This is one story that doesn't begin at the beginning - rather, we join Charol and Memree just as their relationship has undergone a drastic change, which conveniently launches them into the realms of Eros. We do intend to bring you the tale of their first meeting and early adventures at some later date, but our task for these first few issues is to introduce our characters and their new setting. One classic comics series didn't have its main hero born until its fourth issue; we're just joining our heroines' joint career a little later than average.
We do propose to run a letter page in Barbarienne; deadlines being somewhat inflexible, until actual letters do arrive we are going to make them up. That way, if they ask questions we are likely to have suitably snappy answers ready. But to start us off, here is a letter which seems to have got into the files somehow:
Sera Physician Dalzel
Esteemed Lady, I have the honour to report that the second phase of your plan has now been put into operation. Within days of your receipt of this letter, the sky-city of Spektros will become home to agents in your employ ... although, naturally, they are ignorant of their part in the grand design.
It was the ex-mercenary Ashil who came up with the two new candidates, though of course he has no idea of what you really intend, and has volunteered to be one of the party himself. The two women are if not ideal, at least the best prospects we are likely to find this year. Charol, the brunette, is an adventurer, an accomplished swordfighter, and an old friend of Ashil's... they served together in at least one campaign, it seems. From what the man told me before I met her, I had expected a hard-eyed, self-confident killer, and I believe she was until quite recently pretty much that sort of woman. That was before she met Memree, her blonde companion.
Along with a scribe, Ashil and I rode out to Charol and Memree's camp. I had an excellent reason to take such a visible part in this stage of the operation; Charol has a strong desire for the longevity treatment known as 'All Virtue Preserv'd'' which is so expensive that normally only the richest princes and merchants can afford it, and has that nasty one in ten chance of failing in a fatal way, to discourage all but the bravest and the vainest. Part of the deal was to give both women this treatment, as a "down payment", and so what could be more natural than your humble physician accompanying Ashil, to accomplish this? There was no adverse reaction, I am pleased to report.
I know this may seem to be a digression, but I was particularly struck by the relationship between the two women. Charol was competent, strong, a warrior who had, apparently, found and rescued Memree in the course of an earlier adventure. The blonde Memree was in appearance softer, in some ways innocent of the world, obviously fond of her companion and protector... But when it had become clear that, for the mission we were ostensibly hiring them for, Memree would take the role of mistress and Charol the role of slave, something ... well, it shifted in the blink of an eye, and settled into a pattern perhaps more stable. Memree allowed an inner strength to surface, and Charol, in a way gratefully, abandoned her dominant role, and seemed eager to become subservient to her friend.
Memree looks enough like Ellan tre Dovidia to fool anyone on Spektros, since the late, unlamented real Ellan left the sky city as a child almost two decades ago; Charol will be one of the three slavegirls who are being allowed in along with their mistress, while Ashil of course is the one male advisor. Given that the authorities on Spektros would take a lethally dim view of any impostor discovered on their precious isle, it makes sense to send Charol for genuine slavegirl training, while Memree is prepared for her role as mistress of a minor merchanter house... but Memree insisted on a genuine contract and a full legal enslavement, and Charol near enough rolled an her back to have her tummy tickled, the way she agreed! I have never been one for the "natural slave" theory, but I do get the feeling that Charol is going to learn to love her shiny white collar, and all the clinking, slinky other accessories she may find herself displayed in ... and I think she already loves her new mistress, she just hadn't had the chance or the courage to come out and tell her before!
Well, two-girl romances are hardly a novelty on Spektros, so it will be no problem to our plans. So many of the menfolk leave the city to work on good honest ground that it's culturally almost the norm up there, apparently. It will make our "Ellan" truly seem a daughter of the city... and my feeling is that, left to herself, she could be a better merchanter than anyone truly spawned by House Dovidia in the last century!
But we won't be leaving her to herself, will we? Or more importantly, our dear competitors won't, if the stories that just might leak out, just happen to reach one or two princely ears? Don't tell me the whole plan, I am happier not to know - but, despite the island's eager, hot-tongued slavegirls, I'm just relieved that their party doesn't have to include a physician!
So, your plan is moving forward in a way that is very likely to bring your ultimate goals nearer .Time is on our side; I join you, my good friend and employer, in sitting back and watching from afar.
Hmm. I can't pretend to know everything that Dalzell is talking about, but it all sounds darned cunning. "Sera," by the way, is just a female honorific, similar to "Lady" or "Madame;" to be extra formal and flattering, it would become "M'sera," while the male equivalents are "Ser" and "M'ser" They are pretty obvious in the contexts in which they are used. Sera Physician Dalzell also mentions that Charol will be getting a 'White collar." Slaves wear metal collars on Spektros, usually snugly locked on, and there is a colour coding system. While male work-slaves would usually have ones in plain metal, an enamelled white finish to a collar means the female wearing it is reserved solely for the use of other women; any man who ignored that could find himself in a lot of trouble. Blue collar slavegirls are reserved for male use, red collars are for prostitutes, and black collars are only for one specific mistress or master. A shame this is a black and white comic, yes? A close examination of a collar would normally reveal, delicately engraved, the name and address of the owner.
