Blackthorne BattleTech (Comic series)
(Blackthorne Publishing comics)
|Development||Steven J. Schanes,|
Ann E. Fera,
|Primary writing||Lance Hampton,|
|Cover Artwork||Mickey Clausen,|
|Interior Artwork||Daryl Isaacs (colors)|
Jim Nelson (inks),
Dan Panosian (inks),
Stan Timmons (pencils),
James Wagner (colors),
Palmer Worley (pencils),
D.B. Studios Manilla
|Publisher||Blackthorne Publishing, Inc.|
|First published||1987 – 1989|
|MSRP||$1.75 (Regular issue)|
$4.50 (Annual issue)
$2.50 (3D issue)
|Era||Succession Wars era|
In the early days of the BattleTech franchise, Blackthorne Publishing, Inc. published a number of comics set in that universe: Six regular BattleTech comics plus one BattleTech Annual and one BattleTech in 3-D issue. Two more comics were published under the BattleForce moniker with the tagline "Small unit action in the 31st century"; this was intended to be a three-part miniseries but only the first two parts were printed.
None of the stories includes a date, but for most circumstantial evidence suggests that they take place around the year 3025, prior to the Fourth Succession War. In two instances, a Hatchetman is seen among Lyran Commonwealth and Federated Suns forces, respectively.
- 1 Canonicity
- 2 BattleTech
- 3 BattleForce - Small unit actions in the 31st century
Although published under a valid license in their time as an official BattleTech product, even advertised as such in official FASA publications such as the last page of Sorenson's Sabres, the Blackthorne comic series is not counted among the canonical sources of information by the current license owners, making it apocryphal.
As such, the storylines remain unconfirmed, yet at the same time there is no (canonical) information to positively contradict, rule out or otherwise challenge the storylines.
- The cartoons erroneously use standard ranks even for Draconis Combine soldiers (e.g. Lieutenant instead of Chu-i).
- Similarly, the term "squad" is repeatedly used for 'Mech Lances.
- The art sometimes looks decidedly different from the vehicles it is supposed to depict, especially in issues #4, #5 and #6.
- In Issue #4, the energy weapon on a Stinger is wrongly called a PPC.
- The BioMech reported in Frost's narrative violates 'Mech construction rules and does not fit well into the BattleTech universe; however, it could be argued that Frost's report might be false or inaccurate.
- In BattleForce #2 (Black Sheep) the Holocroft deploys from a wholly unrecognizable JumpShip that looks unlike any other known type; in fact only its Jump Sail reveals this vessel to be a JumpShip. The distinct and peculiar design bears a remarkable semblance to a Wolf's Dragoons JumpShip depicted in The Spider and the Wolf. By contrast, the JumpShips shown earlier in BattleForce #1 (The Hungry Dogs) and in BattleTech #5 (A Sense of Foreboding) are clearly recognizable as an Invader, so the typical shape of JumpShips was evidently known to the artist. In the BattleTech Annual story The Mozirje Experiment the vessel used to transport Frost's DropShip to Mozirje is wholly unrecognizable, but a size comparison with the DropShip suggests it must be a WarShip.
- Many misspellings and small inconsistencies, including the spelling of Lt. Maximillan or the Qaere Crystals which changes between issues or even within the same issue, as does the rank of Commander/Field Marshal Chiba.
The first issue of this comic series was printed in full color. All subsequent issues were printed in black-and-white with only the front and back cover in color. They include two multi-issue storylines (issues #1+#2 and #5+#6, respectively), the first part of another multi-issue storyline (issue #3) and one stand-alone story (issue #4). The regular issues were 24 pages each plus advertisement pages. The BattleTech Annual issue had 72 pages.
BattleTech in 3-D was probably intended as a separate line, but only one issue was published (marked as issue #1). It had 28 pages.
Issue 1 - Honor
- Published in October 1987. The title ("Honor") was originally omitted and the story was untitled. The title was later included when the story was reprinted in black-and-white in the BattleTech Annual issue (see below).
