About Strange Attractors
Strange Attractors pays tribute to the comics of the Fifties and Sixties and reflects the ways our consciousnesses, our sensibilities have been shaped by one too many viewings of Forbidden Planet, by lengthy exposure to the artistry of Jack Kirby and Steranko, and having been dipped in the ambiance of the Sixties, Timothy Leary, Equal Rights Feminism, Norman Spinrad, Robert Heinlein, Camille Paglia, Robert Anton Wilson, Samuel R. Delany, H.P. Lovecraft, Dave Sim, Alan Moore, and the media-scape of the early '90s.
Since the mid '70's Michael Cohen and Mark Sherman have collaborated on numerous projects: bands (The Mighty Chameleons, Buffalo Bop), computer games (ThiefQuest). In 1993 they decided to have a go at self-publishing a comic, encouraged by the success of Dave Sim's Cerebus. As a starting point, they turned to an unfinished project that Michael had begun a few years earlier, his goofy SF story Strange Attractors.
Expanding from the original premise (Michael's version was mostly a loving tribute to the early issues of Love and Rockets), they came up with an expansive plot that would encompass many of the themes they found running through their favorite movies, comics and novels.
Strange Attractors #1 appeared in May 1993 and began building a very loyal audience. There are currently 15 issues in print, a trade paperback which collects issues #1-7, and the first 2 parts of a 4 part Caliber mini-series called Moon Fever. A collection of the 15 RetroGrafix issues, entitled Strange Attractors Book One: Live From the Future, is also available.
Sophie is the heroine of our book. Not that she'd ever really wanted to be a hero, not the type that runs off into danger anyway. Her taste in heroics runs more towards Nurse Nebula, co-star of “Spicy Space Stories”, Sophie's favorite comic. Neb (as she is fondly called) mainly saves lives (when she isn't pining over her unrequited love for Doctor Quark). Very unlike Sophie's other comic heroine Pirate Peg (also featured in “Spicy Space Stories”), who often takes violence as the first and last resort (but only against those deserving it). But now we've already strayed far from the topic of this page, which is Sophie.
When our adventure starts Sophie is working in the vast Museum of Lost Things on the asteroid of Sysyphus; endlessly cataloguing the plethora of oddball items that have accumulated there. Except for her robot assistant Roshi, she remains totally isolated from the world, free to indulge in her love of solitude, and her love of comics. She would have remained perfectly content with this arrangement had not fate (or something more devious) intervened.
Sophie is embroiled in an epoch spanning war between magic and science, in which the comics she loves are actually coded histories, and she has somehow become a magnet for all sorts of cosmic weirdness.
Roshi is a lot more than just another cute robot assistant. Victim of an over-active imagination, he fancies himself suited to help out his friend Sophie in any number of capacities, whether he's qualified or not. He daringly takes on the role of her analyst, her attorney, even her magic-sword wielding protector.
Widow has been Sophie's best friend since they were kids. Widow's dad, you see, is none other than H.R. Widhover, the richest man in the Solar System. Sophie was adopted when she was little, and brought up in the fantabulous Widhover mansion.
Mr. Teach, the latest in intructobot technology (though a bit old-fashioned) was Sophie and Widow's mentor, though they probably learned just as much from the comics they read. Widow was always the better of the two at her lessons, and so, in her late teens she went off to the Rangerette Academy on Callisto, while Sophie was sent to Sisyphus to work in the Museum of Lost Things. Well, things get complicated real fast. Widow becomes engaged to Sophie's ex- boyfriend, her father is assassinated, and.....well, we're not going to give away too much here.
Pirate Peg is the very essence of the adventure hero; brave loyal, resourceful, and quite likely completely mad. Of course, she's just a comic character, the heroine of Spicy Space Stories, a comic so dangerous, it is outlawed throughout the Solar System. But she's also real; a hunted fugitive who hasn't been seen in years, until she shows up one day in The Museum of Lost Things, and gets poor Sophie embroiled in a galaxy of trouble.
Ah yes, the Moon Marauders! Who hasn't thrilled to their adventures in the pages of Spicy Space Stories and numerous other comics? How their names are sung in the annals of adventuredom: The Collector, Brigand, Decoder, Klepto, and of course their leader- Pirate Peg!
In hundreds of mind-boggling episodes, they dealt with menaces such as The Meteor Miner and The Phantom Vulture, until one day, in an event that would be known as the Battle of the Black Boot- they were destroyed by Sykharrak and her minions! What became of them, these comic book heroines whose real life counterparts fought against the tyranny of the richest man in the Solar System- H.R. Widhover?
Well, at least two of them are still around, and the one known as The Collector is out for vengeance- against Pirate Peg. And Sophie gets caught up in the middle.
Lucky for Sophie she has the perfect role-model for guidance in times of trouble, her #1 favorite comic heroine Nurse Nebula. Aided by the ever faithful Qwyrf, she appeared as the back-up feature in every issue of Spicy Space Stories, helping those in need throughout the galaxy. If only the handsome Dr. Nicholas Quark cared as much for her, her life would be totally fulfilled.
