Monthly Archives: June 2011

UV Creators: Roland Mann

Roland Mann is another one of the guys who was there from the beginning of the Ultraverse. A man of the South, he’s back in that part of the country, writing and mentoring writers.

He was nice enough to discuss how he got started with Malibu, an unpublished Steve Gerber Sludge story (!) and his continuing education and career path.

How did you find your way from Southern Miss to California to work for Malibu?

I had been freelancing for Malibu beginning in 1989. In fact, I was not only writing various series and mini-series (like Cat & Mouse and Miss Fury), but I was packaging some of the incredible talent that was hidden in the southern Mississippi area, books like The Mantus Files with horror novelist Sid Williams, who is from Louisiana.

Anyway, I met Chris Ulm, the editor in chief for Malibu in 1992 at DragonCon and he told me that they were ABOUT to have to cut back on work for me. When I asked why, he said they planned to build an in-house staff. Seeing as to how I was having a great time working in comics and I hated to see the bulk of my work go away (I didn’t only work for Malibu, but I got about 75 percent of my freelance work from them at the time), I asked if they’d consider hiring me. Ulm suggested he didn’t think I’d ever leave my beloved Southland … but two weeks later, he called and offered me an editor position.

After some discussion with my wife–who was on the final leg of her Masters Program at the time–we decided it was a good move for us. I moved out in November of 1992 and took over the entire Genesis Line of comics (Protectors, Dinosaurs for Hire, Ex-Mutants, etc).

You were at Southern Miss about the same time as Brett Favre … did you ever see him around campus?

Actually, yes. But it wasn’t around campus. Brett’s door opened to the door of one of my very good friends at the time, Tony Fortenberry (brother of Thomas, writer of the first SilverStorm mini-series). I’d often visit Tony for writers group meetings, playing board games, or just hanging out. It wasn’t unusual that Brett was there. I remember watching him play as a freshman and being VERY impressed with his arm!

What were your responsibilities at Malibu?

Most folks know about my editing duties. I went from Protectors to Ultraverse as editor. After I made the move to UV, I edited about half the line, with Hank Kanalz editing the other half.

Another thing I did at Malibu that I’m pretty proud of is started and ran an intern program. I can’t remember if the idea originated with me or, if not me, it was likely Ulm. We needed help making copies, filing and that sort of thing. As my wife has been in Higher Ed for her entire life, she suggested the intern program.

So, I interviewed and hired all the interns at Malibu until the Marvelcution (and I honestly don’t know if any more were hired after that). SOME of those became Editorial Assistants and then Assistant Editors. Thus, some of them were pretty sharp folks! After Marvel bought the company I was promoted to Managing Editor–which really meant that I just helped Ulm with paperwork. They had to change some titles to try to stay in line with Marvel.

After Ulm, Tom Mason and Dan Danko left the company, I was Senior Editor (although Marvel chose to keep a non-UV editor to “finish” off the line–something I always found very interesting). For a while, I also “trafficked” the art department. NOT the coloring department, but actual art and lettering, corrections and that sort of thing. But after the company got really big, it went to someone else.

Do you have a favorite memory from working on the Ultraverse?

It isn’t so much an “Ultraverse” memory as a Malibu memory … Y’know, this might sound hokey, but one of my favorite memories is the weekly editorial meetings we used to have. Once a week, the editors would get out of the office (in the day before cellphones) and have an editorial meeting with Chris Ulm. That’s when I really got to know the other editors.

Truthfully, though, Malibu was a very fun place to work. The atmosphere was generally really pretty good (post Marvel it began to change, but it wasn’t as IMMEDIATE as many seem to think). With UV, I got to work with a few creators whose work I’d enjoyed for years. I even got to have about a two hour lunch with Stan Lee himself!

What is your favorite Ultraverse-related project that you worked on?

Boy, THAT’s not a loaded question, is it? I think Steve Gerber is one of the unsung great storytellers in comics and with the UV. Two of my favorite projects were Gerber Sludge books. The first was Sludge: Red X-Mas with art by Mike Ploog, and the second was an unpublished Gerber story that had pencils by Mitch Byrd.

What happened to that unpublished Gerber Sludge book?

I wish I could answer with any authority, but I can’t. WHILE I was still employed, I held on to the hope that it would see publication. Once my employment was … ahem … discontinued … well. I DO know this: I saw some of Mitch Byrd’s art FROM that book show up on eBay a few years back. So–and I’m guessing–I think what happened is that those in charge the final days just sent all the artwork back to Mitch when they were returning art. Mitch held on to it a while…then decided to try to recoup some $. But that is PURELY a guess (a logical and educated one, but a guess nonetheless).

