"Island of Conflict": The Inside Track....

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"Island of Conflict" comes as the last of the Hearthstone stories that in any sense goes back to tales I first drew (in pencil!) over 20 years ago. Scene by scene, I can see bits and pieces from the first (and second) iterations...

Dropoff: In the first iteration Brom and Felicity's journey amounted to taking their own rowboat to the island of the selalighi. By the second iteration their journey was over land and sea, and included having to traipse right through the dangerous streets of the "City of Sin" (though the idea of the Cartel was not yet in place, and it was not called Thol M'rtak). There was no parallel in any iteration to Gothica's encounter with the Sk'lan. We may get a glance inside Thol M'rtak somewhere around RP #8 when we introduce Cameron Derrick. It will be his wife's kidnapping there (for the purpose of being used in the prison camps) that gets him involved in the storyline.

This scene also did have a certain purpose to show that there's an "underground" level of contact between certain elements of the free peoples and the Sk'lan -- and that not all Sk'lan are dead-set prejudiced against the rest of the races. I like the way one reader described the Cartel in answer to how it was modelled: "Terrorist groups and organized crime. Stronger members of the Cartel control the less powerful, in various chains of command without any center. A melange of mutual benefits, plans, hatred and internal conflicts probably." Indeed so.

Battle with the Sk'lan: Derives from a scene in the second iteration; no parallel in the first. In that iteration the motivation of the bad guys (who were not Sk'lan, but a sort of reptilian race) in capturing Felicity was (er) cannibalism. There was no parallel to Precog and her situation or to the Chet'lyn. I did carry over Brom's seeming demise (though something like a shotgun was what did him in) as well as aspects of his recovery (though it was a rain shower, not the ocean, which aided him; and in the second iteration, unlike, oddly, the first, he could not produce vines from his fingers). Also, in that version I had the local natives mistake Brom for a god because he rose from the dead, and on their way back from the island, they came to the scene of the crime to find an idol of him set up...hooo boy....

Rescue: In the second iteration Brom just beat up the bad guys outside the cave. Felicity's evaluation of his wound is a direct carryover. We'll see Precog again around ST #10. I don't mind giving a clue here; there's some dissesnt among the K'rek'skran, and it's based on the idea that some of them think too much time has been wasted trying to subdue Hearthstone, and that they ought to seek an easier target, but M'l'strom's pride gets in the way of him admitting it. Of course we can recall some statements of dissatisfaction re his leadership from Gen'a'too back in ST #3, so this should not be a total surprise.

To the island: The Clarissan wanderer has undergone several permutations. In the first iteration, it was a giant plant-creature that attacked Brom and Felicity's rowboat, and it worked for the bad guys. By the second iteration, it was still a giant, but was the guardian of the island, appointed by the selalighi to keep everyone but Brom away until he could come rescue them. In that iteration it also gave them a ride, as here. I briefly considered letting the wanderer aid in the final battle, helping drag Ehud into the sea.

The island itself was neither invisible nor locked in another dimension in the first two iterations. The idea of Brom communicating with the selalighi does come from the second iteration, though at that time, the selalighi were just plants from another dimension and not Chet'lyn. Brom also did not have green eyes back then when he powered up.

Ashore: The sighting of Ehud's ship comes from iteration #2, though it was not that far wrecked. The finding of polarium and the splitting of the foliage is all new. We'll find out what that polarium -- with Darthex's symbol -- is doing on the island, in the Crucible of Time miniseries....

The station: There were no ruins in iteration #1, just a few "Easter Island" type statues. In iteration #2 there were ruins, but I never connected them to a precursor civilization as here. The main bad guy, and the genesis of Ehud, has changed over the years. In iteration one, the "bad guy" really wasn't that bad; he was more of a hermit, and he was also a botanist, like Felicity. He had a device that enabled him to control plant life. He ended up becoming a good guy later in the narrative train. Iteration two added the notion of supernatural beings (not yet the K'rek'skran) helping Ehud, and he had become thoroughly bad, but he didn't have any special powers. The idea to make Ehud a "sandman" was developed long ago, before Spiderman #3 came out.

The vault of the selalighi comes from iteration two, though the vault was underground. The code key had been found by Brom jammed between the pages of a diary S'nay kept, which had been hidden in a tree out in the woods; Eidolon had had to give him clues to find it. But the diary itself was locked, and Brom had to win the key to THAT in his battle with Ehud. Why not make it simpler? Felicity took no part in the battle in the second iteration (I forgot what she did in the first) because in that version she never recovered her powers.

The rest -- except for Brom and Felicity riding the wanderer back -- is all new. So also is everything else from here, save the basic element of Brom getting paired up with Tyk Jyn-Rayana.

Well, that's it for now. The Recommended Next Read is Range Patrol #7, and we'll start that in August.