Top 10 Moments: The Infinity Gauntlet

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Twenty-eight years later The Infinity Gauntlet stands as one of the finest comic book events, not just of the 90’s, but of all time.  Written by Jim Starlin (with pencil art from George Perez and Ron Lim), the Infinity Gauntlet concerns the threat of Thanos, a death worshipper who has collected the six Infinity Gems in order to please his dark mistress.  The saga of The Mad Titan’s struggle to retain his newly acquired godhood and his nemesis Adam Warlock’s plans to thwart him with the aid of Earth’s super heroes has endured.  So enduring, in fact, that the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise was built up to its adaptation.

From my own perspective, The Infinity Gauntlet was the first “Event Comic” I experienced.  It’s still my favorite, with no real competition.  The Infinity Gauntlet #4 stands out as the highlight issue, with that being where various Avengers, X-Men, and other super-heroes throw down with the big bad, only to be dispatched in brutal fashion one by one.  As a pre-teen and even into my early 20’s, this top 10 list would be loaded with stuff like “Spider-Man gets bludgeoned to death with a rock!” and “Iron Man gets his head ripped off!” but with re-read after re-read, I came to appreciate the smaller character moments more and more, especially those dealing with Thanos and Adam Warlock.

As much as I love the Thanos brought to life by Kevin Feige, The Russo Brothers, and Josh Brolin on film, no one does it up like Starlin.  There’s a poetry to the way he writes Thanos and Warlock that no one else has been able to match.  It’s also no small difference in personality between the two versions.

The Thanos of the MCU is cold and calculating, but essentially good intentioned, which works well for the film franchise.  Starlin’s Thanos is a lunatic, drawn even more mad with the immense power he’s gained.  He literally worships Death itself, and is so love sick he often comes off as a petulant child when he doesn’t get the attention he wants.

The Infinity Gauntlet has sweeping action, savage deaths, cosmic warfare, and heroic last-stands, but it is often the conflict of personalities that lead to the most satisfying moments.  If it’s been awhile, I hope this look back reminds you of how great it truly is.

(This SPOILER HEAVY rundown of the ten best moments from the series is entirely subjective, and  and as such, it’s no problem if you disagree with the moments chosen, or the order in which they are ranked. Feel free to make your own list – this is mine.)

Before I get to the Top 10, a few honorable mentions:

Mistress Death Silenced (The Infinity Gauntlet #1)

While Thanos is in love with the personification of Death, the cosmic entity does not speak for herself.  Instead, she communicates through a servant.  When Thanos hears of her distaste for his actions, his response is explosive.  I include this only as an Honorable Mention because a near identical scene takes place in the Infinity Gauntlet precursor, Thanos Quest.

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Farmer Thanos? (The Infinity Gauntlet #6)

Once the conflict is ended and Adam Warlock has wrested control of the Gauntlet, Thanos fakes his own death.  Warlock, now omniscient, isn’t fooled.  In the near future he visits Thanos, free of his desire for ultimate power, living a quiet life of solitude.  While Thanos doesn’t face justice for nearly tearing the universe asunder, we are left with an even more satisfying version of closure.

 

“Prepare thyselves for battle most fierce and awesome.”

(The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

I, uh… I just really like this line.

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10. “We’re both monsters, pal.” (The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

As Earth’s heroes prepare for battle, Hulk and Wolverine find themselves alone atop Avengers Mansion. Despite an extensive history of violent confrontation, the two engage not in fisticuffs, but conversation. As Hulk confesses his admiration for Wolvie and acknowledges their similarities, Adam Warlock approaches to entrust them with the task of killing The Mad Titan, should the opportunity present itself.

 

9. Mighty Galactus, Humbled (The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

Knowing the mortals of Earth haven’t the power to deal with Thanos, Adam Warlock also employs a cadre of cosmic beings to take part in his plans.  Planet consuming powerhouse Galactus scoffs at the notion of following Warlock’s scheme, and after being insulted, lashes out.  Despite initial appearances, Warlock proves unscathed and once the other cosmic beings throw their weight behind Warlock, Galactus is left with no choice but to agree to join them.

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8. “Stay thy hand.” (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

So powerful is Thanos when the heroes of earth approach, his first instinct is to simply freeze time and erase them from existence as he had so many others.  It’s his “advisor” Memphisto who prevents this calamity.   For his own reasons the devilish deceiver convinces Thanos that the key to earning Mistress Death’s admiration could be proving himself in battle, going as far as to engineer Thanos lowering his power levels in order to allow the heroes a chance at victory.

