Earthling was another project that never took flight—or at least, hasn't yet.
It was a freewheeling high-adventure series in the mold of Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, but set in a region of outer space that was the farthest reaches of human exploration, in an area where various alien races came together, where the business and military interests of the Terran Empire were pushing up against the business and military interests of other cultures. Warships, merchant ships and more could get across the vast distances through warpgates, but faster-than-light communication didn't exist, so orders and communiques from the more settled parts of space took almost as long to arrive as the ships themselves.
As a result, it was an isolated setting, where the local naval commanders and colonial governors had enormous power, where piracy, crime and graft were common and where life was cheap. Much like, uh, Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates. But in outer space.
I just said that earlier, didn't I?
Anyway, into this setting came young Jesse Walker, an Earth-born human searching for his father, who'd headed out to the fringes of civilization years ago to look for a better life for his family and then never sent for them. Along with his obsolete child-minding robot, Toaster, and "Hard Knox" Harrelson, a cashiered ex-Marine, got into lots of trouble and met lots of unprincipled villains, exotic women, or both.
Earthling was originally created for Open Space, a short-lived shared-world science fiction series I created and edited at Marvel Comics. But the series didn't last long enough to get to the point where we could introduce that far-flung setting, much less the characters.
Later, I revived the idea, with artist Ron Randall attached, as a pitch for a webcomic—I worship at the temple of Caniff, Ron worships at the temple of Alex Raymond, so we were both up for open-ended adventure in exotic realms. These are his presentation drawings you see here. Very nice work—Ron clearly likes drawing alluring women, but the rest of it's just as good. The idea was to do a daily online strip, but since neither of us had the time or resources to do it for free, we looked around for a publisher who'd fund the project and then publish the print collections of the series. We had a fair amount of interest, but no takers.
Later still, I revived the idea again as a collaborative YA novel series, with a friend, and we produced sample chapters and an outline for a first volume. That didn't go anywhere, either.
But I like the characters, I like the setting, so you never know. Someday...
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