Monday 19 January 2015

1993: THE NIGHT MAN Issue 1 (Malibu Ultraverse)

From October 1993: the first issue of THE NIGHT MAN, part of the ambitious ULTRAVERSE line of shared universe books published by MALIBU in the wake of IMAGE COMICS leaving the fold after their first year in business.

In addition to being a successful comicbook series, THE NIGHT MAN was also Glen Larson's last foray into the action/ adventure genre.  The TV version ran for two syndicated seasons between 1997 and 1999.

Ironically, by the time Larson's show launched the comic that it was based on had been canned.  MARVEL, desperate to maintain market share in a floundering market, snapped-up Malibu in October 1994 to stop the upstart publisher falling into the hands of DC Comics... a purchase that, if it were allowed to happen, would cost Marvel their status as the biggest publisher.  A claim deemed essential to keeping the share price inflated.  

Marvel tried to bolster the fortunes of their acquisition by integrating, through a series of crossovers, the Ultraverse characters with the mainstream Marvel Universe.  Typically, this alienated their existing readership and failed to excite Marvel fans who hadn't sampled the line before.  The Ultraverse, like the UKverse before it, was a little corner of the Marvel Universe overlooked by most readers.  

Larson's TV show was notable for a ridiculously cheap looking approximation of the comicbook's costume design.  It looked OK on screen but ludicrous in stills and publicity material.  The realities of syndication deprived Larson of the budgets he'd enjoyed in his network years and left him heavily dependent on cutting edge, but unconvincing, CGI lending the show a bargain basement air.  

Standout moments included a David Hasselhoff cameo in the show's feature-length opener (presumably a favor from an old friend), a revival of Larson's fondly-remembered (but quickly cancelled) MANIMAL (which doubled as a backdoor pilot by shamelessly adding a daughter, time-travel AND Jake the Ripper to the already improbable premise) and a virtual remake of one of Larson's THE HIGHWAYMAN episodes (complete with plentiful stock truck shots, mixed with new material featuring the same vehicle, and a rehash of the script).  

The opening credits contained a name-check for Marvel, making this the live-action show that Marvel never talks about.  

The Ultraverse also spawned an ULTRA FORCE animated series which had the misfortune of hitting the screens just as Marvel were sealing the deal.  Marvel's existing animation deals with New World Television made it odd-man-out in the roster of shows and little was done to extend its life beyond the first run of episodes, despite a big licensing push spearheaded by a range of action figures.  Night Man appeared in one of the episodes.  

The Ultraverse has lain dormant in subsequent decades thanks, apparently, to some complicated royalty deals signed with the original creators which makes it uneconomical for Marvel to revive the characters.  The need to renew Marvel's copyright claim will probably see them revived, in some form, at some point.  

Unsurprisingly, given the limbo status of the characters, neither the animated series nor Larson's show is available on shiny disc although convention bootleggers have (once again) filled the gap with the latter.

I'm not sure the NIGHT MAN show ever even aired in the UK.  It was announced as upcoming, at one point, by Sky but (if I recall correctly) it was pulled prior to TX and I don't think it was ever rescheduled.  Whether this was down to a deal never being inked, or quality control on Sky's behalf, is unknown.  

Fans of Larson's brand of easy-going adventure will find much to enjoy. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...