Tuesday 4 July 2017


From December 1994: Marvel Comics gobbles up the MALIBU ULTRAVERSE, as reported in the UK's COMICS INTERNATIONAL.

Malibu, one-time home of Alien Nation, Planet of the Apes, Japanese animation, Deep Space Nine and softcore titty books, hit pay dirt when - for a year - they looked after the just-launched Image Comics and, when that contract came to an end, they realised there was a good living to be made from superheroes.  So they unleashed the Ultraverse.  

Fair to say they were not the only publisher to be launching new shared universe books at the time.  Dark Horse went for it in a big way and gave the world Barb Wire.  There was Milestone.  Marvel had a whole bunch of new universes, including our own UKverse.  

But Malibu burned pretty bright.  In addition to A LOT of comics, they also expanded fast into syndicated animation (Ultraforce), action figures, computer games, TV advertising ('Jump On Now'), TV series (Glen Larson's Nightman adaptation) and much else besides.  They were burning bright... but also burning cash.

The owners raised the 'for sale' sign and DC came oround to measure for curtains.  That paniced Marvel who knew a DC takeover would catipult their rival to numero uno by marketshare... and that would dent Marvel's all important shareprice.  So they swooped.  

It's pretty safe to say that Marvel were only vaguely interested in the comics themselves.  The move removed a competitor but Malibu's existing multimedia deals didn't sit well with Marvel's business people and the characters were never going to be as important to Marvel as their own.  But they must have wondered how an upstart like Malibu could get a two-season deal for a (cheap) syndicated action show when Stan Lee had spent a decade in Hollywood delivering not very much.  

Marvel made some half-hearted moves to merge the Ultraverse with the Marvel Universe (this was, after all, the era where inter-company crossovers were pretty much a monthly event) but Marvel fans weren't interested and Ultraverse readers resented the takeover.  The line was slimmed... and then closed altogether.  And another sub-set of 'Marvel' characters were warehoused.  

Which is the interesting bit.  Marvel will dust off old characters either just because they can or because the lawyers tell them they are in danger of slipping out of copyright.  But the lawyers are saying something else about the Malibu Ultraverse.  It seems that the whole shebang is out-of-bounds.  And no-one seems to quite know why.  Although it is a safe bet that someone, somewhere, would have to be paid if they were resurected.  And it seems that Disney and Marvel just don't care that much.  

The good news is that - should you be tempted - the Ultraverse is a staple of the 50p back issue box.  Dealers must have ordered so many of these books that they are still trying to shift the stock decades later.  There are - of course - a lot of special and limited edition copies (this WAS the 1990s) that are harder to find but the core books are a pretty easy find.  Take a punt.  

BTW: Stan's EXCELSIOR COMICS, yet another Marvel imprint, failed to see the light of day.  

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