|Type of Government:||Company Executive|
|Motto:||'Endless worlds of imagination!'|
|Founded by:||Kevin S. Ferret|
Kevin S. Ferret was an aspiring comic book writer/artist, living in Detroit in the early 21st Century. A long-time fan of the comic book medium, he had tried several times to break into the industry, only to find himself unable to land a regular job with one of the major companies. Not to be deterred, he focused on developing a creation of his own that he could use to build his own company while doing freelance illustrations for other companies.
Using what money he could, Ferret established Iridium comics out of an old warehouse in Detroit. His first comic, Lands of Fantasy #1 was self-published, with Ferret providing both the art and the writing. Launched in July 2248, the comic proved to be a surprising hit, managing to land in the middle of a wave of interest in the high fantasy genre. More issues of Lands followed, with the production values drastically increasing over the next few months.
However, it was the January 2049 launch of Space Adventure that really caught the public's imagination. Featuring heroic stories of two-fisted men of action and science fighting the unknown, Space Adventure was an instant hit for Iridium. As interest grew, Kevin S. Ferret was forced to take on more and more staff in order to manage his rapidly growing company. At the same time, sales were such that he was now selling comics coast to coast, thanks to deals with distributors and advertisers.
In early 2051, Iridium launched its single most important title to date. Engines of Justice was a superhero book that featured complex interpersonal relationships between the cast members, something that at the time was rather unusual for the genre. Its success, in spite of middling art and questionable layout decisions, was enough to garner Iridium significant attention and propel the company to the big leagues of the market. Soon Kevin S. Ferret was taking on more and more staff as he launched more books; now he was no longer the company's primary writer, but rather its chief editor overseeing a range of other titles.
The 2050s saw the launch of several more key titles from Iridium, including the offbeat Sparrowhawks, the gritty Recon Squad and the horror anthology, Seekers of the Unknown. However, it was the launch of Afterwar in 2059 that was their single greatest hit to date, despite its grim, post-apocalypotic setting. The book was an amazing instant success, but only seemed to grow in popularity over time. Even as it shifted away from its original premise to something far more fantastical and outrageous, going all in for sci-fi elements and rather ridiculous enemies, the book remained the company's best seller.
By 2064, Iridium was beginning to run in to its own problems. The first came in the form of Mechanus Invasion, a promised graphic novel about the adversary race from Space Adventure. The book not only missed its intended release date, but continued to miss every rescheduled release date given. Kevin S. Ferret tried to reassure readers that it was still coming, but each time it seemed to become less and less likely.
As the 60s wore on, other cracks began to emerge. Several new books quickly folded as they failed to find an audience, despite the company's best efforts to promote them. Several key writers and illustrators left the company, claiming that Kevin S. Ferret was becoming ever increasingly heavy-handed in his editorial oversight, making wholesale changes to material without their knowledge. In the worst single instance, a writer left in the middle of a major story arc over a disagreement.
Added to this, the tone of the comics began to shift. Once relatively neutral, they became ever increasingly jingoistic and patriotic, accompanied by often rambling and near incoherent editorials by Kevin S. Ferret himself. This resulted in often odd changes to the comics that came out of seemingly nowhere with little foreshadowing in order to reinforce this new paradigm.
The Great War and its aftermath
The Iridium Building was spared destruction during the great war, but the company itself ceased to exist; most of its staff were either missing or dead, and had more important things to worry about then printing comics (Such as the collapse of civilization). Like many other Detroit structures, the building itself would stand abandoned for decades, before being later re-occupied by various groups. Kevin S. Ferret himself vanished during the war, and his whereabouts and final fate remain a mystery.
Despite this, Iridium Comic books themselves can still be found in the Detroit Wasteland. Some of them are still rather sought after by collectors, especially the older and rarer ones. Rumours persist that the October 27, 2077 shipment may still exist, sitting in storage somewhere, just waiting to be found.
Iridium Comics published a number of different titles across several genres before its demise. Due to their diverse range of genres and mutually incompatible settings, the books were not meant to be a part of a single cohesive fictional universe. Rather, they were linked together in a single 'Metaverse' where characters or elements from one book could appear in another. The following list is by no means definitive, but rather a sample of their best known titles.
