New York Comic Con
Ultimo Press Event

by Mikhail Koulikov, Apr 18th 2008

During the afternoon of New York Comic Con's first day, Viz Media hosted a closed-door, invite-only presentation of Ultimo, the comic created jointly by legendary Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee and Japan's Hiroyuki Takei (Shaman King). Ultimo begins as two floating figures, human-shaped but of unknown origin, appear in the sky above Farmless City and begin to fight each other.

The same day, the 32-page prologue of Ultimo was included in the inaugural issue of the Japanese manga magazine Jump SQ. II. Three of the pages were in full color, and the magazine also contained an interview with Lee and a set of illustrations of classic Marvel comic characters originally created by him, drawn by famous manga artists. Further chapters will be published monthly in the original Jump Square magazine.

Stan Lee originated the original idea behind Ultimo and introduced it to several Japanese friends. After the project was approved, Japanese publishing house Shueisha selected Takei to illustrate the project, and to apply his own sensibility and style to the project.

In North America, Ultimo will be published by Viz Entertainment. Viz still has not settled on the exact format, but Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Mark Weidenbaum mentioned that plans are to make the difference between the Japanese and American publication dates the fastest ever for Viz, even faster than Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, which began running in Shonen Jump before the first collected volume of that manga came out in Japan.

Stan Lee himself participated in the presentation, and answered many questions from the audience about his ideas and goals for Ultimo. When asked how different this work would be from how he has usually cooperated with American creators, he mentioned that Takei and he are communicating frequently, but both putting their own touches on the story, and the end result may not be quite what Lee expected of the original concept. He is particularly excited about being able to see his story develop in a different way, but ultimately, neither of the creators know how the project is going to come out. Lee did not refer to other manga or comics for inspiration. His goal was for a work that would be wholly original and unique, both in execution and in inspiration, and that did not resemble anything he had worked on before.

As a manga originated by an American creator, Ultimo will retain some features that traditionally characterize Western comics, such as text boxes with third-person expository narration. The key concept that both Lee and Takai kept in mind was to create a work that both Japanese and American readers could enjoy.

In Japan, many fans are already paying attention to Takei's work, but Shueisha expects that significant word-of-mouth will develop and give Ultimo a major boost. “I'm so happy that we can work with such a great creator as Stan Lee. I am so happy that two great actors are working together, and I know that Ultimo will be a great work,” said Jump Square editor Takanori Asada, who also participated in the presentation.


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