On an unnamed desert world in the Draconis Combine, Lieutenant "Max" Maximillan is the leader of a squad of four dispossessed MechWarriors (himself, Quinton, Han and Antonio), the "Dispossessed of the Seventh Battalion". Regarded as worthless without their BattleMechs, they are summoned before Field Marshall Chiba, who sends them to an honorable death in a suicide mission—a banzai charge against advancing enemy forces of House Steiner. (Descending DropShips in the opening narrative, with the Steiner crest visible on a Leopard, establish that House Steiner is attacking a Combine world, i.e. the Combine forces are the defenders.)
Max's unit takes point in the charge and marches into the rocky desert during the night. Sneaking through a mountainous area they chance upon a forward Lyran Commonwealth operation, kill the enemy soldiers and find out that they have stumbled into the leading elements of an enemy advance. Quickly fighting their way past some sentries they arrive at a valley where a 'Mech lance (a Locust, a Scorpion, a Thunderbolt and a fourth 'Mech, apparently another Thunderbolt) is camping, having secretly moved behind the Draconis Combine lines through a tunnel. With the element of surprise on their side Max and his comrades hijack three of the 'Mechs. Engaged by infantry, tanks and the fourth 'Mech they manage to down the other 'Mech in the ensuing running fight. At that point the rest of the banzai charge arrives and suicide troopers storm the Lyran compound just as the Lyran commander calls down an artillery strike, adding to the overall confusion. Max's three 'Mechs escape and destroy the enemy compound which they have identified as a supply and fuel dump.
Upon returning to their base, Max and his men learn that they had been declared dead when they received orders for their banzai charge. Chiba explains that the only honorable way out for them is to commit seppuku. A funeral ceremony is held on the same evening in their presence, and Max and his men are supposed to kill themselves in the morning. Appalled, they decide to escape and become mercenaries. During the night they sneak to the 'Mechs they have captured, but Quinton, who regards their plan as dishonorable, turns against his comrades, draws a gun on Antonio and alerts the guards.
Issue 2 - The Dragon's Last Stand
- Published in February 1988.
(Previous advertisements in other magazines showed the same cover, but with the title Everybody Dies instead. The appearance of a Hatchetman 'Mech among the Lyran forces indicates that this story takes place no earlier than 3025.)
When Max and his men are caught red-handed in their attempt to steal back their 'Mechs and escape, Max (piloting the Scorpion) distracts the guards long enough for his men to embark the other two 'Mechs. Antonio subdues Quinton and carries him along in the Thunderbolt. Infantry, tanks and Shilone aerospace fighters attack the fugitives and the Scorpion is downed. Antonio returns to save Max and the four of them escape with all three 'Mechs. Max dies from his injuries shortly afterwards. Quinton chastises Antonio and Han for not having thought things through, but accepts that he, too, is now a mercenary.
When Draconis Combine 'Mechs later face off against Lyran 'Mechs in the desert, Antonio, Han and Quinton join the fight on the Draconis Combine side and turn the tide against the Lyrans. They are not trusted by the Draconis Combine forces, especially because they are piloting 'Mechs in Lyran colors, but are still invited to come along as mercenaries. The Draconis Combine commander realizes their cover story for what it is and that they have something to hide, and decides to find out the truth about these strange "mercenaries".
At the forward base Antonio, Han and Quinton learn that it is going to be the new HQ base because the Lyrans have been pushed back, and that Commander Chiba is expected to come here shortly. The three "mercenaries" are to be commended for their actions, but they fear that Chiba will recognize them and order their deaths.
Concerned about the condition of their 'Mechs, Antonio begins repairs on the Scorpion. He finds a Lyran tracer on the 'Mech but the Lyrans attack the compound before an alarm can be sounded. In the ensuing fight, Antonio, Han and Quinton heroically buy time for the rest of the Draconis Combine MechWarriors to respond to the attack, but their 'Mechs are destroyed. Antonio dies in the battle, and it is implied that Quinton dies as well. Chiba arrives and comments on the bravery of the unknown, and now very dead, mercenaries. Han awakes to find out he survived the fight after all, but in the presence of Chiba his future is uncertain...
Issue 3 - The Way We Die
- Published in April 1988.
Captain Gideon "Killer" Frost tries to convince his superiors that House Kurita "is up to something" on Mozirje, but his suspicions that the Kuritas found a new technology are dismissed because of his reputation—Frost lost his last three squads and is now something of a pariah among his own troops. A cloaked figure assaults Frost as he leaves the briefing room and warns him to forget about Mozirje, which only deepens his concerns and resolve.