 

7. Shattered (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

In a rare moment of seeming vulnerability, Thanos falters under Thor’s assault.  Our narrator for this issue, Thanos’ half-brother Eros, silently implores the Asgardian to finish the job.  Not to be, however, as Thanos utilizes his power over reality to transform his foe into a glass statue, diffusing the threat.  After admiring his handiwork, he dispatches his most powerful opponent.  Muses Eros: “Thanos is inevitable.  All light is lost.  All that is left are tears.  And the echoes of dreams shattered.”

 

6. “A GAME!” (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

While Thanos battles Earth’s warriors, Adam Warlock and The Silver Surfer observe from afar.  When Eternity, the living embodiment of all that is (don’t overthink it), insists the cosmic entities take part, Warlock shoos him away.  While Warlock is an artificial man, he’s still only a man, and his dismissiveness takes The Surfer by surprise.  When called on it, Warlock doesn’t mince words.  Despite his power, Eternity is a game piece, like the others.  Seeing them as such is necessary for him to keep his machinations in play.

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5. Delusions of Granduer (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

Before his 90’s resurgence, Thanos faced the original Captain Marvel in some of his earlier appearances.  Mar-vell, now long dead, has been replaced by Quasar.  With a job description that reads “Protector of the Universe”, and possession of the Quantum Bands, Quasar seems a match for almost any foe.  Until he faces Thanos, who simply eradicates the Quantum Bands, and Quasar soon after.

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4. Doomed (The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

While Adam Warlock gathers Earth’s forces at Avengers Mansion, Vision and She-Hulk discuss their chances of victory.  Not good, says the android Vision.  While the Avengers had defeated Thanos in the past, it was with no small amount of aid from Thanos himself.  Now, as before, if he doesn’t give them their chance, the battle itself is a formality.

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3. “SNAP” (The Infinity Gauntlet #1)

Thanos, being in love with Death herself, had once pledged to exterminate half of all life.  It was his pursuit of this promise that led him to collect the Infinity Gems, but after attaining ultimate power, he had yet to make good on his promise.  With Mistress Death spurning the lovesick Titan at every turn, Memphisto suggests that making good may be what it takes to impress her.  Thanos walks to the edge of his shrine to Death, overlooking his universe, and exterminates half of its life with a snap of his fingers.

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2. “Even gods err…” (The Infinity Gauntlet #5)

After Thanos loses his prize to Nebula, he finds himself on Earth with Adam Warlock and the few remaining champions.  In a private moment, Warlock requests Thanos’ help in dealing with the new threat presented by his granddaughter.  Not one to offer aid, Thanos needs convincing, and Warlock has only knowledge to offer.  Revealing that he was within the Soul Gem when Thanos attained it, Warlock now knows the Titan better than anyone.  Confronted with the harsh truth that he knows, subconsciously, that he is unworthy of the power he craves and has attained multiple times, Thanos struggles and stammers.  Humbled and defeated, Thanos agrees to take part in Warlock’s plan.

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1. Captain America Stands His Ground (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

Captain America led the charge against Thanos, only to witness all of his friends and allies fall, many in brutal fashion.  Despite lacking the power of Thor, Hulk, Namor, or even Cyclops, he approaches Thanos head high, chest out, giving no thought of surrender.  Cap faces the Titan and sneers: “As long as one man stands against you, Thanos, you’ll never be able to claim victory.”  Cap’s play is a final gambit, luring Thanos into position for The Silver Surfer to relieve him of the Gauntlet.  Again, failure.  Eros ruminates: “The Surfer misses his mark and Thanos retains his godhood.  The echoes of failed plans and good intentions wasted in futile acts… Nothing remains of hope.  Nothing remains but sweet oblivion and an end to this nightmare.”

 

Well, there you have it.  While these ten moments stand out to me as the best of the series, there is no shortage of greatness that I was unable to spotlight here.  The Infinity Gauntlet is truly one of the 90’s, and indeed history’s, greatest comic books.  The story didn’t end here, with The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade following in subsequent years.  A far cry from the original, but those sequels have plenty to love as well.

Marvel is still using Thanos (more than ever, really) in its comic universe, but I suggest seeking out Jim Starlin’s recent graphic novel series for the best of it.  Nobody has a handle on The Mad Titan like he does.

 

 

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The Case of the Venomous Offspring (Part 2)

RCO001_w_1463374424-1-1-1-1Greetings and salutations, you sexy and clever fans of The Unspoken Decade! What’s that? Why am I kissing your butts? Me?! Never! Can’t a narrator praise his amazing readers? Good. I’m glad we cleared that up. (By the way, have you all been working out? It shows!)

Now that everyone is feeling good about themselves, let’s begin my review of the second half of the “Venom: Lethal Protector” storyline, shall we?

