In 1986, around the time I was getting serious about collecting comic books, Marvel introduced the New Universe, a brand new collection of titles in a brand new continuity, to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Each of the eight titles dealt with people, some with special abilities, who existed in “our” world. Ahead of its time, it used a gimmick similar to 24's, setting the stories not only in the same year they were published, but allowing a month to elapse within the stories from issue to issue. This challenged writers and made cliffhangers difficult, but it forced most of them to be creative in dealing with real time.

My favorite series was D.P.7, which dealt with a group of seven “displaced paranormals”, regular people dealing with strange abilities, being hounded by a government clinic. There were no costumes and no secret identities, although some of them used nicknames. Much like the current show Heroes, it took a realistic approach to what it would really be like if people suddenly discovered special powers. Another series I liked was Nightmask, about a boy who could enter people's dreams. Star Brand featured perhaps the most powerful being in the New Universe, a man with a special tattoo that could be transferred but never removed, and gave him powers of flight and energy blasts. One of the weaker titles I collected was Kickers Inc., about a football player with superhuman strength who decides to form an agency to help people during the off season. Justice, a law officer from another world later revealed to be delusional, was a decent character as well as Spitfire, a girl with a red suit of battle armor. I never bothered with the remaining titles, Merc or Psi-Force. In the end, D.P.7. and Star Brand were the only titles I stuck with, as most of the others were canceled after a year.

Eventually as sales fell, the books began resembling conventional comic books more and more. Heroes did start to wear spandex costumes, and I think the real-time aspect of the books may have been abandoned as well. The line ended after four years, and I didn't hear anything more about the characters until an awesome guest appearance in an issue of Quasar in which the title character finds himself trapped in the New Universe with no connection to the mainstream Marvel 616 reality or any of its alternates. Eventually he finds the bearer of the Star Brand and takes it on to use its power to escape. Though he thinks the tattoo's power burns away in transit, he accidentally retains a portion of it while transferring some of it to his girlfriend. Eventually, the imbalance of having the Brand in the 616 reality lead to a cosmic crossover called Starblast. It didn't really do the original titles justice, the artwork was sub par, and it was disappointing that the Earth of the New Universe was pulled through into the Marvel Universe at the end of the series. Not long after that I stopped collecting comics, so I wasn't aware of some of the subsequent crossovers I've since come across online.

Of course, this all begs the question of why I bring any of this up now. Flipping through the pages of a Wizard magazine yesterday, I saw an ad for something called newuniversal. I liked the art and graphics, and wondered why the name was so close to the New Universe. Then I noticed the Star Brand incorporated in to the graphics. Could it be? Were they really revisiting it? After doing some research, I discovered that Warren Ellis was writing a brand new series, with art from Salvador Larroca, that revamped the New Universe on its 20th anniversary. I can't believe those stories were created twenty years ago; I feel so old. While D.P.7 characters don't seem to be resurfacing just yet, Ellis will be focusing on new origins for Justice, Nightmask, Spitfire, and Star Brand, all collected in a single ongoing series. Other than the names and abilities, these characters will have no connection to the original series. They're starting over with a clean slate, and perhaps learning from the mistakes of the original New Universe. It sounds pretty cool, and while I won't be running out to a comic book store anytime soon, I'll probably pick up the first trade paperback once the first few issues are collected.

I still can't believe it's been twenty years, or that these characters are being resurrected. I guess in the real universe, all things are possible...


Blogger SwanShadow said...

Marvel actually presaged newuniversal in the spring of this year, with a group of one-shots collectively titled Untold Tales of the New Universe. The only one of the one-shots I bought was the D.P. 7 edition, mostly because it was penciled by an artist whose work I like (M.D. Bright). It didn't make me crave any additional volumes.

12/18/2006 12:59 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

Well, that's disappointing. Did Ellis script that one?

In any case, I'll probably flip through some issues in a store and read some reviews before I pick up a trade.

Nice to know Bright is still around. I liked his Iron Man work.(not so much his G.I. Joe; he went through an an "everybody's face is really wide" phase)

12/18/2006 8:18 PM  
Blogger Rey said...

I think I was into Spitfire because McFarlane touched it. lol

It'll be interesting to flip through it on a trade though so I don't mind waiting for this.

9/04/2008 12:52 PM  

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