Tag Archives | Dead Universes

Dead Universes: Kickstart the “compiler”

Well, this is certainly a timely Kickstarter for my current Dead Universe habit.

One of the most difficult parts of collecting a Dead Universe is all of the floppies. Most Universes meet their demise before they have the opportunity to publish in trade formats and so few of us are skilled in bookbinding. Alex Rodriquez is providing the perfect solution in the form of the the “compiler comic binder” (hat tip, Comics Alliance).

Unlike library binding, this is non-permanent, non-destructive and reversible. Take comics in and out at will. Comics are held in place by a wire that snaps at the top and is attached at the bottom of the post (no small pieces to lose). The cover is a translucent flexible cover so that you can see the contents. In addition, the spine includes a spot for a label so that you and others can see the contents at a glance.

Rodriquez has completed the prototype for the “compiler” and the Kickstarter will allow him to produce the first batch of compilers. More details at the Kickstarter page.

Dead Universes (Part IV): Defiant Comics reading order

defiantOf the four Dead Universes I’m currently collecting the death of Defiant Comics was the most disappointing. Valiant had a long enough run that it didn’t feel premature when it died. Marvel did a great job sucking all of the satisfaction out the Ultraverse after they purchased it from Mailbu, so it didn’t feel like a great loss when it finally folded in on itself. Comics’ Greatest World never quite grabbed me. Defiant, however, was something special that never had the opportunity to reach its full potential. The Defiant universe, much like Valiant, stood apart from the other universes, because it didn’t build itself on the foundation of tired comic book tropes. The Defiant universe didn’t have analogs for Superman, Batman, or the X-Men. Many of the characters that kicked off the universe felt fresh and inspired.

The launch title for Defiant Comics was Warriors of Plasm and it started the reader off not on Earth, but instead a hungry, living, alien planet. The planet gives the inhabitants everything they need from itself and therefore it needs to constantly feed. This is done by conquering planets. A rift in the Universe opens and Earth is discovered and it’s this discovery that leads to a quintet of Earthlings receiving powers.

Of those titles starting the universe, and the one that brought me back to this dead universe was Dark Dominion. Steve Ditko, who only penciled part of the first issue before walking away, deserves a great deal of credit for inspiring what Jim Shooter would eventually create. According to Shooter:

He wanted a character who wasn’t bitten by a radioactive anything, or from another planet, or injected with chemicals. Whatever the character could do that was special, if anything, he wanted to be the result of his own efforts, his own thinking. If empowered, empowered in some novel, creative way by his own mind. And why does it always have to be a young guy? Why not an older man? Steve also didn’t want another muscular bodybuilder type. No mansions, no Batmobiles, no costumes. And no “official” super hero name. A real, regular person name—though he allowed that others who didn’t know his name might call the guy by some more dramatic appellation.

What Shooter produced was a 54-year-old superhero named Michael Alexander who spent his life working to overcome human fears. Pushing his fears aside granted Michael access to the “Quantum Substratum” where he could see the “Dark Dominion.” Stepping into this world allows one the ability to see the true form of fears and how they unknowingly latch onto humans.
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Dead Universes (part III): Reading order

ghostDeciding how to read a Dead Universe informs the best way to collect a Dead Universe. Do you read it series-by-series, as it came out when originally published, or in some sort of chronological order? Knowing this will help determine how to invest in Dead Universes.

Chronologically

Reading a Universe in chronological order is tempting, especially if the publisher had taken time to plot out a rough skeleton of the timeline. This is easiest with Defiant due to less than 60 issues being published thanks to Marvel’s company killing lawsuit. The website ShooterWorks.com has posted notes from the never published universe-wide crossover event, Schism, which helps establish a solid reading order. Using those notes and my own reading of the titles I’ve built a preferred chronology.

The original Valiant universe (VH1), on the other hand, had a long and healthy life before greed drove the universe into the ground. Due to that long publishing life putting the whole thing into a chronological reading order would be a bit of a bear. Thankfully, Joshua Eves at ValiantFans.com enjoys wrestling bears and did the heavy lifting to establish a timeline. While it would definitely be interesting to read the universe in this order it would require waiting until all of the relevant issues have been collected. Putting that collection together will take time and money, because it isn’t very often someone puts up for sale an entire lot of all published Valiant issues.

Series-by-Series

Steve Englehart, one of the founding fathers of the Ultraverse, has said the intention was “from the outset to share the playground and join in each other’s games,” so there’s a great deal more crossover in the Ultraverse than some of the other Dead Universes. That makes a chronological reading enticing. However, if you include everything published, including after the accursed Marvel buyout, there are nearly 800 single issues in the Ultraverse. Subtracting the issues after the Marvel takeover you’re still looking at more than 500 single issues. It isn’t as many as the Valiant Universe, but it would still take a great deal of work to figure out the rough chronology. Of course, there’s far less time jumping in the Ultraverse than in Valiant, so arguably someone could read the issues as they initially hit the market and probably come close to a chronology.

I’ve decided to read Malibu’s Ultraverse series-by-series based on when that series started. As an example, Prime, Hardcase, and The Strangers were first to market in June 1993, so I’ll read those all the way through starting with The Strangers which is considered the launch title of the universe. Next would be Freex and Mantra which both came out in July 1993. Those would be followed by Exiles and Prototype (August 1993), The Solution (September 1993), Sludge and Night Man (October 1993), so on and so forth. It’ll be interesting to first see the Ultraverse evolve entirely through the eyes of Prime and then see how it all connects through the perspective of Night Man.
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Dead Universes (part II): Best Practices

Marvel's ad after they bought out Ultraverse.

Marvel’s ad after they bought out Ultraverse.