In the cafeteria, Frost is surprised to meet an old acquaintance of his, Andrea, but she accuses him of being responsible for the death of a man who was killed on a scouting mission and rebuffs him; at that point, Colonel Brickham intervenes and leaves with Andrea, sending Frost to meet his new command. Frost is given a cool reception by the troopers, who have heard about his reputation, but he manages to bring them into line. As they prepare for training and clean up some Wasps in the hangar, an unknown figure sneaks into one and topples the arrayed 'Mechs; only sheer luck prevents casualties. The assassin then tries to overpower a Wasp pilot in an attempt to gain control of the 'Mech and use its weapons inside the hangar, but fails. Frost hopes that this incident will make command believe him.
(The story was to be continued at this point, but did not continue in the next issue. Instead, the second part was published in the BattleTech Annual comic where it is also revealed that the first part of the story took place on the Lyran world of Devin. The cover depicts a battle scene from the story's second part.)
Issue 4 - Finals
- Published in July 1988.
The narrator, Patrick Morgan, is a cadet at the Meistmorn Academy on the Federated Suns planet of Doneval II. Under the tutelage of Major Sergei "Death's Head" Vang, famous for surviving a fight against the Black Widow Company, the narrator and his class, consisting of himself, Jason Kilgore, Chris Adams, Dar Johannson and Stacey Hooper, embark on maneuvers in Stingers for their finals. Major Vang is coming along in a Shadow Hawk.
During the maneuver, they encounter the Fire Lance of the Black Widow Company. Lieutenant Takiro Ikeda of the Black Widows demands their surrender, but Johannson opens fire and is downed by the return fire. Outmatched, the cadets try to evade the Black Widows and manage to down Nikolai Koniev's Wasp in the ensuing running fight. Morgan finds out that his laser is damaged which he believes is because of damage taken during the fighting or the flight. Meanwhile, Ikeda defeats Vang in a personal match. At Koniev's defeat, Ikeda recognizes Vang's skill as a teacher and offers him a place in House Kurita. Vang declines, yet since Ikeda gave his word, the Black Widows move off nevertheless, without delivering killing blows to Vang and his students.
Kilgore was killed in the fight. Before dying he had confessed to Morgan that he had disconnected his laser so that Morgan would look bad to Hooper in the finals. During the debriefing, Morgan realizes that teamwork ultimately saved them, and decides not to mention what Kilgore did.
The surviving cadets form a successful lance that becomes known as the "Death's Head March", which the narrator calls "one of the finest lances anywhere, with a list of victories as long as a comm antenna".
(This story recounts a scenario from Tales of the Black Widow Company which is also referred to in the Stinger entry in Technical Readout: 3025 and the write-up for notable Shadow Hawk pilot Sergei Vang from the same book. Although no date is given, conjecture and information from Tales of the Black Widow Company suggest this battle to take place in ca. mid-3024.)
Issue 5 - A Sense of Foreboding
- Published in September 1988.
Rene Gerant, a sentry ostensibly in service to House Centrella and the Magistracy of Canopus, sneaks aboard the Union-class DropShip Faultless on Canopus II just before it takes off. After the DropShip has docked with a JumpShip and emerged at its destination he is discovered and shot, but not before he can send off a radio message to warn Lord Corwan Walkner on the Free Worlds League planet of Vakarel, the Canopian raiders' target.
MAF Major Akii-Bua, the commander of the approaching DropShip, suggests via an open comm line that the local forces should surrender. Count Walkner summons a meeting with the nobles and leaders on the planet to discuss the situation. ComStar Precentor Cirilo includes himself in the meeting despite not having been invited. The assembled nobility discuss how Janos Marik and the Free Worlds League seem not to care about "this blizzard-cursed ball of ice" and start bickering among each other. Mercenary Lieutenant Vaughn of the Bowman Banshees (later revealed to be a sub-unit of Langendorf's Lancers) thinks the battle damage to his 'Mechs will cost more than he is going to earn, and initially declares that his Banshees will take the field, but surrender under the Ares Conventions after the first shot; later he agrees to fight. He has secret dealings with Precentor Cirilo, who seems to have an agenda of his own. Similarly, Count Walkner and his wife Trista are the only ones who know of a fortune of Qaere Crystals beneath Vakarel's surface and wonder if it was the Canopians who learned of this secret and made the geologists disappear.
