After the success of Bone, a lot of self-publishers started to enter the field. Quite a few tried a little too hard to emulate Jeff Smith’s breakout comic by simply copying his use of cartoon characters interacting with humans, so it was refreshing when a series like Teri S. Wood‘s sci-fi comic Wandering Star came along that staked out ground in a completely different style.
This “Palmer’s Picks” was another of my early interviews, even though it includes no direct quotes from Wood. I think my lauding her strict bi-monthly publishing schedule in the pages of Wizard might have jinxed things. The seventh issue of her series shipped late, and there were long waits between subsequent issues until she eventually brought the series to independent publisher Sirius Entertainment. By that time, the comic had expanded beyond the 12-issue storyline that Wood initially envisioned. Sirius published Wandering Star #21, the final issue, in 1997, almost four years after the story began. A series of trade paperback reprints followed shortly thereafter, but a one-volume omnibus would not be published until 2016 when Dover Publications collected the entire series.
It was really tough to come up with full-color art this time around since all of the early issues of Wandering Star had covers that looked pretty much like the one reproduced on the second page of “Palmer’s Picks,” which you can see in the scan below: the logo of the comic and issue number surrounded by multi-colored stars and space stuff. The art department at Wizard did an admirable job with what they had by scribbling a little light blue over some black and white interior art, but it would have made things look a whole lot better if there was some nice art in color this time around. Oh, well!
My original draft for this column included a brief “next issue” teaser that mentioned that I would be profiling Jim Woodring in the next “Palmer’s Picks.” I had written similar blurbs for the columns appearing in issues 33 and 34 that were also cut before publication. The reason for this is that there was some competition out there. Namely, Hero Illustrated, a slick full-color magazine that was trying to take a bite out of Wizard‘s circulation. The powers-that-be decided it was best to drop any advance notice of specific topics in upcoming issues of Wizard to keep Hero and any other competitors from beating us to the punch.
One last thing to note about this column is the incongruous plugs for Chris Ware‘s Acme Novelty Library and Dan Clowes‘ The Manly World of Lloyd Llewellyn. The “Recommended Reading” section was a little thin this month since there wasn’t much info to convey about Wandering Star, so I guess I felt it necessary to mention a few more comics. Nothing wrong with the two excellent books I chose to spotlight, but a little bit of formatting might have made things look a little better. Even at this stage of the game with almost thirty columns under my belt, there were still some logistical problems to be ironed out. Thankfully, a lot of the pieces would finally fall into place in a few more issues.
By Tom Palmer Jr.
In one short year, Teri S. Wood has managed to publish six issues of one of the most talked-about comics in recent times: Wandering Star. Most of the attention is due to the simple fact that Wood virtually came out of nowhere with a thoroughly entertaining comic printed on a strict bimonthly schedule.
Wandering Star first appeared as a small press comic back in 1988. Wood published two issues before she was asked to draw The Cartoonist, a one-page strip in the back of Amazing Heroes. This position eventually got her a job illustrating Rhudiprrt, Prince of Fur, a comic written by Dwight R. Decker and published by MU Press. It chronicled the adventures of Rhudiprrt, a cat prince on a planet of cats whose body is taken over by the spirit of human male.
After drawing five issues of Rhudiprrt, Wood decided to shop some ideas around to different publishers. She contacted various companies over the course of two years, but nobody was willing to commit to a regular book, so Wood decided to self-publish her work.
In May 1993, the first issue of Wandering Star appeared from Pen & Ink Comics, Wood’s own company. Aside from being her first attempt at self-publishing, Wandering Star also marked Wood’s debut as the writer of a regular comic series. For a “rookie,” Wood has made an impressive showing, weaving a relatively intricate narrative in the short span of a few comic books.
Wandering Star is a science fiction story that centers around Casandra Andrews, the daughter of the president of the Earth. Through a series of flashbacks, an older Casandra relates the story of the crew of the ship Wandering Star.
The tale begins on an Earth which has suffered serious environmental damage thanks to humanity’s carelessness. In 2149, a peaceful alien Alliance approaches the Earth and persuades humanity to protect it from the Bono Diro in exchange for environmental aid and membership in the Alliance. However, Earthlings are looked down upon by galactic society because of their reputation as careless warmongers. It is in this climate of prejudice that a young Casandra finds herself a student at the Galactic Academy, where she meets the crew of the Wandering Star and becomes one of the few to survive the first attack against Earth in the Bono Kirian War of 2193.
