in a decisively supernatural direction as titles like Witchblade and the Darkness became hits. Today, the line is a little of both, publishing both science fiction books with occasional superhero trappings and supernatural/dark fantasy books with occasional superhero trappings (though the line's relationship with it's superhero roots has remained fickle).
Thus, the Top Cow Universe itself is a mix of science fiction and supernatural elements. It is the world which is like ours on the surface, but beneath the surface, all sorts of odd things lurk. Most people are either unaware of superheroes or try their best to pretend they are. The interaction between various players in Top Cow U is sparse. The universe moves in something resembling real time - characters age and the passage of time is acknowledged, but the actual rate of the passage of time is ambiguous at best.
My Opinion: Honestly, I think this particular universe is ripe for potential. Over the past fifteen years or so, the line has seen it's share of great writing, decent writing and utterly horrid writing. The whole T&A aspect that made the line infamous hasn't been an issue in years (it says something that in the most recent issue, the Witchblade tearing apart it's wielder's clothing was actually an unusual event). The Top Cow Universe is home to a number of great concepts just waiting to be developed. Even the X-Men... homages I alluded to earlier have potential to become characters in their own right, just as long as the writers build on the few things that made them different. Plus, I think the uneasy co-existence of science and magic in Top Cow Universe is ripe for exploration. Thankfully, Ron Marz appears to be aiming for just that in the upcoming crossover. Plus, Tom Cow Universe has Lara Craft in-continuity, which can't be a bad thing, right?
Current Status: Still being published
Chances of Revival: Aperantly, there is some kind of a revival on the horizon, so we'll have to wait and see.
My Take: I would like to see the books take advantage of the whole shared universe setting more then they have been thus far. Failing that, I'd just try to get the best writers possible working on the books. Like I said, the potential is there.

Ultraverse
Publisher: Malibu Comics
General Description: Out of all the universes I touched on so far, this is the closest thing to a conventional superhero universe, with all the standard trappings that come with it - except there were characters that were genuinely original. It is also one of the most interconnected universes I talked about thus far, if not the most interconnected universe.
My Opinion: As a fan of shared universes, I was particularly struck by just how connected everything was. The importance of major events was driven home by the fact that they really did have long-reaching consequences that spread beyond the scope of the event itself. One of the most brilliant innovations of the line was "Ultras Monthly" - a comic that was presented as a magazine written in Ultraverse which covered all the major events that transpired across the line during the given month. Not only did it give you an idea as to what was going on, but it helped to show how seemingly unrelated events did, in fact, relate to each other. I am amazed that, aside from House of M and Civil War specials, no one has taken advantage of that.
But, while I was enthralled by the shared universe dynamic, I didn't particularly enjoy the universe itself. I'm not quite sure why - the writing was good, the art, while excessive and over-the-top, was solid and there were a few interesting ideas here and there. Maybe its the fact that line was just too superheroic - an odd claim to make, I'm sure, but I can't think of any other reason.
Come to think about it, I did like Firearm...
Current Status: In legal limbo. As part of their contracts, the Ultraverse creators were entitled to a small percentage of profits made any time any of their characters are used in any media. Although Marvel acquired Ultraverse along with the rest of Malibu's assets, the upper management seems reluctant to publish anything that would involve any kind of profit-sharing.
Chances of Revival: Until the upper management changes, not bloody likely.
My Take: Honestly, I'm not interested enough to think of anything in that regard.

To be Continued...

Edit: Ah, crap! What the hell happened to my Valiant Universe write-up! *sigh* Oh well. I guess I'll have to retype the bloody thing... Crap.

Kid Monster
02-07-2007, 01:04 PM
I have a strange obsession with the topic of "Obscure failed superhero universes". Thank you for indulging this sickness with these well-written and very interesting posts. "What would I do if I was hired to revamp the _____ Universe?" is one of my favorite daydreams/time-killing excercises.

I have fond goofball memories of: Comic's Greatest World, Epic Shadowline, the 1970's Atlas-Seaboard, the 1990's Archie/DC Impact line, and Warren's weird-ass mini-universe of horror heroes that appeared in EERIE magazine(Exterminator One, Coffin the Living Dead Man, Hunter, Darklon the Mystic).

