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Trading Card Set of the Week – Ultraverse (SkyBox, 1993)

April 28, 2013

ultraverse

Of the multitude of comic book universes that cropped up during the 1990s boom, the Ultraverse line from Malibu was perhaps the most worthy of sticking around. It was all original, unlike Valiant, which built off of Gold Key characters from a decade before, and its cast of players was diverse, fairly well-planned, and not prone to the proprietary firewalls that kept the Image characters from fully integrating. Sure, many of the Ultraverse’s heroes and villains were derivative, but that’s the curse of comics — like the periodic table of elements, there are only so many ingredients that go into the creation of someone in tights and a cape. You can give them a break on that score.

To go through some of the Ultraverse storylines is the topic for another post, but suffice it to say, it left its core of fans wanting more. But because Malibu got into the hero business at the tail end of the boom, the Ultraverse didn’t have long before the Big Bang became the Big Bust (and Marvel purchased Malibu and neutered the IP). This brief window didn’t stop the company from — in conjunction with SkyBox — putting out three, count ’em three, editions of trading cards, though. And, thrill of thrills, today we’ll have a look at the first.

There were 100 cards in the maiden set, with three tiers of chase cards tacked on. I opened a box a couple of months ago, and was able to flesh out one complete set and roughly half of the chase cards, with several extra of the latter — for all those curious about the collation (all two of you). The base cards are mostly simple character cards, nothing more, nothing less, and a number of characters — the stars of the line — have multiple cards (there are also a few dealing with this universe’s tech). One of the treats with this set is that some significant names provide the art for many cards: Walt Simonson, Norm Breyfogle and Howard Chaykin to name a few. This is nice, though the drab, gray borders give them all the aesthetic of a cell block.

A few samples for your perusal…

Remember what I said before about the characters being unavoidably derivative? While I stand behind that, that doesn’t mean that some of them were a bit lazy — like they didn’t even bother to steer clear of what had come before. Take, for instance, the costume design of Quasar I mean Captain Marvel I mean Atom Bomb:

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The card backs on most include brief bios and a “Power Chart” to scale the various powers of each character. You see that hot babe up on the box top, on the left side? Her name is Mantra. You might be thinking to yourself, Wow, I never knew that a sword, a cloak and giant exposed breasts could be so appealing. Fantasies might be taking shape in your mind. If you’re a heterosexual male, though, you might want to put a stop to all that, because according to her card back GAH SHE’S A GUY:

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There’s been some buzz recently about transgender characters in comics, which is fine. Times they are a changing, and it’s not a bad thing. And lord knows, the subject of a man in a woman’s body has been the focus of any number of Star Trek and Jerry Springer episodes. That said, I don’t know that I could ever date a man in a woman’s body — sword, cloak and breasts notwithstanding. I’m not making fun. Just saying. (As if anyone cares.) And Mantra, who was always trying to get out of his/her female body, wouldn’t want me anyway. (And is an unwilling transgender really a transgender?)

I’m a bit out of my depth here. Moving on.

There’s a dearth of pumpkin-centric characters in mainstream comics, a genus headed up by the irreverent, inimitable Mervyn Pumpkinhead. I’m happy to report that the Ultraverse had no such deficiency, with the malevolent Lord Pump leading the charge:

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Hey, he’s vomiting green flame. For cute! Can your precious Great Pumpkin do that, Linus? Huh?

The first chase set consists of nine yellow-bordered “Rookie Cards” (though technically they’re all rookies). Here’s the aforementioned reluctant man-babe, Mantra, with side-boob-infused art by Joe Jusko:

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The second chase grouping is “Star Rookie Cards.” I have no idea what separates the subjects as “stars,” since it seems that the major characters of the line are in the previous group. There are four of these latter cards, and the character names are in gold foil — OOOOH:

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The Bash Brothers look like they combine the troglodytic brawn of the WWF’s Bushwhackers with the bug-eyed strangeness of Madballs. Mazel.

The final, hardest to find level are two foil-enhanced cards, one of which is drawn by the criminally underrated Mr. Breyfogle. Here’s Hyperion I mean Prime, the big Supermanish “hero” of this universe:

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While the design of the cards is a bit lacking, kudos to Malibu and Skybox for going the character card route, and not the cover regurgitation of Valiant’s Upper Deck sets. These may not be glossy, but they’re a nice reminder of the Ultraverse, one of the many what-might-have-beens of the ’90s. And hey, they were good enough to spawn two card sequels. To be continued…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Giles permalink
    October 23, 2014 2:27 pm

    Hey.
    I ran the coloring department for Malibu back then.
    We put out some good looking stuff but all of us were just learning.
    You wouldn’t believe the stuff I still have in my garage (if you liked Malibu comics).
    I’ve even got uncut printer proofs of these cards.

    • Carlos De Jesus permalink
      October 5, 2015 8:03 pm

      If you get this i love the ultraverse and would ve happy to buy some stuff off you.

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