New Universe Explained

The New Universe is a comic book imprint from Marvel Comics that was published in its original incarnation from 1986 to 1989. It was created by Jim Shooter, Archie Goodwin, Eliot R. Brown, John Morelli, Mark Gruenwald, Tom DeFalco and edited by Michael Higgins.

In 1986, in honor of Marvel Comics' 25th anniversary, Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter launched the New Universe line of comics. This was to be a distinctly separate world, fully divorced from the mainstream continuity of the Marvel Universe, consisting of its own continuing characters and stories in a more realistic setting.

There would be no aliens, hidden races, gods, mythological beings, magic or supertechnology. Superhuman characters and powers would be limited and thus more subdued in their activities, yet their actions would have more realistic consequences. This served to act in direct contrast to the traditional Marvel Universe, which always purported to take place in a mirror of the real world where public knowledge of superheroes, supervillains and their activities had little effect on normal "day-to-day" business.

Adding to the sense of realism, the New Universe titles were designed to operate in "real-time"; roughly a year would lapse in the universe for each year that passed in reality. The limitation of fantasy elements and the low-key nature of the characters' activities in the New Universe gave the imprint verisimilitude, to seem like "the world outside your window".

The New Universe was the first line produced by Marvel Comics utilizing a pre-conceived shared universe concept. The central concept tied all of the titles together, allowing them to serve as one unified crossover. The line could either be read as individual title(s) or the entire line of titles could tell a much broader story when read together chronologically, following a timeline that appeared in the back of the comics.

Original Era


The premise behind the New Universe line of comics was the question "What would happen if normal people became superhuman overnight?" The event that started it all was known as the White Event. It was a strange astronomical phenomenon that occurred on July 22, 1986, 4:22 a.m., EST, and lasted for mere moments. It bathed the earth in a bright white light and caused genetic anomalies in two out of every one million humans, which led to them developing certain powers. Many looked completely normal, but for others, the anomaly resulted in a physical manifestation which led to horrible disfigurations. Human beings who developed a reaction to the White Event were referred to as "Paranormals".

Eventually, the true nature of the White Event was revealed - it was caused when The Old Man tried to rid himself of the Star Brand, the most powerful energy source in the known universe, by transferring its power onto an asteroid. In many ways, the New Universe was the first time concepts of advanced human potential (such as in the current television show Heroes) were explored in popular media. [1]


The New Universe initially launched with eight monthly titles:

D.P. 7 focuses on a group of seven paranormals on the run from a sinister medical facility created to deal with the blooming paranormal population.

The titular hero Justice is a delusional former-DEA agent named John Tensen who believes himself to be an alien police officer, meting out justice to evildoers everywhere.

Kickers, Inc, are heroes-for-hire, all former pro-football players, led by Jack Magniconte, who gains super-human strength, speed, and invulnerability after the White Event...all at the cost of his brother's life.

Mark Hazzard is a Vietnam veteran turned soldier of fortune whose mercenary lifestyle has cost him the love of his family.

Keith Remsen is a counseler who uses his ability to enter people's dreams to help them recover from trauma and mental illness. When you die in a dream, do you truly die for real?

Psi-Force is a group of paranormals on the run from a government which seeks to control them. Together they can meld their abilities into a powerful psionic being called The Psi-Hawk.

Jenny Swensen steals her father's Man Amplified X-periment (M.A.X.) armor (a construction suit built for use in a variety of capacities) when she believes the man responsible for her father's death intends to use it as a weapon of war.

Ken Connell is given a special brand/tattoo called the Star Brand. It gives the wearer unlimited power, and is highly sought after as the most powerful weapon in the known universe. It has the ability to corrupt even the strongest of beings. Will Connell defend it? Will he prove to be the ideal super-hero?