When we last left our hero, he had been captured by an organization called the Life Foundation, and the villains were only interested in his symbiote’s offspring! Nope, things don’t look good for ol’ Venom! As we begin this issue, things haven’t gotten any better. Brock and his symbiotic “other” continue to float in an energy orb of comprised of pure sound. Venom thrashes and roars in defiance as Carlton Drake calmly looks on. Venom threatens to “suck his lungs out through his nose!” (Now that’s thought provoking. Can this be done? Does one need symbiotically enhanced lungs or simply Justin Beiber-level of ability to suck? Hmm….)

RCO004_w_1463374573-1-1Drake merely brushes the threat away and begins speaking of his master plan. Simply put? He wants Venom’s offspring to enhance bodyguards for the wealthy that have already purchased condos from him. (Devious, eh? He’s essentially like if Dr. Doom had an evil love child with the Monopoly Guy!) Just then, the fifth and final symbiote is born and quickly contained. Venom continues to thrash in outrage!

Meanwhile, Spidey is seen doing what Spidey does best – fighting crime. As a group of young hoods race away from the convenience store they have just robbed, they take their collective gaze off of the road ahead just long enough for the Amazing Spider-Man to drop down onto their hood! He webs their windshield and leaps to safety. The escape car, now driving blind, hits a nearby tree! Later, as the local police thank the wall-crawler, he asks for change to make a call.  (For you youngins, the change is for an ancient device that we neanderthals called a phone booth. Nope. No cell phone for selfies or texting! Truly frightening, huh?)

RCO006_1463374573-1He notifies his wife that, though Venom has recently dropped off of the grid, crimes are being committed in true symbiote fashion all around the city. His stay in San Francisco may just be longer than expected. Back in the desert compound of the Life Foundation, Venom continues to attempt an escape. Sadly, the force of the Sonics is just too strong for the symbiote. But for the human within….? The thought coming to the venomous duo, Venom grins his many-fanged smile.

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Back to ol’ web-head. Following a few leads he finds himself in a mall. A young woman is thrown from above, but Spidey gets there just in time to catch the girl, saving her from certain death. He then follows the gaze of the onlookers and sees the source of their fear….a female symbiote?! Rather than acting afraid of the sudden appearance of a seasoned superhero, she seems positively pleased! (You know, there’s just something exciting about a woman who could either kiss you or bite your face off on a whim. Mmmm! Sexy!)

RCO017_1463374573-1Back to Venom. While the villain has his back turned, speaking further of his sinister plans, Venom suddenly reaches through the orb with his human arm and seizes a guard! He then throws the minion into the control center for his prison, effectively shutting it down! Now free, the Lethal Protector begins tearing his way through the security personnel as if they’re no more than tissue paper! As he reaches for Drake, however, he is suddenly shot in the back by a sonic rifle! Brock and the symbiote drop unconscious. (Nekkid again, it should be noted. Someone, anyone, get this man some tighty whiteys!)

We then return to the mall, where Spider-Man battles the female symbiote with all that he has! As the fight rages on, he notices that she is extremely fast and strong but couldn’t be any more of a rookie in combat. Using this to his advantage, he lures her away from the civilians, pretending to surrender, and then springs into a fierce attack while she’s unprepared! Now down, she calls for an extraction. She tosses another would-be victim toward a wall. Spidey quickly cushions the man with his own body. Returning his gaze to the symbiote, he sees that she is gone. A hovercraft begins to lift off, but before it can get too far, the wall-crawler fires a web onto it! He is then pulled with the vehicle towards its destination. (Has anyone else noticed how this has become less of a Venom miniseries and more yet another excuse to showcase Marvel’s “big gun,” AKA Spider-Man? Like the dude doesn’t have enough comics in the 90’s! Let the V-Man have his moment in the sun! Geez! Rant over.)

Meanwhile, in a dark and hidden room, the torture of a homeless man finally comes to an end. Treece grows impatient. He wants the homeless exterminated. That way, he can claim the gold he’s discovered beneath the park! If he could just locate their hidden lair….

RCO023_1463374573-1When the craft reaches the Life Foundation compound, Spidey enters and sneaks along the ceilings, unseen until that’s no longer an option. He battles armored goons left and right, slowly advancing upon the room where Venom is held captive. Within, Drake has decided that Eddie Brock has become more trouble that he’s worth! Using his sophisticated machines, he actually painfully strips the Venom symbiote from Eddie Brock! (Way to go, web-head! Just had to stick your nose where it didn’t belong! Now there is no Venom to finish this storyline! Well, I guess I could finish this with some thoughts on Marvel’s Powdered Toast Man Special #1. What’s that? Oh. The comic’s not over yet. Well, color me embarrassed. Please. Do continue.)

Moments later, Spider-Man breaks into room only to find a taunting Carlton Drake on a computer screen, and what appears to be the fresh corpse of one Eddie Brock lying on the floor!