Thursday I kicked off what’s intended to be a long running series dedicated to the exploration of Dead Universes. Today’s post is dedicated to looking at some of the ‘best practices’ for individuals who think they may want to get into reading or collecting Dead Universes.

1. Have a game plan. Know what you want to collect in advance and how you’ll go about doing it. I haven’t jumped into the original Valiant Universe yet for two reasons. The first is I have a substantial number of Valiant titles in my long boxes, which are 2000 miles away. It’ll be cheaper to mail them across the country over Christmas than to buy duplicates of the first 20 issues of Magnus, Solar, Harbinger, and Archer & Armstrong. The second is I haven’t quite figured out how much of the Valiant universe I want to read. I know I’ll stick through Jim Shooter’s run, but will I seek out everything up until Acclaim tried to turn the company into a video game promotional unit?

For Ultraverse, my demarcation line is roughly Godwheel. That’s when Marvel heroes first started coming into the Ultraverse and when the quality of the titles started to decline significantly.

2. Buy complete runs when possible. This is a bit of advice I wish I’d known going into my quest to acquire Ultraverse titles. Sure you might be able to get Prime 1-10 for $5, but you’ll have a harder time completing the rest of the series. Readers tend to decline the longer a series goes on (which is why Marvel and DC keep canceling and restarting titles), so there are fewer of the later issues in the resale marketplace.

3. Shop around. There’s a vendor on ebay currently selling a complete run of Freex for $45, which is much too high. One month ago I purchased a complete run for $15 ($20 with shipping). I have a rule to never pay more than the number of issues in the run, so essentially $1 per issue. It’s worth repeating that I’m collecting for the stories and not potential future value, so if you want an all near mint line you’ll likely be pay more.

4. Don’t be afraid to wait. If you’re unhappy with the price results coming back don’t be afraid to wait. My generation, the one that grew up during the comic Universe boom of the 90s, is getting to an age where many of us are embarrassed to have junk in our parent’s basement or we need to sacrifice long boxes to make space in our homes for baby cribs.

Next week I’ll take a look at “reading orders” of Dead Universes.

Dead Universes (part I): Reading Dead Universes

defiantA few years ago I had an itch to reread the Dark Dominion series from Defiant Comics. Not having my original issues readily available I went to ebay to see if I could get them at a reasonable price. Plugging “Defiant Comics” into the search led me to a vendor selling not only every issue of Dark Dominion, but nearly every single issue published by Defiant between 1993 and 1994 for $30. My pulse quickened as I realized I could own a nearly complete universe. He was only missing the two issues of Prudence & Caution and the Warriors of Plasm and Dark Dominion zero issues.

It was easy enough to track down Prudence & Caution, but the zero issues come as a series of trading cards that puzzle together when placed in order in a binder. There were vendors on ebay selling the fully collected trading cards complete in binders, but while searching I came across someone selling six boxes of Warriors of Plasm cards and four boxes of Dark Dominion cards. The price for all 10 unopened boxes was $20 which at the time seemed like a smart purchase.

When adjusted for inflation everything I purchased (not including the multiple boxes of trading cards) would have cost me more than $220 in 1994.  I only had to spend a little more than $50 so I could read the storyline of an entire shared universe. Having this revelation I realized if I could do it with Defiant I could very likely do it with the other mothballed universes from the 90s.

Some quick googling showed me I wasn’t alone. There’s a vibrant forum dedicated to Dead Universes at Valiantfans.com and a number of blogs documenting efforts to collect entire universes. The magnitude of collecting universes varies. Some collectors are only seeking to have a complete storyline. Others are trying to acquire all of the variant covers and ashcans. On the more extreme end are collectors collecting everything related to the publisher’s universe from action figures to promotional swag to television pilots.

Personally, I’m mostly interested in collecting for the purpose of reading the stories of these universes. Tragically, most have never been collected into trades and in many cases legal kerfuffles make the likelihood they ever will slim at best. That means mining ebay and long boxes at comic shops for the lowest priced floppies.

Of course, Dead Universes stretch all the way back to the Golden Age. For my own personal sanity I’ve limited my current reading to universes that were launched and started to fade between 1991 and 1995. This includes, but is not limited to, Defiant, Malibu’s Ultraverse, Comics Greatest World, and Valiant.

Read Dead Universes Part 2: Best Practices

Dead Universes (prologue): A time traveler finds holes in the multiverse

This was intended to be a one or two paragraph introduction to a series I’m working on regarding Dead Universes of the 90s. It’s possible I got a little carried away.

If a time traveler leaps from January 1995 to January 2012 and walked into a comic book shop she’d likely at first think very little had changed. DC and Marvel are still the top dogs while the logos of Dark Horse and Image continue to command a decent amount of shelf space.

The first thing she might notice is all of the numbering on DC’s titles are very low; shouldn’t Action Comics be nearing 900 around now? DC is still publishing the Vertigo imprint, but Animal Man and Swamp Thing seem to be absorbed back into the the primary DC continuity. Missing from the racks: Sandman, Doom Patrol, the Invisibles, and Shade, the Changing Man. She’d note that Hellblazer is still running, but John Constantine (and Shade) now appear to be part of something called Justice League Dark.

Continuing her observation she’d likely start to notice some holes where universes used to be. Dark Horse’s attempt at a shared superhero universe, Comics’ Greatest World, doesn’t have any representation on the shelf (Ghost would grace the cover of Dark Horse Presents... five months later). Defiant, which held so much promise when she left 1994, nowhere to be seen. Marvel had just purchased the Ultraverse characters right before she hit the time stream, but they’re missing from the shelves and don’t appear to have been absorbed into the Marvel Universe. Her beloved Valiant, which was doing so well when she left and had many titles were on a two-issue per month schedule, completely absent (X-O Manowar would reintroduce a new Valiant Universe in May).

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