The 'Star Veil', Vakarel's turbulent atmosphere with perpetual blizzards, does not permit the use of flying craft smaller than a DropShip, precluding the deployment of aerospace fighters. This means the battle will be decided on the ground, but it also means the defenders cannot be sure of the enemy disposition until the DropShip lands.
The defenders finally rally under House Walkner's banner and prepare for battle. They field two functional Hermes II plus a third, heavily damaged one, at least one Ostscout, an Assassin and four Hunter tanks, and a small impromptu infantry unit in light environmental suits. The mercenaries under Vaughn's command have six 'Mechs including his Orion, a Centurion and a Vulcan; furthermore, House Walkner's armory contributes two Sniper Artillery Pieces and a store of vibrabombs. Sergeant Miranda, Vaughn's second-in-command, is attacked by a native Ugmar on the way to her Vulcan. Vaughn and a Tech shoot the beast and drive it off, but Miranda suffers a cold shock from exposure and damage to her lungs, requiring her treatment in a defrost chamber.
Two days later, the enemy DropShip is reported to have landed.
Issue 6 - The Nature of War
- Published in December 1988.
This issue continues the previous issue's story of a raid by Magistracy of Canopus troops against the FWL world of Vakarel:
The defending 'Mechs and tanks take up their positions; Sergeant Miranda reports back for duty. Sir Boddicker in his Ostscout lures the attackers into a minefield, disabling four out of five enemy Cicadas and escaping from the last enemy into rugged terrain. Lady Evraux's tank squad, on the other hand, is surprised by Griffins in the Canyon of Chaldis and utterly destroyed, destroying one Griffin in return. While the mercenaries face off against two Canopian Warhammers, taking casualties, other attackers are lured into an artillery barrage by Captain Vandiveer who used the damaged Hermes II as a decoy.
Count Walkner is determined to defend the ostensibly worthless planet; after the geologists have mysteriously vanished, only he and his wife know of the Qaere Crystals that can be found on Vakarel. When enemy forces come close to the compound, he tells his wife to prepare to destroy the survey documents showing the location of the crystals.
Ultimately, the two 'Mech forces clash in a final battle in the Vale of Boreas and the Canopian invaders are defeated. Major Akii-Bua is taken prisoner and agrees to join the forces of House Walkner as a Corporal.
Lord Corwan Walkner is honestly disturbed by the casualties of the battle. In the aftermath of the fighting, Lieutenant Vaughn demands payment from Precentor Cirilo who obviously hired the mercenaries and offered him extra money to defend Vakarel. When Count Walkner orders Cirilo to send a message to Duke Halas of Oriente, requesting additional troops, Precentor Cirilo openly declines, renounces his ComStar ties and explains that he is aware of the Qaere Crystals; it was him who "disposed of" the geologists. Just as Cirilo begins a speech to take over Vakarel with the help of Lieutenant Vaughn's mercenaries, he is shot by another ComStar member who explains that Precentor Cirilo knew too much about the order to be allowed to leave. Vaughn attempts to collect his promised payment at gunpoint, but is dissuaded by Lady Walkner who threatens him with a flamer. Vaughn surrenders and is handed over to ComStar for having conspired with the traitor Cirilo.
Later, Lady Walkner informs her husband that she went ahead and destroyed all documents about the Qaere Crystals. Shaken with the recent outbreak of violence that the crystals caused, they both agree to forget about them.
- Published in March 1989.
The first story, Honor, is a black-and-white reprint (as opposed to the full-color print of the first part in issue #1) of the story from the first two issues that has been combined into a single story.
The second story, The Mozirje Experiment, is a stand-alone story that also continues the story begun in issue #3. It is narrated by Frost as he enters a log report:
After Gene busted his leg in the assassination attempt in the hangar on Devin, the lance consists of only three people: Frost in his Crusader, Loeb in a Wasp and Roger in a Locust. They descend on Mozirje aboard the DropShip Sphinx and make planetfall just outside a Draconis Combine compound. Approaching the enemy research station, they come under artillery fire, and as they reach the compound and begin to destroy it, four Land-Air 'Mechs attack them (Roger erroneously reports only three). Loeb rips the roof off from a command building and demands the staff surrender. When they refuse, he kills them all.
