Emanuel Santana, aka Scout. Artist: Timothy Truman.

SCOUT

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Eclipse Enterprises
First Appeared: 1985
Creator: Timothy Truman
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The opening of the Direct Market as a comic book distribution system created an environment in which independent visions could flourish in American comic books. That was when Elfquest and Cerebus the Aardvark first achieved commercial success, and lesser lights, such as A Distant Soil and Flaming Carrot also had a chance to shine. Even would-be dominating companies, such as …

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… First Comics and Eclipse Enterprises were fielding works that strongly displayed their creators' visions, such as American Flagg and Zot!. This was the environment in which cartoonist Timothy Truman (Airboy, Grimjack) created Scout.

Scout, which started in 1985, was set in a near future that has since become the recent past. But it isn't a bit like the recent past we 21st century dwellers remember. Crafted in the waning days of the Cold War, when people still feared the U.S.S.R., it reflects the worst nightmares of a Cold Warrior. The world is dominated by a powerful and unified Soviet Union, with the United States reduced to a collection of squabbling regional powers, only tenuously bound to a Washington that no longer truly represents the interests of any. What remains of the U.S. is surrounded by countries where Communist revolutions along the lines of 1917 Russia have created a hostile world even on its very borders, such as in Communist Mexico and the Soviet/Canada alliance — inviting modern comparison to real-world NATO expansion into former Warsaw Pact allies and even one-time Soviet Republics.

"Scout" was a name applied to Emanuel Santana, a former Army Ranger now operating on his own in the Southwest Free States (which included his native Arizona), rebelling against Washington. Early issues focused on his struggle to free America from the malign influence of several creatures out of Apache myths. Later issues, and follow-up series, carried the storyline forward, showing the reader more of a world as different from its original 1980s perspective as it is from what we see today.

Scout #1 was dated September, 1985. The original series lasted 24 issues, ending October, 1987. It was followed by Scout: War Shaman, which ran 16 issues, from March, 1988 through December, 1989. The first 16 issues of the original material were collected into graphic novel form in two volumes, originally published in 1988 and '89. In addition, a Scout Handbook, providing information useful to a new reader of the series, was published in 1987.

Events between the two series were covered by creators other than Truman, who closely supervised their work. Swords of Texas, written by Chuck Dixon (Robin, Moon Knight) and drawn by Ben Dunn (Dynamo Joe, Ninja High School), ran four issues, from October, 1987 through March, 1988. It followed a small group of revolutionary fighters for that state.

In New America, writers John Ostrander (Firestorm, The Spectre) and Kim Yale (Manhunter, Suicide Squad), and artist Gary Kwapisz (Conan, The Punisher) told a less narrowly-focused story of the new political scene. New America also ran four issues, from November 1987 through March, 1988.

By 1989, when the last of Scout reached print, readers were only ten years away from the start of the story, which had been set in 1999. Already, many of the historical events that formed the story's backdrop had been negated by real-world events, so it was starting to get difficult for readers to perform the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy a science fiction story. This may have contributed to the fact that only two volumes of reprints came out.

But maybe not. Dynamite Entertainment (Red Sonja, Dan Dare) has put the two graphic novels back into print, one in 2007 and the other in '08. The rest of the series, and the two mini-series, remain uncollected, but the material is still there if a sufficient number of readers want to see it.

— DDM

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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Timothy Truman.