Slavery has occurred surprisingly often on our world over the millenia, under various names and in various places; the degree of freedom we tend to enjoy today is comparatively modern innovation. As this is a fantasy comic, what we deal with here is fantasy slavery and should not be taken as in any way advocating the real thing. The sex-related kinkiness is also of a fantastical nature; there is rather more of it in our first four-issue sequence than I originally intended, but kindly Ryder Windham, this project's editor, wanted to make sure that the Eros readership got full value for their money. Looking back from a few scripts down the line, I'm not entirely content with the abruptness with which matters sexual were introduced into the first issue's action... but hey, I may not be a disinterested party on this, but I reckon that the scripting does get smoother as we roll along. The pencil artwork by Paul Noughton looks pretty good, astonishingly good when you realize that this is his first professional comics assignment - but I've seen his work up to issue four now, and I can give you the traditional assurance that his increasing mastery of Barbarienne artwork is a very good reason to stay with us. Order them from your regular supplier, or check how upcoming Barby issues, and other fine 'n' sexy comics, can be delivered straight to your mailbox from Eros Comix in Seattle!
We do hope that this page will be able to support a two-way dialogue, but for that we need letters -your letters. After all, if it's one-way, it's a monologue! Send you letters by air mail to me, Martin Lock, at 33 Chester Road, Northwood, Middx, HA6 1BG, England; if you need a personal reply, unless you too are domiciled in Britain, a stamped, self-addressed envelope will not work, as we use British stamps over here. Instead, buy and enclose a couple of international reply coupons, available from your post office, or, if it's simpler, slip a dollar bill in with your letter. One possible topic for discussion is the brilliance of this comic and its creators... Another, however, is "adult"comics in general, your likes and dislikes. While Eros has undeniably published the best range of these titles, such as lronwood, Domino Lady, 2 Hot Girls, Birdland, and many more, there have been gems issue by other imprints. From Palliard Press, I would particularly recommend XXXenophile by Phil Foglio and various celebrity inkers, including Adam Hughes, Donna Barr, William Messner-Loebs, Stephen R. Bisette, and Bill Willingham; each issue contains various short stories dedicated to the propositon that sex can be joyously fun. Other titles that stand out include The Girl, Cherry, The Aviatrix ,and The Magical Nymphini, while Aircel's Mara is developing into an engagingly picaresque Barbarella-style series. And who could ignore Barry Blair's contributions to the genre? He can have a rather quirky sense of humour, but at his best, get on the right wavelength and great fun can speedily be had.
A related subject would be "non-adult" comics that could be recommended to someone who is currently only reading Eros and similar titles. How about Eclipse's Dirty Pair compilations - or would one of the major company's bookshelf $4.95 or $5.95 editions, featuring Batman, the Punisher or some other mainstream characters be a good idea? She-Hulk, or Love & Rockets from Fantagraphics, or Lone Wolf and Cub back issues... Or from Fantagraphics again, Usagi Yojimbo, either the regular $2.25 comic or the compilation volumes?
Like some other unfortunate corners of the world, Britain is missing out on a lot of the livelier "smut glut" comics; only the milder Eros titles have been allowed to enter the country by Her Majesty's Customs, and, sadly, Barbarienne has been given the thumbs down. Something about tongues too close to pussies! Oh well, we're in good bad company. Some individual shops do risk bringing in a few adult comic in small direct shipments, but they are risking the seizure of such paid-for comics, and therefore have to charge higher prices. As far as I can tell, there would be no problem if this comic was printed and published in Britain, but the market isn't big enough. Some days we just can't win ...
Next issue, the inevitable creator biographies should be on this page, along with a letter to her family written by Engra, and probably some history of the Barbarienne saga -like, why this is volume two, and a rough outline of Charol and Memree's previous adventures and appearances. All this, and a comic strip entitled "To Spektros" too!
But for now, let us finish with this issue's credits. Paul Noughton pencilled and inked the cover, pencilled and lettered the interior art, and did back-up background inks. The main inking chores were done by an artist known around here as Eva Legova, though the distinctive style brought to the work may lead expert British art afficionados to draw their own conclusions. Ryder Windham encouraged us all along the long and winding road to publication and is our editor, Graham Bleathman designed our logo, and the cover was coloured by Freezia Bunzoff. The character and script were dreamed up by me, Martin Lock. We will all be back next issue... and we hope you will be, too.