In this new segment — 2-Bit Comics — Clay N. Ferno digs deep into back-issue bins and discount trade shelves, refusing to pay more for great comic stories found on discount! First up, Harlan Ellison’s IDW hardcover for “Phoenix Without Ashes.” Sharing his love for great stories found in the quarter bin may prompt you to revisit these books wherever you can find them, in a yellowed longbox or on your tablet!
By CLAY N. FERNO
The Seventies were a great time for science fiction, though the genius of Harlan Ellison’s stories were often mucked with enough to make him take his name off plenty of projects. A TV version of this graphic novel appeared on Canadian and American stations in 1973 under the new name, “The Starlost.” Audiences were told Ellison’s alter-ego Cordwainer Bird created and wrote the show.
As a concept for sci-fi and comics, this merges the best of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Lost,” “Doctor Who” and of course a bit of “Star Trek.” All the action starts out in an Amish town, where our main man Devon is accused of being a heretic, speaking out against the Elders, who have lied to the villagers about the will of the Creator.
Devon is driven to the edge of the mountains by an angry mob after revealing the hoax to his beloved Rachel, to whom his love is forbidden as she has been promised to a man named Garth since birth.
The naturally curious Devon has had questions all his life about where the sky starts and ends, and why the Creator has only given his people 50 square miles of land on which to live.
Devon discovers, by his exile, an escape, in the quite literal form of a hatch that drops him into a most unusual place — the life support system of a very large space ship en route to certain doom into the heart of a nova!
The artificial intelligence, in the form of information cubes, informs Devon of the history of The Ark — this ship — and the fate of Earth in 2285. In a colonization effort, The Ark was launched to escape the threat of the yet-to-be revealed Vastator. The Amish occupied only one of the grape-like spheres on the ship, with presumably all of the varied Earth cultures existing in their own grape-town.
With his new knowledge, Devon returns to the Amish Cypress Corners to reveal the big illusion, and of course is set up to be stoned!
IDW put together too beautiful of a book for us to spoil here in this installment, with Alan Robinson on art and Harlan Ellison given full creator and writer credit. Ed Bryant, writer of the 1975 “Phoenix Without Ashes” novelization is also mentioned under a special thanks.
This is a story about questioning the existence of God, responding to authority and being curious, while also serving as the first part of an extended narrative, or property. “The Starlost” was serialized, but this canonical start to the Phoenix Without Ashes mythos is a solid future sci-fi story blessed by the man himself.
Harlan Ellison is one of the most celebrated authors of science fiction, garnering numerous awards. His stories have been made into television, film and comics.
Clay N. Ferno gets around. He’s @ClayNFerno on the Twitter and writes about comics at @DigBoston, @ForcesOfGeek & @LeaguePodcast.
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