Fearless Fred’s ‘The Fourth Planet’: a product of diversity in creativity

(Big Sexy Comics)

“Fearless” Fred Kennedy is living the fanboy’s dream. You see, not only does Fred get to talk comics, science-fiction and geek culture to his friends, but he also gets to broadcast his opinions about these revered subjects on 102.1 FM here, in Toronto. Oh, and if that isn’t enough, then he gets to expound his thoughts even further as the host of the nation-wide cartoon channel, TELETOON-at-night.

Oh, did you know that he has his own comic publishing imprint: BIG SEXY COMICS? Yep … all this guy needs is a fully furnished reproduction of the bridge of the USS Enterprise in his living room and he’s set to make nerds everywhere turn Orion green with envy.

So that brings us to Fred’s latest web-comic creation: The Fourth Planet. (It’s an awesome story concept with some truly ethereal art and it draws its inspiration from a couple of extremely cool and interesting sources. In fact, it’s a bit of an object lesson in how creativity works for some people. Some may think that creativity is a spontaneous process but Fred shows us that there’s hard work involved, as well as some pretty diverse methodology in his creation. Still, whatever the method, The Fourth Planet offers a tremendous amount of rich-character intrigue, coupled with a gritty portrayal of humanity in and amongst the stars.

The premise was inspired by two sources. The first is one that can be appreciated by a lot of people. Think back to the last episode of Battlestar GalacticaDid it seem to make sense that after being chased throughout a myriad of star-systems by the murderous Cylons that humanity would simply abandon its technology, wander the infant Earth to merge with whatever indigenous peoples they would encounter in a savage and hostile environment?

Yeah… that just didn’t seem to add up at all; it’s one thing to not check your Facebook account when you wake up in the morning, but to give up using the advantages of technology to maintain basic necessities of life like water filtration, portable shelters or basic transportation? It was just silly.

(Big Sexy Comics)

In The Fourth Planet, humanity is escaping from an oppressive race like the Cylons, and the planet they wind up crash-landing on is inhabited by three different alien species that have a lesser-developed state of technology. Given that the humans are the minority here, added technological advantages would not be something that they would throw away.

Seriously… didn’t it just bug you to see the fleet of ships and the last of humanity’s warships soar into the sun in that final BSG  episode? It just seems to make no sense that any technological advantage that the last of a species has is going to be totally removed from existence? What if they change their minds? It just seemed such a final and extreme step to take and would have been a lot more believable, say, if the ships were left in orbit for possible recall and use. It was such a cheap cop-out to an otherwise great series.

But instead of indicting the final BSG  episode, how it should have ended served as an inspiration for the beginning of The Fourth Planet. In a world where the humans have the smaller numbers and the dominant population has the technological disadvantage, that superiority will prove to be one of the story catalysts and ensure that the humans and the other three races will obviously contest with each other for dominion over the planet. The fun will be in seeing how this plays out.

The other inspiration for this story comes from a BBC documentary called Walking With Cavemen  in which we see several different proto-humans contest with each other for evolutionary superiority on planet Earth. This gives rise to the possibility of multiple species on another planet that cohabitate and contest with each other for their own domination and makes for very believable science fiction.

In our first introduction to the aliens on this mysterious new planet, we meet Ixandra, a courtesan of high social standing, slated to be the evening companion of a noble, newly returned from battle. We also see Ixandra run afoul of a corrupt sheriff, which shows us that these aliens have the same basic motivations as the humans they will inevitably encounter.

(Big Sexy Comics)

As for the Humans, they are led by their commander, James Borchek, who resembles Jurgen Prochnow or some other stoic-looking leader. Even though the humans are on board a warship, it’s important to remember that they are not invaders, rather they are escaping slaves who land on this planet by chance rather by choice. As we see them send out scouts to examine this strange planet they have discovered, we can speculate that the shock of being on another planet will drive up their insecurities and heighten the conflict that is to come.

This is the stuff of good science fiction. Inspired by other sci-fi and rooted in a basis of factuality, these are combined factors that create a story with what could have been. Good sci-fi is rare to find in a comic and should be appreciated when it’s discovered. Inspiration from a diverse array of sources is what makes for a successful combination of different outcomes. It’s fun to world-build and to create situations on an epic scale and The Fourth Planet presents us with the opportunity to be a part of that type of entertainment.

Artist Miko Maciaszek lends his talents to create imagery that can only be described as otherworldly and ethereal. The aliens truly have a completely different physiognomy, yet are not so far apart from humanity in features to remove a sense of relativity. The backdrops and scenery convey the epic scale that was alluded to earlier but easily adjust to individual perspectives. If we look at the scene where Lord Goswyn’s naval fleet arrives in port, we truly get the impression of returning soldiers from a long campaign, which forces us to ask the questions: who did they fight and did they win?

(Big Sexy Comics)

We have a lot of questions that need to be answered. Unfortunately, we only see a couple of pages every week which frustrates both creators and audience alike, but if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. The emphasis is on quality, rather than quantity. It’s a more than reasonable trade-off and certainly one that will pay off, especially when the comic’s completed form will be available for sale in hardcopy format at Toronto’s FanExpo in August of this year.

Fred Kennedy’s other inspirations can be found in the cosmic comic creations of the legendary Jim Starlin or Kurt Busiek. He also enjoys reading Invincible from Image comics by Ryan Ottley and Corey Walker. Fred’s earlier comics like Teuton (with Adam Gorsham) or Helos (with Andre Fernandes) demonstrate his diverse range when it comes to subject material… and the fact that his wife gave him a customized Green Lantern ring for their wedding day just goes to show that Fred is, indeed, living the fanboy’s dream life.

(On a personal note: seriously awesome wife. Major kudos.)

It’s a great story – a product of eclectic and diverse inspirational backgrounds and a passion that can only be fuelled by “one who knows” (that’s an Adam Warlock reference, if people were trying to figure out what comic reference was being channeled there). It’s really a testament to the variety of sci-fi and comic influences that are being applied in the creation of this comic and at the same time, an individual story of great merit that speaks to the power of listening to that creative voice.

It’s there. Read it, and be entertained.

About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.

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