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CSBG Archive

Almost Hidden – Hudnall and Paquette’s Harsh Realm

Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.

I want you folks to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.

Reader Kurt S. wanted to see me feature the Harsh Realm mini-series that inspired the 1990s Fox television series. Sure thing, Kurt! Here is 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).

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, but I can see why it doesn’t make sense for the creators to get involved in what would certainly be a legal quagmire to put out another series. So we’ll just have to be content with this one nifty story!

EDITED TO ADD: Apparently Harris Comics DID make a trade of it back in the day. My apologies. It is out of print, if that counts! ;)


Also there here was miles!

Did Harsh Realm ever finish as a comic?

Lord knows it was a better comic than TV show….

Did Harsh Realm ever finish as a comic?


Actually, there wouldn’t so much be a legal quagmire of any sort.

The pilot episode of Harsh Realm carried the title “written by Chris Carter”. Hudnall and Paquette sued Fox for their rightful credit, and WON. This became a precedent setting case, and ever since, even if a series is only loosely based on another work, proper credit must be attributed.

It didn’t matter much, anyways, since the show was cancelled after only 3 episodes had aired.

If Hudnall and Paquette ever wished to continue the series, there would be absolutely no legal issues with it whatsoever.

Sorry, you may have noticed way back when that the pilot carried the credit “Created by Chris Carter”

After their successful lawsuit, the credits were changed to “Inspired by the Harsh Realm comic book series, Created by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette, Published by Harris Publications, Inc.” This credit can be seen on the DVDs.

Andrew Paquette on the subject:

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.

Anyone else get the sense of an immersive World of Warcraft kinda thing here? Mind you, I don’t play those type of games, but that’s the sense of this world that I get. Looks neat, I’ll have to dig around the old back issue bins.

Harsh Realm will very soon be available digitally on the Kindle, Nook and iBooks in high quality. Many other out of print comics as well as current ones are also available so check them out @ http://www.devilsduedigital.com

here’s a little sampler, http://oi43.tinypic.com/2ancx3.jpg


Thanks for pointing out the art “wasn’t BAD.” On that subject, I’d like to say just a couple things. I always felt mismatched with Ridgway as the inker (except for the double-page spreads.) My impression is that he was more comfortable working on large sheets of paper, as is much more common in the UK where he lives. This is part of the reason (I think) that the spreads always came out better. Beyond that, he just had a different style. I wish I’d kept my xeroxes of the pencils because I remember thinking at the time “How did this turn into that?” Regardless, it is quite true that HR was where I spent some time learning how to draw comics and still had some learning to do. I think I was only 26 or so when the series ended. After that I worked as a 3D artist in video games (Parasite Eve, OMF II, Unreal), motion pictures (Space Jam, Spider-man, Daredevil), and then as a video game art director (Xena, Full Spectrum Warrior.)

It was when I was at Square that I suddenly realized I could do comics properly (see a storyboard from that time here: https://sites.google.com/a/mundusvirtua.com/commercial-art/home/film/independent/storyboards). At that point it was too late because video games are a lot more lucrative than comics and I couldn’t afford to switch. It’s a pity because I always liked comics and to this day would like to do them again. I have done a couple of covers for my friend Jean-Marc L’Officier, but that was just for fun (Scroll down to “Shadowmen” to see them here: https://sites.google.com/a/mundusvirtua.com/commercial-art/home/comics). If you look around the site, you’ll see other examples of my work. The point is that I’ve gotten better. My favorite parts of the HR series are the first 7 pages of #1 (drawn on huge sheets of paper), most of issue #2, and parts of #5 and #6. In between Harris was extra late paying me, by many months, so with a new baby to take care of I had to divide my time with other jobs, like a short story for a Daredevil Annual. The publisher back then was an incredible jerk. He said his policy for paying artists was to let the invoices stack up to a certain height, then start paying from the top down until his arm got tired writing the checks. Then he’d let the stack get higher again.

BTW, I’ve always enjoyed your illustrations!


Nice of Mr Paquette to give us some insight here. Wow, that “payment plan” from that publisher…oy vey!

I did want to note, though, that your last little comment is directed at the wrong Brian Cronin. The illustrator Brian Cronin is not the same Brian Cronin in charge of CSBG. I know this because I asked this myself several years back.

But the illustrator is good.

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