In late 1989, I illustrated a Will Shetterly story for the short-lived Marvel Graphics series Open Space, an experiment in a shared science-fiction universe packaged in an anthology "prestige" format, and issued under an imprint separate from the mainline Marvel superhero universe.
I'm not sure how I landed the assignment, but I'm sure it had something to do with my science fiction series Border Worlds, which began as a color back-up in Megaton Man and became a moody, "mature readers" black-and-white series. Carol Kalish was the nominal editor of Open Space, but I mostly dealt with assistant editor Kurt Busiek, who was unknown to me at the time (this was long before he wrote the groundbreaking Marvels).
I had already met Will and his lovely partner Emma Bull at a memorable
convention in St. Paul, Minnesota in late 1985 or early 1986 (run by the
late John Annunziata, on whom I based a nameless "snitch" character in Megaton Man #6 and subsequently drew as The Comics Warrior, the namesake of his store).
I don't remember much about the original script (my copy is now lost); I don't believe I ever discussed the story with Will before or even after publication. But the editors must have like what I did well enough, because I drew another story in the series which never saw print because it was canceled. I do recall a huge "Bible" being sent to me along with the script: over 200 pages, photocopied, explaining the backstory of the universe, the various planets and star systems, the general organization of the political structure of the society, etc.
I don't know how well the shared universe concept was carried out throughout the series; I imagine it was cumbersome, given that virtually each story was a stand-alone with different creative teams responsible for only a tiny portion and few, if any, continuing characters. Admittedly, I only read the stories I was assigned to illustrate, although my sense is there was a bit too much emphasis on consistency and continuity between the stories and not enough on imaginative adventures in and of themselves (although I seem to recall these concerns weighed and discussed).
Somewhere I remember reading a description of a planet (either in the Bible or in the script for this strip) as having 83 percent of the gravity of earth; that detail always stuck in mind simply because it seems so utterly trivial and beside the point. Stories, after all, should have human interest, in other words, emotion, not simply be compiled from formulaic recipes of made-up scientific facts.
I still possess most of the original artwork for the story (I don't believe I ever got the colored bluelines back), so please contact me if interested in acquiring a page.
Elsewhere, I will comment on the significance this story had on my subsequent career. But for now, enjoy the artwork.
Read my YA prose novel, The Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series! New chapter every Friday.