Shocked at Loeb's brutality, Frost leaves his 'Mech and enters the compound to find documents about the secret weapon that was supposedly researched here. In the meantime the LAMs destroy the Locust and Loeb in his Wasp performs a kamikaze jump into one of them, destroying both 'Mechs. Frost returns to his own 'Mech to rejoin the fight but cannot save his lance.
Shortly afterwards, Frost is attacked by a monstrous device resembling a cross between a BattleMech and a dinosaur. His missiles expended, Frost's Crusader is pummeled in hand-to-hand combat. The strange enemy 'Mech turns out to be unmanned: Its head assembly opens to reveal an energy weapon instead of a cockpit. Frost runs away and remembers how he took the reports about both medical supplies and 'Mech parts being stockpiled here to mean an invasion was being prepared. Now he realizes that they were used to build an unmanned BioMech.
Retreating to the research compound, Frost dodges an attack from the BioMech that hits the power generators instead. He remembers that the Draconis Combine tends to use primitive, unstable power plants on outposts like this and runs for his life in his battered Crusader, but has not yet cleared the area when the explosion of the underground reactor destroys his assailant and the entire research station.
Having blacked out in that last explosion, Frost awakens to realizes that once again he is the only survivor of his unit and that his story is fantastic, bordering on the unbelievable. As the DropShip descends to pick him up, he muses about the price his Crusader will fetch back on Devin—Frost is willing to retire early.
(The story is undated. While on approach to Mozirje, Frost's spheroid DropShip is shown near an oblong spaceship with gun ports. A small part of this ship's nose is covered by the DropShip in front of it, indicating by comparison that it is very large, roughly a kilometer long, and thus apparently a WarShip; it is larger than all known DropShip classes by an order of magnitude. This in turn suggests the story takes place in a time when WarShips were not yet extinct in the Inner Sphere, presumably in the early Succession Wars era of the late twenty-eighth century.)
BattleTech in 3-D Issue 1 - Return of the Silent Man
- Published in Spring 1989.
At Pynchon Base, the Federated Suns stronghold on the contested border world of Frazier, a man called Uriah returns to confront Morris, now the commanding officer of the Black Panther Company. Uriah, the unit's former commander, was left for dead on Shinonoi two years ago. He kills Morris' second-in-command with a throwing knife when he tries to draw a gun and proceeds to install himself as the unit's commander again, presenting a contract with House Davion.
Outside, Captain Uriah is greeted by Abbot who is glad about Uriah's return and recounts how Morris took command of the unit after returning from a mission in the mountains without Uriah. Private Morris simply assumed command in a subsequent attack after Uriah's second gunny was killed in an air strike.
Morris later meets with a shadowy contact and complains about Uriah getting command of the unit and even a contract. The other man tells him that Morris was promised nothing—Uriah must die again, or Morris will not retain command. Meanwhile, Uriah meets his former unit at their barracks and chastises them for their lax attitude. He fights down a bully who maintains that Morris is in command now, then orders the unit to march out in the morning. However, on the next morning only Abbot appears and tells Uriah the others have gone on strike. Uriah grabs a submachine gun and fires at the barracks to drive the men out, then orders them on the mission.
They are attacked by unknown assailants in conventional fighters, 'Mechs and Land-Air 'Mechs. During the fight it turns out that Morris had supplied Davion transponders to the enemy 'Mechs so that they are difficult to target. He confesses as much to Uriah and tries to kill him in the chaos of battle, but Abbot in his Warhammer shoots Morris' BattleMaster from behind after recording the entire confession. Friendly aerospace forces then drive off the attackers.
Abbot asks Uriah if he should turn in his recordings, but Uriah tells him to delete them. As far as their employer is concerned, Morris died a hero's death on the battlefield.
BattleForce - Small unit actions in the 31st century
A separate line from the BattleTech comics, the BattleForce series was meant to run for three issues. The first issue was full-color, the second was black-and-white with color covers. A third was announced, but never printed. An advertisement in BattleTech Issue #4 read:
BattleForce #1 - The Federated Suns prepare for a last desperate stand against the Capellan Confederation. But they're using the newly recruited Corporal Nazerine Lugosi and her ragtag Abel Company as front-line "expendables"!
