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Steel Rain
Behind The Scenes

Jay French & Golden Eagle Comics present, "Steel Rain" -The Story Behind The Story

"Steel Rain" began it's formation in 1986. I started taking my natural art ability & my interest in comics to the level of making my own comic books at about the age of 11. The original book was "The Protectors", a classic sci-fi/superhero comic about teenagers, blah, blah, blah. These guys stuck around for about 6 years. My main guy (the one I based on me) was "Star Blast". If "Steel Rain" really does get off the ground and prompts more of my creations to be made into books, I'm pretty sure he'll be back. "Steel Rain" began as just "BlackStar & She-Wolf", and was only those 2 characters. I began work on the first rendition of the premiere issue that next year. By then, I'd also created "Switchblade" and "Odyssey". A year later came "Silverstorm" and "Blockade". I finished the book (in my spare time) within a year or two (I didn't write ANY of the dates on the book, so I'm not sure). This atrocity was soon buried, and I started over. Taking a break to work on a 40-page resume comic to send to all the major publishers (which went nowhere), then getting distracted with a co-writer on another project "The Psychic Wars" (which still may come about), I found myself back with the old gang around 1991. I began what would be my first publication... seven years later. Here's a little back story and some of the original (Ugh!) sketches of my fabulous six:

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BlackStar- Based on me. Pretty simple. This character is more like his basis person than any of them. Most of the characters based on real people take an approach of being based on a FACET of that person. BlackStar? He's just me. With superpowers. And in a little better shape. I've written for characters unlike myself, and still do with the others in this book, as well as my other projects, but I find more enjoyment if I have myself in the story. BlackStar IS me. He's fallable, lazy, struggling financially, oversensitive, forgetful, wishy-washy... well, you get the picture. I'd also like to think he shows the best side of my best qualities as well. BlackStar and the comic were very different when they started. Originally, BlackStar's powers were supposed to mimic that of a Black Hole (hence the name). After the embarassing first attempt, I decided to take the "realism" approach that I'm now so proud of. I revamped BlackStar into an electrical character. This prompted a deep search in the last few years for a better, more appropriate, name. What little fan base there is for "Steel Rain" was not fond of this idea. More and more, co-writers, friends, fans, and family were telling me to keep the name. I finally accepted this and resolved to merely update the costume a bit (mostly incorporating my REAL leather trenchcoat into his costume). I comforted myself with the thought that, although the name no longer had anything really to do with the powers, it still embodied the character, essentially a dark hero. This was, afterall, the original concept. Dark complexion, dark costume, dark demeanor. Kinda scary looking, but a hero nonetheless. I've better attained my second original goal with BlackStar as well, which is to make him the all-around combatant. In other words, I had wanted him to be 2nd best at everything. 1986.

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She-Wolf- Originally based on my first wife in 1986, She-Wolf began to change drastically over the next couple of years. Something always felt a little off about it, and when the marriage dissolved and I met my second wife, I felt like I was meeting She-Wolf for the first time. Years later, I figured out that where my first wife helped create the character, it never really fit her. She's an intellectual, creative and intelligent, witty and social. She would've been better suited to a psychic or energy-wielding character, not the physical, raw, and even violent nature of She-Wolf. My second wife fit that role. Although also very intelligent and creative, she had a more "hands-on" approach to life, as well as that severe, animalistic passion. So, with all due respect to my first wife, Janie Neil, co-creator of She-Wolf and co-writer and editor of the first draft and final draft of the first issue, She-Wolf's character belongs to Karen Bartles (maiden name). Her claim to the character is well established since she and I have been appart for over 7 years, and She-Wolf's persona still belongs to her. I'm glad to have remained friends with both women, and have toyed with incorporating my first wife into the story as another character. What is certain, is that my current (and last!) wife, Laura, is already written into the storyline as "Aquamarine", a very fitting character and a great addition to "Steel Rain" (filling a most unsightly gap)! She-Wolf (which, if I were to change any name, it should probably be hers) is, like most, based on a facet of Karen, an extremity of her animal side. She-Wolf continues to fulfill her role as the uncompromising protector of the innocent and the hand of vengeance. Don't confuse her with the legions of demonic and maniacal violent characters in other comics, She-Wolf does not enjoy what she does, she just takes it seriously (and she's really really good at it)! 1986

