Escape From Terra

Escape From Terra runs every weekday as an adventure webcomic. This 192-page collected edition reprints the first 315 strips, two to a page in most cases. The half-page web sizes are stacked, one on top of the other, to make a traditional comic page.

Escape From Terra cover
Escape From Terra
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Unfortunately, the sepia toning of the web strip has become grey, black, and white, which makes it look flatter. The authors — Sandy Sandfort, who wrote the original short stories; Scott Bieser, who adapted them to comics (and also runs Big Head Press); and illustrator Lee Oaks — are aiming to recreate the old-fashioned space adventure comic with a distinctly libertarian political underpinning.

Finding out that these strips were adapted from text stories didn’t surprise me; it explains the wordiness of the comics, where the art contributes little to the stories. The science fiction strips that inspired the authors were never this talky. Because of the politics, there’s very little action here. Even when something exciting happens — an asteroid strike puts some of the characters’ lives at risk — everyone mostly talks about it a lot.

The first character we meet is a bureaucratic functionary. He’s been set up to be a strawman to make fun of, a collection of horrible traits to show how terrible a large, controlling government is until he “gets religion”. He and a co-worker (with not much character to her beyond being more sensible than he is) head out to a frontier asteroid society to tax the inhabitants and bring them under control. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what scares libertarians, but as a story, it’s plodding.

The stories are also didactic, putting message over entertainment value. Sandfort is said to have been inspired by the works of Robert Heinlein, but Heinlein knew never to make that mistake. I couldn’t finish the book because it was preaching to the choir, so perhaps all these faults are remedied as the strip continues. What I got through, though assumes that everyone reading it already agrees with the politics: government bad, unrestricted capitalism good, mandatory government schooling bad, kids working good, etc. It’s all taken for granted at the same time it’s explained at length. Ultimately, I found it boring to someone not already drinking the kool-aid; if you agree with the politics, though, you might find it an enjoyable fantasy of how the world should be.

Escape From Terra Volume 1 will be available in late July. It can be ordered through the Amazon link above or through your local comic shop with Previews code MAY10 0818.


8 Responses to “Escape From Terra”

  1. Sandy Sandfort Says:

    Johanna faults EFT for lack of “action.” Well, there are 10,000 comics out there that provide action, but are often intellectually vapid. I think EFT fills an under-served niche demographic, people who want a comic that feeds their minds as well as their need for an adrenalin rush. I was reared on CLASSIC COMICS (15¢ when DC and Marvel were a dime!), so I guess I got warped in that direction early.

    My guess is that Joanna finds EFT boring and wordy simply because it is not preaching her sermon.

    I am an unapologetic anarchist. If you worship at the altar of government, EFT is probably not for you. If you feel that no one has the right to initiate force against anyone else, you might enjoy seeing a society based on that premise.

    As Ricky Nelson said in ‘Garden Party,’ “… ya can’t please everyone So ya got to please yourself.” Well, I did. So if you agree with the whole government-is-bad meme as I do, my guess is you won’t find it boring at all.

    (Gee, I wonder what Johanna would have found boring about the girl-girl scene had she read that far…)

  2. Johanna Says:

    It doesn’t have to be either/or, intellectual or exciting to read. My favorites are those that manage to combine both, so they provide thought-provoking action. Age of Bronze springs to mind, or in science fiction, Finder.

    I’m very sympathetic to libertarian ideals; I’m less so to cardboard characters and two-dimensional conflicts. You’re probably right in saying that those who agree more closely with you will be able to more easily overlook the weaknesses I saw.

  3. Lee Oaks Says:

    I agree with what Johanna wrote. But, the strip is getting better. Our current story arcs are top-notch. And no-one can deny it’s success…

  4. Johanna Says:

    I’m glad to hear it’s found an audience. That’s the cool thing about talking about webcomics — readers can instantly click through to see if they agree or disagree with my opinions and make up their own minds.

  5. Hsifeng Says:

    Sandy Sandfort Says:

    “…As Ricky Nelson said in ‘Garden Party,’ ‘…ya can’t please everyone So ya got to please yourself.’ Well, I did…”

    So did Johanna and I, instead of writing that review and these comments to please you. ;)

  6. Interviews, reviews, and a Twitterstorm | Paperless Comics Says:

    […] Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary (print edition) (Comics Worth Reading) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Escape from Terra (print edition) (Comics Worth Reading) Johanna Draper Carlson on Gunnerkrigg Court, vol. 1 (print edition) (Comics […]

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    […] but thanks to Viz’s generosity, I’m reading it now. I also read Bighead Press’ Escape From Terra ($13) back at ordering time; unfortunately, I didn’t care much for […]

  8. Jamming Says:

    I like Escape From Terra because of the the more extreme form of Anarchic Libertarianism it explores. I am a registered Libertarian (I believe in freedom and liberty) even though I don’t have to be registered to be a member of the party. We are funny like that. This comic is a challenge to touchy feel good nanny-state government. The Characters always having to be shot at or in a crisis is boring to me.




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