Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

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Ryan
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Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

My list is Shooter-centric since I've read more of that stuff than other non-big 2 stuff. There's some good one-off titles that have their own universes like Next Men, Squadron Supreme, etc. that would be good here too, but I'm mostly thinking about Universes with multiple titles going on.

5. Defiant - I know a lot of people love this one, but it's my least favorite Shooter-verse. I'm not as into the 'wish' stuff he does a lot. There weren't a lot of great protagonists. The flagship title Plasm, was the protagonist Lorca or the 5 'regular' people who came to Plasm? Either way none of them were that compelling. Also overall the art feels more rushed and slipshod than VALIANT. Not as many steady vets like Perlin and no stars like BWS. However there are some moments of brilliance and I give it a lot of credit for trying to be totally different and original at a time when the grim and gritty/Punisher/Image clones were taking over comics.

4. New Universe - I haven't read all of these, and it came out before my time as a collector, but my feeling is they launched with too many titles all at once. So many new concepts all at once, would have been better to just launch with the best ideas, then build off that. But they were ahead of their time with the more realistic take on superheroes and the best stuff (Starbrand, DP7) is still really good.

3. Broadway - I recently re-read a lot of these, and I still think they're really good. They're hampered by horrible early digital coloring and terrible cover/graphic design, especially in the early issues. I remember thinking they were sorta ugly/goofy looking at the time ('95) and the passage of time hasn't helped them. But the stories are very good and tight, and the interior art (once you get past the coloring) is really solid, better than Defiant IMO. In the end disappointing since the stories end suddenly, and things like having multiple pages of recap panels (from the previous issues) are not good ideas, but some good ideas like writing as a group. Shooter's best writing IMO is when he takes a cliche idea like the bad girl and actually makes it really good while still retaining the tropey elements (cheescake in this case). He doesn't really subvert the tropes so much as he fleshes them out to make them more realistic in an enjoyable way.

2. Wildstorm - I haven't read all of these either, and there's definitely a lot of dumb Image stuff involved. But I like that Lee and Choi tried to come up with a plausible sci-fi explanation for superhero shenanigans (different alien groups or somesuch). Then when Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Ed Brubaker etc. came in they really made a cool, realistic sci-fi take on superheroes that took a lot of the things New Universe etc. were trying to do and did it well, setting a lot of the template for the Ultimates/MCU and modern comics. I still need to read the Alan Moore Wildcats and others, but I think the best of these really hold up and don't go overboard with the cynicism/edginess.

1. VALIANT (VH1) - This was lightning in a bottle IMO. Rebooting Magnus and Solar in a respectful way that modernized them while making them cornerstones of an expanding universe with a plausible sci-fi explanation, brilliant. Harbinger was an idea Shooter had been developing for years and it shows. X-O is a great meat and potatoes action movie idea (Layton) but given more realistic verisimilitude by Shooter's writing. IMO Layton brought a slick inking style (through him and his proteges) and action movie ideas. BWS brought his world class illustration/storytelling style, good sense of humor, and some new-agey weirdness. Shooter brought the discipline, knowledge, and skill to bring it all together and make it work, make it make sense. It was a beautiful thing and one always wonders what it would have been like if it could've continued. But maybe all the elements were too volatile to stay together for very long no matter what, like a great band or something.

There's a lot of universes I haven't read much of, so I'll be curious to read what other ones people have liked.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by possumgrease »

I'm a fan of the Invincible Universe although I don't know if it really has enough different titles to be considered a full blown universe . (Main, Guardians, Brit, Astounding Wolf-Man and few mini-series).

Similarly, the Radiant Black universe has been fun. At first it feels like your standard superhero fare, but all of the stories take little twists and turns that keep everything very fresh. (Radiant Black, Radiant Red, Rogue Sun, a few one-shots, more to come).

As to your list, I might put Defiant above Valiant although I would be giving it that designation based on more of "what could have been" instead of what actually was.

I never actually read more than an issue or two of Broadway. I guess I need to track those stories down one day.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

possumgrease wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 1:44:04 pm
I'm a fan of the Invincible Universe although I don't know if it really has enough different titles to be considered a full blown universe . (Main, Guardians, Brit, Astounding Wolf-Man and few mini-series).

Similarly, the Radiant Black universe has been fun. At first it feels like your standard superhero fare, but all of the stories take little twists and turns that keep everything very fresh. (Radiant Black, Radiant Red, Rogue Sun, a few one-shots, more to come).

