Echoes of an Old Story

Back in the bitter cold winter of 1991, my wife Kristi, myself, and three of our closest friends sat in my married student housing apartment at the University of North Dakota and hatched a wild scheme.  Like many college friends before and since, we wanted to remain together for as long as possible.  Being of divergent talents - two artists, two writers, and a "business major" - we decided to form our own comic book company.  We did it for a lot of reasons - experience, raw ambition, desire, and the heady confidence that too much booze tends to breed - but mostly because we all loved comic books and wanted to give something back to the art form.  Thus Storm Productions was born.

Our first title, "Starlion: A Pawn's Game", hit the distributors in the first week of February, 1993.  Amazingly, it was well-received by some of the smaller trade magazines.  Unfortunately, a black and white science fiction comic from a tiny publisher in the upper Midwest didn't have a whole lot to offer against the slick four-color offerings of Image and Marvel.  Our second title - a superhero book entitled "Vanguard 1" - fared a bit better (spandex-covered superheroine breasts always help), but the saturated comic book market finally took its toll.  After two years, five issues, several barrels of hot coffee, and more all-nighters than your average Vampire sees in its lifetime, Storm Productions ceased operation.  Though we were disappointed, it had been a terrific experience for us all.  In the end, graduation caught up with us, and we scattered as if we were leaves caught in the winds of a storm.

Though Storm Productions wasn't a financial success, I still felt that it was a triumph.  I was delighted that my ideas had managed to see print.  Though I had been a science fiction fan since I'd discovered "Star Trek" in the third grade, my enthusiasm for the genre had waned considerably.  The reason for my discontent was simple:  1990 was the time of "Goodness and Light" Science Fiction.  Sure, the SFX had begun to look quite nice, but the people inhabiting these futuristic vistas were as bland as two-day old paste.  Discussions on the USENET reflected the philosophy of the period:  Human beings weren't allowed to have passion; they'd outgrown all of that.  Internal conflict?  Absolutely not!  Never mind that it's the backbone of good drama.  After all, these stories weren't about good drama.  These were the adventures -- and I use that term loosely -- of this new breed of human.  This was the time of Homo Sapiens Yawnus.

I didn't buy that crap.  Having just completed a four-year overseas tour in the military, I was confident that people would not only not outgrow these traits, but that they might just get a whole lot better at being nasty.  Having seen a plane fall into a crowd of onlookers in 1988, and then having watched the Berlin Wall fall in '89, I knew that, the one thing that could be counted on was that people do can shocking and unpredictable things.  The pundits of the day were wrong, and I wanted to make my point clear.  Not surprisingly, a science fiction story seemed to be the best way.

I started with my core beliefs and recent experiences.  I then added my own admittedly paranoid fears of how the post Cold War world might emerge.  The Gulf War of '91 added a deep concern for how much the mass media had grown to mold the public psyche.  I then added some characters that were as much unlike the flesh-and-blood androids of the day as possible, and generously sprinkled in some -- gasp! -- conflict and violence to boot.  All of these elements came together in a dark tale where the main characters couldn't avoid the forces moving them into positions they don't understand, for purposes they couldn't comprehend.  This was a story of interstellar maneuvering from the pawn's perspective.  Thus "Starlion: A Pawn's Game" was born.

I originally wrote the bulk of this tale as prose.  Converting "A Pawn's Game" to a graphic format wasn't easy, but the challenge was always rewarded when I'd see one of my ideas go from words on the page to an image in a panel.  Still, my lack of experience showed; I couldn't for the life of me imagine telling the story in less than twelve issues, and I fought like a crazed man to compress a six thousand word chapter into twenty four pages of black-and-white artwork.  A year after Storm folded, I looked over my old notes and, in a few swipes of my red pen, I reduced the book from twelve to nine issues.  Oh well: C'est la Guerre.

Flash forward four years.  When Scott and Victoria contacted me with the idea of producing the old book for a Web-based comic, I was cynical.  The things that I'd wanted to say in "A Pawn's Game" were now nearly a decade old. In the intervening time, fine productions like "Babylon 5", and even failed efforts like "Space: Above and Beyond" had said many of the same things that I had intended for this story.  Victoria, though, used to my being a curmudgeonly fool, pressed me into finally looking at what she and Scott had accomplished.  I grudgingly opened my Web browser, called up the opening page, and realized how wrong I had been.

It's a delight seeing "Starlion: A Pawn's Game" in the light of day once again.  Scott's artwork tells the story in a way that my words alone can't.  For that - and for the chance to see those characters that walked my imagination nearly a decade ago come to life - I am immensely grateful.

Enjoy the journey!

Tony Bruno

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