1984: Sun-Runners

Sun-Runners (1984) #1-3, Sun-Runners (1984) #4-7 by Roger McKenzie, Pat Broderick, et al.

Sun-Runners started at Pacific Comics early 1984. Writer Roger McKenzie explains the impetus for the series:

He’d been thinking of leaving the comics business, but came up with the idea for this book and sold it to an editor, who sold it to Pat Broderick, who was at this time a pretty big name after his stint on Marvel’s Micronauts series.

As sci-fi series go, it’s perhaps not the, er, most hard science ones, what with those stars in that conglomeration. What the Sun-Runners do, exactly, isn’t really specified (you kinda imagine that the writer doesn’t, either), but it has something do to with extracting energy (!) from stars by, er, wrangling them somehow. Perhaps they need some Sun-Sheepdogs to keep them penned up. I don’t know.

I don’t know why some of the characters were DNA-modified half-animals, either, but I think that might have been covered later in the story, if it hadn’t been cut short. It seemed to be pointing towards getting into that stuff, at least.

Oh, and there’s a comedy relief robot.

Apparently Broderick had chosen to work on Sun-Runners because he was burnt out on super-heroes. Which is why it’s kinda odd that the protagonist is a super-hero, with the requisite super-villain arch-nemesis. They’re deadly opposites, you see. The villain has the best motivation ever: He’s everything the hero isn’t. Except, like, size… physique… hairdo… language…

So we have the standard action/sci-fi plot with a hero who’s much too heroic for the company he’s working for, so he’s suspended all the time and has to work outside the normal system. Everything about this book is standard…

… except the weird sexual things that they smuggle in most issues.

Shapeshifter sex! Hawt!

But not appreciated by all the readers. Here’s one who’s first “appalled” by some spelling mistakes, but that’s not what brought the pearl-clutching on: No, it’s that scene above that caters “to an undersexed, mindless audience”. We don’t need that kind of filth!

McKenzie didn’t follow that reader’s recommendations, because a couple of issues later he introduced a merry band of pirates, yes, in a space-going, yes, pirate ship, complete with billowing sails, yes, that lands on this planet to steal steel (yes).

So you’re thinking: This is all a gag, right? They’re playing it for yucks?

No, they tie up that elephant guy and apparently the entire crew rapes him (after he’s unable to perform with the captain).

On a WTF level, it’s, er, uhm. Is it on a WTF level? I think perhaps it went beyond that scale.

*scratches head*

You can’t say that it’s not an original plot development, though.

Anyway, I think Frank Miller’s Ronin was published the previous year? Pat Broderick apparently saw it just before drawing this page. It’s nice.

The backup feature for #2-4 is a private dick thing with artwork by Paul Smith.

And I think that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Mike Baron, writer of Nexus, writes in to say that he must be hitting the same zeitgeist as McKenzie. Or… perhaps… it’s just a very nice way of saying “stop plagiarising us”, since Nexus came out a few years before Sun-Runners.

Nah. Must be the first option.

And then Pacific Comics went bankrupt and Eclipse took over the publication. #4 was sent to the printers as is, almost, and then they’re ominously saying that there’s a contract to be negotiated.

Broderick does one more issue, and then the team of Glen Johnson/Jim Sinclair took over, and now the plot went completely off the rails, and we’re subjected to almost two issues of psychodrama and a few pages of things actually happening and well eh that art?

That’s the most erudite I feel like being here.

I mean, one of the elephant characters has the name “Admiral E’leph”…

… and another is called “Lord Phant”.

One last yuk with the comedy relief robot (who’s apparently now picking up women in bars (or trying to) in addition to female-looking robots, which he’s usually doing).

The inside cover of the final issue has a very strange way of saying that the title had been canceled. “[T]he last Sun-Runners issue to be published by Eclipse.” Did it continue somewhere else? Did they have a falling out?

Let’s see what the Internet says.

In issue 106 of The Comics Journal, Roger McKenzie tells us the entire story. It’s a long but not very complicated story: McKenzie claims that catherine yronwode and Dean Mullaney as a pair of non-communicating editors scheduled the book without telling him, and when he then was late with the book, they deducted a fee from the checks they sent him.

The piece ends with:

But never again. I’ll ride with Ricky Nelson drivin’ that truck before I ever, ever work for Eclipse again. Me and Rod don’t need the aggravation. And we sure do hate being swindled.

Despite Eclipse’s best eforts to sabotage Sun-Runners, the book has moved on to Sirius Comics. We have retitled it Tales of The Sun-Runners, and re-numbered it volume 2, The first issue will be released in March, 1986. It will be a 2S-page full-color Baxter book with a cover price of $1.50. Glen Johnson and Jim Sinclair remain as the artists.

So there you have it. Sun-Runners was cancelled by Eclipse before issue #6 even hit the stands. Before the art team even had a chance. But with the issue priced at $2.00 a pop and without any promotion or support from Eclipse, I doubt we ewer had much of a chance to begin with.

It’s on page 47 to 52 and includes copies of the letters and schedules from Eclipse that seem to support McKenzie’s story.

If you have a subscription to the online Comics Journal, the epic tale starts here.

And, yes, Sun-Runners continued at Sirius…. for two issues. And then Amazing published another two issues.

McKenzie doesn’t seem to have written many comics after that.

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