Strannik
02-09-2007, 07:44 PM
Welcome, Kid Monster - it's always good to see that I'm not the only one ;) Out of all the universes you listed, the only one I am directly familiar is Comics Greatest World (which I, alas, forgot to cover earlier). Anyway, back the the show.

Valiant Universe

Publisher: Valiant Comics
General Summary: During his tenure as Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter created New Universe, which, as I mentioned in my write up, was supposed to involve characters with fantastic powers operating in real-world environment. When he started his own company, Voyager Communications, he tried to do something similar. But instead of starting completely from scratch, he based his newer universe, the Valiant Universe, around three Silver Age characters he licensed from Western Publishing - Dr. Solar (a nuclear scientist with god-like powers), Magnus the Robot Fighter (a martial artist from 4000 AD who fought rogue sentient robots) and Turok, Son of Stone (an Indian trapped in a land of dinosaurs). Now how, you may ask, could a universe built around those three characters possibly be realistic? Turns out, it can, and it's bloody brilliant for it.
See, in Valiant Universe, Solar was actually Phil Seleski, a nuclear scientist and a fan of the above-mentioned characters (especially Dr. Solar). One day, he was testing an experimental reactor of his design. The reactor went critical, and, in the sequence of events all too similar to Dr. Solar's origin, Seleski gained ability to manipulate energy, which essentially amounted to god-like powers. He tried to use his powers to do good, but in the end, he wound up accidentally collapsing the whole universe into a huge black hole.
Next thing he knew, he materialized in what seemed like a few days before the accident. Determined to ensure that he would not make the same mistake twice, he set out to avert the accident. Along the way, he discovered two things. First, the experimental reactor was actually a "wish machine," which allowed his to subconsciously manipulate the very fabric of reality. He gained powers in an accident similar to Dr. Solar's power-granting accident was because he wished it to happen. Second, he did not travel back in time. Rather, he recreated the universe from scratch, minus a few days. Furthermore, it turned out that his background in comics subconsciously influenced the way the universe would turn out. So, all the sudden, there were immortals, aliens, beings with extraordinary powers and, yes, even a version of Magnus and Turok existing in the distant future and Lost Land ( a world that existed outside conventional space-time), respectively. Because Seleski was a nuclear scientist as well as a fanboy, the universe still operated under something resembling real-world physics - faster-then-light travel was impossible, law of conservation of energy was honored, friction affected speed, winds and low temperatures made flying somewhat, etc.
Feeling responsible for this brand new world, Seleski adopted the guise of his childhood hero and tried his best to keep the world safe.
As mentioned before, Valiant Universe was a fairly realistic universe that operated in real time. At first, most people were unaware of the supernatural stuff, though slowly but surely, that began to change. The comics took place either in the present or in Magnus' future. There were a few connections between the two eras, mostly via immortal characters and the events of the Unity crossover, but for the most part, the two eras didn't interact.
It should also be noted that the company premiered a number of innovations that would become industry standards - it was the first comic to altogether askew thought balloons in favor of caption boxes, do away with sound effects and generally aspire for the more naturalistic feel. Contrary to what Wikipedia may tell you, Valiant did not pioneer decompression - manga did it first.
My Opinion: This universe had many great, challenging, awe-inspiring ideas. Solar in particular stands out as a gem, boasting highly evocative writing that lent insight to the sheer magnitude of Solar's abilities while grounding them in decisively human perspective. The other titles boasted a number of interesting concepts and ideas. Harbinger blurred the lines between good and evil, as Harada, the main "villain" was allowed to have altruistic moments and the "heroes" undertook a number of questionable actions. A couple of times, the readers were allowed to wonder if maybe the bad guy had a point after all. Rai and Magnus dealt with the issues of free will and the responsibility it brought. The list goes on.
That said, the line was not without weaknesses, All too often, the characters were settled with dialog that ranged from weak to outright awful. This was particularly notable in the above-mentioned Harbinger, which suffered from the "teenagers don't talk like that" syndrome I mentioned earlier. The plots weren't always that terribly original. There were also a few instances of "spandex envy," when certain characters adapted certain trappings of superhero genre for no discernible reason (see the Harbinger kids' costumes for one of the more notable examples of this trend). In other comics, I might have been inclined to overlook this, but, for better or for worse, the strengths of the line made the weaknesses all that much more glaringly visible. That said, I felt that for the first year, at least, the strengths outweighed the weaknesses and there were enough interesting ideas make me want to look further.
One thing that impressed me about Valiant Universe from the getgo was the sheer diversity of characters, each boasting a unique, fully realized personality. Plus, I was always keen on any universe where spandex-clad heroes were an exception rather then a rule. I also liked the subtle interconnectivity of it all. Things that seemed small and unimportant in one book wound up important in another, many actions had far-reaching consequences that weren't immediately obvious unless one looked at the big picture and seemingly unrelated characters and concepts wound up connected in surprising ways. Harada's actions, for example, had impact on every title, as there wasn't a hero he hasn't run across at some point or another.
Of course, all of the above comes with a very important footnote - it applies to the material released during and immediately after Shooter's tenure. There are conflicting accounts of his departure, but whatever the truth may be, it affected the entire line. It seemed like the more time passed, the more the quality dropped. By the time the whole thing was ended, the quality of some titles dropped to the level that recalled early Image output. It didn't help that the universe began to embrace superhero trappings with increasing frequency. And the saddest part is that it's the post-Shooter titles that tend to crowd the discount bins, making the sheer scale of the universe's fall from grace all the more painfully visible.
Current Status: Valiant Comics properties were bought by Acclaim, the then-notable videogame company.Their efforts resulted in the creation of the Acclaim Universe (or Valiant Heroes 2), which was, for all intents and purposes, a universe in it's own right. Ultimately, Acclaim collapsed into bankruptcy and it's assets were auctioned off. Solar, Magnus and Turok wound up reverting to their original license holder, Western Publishing, which in turn was acquired by Random House. I not sure what happened to all the other Valiant characters, to be honest.
Chances of Revival: That depends on what you mean by "revival." If you want a universe that resembles the original Valiant Universe, you would have to get Random House to license you Solar at the very least (a highly questionable proposition). It's possible to do a revival without the Western Publishing characters, but that would pretty much necessitate a complete reboot, for obvious reasons. Either way, the prospects look decisively murky.
My Take: Personally, I would go for a complete reboot regardless of whether I would get a chance to use Solar or not. Picking up Valiant Universe were it left off would be virtually impossible do to a number of things that happened at the end of the run, not to mention the whole "real time" aspect. I could pick up where Unity 2000 crossover left off and work with a merged Acclaim/Valiant universe left in it's wake, but honestly, what I've seen of it doesn't inspire alot of enthusiasm. So, a complete reboot it is.

