glaurung_quena: (golden age wonder woman)
[personal profile] glaurung_quena posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Set the wayback machine to 1984. Vertigo wasn't even a twinkle in DC's eye, but Marvel had a line of creator-owned, "indy" type comics called Epic. One of the series Epic put out, "Sisterhood of Steel," was about an island of warrior women (no men allowed) and the adventures of young Boronwë, a novice member of the Sisterhood's military.




An alternate universe fantasy series written by a woman about separatist kick-ass warrior women that did not feature chainmail bikinis, gratuitous nudity, or cheesecake was naturally doomed to a short life, and the series ended after only eight issues. But what wonderful issues they were.

The first issue was very hard to condense into 9 pages (28 pages of story per issue). In the end, I decided to go with the political intrigue instead of the history of the origins of the sisterhood, the roommate plot, or Boronwë's final exams. I'll try to summarize what's missing.


There's an island dominating the entrance to "a great inland waterway"; it used to be owned by seafaring pirates, but now...


It is the "week of trials, the time when novice sisters undergo a final review of their fighting skills and knowledge." The best become officers, the passable become soldiers, while those who flunk face the shame of "reassignment to a menial job, such as cook, gardener, seamstress, scribe." Two novices fight under the stern eye of a one-armed instructor. One, Kelki (the blonde in the last panel below), is not doing well.


Boronwë has been covering for Kelki a lot lately. Kelki is dismissed, and Boronwë is given another chance to show her stuff, this time against a very tough tall black woman named Mayal. Sadly the fight scene had to go to get this under 9 pages, but Boronwë eventually wins and:


Later that evening, Boronwë meets with her instructor:



At this point I ruthlessly cut 10 pages. Boronwë discovers that Kelki has been going off at night in secret to meet with her lover, a man, in a horrible violation of the sisterhood's rules. Kelki decides she just isn't cut out to be a warrior on an island of separatists, and, without telling Boronwë, deserts the sisterhood to be with her beau. Boronwë continues with her exams (archery, unarmed combat, history of the sisterhood) and worries about Kelki. She gets a new roommate:



And she does well in the horse and lance exams. She and her instructor are summoned to a meeting with the princess:






The princess says that they will revisit this matter when the deserter is found. Boronwë thinks "Kelki, wherever you may be, run fast, run far, for there is no mercy for you here."

I also had to ruthlessly cut out many short flashbacks to the origins of the Sisterhood. In brief: the island was originally inhabited by pirates who preyed on the shipping passing through the strait in which it sits. In a pirate raid on a village, an herbalist's daughter, Ataluma, was one of the women enslaved. The pirate leader took her as his personal sex slave and she vowed revenge. Using her knowledge of narcotic plants, she fed the pirate king potions "which allowed her to bend his mind subtly to her will." She recruited a "cadre of loyal women" and taught them the use of poisons. She seduced the pirate king's lieutenant, and incited a battle between him and the king, in which half the pirates died. Then she and her cadre of fellow slaves fed a very special victory feast to the remaining pirates, and:






In a one-page epilogue, we see Kelki and her beau sailing past the island into the sea. Kelki knows, however, that there's no deserting the Sisterhood, and that they will never rest until they find her and pass judgment on her. And on that ominous note, the first issue ends.

I will post excerpts from more issues if there's interest. While it's been out of print for ages, you can pick up the series relatively cheaply on Ebay. Be aware that the graphic novel (cover has a picture of Boronwë holding a chalice) is (a) not a reprint but new material following on after the end of the series, and (b) a LOT more dark and violent than the series.

Christy Marx has a website page devoted to Sisterhood of Steel; she has (I assume signed) copies of all issues available for sale, as well as posters and prints.

Date: 2009-12-15 05:18 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Hey Christy Marx! Also noted as an TV and animation writer (for, amongst MANY others, Beast Wars, ReBoot and perhaps most notably, as the story editor and series bible writer for Jem!)

Date: 2009-12-15 07:49 pm (UTC)
greenmask: (Default)
From: [personal profile] greenmask
Ohhh, her! I really really need to sit down and get watching Jem.

Date: 2009-12-15 05:22 pm (UTC)
crabby_lioness: (Default)
From: [personal profile] crabby_lioness
There was also a grahpic novel picking up on this story. I've got it, but I think it's currently packed up after our last move.

Date: 2009-12-15 07:48 pm (UTC)
greenmask: (Default)
From: [personal profile] greenmask
Oh, good stuff. Good stuff.

Date: 2009-12-15 10:29 pm (UTC)
mullon: (Jade Curtiss)
From: [personal profile] mullon
I can't tell if "More realistic Amazons" is intentially oxymoronic or not.

Date: 2009-12-15 11:05 pm (UTC)
furioussterling: (Default)
From: [personal profile] furioussterling
This is pretty interesting, I'd love to see more.

Date: 2009-12-16 03:32 am (UTC)
skywaterblue: (The Death Star is Not a Moon)
From: [personal profile] skywaterblue
This was a totally excellent post! I'd love to see more. I love it when a s_d post exposes me to something pretty obscure.

Date: 2009-12-16 03:41 am (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
The character art's not bad, pretty decent for the day. But the backgrounds mess me up pretty badly. Inconsistent perspective, things not lining up most of the time, and that bizarre little micro-rampart thing in the first panel which seems utterly pointless. Makes the experience a bit less awesome than it might be.

Date: 2009-12-16 03:56 am (UTC)
gargoylekitty: (???)
From: [personal profile] gargoylekitty
Huh, I've read the first eight but, while wanting it, wasn't aware that there was more. I'll definitely have to look into that.

Date: 2009-12-16 04:00 am (UTC)
galateus: (AFO Baby)
From: [personal profile] galateus
So how does the Sisterhood solve the recruiting problem? It doesn't sound like they have a Gargarean-treaty or anything. Do they rely on novices coming from the mainland on their own to start a new life (and never be allowed to leave, apparently)?

Date: 2009-12-16 04:34 am (UTC)
sailorlibra: (emp_happy)
From: [personal profile] sailorlibra
This is definitely interesting. I'd love to see more.

Date: 2009-12-16 03:19 pm (UTC)
kingrockwell: he's a sexy (Death of the Endless)
From: [personal profile] kingrockwell
Ooh, intriguing! And since you mentioned Amazons, I can't help but be reminded of the Bana, who had a similar set-up (though they were a few years after this)

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