the story thus far:
Charol is an adventurer, a warrior, an ex-mercenary. On one assignment she discovers Memree, locked in a deep and dark dungeon---a victim of some magical experiments by the she-warlock Atzmon. Memree can remember nothing of her old life before Charol rescued her, though it seems that she'd been a lackwitted scullery-girl before Atzmon magically boosted her intelligence - in a spell that killed its other victim, Marius Restormel, who Charol had been hired to find. Not wanting to return to the castle's kitchens, Memree manages to persuade Charol to take her with her on her travels.
In their first joint adventure, Memree poses as Charol's trophy-slave, to help them infiltrate a female warrior tribe, & rescue a captive. The mission is a success; with money won during it and the reward for returning Kreston, Memree and Charol are suddenly rich. They decide to use some of this money to heal some bad scars Charol has on her stomach and back, even though this involves hiring a mage/healer. If they knew what else it would involve, they might change their minds ...
Atzmon, meanwhile, though apparently killed by Charol (with Memree's help), has taken possession of a new body. It seems likely that revenge on the pair who lopped her head off her shoulders may be high on her list of priorities!
I found the "role-playing" of Charol and Memree in #2 to be very interesting. It was emphasized throughout that the roles of mistress & slave had to be acted out with precision and completeness in order to be successful. But do you know the saying "Act happy, be happy"? The idea is that if you're feeling sad, then just start to act like you're happy and pretty soon you will be. (And, amazingly enough, this very often works!) Similarly, might not the act here become reality? At the least, it would seem certain to colour the thinking and interrelationship of the two. This is especially likely since Memree is by circumstances the one in the dependent position already ...
The Rope-and-tie challenge was nicely done. As Natella found out, even when the deck is stacked, the outcome is not always certain! (And just why do I have the sneaking suspicion that Natella just might be behind this murder/frame-up business?!)
I must say that I rather look forward to Memree laying aside her role as a slave. For, even though we know it is all a charade, others don't, and it must be hurtful for her to experience it --- not to mention a bit embarrassing for us. And besides, it will get her out of the slave costumes! The final one she wore in #2 was particularly weird. (And she thought that riding a donkey was uncomfortable!)
I'm glad you've picked up on the "Act happy, be happy" angle, T.M. - it is an important part of the relationship. But, on the other hand, I think that Memree is a braver, gutsier personality than Charol, basically...
BARBARIENNE #2 was just as good as #1 - a little better in some places. The atmosphere was far more tense, for a start. I nearly died when I saw Memree's costume for the Rope-and-tie match! Where did you think it up?
Swiftly moving on to #3: not up to standard, I thought. The artwork is now starting to get a bit cluttered. Is it really necessary, for instance, to show every grain on the wooden surfaces, as on page 14? Much better, I think, just to show some of the grain, as on page 15. It gives just as good an indication of the texture of the wood, maybe even better, because it emphasizes the knots and splits in the surface. Is Charol ambidextrous? I noticed that on pages 13, 15 and 16, she is holding her sword with her left hand, and on 14, 18 & 19, she is holding it with her right.
I noticed Memree didn't wear her clasp gag once this issue! Tut tut. I hope it returns to her next time. Wearing it all the time would be rather boring, however.
I loved the portrait of Charol!! It was marvellous! Is there one of Memree coming? One last thing: how about the letters column being called "Clasp Gag"?
Too confusing, as we also publish a comic called !GAG! - and it doesn't 't give an idea of discussion. But we are still open to suggestions.
Yea, Charol is ambidextrous. The pinup was originally used as the cover of the "Just Comics "monthly catalogue; for more information on that particular mail order business, look elsewhere on this page. They sell Harrier comics (plus DC, Marvel, and the rest), and Nick works there part-time, so if you want to buy comics by mail, check 'em out!
Firstly, thanks for the kind mention in #3. If that didn't make my day, then the next 24 pages sure did! A simple storyline, but done a bit differently. I especially liked the notion of the spell from the bottle using Mem's subconscious as a template. It could have been developed a bit further, though. Were all the hellish nightmares born in Atzmon's dungeon, or could some have survived from Memree's past life---or maybe from Marius Restormel's life, even?
And I'm still not very comfortable with the world the ladies' adventures take place in. Perhaps there could be an issue in which Charol takes time to educate her friend (and us) about its political and class systems, general history and geography, etc. How about writing a couple of background articles?
These are minor gripes, however. Apart from a tendency to draw arms (I mean limbs this time) in stiff or unnatural poses, Nick's artwork is shaping up nicely. I'm glad he's realising that fur bikinis went out with Diana Dors - and chain-mail bikinis went out of fashion with you-know-who!
In the few pages after page 20, the costumes look a lot less ridiculous. After all, there's no use you churning out editorials claiming there's nothing kinky going on, if all the characters look like refugees from a fetish mag. Get that sorted out and you can dump the stupid "mature readers" tag. I haven't seen anything offensive in the story and warnings like that can only attract the wrong sort of attention.
The patient's made remarkable progress in 60 days, so I'll see you next time.
A background article or two might be a good idea; should I try writing one, or would you like to give it a try?
