Anniversary year: 15th anniversary of “Invasion of the Space Amazons from the Purple Planet”

May marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of one of the projects I’m the proudest of: Invasion of the Space Amazons from the Purple Planet #1. At the risk of sounding immodest, it may just be a comic that was ahead of its time:

  • Five years before all the males on earth died in Brian K. Vaughan’s acclaimed Y, the Last Man series, Invasion of the Space Amazons from the Purple Planet explored the concept of a female-populated world…
  • Five years before pirate fever swept the nation with the hit movie “Pirates of the Caribbean”, issue #4 of Invasion of the Space Amazons from the Purple Planet featured an exotic seafaring adventure…
  • In the years when comic shelves were dominated by “bad girl” art and gun-toting vigilantes, Invasion of the Space Amazons from the Purple Planet presented a comic starring strong female characters, years before manga and graphic novel publishers finally began to reach out to female readers …

Invasion of the Space Amazons from the Purple Planet, written by Wendy Griswold, was the focus of most of my artistic output from 1996-1999. In what we called “a feminist science fiction adventure in comic form”, S’san and Shallod, two travelers from a planet populated entirely by women, traveled across Earth, contrasting this world’s culture with their experiences on the purple planet that they called home. Their mission: investigate our planet which is so similar to their own planet’s past … and determine the fate of the lost traveler who went before them, Jahnae (the 1970′s space amazon)!

The five issues in this series remain some of the favorite comics I’ve ever worked on. Wendy developed a solid back story for the series that served as a rich foundation for these characters and stories, with lots of possibilities for further exploration built into it. She wrote an exciting adventure set in the present, mixed with flashbacks that enriched the ongoing narrative while developing her characters and revealing their motivations. As an artist, this was really liberating– the story was all there in front of me, which freed me to develop it visually in a way I don’t seem to do when I’m handling both the story and the art. For this project I taught myself how to ink with a brush and, after a rough first issue, I began to get into a groove where I could use it fairly well. I’ve simplified my style so much since then while working on Watusi that looking back on these issues is almost like looking at the work of another artist … or rather artists, given the range of styles I attempted in these stories. It was a conscious effort on my part to leave behind the type of cartooning I’d done up to that point, and I was happy with the results, both then and now. I’m still pleased at how well this body of work has held up.

In fact, my only regret with the project (and that only thanks to hindsight) is how poorly we timed its release. While I think we were ahead of the curve of some of the trends I mentioned earlier, and handled them well, we were also ahead of the changes that were to come in both the comic market and publishing technology. If we had come out with this project only a few years later, we could have taken better advantage of the exploding graphic novel market and print-on-demand technology, and released this book in a novel-like format that would take advantage of the story’s strengths. Perhaps then we would have been better able to help it reach a wider audience (and at a lower financial investment on our part) than the single issues were able to do. And I wouldn’t be left with longboxes of Space Amazon issues in my basement, either…

Someday, I would like to continue the adventures of the Space Amazons on Earth. Especially when I revisit these issues, I’m reminded of how much I like these characters and would like to create more stories for them. S’San, Shallod, Jahnae, and all the supporting characters really grew on me, and I was proud to be able to help bring them to life.

[Feb 2020 UPDATE: You can now order single issues or the complete set from my new Square store!]

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