Saturday, December 27, 2008
So since I've been reading Girl Genius lately, I decided to devote this week's Vault visit to an earlier Foglio work, the one-shot D'Arc Tangent.
D'Arc Tangent #1 was published in 1982 by ffantasy ffactory, a company formed by Phil Foglio and Freff (hence the doubled 'f's in the name). Following the example of Elfquest, it was an independent comic, black-and-white on magazine-size newsprint with a quarterly release schedule (in theory, anyway).
Foglio by that time had already made a name for himself among sf fandom as a fan artist, and among gamer geeks (like me) for a strip in Dragon Magazine called What's New with Phil & Dixie (available on the web here). Connor Freff Cochran had also published as both a writer and illustrator (you can see sample pages from issue 2 on Freff's site).
Between the two of them (with the help of SF author Melissa Ann Singer as publisher), they concocted an ambitious tale of star-spanning romance. In the first issue, we were introduced to a huge interstellar empire, a mysterious would-be conqueror, an enormous city built on an ancient artifact that dwarfs Ringworld, a grieving alien widow, and a medieval French nobleman whose personality is imprinted upon a robot, which in turn begins to develop an emotional bond with the widow.
The story was planned to run 16 issues.
It lasted one.
It wasn't a problem with either the art or the story; though neither were perfect, they were solid, with the promise of great improvement over the full run of the tale. It wasn't necessarily a problem of low sales or of the implosion of the black-and-white market that doomed so many other small-press B&W books in those days.
Nope, Foglio and Freff simply split up due to creative differences.
What creative differences, you might ask? Well, here's a clue. When the editorial page in the first issue features one creator screaming at the other to finish the damn book already, you can assume that there's friction in the partnership.
Looking at a sample of the book in question might help explain a bit more. Here's a portion of a typical page below. It appears that penciling duties were split between the two. Foglio obviously drew the shorter Frenchman, as well as the unmasked robot, while Freff appears to have penciled the taller Frenchman and the alien babe Avari T. But from the editorial cartoon, it seems that Freff was doing all the inking, and just look at the inks on this page: lots of cross-hatching, multiple flavors of zip, and a hell of a lot of black. Now multiply that through the entire book, and you can see why they had trouble making a deadline.
All that work was not wasted, however. The next year, Foglio drew a rather long science-fiction tale featuring Buck Godot, Zap Gun for Hire (released in 1986 through Starblaze Books), and the character of the Pistol Packin' Polaris Packrat featured a very familiar profile.