BattleForce #2 - Abel Company realizes they've been double-crossed when they find out the Federation command has abandoned them as "expendable."
BattleForce #3 - The End!? Abandoned by the Federation, Able [sic] Company is the last hope against overwhelming forces of House Liao!
Conjectural information suggests that the storyline takes place between 3023 (the introduction date of the Hatchetman; one such 'Mech is seen in the background in a scene at Refinery City) and the outbreak of the Fourth Succession War in 3028.
Issue 1 - The Hungry Dogs
- Published in November 1987.
Despite her outstanding combat performance, Federated Suns Corporal Nazerine Lugosi is put in charge of Dog Lance, Abel Company, a company of misfits and troublemakers of the Second Crucis Lancers Regiment. It is made clear to her that this is not a promotion.
The Capellan Confederation has been maintaining settlements and geological survey teams for more than seven years on Tibolt, a small periphery world in disputed territory just outside the Confederation's borders near the Federated Suns. Tibolt is in the process of being conquered by the First regiment of Miller's Marauders, a mercenary unit working for the Federated Suns. The Capellan leaders are at a loss as to why anybody would invade this rather worthless world. Still, they decide to defend it on a matter of principle and because they want to sell the mining rights to Ceres Metals.
On New Syrtis, Duke Michael Hasek-Davion talks about his plans regarding Tibolt to Fencik, a servant, but does not reveal any details besides being deeply involved in the situation. He is obviously behind the entire clandestine operation.
Checking on her new command in Abel Company, Lugosi finds them right after some members fought over spare parts. Before she can finish her inspection, however, all officers are recalled to the briefing room where the Tibolt situation is explained: The mercenaries are encountering heavy resistance at Refinery City, the capital, and Capellan reinforcements are moving in from the outlying mining districts. The Federated Suns intend to reinforce their attack force by dropping a 'Mech lance in the way of the approaching reinforcements to pick them off separately, one after another. Lugosi volunteers her unit for the assignment.
Dog Lance embarks on a Leopard-class DropShip and moves out to Tibolt. During the trip it is revealed that Lugosi gets sick from jumping. At Tibolt, Capellan aerospace fighters attempt to intercept the Leopard but it punches through.
Issue 2 - Black Sheep
- Published in February 1988.
(This issue, continuing from The Hungry Dogs, was originally announced as Cake Walk at the end of the previous issue.)
Back on New Avalon, Hanse Davion is decidedly unhappy to learn that Federated Suns 'Mechs have been sent to assist the mercenaries in capturing a Capellan world as this could brew up a war. Angrily, he wonders what sort of plan Michael Hasek-Davion has, and if he should throw Michael's son Morgan in chains.
The ambush force on Tibolt has meanwhile identified the Capellans as elements from McCarron's Armored Cavalry. Using the terrain and the element of surprise to their advantage, they manage to destroy the enemy lance but lose one of their own in the fight.
Refinery City eventually falls to the attackers, but more Capellan troops are approaching. Meanwhile, the DropShip Holocroft lands at Refinery City and deploys heavy drilling equipment. Duke Michael Hasek-Davion confides to Fencik that he is even willing to provoke a war over what he hopes to find on Tibolt. Within a few hours, the engineers drill a hole into a cavern holding 'Mechs (including an Atlas, a Charger, a JagerMech, and others), but the Duke points out to Fencik that he is after something far more valuable—something that he can secure for himself if the Capellans hesitate only briefly.
At the same time the Capellan Confederation, still oblivious to the motives of the invaders and bent on repelling the invasion, sends the Northwind Highlanders to Tibolt on several Union-class DropShips with orders to repel the attackers, and "put Tibolt to the torch if necessary".
Issue #2 did not conclude the storyline, but rather suggested it was to be continued. The follow-up issue was announced with the title "Sacrificial Goats", but it was never published and is considered a vaporware product.
The teaser in previous Blackthorne publications read "The End?! Abandoned by the Federation, Able Company is the last hope against the overwhelming forces of House Liao!"