The Brewer Report: A look back at Warren Ellis’ NewUniversal



In the days of his reign at Marvel, E-I-C Jim Shooter often ran hot and cold.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was Shooter’s fantastic work on Legion of Super-Heroes at DC back in the day that helped usher this young reader into comics reading — and collecting!

But at Marvel, there were ups and downs. Secret Wars – yeah! New Universe – eh, not so much.

And yet like everything, the New Universe – the idea of a more “realistic” world separate from the Marvel U. “right outside your window” with no high tech, aliens or too many super-beings – has its fans.

That was why many folks were so excited when Marvel announced in 2006 or thereabouts the coming of newuniversal,  a comic book series by the great writer Warren Ellis. The series was a “re-imagining,” as they say today, of the New Universe concepts, launched to coincide with the 20th anniversary (gosh, time does fly) of the New Universe’s creation in 1986.

Since our own E-I-C kinda looked at the original New Universe and its offerings – and kudos to Jonathan Hickman if he is utilizing all this unmined potential of Marvel’s past, always a plus – I am gonna look at Ellis’ newuniversal redux.

Now as with the original New Universe, newuniversal was set in a world where a number of people suddenly develop superhuman abilities. However, where the New Universe began with the “real” world as its starting point, the world of newuniversal was already markedly different.

Instead, Ellis once described the setting of newuniversal as “an alternate world where Americais somewhat isolationist, Soviet Russiafell apart early and Chinatook the lead in spaceflight.” There were also other, smaller changes to the world’s history: Paul McCartney died and John Lennon lived; 9-11 (2001) never happened and the WorldTradeCentertowers are still standing in 2006; and Hillary Clinton is President. Some good, some bad, eh?

This alternate universe is also a part of the larger Marvel Multiverse, designated as Earth-555, for those of you who keep records of such things. This is briefly touched upon in newuniversal #2, with a passing reference to the “Superflow for Universe 555.”

The first few issues of newuniversal state specific dates and times for their events, something which is in keeping with the original New Universe concept — and quite different from the established Marvel U.

On Dec. 14, 2006, Marvel announced that newuniversal #1 had sold out through Diamond and that a second printing would be released, with a new variant cover by artist Esad Ribic (now of Thor, God of Thunder). Marvel later reported that newuniversal #2 had sold out and would also be reissued as a second printing — again, with a variant cover by Ribic.

After issue #6, newuniversal went on hiatus (how we cosmic fans despise the word) and artist Salvador Larroca left the project.

In 2008, the story was continued with a mini-series written by Ellis, newuniversal: shockfront, which was illustrated by Steve Kurth and Andrew Hennessy. The shockfront series was accompanied by two one-shot stories exploring the past of the newuniversal universe: newuniversal: conqueror and newuniversal: 1959.

In 2009, Ellis reportedly lost his story files in some type of computer accident. He subsequently announced that the project was “basically dead.”

It will be interesting to see which, if any, New Universe properties Hickman utilizes and how.

Next week’s Avengers looks like it will be the beginning of quite a ride indeed!