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June 27, 2012

Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Border Worlds


This was a science fiction title I consumed during what seems, in retrospect, like a mini-explosion of science-fiction and science-fantasy books that came out in the 1980s. It reminds me a lot of the science fiction game Traveller, although I'm not all the way certain why. It could be the broadly generic world with specific flourishes on display here is something that I equate to role-playing scenarios, this kind of flattening and universalization of effect. I could also be accessing some memory that makes that link for me. I also figure that any story where people spend their time applying their skills to problems of grave import and great intractability is going to have a gaming element. While that wasn't the focus of these comics, there was certainly an element of watching people do things under pressure. Border Worlds featured work by the cartoonist Donald Simpson. At the time of the first issue's publication, he must have been ten to a dozen issues along in the publication of his parody title Megaton Man. I wouldn't be surprised to find out I first saw Border Worlds as a back-up story in Simpson's superhero comedy book. I also pair it in my mind with another Kitchen Sink title, Alien Fire.

In contrast to both his earlier work and to a lot of the illustration and comics he's done since, Simpson kept Border Worlds a more serious affair. It was a handsome comic. I thought the basic design approach of this book and the comics pages inside were plenty attractive. It also had that wonderful quality a lot of 1980s comics shared where certain peccadillos of the artist found their way into the publication. For Simpson, one thing following your muse seemed to mean was drawing the female figure in an attractive way. My memory is that the art became increasingly lurid as the series progressed, although it was never not a presence in those comics. By the last couple of issues, though, drawing sexy pictures seemed to be a main driving force in the book in a way that other concerns were subsumed to that one. The skills developed here would serve Simpson well a few years later as the creator of some of the more memorable early Eros Comics, but at the time it was baffling to have one of your comics rolling around on the front seat of your car being kind of naughty.

The other thing I can recall about this book is that the fact that it had that female lead registered on me not at all. Why not have a female lead? It seemed perfectly natural to those times to make that choice, even if it was a comics era not exactly overflowing with similar series and heroines.
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