1987: The Sisterhood of Steel

The Sisterhood of Steel (1987) by Christy Marx and Peter Ledger.

I think I read a couple of issues of the Sisterhood of Steel series from Epic Comics in the 80s before I dropped it. I don’t recall anything of that series, but Marx provides us with an introduction to the characters.

The problem is that half of these characters aren’t in this book in any significant sense, and the rest are introduced perfectly well within the story, so it’s one of many strange decisions taken when this book was made.

Another is the paper used. I’ve never seen anything like it in a comic book. It’s almost vellum-like… or perhaps it’s meant to emulate parchment… In any case, it’s translucent and uneven and apparently extremely absorbent, because the inks and colours have that “sucked into the paper” look. That’s not a bad thing; it’s probably a deliberate choice, giving the book an oldee-tymey feel. But then again…

All the text is typeset, and typeset awkwardly. Especially in narrow speech and thought balloons, it looks horrible. The wide spacing between the lines is a very strange choice. And since the rest of the book is so carefully oldee-tymey-pheeley, it’s just a constant jab to the eyes reading these balloons.

So that’s that for the book as an object. What’s the storyline and the artwork like?

It starts off like all books should, with a discussion about menstruation, so I thought this was going to be fun and entertaining. The interiors and the exteriors also start off drawn very competently, with many nice design touches to all the chotchkeys around the rooms.

The faces, though, vary wildly, with facial features swimming around within the facial outlines.

And as promising as the first couple of pages were, reading the rest was a nightmare without end, without surcease.

I mean, until the dénouement.

The book goes so completely off the rails that it’s hard to know where to start. Part of the book is all about the torture of that poor woman a couple of pictures above, and the rest is about how the woman above trains as a ninja. There’s no structure to the book. It doesn’t build any sort of tension (although it manages revulsion a couple of times). After reading these 70 pages, I feel like I’ve just read a ten page introduction and perhaps the adventure is going to start now?

There’s a couple of text pages at the end that explains what a terrific artist Peter Ledger is (I think we had to have that explained to us), and also a bibliography of Ledger and Marx. And an explanation of what the first Sisterhood of Steel series was about.

Neither the Epic series nor this graphic novel have been reprinted.

Let’s see what web people think about it.

Here’s one:

Still, the graphic novel remains a reading experience that’s every bit as exciting as the series that preceded it, in some instances taking things to a new level of brutality. Its conclusion, however, is likely to leave readers heartbroken – it ends with a cliffhanger which was clearly meant to be followed by more stories. Unfortunately, this never happened, and The Sisterhood of Steel remains unfinished to this day. But even unfinished, both the series and the graphic novel are highly recommended.

Oh, here’s Marx herself:

If you take a look at how I handled strong, women characters in The Sisterhood of Steel, you’ll find I’m guilty of having a woman who was hideously victimized–captured, humiliated, enslaved, tongue cut out, raped, and finally left to die. I had a bunch of virgins get their throats cut so a mad king could ascend to “godhood”. Obviously, I had reasons for doing that within my overall storyline. That was counterbalanced by a lot of very strong women fighting, winning, losing and living life on their own terms. Objectively, what you don’t find a lot of in my series were likeable male characters, not because I don’t like men, but just because of the particular kind of story I was telling.

Hm… Didn’t find anything else that’s interesting.

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