As to your list, I might put Defiant above Valiant although I would be giving it that designation based on more of "what could have been" instead of what actually was.

I never actually read more than an issue or two of Broadway. I guess I need to track those stories down one day.
Top Universes that are mostly contained in a single title can be included. Invincible, Next Men, Savage Dragon (even though it's technically in the broader Image Universe). I'm sure there's a ton more that I'm not thinking of or haven't read. I think a superhero universe might even have a better chance to be interesting and unique if it's mostly contained to a single ongoing book.

Haven't seen Radiant Black but I'll check it out.

Star Seed, Til Death do us Part, and Fatale are all very solid, but also have the 'what could have been' factor. Like reading really good first 10 chapters of a book that was never finished.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by nycjadie »

Shout out for Mignolaverse!

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

nycjadie wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 8:23:23 pm
Shout out for Mignolaverse!
Good call, definitely a rare model of sustained success and even branching into multimedia without selling out or betraying the fans.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by IMJ »

Ultraverse had legs for a while - back when the comic book hype machine was self-winding and all you had to do was produce a book in the 90's. I've got maybe only a 2 or 2 and a half long box Ultraverse "universe" in my collection and most of them I bought only for the "hunt" rather than the "passion" for it.

The thing about the Ultraverse is that they crapped out so many books that a lot of them fell under the radar and it's like a never ending collection of publications that sort of creep up in a bargain bin once in a while.

The downside is that the books are so generic to the 90's formula that even the covers all sort of blend in together and unless you keep an active list with you of what you need you'll buy duplicates constantly. It's like "DO I have that issue of 'Mantra'? The cover doesn't look familiar." And you get it home to file it and find you've got 3 bargain bin copies there already.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Chiclo »

IMJ wrote:
Fri Sep 16, 2022 9:44:28 pm
Ultraverse had legs for a while - back when the comic book hype machine was self-winding and all you had to do was produce a book in the 90's. I've got maybe only a 2 or 2 and a half long box Ultraverse "universe" in my collection and most of them I bought only for the "hunt" rather than the "passion" for it.

The thing about the Ultraverse is that they crapped out so many books that a lot of them fell under the radar and it's like a never ending collection of publications that sort of creep up in a bargain bin once in a while.

The downside is that the books are so generic to the 90's formula that even the covers all sort of blend in together and unless you keep an active list with you of what you need you'll buy duplicates constantly. It's like "DO I have that issue of 'Mantra'? The cover doesn't look familiar." And you get it home to file it and find you've got 3 bargain bin copies there already.
I feel seen.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by IMJ »

Chiclo wrote:
Fri Sep 16, 2022 10:12:44 pm
IMJ wrote:
Fri Sep 16, 2022 9:44:28 pm
Ultraverse had legs for a while - back when the comic book hype machine was self-winding and all you had to do was produce a book in the 90's. I've got maybe only a 2 or 2 and a half long box Ultraverse "universe" in my collection and most of them I bought only for the "hunt" rather than the "passion" for it.

The thing about the Ultraverse is that they crapped out so many books that a lot of them fell under the radar and it's like a never ending collection of publications that sort of creep up in a bargain bin once in a while.

The downside is that the books are so generic to the 90's formula that even the covers all sort of blend in together and unless you keep an active list with you of what you need you'll buy duplicates constantly. It's like "DO I have that issue of 'Mantra'? The cover doesn't look familiar." And you get it home to file it and find you've got 3 bargain bin copies there already.
I feel seen.
:high-five:
I'm "shook" by your feeling seen. :lol:

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

IMJ wrote:
Fri Sep 16, 2022 9:44:28 pm
Ultraverse had legs for a while - back when the comic book hype machine was self-winding and all you had to do was produce a book in the 90's. I've got maybe only a 2 or 2 and a half long box Ultraverse "universe" in my collection and most of them I bought only for the "hunt" rather than the "passion" for it.

The thing about the Ultraverse is that they crapped out so many books that a lot of them fell under the radar and it's like a never ending collection of publications that sort of creep up in a bargain bin once in a while.