The New Universe was heavily marketed, but faced substantial problems. Jim Shooter had planned to recruit top creators, but this became unfeasible when Marvel's corporate owners unexpectedly reduced his available budget. [2] As a result, many of the pitches were handled by others and certain books lacked focus as creative teams were swapped. Shooter was also involved with complex politics at Marvel Comics (which eventually led to him resigning his position), and thus could not give the line as much attention as he would have liked. After the first year, four of the titles, Kickers, Inc., Merc, Nightmask and Spitfire, were cancelled.


Second Era - from The Black Event to The War

In an effort to save the line, then Editor-In-Chief Tom DeFalco and Editor Howard Mackie ended up removing some of the more fantastic elements from it and in a few cases doing radical revamps - John Byrne was enlisted to write and do breakdowns on Star Brand, altering the title so that it focused less on Ken Connell and more on the power of the Star Brand itself. This began initially with the idea of having Ken Connell go public with his identity as Star Brand. Similarly, the premise of Justice was revealed to be a hallucination which had been artificially induced in the title's protagonist by another Paranormal. From this point on, Justice becomes judge, jury, and executioner of Paranormals who abuse their powers. The writers also allowed for major catastrophic events which could not have occurred in the Marvel Universe - such as the sudden obliteration of the city of Pittsburgh (the Black Event) in The Pitt (one-shot), and the war with South Africa in The Draft (one-shot) and The War (four-issue limited series).

Despite all of this, sales were poor and the imprint was abruptly discontinued in late 1989 after a total of 174 comics had been published.


Despite the original decision to keep the New Universe entirely separate from Marvel's other comics, it was later incorporated into the Marvel Multiverse, allowing crossovers with other Marvel titles. Writer Mark Gruenwald brought the New Universe characters into the Marvel Universe proper, first via appearances in Quasar #31-53, then later in the Starblast limited series/crossover.

At the end of Starblast, the Stranger used the Star Brand to move the Earth of the New Universe into orbit around his Labworld. The Living Tribunal then judges the Star Brand to be a threat to the hierarchy of the greater powers of the Marvel Multiverse. The New Universe's earth is quarantined, surrounded by an impenetrable energy barrier so that no one can enter or leave it, and none of the greater powers are ever allowed to observe it again.

Spider-Man 2099 (1993 - 1996)

Writer Peter David introduced an amnesiac character known as the Net Prophet into Spider-Man 2099. He eventually revealed that Net Prophet was actually the New Universe character Justice, who slowly regained his memories during the course of the storyline.

Cameos (1990 - 2000)

2005 Reintroduction

Wha...Huh? #1

In early 2005, writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Jim Mahfood created a three-page story entitled "What If Galactus Got Food Poisoning?" for inclusion in Marvel's Wha...Huh? comedy one-shot. It explains, in a very fun but gross way, the origins of The New Universe.

The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes 2005

This issue of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes 2005 feature a two page entry on The New Universe wherein New Universe Earth is designated Earth-148611.

Exiles #72 - 74 "World Tour: New Universe"

In late 2005, the Exiles find a Proteus-possessed Mimic in an approximation of New Universe era Pittsburgh. After observing this world, Proteus becomes determined to retrieve the most powerful weapon in the known universe, The Star Brand, by attempting to take the body of Ken Connell. He also encounters Justice, D.P. 7, and Nightmask. This arc runs through Exiles #72 - 74 and is the second of six stops on their "World Tour".

This alternate universe has the Marvel Multiverse designation Earth-15731 and exists circa 1986, shortly after The White Event. Because of the results of Proteus' actions, including the premature death of Justice, it is completely divorced from the original New Universe continuity. Other notable differences include Connell, Nightmask and Lenore Fenzl of the D.P. 7 becoming aware of each other's existence and abilities long before the characters did so in the "original" continuity (due to the Exiles gathering them to combat Proteus), and Connell beginning to develop a greater sense of responsibility towards the Star Brand after Proteus threatens his life and the lives of people he cares for.

The 20th Anniversary of the New Universe

In 2006, Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada and Editor Mark Paniccia set in motion events to celebrate Marvel Comics' 20th Anniversary of the New Universe. Below is a listing of the various titles which celebrated this anniversary.