To be continued...

Still to Come: Wildstorm Universe and, in a bit of belated review Comics' Greatest World (because I forgot about it the first time around).

Universes I've heard about, but haven't read: Broadway Universe, Chimera Universe, Future Universe, Impact Universe, Razorline, Shadowline

Universes I read, but have no particular desire to review because they make my brain explode: Archie Universe, Image Multiverse

Reptisaurus!
02-10-2007, 11:37 AM
Universes I've heard about, but haven't read: Broadway Universe, Chimera Universe, Future Universe, Impact Universe, Razorline, Shadowline


I've vaugely heard of some of these, but I couldn't tell you a single title or attached creator.

More:

Ultraverse I have a whole box of Ultraverse, Continuity, and New Universe comics that somehow materialzied from the ether. I might read them sometime, but not THIS year and not NEXT year. I read about how Marvel bought this company and then gutted it, which is a really shitty thing t'do.

Top Cow: Never a fan, but I think Strannik's right. In theroy, these could be really awesome. I'd love to write the Darkness.

Valiant: Huh. I didn't know that Valiant worked in real time. Seems like that woulda made for a better universe but crappier individual stories.
I've read a few issues of Solar and, bein' a huge dinosaur fan, a goodly number or Turoks. And they're both much better than they'd have any right to be.