The downside is that the books are so generic to the 90's formula that even the covers all sort of blend in together and unless you keep an active list with you of what you need you'll buy duplicates constantly. It's like "DO I have that issue of 'Mantra'? The cover doesn't look familiar." And you get it home to file it and find you've got 3 bargain bin copies there already.
Is there an Ultraverse fandom out there? I never got into it because I was already bought into Valiant and others. I thought Strangers sounded like an interesting premise. I thought Night Man was going to be Englehart's rejected Shadowman ideas, but idk if that's what it was. In my mind Ultraverse falls into the same category as Crossgen and VEI. Post-Image universes that try to make the selling point the visuals. The stories might be so-so to quite good, but the basic selling point is shiny visuals. I think for a comic universe to succeed the writing needs to be a combination of exceptional, innovative, and/or extremely cohesive. Pick one or a bit of all 3 is best. Average or even 'good' writing with flashy visuals just doesn't cut it over the long term.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by IMJ »

You know basically the Ultraverse torch was actually pimped hard and carried here through this forum more than pretty much any other community. It was sort of the perfect confluence of events that stirred the interest in it here -

-it was during the nothing-burger years of Valiant where the community here was widely still chasing Valiant back issues
-there was a poster here who really made "Dead Universes" his thing and that sort of stirred interest here
-these were the years when bargain bins were still widely viable. Books were still a quarter and maybe into the fifty cent BB era
-Ultraverse books sort of catered to the Valiant hunter. Most were bargain bin books, but there was enough material to hunt and compile, and juuuusssst enough "premium books" (i.e., gold books or Platinum this or that books) to make it interesting

And so when you put all of those things together, there was some interest in Ultraverse stuff internal to the group here more than most other relevant forums I knew of at that time. Materially speaking, the Ultravese books make for a good hunt to satiate that curiosity for those of us who probably only bought Prime #'s 1 - 4 or Prototype #'s 1 -3 off the racks before abandoning it back in the day.

Is collecting "Ultraverse" worth it at $3.50 or more a back issue? NNNNNope. But if your local bargain bins have enough fodder to get you in deep for cheap, then yeah sure. And some of the premium books can actually be pretty tough to find. Ultraverse is worthy of "play money" from your "hobby money" which is also "play money" so that should tell you something.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Oxmyx »

Nobody has yet mentioned Nexus or Badger. They did a crossover so I consider it "a universe". Weren't there other titles in that "universe "? Magnus even crossed over of course but I don't consider that part of it, because of the publisher thing
I've been looking everywhere for the ultra-rare Turok vs Blister issue. Anybody able to help me out?

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by IMJ »

I don't know that a crossover makes for a "superhero universe". Sure, sure any given character occupies the "universe" it resides in, but in the context of this conversation a superhero "universe" is a fleshed out publishing line of characters. Otherwise the thread would simply be "Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Publications". :hm: The title of the thread implies specificity. :D

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Chiclo »

Oxmyx wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 12:12:16 pm
Nobody has yet mentioned Nexus or Badger. They did a crossover so I consider it "a universe". Weren't there other titles in that "universe "? Magnus even crossed over of course but I don't consider that part of it, because of the publisher thing
Out of the Vortex, from the Comics Greatest World published by Dark Horse. The series ran for 12 issues and issue 12 ends with Nexus exiting a portal asking where to find Zolost the Destructionist. This set up a planned crossover that was never published.

Madman crossed over with Nexus.

Nexus visited the location of Munden’s Bar. Good luck sorting all that out - start with New Mutants 50. :D :o 8-)

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by IMJ »

Chiclo wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:33:30 pm
Oxmyx wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 12:12:16 pm
Nobody has yet mentioned Nexus or Badger. They did a crossover so I consider it "a universe". Weren't there other titles in that "universe "? Magnus even crossed over of course but I don't consider that part of it, because of the publisher thing
Out of the Vortex, from the Comics Greatest World published by Dark Horse. The series ran for 12 issues and issue 12 ends with Nexus exiting a portal asking where to find Zolost the Destructionist. This set up a planned crossover that was never published.

Madman crossed over with Nexus.

Nexus visited the location of Munden’s Bar. Good luck sorting all that out - start with New Mutants 50. :D :o 8-)
Oh Geeze, Comics Greatest World. Have a long box of those sitting around as well. That was a slightly more readable universe than Ultraverse. Slightly.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

Chiclo wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:33:30 pm
Oxmyx wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 12:12:16 pm
Nobody has yet mentioned Nexus or Badger. They did a crossover so I consider it "a universe". Weren't there other titles in that "universe "? Magnus even crossed over of course but I don't consider that part of it, because of the publisher thing
Out of the Vortex, from the Comics Greatest World published by Dark Horse. The series ran for 12 issues and issue 12 ends with Nexus exiting a portal asking where to find Zolost the Destructionist. This set up a planned crossover that was never published.