RCO005_1463374619-1On to the next exciting issue! Spidey, still fighting guards, replies that Venom is a lot harder to kill than he thinks. Just then, one of the lab techs alerts Drake that they have found a faint pulse! Eddie Brock lives! Disgusted with this turn of events, he switches off the monitor and orders the tech to perform an autopsy anyway! As for Spider-Man? Let him meet “the children!” The five symbiotes enter the room! (Man! Spidey looks like he’s kinda screwed, eh Unspoken fans? I mean, he usually has trouble with just one symbiote! Is the wall-crawler’s number finally up? Will Marvel lose its biggest cash cow without an “X” in the title? Stay tuned….)

RCO008_1463374619-1Meanwhile, Treece has had enough of his “homeless problem” and pulls the tarp from the back of a large truck, revealing crates of explosives! He means to bury those poor people alive! Seeing this, spies for the underground city return to their home with the alarming news!

Back in the desert compound, just as the Life Foundation lab techs are about to begin their autopsy, Brock suddenly leaps to life and attacks! A guard enters the room and fires a sonic blaster at our hero, but the joke’s on him. Without his “other,” Brock no longer fears loud noise! While it is assumed that these men are being beaten to death, Spidey continues his battle in a nearby room with the five symbiotes!

RCO011_1463374619-1Two of the aliens trap his arms in tendrils as a third charges with sharpened fists! When the symbiote gets close Spider-Man pulls all three together with his enhanced strength! Another then attacks with barbed hands and, strangely enough, excretes a strange acid from them! (Does anyone else remember this “acid thing”? I mean, I admittedly haven’t read this in years, but isn’t that a strange ability for a symbiote to possess? I don’t remember Marvel bringing this up ever again either. Hmmm. The House of Ideas, forget something? Impossible! Write in if I’m wrong here.) Spidey ducks and webs up their faces. Just then, Brock enters the room! He tries to call his symbiotic children to him in peace. They answer by attacking him in unison, forcing the heroic duo to momentarily retreat!

Webbing the door behind them, Brock leads Spidey to the dissection room, and they each arm themselves with the fallen guards’ sonic rifles. Both fire as the five symbiotes break through! Four are incapacitated but the fifth ducks the attack and lunges forward with bladed arms! Webbing the symbiote, both heroes retreat to yet another room. Once inside, Brock is relieved to see his “other” being held in stasis! Quickly breaking the alien free, the two become one once more, and Venom is reborn! (That’s right kiddies, daddy’s back and it’s time to line up for your spankings!)

RCO017_1463374619-1While Venom tangles with the other symbiote, he orders Spider-Man to look to the keyboards of the many computers for help of any kind! Accidentally, he discovers a ray that, once it hits the alien’s skin, ages it to death! Venom tells Spidey to hit them all with it as the others burst in! Spider-Man, not wanting to risk the lives of the humans within, refuses! (What a weenie! I’m sorry, but thats why I root for the anti-hero! I mean, I get the whole moral compass thing, but these guys had no qualms about making Spidey-kabobs just minutes earlier! Sheesh!)

Wasting little time, Venom sends a tendril snaking behind Spider-Man’s back. His spider-sense, of course, not sensing it, is caught by surprise when Venom chokes him out! At that very moment,  the five symbiotes break in! Using the ray at full blast, Venom ages the symbiote halves of the five humans to alien dust! The humans within survive, though unconscious. Spider-Man awakens in just enough time for both heroes to escape the Life Foundation compound before it explodes! Losing track of Venom, Spidey begins his search anew. Venom, on the other hand, heads back to San Francisco. He has unfinished business there!

RCO003_w_1463374663-1At the home of Roland Treece, the chief of security is in a state of shock! It seems that all security measures for the estate have been bypassed and all guards lie beaten and unconscious! Who could have done this? What happened? That’s when he turns and the answer to his question becomes clear…..Venom happened! To his credit, the man tries his best to protect the property, even from the likes of the Lethal Protector! But, in the end, he talks. (Finally, the secret of why there’s gold in them thar hills will be explained! Umm. At this point, do we even really care? Don’t we, the readers, just want to see justice served to the bad guy? Agreed. Moving on.)

RCO012_1463374663-1Learning that the homeless are in danger from the explosives in the park, an outraged Venom knocks out the security chief and heads toward the park. Spider-Man, however, is already there. When Venom arrives, he is met by two red-booted feet in the gut from our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, quickly followed by a quick punch to the jaw! Venom retaliates by entangling the hero in symbiotic goo! As the arachnid hero attempts to free himself, Venom states that there is no time to fight. Innocent people are in danger. He finishes by asking the hero for help. Surprised by all of this, Spidey agrees. (Wow! Venom was the voice of reason in this scene! Is the world nearing its end? Quick, someone check on Betty White! Everyone knows she’ll outlive the planet itself!)

