What's the Barren Earth?

What's This? The final days of the planet Earth.
The facts: Created by Gary Cohn and Ron Randall, The Barren Earth was a science-fiction/fantasy story set in the far future when Earth's sun is a gas giant, scorching the planet, which ran as a back-up from Warlord #63-88 (so starting in 1982), before finishing up in its own mini-series entitled Conqueror of the Barren Earth (ending in early 1985).
How you could have heard of it: Ron Randall isn't an unpopular artist, so his fans know what this is. The Barren Earth (and its star Jinal) never appeared out of its own confines, however (except for this entry in Who's Who, of course). It has never even been collected.
Example story: Warlord #85-87 (September-November 1984) by Gary Cohn and Ron Randall
Why a late bunch of chapters like this? Because Warlord #85 was my first issue of that series (there was one before, but older, from a flea market), and not gonna lie, the only reason I bought the next few issues. Sorry Travis Morgan, but I think I kind of fell in love with Jinal and her world. So I want to go back and look at MY first chapters...

Episode 20: From the into panel above, there's a bit of word salad going on, but phrases like "commanded by the Old Ones of D'roz to capture a Qlov" didn't phase a sword & sorcery kid like me. Our first shot of Jinal here is from far away, then extreme close-up, but she's a girl after my own heart, i.e. not a gun girl.
Scouts find a group of the insect-like Qlov up ahead fighting Sand Pirates, which really doesn't seem to be a problem for them. The massacre puts the difficulty of capturing one of these guys into perspective. The surviving pirates flee, but one of the Qlov flanks our heroes in the meantime.
That's the second full-page splash in a 6-page back-up. Randall doesn't skimp on the ker-pow moments. But when he needs to say a lot on a single page, he can do that too. Jinal is almost shot and he friends jump into the fray, with Skinner's shiny new submachine gun proving completely ineffective against their chitinous enemy.
Yeah! Time for some lightsaber---I mean, energy blade action! Next time, on The Barren Tattooine!

Episode 21: For the most part, this is the fight between Jinal and the Qlov.
But Jinal does eventually need help from her friends, which comes at first in the form of their Harahashan scout's lasso.
They overcome the Qlov, but not easily. It's got a third arm and requires a good five people to restrain. The party's wise man pacifies it with a special powder (partly based on an ingredient that only works on humans--DO WE EVOLVE INTO BUGS?!), and off we go... to the City in the Sky! (Wait, Cloud City?)

Episode 22: The Qlov says Qlov, the only word it seems to know. Meanwhile, lest we forget there was a whole host of Qlov, they've boarded their globe-machine and come after the heroes. The chase is on. Jinal's gang makes its stand on a hill filled with ruins...
Help comes from an unusual, but not unexpected place. D'roz, the City in the Sky! (KER-POW!)
I made some Star Wars jokes there, but obviously, it loomed large in the science-fantasy landscape at this point in history (not to say it's some kind of forgotten gem today), and Barren Earth takes more from it than, say, Mad Max. Part of that is the feeling we get from the back-up format. At 6 pages an issue, the action is furious, and you need more frequent cliffhangers. So like Star Wars, its structure is that of old movie serials. It works in the strip's favor, and despite the brevity, there's still a large cast, and a lot of world-building.

Obviously, these latter-day chapters make the reader ask a lot of questions. Who are these people? What's happening? Why are they even kidnapping a Qlov, and what is their connection to humanity? Because it tells a complete story (dividing it in Chapters makes it feel less open-ended), I think this would make a fine collection.

What's Next? Batman's home under his home.


Anonymous said...

I liked this back-up series ... Ron Randall's art is great. The Conqueror of the Barren Earth follow-up was pretty cool too, although it ended on a huge cliffhanger that was never resolved. I asked Ron Randall if he thought it would ever be revisited and he said no, so I guess we just have to live unfulfilled.

(By the way, if you're a Randall fan, check out his Trekker stuff; I've been contributing to his Kickstarter for the last few books and it's pretty good.)

Mike W.

Siskoid said...

And if YOU'RE a Trekker fan, please check out Ruth and Darrin Sutherland's Trekker Talk Podcast at the RAD Adventures Network:


Anonymous said...

Way ahead of you! The Sutherlands are big Mike Grell fans too, so I can definitely relate to them. :)

Mike W.

Darrin said...

A great review Siskoid! Fun commentary and great art examples. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And a big thank you to both you and Mike W for the very kind comments! Trekker-ific! 😃

Scott Dutton said...

Here's some of my own exploration with Barren Earth art.


googum said...

Love it. Man, I wish there was a nice trade for this.


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