After this issue's action, I hope nobody can call this a "dirty" comic. Perhaps you could complain that the activities have been "watered down"... but I'd rather you didn't.
Sword & sorcery comics often re-use certain plot elements, and I must confess that my idea for a sky-floating city, Spektros, was inspired by Robert H. Vardeman & Victor Milan's excellent "The War of Powers" six-novel sequence, which included a place called, naturally enough, the City in the Sky. The actual nature of Spektros is quite different, however, as far as I can remember! The slavery side of things can definitely be traced to the most sexist set of fantasy novels around, full of slow- moving anti-feminist propaganda: the "Gor" books by John Norman. These books do have their good points, or they wouldn't have notched up more than two dozen thick novels, but the author's view of women, as portrayed in the series, is a little extreme. Or a lot extreme!
Still, if you screen out the propaganda, Gor is a fascinating planet, and the hero is tough, strong, and seriously thick-headed. The whole series, starting with TARNSMAN OF GOR, may be a bit much to consider taking on; it is only in #6 (RAIDERS OF GOR) that we move noticeably beyond Edgar Rice Burroughs, when our hero decides "no more Mister Nice Guy". #7 (CAPTIVE OF), #11 (SLAVE GIRL OF), #19 (KAJIRA), and #22 (DANCER) are complete in themselves, narrated in each case by a different Earth woman newly abducted to their world by Gorean slavers; the saga of Tarl Cabot is also interrupted for #s 14-16 (FIGHTING SLAVE, ROGUE, and GUARDSMAN OF GOR), a trilogy starring and narrated by Jason Marshall, also abducted by Gorean low-lifes when he gets caught up in the trap set by slavers for his girlfriend. His rise from New York student to Gorean warrior is slow and bloody, not least because he is not quick to realize that Miss Beverley Henderson has adapted more quickly than he has, and doesn't want a "new man" and a relationship between equals any more!
But we're in danger of straying into the minefield of John Norman's propaganda. One of the delights of the series is the titles he gives the many, many chapters; let me offer you a not-so-random sample:
My Master Will Have His Girl Please Him (CAPTIVE)
I Add Jewels to the Slaver's Necklace (HUNTERS)
Feed Her on the Gruel of Bond-Maids (MARAUDERS)
I Bind a Girl, Reserving Her For Myself; I Then Address Myself to the Duties of Steel (TRIBESMEN)
I Bead a Necklace, and Am Then Used for Wench Sport (SLAVE GIRL)
What Further Events Occurred in the Vicinity of the Wall; I Again Turn My Eyes Northward; I Pause Only to Reduce a Woman to Slavery (BEASTS)
Female Display Behaviours; A Slave Girl's Dream; Bark Cloth and Beads (EXPLORERS)
I Do Not Listen to the Entreaties of the Lady Florence (FIGHTING SLAVE)
I Become Irritated with my Kept Woman; I Kennel Her (ROGUE)
The Gag and Hood (GUARDSMAN)
The Slave (SAVAGES)
An Improved Slave is Returned to Her Master (BLOOD BROTHERS)
I Am Proved a Natural Slave Before Drusus Rencius, Whom I Love; The Silver Tarsk (KAJIRA, which means "slavegirl"... This one is narrated by one such, remember!)
A Pleasant Morning in Camp; The Lady Yanina Will Obey (PLAYERS)
Slavery Agrees with Feiqa (MERCENARIES)
Inquiries; Gagged, Hooded and Collared (DANCER)
Some Things which Occurred One Night at the Crooked Tarn (RENEGADES)
The Female Obtains Certain Insights (VAGABONDS)
The Slave Will Obey (MAGICIANS)
That is one chapter title per book from #7 to #25, the latest I have seen. I hardly need to add that I perused these volumes solely for purposes of research, hmm? The series seems unfinished, but the blatant lack of a Politically Correct outlook may be making things difficult for poor John. DAW Books was his American publisher from HUNTERS onwards, but I believe their editorial team is mainly female these days, and may have an inbuilt dislike for such maccho sexist emissions. Star Books was his English publisher, though I don't think MAGICIANS has been issued over here, due perhaps to an outcry from competing authors in the fantasy market, such as Michael Moorcock. DAW also published a non-fiction book which may give some clue to the author's motivation, if I quote the cover in full: "John Norman, author of the GOR novels, presents a startling new approach to sexual fulfillment: IMAGINATIVE SEX, with 53 detailed scenarios for sensual fantasies and a revolutionary new guide to male-female relations." Hey, does "fulfillment" need that third L? A lot of the fantasies are entirely Gorean, but of course the important qualification is made that willing partners are precious and must not be abused, and any tying-up should, even if accompanied by "I think I'll leave you like that all night", be gentle and brief.
Well, it must be time to dip into this issue's mailbag. We have heard from somebody involved in the plot to send Memree and her friends to Spektros; we have also intercepted a letter which Engra wrote to her sisters back on the farm (which I naturally made arrangements to forward as soon as I'd transcribed it for you). Who have we got this time?
M'sera Delinda, Locksmith, Redwall City, Fortunia
My Dear Memree, Ashil was rather mysterious about the latest assignment you, he and Charolia share, in a recent letter, but he did at least give me the address of an intermediary to write to, and told me what I consider the most interesting item of news I've heard recently -- Charolia's submission to you.
I offer you my deepest congratulations on this. Over the years, I have come to believe that the mistress-slavegirl relationship can be stronger than almost any other, and when it is reinforced by love, and the slavegirl's sincere desire to submit, it is unsurpassable My one regret is that I won't be able to see Charol in her collar for a while; she has always been a beautiful woman, and my guess is that she looks more stunning now than she ever has before.
