Keep On Trekking
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in his series of features on comic stories or series that never happened. This week it’s the turn of Ron Randall’s Trekker …
Ron Randall’s Trekkers
It’s the pleasure of this column at times to find “Lost Tales” that are found again in the hands of those who lovingly created them. Such is the case for Ron Randall’s Trekker stories, all of which are being compiled in a deluxe four-color volume via a Kickstarter event starting in January 2020.
For those who are unfamiliar, please introduce us to your futuristic bounty hunter, Mercy St. Clair, and the worlds of Trekker. Does she have a grand mission . . . or just a list of targets?
Essentially, Trekker is a long-form story of self-discovery and destiny disguised as a series of self-contained action/adventure tales.
At the beginning of her story, Mercy has no grand vision whatsoever. But I do. Mercy’s young, she’s gifted at her particularly dangerous calling, and that’s all she seems to want in life: track down the bad guy, get paid, go home. That would be fine if Mercy were just a machine or a two-dimensional character. But her problem is that she’s an actual human being, as inconvenient as that might be at times. And, the series is about the rub between what she does for a living, and who she is – where she comes from and where she is destined to go. In a way, a big part of the series is finding out that she may, in fact, actually come to have a “grand mission.” But if so, she only stumbles upon that reluctantly and gradually, as her experiences add up from tracking down one bad guy after another – and after having been roped by others into one unplanned adventure after another on occasion, as well.
What, if anything, inspired your Trekker series?
It’s a pretty long list! I fell in love with classic, swash-buckling science fiction comics at an early aged when I stumbled across an Al Williamson issue of Flash Gordon by King Comics in about 1967. I loved the art— the graceful, idealized and romanticized drawing of characters, lush, alien worlds, space ships, civilizations– the whole thing. I wanted to be that guy, and write and draw those kind of stories. That passion has never left me. That lead me back to Alex Raymond, who created Flash of course. And I also found the other great EC science fiction illustrators, particularly Frazetta and Wally Wood.
At the same time I was discovering and reading sci-fi novels, particularly Dune by Frank Herbert, some Bradbury, and Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Those planted the seeds of wanting to tell stories that had a greater scale and scope while still having the dash and excitement of the comics I was still loving.
Then, inescapably, I was hit by Star Wars, and the gritty, noir feel of Blade Runner and Alien.
So, when I had the chance to create Trekker, I built a premise that, I think, allows me to contain all of that in the pages – the stories may start out as very urban sci-fi noir, but we can also travel through the stars, or have a desperate, sci-fi western chase through the blasted wastelands. All while moving Mercy’s personal journey forward and without violating the rules of the world I’ve set up.
You are no stranger to science fiction. Yours and Gary Cohn’s Warlord back-up strip, “The Barren Earth” – and later the limited series, Conqueror of the Barren Earth – thrilled fans when it was published by DC Comics in the mid-1980s. What about this classic comic book genre appeals to you?
Well, like I said, I fell in love with sci-fi and adventure comics as a kid. I liked having the opportunity to draw comics that moved beyond the super-heroic action, and felt more like swashbuckling adventures – Prince Valiant, Robin Hood, Tarzan, as well as Flash Gordon – work on a slightly more “human” scale, and work that allowed for more lush and realistic world building in the art. Those stories just held a particular resonance for me both as a storyteller and as an artist. Plus, Gary was just a dream to work with– great stories, great characters. We both loved what we got to do with Barren Earth. And no question that series helped plant the seed in me that became Trekker when I had the chance to create my “dream project” a few years later. Particularly the strong female lead character in a sci-fi setting.
Trekker was one of Dark Horse Comics’ first published strips, having debuted in Dark Horse Presents #4 way back in 1986. How has the series evolved since its first publication over three decades ago?
Well, I’m a much better craftsman now than I was back then. I have a better grasp of what I want and how to get there. And I hope the new stories are stronger because of that. But, I also hope that the basic premise, over-all tone, and style of the series hasn’t altered much at all. I hope to be telling a story here that should move smoothly from one adventure, one “chapter” to another, and hold together as a consistent and unified work.
Trekker’s adventures so far have been collected in three trade paperbacks – all of which are now out of print. Do you plan to bring the collections back in print? Will they be in black-and-white or color?
I certainly do! Thanks for asking. I really want all of those earlier stories to be in print again and available. So, I’m running a Kickstarter (trekkerkickstarter.com) from January 21- February 20 to collect all of those stories — over 450 pages– in to one deluxe, oversized, hardcover volume. I’m calling it Trekker: The Complete Journey Volume 1.
You took a break from the series in 1999 – only to revisit it in 2011 with a Trekker web comic. In fact, you’ve told one all-new Trekker page each Monday since May of 2013. Are you going to continue producing the web comic, or are you only focusing on bringing the once “Lost Tale” back to print?
I’m attacking on all fronts at once, Scott! While I’m running the campaign to “rescue” the lost stories, I’m continuing to post a brand-new page each week. Because Mercy’s journey is still far from over. I’ve already run three Kickstarters to fund new stories, and once this current Kickstarter for the collection is done, assuming it’s successful, I will start to gear up for the next, all-new volume. If it sounds like all of this keeps me busy, you’re right. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Besides bringing your once “Lost Tale” back to print, what other projects are you working on or tied to at the moment?
I take on short-term commercial jobs and the occasional comics project as I can accommodate them around my Trekker schedule. In the past, that’s meant working on some pretty fun projects like DC Comics’ FutureQuest, or doing artwork for Netflix’s mini-series Best Worst Weekend Ever. Unfortunately, none of the things I have on my plate right now, beyond Trekker, are ready to be talked about yet. But I keep myself busy.
Lost Tales©2020 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved