Monthly Archives: September 2022

Drawn in Quarters

A con­fes­sion: I have a bit of a soft spot for some of the more odd­ball comics char­ac­ters out there. This won’t come as any big sur­prise to those of you who’ve vis­it­ed this site reg­u­lar­ly, but there you go. And they don’t get much odd­er than Ultra, the Multi-Alien.

Ultra was a late arrival to DC’s Mys­tery in Space com­ic. His ori­gin is all but spelled out on the cov­er of his first appear­ance, which I’ve re-cre­at­ed here. DC had some­thing of a tra­di­tion of sci fi/space heroes, and Ultra def­i­nite­ly fit into that tra­di­tion. He starts off in this first sto­ry as space­man Ace Arn, from Earth. These four aliens, from the plan­ets Ulla, Laroo, Tra­go and Raa­gan, each have spe­cial ray guns, designed to trans­form who­ev­er they fire them on into a mem­ber of their own respec­tive alien species. This being will then be under the con­trol of the one who shot them. Don’t ask me to explain why this is a goal to be desired. I don’t know; I’m get­ting con­fused typ­ing this.

Ace Arn is forced to crash-land on the plan­et where these four aliens are hid­ing out. And (by a fur­ther stroke of fate or coin­ci­dence only pos­si­ble in comics) all four fire their guns at him at the exact same instant, caus­ing him to be trans­formed par­tial­ly into being like all of them. Only con­trary to their plans, he retains his own will, and abrupt­ly rounds up the bad guys, some­how instant­ly know­ing how to use all these pow­ers he nev­er had before. Tak­ing the first let­ter from the names of each of their plan­ets (Ulla, Laroo, Trago and Raagan), he adds an “A” for his own name, tak­ing on a new iden­ti­ty as Ultra. I did say this was odd, did­n’t I?

The art for the strip was cre­at­ed by Lee Elias. About 20 years ear­li­er, he had done real­ly great work for Har­vey Comics on their Black Cat com­ic (I took a shot at the char­ac­ter myself here). I have no inside aware­ness as to the think­ing behind the cre­ation of Ultra, but I do have some guess­es about it. As men­tioned, this strip appeared late in Mys­tery in Space’s run. I sus­pect sales were flag­ging, and they were look­ing for a poten­tial new “anchor” strip that would cap­ture enough read­er inter­est to bol­ster their sales.

As DC sci fi strips go, though, this was real­ly dif­fer­ent. On the face of things, Ultra was kind of a mon­ster char­ac­ter, some­thing very unlike most oth­er DC char­ac­ters. Again, guess­ing: mon­ster-mania was still very much in effect in pop cul­ture at the time. You had shows like The Mun­sters and The Addams Fam­i­ly on TV, along with all the late night mon­ster movies, mod­el kits and toys. So per­haps Ultra was an attempt to tap into some of that.

Mys­tery in Space was can­celed with issue #110, so Ultra must not have caught on with read­ers as much as DC had hoped. But there’s often some­thing fun about odd­ball char­ac­ters like Ultra, despite (or maybe because of) their odd­i­ty. I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy ever since the first time I saw him as a kid.

Hence my re-cre­ation/re-inter­pre­ta­tion. As is usu­al with any of these, I’ve made some changes. For me, that’s the only point in doing re-cre­ations, if I can find some kind of fresh spin to put on them. If you care to study it and com­pare it to the orig­i­nal, there’s one big change (that’s kind of a hint), and a num­ber of small ones too.

Hope you enjoy my lit­tle self-indul­gence here. 🙂

More Rabbits, Rhinos, Cats and Foxes

Sea­son 2 of Samu­rai Rab­bit: The Usa­gi Chron­i­cles is now live on Net­flix, which means I can now post some of the sto­ry­board revi­sion work I did for it!

You can read about the ori­gin of the show (based off Stan Sakai’s long-run­ning Usa­gi Yojim­bo com­ic), and how I got the sto­ry­board revi­sion job on the series in my ini­tial post here. I had a real blast work­ing on this show, han­dling the even-num­bered episodes (Go Team Even!). Alfred Gimeno (my direc­tor) and I prob­a­bly drove our poor Pro­duc­tion Man­ag­er Elaine Figueroa nuts with some of our silli­ness in the online chat win­dows while work­ing, but she put up with it.

I’ve men­tioned before that my board revi­sion work often has a tell, which is the non-pho­to blue under­draw­ing you can some­times spot. In addi­tion to what you see here, there’s more over in the Sto­ry­board Revi­sion fold­er on the Gal­leries side of my site. From image #38 on is the mate­r­i­al from the sec­ond season.

Hope­ful­ly the view­ers enjoy this sea­son as much as (or even more than!) the first sea­son. Much love and respect to my Team Even team­mates, and the whole Samu­rai Rab­bit crew!