As with issues 1 & 2, I was totally enthralled with BARBARIENNE #3. The epilogue bodes well for issue 4; 1 wondered if Atzmon would be rearing her evil head again before long!
I think it's a great idea to have a recurrent "nemesis" like Atzmon appearing now and again---and I wonder if we've perhaps not seen the last of the treacherous Natella, and/or Fran! In a sword & sorcery mag, though, there are endless avenues to explore and situations you can create - going by present standards, I know BARBARIENNE is going to do just that.
Nick's art complements the magazine excellently; both through storyline and art. I have become somewhat mistrustful of the differing moods of Charol, and more warmly disposed to the friendlier-seeming, delightful Memree. I'm sure that with the plot you've outlined for issue 4 I'll probably end up more sympathetically disposed to Charol than I am at present. Don't get me wrong, I think she is a great heroine/antiheroine (??), and you have succeeded superbly in conveying to this reader the impression of her (I hope!) that you wanted to. I can't wait to find out more about her as stories unfold, and more untold secrets of Memree as well.
As to the relationship between Charol and Memree, I am not against there being a lesbian angle to it, but at present I see Charol as being more aloof & harder to approach from any side; Memree seems the more trusting and vulnerable of the two, and perhaps this can be played upon to cause conflict between them. She was wrong about Fran for instance; I thought the "negative" side of Charol could have been better employed here. Of the two, again I see Memree being the one to be drawn into a relationship of whatever sort, and this could prove interesting if Charol's reactions are jealousy and/or anger. We could also see, here, a new angle to Memree's personality if she reacts angrily to Charol's "interference", should Charol put a stop to a relationship of Memree's simply out of spite and not for her own good or safety. Whatever happens, keep up the good work. I think it's a good idea having Charol & Memree alternate as "story-tellers"; you have certainly captured my continuing interest! (How about having a "villain", such as Atzmon, occasionally doing the narration? That could really prove to be, er, enlightening, to say the least!)
PS: How about calling your letter column "Memree Bank"? But PLEASE, I do not want a date with Atzmon - I'm sure I'm shaving the dog that night!
And after she went to all that trouble with getting that attractive new body! She's annoyed enough that her return has been held back to ... well, let's keep it a surprise for now ... that it's just as well you're in favour of letting Atzmon take over narration when appropriate. It could just happen!
Thanks for a very useful letter. It's very heartening that Nick and I have created characters that people can care about; we certainly hope you will enjoy how things develop. There are no plans for Memree and Charol to jump passionately into bed together; what is called by tv executives "unresolved sexual tension" has many advantages, especially if the characters aren't aware of it. There is something about Memree that is yet to be revealed that may affect things , too!
"Memree Bank"? It has to be better as a title than "Backlash" or "Clasp Gag", or indeed "Lettercolle", but at present "Loose Ends" is in the lead...
At the time of writing this, I'm just back from Britain's main annual comics convention, UKCAC '87, full of British & American star guests. An enjoyable weekend, though I spent most of my time at the Harrier tables, selling current and back issues, looking at portfolios, and generally chatting. The '86 Eagle Awards were announced, and REDFOX won Harrier's first award (for issues published by us, before Fox and Chris Bell moved over to Luckyglobe Ltd's Valkyrie Press division this summer), also placing well in some other categories, which was nice; I was on a panel on Sunday afternoon, though, on which the subject of sexism came up, linked with BARBARIENNE. I'm not very well-up on sexual politics of the "we're all identical and should all wear baggy denim suits" variety, I'm afraid; I tend to consider Charol and Memree more positive and individual characters than the average superhero's stay-at-home girlfriend. I would be interested in reading your views---and printing some of them in "Loose Ends".
But what of issues upcoming, you ask? BARBARIENNE #5 will be along in 2 months ---or as quickly as Nick can draw it! It features a different-looking cover by Nick, done in the style of Dave Stevens; inside, Charol decides to help an old friend whose daughter has been abducted by a gang of slavers. Charol's plan is simple: use Memree as a decoy, and when she's bundled away, follow back to the slavers' hideout. Will it be that simple in practice ...?
After that, the next issue goes under the title BARBARIENNE VERSUS CUIRASS #6, the first part of a three-issue story I'm writing, Nick's inking, and John H. Marshall is pencilling - to help Nick to get ahead of schedule. John is also the artist on our new sword & sorcery title, CUIRASS, also due to begin then. It's a sort of cross-over, to launch the new comic, although the plot-lines of the two books will stay separate. A cuirass is a piece of armour--a breast-plate, in fact; the first half of the word should be pronounced "cure", and the second bit rhymes with "gas". This particular cuirass seems to be magic, with a long proud heritage - but writer Alan Cowsill will give us all the details, starting with CUIRASS #1, on a monthly schedule!
Or starting a month earlier with a new introductory story in HARRIER PREVIEW, a Harrier one-shot comic with a 75c cover price (95c Canada, 25p UK), if you are lucky enough to find a copy. It is going to be a busy winter with Harrier--now is the time to start saving up your money, I guess... -Martin Lock