Madman crossed over with Nexus.

Nexus visited the location of Munden’s Bar. Good luck sorting all that out - start with New Mutants 50. :D :o 8-)
I feel like there's a loose universe of First Comics and other 80's indy comics. With Munden's Bar as the epicenter.

Similar to the way that Image is a loose universe because a lot of the early comics crossed over but eventually Dragon, Wildstorm, Extreme all felt like (or became) separate universes. Creator owned comics forming a universe get messy really fast.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

IMJ wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:36:31 pm
Oh Geeze, Comics Greatest World. Have a long box of those sitting around as well. That was a slightly more readable universe than Ultraverse. Slightly.
Got those as they came out as well, the 16 issue $1 comics. Haven't ever re-read them and don't remember a whole lot. Interesting premise with the 4 different cities. I think it suffers from the same thing as the New Universe, too many concepts and characters too fast. But Ghost had a decent run with Adam Hughes later (I think) and we got the Barb Wire movie :lol:

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by SwiftMann »

Ryan wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 3:03:17 pm
IMJ wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:36:31 pm
Oh Geeze, Comics Greatest World. Have a long box of those sitting around as well. That was a slightly more readable universe than Ultraverse. Slightly.
Got those as they came out as well, the 16 issue $1 comics. Haven't ever re-read them and don't remember a whole lot. Interesting premise with the 4 different cities. I think it suffers from the same thing as the New Universe, too many concepts and characters too fast. But Ghost had a decent run with Adam Hughes later (I think) and we got the Barb Wire movie :lol:
I read a bunch of this when it came out. I picked up the ones I skipped a few years back and read the entire thing. I actually really enjoyed the ride. It was interesting to watch the line fall apart with the market collapse and read the editor pages. Yeah, some of it never quite worked, but I dug it on the big reread over a couple weeks.

I'm putting Ultraverse together now. I am fully aware it is loved by it's fans. I also know the stuff I've sampled is between tedious and decent, so we'll see how this goes. I honestly never felt like the art was supposed to be the draw. It was the specific writers they nabbed.
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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by IMJ »

Ghost seems to be their go-to I.P. from those days.

Dark Horse should've found a way to incorporate Next Men and Nexus into that universe to give it some more clout. I don't know the publishing agreements with Byrne or Rude, but those two properties were already with Dark Horse and could've added that "Harbinger" and "Solar" touch that Comics Greatest World needed to turn it into a full blown thing. Eventually though it just became "random Ghost or X book month".

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Chiclo »

SwiftMann wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 7:27:51 pm
Ryan wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 3:03:17 pm
IMJ wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:36:31 pm
Oh Geeze, Comics Greatest World. Have a long box of those sitting around as well. That was a slightly more readable universe than Ultraverse. Slightly.
Got those as they came out as well, the 16 issue $1 comics. Haven't ever re-read them and don't remember a whole lot. Interesting premise with the 4 different cities. I think it suffers from the same thing as the New Universe, too many concepts and characters too fast. But Ghost had a decent run with Adam Hughes later (I think) and we got the Barb Wire movie :lol:
I read a bunch of this when it came out. I picked up the ones I skipped a few years back and read the entire thing. I actually really enjoyed the ride. It was interesting to watch the line fall apart with the market collapse and read the editor pages. Yeah, some of it never quite worked, but I dug it on the big reread over a couple weeks.

I'm putting Ultraverse together now. I am fully aware it is loved by it's fans. I also know the stuff I've sampled is between tedious and decent, so we'll see how this goes. I honestly never felt like the art was supposed to be the draw. It was the specific writers they nabbed.
The anchor book of the whole line is Hardcase and Hardcase is the best book from a grown-up perspective. This is the title I would most recommend starting with.

Prime is written for a teenager, and probably a young one. Mantra has some good qualities but is a bit like Witchblade in that at least once an issue there is some excuse for Mantra to be naked, with her lady parts hidden by smoke or something like that. Exiles was a good story but a lot of the weight is lost now, knowing that it ends at issue 4. Strangers was good, an interesting group and several interesting story arcs. Night man never really figures itself out.

Take it lightly, and Ultraverse is very fun. Most of the characters and concepts probably fit better in the early 80s than the early 90s, with silly names and lots of adherence to the gimmick. There isn’t a whole lot that gets overly thinky, Hardcase and Strangers get the most sophisticated.

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

IMJ wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:56:48 am
Ghost seems to be their go-to I.P. from those days.