Wood uses her writing talents to balance the narratives of the young and old Casandra, which alternately run through the series. She uses the first three issues to set the story, a device that makes the onset of the war in the fourth issue even more dramatic. Her characters are written with precision and depth, and are both believable and substantial. Her art is fluid, and she draws her characters with realistic features and expressions. Wood also expertly uses pointillism to layer her black-and-white drawings with gray shades.
The covers of Wandering Star have caused a bit of controversy because of their unconventional nature: they feature the book’s logo against a background of stars. Wood uses this layout to attract attention to her comic; among all the gaudy gimmick covers on the racks, her simple design stands out.
Wandering Star‘s back covers also stand out. Wood has vowed to feature photos of and information about missing children from across the country (provided by the Missing Children HELP Center) on the back of every comic published by Pen & Ink. These back covers have met with a favorable response, although unfortunately, none of the children pictured have been found yet.
Wood has used a few “tricks” to get news about her work passed around to different people, including retailers. She sent copies of the first issue of Wandering Star to comic stores in an effort to get her book noticed. She also sent out 500 limited edition postcards to readers who asked their retailer to order a copy of Wandering Star. Recently, she offered copies of the original small press version of Wandering Star to readers who buy classified ads in Comics Buyer’s Guide saying that they read and enjoy Wood’s comic. All of these ideas are simple and fresh plans which generate publicity without insulting the readers’ intelligence.
For a new self-publisher, Wood has made some very ambitious plans for the near future. She’s announced a schedule for the remaining issues of Wandering Star, which will continue to appear throughout 1994 and part of 1995. But that’s not all: after a short break following the conclusion of Wandering Star, Wood will start a new comic series, Darklight, a fantasy/horror story that will run for 25 issues.
Wood hopes to increase the frequency of her comics to a monthly basis sometime during Darklight‘s run. Currently, she works in a deli to support her self-published work, so she can only handle a book every two months. If you as a comic book reader have any compassion in your soul, and an interest in quality literature, start buying Wandering Star to help Teri Wood quit her day job and work on comics full time!
As usual, I’m willing to read your letters on just about anything, and hopefully I’ll be able to answer any questions that you have, so drop me a line at: Palmer’s Picks, c/o Wizard Press,
151 Wells Ave., Congers, NY 10920-2064.
Pick Of The Month
Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre: Batton Lash has just kicked off a bimonthly comic about two lawyers who handle supernatural cases. Each issue features a self-contained story, and the premiere issue contains an introduction for readers new to the characters.
Tom Palmer Jr. is a New Jersey-based writer who will hopefully get to hang out with Matt, Brian, Dan, and Todd this summer.
Tom’s Recommended Reading
Wandering Star: Currently, six issues of this 12-issue series have been published. (The seventh should be out in May.) Issues #1 and #3 are already in their second printings. Wood plans to keep all of the issues available until a paperback collection is printed. Individual issues cost $2 each, and a subscription to all 12 books costs $24. To help defray printing costs, Wood has also published a limited-edition print (only 500 copies) for $10. All of these can be ordered from: Pen & Ink Comics,
P.O. Box 549, El Centro, CA 92244-0549.
Darklight: After the projected conclusion of Wandering Star in March 1995, Wood will begin publishing her next series. This comic will premiere in July 1995 and run for 25 issues, probably on a monthly schedule. It would probably be a good idea to wait until Wood finishes Wandering Star before placing any orders for this comic.
Rhudiprrt, Prince of Fur: Wood drew five issues of this comic, which was written by Dwight R. Decker and published by MU Press. There might still be copies available from the publisher, so drop a note to MU Press at
4731 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105.
That just about covers all of Teri Wood’s work, except for the small press version of Wandering Star and The Cartoonist strip, which ran in Amazing Heroes. The following titles are current comics which deserve some attention.
Acme Novelty Library: Chris Ware has a unique style which recalls classic comic strips and animation, but his stories deal with themes of modern angst and hopelessness. The first issue focused on Jimmy Corrigan, the “Smartest Kid in the World,” and featured beautiful, highly detailed, full-color art in a small format. The second issue deals with the adventures of Quimby the Mouse in a series of tabloid-sized black-and-white strips.
The Manly World of Lloyd Llewellyn: This hefty hardcover, limited to 2,000 copies, collects every single story featuring Lloyd Llewellyn, from his debut in a preview in Love & Rockets to recent strips printed in Eightball. There is also a section devoted to sketches and other miscellaneous items. Each copy is signed by creator Dan Clowes, and there are no plans to reprint this material for a long time.