RCO013_1463374663-1Now united, the heroes quickly leap into action! Never losing a step, Treece sends the digger armored suits to stop the heroes from reaching the bombs! Spidey lets loose a webline at one as it fires a heat ray and swings it towards another, effectively using both robotic armored suits to take each other out! Not to be outdone, Venom pushes a suit’s drill arm down, towards its own armored knee! Treece then does what anyone in his situation would do – runs away!  (Yep. Things are coming crashing down on the villain, aren’t they? He’d have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling heroes and their symbiote!)

Spider-Man continues battling the diggers while Venom races after Treece. The only problem is that some fuel has ignited due to the crashing of metal on metal. Fire. One of the two main weaknesses of the symbiote race! Inside a nearby trailer, Treece continues to begin the process of blowing the bombs! If he goes down, he isn’t going alone, it seems. Venom, risking the very life of his symbiotic “other” and fighting against unimaginable pain, reaches through the flames and pulls Treece out, ending the threat!

RCO020_1463374663-1Spider-Man runs up to check on his once-enemy. Venom is already healing itself. Sirens sound in the distance. Spidey turns momentarily. When he returns his gaze, Venom is gone. (Batman, eat your heart out!) Later, Eddie Brock is once again called upon by the council of the underground city. Having witnessed how he saved them, he is offered sanctuary. He accepts. Not only will he live as one of them, he will be their protector – a lethal protector!

End.

RCO023_1463374663-1(This article is dedicated to my lovely niece, Angel Marie Miller. You’ve always had my back throughout your young life. Always defending your uncle no matter what. Words cannot express just how much you mean to me. I love you.)

 

 

 

 

 

Experiencing The Ultraforce Cartoon

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A quarter of a century has now passed since the first Ultraverse titles went on sale.  Some have said it was a great time to be a comic book fan during one of the biggest company booms in the medium’s history.  Everywhere you turned there seemed to be a new comic book publisher making their arrival on the scene. Without Wizard Magazine to keep me informed, it was hard to keep track, and honestly, as a teen, there was only so much I could spend my allowance on.  So unfortunately, Ultraverse did not make the cut in my reading adventures.

(Editor’s Note: For some great background info on the Ultraverse and some musings from a reader there from the beginning, be sure to check out this article on The Exiles from The Unspoken Decade’s own proprietor, Dean Compton!)

Enter “Staycation 2018.” As the wife and daughter head to the beach, I have the whole week to fill some time.  And thanks to YouTube, what better way to celebrate the 25 year anniversary of the Ultraverse than watching their 1994-1995 cartoon, Ultraforce, which aired on USA.  But there was no way that this experience was going to go unshared.  So here it is, a breakdown and personal thoughts on the 13 episode series, Ultraforce.


Can we just, real quick, take a minute and talk about our opening title sequence?  There may be a lot of comparison to the wildly popular X-Men animated series theme as that set the tone for a lot of what we had seen in the 90’s; however, there is one thing that particular show opener lacked compared to this….someone screaming the name of the show at you!  Not since the likes of the Mortal Kombat commercial have I felt like running into the adjacent room and bellowing ULTRAFOOOORRRRRRCE!  Have a listen!


Episodes 1-3 – “Prime Time” – “The Stuff of Heroes” – “Armageddon”

Our first three episodes are all one story.  These serve as a starting point for our team, revealing how Ultraforce came together to face a threat from Hardcase’s past, NM-E, a thing that looks like a cross between an H.R. Giger Alien and Robocop.  However, they find a more dire threat in the form of a subterranean ruler of the Fire People by the name of Atalon who is bent on destroying the world so his people may once again rule!

Main Characters – This is going to be a rather long list since this is an introduction to the team and some of the foes, so here we go.

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Hardcase – The more seasoned “ultra” of the group, as we learn quite early, he had been on a team called “The Squad.”  It is not really explored in depth in these first three episodes, but he is also a well known actor. By episode two, he becomes the only one on the team that is aware of Prime’s actual identity.

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Prime – Kevin Green, a 13-year-old boy who can become the superhero Prime.  The transformation isn’t pretty, though, and Kevin can only spend a certain amount of time in the form of Prime before the body begins to ooze and fall apart around Kevin’s 13-year-old body.  Quite possibly the most powerful of the team, his immaturity gets the best of him most days.

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Prototype – Jimmy Ruiz, employee of the corporation Ultratech and wielder of their Prototype super suit.  Though a bit cocky in his first introduction, Prototype usually has the skills to back up his attitude. In these first episodes Prototype and Prime butt heads frequently, a theme that recurs throughout the series.

