Marvel’s The Trials of Ultraman #1 — Matt Frank Variant Cover Revealed!
Source: Marvel Entertainment, Matt Frank
Commentary: Matt Frank
Special Thanks to Anthony Blackwood and Tom Brevoort
A SCIFI JAPAN EXCLUSIVE
Last December, Marvel Comics announced The Trials of Ultraman, their second mini-series based on Tsuburaya Productions’ famous alien hero. Issue #1 will be released on March 17 and features two cover options; the first by Arthur Adams (X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Godzilla) and the second a variant by Matt Frank.
Matt is no stranger to kaiju fans, having illustrated several issues of the Godzilla comics from IDW Publishing, Tsuburaya’s Redman: The Kaiju Hunter, packaging for the recent Gamera Blu-ray sets, and official Ultraman monster shirts available only in the ultramangalaxy.com store. Matt is also an old friend of the SciFi Japan team, and kindly offered — with the support of Marvel Entertainment — to share an exclusive first look at his cover and also provide a first person account of how it came to be. He wrote…
When I heard that Ultraman had been licensed by Marvel, two thoughts entered my mind:
The first: This is a huge opportunity for one of my favorite franchises, a beloved brand that has been absent from the west for decades.
The second: How the hell can I get involved?
I had already established myself as fairly well known to Tsuburaya Productions, the owners of Ultraman. Thanks to a publishing deal with Phase 6 in Japan, I had written and illustrated a series of graphic novels based on obscure superhero and recent internet phenomenon, Redman. Released in English markets as Redman: The Kaiju Hunter, Tsuburaya seemed very happy with the series, our main contact with the company encouraged us to continue working with their classic properties.
In 2019, at Tokyo Comic Con, Tsuburaya and Marvel made the announcement that the legendary comic company would produce an Ultraman comic series for the US market. What was funny was, even though I was at that very show, I didn’t hear about the announcement until some fans came to my table and started asking me about it. I was confused… until I realized that they were assuming that I was working on the book! Several more fans asked me the same question, and while I was deeply flattered, I replied to them all the same: though I’m well known as a kaiju genre artist thanks to my work on Godzilla for IDW and various other properties, Marvel would likely use some of their go-to artists or those who are known for superhero work.
Nevertheless, I was determined to work on that book… at least a cover. But my path would take a roundabout approach. A friend and up-and-coming artist, Christopher Conde, recently began working with Elevated Games on their upcoming game ULTRAMAN: KAIJU KOMBAT (no relation to Colossal Kaiju Combat, an unfinished game I worked on years ago). Chris introduced me to Jaron Hinds, CEO of Elevated, and we talked collaborations, which eventually lead to the poster I illustrated to promote the game. That was a wild time, getting to adapt the unique new versions of the classic Ultra characters into my own style, and I’m very proud of it!
Along the way, Jaron then introduced me to Danny Simon of The Licensing Group, exclusive licensing agency for Ultraman in the States… a pretty big deal!
Danny and I began discussing possible opportunities for the Ultraman brand in the US, as I had funneled more than a few contacts for myself over the years and had an idea of where to push the brand and what fans would like to see. At a certain point, I casually expressed (which is to say, begged like a desperate nerd) my interest in illustrating a cover for Marvel’s Ultraman comics.
Not much later, Danny put me in touch with editor Tom Brevoort at Marvel. They were ramping up production on The Trials of Ultraman, the follow-up to their initial 5-issues series, The Rise of Ultraman. I was elated that my petitioning for a cover was so quickly accepted, so I got to work!
Although I pitched several concepts for the final cover, the one that was selected had its own story. Back in July of 2020, I threw together a sketch as a possible promotional cover for Ultraman Day, an online event used to promote both the franchise as a whole and Marvel’s upcoming comic. The concept was well-liked by the rest of the crew, but we decided to set it aside for another day, instead using the lovely Alex Ross The Rise of Ultraman piece as a unifying key image for the entire event.
Upon revisiting the concept, I fiddled with it and submitted it along with my other sketches to Tom at Marvel. To my surprise, the piece was singled out as the strongest! The classic pose of Ultraman’s growth to giant size is already immediately iconic, and it just seemed natural to me to have him clocking one of his adversaries in the process.
One of the very few notes I received was to swap out Bemular. I originally wanted to use the space kaiju as it was Ultraman’s very first foe, and felt appropriate for an anniversary celebration. But Tom noted that the monster featured prominently in a few other covers, and it would be best to try for something else. Initially this was concerning because I LOVED how Bemular’s mouth curled as Ultraman’s knuckles connected with it, and his eyes bugged out in a really fun way. Then the thought occurred…why not Gango? The towering Kaiju was originally built from the Bemular suit, so the face elements would remain largely the same. And the monster was relatively obscure so I’d get bonus points from fellow Ultra-Fans!
Switching to less well-known monsters turned into something of a domino chain; I started going over the other covers that had been revealed up to that point and specifically began choosing monsters that were not referenced in the first run. This lead to using Gomess, Goldon, Kemur, Pestar, and Geronimon! The only exception was an army of Baltan Aliens. I kept them because Baltan is my wife’s favorite.
This was a ton of fun, and as I move on to other, even bigger Ultraman projects, finally doing a cover for Marvel, for my favorite superhero, was a true joy and I hope my fellow fans get a kick out of it!
Stay tuned to Matt’s social media for information on where to obtain signed copies of his cover!
The Trials of Ultraman #1 (of 5)
Writers: Kyle Higgins and Mathew Groom
Artist: Francesco Manna
Cover: Arthur Adams
Variant Cover: Matt Frank
On Sale: March 17, 2021
Cover Price: $4.99
Ultraman narrowly averted a catastrophe decades in the making. The world was saved — but, also, forever changed. Now…come the consequences.
Much of the populace regard their defenders with suspicion. Enemies hide in plain sight, and even those closest to Shin Hayata don’t necessarily have faith in the Giant of Light. But at last, a long-thought-lost comrade has mysteriously returned! That’s a good thing…right?
The Rise is over. The training wheels are off, and the stakes have never been higher. The Trials of Ultraman begin here!
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About Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media over eighty years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing, publishing, games, and digital media.
About Tsuburaya Productions
Tsuburaya Productions, creator and copyrights owner of the superhero ULTRAMAN series was founded in 1963 by Eiji Tsuburaya, world-renowned special effects wizard also known for his special effects work on the Godzilla series. With more than fifty years’ experience, it is one of Japan’s oldest and most respected independent film and television production houses. Its popular Ultraman TV and film series which premiered in 1966 has been seen in over 100 territories worldwide and has spawned over 3,000 licensed products. In addition to production, the company also handles character licensing and program distribution and staging live stage shows both domestically and internationally.
About The Licensing Group Ltd
The Licensing Group Ltd (TLG) was founded in 1992 in Los Angeles by Danny Simon, one of the industry’s premier innovators and foreign licensing experts. The principal focus of the licensing agency is Entertainment, Lifestyle and Corporate Brand licensing. The Licensing Group continues to generate many successful licensing programs for both the domestic and global markets. The Licensing Group also represents manufacturers with the acquisition of licenses and consults on licensing to both licensors and licensees as well as to organizations and government entities.
About Ultraman Galaxy
Ultraman Galaxy is the official website for the Ultraman franchise for North America. They feature news, videos, licensing information, and product profiles for the Ultraman series of television shows and movies, and the transmedia universe of the Ultra heroes. Ultraman licensing in North America is represented by The Licensing Group Ltd. The Ultraman Galaxy website is a production of Starlight Runner Entertainment in association with Tsuburaya Productions Co. and The Licensing Group.