D’Arc Tangent: A Critical Review

The first and only issue of D’Arc Tangent was published in 1983. It is one of my favorite independent comics, and I find it sad that this excellent limited-run series was never completed, or that very few comics fans have apparently heard of it.

In 2005, I submitted two non-fiction proposals to McFarland Publishing, one for The Clive Cussler Adventures: A Critical Review and another for Gutter Wars, an anthology of critical reviews of (in my opinion) some of the best independent comic books from the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties, a period I like to call the Indy Revolution. McFarland accepted the Gutter Wars proposal before The Clive Cussler Adventures, and I got as far as writing a history of the comics industry up to the Indy Revolution and a critical review for D’Arc Tangent before unexpected circumstances made completing Gutter Wars impossible.

For fans of D’Arc Tangent #1 or for anyone who would like to discover or find out more about this wonderful comic book, I am sharing my review for the first time anywhere:


“Now I know I have a heart, ’cause it’s breaking.”
-The Tin Woodsman, The Wizard of Oz


Can a robot possess a soul?[1] And how important are the choices we make in life? These questions are at the heart of D’Arc Tangent #1, published by ffantasy ffactory in 1983.[2]

D’Arc Tangent began as the brainchild of Hugo-award-winning fan artist Phil Folgio around 1980, but Foligo eventually asked his friend Connor Cochran, a musician, professional clown, writer, and artist, to help develop the idea into a series of novels.[3] Over the next three years, the intended media for the story changed to comics, Melissa Ann Singer joined the D’Arc Tangent team as editor and publisher, Lucie Chin was brought in to assist with the artwork, and Cochran’s friend Chris Claremont, the superstar writer of Marvel Comics’ X-Men, lent his name to the project as an editorial consultant.[4]

According to Cochran, his and Foglio’s aim was “to tell an epic love story that was absolutely straight science fiction. It was going to run sixteen issues, in the form of four separate four-issue arcs, each arc the equivalent of a single novel or feature film.”[5] It was a daring plan for the time. Limited series and graphic novels were still unproven innovations in the comic book industry, romance comics had fallen out of favor during the Sixties, and science fiction had rarely fared well in the comics market.[6]

01-08@7DT#1 begins with five prologues that introduce, among other things, a shadowy alien (who comes within an eyelash of fulfilling an unspoken galactic vendetta), a derelict spaceship (that has drifted undetected in Earth’s solar system for untold centuries), and the handsome Krithian field operative Stuma M and his beautiful senior agent Pavilar T. The fifth prologue is the longest as it follows the Krithians as they fall in love and decide to bond, an “empathic joining so strong that the two bond-mates become as one. His soul and hers, fused together forever.” The pair choose to share the bond-name Avari (Avari M and Avari T) before departing on a three-year mission to update reference files on isolated planetary systems for the autonomous information-gathering agency Starsift.[7] The prologue ends on the planet Khquggyai where Avari M is butchered by a historically-passive species known as the Munchers.

01-16@7Avari M’s death severs his bond with Avari T, rupturing her psyche and soul. Avari T sends an emergency carrier request to be relieved of her duties, but a reply will take several weeks, and in the meantime she must follow standing orders to deliver data about the Munchers to a special Starsift agent named Imrak. The Munchers’ aberrant behavior is unprecedented in Starsift’s galactic records, except for one similar incident involving humans on Earth, which Imrak, a robot, has been investigating for nine thousand years. Avari T’s mental health deteriorates during the lonely journey to Earth, and her only shipboard companions, a psi-dwelve 6SJ7 computer unit and an Arc Series robot designated Arc-Tangent Unit 7709, must frequently protect her from herself.

When the spaceship finally reaches Earth, Avari T flies a shuttle to a 17th-century Breton forest near the cabin of an intellectual hermit named Folgoet, Imrak’s present guise. Two simpleminded peasants, Alphonse Mouton and Raphael de Beaurepaire, see the shuttle and follow Avari T to Folgoet’s cabin, where the men mistake Imrak and Avari T for demons. Alphonse and Raphael fetch a priest and villagers, and the peasants drag Avari T and Imrak to the castle of the jaded Jacques-Jean D’Arvieux, Duke of Broceliande. D’Arvieux has known Folgoet since childhood, but he hands over Imrak and Avari T to the priest, although he refuses to watch the executions, retiring instead to an isolated part of his castle.