Do you have a favorite souvenir or collectible that you kept all these years?

I have a framed George Perez Chromium cover to Genesis #0. It was framed by the printer.

It’s funny, I had a LOT of stuff for a while. But, as anyone who’s moved a few times can attest, moving STUFF is a pain … so I slowly got rid of most of my “collectible” stuff. The biggest thing I think I still have is my “editorial copies” of the entire line of UV books. Me, Hank, Dan Danko and Chris Ulm used to have 3 ring binders of each UV title. Each time a new issue was released, one of the interns would take copies, punch them, and add them to our binders. They were on a shelf above my desk and I could have quick reference to any UV issue. I still have those, though the binders are long gone.

What are you up to these days?

I just completed my MFA in Writing (which is like a poor man’s PhD…it’s a “terminal” degree without all the fluff) and hope to get back into the classroom. I taught English at the University/College level for several years before being downsized (thanks to 9/11). I speak at writers conferences here in the Southern region and lead writer workshops/retreats (such at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Annual Writers Retreat) where I mentor writers. I’ve also just completed a superhero novel titled THE INTERNS. My agent is confident she can sell it–so I’m confident with her! I also blog regularly at: http://www.rolandmann.me.


Ultraforce 2 variant

Just another variant cover, eh? What makes it noteworthy is that this was distributed shortly after Ultraforce 1, which had an alternate Ultra 5000 cover (one of 20 that Malibu printed; there were also 5,500 hologram covers for that particular issue). So maybe Ultraforce 1 was the final Ultra 5000. There were several more “limited edition” alternate cover Ultraverse comics after this one, though.

The cover blurb says Limited Special Edition (or Special Limited Edition, depending on how you like to read circular text) but doesn’t have print run numbers. Probably less than 5000, or maybe it was just cheaper to print without the silver foil.

 

Both books are readily available and cheap. The Limited edition often sells for a few bucks; I bought five for $5 once, though.


Rune pin

There were a few different pins made with Ultraverse characters. This is the only one I own (I thought I had a Prime pin too but I can’t seem to find it).

It’s not as big as the picture makes it seem; it is actually a little bit smaller than a quarter. But it looks nice. Seems like these things used to sell for around $7 back in the day. I picked this one up for a buck.

As far as collecting, I don’t put a premium on this sort of thing but I would be interested in identifying what is out there. Maybe I can check through a few old Previews to see if stuff like this was solicited.

Edit: Tom Mason’s comment moved up to the main post.

I think we did just the three character pins – Prime, Mantra and Rune. There was a Malibu Comics logo pin, (and a Bravura logo pin) but the Ultraverse logo was too big to fit on a pin.


Short stack of Prime vs. Hulks

OK, I bit.

I noted a while back that someone on eBay was selling huge lots of the Limited Premium Edition books. I sent him a Best Offer bid of $5 for 25 of the Prime Versus Hulk books. He approved it, and the lot was mine for under $10 shipped.

Yeah, I know there is no real point to collecting comic books this way, but the deal seemed too good to pass up. Not that they are worth too much, but these books were originally solicited for $10 each.

The books were well packed, they’re still in great shape and he was nice enough to throw in No. 26 for free.


Phoenix Resurrection

These books kind of slipped under my radar when I first started collecting Ultraverse stuff. I re-read them this week, but I’m still not entirely sure what happened. Characters from the Marvel Universe joined the Ultraversians, Phoenix went wild and split in two and the story continues in Firefox.

I think by this point the Ultraverse was being pulled in too many directions and the main characters were losing their focus, but these books have good art and pacing nonetheless.

Each main book in the series had an Ultra Gold Limited Edition counterpart. When I was trying to fill out my collection I thought these were tough to find but I’ve seen quite a few lately. They tend to arrive on eBay in waves. This week I bought a set of all four golds for $5 shipped.

 

 

 

 

The Red Shift version is the same as the regular Resurrection issue with an extra story. It’s also fairly easy to find cheap online but you have to keep an eye out for Phoenix Resurrection lots where it is included. It’s often easier (and costs about the same) to buy that way than by seeking it out as an individual issue.


Signed Rune 1

So how long would it take you to sign your name 10,000 times? Even if your name was just a long string of squiggles, I imagine it would still take a good long while.

