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The bulk of what is now RP #1 is a story revamped -- with newer art (done in 2007) and a reworked story. The original story, done in November 2005, remains in only a few select drawings (noted within), but most of it gave me times when I looked back at some of those pages and, yes...cringed.
I almost completely neglected cartooning for nearly 20 years. The rule is that when you do stuff like that, you get a lot of rust. I certainly did. But also like the proverbial bicycle, you never forget. In the months between the first composing of Cold Reception in October 2005 and the beginning of replacement pages in April 2006 on through August 2007, it's easy to see things becoming smoother and more professional (which is not to say I consider myself professional -- I still call myself a "well-schooled amateur"). I may still redo bits and pieces now and then, but won't announce it unless it is major....
To begin, if you've gotten this far and not read the almanac material supplement, you may want to have a look. There's some background detail on the Cartel as a force in Hearthstone's social world, as well as racial descriptions of the various peoples you'll meet on Hearthstone. Not required reading, but sort of like Cliff's Notes, it helps make even more sense of things.
Page 12 raised a question from a reader: What sort of protocol is there for a Tilkrig to perch on one of the larger races' shoulders? It's obviously their way of being friendly, sort of like a handshake, but how did it come to be an acceptable custom? And when IS it acceptable?
As Eidolon explains on the history page, the Tilkrig were very important to Hearthstone because they teamed up with the Prycenes (the warrior race, similar to raccoons) to restore order at a very difficult time. Since then, the Tilkrig have been viewed with a kind of friendly affection and it's generally assumed that unless someone says or indicates otherwise, a Tilkrig is welcome to hop on up, though some people (like Brom Shriker will do in Shrike Team #2) will kneel or sit down to talk to them instead. Hopping up on a shoulder allows a Tilkrig to be an equal conversation partner, face to face, and that's why it is permitted and even at times encouraged.
In different parts of Hearthstone I envision that the larger races have developed informal signals (like crossing their arms) that say, "No, don't perch on me now." The Tilkrig will watch for these signs and respect them. That's not to say that they're all that friendly. You'll see that Inspector Tyra over in the Shrike Team comics (#1-4) isn't like that. She takes herself way too seriously and isn't as inclined to perch. And a bad guy like Weiland Von Lucre (Shrike Team #1), who's so pretentious that he gives himself a surname when most Tilkrig have just one, would probably never perch on anyone unless he was going to stick a knife in them.
No doubt as well, their social scientists have put together papers with titles like Tilkrig Perching Behavior! But beyond this is the broader question of how a society would accommodate a smaller race like the Tilkrig that was so vital to its functioning. Watch now and then -- you'll see things like stepstools provided from recesses in counters as a way of giving this smaller people the accessibility they need.
Secondarily on that page, it's not out of the question that someone like Annabelle has never seen or heard of a Sanslorian. I see Hearthstone as populated by several races with only a small population, and just as much it may be that we have never heard of some obscure tribe in Asia or Africa. Brett on the other hand has probably heard of them even if he hasn't seen them, but he's more of a bookworm than Annabelle is.
The Met-Pan suit (page 14) and the vehicle shields (page 19) are examples of how Hearthstone has advanced beyond our technology in certain ways, while being dreadfully behind on other technologies. They still use steam for propulsion (no fossil fuels!) and so they have no powered flight; and so the Cartel depot need not fear any sort of serious aerial attack. Hence the force field (p. 25 ) only goes up so far; no need to cover from air attack.
Hearthstone obviously has a class of clergy (p. 15) and chapels and ceremonies of some sort. How much more organized it will be in religious affairs is something I have not yet decided (as of 2007). We also haven't heard the last word about Sevrin. No, I won't bring him back from the dead...but there's far more to his story coming before too long, probably in Range Patrol #9 and definitely in the Snowdrop bonus story...
The scenes on page 25 and forward derive from one of my earliest visions of Beamer and Bimf as a working duo (but not a formal member of Sheila's team, just "freelancers" she called upon now and then): Bimf in the role of the elephant, Beamer in the role of the speedy horse, both advancing across a field of obstacles jointly using their talents and abilities to make their way. Bimf throwing Beamer into the air was one very specific idea I ended up using. I also had an idea of Bimf's shoulder straps as holding tool kits Beamer could draw from, and that shows in the first few pages, but even though the little pockets are there, it just never worked out for them to be used that way.
Here's a background story on the "shatter" part (p. 32)...I wanted to think of a way that all four of the present team members could contribute to Sevrin's demise. The problem was what to do with Beamer and Bimf. At first I was going to have them just stand there with Sheila warning them to stay away because they could accidentally get frozen too, but that seemed too trite and I didn't like the idea of both of them frozen in action instead. Sevrin's bomb was a sort of prop to solve that, but it ended up being helpful because it also gave him a broader plan to force the law enforcement officials he knew would come to get him, to transmit his message to Annabelle. Sometimes I add props that become even better parts of the story after I think of them. Annabelle's "foot in the back" of Sheila was another example. And let me add, I had a devil of a time with that scene and wondering how Sheila and Annabelle could best confront Sevrin. Using the honor-shame aspect ended up being the best solution.
There will be a bit more background on the infusing weapon's invention in Range Patrol #5. Beamer's masters, the Sk'lan, didn't tolerate failure well (cf. p. 37), and Beamer's personal patron (who we will see was a bit more of a visionary, as far as Sk'lan go) had to pull some strings to keep Beamer out of trouble. Not to say he was necessarily better...and the weapon will also be making an appearance again much later, about in Range Patrol #9.
Page 43 offers a good example of how far Hearthstone goes with egalitarianism. Charlock naturally assumes that the Ketterlings will want to work together. We'll see more examples of that sort of thing in Range Patrol #2, with Charlock and his own spouse, and in Shrike Team #3.
This story will soon have its own attached mini-story about how Snowdrop discovered the extent of her powers while on a boat voyage to Nullabor. This will be accessible to subscribers only! We'll also get some insight into how Cartel piracy affects some of the everyday peoples of Hearthstone.
Finally, the Recommended Next Read is Shrike Team #1 -- an entirely different set of characters on the other side of Hearthstone. It's not clearly connected to Range Patrol in this story, but it will be -- in ways subtle at first, and ways direct as the stories progress. You definitely won't understand one without the other, eventually.