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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 64

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at James Hudnall and Andrew Paquette’s Harsh Realm…


Harsh Realm is a comic with a really strong basic concept – it is the future and a company has developed a virtual reality where you completely enter the virtual world.

One of these worlds is called “Harsh Realm,” and it is totally unsupervised – anything goes. If you die, you die, etc.

In this world, you could gain superpowers or magical abilities, etc. Well, private investigator Dexter Green is hired to go find the son of a wealthy couple. The guy entered Harsh Realm and has been gone for more than a year.

So Dexter enters Harsh Realm, and then the adventure really begins.

The comic (which came out from Harris Comics in 1994) is best known for the fact that the X-Files’ Chris Carter adapted the comic book for television in 1999 (changing much of the story, keeping pretty much just the basic concept of a regular man being sent into a virtual world to bring someone else back, Hearts of Darkness-style).

You can read about the controversy that surrounded that adaptation in this week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed.

In any event, Hudnall really shines in this story. The art by Paquette and inker John Ridgway is not BAD, and they especially dazzle when it comes to double-page spreads, but Hudnall is clearly the key to this comic, as he does a wonderful job of going beyond simply his very cool original idea.

The character development comes very quickly – soon after you meet a character you already have a strong sense of who they are and what they’re about, it’s really quite striking how quickly new characters are introduced and then feel like they were always part of the story.

Check out how well Hudnall introduces the “Harsh Realm”…

Click on the above double-page spread to see what I mean about how Paquette and Ridgway REALLY nail the double-page spreads (all throughout the series).

Dexter meets a woman who, like him, is from the outside world who is a sorcerer here, and the two hit it off.

I like how Hudnall develops the whole “wait a sec, yeah it’s a virtual world, but I sure HAVE done a lot of killing here” reaction of Dexter’s…

Here’s another great double-page spread where Hudnall introduces some interesting ideas, vis a vis the mirrors (again, click to enlarge)…

As you can tell, the guy he’s here to find has gone a bit nuts. And here’s the cast of characters Hudnall has Dexter join up with…

Probably the biggest disappointment of the mini-series is that it is so well-developed of a world that it is a real shame that there was not a follow-up series.

Heck, why not in 2010? Harris Comics can’t possibly STILL own the rights to this series, can it? The world could still use some Harsh Realm!!


Not to be anal but… it’s Heart of Darkness not Hearts. Us lit nerds offend easily.

cool pick for though the tv vrersion was a head of its time. as for who owns the comic rights sadly unless the creators had some deal that if the company went away they would get the rights back. Harris no doubt still owns the rights.which means who ever aquired any of Harris assets does own the rights to harsh realms.

Wow, is this a miniseries? Because, if so, I’ve vastly underrated how much work people put into miniseries!

Tom, there are a ton of mini-series that have work put into them. Check out a bunch of Vertigo minis from Grant Morrison, for example, or much of Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis’s works.

Jay Phonomancer

March 6, 2010 at 11:23 am

That is a strange comment Tom! Most of the best stuff in comics in my opinion are miniseries. They don’t have to keep going and going month after month like a soap opera and can have a self-contained story. Hell, surely Watchmen was considered a miniseries at the time?

I thought the art was quite good.
It’s funny, I’ve never been able to find the last issue of this series. The three creators got together for Age of Heroes a few years later. The first issue was self published through Halloween Comics, and the rest were put out by Image.


March 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm

That is a strange comment Tom! Most of the best stuff in comics in my opinion are miniseries.

If you’ve only ever read Marvel or DC superhero mini’s, you’d have come across a few that don’t seem to have had much effort put into them.

After the lawsuit, I don’t want to have anything to do with this series. It is a pity, because it was fun. Harris was terrible to work for though, they often paid us about six months late.


The reason there won’t be another series is that when Jim and I sued (and won) Fox, Harris, etc. it was such a pain in the neck that I never wanted to see comics again. I’ve mellowed a bit since then, but still wouldn’t want to go near Harris or that series. This has nothing to do with James, who is a very good person, but that the Harsh Realm experience was no fun. On top of all that, when we eventually settled with Fox, I gave them the http://www.harshrealm.com domain and they took a few other things that make the property worthless to me, and I think James as well. My basic opinion of film deals in comics is that they are really bad for the creators unless they self-published, had a good lawyer, and an angel on the side for protection.


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