By Philip Schweier
Sep 22, 2004 - 15:48
Do you dare travel down... STRANGE PASSAGES!
What do you get when you combine New England Aztecs and marauding zombies at the Center of the Earth with touches of Indiana Jones-style adventure and H.P. Lovecraft?
The answer might be more fun than you’re prepared for. STRANGE PASSAGES is a new six-issue comic book miniseries from writer Micah Harris and artist Loston Wallace.
According to Wallace, it is a 1930s tale of a mad man who seeks to unleash an ancient, eldritch evil that once walked the earth before the existence of man. It is also the story of a woman who is unwillingly forced into an epic adventure. Enter heroine Megara McConnell.
While comparisons to Indiana Jones and Lara Croft might be inevitable, the two comic creators are inclined to send their heroine down a different path. “Indy and Lara both owe something to the Nyoka character of the Republic serials of the 1940s,” Harris says. “While Meg’s in that tradition, she is neither Nyoka, Jones, or Croft.”
She will have big adventures in exotic, other worldly locations, but her motivations are different. “Megara McConnell is a young heiress with a rebellious streak,” continues Harris. “Her father Ferris McConnell is an aviation pioneer himself, but he has made it clear he doesn't want Meg flying or doing anything adventurous. So Meg naturally makes it a point to learn to fly and starts barnstorming with the World War I vets!”
“She's no archeologist or scholar,” adds Wallace. “Meg is similar to Lara Croft only in that she is female and adventurous, but that's about as far as the comparison really goes. She's not a treasure or relic hunter, and hasn't a care for things like ‘fortune and glory.’”
“She's a rich socialite who is also a daredevil – a thrill seeker,” he explains. “She's a barnstorming pilot for just that reason.”
A pulp writer, Meg’s interests also includes the occult; these interests take her down a very bizarre and dangerous path. Her relationship to that element of her stories will be much darker than those of other adventure heroes.
The wealthy heiress is haunted by a mysterious Cowboy that no one else remembers from her childhood summers at a dude ranch. The Cowboy appears to her in dreams, instilling in Meg a sense of destiny. STRANGE PASSAGES is about her journey to discover that destiny without sacrificing her soul to darker forces.
Wallace notes that STRANGE PASSAGES is a unique vehicle for them, both having a fondness forthe pulp stories, movie serials, and the adventure films of the 1930s. “The series is our salute to the great pulp era in America,” he says.
It features some classic elements, such as a representative of one of the pulp's greatest archetypes – the jungle-man. Ennis, a subterranean explorer, calls to mind Edgar Rice Burrough's David Innes of the Pellucidar series. Harris cites other examples, such as Mike Grell's WARLORD and Marvel Comics Ka-Zar."Ennis has his roots in the old idea of a modern man dropped into the prehistoric element of a lost world. Everybody who has done it owes a debt to Jules Verne and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. By the way," Harris adds, "Ennis is part Aztec. None of the other characters in the tradition have THAT particular pedigree."
Such quirkiness is part of what the two creators feel sets their story apart from the [typical] pulp adventure genre. "I personally feel the marketplace is right for a book like ours," says Wallace.
At the same time, however, the two creators say STRANGE PASSAGES is full of surprises. ”For example, a singing, banjo-strumming frog from Saturn appears early on,” says Harris. “I don't think Indiana Jones or Lara Croft or Doc Savage ever had to deal with something like that!”
Wallace adds, "There are Lovecraftian horror vibes running throughout STRANGE PASSAGES. Ancient evils, weird cults, and bizarre locales are all part of the book's unique mix."
He says that STRANGE PASSAGES has something more to offer to comics fans. “This project has been in development for some time already, and is admittedly a labor of love. As such, Micah and I are aiming to offer the sort of quality that many of today's monthly books can't normally match.”
They hope to see the book in comic shops sometime in 2005. “We haven't officially started looking for a publisher as yet,” says Wallace. “We feel very confident that we will find one as the project develops.”
“A good comic book pulp story is difficult to find in today's industry,” he argues. “Outside of CONAN and a few other titles, there's a real emptiness of genre stuff in comics – especially mainstream comics. The industry can only benefit from more diversity.”
“I hope we can do a series of at least 3 mini-series, spaced out,” adds Harris. “ We reach a definite conclusion of the adventure that takes place in the first six issues, but it's also only Act One to a much larger story.”
The concept evolved following their meeting at a convention in North Carolina. “We both knew Mark Schultz already,” relates Harris. “When he came to a small convention in North Carolina a couple years ago, we were both hanging around to talk with him. Loston had some prints of his own work that he was giving to Mark, and we started talking. I got his business card and emailed him, and we've been having the creative, collaborative time of our lives ever since.
“It's a dream situation to meet someone with whom you are simpatico in so many ways, and when that person is an artist of Loston's caliber, there's a lot of joy to be had. I think we complement each other extremely well creatively. And in the process, I feel I've made one of my best friends.”
“No doubt about it, the day of our meeting was also my good fortune as well” adds Wallace.
Because STRANGE PASSAGES came out of that chance encounter centered around Mark Schultz, they feel it only natural for him illustrate the cover to the first issue. “Having Mark on board for issue #1 is a dream come true,” says Wallace. “To me, Mark's the best of the best. He's an amazing talent, and we feel fortunate to have his artwork grace our book.”
Robin Riggs, of Supergirl and Justice League Adventures, has been tapped for inks. Matt Webb, who lists The Mask and John Byrne’s Next Men among his credits, will be handling colors.
Loston Wallace has been a professional artist since 1996, providing artwork for the role-playing industry as well as the DC Comics Licensing. CAVEWOMAN: KLYDE & MERIEM, a Basement Comics publications, was his first venture at penciling a comic book. He cites CONAN as a dream project.
Micah Harris’ background includes HEAVEN'S WAR, published by Image last December. “The story pits the Inklings – Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien – against Aleister Crowley in his bid to shift the power struggle in the heavenly realms in such a way as to fashion the world to his liking,” he says. Still available, the art was supplied by Michael Gaydos, of Marvel Comics' ALIAS.
“I have a great deal of nostalgic affection for MAN-THING,” he says, “And would really like one day to do a MAN-THING storyline for Marvel. And if Loston drew it, that would be the best!”
In the meantime, you canvisit the official STRANGE PASSAGES website, featuring updates and progress reports on the status of the book. The web address is http://www.lostonwallace.com/StrangePassages•
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