6SJ7 orders Arc-Tangent to rescue Avari T and Imrak. “Knowledge of the language and area will increase your chances of success,” and 6SJ7 hastily downloads a file of D’Arvieux’s memories recorded by Imrak into Arc-Tangent, nearly frying the robot’s Q-interface. Arc-Tangent rescues Avari T and Imrak from the mob, but the Duke finds Arc-Tangent’s shuttle and attempts to prevent the party’s escape. When D’Arvieux and Arc-Tangent square off, a strange vertigo sensation seizes them, “An impossible oneness joins them, for milliseconds, before that too shatters and they fall back into their own bodies.” As man and robot duel, the story’s narrative baptizes Arc-Tangent with a new name: “And so D’Arvieux, Duke of Broceliande, crosses swords with — D’Arc Tangent.” D’Arc Tangent knocks the Duke senseless and flies Imrak and Avari T to the spaceship, where they find 6SJ7 sputtering and useless. Imrak runs a diagnosis on 6SJ7 and D’Arc Tangent, and discovers that D’Arvieux’s total persona has been bound into the Arc-Tangent Unit. Before returning to Earth, Imrak summarizes these findings by telling D’Arc Tangent, “You are no longer an Arc-Tangent.”

01-45@7Starsift’s reply to Avari T finally arrives a few days later. Relieved to learn that an emergency hospital vessel will rendezvous to treat her for her severed bond, Avari T hugs D’Arc Tangent and the two inexplicably bond. Avari T is horrified and flees to her bed,[8] abandoning a confused and brokenhearted D’Arc Tangent. The robot tries to contemplate everything that has happened as he sits alone in the bridge and stares at the stars.[9]01-46@7

And that’s where the story ends.

The twenty thousand print run for DT#1 sold out, making it a hard-to-find collectible. “We did great. Great sales, great reviews, great reader mail,”[10] says Cochran. “To put this in context, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out at the same time and only sold twelve thousand copies of their first issue.”[11] Like TMNT #1, DT#1 was a black-and-white comics magazine with a full-color cover, although the creators planned to publish the interiors in color when the arcs were collected into graphic novels.[12]

Cochran and Foglio’s original plan was to split the writing and the art chores. “Phil would pencil the ‘alien’ aliens and robots, I would pencil the humanoid aliens and the humans…and we would then share 50/50 in the inking. In the early tests, however, Phil proved incapable of inking my lines, so I wound up doing 100% of the inking.” Compounding this problem was the contrast between Foglio’s cartoony style and Cochran’s realistic style. “In the end I wound up writing 80% of the first book, penciling 80% of it, inking 100% of it (though the surviving zipatone work was Phil’s), and doing 90% of the selling. In truth, Lucie [Chin] did as much or more penciling that first time around as Phil, though she never got public credit.”[13]  Nevertheless, several pages and the cover for DT#2 had been completed before work came to a halt after Cochran, Singer, and Chin discovered Foglio had discussed taking D’Arc Tangent to WaRP Graphics without consulting them.[14] Nine years of legal wrangling between Cochran and Foglio ensued, and, in the end, Foglio was awarded the original comic book rights to the series while Cochran was awarded all other rights, including all secondary rights in any D’Arc Tangent comic book Foglio produced. Foglio, however, had the right produce his own comics adaptation of any D’Arc Tangent films or novels Cochran produced.[15]

As of this writing, Foglio appears to have no interest in working on D’Arc Tangent and prefers not to discuss the series in public.[16] His credits since DT#1 include writing stories for DC, Marvel, and WaRP Graphics, creating the cult favorite Buck Gadot, Zap-Gun for Hire, and producing Girl Genius webcomics, graphic novels, and games with his wife Kaja through their Studio Foglio LLC (www.airshipbooks.com). Cochran, however, remains dedicated to seeing the D’Arc Tangent story continue as a film, and, as the owner and publisher of Conlan Press (www.conlanpress.com), has been fielding interest from Hollywood since 1992.  “I have a big epic story to tell,” says Cochran, “and I’m going to tell it.”[17]

The plot of that story revolves around the themes of souls and choices, which are introduced in the fifth prologue when Stuma M and Pavilar T announce their “desire to bond,” the “empathic joining” that will result in “His soul and hers, fused together forever (my emphases).”

02-45There are several hints in DT#1 about how to interpret these themes, but the most palpable appears on page 45 of DT#2.[18] The shadowy alien has raided Avari T’s spaceship, overpowered her and D’Arc Tangent, and is probing the robot for astronomical data hidden in the robot’s Q-Interface. The alien opens the data expecting to view “his new capital’s solar system,” but is disgusted when it sees vortices swirling amongst medieval imagery of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ: “Vortices within vortices? Vacuumless space? Primitive deities and nature magics?! Nonsense! Arrant nonsense!

