While at a conference last week in Worcester, Mass., I stopped by the comic shop/toy store That’s Entertainment. In addition to newer toys, it has a slew of older stuff (including a lot of cool old Godzilla toys). I browsed for a while, but the only thing I actually ended up buying was this Ultraforce NM-EÂ figure. I’d seen it on eBay many times and considered buying one during my Marvel Legends days, as he seemed a perfect enemy (pun intended) for the likes of the X-Men. He sort of looked like a cross between a Brood and a Danger Room robot.
He also looks veryÂ ’90s, which is primarily a result of being part of Malibu Comics‘ “Ultraverse.” Malibu was an independent comic company that existed from 1986-1994 until it was bought by Marvel. Its attempt at cashing in on the comics boom of the early 1990s was the “Ultraverse,” a series of comics that very closely resembled what was being produced at Image Comics around the same time.
No doubt hoping to hop on the comic book gravy train McFarlane Toys and Toy Biz were developing with their Spawn and Marvel lines, Galoob picked up the Malibu license and produced a line of Ultraforce toys, based on the short-lived animated series, in 1995 (by which time the company had been acquired by Marvel). The Ultraforce toys proceeded to rot in KayBee stores around the country for the next five or six years.
Part man, part computer NM-E is a bio-mechanical killing machine that once slaughtered the squad, Hardcase’s first team.* He is completely invincible, although he can be put out of commission temporarily. NM-E is armed with formidable high-tech weapons and scythe-like limbs that slash, detach, and extend. He thinks, adapts and never quits. (*See HARDCASE Comic Book #1. –Ultra Editor)
I feel confident in stating that no one, not a living soul, saw Hardcase Comic Book #1.
Design & Sculpt: For 1995, the sculpt is actually pretty good – probably close to the standards of the McFarlane stuff at that time, and arguably better than every other figure in the Ultraforce line. Some sculptor, and it would be awesome to find out who, put a lot of love into this sculpt.
There’s some good detail around the biomechanical piping and the teeth, as well as the musculature and the veins on the back of the hands. Whoever sculpted this picked up on its obvious similarity to the xenomorphs of the Alien series.
Plastic & Paint: As a mass market toy from 1995, NM-E is solid. Even the weird little antennae on his head are glued on tight.
He’s painted silver what appears to have been a black wash followed by a black drybrush to give it a worn metallic look. It’s no Kriegaffe, but I think it looks pretty good, and not so far off from what you see on similar figures today.
The only part that looks rather dumb is the little skull on the neck, but that’s due to the comic book artist who designed the character, not the sculptor.
Articulation: NM-E has swivels at the neck, shoulders (all four), waist, and V-cuts at the thighs. It’s about average for the time period, but thanks to the extra arms it allows for more variety in posing than you might expect.
Accessories: NM-E comes with two missile launchers that fit over his upper hands, and can figure two red missiles. I tossed the missiles in a box for that “1990s-comics rectangular-fronted gun that shoots indeterminate projectiles/energy” look.
Quality Control: None – not bad for a 17-year-old toy.
Overall: I remember seeing a pic someone took of a bunch of these surrounding a Marvel Legends Captain America, and it looked very cool. More than fifteen years after it was produced, the sculpting and paint work on this figure are good enough that they can serve as adequate foils for your average comic book superheroes.
My raven score takes into account both how this figure would have seemed in 1995, and how I rate it as a fun figure now.
I… I liked Ultraverse. Well, some of it. Heck, they got Steve Gerber to make a new muck monster and everything.
I still remember the hubbub (minor though it was) when they killed off their Exiles after 4 issues. They'd gone to great lengths to pretend it was a normal ongoing series, even soliciting future issues in Previews, and then boom, all dead. Well, except for the zombie guy, who was later featured on Ultraforce and got his own toy, which came with a coffin he could rise out of. The 90s were weird.
Aw, man; now I wish I had a Lisa Simpson figure with a sax for Nighty…!
No one believes me, but there were some good issues of Night Man. There was an amusing trial-and-error to his crimefighting, and he had a "blessed with suck" power: he could hear evil thoughts. I figured he'd be roaming the streets with a lead pipe: "You! Pay those taxes! You! Quit cheating on your wife!" He was also totally owned by Loki, in a fight over the Reality Gem; which created a spare Night Man. Then one of them went all Celtic, and there was a crossover with Gambit, and now I remember why this book isn't remembered fondly…
The Marvel buyout (which I hear was motivated by the coloring technology) was not kind to many of the heroes of the Ultraverse.
The Mantra book wound up being taken over by a teenage girl as opposed to being the man in a woman's body.
Prime wound up idolizing Spidey.
Black Knight was put in charge of Ultraforce and Juggernaut was brought in to lead the Exiles.
I've always kinda wanted this one, too. I still have the Night Man figure–it's not good, but I liked that book. Make your fun now…
(*points*) HA-HA! [/Nelson Muntz]
Seriously though. The Ultraforce cartoon is streaming on Instant Play, and I watched a few episodes since I never got the chance to watch it back when I was a youngun. There's an episode that ends with Nightman standing on top of a building at night, wailing on his jazz sax.
I didn't stop laughing for ten straight minutes.
I have since been looking up the Ultraforce toys on the interwebs. It's fun to look back to that particular era in toymaking.
I got Hardcase 1 in a random box of comic crap I picked up. Not fun.
my kids discovered NM-E when i was repacking some of my boxes a couple months ago, and he was one of those figs that they instantly gravitated to. 'specially when i pulled out the hand cannons… they were sold, and both want one.
as a side note, one of my friends at the time when ultraverse ripped loose, got totally into them… and he most definitely has seen hardcase #1… he was buying the trading cards too, and gave me a small allotment of his extras, to try to entice me into investing too… it did not work. that said, the preposterous musculature of prime made the character instantly recognizable… not in a good way, more like the ways a herpes sore is instantly recognizable. man, the 90's rocked didn't they? how did these warmed up rehashes get toys, and more of the valiant universe went completely toyless? valiant at least knew how to write a decent story, even if the art wasn't always the best.
I'm glad you got a chance to check out That's Entertainment. I stopped in there maybe a year or two ago, interesting place.
This figure totally screams "XENOMORPH/ALIEN" right off the bat. Pretty nifty find though! I don't think I've ever even heard of this line.
This would be a great feature "Toylines Everyone Forgot Or: Toylines Nobody Even Knew About To Begin With"
Wow, this is from 1995? It doesn't look it.
kinda like the skull on the neck,like he was a pilot who died wearing this suit.. .http://www.amazon.com/A-T-A-X-Tactical-Advantage-Explorer-Figure/dp/B0013TSPU4
I also barely remember an ultraverse cartoon…