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! ;)

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