Dave Dorman and Mike Bawden weave ‘Amazing Tales of the Wasted Lands’

amazing tales of the waste lands - dave dorman
(courtesy of Mike Bawden and Dave Dorman)

I have a very soft spot for serials.

They’re like exploring a cave of wonders; you get to where you think is the end – but there’s a twist. Then, your discovery turns into a narrow path that forks. Do you go left … or right? But, what about all the treasures piled on the sides to go through?

Well, not to get too Aladdin on you, it’s more than just fairy-tales; it’s an expression of reading enjoyment and nostalgic writing that’s hard to come by these days. When you do find someone writing in this medium, then it’s one of those treasures that’s waiting to be uncovered, and we find that present in veteran artist Dave Dorman and writer Mike Bawden’s latest collaboration, Amazing Tales of the Wasted Lands.

Amazing Tales of the Wasted Lands is a serial-based book that is set out to re-define the concept of “pulp-fiction” stories that used to capture the imaginations and fantasies of many a young fan. If you were one of the ones who used to read Amazing Stories or Super Science Stories, then most assuredly, this is a title you need to look at. However, if you are one of those who was born after your time, then you will find a degree of satisfaction in the promise of an ignited imagination in reading these stories.

I had a chance to get some insight from Dave and Mike about this new project. But first, the fact that Dave Dorman is drawing the illustrations for this project is enough to get anyone interested in it. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see his Star Wars art, or projects from pretty much any of the major sci-fi and geek culture franchises, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then you need to do a bit of homework but rest assured, your discovery of this guy’s art is going to be a real pleasure, and I envy your chance to see it for the first time.

amazing tales of the wasted lands
The Light Angels (from “The Iron Wars” / via Kickstarter.com)

Mike shared this with me:

”Dave Dorman, an Inkpot and Eisner Award-winning illustrator, has been drawing and painting “franchise” characters for decades. He’s admired by fans and professionals alike. And he’s one of the truly nice guys in the business. So, when he shared his world, The Wasted Lands, with folks in the 1990’s, people were interested to see what Dave’s unbridled imagination would come up with. What they saw in Dave’s paintings (originally based off a game project he was working on) was a unique mix of dystopian steampunk, blended with a mid-century pulp/action aesthetic, reminiscent of the covers from sci-fi novels, pulp magazines and comic books from Dave’s early years growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.”

The thing about Dave – and I’ve interviewed this legendary artist – is that he has a career history that would stagger comic geeks. He’s worked with Marvel, DC, Heavy Metal – the guy has worked on every major franchise that you can think of. He’s a comic geek’s delight. if there’s anyone who can draw sci-fi, it’s this guy. I even have a Darth Vader piece by him that occupies a hallowed space in my office. If he’s involved in a project, you know it’s going to be good. In fact, when you look at some of the exclusive pieces that he’s shared with me, then you can see how serious this project is.

All of the stories that Mike and Dave have in mind will occur within the same universe of the Wasted lands. But, while the universe is constant, various genres of storytelling will be explored. Detective fiction, sci-fi, Western and fantasy all rank within the multitude of models that will be included in the project. Yet everything happens within this bleak and grim setting.

There is something about a dystopic future that not only attracts attention but also conveys a sense of natural acceptance to readers. Perhaps it’s the general sense of pessimism that can be generated from a cynical perspective of the present, but this is a story that serves to not only entertain but to warn. In a perverse way, the pulp fiction of the mid-twentieth century gave readers a sense of moral superiority, in the shared belief that “it could never happen here”. Of course, while the warning was accepted, it was the entertainment that those readers remembered the most. Pulp tales of sci-fi – and of all genres, if you think about it, are tales that fix themselves to the memories of the readers.

dave dorman sketch
Sketch by Dave Dorman (courtesy of Mike Bawden and Dave Dorman)

But Dave’s concept for this project didn’t happen overnight. It was in 2012 when Mike Bawden agreed to begin documenting all of his work on the Wasted Lands and put together a greater perspective to the eventual storytelling that would ensue. In the last five years, the pair have worked closely in weaving a tapestry of characters, setting and various milieus together to a fine detail of the Wasted Lands and create a larger story arc that would help tie everything together and provide a general sense of direction.

Of course, what’s really cool about the world that Dave has created and Mike has defined, is that it doesn’t restrict itself to just one genre. The wasted Lands see a variety of different genres play in its scope. According to Mike, Amazing Tales of The Wasted Lands breaks with the norm when it comes to genre definition. Stories in the magazine mash together genres, often in unexpected ways. “Our main objective is to create compelling characters and continually put them in challenging situations that will have our readers on the edge of their seats. Dave’s artwork has captivated people’s imaginations for years – we’re just trying to take that to the next level.”

Dave and Mike ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. Seeing as the campaign has reached its goal and is presently still receiving funding, it has to be validating. But Mike has a humbler perspective. He’s appreciative of the backers who have shared Dave’s and his vision to see this project and his intention is to see that they create a work that’s not just another sci-fi book, it’s an experience that backers can enjoy seeing develop that restores sci-fi back to the glorious days of serialized fiction. However, there will be a forthcoming Indiegogo campaign to keep the funding going for this project, in order for fans to see the next issue develop and the world continue to gain greater definition.

A limited-edition preview was launched at San Diego Comic Con this past July. Set in the world of the Wasted Lands, Dave Dorman’s illustrations grace a single story titled “Showdown at Pine Bluff” featuring a motorcycle riding lawman known as Edge. Armed with two faithful and family revolvers, Edge, a Ranger, rides into a small mining town at the behest of its mayor to uncover a mystery of missing persons. When he discovers that the town is riddled with “Hollow Men”, then this is something that falls into Edge’s bailiwick and the story ensues.

I’ve read this preview and was thoroughly captivated by it. There’s a workable world for the story to happen, but there’s also just the right amount of artful vagueness to engage the reader in subconscious query. The glory of pulp is that there was a lot of room for extra story dimension and Dorman and Bawden have captured this in the same sort of storytelling mode that I clearly remember reading in my youth.

But there’s also just the right amount of illustration. It’s a sort of half-comic/half-novella experience. Dave provides a few illustrations to guide the reader into conceptualizing the objects in the story and reinforces Bawden’s storytelling mode. Just enough to let readers envision what this sci-fi/western world looks like and the right amount of fantasy to let them wonder.

… and wondering is good.

Amazing Tales of The Wasted Lands #1 is available for pre-order off its website, thewastedlands.com – the publication has an anticipated street date of November 3, 2017. A Kickstarter campaign to help pre-sell “Amazing Tales #2” is slated for mid-September with a street date of January 5, 2018.

If you’re one of those folks who likes to wonder, then this is something you need to check out. Or, if you’re like me, and have a soft spot for serials, then this is a story that you also need experience.

But … aren’t the two the same?

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.