Lands of Fantasy
The first Iridium title, Lands of Fantasy was set in a more Tolkienesque 'high fantasy' world than the 'sword and sorcery' approach taken by Hubris' Grognak the Barbarian. Thus the world was populated with Elves, Dwarves, Centaurs, Dragons, Wizards, magical artefacts and other such conventions of the genre, and featured a well defined, black and white view of 'good' and 'evil' characters.
The comic featured a central cast of wandering adventurers who travelled across the lands, fighting monsters, discovering treasures, righting wrongs and so on. While the cast did rotate, the core members of the team remained the same throughout the comic's run. A backup feature in Lands of Fantasy would feature either one-shot or short-run stories featuring other characters or locations within the world. Sometimes, the two parts of the comic would crossover, with elements of one story featuring in another.
While Lands of Fantasy was Iridium's first title, by the 2060s it was also rather slow selling. Several different editors had suggested cancelling it, but Kevin S. Ferret kept over-ruling them, apparently having a strong sentimental attachment to the title.
Space Adventure featuring the terror of the Mechanus!
Iridium's second book, Space Adventure originally launched as a relatively straightforward science fiction anthology featuring different characters and worlds within the same fictional universe. The typical story featured brave, square-jawed, two-fisted science adventurers facing off against the perils of the unknown while exploring space for the Earth Coalition.
The comic completely changed directions with the introduction of the Mechanus, a race of alien robots bent on destroying all life in the galaxy. Instead of being about exploration, the comic spun more towards an intergalactic war story as humanity was suddenly fighting alien swarms from beyond and on the brink of extinction. Eventually the comic was re-titled to feature them, even though the Mechanus didn't feature in every issue.
The Mechanus Invasion was a planned graphic novel about the Mechanus reaching Earth, however, it had been delayed numerous times due to 'production issues'. Originally slated for a mid 2064 release, its release had actually become something of a joke. Recovered records from Iridium's own systems had the book ready to ship in November 2077.
Engines of Justice
The book that took Iridium from being a small-time independent publisher and propelled it to its fame and fortune, Engines of Justice was their third title. The book was a superhero story focused on a team (The titular Engines of Justice) as the fought against supervillains, secret organisations, time travellers, robots, giant monsters and other such threats in the fictional metropolis of Century City.
During the course of the comic's run, the central cast changed numerous times, but would always have at least two members of the original core team. One of the key themes of the book was the strong relationships between the team's members; two of its founders were a married couple, and one of its later members was their adoptive daughter. The team's members were often deeply divided on key issues, which added a lot of tension to their stories.
The comic is possibly best remembered, however, for a moment that was entirely unrelated to one of its stories. In 2068, in the middle of a major story arc, lead writer William Skelton abruptly quit the company after a disagreement with Kevin S. Ferret. The resulting wrap-up of the arc under Ferret was seen as rather unsatisfactory, and many fans felt that Ferret's writing was nowhere near as good as Skelton's. Added to that, many of the later characters introduced by Ferret tended to overshadow the older ones and suffered from severe 'power bloat'.
A somewhat off-beat counterpart to Engines of Justice, Sparrowhawks hearkened back to Kevin S. Ferret's pre-Iridium independent comic book days. The comic was centred on a trio of anthropomorphic crime-fighting Sparrows and their adventures in a strangely non-specific fictional metropolis. The book was noted for its off-beat sense of humour and a tenancy to take the utterly absurd at straight face.
Initially, the book's antagonists were largely other anthropomorphic animals with the odd mad scientist thrown in for good measure. As it went on, it became more and more bizarre, with robots, aliens, time-travellers, dinosaurs, wizards and other such elements thrown in to the comic. Conversely, the central mystery of the book, how the Sparrowhawks came to be, was never resolved.
It was rather ambiguous as to weather Sparrowhawks and Engines of Justice existed in the same fictional world. The two did cross-over on occasion, but they would often completely ignore the other's events.
One of the company's lesser-known books, Recon Squad was a war story anthology that was primarily focused on (moderately) realistic and gritty one-shot stories. For most of the company's history, the title remained little known but apparently sold enough to continue its printing. Kevin S. Ferret was known to be oddly over-protective of the book's title, even if he seemed to know little about its content.
Silencers and Shuriken
Another anthology book, Silencers and Shuriken featured stories of the martial arts and super-spies. Many of its tales focused on the secretive organisation known as PEACE and its battles against a variety of villainous organisations, almost all of which were based out of Asia. The book had an odd contrast in that it's martial arts content was often heavily researched and well realized, and yet many of its villains were rather crude racial stereotypes.
