Anyone remember “Prime”?

Anybody?

What about Malibu Comics?

Ring a bell? No?

Well, let me start this with a little history lesson about Malibu Comics.

Malibu Comics started publishing in 1986 by Tom Mason and Dave Olbrich, and got its start with black and white comics with public domain characters like “Sherlock Holmes” and “Tarzan”, and various media tie-ins at the time (most notably Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Alien Nation, Dollman, etc,), but was most famous for “Men In Black”, “The Exiles” (not to be confused with the Marvel Comic series of the same name), “The Night Man”, and “Ultraforce.”

“Ultraforce” was created in Malibu’s “Ultraverse,” consisting of superheroes and villains called “ultras.” The “Ultraverse” spawned a cartoon series based off of the “Ultraforce” comic and a live-action television series called “Night Man” (which I will probably cover in another piece about why saxophonists make great superheroes).

Each of the “Ultraforce” characters had their own comic series. “Prime”, created by the team of Bob Jacob, Gerard Jones, Len Strazewski and drawn by Norm Breyfogle, was the story of Kevin Green, a thirteen-year-old with the power to transform into a man imbued with over-sized muscles and torso. He was very similar to Captain Marvel–oh wait, I’m sorry, Shazam (grumble) to where he is a boy that transforms into an adult. There used to be a huge difference between the two characters, because, at the time of it’s publication, Kevin could retain everything mentally about himself, that being the definite difference between Shazam and Prime. Shazam had the powers of all of the gods he was named after; Kevin is just a normal thirteen-year-old with a superhero problem.

Malibu Comics was starting to become one of the more noticeable comic companies, due to their tie-ins and also their marketing campaign (the cartoon series, the live action show, and commercials for the company and their comics). In the 90s, comics were extremely cutthroat. It seemed like a lot of companies were going through mergers or even having complete takeovers of their companies. Due to lack of keeping up with sales of their competetors, that being Marvel Comics and DC Comics, they were on the sights of both major publishers.

In an attempt to keep DC Comics from gaining access to Malibu’s characters, Marvel won the bid war and acquired Malibu Comics.

For a while, they integrated some of the bigger name characters in the “Ultraverse” line and retconned some of the character’s backstories. Prime and others were shown fighting alongside characters like Thor, Spider-Man, and Hulk. Eventually, Marvel shelved all of Malibu’s characters, but Joe Quesada has been stated in the past that he would like to bring them back one day, but it would have to be at the right time and blah, blah, blah.

Anybody else tired of the history lesson?

Good.

Let’s talk about Prime. Here is a boy who can turn into an oversized, “steriod induced” superhero (no, he wasn’t on steroids, but looking at him, it was definitely hard to tell), able to go toe to toe with probably all of the “big guns” and yet there is so much possibility of bringing that character back into the 21st century and really do something fresh with him.

Let me explain.

Just one of the many times we get to see Kevin cheat death.

First, let’s deal with the whole Shazam/Prime issue. Shazam was recently in the movie of the same namesake where they showcase the character as a young teen who can turn into a superhero by screaming “SHAZAM!”. Prime, on the other hand, has an ooze that covers his entire body, turning him into Prime. Now, Kevin (while being Prime) can only keep this form for a period of time before he has to break out of the character or he will suffocate to death.

Yes. SUFFOCATE. TO. DEATH.

That’s terrifying if you think about it. People have fears of claustrophobia or any of the handfuls of fears that make a person feel like they can’t breathe, that the walls are closing in, or worse. And, this is what Kevin has to deal with just being an “ultra.”

Secondly, like Shazam, he’s a young teen. Teens are going through rough times: puberty, looking to be accepted, bullying, stress of making good grades, and that pushes them over the edge. Not all the time, but the rate of teen suicide has increased by 5% over the last three years.

You ain’t just preachin’ to the choir, sister.

Now, imagine you are Kevin. You are thirteen, and you are “girl crazy” and want to do the right thing but you also want to show off your superpowers and make the girl(s) notice you in your “manly” physique. Except, the one thing you are forgeting is you are a thirteen year old and only being shown in the form of an adult, probably ten to fifteen years older in appearance to them, and you are trying not to make it look like you are hitting on them, but you kinda are.

Creepy, anyone?

Siblings are so hard to get along with.

The third thing goes back to this ooze issue that covers his body. There was one comic issue that a part of the ooze becomes sentient and takes on the form of a monster that Prime has to fight.

Again, a terrible thought. You have a indescribable skin problem that immbues you with superpowers, but also makes monsters.

Boy, do you have problems.

Lastly, because you are a teen, you are very “impressionable.” I put the word “impressionable in quotes for a reason. Kevin Green, when around certain individuals, or when subconsciously controlled, will have his superhero identity “altered.” This could be anything from changing his appearance to changing even his DNA when in “Prime” form.

His physical forms have been what we first see Prime as, and then in a later issue, a military official working for a top-secret government project needs Prime’s help in space. They subconsciously alter his body so that parts of the outer part of his body is covered by a malleable metallic substance that can sustain space travel, as well as form a shielded helmet and rockets on his back to maneuver him through space. In further issues, he comes across Malibu’s version of The Punisher, “Firearm.” Being around him makes Kevin feel like he needs to be tougher and more agressive, and his subconscious once again takes over and turns him into a more masculine and more highly testosterone individual. In this form, his hair is longer, his costume has changed–no cape, gauntlets have spikes added to them. his costume has some darker colors to them and he wears a bandana.

