So its 1989, and I'm walking into my comic shop in good old Torrington Ct and I see this weird cover for a hard science fictional comic anthology called Open Space. This was a weird science fiction comic anthology deluxe graphic novel comic, each of the stories were all a part of a shared universe. Shared universe science fiction athologies had been done before but this one was very different in its approach. Right out of the gate the first tale by Joe Clifford Faust was called Handshake and this tale laid the foundation for everything to come. The tale concerned Drake Etchison whose revolutionary work for Astranet includes the discovery of the Smoots Drive.The corporate cops pick him up and bring him to company headquarters where we meet his bosses and Jack Brody. Jack is a war hero as well as veteran and a pilot, seems that Drake has Jack test the Smoots Drive and end up on Europa.The Russians get to the moon and find a message from Mr.Brody. Astranet isn't too pleased with Drake and has him eliminated. But Drake has the last laugh because he's released the plans for the Smoots into the wilds of the proto internet for the good of mankind. Astranet wanted their corporate profits to be a bit higher. This was 1989 when this anthology came out. I kinda always imagined that this was how the Spike Drive from Stars Without Numbers was created since its sort of spread all though out that Rpg. Here we have two families, the Etchisons and The Brodys which will weave themselves throughout the rest of the comic series. These families control the destinies of mankind's place in space and they're a great example of how a group of NPC's can exert influence throughout an rpg campaign as well. Even the most minor stage walk on can have influence.
The Land of Nod is a tale of a Martian colony caught in the grip of a corporate maneuver and the unfulfilled promise of when a dream dies. Its a rather nasty tale with a twist at the end. Very little to use but it sets up the next story well.
Heroes is one of my favorites and sets the tale of a would be con man and hacker Adelbart Zale Wylie whose contribution to the advancement of the Smoots Drive and mankind's stepping stone into the Free Space Movement as well as out bound interstellar colonies. The script is from G Harry Stine And Kurt Busiek,its a quick read and a well done effort.
Frontiers is a real knee breaker about the corporate colony frontier funded movements. The idea here is a reporter comes to look into the dark underbelly of the bait and switch colony movement ala the adverts we saw in Blade Runner. The catch the scripters who sign to become colonists know what the deal is and still sign up. Its a pretty sobering story about space colonies and the fact that these folks are building a better future for their grand children.
Is Frontiers gamible? Possibly as a twist ending to a SWN adventure in which the players look into a possible scam being run for out bound colonists only to find out that they know their being tricked and still go anyway.
Cyberpunk literature was in full swing on the book shelves and Marvel comics were in a very weird position when the is comic hit the shelves. It wasn't until years later that I found out how weird. But I've gotten a lot of use out of this graphic novel for lack of a better term.
Here's some of what I got out of it :
- Many of the background elements such as the disutopian elements really still do work such as 'life style levels' where society has a rating for who you can sleep with, what jobs you can take,etc. are still gut wrenching. Especially now.
- The promise of the Smoots Drive as a perfect FTL drive device is one of the ways that an artifact technology for post apocalyptic games is still a solid motivator for a party.
- Covert missions for old school science fiction games are great fun and very nice to twist PC's in the wind while allowing the players to thank you for doing it! Works every single time.
- This comic is perfect fodder for a Stars Without Number campaign especially early in the timeline.
- There were only three issues of this comic before Kurt Busiek went on to create Marvels with Alex Ross, so there's not much to the rest of the back issues.
- Astranet makes a great corporate backer for a party of space based adventurers in a hard science fictional game such as Traveler or SWN
- Some of the technology is very, very, dated but that's fine as long as the history allows certain key military or nuclear events to happen. Everyone likes to forget that sometimes technology can take a different route in design or even application due to war, fad, or other unforeseen events. There's always room for a redress of technology.
- Many of the themes and ideas of the shared universe work well for running a multi DM campaign where one DM does one adventure and next does the other. Each one dove tails into the next.
- Each of these stories demonstrates the power of a one shot adventure, each player uses a PC and moves to the goal without a rail road job but makes a key point in a campaign's history happen.
- My copies of this anthology have been with me a long, long, time having survived apartment fires, crazy ex girl friends, multiple moves, and many, many, old school campaigns. There's something to be said for learning from a great old comic book that you return to.
If you find the Open Space series in the dollar bins or have the chance to grab them, do so. They're not for everyone and as with everything your miliage may vary but for me these are a nice dovetail into old school hard science fiction.