Nowadays, hit comics from Jonathan and Joshua Luna are mainstays in the indie comic book business. From their gory yet psychological thriller Girls to their recent real-world fantasy series The Sword, readers have come to depend on groundbreaking comics from the creative duo.
But all that success started with Ultra, their first creator-owned work published through Image Comics, which is finally being released in a special edition hardcover for the first time in years.
Ultra: Seven Days, their 2004-2005 mini-series that has been lauded by critics and fans, follows the story of Pearl Penalosa, who serves the world as the superheroine Ultra. But what makes this superhero story unique is its portrayal of the realistic behind-the-scenes nature of Pearl's everyday life and her emotional tribulations as a superhero.
Fans of the Ultra characters should take heart: The Lunas have always said they may return to that world for more stories.
When the Lunas first conceived the comic, they sent a blind submission to Image with five pages of comic and a plot synopsis. What resulted was their first published comic work as a creative team.
The usual collaboration for the Fillipino-American Lunas is to plot their stories together, with Joshua doing scripts, layouts and lettering, and Jonathan on pencils, inks and colors.
To celebrate the release of the new Ultra: Seven Days hardcover, the Lunas have put together a "trailer" for the hardcover, with a live action video version of Ultra.
Newsarama talked with the Lunas to find out more about the hardcover, and we're exclusively premiering the trailer for the collection below.
Newsarama: It's hard to believe this is the first time a hardcover collector's edition of Ultra has happened. What prompted you guys to do this now?
Jonathan Luna: When the first Ultra trade paperback was released, a hardcover with a run of only 300 was released as well. Those went quickly. We had always wanted to do a deluxe edition, and now that Girls and The Sword have their own, we thought now would be a great time to have one available. We know there are people out there that want consistency in their library. It'll be great to see all three books on a shelf in an oversized hardcover format with slipcases.
Nrama: Now that you're a few years away from its publication, what does Ultra represent for you guys personally and in your career?
Joshua Luna: Ultra represents that I’m getting old. I was fresh out of college, in my early 20's, and Ultra was the first book I’ve ever gotten published, let alone written (I was initially more of an illustrator my whole life before working on Ultra). I don’t remember being particularly afraid or nervous of diving headfirst into the industry that way, but I attribute that more to youthful naiveté more than courage. At that point, I wasn’t very experienced, I had never gotten a review, any real criticism, or anyone telling me what I could or couldn’t do and I think that really came through in the work. But I’m always fascinated to see an artists’ evolution over the course of their careers and see where they started. And Ultra will always represent our starting point.
Nrama: What has the fan reaction been like to Ultra? And how has it been to hear from those fans?
Jonathan: Ultra #1 was released in 2004. We were completely unknown, and it was a different time. However, somehow that issue received over 8000 initial orders. The entire series was a success, and even though we thought it was a finite story, Image wanted us to continue the book, and fans, to this day, ask us to make more. We’re just glad that they’re still selling. We really appreciate our fans — they’ve always been so kind.
Nrama: What is it about Ultra that you think really caught on with comic fans?
Joshua: There are a mix of different elements that readers seemed to enjoy — the superhero factor, the celebrity aspect, and the personal relationships between Ultra and her friends. I think fans of the books really appreciated that Ultra had a relatively unique spin on the superhero genre. In Ultra’s world, most superheroes aren’t saving the day for the sake of being a good person, but to become rich and a celebrity.Also, instead of focusing solely on the “saving the day” aspect, we really wanted to delve into the people behind the masks — what they’re like off-duty, on dates, with friends, etc. I always thought you could learn infinitely more about a superhero by learning about their sex life rather than how hard they can punch someone.
Nrama: Can you describe some of the things that are included in the hardcover and why you chose to include them?
Jonathan: The content of the deluxe edition is pretty much the same as the trade paperback. The main differences are the new cover work, larger size, hardcover, and slipcase. And the signed and numbered edition comes with a page in the front with an exclusive print of a painting I did. You can find a detail of that painting on our website or Facebook page. I’m trying to avoid posting the full image anywhere to keep it special. I will sell that painting once the book hits shelves. Anyone interested should stay tuned at our sites.
Nrama: Do you think Ultra will ever make it to another medium? Or is that just not important to you?
Joshua: An Ultra TV show was very close to airing a while back, so it’d be very cool to see another take make it all the way. We’re actually currently in talks to make that happen, but it’s too early to really get into. I love good films and television as much as I love good comics.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about the hardcover?
Jonathan: We just hope everyone enjoys it!
The Ultra: Seven Days Deluxe Hardcover, which collects issues #1-8, has been solicited for September 14th, with 248 pages, rated T+. The price is $74.99/S&N Ltd. Ed. $99.99. The hardcover is limited to initial orders only. For more info on the Luna Brothers and their work, fans can visit www.lunabrothers.com.Trailer is below: