LS: Ultimus is an enigma. He’s an amnesiac alien with powers roughly similar to Superman’s. He is made even more powerful when Monark gives him the Pendant of Power. The Pendant of Power gives Ultimus god-like powers since it links him to Monark’s mysterious power source–a source that gives Ultimus all knowledge (past, present, and future), the power to teleport, and a variety of psionic powers. Where he came from, how he got to Monark’s world is yet another mystery. All we do know is that he is a powerful, intelligent, selfless being with a strong moral compass and love for justice. In many ways, Ultimus is a Christ-figure as his goal is to redeem a world before it destroys itself.
JMH: Can you describe the world/universe he lives in?
LS: Ultimus lives on a planet that has, so far, only been identified as “Monark’s World”. The world is much like our earth, more technologically advanced, and also home to the supernatural, peopled by humanoids and a variety of aliens. Monark being the planet’s former, benevolent, ruler has been ousted from power by a being known as Lusifer. Lusifer, as his name implies, is evil incarnate. However, Lusifer is able to wrest power from Monark by giving Monark’s people anything and everything they want with no responsibilities or repercussions. The only “law” is obedience to Lusifer and his chief aide, The First Lady.
JMH: Does Ultimus have supporting characters and if so can you tell CBI about them?
LS: A few supporting characters who appear in Ultimus’ first story arc (in addition to Monark, Lusifer, and The First Lady) are:
Uetwe (pronouced “you two”)-a cat-like humanoid with the power to create a living duplicate (a la Duplicate Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes). Uetwe is probably my favorite character to write, as he’s a combination of Pip the Troll, Garfield the Cat, and Bugs Bunny. Uetwe was actually created by my wife, Carolyn, back when we were dating.
Shadowstorm-the fallen hero of Monark’s world. If Ultimus is the Christ-figure, Shadowstorm would be Moses. Shadowstorm, power-wise, combines Iron Fist, Captain America, and Luke Skywalker. He’s been in prison for decades; his re-appearance is meant to inspire his world and turn them against Lusifer.
The Eliminator-a super-human cyborg created to destroy Lusifer. The Eliminator knows many of Lusifer’s secrets–including the key to Lusifer’s defeat–but his mental instability makes him an unlikely ally.
Virgo-Shadowstorm’s daughter. She’s been trained by the same hidden society that trained her father. Trained to be his superior. She’s grown up without Shadowstorm or his positive influence. Will that be a problem? We’ll see…
JMH: Do your stories carry a message to the readers?
LS: The main theme of Ultimus, if I summarized it into one word, would be responsibility. It motivates the plot and every character. Everything we do affects ourselves and others. Whether or not one accepts that responsibility or not is what drives the story. It’s the reason Monark has lost his world. It’s the reason Lusifer is able to rule it. It’s the reason Ultimus seeks to save it.
JMH: Was Ultimus inspired by anything from your past or real life experiences?
LS: I created the character who would become Ultimus when I was in the 8th grade. Back then he went by a different name and was pretty much a total rip-off of Marvel’s Adam Warlock. Ultimus, today, still owes a great deal to Warlock (especially the Jim Starlin era), but has grown in scope and purpose as I have grown. With my experience as a father, I can empathize with Monark’s dilemma. As a teacher, I know how hard Ultimus’ quest is (a teacher doesn’t just teach, but tries to guide his students to the truth). My own morals, beliefs (both spiritual and political), and even my dark side (in Lusifer and The First Lady) are pretty much on display in this series. I know all of that sounds pretentious, but I’m not trying to be. When you read the series you can see that, while I am tackling some heavy issues, I do try to keep things rather light–most of the time.
JMH: Do you have plans to write Ultimus’ origin and will readers see it soon?
LS: One of the things I loved (and I think most readers loved) about Wolverine when he first started out was the mystery that surrounded him. It was cool to get bits and pieces about his past, but when so much started being revealed, the cool factor started going down. When we finally got his “origin” most fans were repulsed. When Ron Goulart created his Gypsy character for Weird Heroes, Gypsy’s past was a mystery that was revealed bit by bit (and since only two novels were published, there is still much to be revealed). I loved that! So to answer your question: I know Ultimus’ origin, I know his past, I know how and why he wound up on Monark’s world–but no, I have no plans to reveal those things as an out and out origin story. I will give clues every now and then, but that’s all I have in mind to do. I want to keep the mystery alive for as long as possible.
JMH: Will readers see an eventual Ultimus vs. Lusifer showdown where only one is left standing? Or do you envision Lusifer as a returning villain like Doctor Doom from Marvel or The Master from Doctor Who?
LS: Ultimus and Lusifer will meet for a showdown at the end of this story arc. I think readers’ heads just might explode when they see how it turns out. I don’t want to reveal too much but I will say that Lusifer is nearly as important to this series as Ultimus himself. Is that answer elusive enough?
JMH: Your supporting characters are diverse and varied. Is that important to your writing or comics in general?
LS: Yes, indeed. I love creating small “universes” for my characters. The thing I most admired about Jack Kirby was his ability to create new characters with seemingly each breath he took. That always inspired me. I’m nowhere near his class (never will be), but I do love following his example. Similarily, Erik Larsen blows my mind with all the characters he creates in Savage Dragon. I find that kind of creativity both awe-inspiring and challenging. In “real life”, I meet new people almost every day. Sometimes they stick around, sometimes they pass me by. I think my characters live in the same type of world. Some supporting characters will stick around, some will disappear. Some might even take a life their own. That’s the fun of creating!
JMH: Can you tell CBI a little more about The First Lady? Many male characters that star in their own books have women characters in a supporting role. How will The First Lady be treated in the storyline? What makes her different?
LS: The First Lady is Lusifer’s good right arm. She’s a huge part of why the populace of Monark’s world loves Lusifer–because they love her. She’s an icon on that world–compare her to whomever you consider a pop or political female icon–Liz, Cher, Madonna, Britney…Jackie, Maggie, Hilary, Sarah–and that’s The First Lady…with a black heart and tremendous supernatural powers added for good measure (and since it’s a science-fantasy strip). So to answer your questions, The First Lady is a major player in this first story arc. She is the touchstone that brings Ultimus and Lusifer together for their first big battle. What makes her different is that, although she’s linked to Lusifer and depends on him for much of her power, she’s very much her own person. She’s looking forward to the time when she doesn’t need Lusifer any longer. In her own way she’s as much a threat to Lusifer as Ultimus is…and as much of a threat to Ultimus as Lusifer…
JMH: Are there any supporting charters that you would like to present in their OWN series?
LS: Maybe. Right now, each is integral to Ultimus’ story. Once we’re past the first or second arc, yeah, I could get into a Shadowstorm strip. I love the visual Louis came up with for him.
JMH: What are your future plans for Ultimus?
LS: Ultimus’ task isn’t an easy one. He’s fighting a war, and the first arc is only the first battle. There are many, many more battles to fight. Many sacrifices to make. Many more characters to meet, befriend, and battle. The world of Ultimus is filled with possibilities. The possibilities are, as trite as it sounds, limitless. My plans are to tell as many of those tales as I can…