Larry Blamire's Steam Wars comic series is a tor de force of the steam punk genre. Larry's visuals are stunning, characters have depth and the steam punk story line is action filled. Decades ago Blamire dabbled for a time in underground comics like Predator, a vigilante anti-hero, Blazing Violence, and Ace of Spades.
Steam Wars comic books begin in the year 1897, but in an alternate reality. War is fought from large steam-powered destructive fighting machines referred to as “steam rigs.” The rigs are manned by industrious crews of tough looking men. An underdog tale set in a world of sci-fi grittiness, that strongly contrasts with the typical Victorian era steam punk. Steam Wars is a steam punk comic for a blue-collar world.
Young Randolph Cribbs runs away from an orphanage and, in a defining moment, immediately knows what he wants to be a steam rig pilot. A natural con artist, he starts driving construction walkers, learning all about machines. He joins the US Steam Force but is dismayed when assigned stoker duty, the grueling job of shoveling coal in the belly of a steam rig. Fellow stoker Combs has fun at the cocky lad’s expense and they start off on the wrong foot, but when Cribbs sneaks off duty to peek at a British top-of-the-line fighting rig, Combs tries to stop him for his own good.
Hercules Class Rig
Cribbs is caught by tough veteran chief fireman Jack Duff who, oddly, does not report him. Soon after Duff is mysteriously replaced (we find out what happened to him in “Adventures in a High Hat Lifter”).
Then disaster: the hercules class rig they’re on, the Jackson, simply collapses. As often is the case they never find out the reason. After helping survivors from the wreckage Cribbs and Combs are laid up for months.
Returning to duty Cribbs tries to wangle a pilot post but when gruff Sgt. Tunney shows him the ropes, getting him drunk in the process, he tricks him into becoming port cranesman (running the left “arm”) on Tunney’s rig, the Van Buren, a nordic-style hercules class veteran (Tunney’s reasons for not allowing the green Cribbs to pilot become known in “Adventures in a High Hat Lifter”).
Cribbs is not happy being a “boomer” as it’s called, but he learns the ropes, aided somewhat by Tunney, and we get the feel of day-to-day life on a steam rig.
Out on patrol, they spot an unmarked steam rig unlike any they’ve seen. They confront the hostile (mercenaries) and are quickly fired upon. We now become immersed in a duel of steam rigs as each seeks to outmaneuver the other, played out in six pages of detailed action; almost a primer of steam warfare.
After loss of the starboard crane it’s up to Cribbs on port crane--with help from Tunney’s gun at the chest port—as the two machines come close enough to grapple—the steam rig equivalent of hand-to-hand combat. Cribbs’ “good left arm” manages to save the day and disable the mercenary rig.
The tale concludes with the Van Buren’s captain Swanson taking all the credit—and being decorated—as Tunney gives Cribbs a sly welcome-to-the-steam-force grin and says, “Tough luck, kid.”