Barry Windsor-Smith could tell you how long it takes, since he did it for Dynamic Forces. There were a number of signed Ultraverse books that went into the thousands, but this is the king of them all. Not surprisingly it is fairly common on eBay, but it usually sells for a few bucks. For his sake, I hope somebody else had to do the numbering because that looks like it was a bigger pain than the signatures.

I asked BWS to sign a couple of books and cards at a con a few years back. He signed the books with the squiggle, but he initialed the cards “BWS.” Squiggles aside, the man has very nice handwriting.


UV Creators: James Hudnall

James Hudnall was the writer for two of the cornerstone titles of the original Ultraverse, Hardcase and The Solution. He’s still writing comics today along with political blogging and a number of other endeavors; you can keep up with him on his web site.

He took some time this week to answer a few questions about his time working on the Ultraverse.

How did you come to work on the Ultraverse?

I was between projects, looking for work and I heard at a convention from some friends that Malibu was looking to start something and they needed creators with some name cache, so I talked to Tom Mason and Chris Ulm at the con, then Dave Olbrich and agreed to talk to them some more at their office. It snowballed from there. They were flush with money from Image which started out with them, and they wanted to create a new universe with established comics creators that could be a new DC/Marvel if things worked out. The industry was still doing really well at that point.

Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. There were tons of these new companies from Valiant, Milestone, Defiant, etc. Not to mention Image, which was the hottest new company. Competition was fierce.

What is your best memory from working on the Ultraverse?

The friendships made and the fun times at the conferences we had. They were great times. Also being able to produce regular comics and get paid well. That’s always enjoyable. I miss those days.

Did you keep a favorite souvenir or collectible from your time working on those books?

I kept as much as I could. I still have boxes of some of my books in storage. My favorite are the NME and Hardcase toy figurines which I have somewhere.

How do you feel about Hardcase being basically erased from the Ultraverse in the Black September storyline?

Fine. Better that than they ruin him more than they had. Nothing that happened when the original creators left is real. Just consider that stuff bogus because it was. Marvel wanted to put in “hot” creators who frankly had no interest in doing anything good. It showed.

What are you up to these days?

I have comics projects I want to do and have artists but it’s a very tough time to do books. Waiting to see if I can get financing to do them myself. I am also a web developer.

Any chance we’ll see books like Hardcase or the Solution in print again?

It’s not up to me. I would love to revisit them with what I know now, and make them work a lot better. But I seriously doubt that will happen. Marvel seems extremely disinterested in the Ultraverse. There are legal obligations they have to follow if they use them which means paying us founders some royalties. They seem to be dead opposed to that. Sorry.


Holding closet

When you collect stuff like Ultraverse comics, sometimes you wind up buying larger lots of books just to get one or two that you’re really after. This creates storage issues ( I also collect Valiant Comics stuff and Iron Man what-nots). Unfortunately for my wife, I have commandeered one of our hall closets as a “holding pen.”

This is where the books go until I can figure out where to file them. And a lot of other stuff goes in there as well.

Some people might think this is tacky. I think it’s a work of art. Don’t ask my wife what she thinks.


Solution 5 variant

As far as I know, this was the only variant cover for the Solution. Of these two, the one on the right is far tougher to find. I’ve only come across a couple although that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a big box of these stuck in someone’s garage.

 

The one on the left is everywhere. If you’re going to buy it you’re better off waiting for a complete run of Solution books; these are often just a few bucks on eBay. The one on the right will require some digging. I bought mine for a couple of bucks from Joe Koch’s web site, but I’m not sure if he has any more.


Painted variants

The seven titles that were relaunched after Black September each got a variant cover for the No. 1 issues (there were also painted variant covers for the Infinity issues and additional covers for the All New Exiles).

I don’t have the overall numbers, but the painted variants made up 20 percent of the print run. I don’t think the painted covers necessarily look better; they just look different. It was also apparent that the Ultraverse was heading in an entirely new direction. There is a whole lot of Marvel on those covers, including the Spidey-Prime with his hair hanging out.

But man, I miss $1.50 comics …

 

 

 

Prime is the only one with a UPC code on the painted version.

 

 

 

 

These aren’t too hard to find on eBay. The easy way to tell them apart is that the regular issues have a UPC code on the front and the painted ones don’t (apart from Prime … just be careful with that one). They’re pretty common in larger lots.

There are also signed-and-numbered versions of many of these with Ultraverse COAs.