About the Creators
MARK SHERMAN currently teaches in a university, performs palmistry for corporate clients like Microsoft and Starbucks, is co-author of the highly-praised Palms Up! A handy Guide to 21st Century Palmistry from Penguin Publishing, and plays electric mandolin and zydeco accordion. In the past his band The Kingbees of the Bayou has opened for the likes of Buckwheat Zydeco and The Doobie Brothers. He currently teaches technical communication for the English department at Western Washington University. Mark lives and writes in Bellingham, Washington.
MICHAEL COHEN has been a fanatic comics fan since the late 50’s. In 1965 he and pal Tom Horsky authored The Argosy Comic Book Price Guide, documented as being the very first guide to the hobby. In 1996 he started Bardic Press and published 8 issues of the fantasy anthology Mythography, for which he did the covers and the ongoing series Empyrean Tales. In 2000 he cofounded Renaissance Press with Jimmy Gownley, and edited Gownley’s Amelia Rules! and The Forbidden Book, an anthology of stories about magic. He composes music and lyrics for his band Fuzzy Logic and has written five musicals. To earn a living, Michael does scrimshaw. He lives in Marlborough, New Hampshire.
Introduction to Chaos Jitterbug by Norman Spinrad
STRANGE ATTRACTORS is the only serial comic I've followed in a long time, and even my wife, who hardly reads comics at all, reads each issue as soon as it comes in. I don't usually like books, films, comics, or tv shows that continue on from episode to episode, and STRANGE ATTRACTORS is one of the rare exceptions, in part, I think, because it is that even greater rarity, a character-centered comic.
Yes, the story is complicated, yes there are wheels within wheels within wheels, but for me, anyway, it is the characters that carry me along from episode to episode. If I had the discipline--which I don't--and knew how long the series was going to run--which the creators don't seem to--I'd prefer to save all the issues that come in to read all at once like a novel.
Because ordinarily one of my problems with series, and especially with series with so much background and so many story complications like STRANGE ATTRACTORS, is that I tend to lose track of what's been going on from issue to issue. Not so with STRANGE ATTRACTORS; somehow, because the characters are so real, so central to the whole story, and because Sophie herself is so bound up with her memories, real and synthetic, even after a long absense, I'm back in the world and the story with my memories of it intact after a few pages of each issue. Interestingly enough, the summaries inside the front cover have gotten shorter and shorter issue by issue, as if the creators have become cognizant of and confident in this effect.
Another appeal of STRANGE ATTRACTORS for me is that it is maybe the most novelistic graphic story I know of with the possible exception of WATCHMEN and certainly the most novelistic series. It has novelistic structure, no mean feat for a series of any kind. It has main characters and secondary characters. It has real emotional interest. Moral dilemmas.
It is also a good piece of science fiction. The worlds of STRANGE ATTRACTORS are colorful and detailed but also quite believable. The self-referential business with Pirate Peg the character in STRANGE ATTRACTORS and Pirate Peg the character in a comic book in the universe of STRANGE ATTRACTORS gives it all a Dickian depth of multiplex realities interacting.
The clean, clear, cinematic style of the black-and-white artwork works very well with a background and story of this complexity, reminiscent, somehow of the old black-and-white newspaper adventure strips like TERRY AND THE PIRATES, and STEVE CANYON.
And finally, I should point out something that is too often overlooked except in the breach, namely that this is a very well lettered comic. The lettering is clear, the right size, and easy to read, slipping into your mind from the page as if it were a film sound track. When so much lettering isn't, attention should be called to lettering like this which so fortunately does not call attention to itself. STRANGE ATTRACTORS is that true rarity, an adult, amusing, multi-layered, graphic science fiction novel. I look forward to its eventual successful completion with decidedly mixed emotions.
What They’re Saying About Strange Attractors
"A book that just arrived out of nowhere and genuinely caught my attention . . . A real Spicy Space Stories favorite of mine: Strange Attractors... Opening an issue of Strange Attractors and starting to read it is comparable to walking in an environment that creates in us a pleasurable sensation at all levels."
--Dave Sim Cerebus 183
". . . each issue is better than the previous one . . . Strange Attractors enchanted and delighted me--no easy feat!"
--Diana Schutz, Editor in Chief Dark Horse Comics
"Strange Attractors is that true rarity, an adult, amusing, multi-layered, graphic science fiction novel."
"This is not rave of the month stuff...Strange Attractors is rave of the year...Wow, what a story!"
--cat yronwode CBG
"In a barren desert of movie and TV science fiction comics Strange Attractors is a sparkling oasis of originality. In drawing their inspiration from the heyday of pulp science fiction and Planet Comics, Mark Sherman, Michael Cohen, Sophie, and Pirate Peg keep a 'sigh' in science fiction and the 'fun' in funny books"
"Strange Attractors is a delectable book full of intrigue and adventure, dusted with self-discovery and romance. The storytelling is classic and charming. The art is lyric with clean lines and smooth curves. It's a good read, one readers owe to themselves to pickup up."
--Cat Kouns Combo
"I of course loved it. It's a kind of--what if Dan Decarlo had drawn Planet comics? The pages invited me to look at them."
"A sweet and pungent postmodern nostalgia trip! Strange Attractors brings butterflies to my stomach."
"Huge, spiraling space epic. What creators Michael Cohen and Mark Sherman have undertaken is massive, and what's more impressive is that they really deliver."