It is hindsight, I'm sure, but when I look back on the first time Charol brought you to my shop, it seems to me obvious that a relationship between you two was waiting to happen -- and that it might involve a locking metal collar for keeps, not on your neck but on hers. It was late in the afternoon when she brought you in, as I'm sure you remember. You were locked in that devilish, ensorcelled metal gag, and naked except for those ropes so intimately holding you helpless... and yet you wern't afraid of Charol. You had the strength to trust us -- and you made the right decision.
And the tame, helpless blonde had an immediate effect on the brave, reckless brunette adventurer; an effect that grew. Charol had been my armsmate and friend for years, but I had sometimes played with the thought of her in a slave collar -- preferably mine! There are "natural slaves" I think, of both sexes, and some of them never know it, or only idly daydream of a collar on their neck as they sit before their dressing-mirror. You know of the card game I once participated in, along with Ashil, Charol and Loji. I was the winner at the end, and Loji became my prize, but I am not entirely convinced that Charol was playing with all her usual flair. If she had been the loser, perhaps it would have been Loji who freed you from that castle dungeon!
I also remember when you gave me the slavegirl I now call Joli -- someone else who'd discovered she was a natural slave. Although she had initially been attracted to the relationship you and Charol had been pretending to have, for the sake of your mission, you decided that she needed a real slave-mistress... and passed her on to me, as an act of kindness. To her, that is! I wouldn't say that Joli has forgotten the pair of you, but she seems content in my collar; it is evening as I write this, and she is curled at my feet, gently licking and kissing one of my boots. Not that there's much else she can do, restained as I have her... Until later!
It is probably impertinent of me, and I beg your forgiveness, but if you ever decide to sell Charol, or need her to be kept safely for a time while you need to travel alone, please brng her back to Redwall City and me. I promise to beat any other cash offer, and generously, and give you Joli or her sell-price as well, your choice, if you agree to sell her. Or if you merely need her lodged for a while, I will follow any guidelines you lay down for her, and keep her hot and responsive for you. Whichever way, I would keep her head-hair, though my usual preference is for slavegirls with only eyelashes and brows.
Again, my heartiest congratulations to you both, and I hope you will be happy in your dominance, and she in her submission. Please come and visit me when you can -- I have some devices which would delightfully enhance her slavery, I think, and for you they would be free.
Your true and affectionate friend.
* * * * * * * *
Hmmm. Delinda is a character more Gorean than most, it seems, except that with John Norman her dominance would probably be revealed as a shell for hidden submissive feelings for the first thick-hewed (and -skulled) male warrior to, um, "invite her in for a cup of coffee". As it happens, she does not appear in the eight-issue run of this title from England's Harrier Publishing; she instead makes her debut in the rewritten script for #1 which is as yet undrawn and unsold, but which I would dearly like to see drawn by Paul for Eros. She is a regular in the first four issues, until Charol and Memree leave Redwall; the first five issues follow the general plots of the Harrier comic, but #s 6 to 8, the "Barbarienne versus Cuirass" trilogy, have not been adapted, and remain canonical. A new script for a sixth issue has also been written, and that leads into "The Choice", which would have been #9 originally, which has had extra pages added and is now fully drawn. The first five Harrier issues are therefore only a rough version of Charol and Memree's early history --- is "pre-Crisis" the term? Part of Delinda's role was taken by an elderly visually challenged gentleman called Kormenor, who was not as pretty and hadn't got the same interesting hobbies. BARBARIENNE #1 was the origin issue, for Memree in particular; the next two issues detailed a mission to visit an all-female tribe and free some of their prisoners, with Memree masquerading as Charol's slave, while #4 was built around a flashback to what one might call Charol's origin, and #5 was the debut of Griffin, and her capture by Charol, referred to in recent issues. The "Barbarienne versus Cuirass" trilogy followed, in which the villainess from the first issue attempted get her revenge -- and came pretty close to success!
None of the stories are particularly "Politically Correct", but as that term comes from the pre-Gorbachev USSR, where people unenthusiastic about soviet communism could be dubbed "not politically correct" in their thinking and given a one-way ticket to Siberia or the Gulags, that is a tag I am quite happy not to earn. I'm content where I am, thanks...
We are now three-quarters of the way through the first Eros BARBARIENNE sequence. Our next issue does have an ending of sorts, but it is in no way the end of the story, merely a time at which to pause. Eros have only committed themselves to publishing these first four issues, until they see the sales figures; since the names of Paul Noughton (artist) and Martin Lock (writer) are not exactly Jim Lee or Peter David when it comes to fame and following, that seems a reasonable idea. If you want to see more of our characters (and, in the credits around here, our names), let Ryder Windham at Eros know, and buy lots of copies of these four issues. Tell your friends -- tell people you are absolutely indifferent about, even! Otherwise, you could miss seeing an Eros fifth issue, with the debut of the sizzling, submissive owner of the "Restraint & Display" store on Spektros, Elantha, with Memree pretending to be a slavegirl -- and getting more than she bargains for. Miss it, and Elantha will be devastated, and Memree too, as she narrates that issue! And hey, have we go a cliff- hanger ending for you? Hang on, I'll just check. Yes we have!
Meanwhile, we will be back for BARBARIENNE #4 next month, written by me and drawn by Paul, including full inks. If you liked this issue, chances are you'll like that one, too. We may even have the regularly-promised brief creator biographies on the text page, hopefully another missive from one of our characters, perhaps another selection of Gorean semicolon-choked chapter titles, and.. some reader letters? Please write to us... Which reminded me, I'd better arrange to forward Delinda's letter, though I don't think she has much chance of being able to purchase Roli from Memree, do you?