Four for a Dollar – New Universe pt 4: Everything Comes Back

The New Universe was over. But there was still some nostalgia left.

After DP7 ended, Mark Gruenwald moved on to Quasar. In #31, Gruenwald had Quasar get blasted completely out of the multiverse into the world of the New Universe. Revisiting a few of the characters from the end of DP7, Quasar is stranded with no connection to the source of his powers. Tracking the most powerful person in the New Universe, Quasar finds the current holder of the Starbrand, a pilot introduced very briefly near the end of Byrne’s run on that title.

In possession of the Starbrand, Quasar makes it back to his own world, thinking the Brand burned out from the journey. Unfortunately the Brand accidentily gets transferred to Quasar’s girlfriend Kayla and causes her many problems for a couple of years until the Starblast cross-over.

Starblast has the New Universe connect up to the Marvel 616. As various power-hungry characters try to wrestle the Brand away from Kayla the universe gets put in an increasing amount of danger. Finally cosmic villain The Stranger and the unfortunately-named Skeletron punch a hole through to the New Universe in an attempt to retrieve all of the power held by paranormals.

The Stranger finally brings the New Universe earth to 616 and places it in orbit around his own planet. Quasar leads a group of the most powerful paranormals to battle The Stranger. His team includes Justice, Nightmask as well as members of DP7 and the paranormal military.

Deciding that the power of the Starbrand is too powerful to be in 616, the Living Tribunal steps in and seals off the world of the New Universe forever, trapping Kayla and the Starbrand within an impenetrable shield.

Another New U writer, Peter David, would grab a fragment as well. In his Spider-man 2099 title, he introduced a character called the Net Prophet, an amnesiac metahuman grabbed from an alternate dimension. Net Prophet appeared sparingly in the series and it was revealed in the final appearance that it was John Tensen – Justice.

The last look at the old New Universe was in a three-issue arc of Exiles. Part of the “World Tour” storyline, the team was persuing Proteus across some of the sub-worlds of the Marvel Universe. Other stop-offs included 2099, Squadron Supreme and Heroes Reborn.

The story takes place a month after the White Event and so doesn’t fit into the continuity of the original stories. It connects DP7, Justice, Starbrand and Nightmask against Proteus. Proteus finally possesses Justice and escapes to the 2099 universe in a scene exactly like the first appearance of the Net Prophet. Justice’s body dies when Proteus transfers himself to Hulk 2099.

Exiles led to the 20th anniversary New Univere specials and back-up stories that were set prior to The Pitt. This would include a Nightmask special that concludes the abandoned story arc from his original series. Other full issues were DP7, Psi-Force, Justice and Starbrand. The other original characters appeared as back-up stories in Amazing Fantasy and New Avengers. These stories are collected in The Untold Tales of the New Universe trade paperback.

A first wave of trades (Starbrand, DP7 and Psi-Force) was released but unfortunately not continued. Certainly the $20+ price tag for seven or nine “Four for a Dollar” comics was a limiting factor.

In 2006, my favorite comic writer Warren Ellis was put on a re-imagining of the New U called newuniversal. Ellis, not a reader of the original series, took a few of the characters as archtypes that had existed in many times and many universes. The story posits that there are always a Justice, a Nightmask, a Starbrand and a Ciper (in this case, a version of Spitfire’s Jenny Swensen). Another key figure from the New U, Philip Voight, is charged with finding super-humans as soon as they manifest powers and eliminating them. Shades of a conspiracy story are woven in as the government is well aware of the posibility of paranormals.

NewUniversal“One live superhuman, and we commence surveillance and defense preparation. Two superhumans, and we put troubleshooters into the field. Three superhumans and the mathmatical model says there’s an intolerable probability that they will meet. And so we have to kill them.”

  • Philip Voight (newuniversal #2)

The first mini-series, collected as “Everything Went White”, introduces these characters as well as versions of other New U characters. It was followed by two specials, 1959 and Conquerer, stories set in the past of the Newuniversal earth and filling in threads from the first mini-series.

The second mini-series, Newuniversal: Shockfront, was cut short when a hard-drive crash lost the work that Ellis had done on the series. Only two issues were published and the project is now long dead (we covered this in ep 19 of We Talk Comics).

Which brings me to the last fragment of the New Universe, my own attempt to revive it. I dreamed as a teen of writing comics and even did a few short stories in an independent anthology comic created with some friends. In my late teens I wrote a pitch to restart the New Universe and sent it to Mark Gruenwald, then Senior Executive Editor at Marvel. I included a short Captain America script (not knowing that submission rules forbid him from reading it). I have long since lost my pitch and have no illusions that it was anything worth repeating if I hadn’t.

I dreamed of bringing new life to these characters in one book, winding the elements together in a way that would reignite that flame.

Mark was nice enough to drop me a letter back giving me information on how to properly submit. It reads in part:

 

“While your ideas are interesting and I do share your enthusiasm for the New U, I must inform you that we have no plans to revive the New U characters for a few years yet anyway. (It will happen eventually – everything in comics comes back!)”

I’ll leave my little love letter to the New Universe on that note. It’s gone but not forgotten. They are all in the bargain bins waiting for you to snap up.

The New U will be back. Everything in comics comes back.

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