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Contrary – There really isn’t much you learn about Contrary in these first 3 episodes, or throughout the whole series at that.  She teleports Prime, Hardcase, and Prototype on board her ship just before they are about to be blown to bits by some government missiles.  Contrary has some kind of emotion manipulation powers, and that is just a guess based on the times I saw her use it by touching someone and then a white aura appearing as she tells them how to feel.

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Ghoul – A zombie-like ultra who, when we first meet him, is helping Contrary.  He has the ability to touch objects and get a sense of what happened in their past and is also able to see future events.  The first thing I noticed with this character on the show, aside from his shocking appearance, was his voice. You don’t expect something that sounds like Groucho Marx to come out of that worm infested head.

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Pixx – Assisting Contrary, Pixx is relied on to tackle some of the tech issues the team faces.  In a dramatic turn of events in the 3rd epsisode, Pixx dies due to radiation exposure, a fate that Ghoul foresaw.  It is at her grave that Hardcase credits Pixx for being the impetus that brought Ultraforce together. Quick fact, according to the tombstone, Pixx was born the same year I was, 1978, making her 16 or 17 when she died.

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Topaz – Topaz is a the staff wielding warrior queen of another world who mistakenly ends up on Earth.  Don’t ask me why or how; maybe it’s something I missed.  Being from a world whose male species are looked down upon and even hunted, it is quite comical when her arrival is in the middle of the field of a football game.  Topaz is recruited by Contrary and Pixx, and she reluctantly agrees to help them, even though men are on the team. “The QUEEN OF GWENDOR!!!” If I had to hear that one more time in this series… yeesh!

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NM-E – Ah yes, our first villain!  You cannot go wrong with an enemy named… NM-E.  And the look of this character is impressive. NM-E is responsible for almost completely wiping out Hardcase’s former team, “The Squad.” It is an almost unstoppable killing machine whose reappearance sparked the motivation of Ultraforce to find each other.

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Atalon – Ruler of the Fire People, a subterranean race, Atalon seeks revenge on the surface dwellers for sins they had committed in the past.  With powers that resemble telekinesis, this big guy threatens the Earth by looking to use an entire nuclear arsenal against every country. It isn’t until Ghoul confronts him with the revered ancient ghosts of the Fire People that Atalon’s menace is ended.


Episodes 4 and 5 – “Lord Pumpkin’s Pie” – “You Can’t Go Home Again”

Jimmy Ruiz (Prototype) gets a call from his mother with concerns about the neighborhood and the effects a new drug called “ZOOK” is having on his friends.  The kids are addicted to taking “zook pods” (there’s a joke here somewhere, I know it) which increases their size and strength for a limited amount of time, and Jimmy is interested in finding the supplier, “The Pump” (or Lord Pumpkin as he is formally known).  Lord Pumpkin employs the services of a young kid by the name of Pistol and an overgrown slime covered hulk called Sludge. The episodes focus mainly on Jimmy trying to show others and himself that he does not need the Prototype suit to be a hero, but it is soon evident he may unknowingly be an Ultra.  Just when things seem to be over Jimmy’s head, the rest of Ultraforce show up to help him out.

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Lord Pumpkin – A fashionable criminal with an affinity for purple, wooden body, and a lit pumpkin for a head.  He profits off the sale of “zook” which he grows off of sentient vines in a theater. (I feel weird typing that out.)  This new drug on the streets causes some friction with another local supplier, and The Pump is involved in a gang war.  After seeing Jimmy’s latent powers increase the potency of his zook, Lord Pumpkin makes a play to “persuade” Jimmy to use his powers for nefarious use.  Unfortunately, Pump meets his end when his candle wick gets shot out by Jimmy.

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Pistol – As Lord Pumpkin’s protege, it is safe to say this kid has problems.  With a look of a 1930’s gangster, Pistol can generate guns in his hands making him an unpredictable threat.  If it wasn’t for his eager hotheadedness, I might be able to take him more seriously.

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Sludge – Frank Hoag, a former cop whose large, disturbingly gooey, condition can only be controlled by the zook that Lord Pumpkin is growing.  Since the condition hampers his intellect (driven home by the constant misuse of the English language), Sludge reluctantly does Lord Pumpkin’s bidding.  The times he is able to get some zook, he returns back to normal size but only for a few very short moments. There is a point where Sludge does use his powers by grabbing one of Pistol’s guns and melting it before his eyes.

(Just One More Editor’s Note, I Swear: For more on Sludge, check out The Unspoken Decade’s own Dean Compton and Emily Scott’s podcast on the subject, in a segment that only Emily wants to call The Spoken Decade.)


Episode 6 – “Wrack & Ruin”

The cure for being an ultra is here… or so the vampire Rune wants us to believe. Manipulating General Rayder at ALADDIN (a group that watches super powered individuals) to disclose the news that Ultras will need to turn themselves in for a cure, Rune lies in wait at the facility to capture and drain their power.  Using ALADDIN to contact Contrary, Hardcase agrees to turn over Prime for a potential cure. Sensing that something is not right, Hardcase and Topaz visit the facility just in time to rescue Prime from Rune.