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Switchblade- For a brief time, the comic was titled "BlackStar & She-Wolf: with Switchblade" (boy, is that clumsy)! The first "addition", and the beginning of the entire group approach, Switchblade was based on our friend Mary Meyer. I copied the look exactly, but I took a more extreme approach to the personality, concentrating on the smirking, wisecracking, ass-kicking, eternally vogue night creature. Mary herself dated several owners of 6th street nightclubs, icons of The Drag's teeming punk life and plenty of local musicians. To me, Mary seemed larger-than-life. She was always hip, surrounded herself with fascinating characters and never seemed to miss a beat. What was truly amazing to me, was that she always found time to spend with 2 poor homebodies raising kids in dullsville. She was a true friend. So I took the voluptuous, spiky-haired character, and made her a dominatrix-styled superhero. The rest is history. I have a feeling that when I have enough of a fan base to take a consensus, she'll be the top favorite. She's fun, tough, cool, and best of all, always on top. Giving her a sharp, extremely modernistic-feeling power was an obvious step. It appeared to be perfect to make her the group's sniper as well. Don't worry, readers, I won't be ridiculous with that smirk. Switchblade does have a serious side. She has problems, fears, flaws and failures. She also has courage and determination. Thanks for giving me one of my most colorful characters, Mary! 1987

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Odyssey- This ol' boy wasn't based on any one person, rather he was a combination of several acquaintances of mine. Primarily, he was based on a friend named Josef, also known as "The African Queen", who died of AIDS soon after I met him. Although Josef was more flamboyant than Odyssey, he was one of the most unassuming and sensitive people I've known. Odyssey then had a few other influences, including Steve Carver, another gay friend who had that drive to help anyone and everyone he could. Odyssey's morphing personality as I created him struck me as a journey, birthing his name. He filled a very necessary position for me, that of a confessor, a group friend. I also liked having a gay character, especially one that doesn't act like a big sissy. Odyssey is a pacifist, but he isn't effeminate. He's got good taste in food, clothes and music, but he isn't lispy or the least bit afraid of manual labor. In fact, a person would have to be pretty observant to figure out his sexual orientation without being told. 1987

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Silverstorm- This one's creepy. I originally came up with this one out of the blue, not based on anyone. She filled in a gap between the smirking, thrill-seeker of Switchblade and the ferocious vengeance of She-Wolf. Silverstorm was to be the logical one. BlackStar is courage, She-Wolf is consequence, Switchblade is skill, Odyssey is compassion, Blockade is protection... Silverstorm is justice & intellect. I also wanted a heavy hitter, a truly powerful but original energy wielder, plus I needed a flight character. I grew to love the character, though not as much as the rest. I almost cut her from the team when I met who would become my best friend, Shaney Smith. The corollations between the 2 were frightening. Although Shaney can be loud, crass and the life of a party (unlike Silverstorm), her strongest personality was that of a scientist. Both Shaney & Silverstorm are highly intelligent, blonde-haired, gray-eyed, short, and bear a hidden flair for the romantic. The creepiest of all was the comparison of the real names, from the out-of-the-blue fiction of Janie Lynn Smithers to the real Shaney Ellen Smith. I developed a new appreciation for the character, now that I had a point of reference. I could now see her drives and motivations. I'm sure she'll stick around for some time. One of the primary differences you'll notice from the original sketches & the way Silverstorm appeared in the 1st issue to the stat sheet on the connected page is that her hair is now short. This actually will come to pass in the 2nd or 3rd issue for very specific reasons. 1988

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Blockade- The final member. I was very happy with the completion of the roster with ol' Block Head. I resisted having a strong-man because I liked the idea of a female character as the strongest physical member (She-Wolf). Finally, this fella wore me down. I needed, more than anything, a regular "guy". A football fan. A babe hound. A beer-drinkin', car-fixin', braggart. Blockade's not ALL THAT bad, but he's not without his gender and racial stereoypes. He's also not without his personality quirks. Thus goes my writing approach of realism. Truth is much stranger than fiction, and whereas Blockade is a man's man, he's also an individual. He's not the smartest member (although he's still very intelligent, there's just a tendency in mutants for intelligence), he's not the strongest... well, he's not the most potentially powerful. He's certainly the manliest. He's also compassionate, courageous and just slightly artistic. I needed to fill this gap that BlackStar, the long-haired, effeminate artist and Odyssey, the nicely-dressed, "clean" homosexual pacifist, didn't fill. Blockade did it perfectly. He wasn't based on anyone in particular, although his look and demeanor were inspired by a little Denzel Washington with some Mario Van Peeples thrown in, but he became his own person regardless. I consider him one of my best fictional friends & have great plans for his story and character! 1988

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