ASH/HCC: Coherent Super Stories #20 - Prisoner of the Red Planet!

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Thu May 6 12:45:31 PDT 2010

     [Rather than a proper cover, we see the splash page of a backup story.
Brightsword is on red soil under a red sky, surrounded by the suited aliens
from his origin story while a half-strength image of Darkshield laughs
triumphantly over the scene.  "BRIGHTSWORD is a PRISONER of the RED PLANET!"
proclaims the title.]

 .|, COHERENT                                            An ASHistory Series
 '|` SUPER STORIES                        #21 - Prisoner of the Red Planet!
        Featuring Brightsword I           copyright 2010 by Dave Van Domelen

     SCHEDULING NOTE: Fit this backup story in wherever you can in the next
few issues.  Brightsword #32 (July 1971 cover) is probably the best fit,
assuming they don't run over pagecount on the lead story.

     GENERAL ART NOTES: Make sure the artist has reference for the "aliens"
in Brightsword's origin story, as seen in Coherent Comics #5 (1967).  The
suits shouldn't look identical to the ones in that story, but given how
tripped-out the art was in CC #5, the details weren't consistent from panel
to panel anyway.  Don't make them look exactly like the suits from Jiang
Sheng's side of the story, though.
     The colorist should use a lot of dull red in the backgrounds and props.
The more oppressively dull red it feels, the better.  Ease up on the red on
the last page, though.


     Splash page.  This is a symbolic page, so the elements should be
arranged for maximum dramatic impact rather than worrying about if they make
sense.  If the artist has any better placement ideas, just give me a ring and
run it past me.
     Brightsword is under a dome on a rusty red planet with a pinkish red
sky.  He's surrounded by the yellow-suited "aliens" from his origin story,
who advance menacingly on him.  The upper half of the page will have a
half-strength ghostly image of Darkshield, laughing triumphantly.



     Yeah, Brightsword waking up in a strange place at the start of the story
is something of a cliche already, but embrace it, since this is a callback to
his origin story.  Maybe include some of the same drug-trip panel border
tricks from Coherent Comics #5 initially, but by the last panel of the 2x2
grid the borders should be perfectly normal.

     Panel 1: Totally black except for any panel border headtrip stuff.

     THOUGHT 1 (BRIGHTSWORD): Ow.  I think Darkshield improved his stunners
since last time.

     Panel 2: Fill with dark dull red, as if looking through closed eyelids
in a red-lit room.

     THOUGHT 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): I don't feel like I'm chained up or anything,
although it feels like Keith Moon's in my skull.

     Panel 3: Eye-shaped opening in the dull red fill.  The view is blurry,
indistinct and pinky-russet.  Or as close as the color separators can

     SPEECH 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): Pink ceiling?  Did he dump me in a baby's

     Panel 4: Pull back to see Brightsword sitting up on a dusty red floor,
smudges of rusty red on his costume.  He's looking in shock at something
that's out of the shot.



     The top half of the page is a half-splash, the bottom half is divided
into two roughly equal panels.

     Panel 1: Long shot from outside a glass dome.  The viewpoint is just low
enough to see the horizon near the top of the panel, and there's a distinctly
alien cast to the terrain.  It's all rusty red, and the thin slice of sky
visible is the same color as in page 2, panel 3.  Brightsword has gotten to
his feet in the middle of the dome.


     Panel 2: Medium shot of Brightsword, who is turning to look over his
shoulder at a sound behind him.  Darkshield's speech bubbles (indicated as
"radio") should have a border that suggests these are transmissions over a

     RADIO 2 (DARKSHIELD, OFF): Nowhere on EARTH, Red White and Bluto!

     Panel 3: Over the shoulder shot of Brightsword looking at a video
monitor set into the side of the dome at head level.  On the screen is
Darkshield's helmeted visage.  Blurry figures are visible moving about
outside the dome behind the screen.

     RADIO 3 (DARKSHIELD): Welcome, Brightsword...