Seekers of the Unknown!
This book started out as a supernatural/horror anthology, but over time evolved to feature a more stable core cast and ongoing storyline. In its latter format, Seekers of the Unknown focused on a group of paranormal investigators as they investigated mysteries, sought out ghosts, monsters, the supernatural and other such terrors and fought to keep the world safe from the horrors of the unknown.
Compared to many other such books, the cast were often more "manly" and heroic, and could often simply shrug off the mind-bending effects of horrors that man was not meant to know. In fact, in the later years of the comic, many of the supernatural terrors became surprisingly easy to deal with using simple guns. In possibly the comic's lowest point (or best, depending on your perspective), the Seekers of the Unknown defeated the Vampire King of Mexico using a simple water pistol.
Iridium's most famous comic, Afterwar built on the success of Engines of Justice and propelled it to the big times. Also, like many of Iridium's comics, it suffered from a strange evolution of its premise. Starting out as an anthology book set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, the book initially focused on survival, staying alive and trying to hang on to the last remnants of civilization while fighting off those who had fallen to banditry and madness.
However, as the book went on, its stories became more and more fanciful. Among other things, it featured giant land battleships, robot pit fighters, armies of bikers invading California, cities full of high-tech Samurai warriors, a returned King Arthur, an army of sentient warrior dogs and a rock band who fought Soviet Cyborgs in the ruins of Detroit. One issue even featured an attack by the Mechanus, intended to be a 'preview of the forthcoming Mechanus Invasion graphic novel. None of this prevented the book from having a very loyal reader base, ensuring Afterwar remained the company's most popular title.
As the book evolved, its world began to take on some odd turns, even given the above shifting premise. In what was possibly the strangest one, the Chicago Empire, originally established as a heavy-handed and unquestionably evil faction with fascist overtones were recast as being far more heroic with nary an explanation given as to why. Likewise, their enemies were suddenly revealed to be far more evil then originally depicted, with again little explanation.
The book had a short-lived spin off, Breaking Point, which was set in the immediate aftermath of the conflict and returned to Afterwar's original premise. However, it proved to be rather unpopular and was cancelled after only six issues.
A horror book, Night Terrors was an attempt to return to the early days of Seekers of the Unknown! However, the book was the target of a lawsuit over its title that Iridium lost, causing them to cancel the book while recalling and pulping all unsold copies. Re-launched three months later as Night Horrors, the book never found its audience and was cancelled shortly afterwards. However, surviving copies of the first three issues proved to be very valuable on the secondary market.
Worlds of Iridium
Not a comic as such, Worlds of Iridium was a promotional magazine that provided readers with information about new and forthcoming products. The magazine also would contain one-shot stories or comics, as well as articles about Iridium's worlds and locations. Likewise, it often had reader submitted content, such as fan art. Finally, the magazine included Kevin S. Ferret's own editorials about Iridium's comics, his creations, industry events or whatever other subject took his fancy.
Originally released quarterly, Worlds of Iridium began to slip into a far less regular schedule during the 2070s. Its content began to rely a lot more on reader submissions or reprints of older material. Finally, Ferret's editorials tended to become a lot more rambling and defensive, and sometimes quite incoherent.
Besides comics, Iridium produced a number of other products, including expanding into other forms of media beyond comic books.
One of Iridium's most ambitious projects was a miniatures wargame based on the Afterwar comic book series. First announced in 2073, Afterwar Tactics was greeted with massive interest and staggering pre-orders (especially in light of the declining American economic situation and resource shortages) that Iridium was obviously unable to fulfill. Once they actually did get the launch sets to production, the miniatures were fraught with quality control issues and proved to be too fragile for actual day to day gameplay. Added to that, many stores massively over-ordered based on the pre-order interest, only to find set cluttering shelves for years to come.
The biggest controversy, however, came from the promised second wave of miniatures, which included several popular characters and vehicles from the comic. Promised for 2074, the release was pushed back, and back, and then back some more to the point where it had joined Mechanus Invasion in the list of "never going to be released" products. On the morning of October 23, 2077, Iridium released a press statement admitting that the game was no longer being developed and that Wave 2 was cancelled. The reaction to the statement was somewhat muted, given other events going on at the time.
It's unclear if the game was actually any good. If anybody ever played it, their reviews were drowned out by the controversy over the delays.
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