Dark Horse should've found a way to incorporate Next Men and Nexus into that universe to give it some more clout. I don't know the publishing agreements with Byrne or Rude, but those two properties were already with Dark Horse and could've added that "Harbinger" and "Solar" touch that Comics Greatest World needed to turn it into a full blown thing. Eventually though it just became "random Ghost or X book month".
Definitely, I'm sure Byrne's and Baron/Rude were on creator owned agreements and that gets into a messy territory like Image. That would've been very cool though. Starting with properties that are already established and spinning out from there seems like a great way to go (see Magnus and Solar).

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Ryan »

SwiftMann wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 7:27:51 pm
I read a bunch of this when it came out. I picked up the ones I skipped a few years back and read the entire thing. I actually really enjoyed the ride. It was interesting to watch the line fall apart with the market collapse and read the editor pages. Yeah, some of it never quite worked, but I dug it on the big reread over a couple weeks.

I'm putting Ultraverse together now. I am fully aware it is loved by it's fans. I also know the stuff I've sampled is between tedious and decent, so we'll see how this goes. I honestly never felt like the art was supposed to be the draw. It was the specific writers they nabbed.
My impressions were probably off. Maybe it's more like VH2, bring in a lot of talented and big name writers but without a strong bible and editorial direction there's a lack of cohesion.
Chiclo wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 1:46:04 pm
The anchor book of the whole line is Hardcase and Hardcase is the best book from a grown-up perspective. This is the title I would most recommend starting with.

Prime is written for a teenager, and probably a young one. Mantra has some good qualities but is a bit like Witchblade in that at least once an issue there is some excuse for Mantra to be naked, with her lady parts hidden by smoke or something like that. Exiles was a good story but a lot of the weight is lost now, knowing that it ends at issue 4. Strangers was good, an interesting group and several interesting story arcs. Night man never really figures itself out.

Take it lightly, and Ultraverse is very fun. Most of the characters and concepts probably fit better in the early 80s than the early 90s, with silly names and lots of adherence to the gimmick. There isn’t a whole lot that gets overly thinky, Hardcase and Strangers get the most sophisticated.
Need to check out Hardcase

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SwiftMann
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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by SwiftMann »

IMJ wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:56:48 am
Ghost seems to be their go-to I.P. from those days.

Dark Horse should've found a way to incorporate Next Men and Nexus into that universe to give it some more clout. I don't know the publishing agreements with Byrne or Rude, but those two properties were already with Dark Horse and could've added that "Harbinger" and "Solar" touch that Comics Greatest World needed to turn it into a full blown thing. Eventually though it just became "random Ghost or X book month".
Nexus appeared at the end of Out of the Vortex and there was an announced Nexus/Vortex mini-series that never happened. I would have loved that.
"If you think any of these [older comics/shows/movies] do not carry a political content and is not using the medium of science fiction to explore real-world ideas, than you have not been paying attention." - Dan Abnett, VCR #246

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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by Chiclo »

SwiftMann wrote:
Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:55:49 pm
IMJ wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:56:48 am
Ghost seems to be their go-to I.P. from those days.

Dark Horse should've found a way to incorporate Next Men and Nexus into that universe to give it some more clout. I don't know the publishing agreements with Byrne or Rude, but those two properties were already with Dark Horse and could've added that "Harbinger" and "Solar" touch that Comics Greatest World needed to turn it into a full blown thing. Eventually though it just became "random Ghost or X book month".
Nexus appeared at the end of Out of the Vortex and there was an announced Nexus/Vortex mini-series that never happened. I would have loved that.
I think I saw something about that recently.

Where is Zolost the Destructionist?

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IMJ
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Re: Top 5 Non-Big 2 Superhero Universes

Post by IMJ »

SwiftMann wrote:
Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:55:49 pm
IMJ wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:56:48 am
Ghost seems to be their go-to I.P. from those days.

Dark Horse should've found a way to incorporate Next Men and Nexus into that universe to give it some more clout. I don't know the publishing agreements with Byrne or Rude, but those two properties were already with Dark Horse and could've added that "Harbinger" and "Solar" touch that Comics Greatest World needed to turn it into a full blown thing. Eventually though it just became "random Ghost or X book month".
Nexus appeared at the end of Out of the Vortex and there was an announced Nexus/Vortex mini-series that never happened. I would have loved that.
Really? I've got those Vortex books in the bins. I should fish them out and take a look - never got around to reading those.


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