     The top fifth of the page is a wide slice panel, the rest of the page is
split into a 2x2 grid.

     Panel 1: Exterior long shot of the dome.  An alien spaceship is parked
some distance from it to the left, and the figures outside the dome are
barely visible, maybe half the height of a standard letter.  Darkshield's
burst is on the right, and has the same radio-style border as his other


     Panel 2: Closeup on a horrified Brightsword.  Leave room for a large

     RADIO 2 (DARKSHIELD, OFF): Capturing you has never been all that hard,
Boy Sprout.  But you have a real knack for escaping before I finish my
scheme, and since no one's paying me to actually kill you, I prefer not to

     Panel 3: Stat of Page 3, Panel 3.

     RADIO 3 (DARKSHIELD): As you know, I've done some work for your alien
friends.  They offered to take you off my hands for a while.

     Panel 4: Same blocking, but change the angle so Darkshield's monitor is
on the left, Brightsword on the right, and a blurry distant view of the
spaceship is in the middle background.  Brightsword's fist is raised.

     RADIO 4 (DARKSHIELD): They don't want you on their ship after the mess
you made of their last one, but a pressurized dome on Mars?  Perfect.  You
break it --

     BURST 5 (BRIGHTSWORD): Oh, I'll BREAK IT all right!

     Panel 5: Brightsword is hitting the dome, but try to make it clear he's
pulling his punch at the last moment.

     RADIO 6 (DARKSHIELD): Then you die!  There's no AIR out there!


     2x2 grid, but it's like a splash page broken up into pieces.  The
unified view is from maybe a quarter of the way down from straight up, with
the curve of the dome dominating the upper left.  We see maybe half the
dome's total area split among the panels.  Darkshield's monitor is only in
panel 1, but the arrows of his speech bubbles in the other panels should
point back to it.  Brightsword is moving from panel to panel in an Z path.

     Panel 1: Brightsword is scrambling back from the crack in the dome,
while three of the yellow-suited aliens rush forward to apply a patch.  One
of them should have Brightsword's laser torch hanging from his belt.

     RADIO 1 (DARKSHIELD): That's why this is such a perfect prison, you
idiot.  It doesn't even have its own airlock.  Crack the dome, you
asphyxiate.  Don't even think about going to the ship, the aliens don't
breathe the same sort of air we do.

     Panel 2: Brightsword is on the balls of his feet, looking about the dome
warily.  There's scuff marks to his left, from where he scrambled out of
panel 1.

     SPEECH 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): I thought gravity was less on Mars.  Feels
normal to me.

     RADIO 3 (DARKSHIELD, OFF): My alien friends don't like Mars's gravity
any more than we would, so they extended their ship's artificial gravity
field over the area.  They're really quite advanced.

     Panel 3: Brightsword is pacing like a caged tiger.  His footprints in
the dust should lead back to panel 2.

     RADIO 4 (DARKSHIELD, OFF): They're politically advanced as well.  It
turns out that all the starfaring races are COMMUNISTS...they say it's the
only way to overcome the tribal divisions that hold less enlightened races

     Panel 4: Brightsword has turned to face the monitor in panel 1.  His
footprints lead back to panel 3.

     SPEECH 5 (BRIGHTSWORD): Hold on.  I know you work for the Reds, but I
didn't know you actually thought Communism was a good idea.  What's the point
of robbing banks if money goes away?


     2x2 grid, nothing fancy in terms of layout.

     Panel 1: Closeup of Darkshield's monitor, maybe make the panel borders
into the monitor borders, even if that means stealing a little space from the
other panels.

     RADIO 1 (DARKSHIELD): I think being on the winning side is a good idea.

     Panel 2: Make this look like an dream image or something, so it's clear
that this is the mental picture Darkshield is trying to paint.  Copies of the
alien ship outside the dome are flying over San Francisco, raining down

     CAPTION 2 (DARKSHIELD): "Mars is merely the staging ground, but the
real invasion is coming soon."