Untold Tales of the New Universe

In late February and early March, Marvel launched the Untold Tales of the New Universe, a five week comic event that takes place in a pre-Pitt timeframe in the original continuity.These were released as a lead-in to Warren Ellis' forthcoming ongoing title, newuniversal, which would re-introduce The New Universe Saga to the world.

The line of Untold Tales of the New Universe titles included:

All - New Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A - Z #6 (of 12) "Justice To Marvel"

This issue features a biography of John Tensen (Justice).

All - New Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A - Z #10 (of 12) "Shadowoman to Tara"

This issue features a biography of the Starblasters, who were instrumental in Quasar : Prelude to Starblast (1992 - 1994) and Starblast (1994). The Starblasters had frequent interactions with many of The New Universe characters throughout these storylines.

Marvel Legacy: The 1980s Handbook

In November 2006, Marvel released a 1980s version of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. The profiles within cover everything published by Marvel Comics in that decade and feature D.P. 7, Nightmask, and Psi-Force.


(See Alternate Versions: newuniversal).

Recent Appearances

All - New Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A - Z: Update #1 (of 4)

January 2007 issue which features an updated biography of , Quasar, and Spider-Man 2099.

All - New Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A - Z: Update #2 (of 4)

March 2007 issue which features an updated biography of Jack Magniconte, the All-American (see Kickers, Inc.).

All - New Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A - Z: Update #3 (of 4)

July 2007 issue which features an updated biography of Chrome (see Spitfire and the Troubleshooters).

Exiles: Days of Then and Now One-Shot

January 2008 one-shot celebrating 100 issues of The Exiles and featuring an appearance by Jenny Swenson | Spitfire and the Troubleshooters in "Chapter 4: World Tour".

Alternate versions


See main article: newuniversal.

In 2006, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the New Universe, Marvel launched newuniversal - a single title re-imagining of the New Universe concepts by writer Warren Ellis, artist Salvador Larroca and color artist Jason Keith. The series is ongoing.

Ellis has stated that "I don't think the original creators and editors realized until it was too late - it was all a single story. It shouldn't have been eight books (or whatever) that were eventually consolidated into ensemble miniseries. It was a single story that should have spun new series and serials off of it."[3] Ellis has taken this approach to newuniversal, with his first storyline intentionally revolving around the four "lead" books of the original New Universe[3] - Justice, Nightmask, Star Brand and Spitfire and the Troubleshooters.

On December 14, 2006 Marvel announced that newuniversal #1 had sold out through Diamond Comic Distributors and that a second printing would be released, with a new variant cover by artist Esad Ribic.[4] Marvel later reported[5] that newuniversal #2 had sold out and would also be reissued as a second printing - again, with a variant cover by Esad Ribic.

After issue #6, newuniversal went on hiatus, with Marvel stating that the "second season" would begin in 2008.[6] It returned May 14, 2008 with the first issue of a new miniseries, newuniversal: Shockfront #1.[7] It will continue to be written by Warren Ellis, with pencils by Steve Kurth and covers by Brandon Peterson.

In addition, the mythology will be further expanded in July 2008 with a series of one-shots; beginning with newuniversal: 1959, written by Kieron Gillen, pencilled by Greg Scott and covers by Brandon Peterson.

Neither Marvel Comics or Warren Ellis have released any type of formal press statement as to whether or not the book is in "active" status; it remains to be seen if the book will continue to be published.



External links

New Universe

Untold Tales of the New Universe

Notes and References

  1. Comics Should Be Good! - Everbody's Somebody's Baby: Day One
  2. "Straight Shooter" Part 1
  4. - newuniversal #1 Sells Out
  5. - Marvel Goes Back To Press On 5 Sell Outs
  6. newuniversal HC - News
  7. NEWUNIVERSAL: SHOCKFRONT #1 - Marvel Comics Publishing Catalog