In 1986, Marvel Comics took a gamble and introduced readers to a new line of comics entitled "The New Universe." The New Universe titles were meant to take place in a more realistic world. They were meant to be more akin to science fiction titles than typical superhero action books. The line captured the imagination of a number of devoted fans, but the sales on the various series were not high enough, and in 1989 the line was cancelled. With the exception of some scattered appearances by New Universe characters in various titles over the years, the line has remained in relative obscurity, until now.
This February and March, Marvel Comics is giving both old fans and a new readers a chance to get reacquainted with the residents of the New Universe in a series of one-shot specials and back up stories that comprise the "Untold Tales of the New Universe" event (as revealed last week). CBR News spoke to Editor Mark Paniccia about the event and the various books that are part of it.
A number of factors lead to the choice to revisit the New Universe in 2006, "One of which it's the 20th Anniversary," Paniccia told CBR News. "Another is that Warren Ellis is re-imagining the universe in a new series. We thought it would be fun to go back to the New U one last time before Warren did his thing."
With the first New Universe stories being told two decades ago, Paniccia believes nostalgia will be large appeal of the "Untold Tales" books. "It's going to be like going into a time machine since all the stories take place in the 80s," he explained. "It's hard to believe that was 20 years ago so some readers will be taking a trip down memory lane while others will be looking at it with an odd fascination since they weren't even born yet"
The "Untold Tales" specials will certainly interest the small but dedicated New Universe fan base however, interested readers who've never heard of things like "The White Event" will be able to enjoy the books as well. "Everyone has done a great job at making these as accessible as possible, but they're all great stories foremost. Each book will have a recap/intro page just to inform and remind, but the stories won't disappoint."
The New Universe titles launched with "The White Event" a mysterious stellar anomaly that bestowed paranormal abilities on many people. Later, a number of world shaking events like "The Pitt" redefined the status quo in many New Universe titles. All the stories in "Untold Tales" take place before "The Pitt", AKA "The Black Event," a story that saw the city of Pittsburgh destroyed. "For those who don't know, that was a major turning point for the line where there was a concentrated effort to change the status quo and go into a new editorial direction," Paniccia said. "We chose to do these before the 'Pitt' because it's kind of what we consider 'classic' New Universe."
"Untold Tales of the New Universe" kicks off in February with a back up story in the pages of "Amazing Fantasy #18" that reintroduces readers to the action packed world of "Marc Hazzard: Merc." "It's a very well written story by Tony Lee who captures the essence of Mark Hazzard, Mal and Treetop in the span of 8 pages, Paniccia explained. "Leonard Kirk does a great job as well. He's one of those artists who can draw anything: super heroes, TV characters, the average Joe on the street or, in this case, mercenaries invading a posh hotel from a helicopter. If you remember the well-done early stories by Peter David, you'll feel like you got a dose from one of those first few issues."
There will be two other "Untold Tales of the New Universe back up stories, specifically a story featuring the New Universe's armored exoskeleton clad troubleshooter, "Spitfire" appears in March's "Amazing Fantasy" #19 (featuring art by Marshall Rogers). Jeff Parker and Juan Santacruz tell a lost tale of "Kickers Inc.", the football stars turned paranormal investigators, in February's "New Avengers #16.
The five specials that comprise the event will hit stores in March, but Paniccia provided CBR News with a sneak peek at the solicits for each book:
UNTOLD TALES OF THE NEW UNIVERSE: NIGHTMASK
Written By Fred Van Lente
Penciled By Arnold Pander
Cover By Arnold Pander
KINGDOM OF THE GNOME: After twenty years, the original story arc of the New
Universe's Dream Walker is at long last completed! The deadly Gnome has lured
Nightmask into one final duel to the death in an artificial dreamscape that's been created specifically to destroy him, using Nightmask's own sister as bait!
UNTOLD TALES OF THE NEW UNIVERSE: STAR BRAND
Written By Jeff Parker
Penciled By Javier Pulido
Cover By John Romita Jr And John Romita Sr.
An untold tale of the New Universe! Ken Connell meets an interdimensional researcher looking for the wearer of the Star Brand. She wants to know more about the man in charge of the most powerful weapon in the galaxy. He wants to know if she's single.
The data raises the question: is Ken worthy to wield the power of the brand-is anyone in the New Universe?
UNTOLD TALES OF THE NEW UNIVERSE: PSI-FORCE
Written By Tony Bedard
Penciled By Russ Braun
Cover By Leonard Kirk
Gathered by agent Emmet Proudhawk, five teens with mental powers share a mysterious bond. Combining their psionic power, they can summon the Psi-Hawk, an entity greater than the sum of their parts. But with Proudhawk murdered by agents who want to control them, the Psi-Force team find that power is a curse. Now Proudhawk's long-lost brother arrives, hounded by his own enemies, and the mighty Psi-Hawk is about to meet its match!
UNTOLD TALES OF THE NEW UNIVERSE: JUSTICE
Written By Peter David
Penciled By Carmine Di Giandomenico
Cover By Eric Canete
Stalking the New Universe as judge, jury and executioner rolled into one, John
Tensen--Justice--has made it his personal mission to make certain that paranormals are using their powers wisely. But when he executes an abusive paranormal in the presence of the para's daughter--potentially sending her down a path of evil--he is forced to question the "justice" of his own actions.
UNTOLD TALES OF THE NEW UNIVERSE: DP7
Written By C. B. Cebulski
Penciled By M.D. BRIGHT
Cover By Doug Alexander
The "X-Men of the New Universe" make their grand return to the new millennium with an untold tale from the days of the 80s! On the run from their captors at The Clinic, our Displaced Paranormals take shelter and hope to find the peace they so rightfully deserve on an Indian Reservation. However, they soon discover persecution extends beyond those with enhanced genetic abilities and must overcome an evil that threatens to engulf them all. Deadwood meets the Seven Samurai in this blast from the past!
The various "Untold Tales of the New Universe" are all self-contained stories, so fans can sample just a few if they'd like. "This is an event in only that it's a celebration of the line's anniversary," Paniccia explained. "This is purely for the nostalgic and curious. Nothing in 'Nightmask' is going to make you need to buy 'Star Brand' or 'Psi-Force' except for the fact that these five books and their shorter counterparts will take you to the past of a line that, for many, held a magical place in their hearts because it promised something new and different."
Readers who end up enjoying their trip to the "New Universe" will be delighted to learn that Paniccia said that Marvel is considering reprinting some of the old New Universe stories in trade paperback form.
The New Universe was an experiment in telling different stories for Marvel Comics and Paniccia had a great time putting together an event that paid homage to that grand experiment. "This has really been fun to work on and, as usual, I'm beaming with pride for everyone who's working on it, Paniccia said. "I think the thing that's been most fascinating for me is to look back at this attempt to create something new from universes that organically happened (Marvel and DC) and see just how difficult a job that can be. It's been tried so many times after with companies too numerous to mention. It ran for 3 years, though, and that's pretty impressive. Tom Defalco and co really did a lot to keep it going and you have to applaud that effort. I'm glad we have the chance to revisit it and hope the fans of the original books are pleased."