     Panel 3: Same sort of "flash forward" look.  Now humans are being led
away in coffles by yellow-suited aliens, into some sort of ominous processing

     CAPTION 3 (DARKSHIELD): "The conquest will be quick, but they say it'll
take years, maybe decades before humanity comes around and willingly joins
the Interstellar Communist Collective."

     Panel 4: More flash forward.  Darkshield is on a throne, waited on by
comely female human slaves while yellow-suited aliens flank his throne.

     CAPTION 4 (DARKSHIELD): "I figure there'll be plenty of opportunities to
enrich myself during the transition.  Afterward, there's always the option to
help them bring other worlds into the Collective!"


     The top third is split evenly into two panels, the bottom is a semi-
splash with the right border being all jagged and broken.

     Panel 1: Same blocking as Page 4 Panel 4, but Brightsword looks
skeptical and Darkshield's image is doing the standard MUAHAHA gesturing.


     SPEECH 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): There's something fishy about your story,
Darkshield -- 

     Panel 2: Brightsword has placed his hand on the crack in the dome, the
yellow-suited aliens are scrambling back.  He looks over his shoulder at the
off-panel location of the monitor.

     SPEECH 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): I guess I didn't manage to pull my punch enough,
I cracked the dome and some "Martian" atmosphere got in.

     Panel 3: Dynamic "smashing outward" panel in which Brightsword strikes
out to the right, shattering even the panel border.  Shards of glass fill
much of the right side of the panel, and a few may even drift up into panel

     SPEECH 4 (BRIGHTSWORD): And I'm pretty sure Mars doesn't smell like --




     A splash page with an inset panel in the lower right corner.  The first
caption is in the upper left.

     Main Panel: Broken glass is everywhere.  A fog machine churning out red
mist is visible in the lower left.  The spaceship and much of the scenery are
revealed to be painted flats.  Darkshield's monitor looks like a fist has
been put through it.  The "aliens" lie unconscious, their helmets removed to
reveal human thugs.  One of them is lolling unconcious with his collar in
Brightsword's grip.  With his free hand, Brightsword is pulling his laser
torch from the belt of the thug's environment suit.

     CAPTION 1: A few frantic moments later --

     THOUGHT 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): Hollywood fakery!  But does this mean
Darkshield's had a falling out with his alien allies -- or that he was never
working with them in the first place?

     THOUGHT 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): And what dastardly deeds has he been up to
while keeping me on ice?

     Inset Panel: Darkshield is staring at static on a monitor, slamming his
fist on the desk next to it.

     BURST 4 (DARKSHIELD): Curses!  I needed him distracted for at least a
week!  Now I'll have to explain my failure to the Kremlin* -- !

     CAPTION 5 (LOWER LEFT): * Darkshield is secretly a Communist agent,
pretending to be a normal supervillain!  Although he might be looking for a
new job soon -- Ed.



Author's Notes:

     I never established the "in-setting" comic that was "reprinted" in
Coherent Super-Stories #5, so when I wrote this story I decided it'd just
have been Coherent Comics #5.  Their first four issues might have been
reprints of 1940s comics, or war comics, or superheroes who didn't end up
getting their own books later.  Kinda like how Batman wasn't in Detective
Comics #1, nor was Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #1.  

     As established in Coherent Super Stories #14 (Brightsword #26),
Darkshield had only recently (as of the time of this story) found out about
Brightsword's alien obsession, but he had the resources to fake it pretty
well.  He may or may not know the truth behind Brightsword's origin...but if
he does, he's certainly never going to tell that big Yankee Dodo Dandy.

     This story was written for High Concept Challenge #9, "The Red Planet".
I decided to mix two meanings of the phrase, but make both fake.  :)  I
briefly considered doing a Third Age story involving a Martian base, to toss
out a thread I could pick up later in ASH, but decided I didn't want to
distract from Venus.


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