It’s the 90s. Go with it.

Later, the merger happens, and now the Marvel and Malibu Universes come into contact with each other. The form that Prime takes during this period is when he comes across and eventually works with Spider-Man. What’s interesting about this period is that instead of still being this beefy looking superhero, he has a closer body frame to a normal physically fit superhero. Nothing too extravagant, but tone, muscular, and ready to be a hero. I have unfortunately not had the liberty of reading this issue, but Prime goes from looking similar to Spidey in some aspects–similar costume, but retaining the signature shielded “P” logo and also keeping a form of the gauntlets and I believe the boots, but I read on Wikipedia that in this issue he sprouts more arms (similar to the “Man-Spider” storyline that Spider-Man went through) until he goes back to Kevin form.

The final form is similar to the original, but with some blue tones added to the red and yellow (Superman anybody?).

Now. Here is my pitch. It combines tropes from a few different things, as well as similar tropes, that are seen in comics before, but I believe in this day and age, it would be well suited.

Cover to Joe Hill’s adaptation of “The Cape”, Issue #1, from IDW Publishing.

There was an adaptation of a short story by best selling author Joe Hill called “The Cape.” It was the story of two brothers and a blanket.

Just go with me here for a minute.

The two brothers have this blanket, and they are playing “Superheroes and Villains”, and during the game there was an accident and a discovery. One of the boys falls from a broken tree limb and starts floating in air. The boys realize that they can’t tell anybody about it, and the store it away until one day one of the brothers finds it in a box and realizes it still has the power. Now, this particular brother has had a lot of rough things happen in his life, and he did not become as successful as his brother.

What I’m trying to say is, this guy has a chip on his shoulder. a pretty big one.

The comic honestly wasn’t incredibly well praised like Hill’s “Locke and Key” series, but I feel it shows the story of what happens when someone who has been pushed (possibly too far) is given some power and what he does with it. I liked it and I think it’s worth checking out.

“Brightburn”, or “Kids You Shouldn’t Pick Up That Have Fallen From The Sky Just Because You Can’t Have Any.”

More recently, the movie “Brightburn” has hit theaters (man, I’m dying to see that!). The story is a “what if” version of the “Superman mythos” (even though it has nothing to do with Superman). The biggest part to this movie is a boy who comes to this Earth and is discovered by this woman gains extraordinary powers…and everything goes to hell. It’s a dark movie, and I think it is a great concept.

So, this is where I want to bring it back to Prime. Kevin Green is a normal thirteen-year-old who discovers that he has the power to turn into an “ultra.” Keep the look to him; maybe update the costume ever so slightly so that it fits in today’s fashion and culture, and keep ALL of his benefits and his weaknesses. Show the struggle to be superhuman and be attracted to girls that are his age, but when he is in “ultra” form is horribly taboo. Show how the opposite sex is grossed out at the fact that someone old enough to be one of their older family members and how that reaction affects Kevin, both in “ultra” form and in “adolescent” form. Would that make him angry? Would that push him over the edge?

Man. This is terrifying and gross. Imagine the smell. Blech.

Also, let’s discuss how the portrayal of Kevin trying to fight his way out of his superhero form. That is a traumatic experience for anyone to go through, including a thirteen-year-old. It’s like being buried alive and not knowing how to get out. You’re clawing at anything to tear out of your confined space because if you can’t, you will die. You might be terrified of turning into your hero form for fear of the outcome. Hell, you might be horrified.

Then, the last two things: one, being the trope of the ooze becoming alive and attacking our hero and two, the ability to be subconsciously manipulated into another form and having that being out of your control.

The ooze thing has been done with Spidey and any of the various symbiote origin storylines. Each symbiote had it’s own mannerism, but also the “evilness” of it’s host.

Kevin’s problem is that the ooze becomes a monstrosity of limbs and crazy DNA issues all over the body. Unless we were going to make this a light and cheerful story, I would just leave that out and maybe have it be studied by any government or hidden chapter of ISIS or something. The real issue here is control of the subconscious.

I think Tim Burton’s Batman said it better, Prime.

Shazam doesn’t have that issue. He has the opportunity to be Billy Batson no matter what. Kevin Green doesn’t. If he hides what he is from, say, his parents, friends, and anyone that would be a good–no, a great role model to Kevin in his “Prime” alter-ego–what is going to stop him from eventually turning evil and turning into some monster form? Or, if the government or some other agency finds out that he can be controlled that way, what would be the outcome of that? Would he be used for good or evil or for some form of “cover-up” to a global issue? And, lastly, what would be the issue if he did become what they sometimes refer to in the comic books–a “god”? Would he go power hungry knowing he can do all these things and go on a full-blown “disaster spree”? Can he be stopped?

“Prime” could honestly be the next line of superhero horror books. Or, it could be the next in the line of adult superhero comics. It is a character that has a lot of potential to have a lot of flaws be used for great storytelling in the right hands. And, who knows? Maybe it can reinvigorate the “Ultraverse” into Marvel.

At least one character can be saved.