Jean-Marc Lofficier puts together a Writer’s Commentary on the Barbarella Holiday Special on sale now from Dynamite.
Page One: When I was a kid, most comics had an Xmas-themed special issue (as well as Easter-themed and Summer-Holidays-themed issues) that came out two weeks before Xmas. I confess to trying to imitate these out of pure nostalgia. The name “Niklaus von Klaus” was vaguely inspired by a Don Martin (MAD) tuba-playing character named Hermann von Shtermann.
Many moons ago, when Jean-Claude Forest and I were contemplating doing a Barbarella licensed comic for Topps, we had come up with the notion of a Disneyland-type planet that had ended up becoming a refuse for all kind of villains. I reused the concept here, using the Xmas theme.
I’m always very fond of comic bits (such as Eric Idle’s famous Nudge nudge routine) where someone goes, “No no no no… yes.” Here it’s “bad bad bad bad… murder.”
The notion of having Barbarella investigate a crime is not a stretch; in the original graphic novel, everywhere she visits, she seems to be called to help the locals sort out a crisis of some kind; a little like The Doctor in Doctor Who, of which I’m very fond.
A few Easter Eggs (or should it be Xmas eggs?) here: Rodrick is a rogue time traveler from the Hexagon Comics series The Time Brigade. (He appears in the story “The Grail Wars” drawn by Timothy J. Green II, available in English on Amazon.) Leonid Beaudragon is an amateur detective created by Forest with artist Didier Savard; Barry Barrison is a Sherlock Holmes-type detective, who returns as a ghost (like in the UK TV series “My Partner the Ghost”) in a popular Hexagon Comics series drawn by Luciano Bernasconi. None of these have been translated as yet.
The Guardian of the Republic is one of Hexagon Comics’s most popular heroes. Like The Phantom, he is the latest in a line of heroes starting with the Marquis de La Fayette. Unlike Captain America, he does work for the French Government, but it is not always an easy relationship.
Barbarella’s full name is really Barbarella di Gorgora; she mentions it in the first graphic novel.
Page Ten: We had a murder; now, let’s introduce the suspects! The last two are supposed to look a little like Mary Poppins and her ward. Planet Sombra appears in the second original Barbarella graphic novel.
The notion of a known, regulated portion of space called the Z.E.T.I. is a creation of Mike Carey, who kindly named it. One may think of it as, say, the Federation of the Empire or (to quote CJ Cherryh) the Union or the Alliance. Now our heroes question the suspects. Through the terminology employed, I tried to evoke a fairly advanced space-faring society.
Pages Thirteen-Fourteen: Surprise! One of the suspects isn’t what he seemed to be, but that’s par for the course for this type of story.
Page Fifteen-Sixteen: The religion to which the Matriarch belongs is very, very loosely based on some cult invented by a SF writer of the 1950s. See if you can guess which? On Page 16, panel three, the colorist mistakenly colored the Matriarch’s hair blonde (as if she were Barbarella) instead of white, and we all missed it!
Page Seventeen: The plight of the Guardian has to be mentioned at some point; in effect, he’s been resurrected in some far, far future – but for how long?
Barbarella and Maxime start developing a warm relationship, no doubt helped by the revelry displayed on the previous page. It was important to me to highlight Barbarella’s prodigious empathic, welcoming nature.
Pages Twenty – Twenty-One:
The story picks up again with a second murder, that of our previous suspect.
Pages Twenty-Two – Twenty-Six: We now deal with our next two suspects, from a world where AI robots are fighting humans, with all kind of under the table shenanigans involved. I was thinking of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, with ambassadors from sides meeting in Geneva. Needless to say, each is all too ready to accuse the other of villainy.
Page Twenty-Seven: We cross paths with the Matriarch again, with a vital clue being provided here
Page Twenty-Eight – Twenty-Nine:
We now deal with our last group of suspects. Having interviewed many child stars in the past for STARLOG, Randy and I knew all too well that some of them could be real monsters; here, the concept is taken literally, when the mood changes abruptly at the end of Page 29.
Pages Thirty – Thirty-Three:
The child star turns into a vampire-type creature and has a jealousy-fueled knife fight with the assassin-prostitute. Who says the fine art of civilized conversation is dead? Guardian handles things as best he can, but it is Barbarella’s return which carries the day. Note her empathy with the old-young space vampire. Barbarella’s origins and true nature remain an enigma, but we know she is much older than she looks (as confirmed here by the fact that she seems familiar with Guardian’s era, our era, even though it’s far, far in the past), and her empathy and desire for lovemaking has something powerful about it. When she calls the vampire-child “little sister,” she may be referring to a part of her we don’t know about yet.
Pages Thirty-Four – Thirty-Five:
Some more revelations about our various suspects. The web of intrigue that connected them becomes clearer, even though the identity of the murderer still remains hidden.
Pages Thirty-Six – Thirty-Seven: More interplay between Barbarella and Guardian, ending up in tender lovemaking. Guardian is now aware that there’s more about Barbarella than meets the eye; he asks the right questions, but she won’t reveal her secrets.
Pages Thirty-Eight – Thirty-Nine:
As is always the case in a mystery story, there is an almost compulsory recap, before the identity of the murderer is about to be revealed. At this point, editor Matt Idelson hadn’t yet figured it out!
Pages Forty – Forty-Three: Barbarella figures it out, putting the clues together, and yes, it is always the one who wasn’t being suspected at all, and because of that, ends up being the real murderer. However, I hope we provided an entirely different motivation, out of the box, as it were. All these people kind of deserved their fates and I like the idea that the real murderer did a service to society and goes unpunished. There is a very pragmatic side to the ending that I think is 100% Barbarella.
Page Forty-Four: Barbarella’s power of love strikes again! I wanted to keep this version of Guardian active in this far future era, and of course, have a happy ending. It is an Xmas story, after all!
You can find more about Hexagon Comics on www.hexagoncomics.com (in English) and I hope we do another crossover one of these days.