Where Does It Come From, continued: The Barren Earth
At the risk of seeming too self-referential, it’s past time for me to give credit to another contributor to Trekker’s origins. Yes, those are my own drawing up above, but I’m talking here about the writer of “The Barren Earth”: Gary Cohn.
Back in 1982, I was tapped to draw a new back-up series in DC’s Warlord comic. (Warlord was an Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired romp created by Mike Grell. It was one of the first huge successes that had been created, written and drawn by the same hand at a major comics company and it really established that model as a precedent which other creators were then able to follow. It all lead to several great individual titles which came out in those days and which and re-shaped the comics landscape.But that’s another story…)
For the book’s back-up, DC picked a young, brash writer, Gary Cohn, to craft something that would sit comfortably within the same covers as Warlord, but have a flavor of its own. What Gary came up with was a sprawling sci-fi opus with notes of ERB, Dune and Star Wars, but with his own twists as well. And I got the job of drawing it all.
It was a great fit for me– then as now I loved a classic tale of high adventure. And Barren Earth was well-stocked with stuff any sci-fi lover wants to see– strange creatures and races, exotic settings and compelling characters. It was a type of comic story that you didn’t see on the shelves in 1982 and I jumped in head first, using all my still-developing skills to realize it all and make it as compelling as my powers would allow.
It was Gary would put a young, gifted and driven woman at the center of the drama. Jinal ne Comarr was one of the first action-adventure lead female characters in a comic series. And while I can look back and see elements in the work that clearly date the project, I can also still feel the exhilaration I felt then in trying to capture and convey her power and personality on the page.
Just a few years later, a lot of those feelings were still broiling inside me when Dark Horse asked me to create a character and a series for them.
Working with Gary on The Barren Earth right at the beginning of my career was a stroke of rare luck. It helped confirm me in my belief that sci-fi comics had nearly limitless potential for great stories with great characters at their core, and it also gave me the chance to see that a female-driven series had every right to be treated as any strong adventure-based series should be– hard-hitting, fast-paced and driven by characters who, while flawed, command our attention and draw us into their stories and their lives regardless of the presence of a Y chromosome. It’s astonishing to me that even now that concept isn’t as widely embraced as it should be. But my perception is that things are at last and at least moving in the right direction. And Gary’s work on The Barren Earth was a quiet little nudge, a long time ago, that helped get that ball rolling.