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Rune – This gargoyle-esque vampire creature drains the power from other ultras as sustenance.  There is a point where Prime blasts him with some type of energy beam from his fist, a power i did not know he had, and Rune just absorbs it with a smile on his face.  General Rayder informs Hardcase that Rune can be stopped with a focused attack on the stones around his neck. Crushing them, Rune is flown into the sky by the fiery form of a free General Rayder.


Episode 7 – “Night and The Nightman”

A strange accident affects a young lady turning her into a shape-shifter with bad intentions called Chrysalis.  We also get the introduction of Night Man, who is saved before falling to his death by Contrary. Declining their offer to become part of the team, Night Man heads back to the city to find Chrysalis before she uses her newfound power to wreak even more havoc on citizens.

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Chrysalis (Ellie Tremain) – Super strength shape-shifter that envelops her victims in cocoons.  I don’t think I understand her motivation other than apparent daddy issues. At one point she transforms into Contrary, goes to a charity ball, and asks her dad to dance with her. That is kind of icky.

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Night Man – Johnny Domino, famous jazz saxophone player and a man changed by a freak accident who now possesses night vision, a bit of telepathy, and no need for sleep. Night Man’s crowning achievement in this episode is sending us out with a nighttime saxophone solo on top of a skyscraper while in costume. Beat that, Batman!


Episode 8 – “Prime Ambition”

After two teenagers attempt a bank robbery, Prime discovers they have have abilities similar to his own and goes on a hunt for Dr. Gross, as it appears they are connected. Much to Hardcase’s dismay, 13 year old Kevin Green is still trying to get a grasp on being as responsible a hero as Prime. Things come to a head when Dr. Gross uses Organism 8 to distract Prime in order to kidnap Kelly, a girl that Kevin has a big crush on.  Luckily the rest of Ultraforce assist Prime and make the save.

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Organism 8 – Dr. Gross’ semi-solid gelatinous bestial creation who seems to have a very low intelligence and silently does the Dr.’s bidding.

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Dr. Gross – The creator of Prime, Dr. Gross has been experimenting on people for quite a while but has recently moved to the sewers to continue his experiments.  After seeing Prime leaking the green goo, Dr. Gross makes the move to try and capture him. Things don’t work out so well for him in the end when he tries to enhance himself but ends up a sticky amorphous blob.


Episode 9 – “A Veiled Threat”

In order to get ahead of Metropolitan Studios (a movie company whose logo happens to match the Malibu Comics insignia), Luthor Silk, the slimy head of Cosmic Studios, puts a plan into action.  Using two ultras by the name of Veil and Headknocker, they plot to transfer Hardcase’s neural center into another actor’s head, effectively depowering Hardcase. Just as a quick aside, not even 5 minutes in and Topaz has uttered “Queen of Gwendor” three times already. And oh yeah, Pixx is back!  (Although we find out she virtually lives on to this day because she downloaded her consciousness into Contrary’s ship.) Topaz, Ghoul, and Hardcase take center stage in this episode, and as Veil’s plan unfolds, Hardcase is faced with a tough choice in order to save Starburst, a woman he loved from his past who also happened to be a teammate on The Squad.

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Headknocker – This goof.  Helping out Veil, he’s a hired muscle bound Ultra thug who is most likely in it just for the paycheck.  It is clear that Hardcase and Headknocker have faced each other in the past. Here’s a moment that sums up Headknocker.  Running to attack Ghoul and Topaz, they move out of the way as Headknocker lunges forward. He immediately hits a wall and get his oversized noggin stuck. *slow clap*

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Veil – The centerpiece villain here, Veil has the powers, according to Pixx, of “limited invisibility, can control other people’s senses, and nervous systems, even the brain!” Veil’s also been responsible for the recent de-powering of Ultras.  Throughout the episode, Veil uses her influence by disguising herself as an actress. Topaz and Ghoul investigate and find that Veil is not who she says she is and confront her.  At one point, as Veil is pursuing Hardcase, he tells her he plans to turn in for the night, that is, until she uses her ultra-abilty and whispers the phrase, “Testosterone..INCREASE!” HA! Don’t worry, they just put the top down and drive Hardcase’s car really fast. What did you think was going to happen?


Episode 10 – “Pump It Up!”

Giving a young student, Mosh, a powered guitar that has the ability to manipulate people to do his bidding, Lord Pumpkin is at it again!  Ultraforce, specifically Ghoul and Prime, get involved when Mosh plays a concert outside of Kevin’s school and a riot ensues. Ghoul loses an arm again but is able to keep his wits about him in order to help Prime foil Pumpkin’s plan to change all the people into… pumpkin heads?

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Rogue Prime – Upset with how Prime is perceived, no thanks to Mosh and Lord Pumpkin’s manipulation, Kevin brings forth an edgier version of his super persona who insists on being called Rogue Prime, which rolls right off the tongue.


Episode 11 – “Primal Scream”

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The vampire Rune has returned and he needs to feed!  His first intended meal? Prime! Plaguing him with hallucinations of villains from his past, Rune has Prime rampaging through town until Prototype and Hardcase attempt to calm him down.  Realizing that Rune can only feed on the bioenergy of Prime, Kevin remains unchanged and faces Rune alone. Outsmarting the beast by grabbing the sole red rune from around his neck, morphing into Prime, and crushing it, turning the villain to dust!  Just a quick note, there were a couple of times that it appeared Hardcase could fly and in the first part of the season he needed the assistance of a flight suit. Maybe he could jump real high?


Episodes 12 and 13 – “Everything That Rises Must Converge” – “Jumpin’ at the Boneyard”

The two part season finale begins when a mysterious sentient force on the moon called The Entity reaches out to the Earth.  We learn that one year ago, this force was responsible for turning Hardcase into an Ultra.  Five strangers, also struck by the beam and given powers, are drawn together with Hardcase and are compelled to steal an Ultratech shuttle in order to reach the Moon and protect The Entity.  Upset about their stolen spacecraft, Ultratech enlists Prototype to investigate the heist, who, in turn, gets the remaining members of Ultraforce to tag along.  Meanwhile, a being called Boneyard is attempting to absorb the energy of the Entity in order to become very powerful, but he must first find a way to rid himself of the threat of Ultraforce and The Strangers to ensure that his plan goes off without a hitch.

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Boneyard – Wait a second! How is Deathlok in this cartoon?!?  Oh wait, he’s wearing a cape.  Boneyard is on a quest to become one of the most powerful beings in the universe, and absorbing the strange moon force is part of his plan to create a dimensional breach to bring over those under him to help conquer and rule.  He’s apparently a sorcerer as well, as he was able to fool The Strangers and Hardcase into believing he was the protector of The Entity.

The Strangers – The five people that were given powers a year ago when The Entity reached out to the planet.  The members include:

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Grenade – a jacked up stud with explosive burst powers.

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Zip-Zap – given the power of speed, Zip-Zap is the street-wise quickster of the group.

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Electrocute – it’s all in the name – electric powers come easily to this beautiful android.

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Spectral – think Marvel’s Human Torch but different color flames depending on the purpose. He helps the team stay alive in space with “auras” that allow them to breathe.

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Atom Bob – Able to manipulate and transmute matter (and magic), before he was aware he had powers, Bob unexpectedly turned a whole bus into water, not harming those inside.  My favorite line is when they are on the way to the moon and Bob is helping them all change their clothes into costumes as they declare their hero code names. When Bob finally reveals his costume (one of the better ones of the group, in my opinion), he says aloud, “ATOM BOB at your service!” and the others just stare at him.  He finally says, “Well… you come up with a better name for me.”

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Space Prime – Prime’s body is pretty darn neat!  When a trip to space is in order, it cannot use the oxygen helmets provided by Contrary, so instead, he creates a body that is able to survive the vacuum of space.  Ghoul’s reaction was classic to this change.  “No mouth, huh?  Now that’s what I call an improvement.”

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Primevil – a green beast that is a creation by Boneyard out of some leftover Prime goop, it seems to be an equal in power for Space Prime and the rest of Ultraforce

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The Entity – A large intergalactic supercomputer that crashed on the moon ages ago with the sole purpose of relaying a message, but no one has been able to receive or understand that message since it landed, hence why it has been reaching out to the Earth.


Final Thoughts

The Ultraforce cartoon came and went in the mid-90’s, not even registering a blip on some people’s Saturday morning radar.  This was a series based on a relatively new comic universe, so it was understandable that it may have had a hard time getting a foothold among other established properties at the time.  The concept is simple enough that you can start from the beginning and be invested in the characters and plots.  The animation is pretty standard and easily reminds you that you are watching a cartoon from that era, so no complaints there.  Based on research, the creators stayed true enough to the heroes and their powers, not varying too greatly from what was established.  I’m glad I had the chance to sit down and experience it all.  If you’d like to get a good understanding about some of the major players of the Ultraverse, watching Ultraforce is an enjoyable place to start… SO SAYS THE QUEEN OF GWENDOR!

I hope that you all enjoyed my first ever submission for this fantastic site!  The Unspoken Decade provides me so much enjoyment, and I hope that this adds to it for all of you!  Thanks to TheyStoleMyBrain for his YouTube uploads!  You can find all 13 episodes here!

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