This arrant nonsense is actually Arc-Tangent Unit 7709’s basic programming merged with D’Arvieux’s memories. Vortices within vortices[19] and vacuumless space are controversial concepts belonging to quantum mechanics and physics, while the Christ imagery is, of course, biblical.[20] The purpose of this panel is to allow us to see D’Arc Tangent’s paradoxical spirit or inner man, and is also a cue that D’Arc Tangent, like Walter M. Miller Jr.’s novel A Canticle for Lebowitz (1959) and Andy and Lana Wachowski’s film The Matrix (1999), incorporates biblical references to add a rich subtext to its plot and characters.[21]

These biblical references begin in the fifth prologue, which reworks the Eden story from the Book of Genesis to tell Stuma M and Pavilar T’s ill-fated story, the lovers assuming the roles of the First Man and the First Woman.[22] Young and healthy, the new bond-mates are sent into space alone, except for 6SJ7 and three Arc Series robots, by a supreme authority called Starsift to survey isolated planetary systems. Responsibilities aboard the spaceship are few. Time itself seems to pass without consequence. In contrast, in Genesis the First Man and the First Woman created by the supreme deity God are alone in Eden, except for the animals the First Man has named. As Hebrew Bible scholar Jay Holstein explains in his book The Jewish Experience, “In Eden, man, free of pain and suffering, and not subject to death, was limited only by the Lord God’s warning to stay away from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of the Good and the Bad.”[23] Avari M’s death and the destruction of two Arc-Tangent robots takes place outside the Eden of the Starsift spaceship, marking the end of Avari T’s paradise. The severed bond not only makes her suffer but, unless Starsift intervenes, is gradually killing her as she struggles to fulfill her mission to Earth. Writes Holstein, “Once outside Eden, man is limited by his mortality and by the necessity to toil[.]” [24]

When Avari T and Imrak are overpowered by the mob of peasants, the biblical references shift to Arc-Tangent. Until now, Arc-Tangent has been a passive character, attending to Avari T’s needs like a dutiful manservant or serving as the second banana of a two-man Greek chorus with 6SJ7 during the journey to Earth. Soon after their arrival, however, Cochran and Foglio wrap Arc-Tangent in allusions to the Nativity and Passion of Jesus Christ.

01-30@7These allusions begin on Page 30, the layout and composition of which are bizarre. A canvas of psychedelic nonsense swirls like a vortex around a blank circle orbited by three panels. [25] These panels show 6SJ7 and Arc-Tangent in warped compositions, demonstrating that the robots, both of whom are semi-telepathic, are beginning to suffer a psionic strain from bizarre field-resonances that Imrak has detected around the Earth during his stay. (FYI — according to the data that Avari T delivers to Imrak, similar field-resonances surround Khquggyai.) 6SJ7, the most sensitive of the pair, feels the effects first. [26] “As much grown as built,” a psi-dwelve unit is designed to “consider the universe” with “convoluted circuitry tracing and patterning a billion data points within each millisecond.” But 6SJ7 is not working at peak efficiency, and “Under these circumstances, its finer judgment might be expected to slip…Letting just one — but a very crucial one — of those billion data points slip by.” Cochran and Foglio do not tell us what this data point is, but tease us with a silhouette of the derelict spaceship hovering in the vortex beside this caption. No explanation is given why the ship appears here, but the ship will make one more mysterious appearance in DT#1. (More on that in a moment).

01-31@7The download of D’Arvieux’s memories occurs on Page 31, whose layout, like Page 30, features a bizarre large image with three insert panels. The dominant image is Arc-Tangent, arms outstretched and bent at the elbows in an excruciating pose evocative of a person being nailed to a cross, with a larger and ghostly or angelic identical image of Arc-Tangent surrounding the robot. In the first insert panel Arc-Tangent has fallen, and in the next two it rises to its feet, a possible parallel to the Passion Narrative, with three panels for Arc-Tangent to fall and rise, and three days for Jesus to die and be risen.[27] Each insert panel is slightly larger than the last, creating a visual crescendo similar to a zoom shot in a movie: first we see a tiny full shot of Arc-Tangent holding its head, as if in agony as it woozily kneels like a supplicant; next Arc-Tangent gains its feet as it continues holding its head as if in discomfort; finally in a dramatic angle-up medium shot Arc-Tangent stands, rigid like a Marine at attention, awaiting its call to purpose. 6SJ7 calls Arc-Tangent’s name in each panel, but the dutiful robot does not respond until the third panel: “Unit 7709 operational and…undamaged. Data transfer complete.”

Why does Arc-Tangent use his numerical designation instead of its name? As we will soon see, names are important in this series, and, as Imrak will soon pronounce, the robot is no longer an Arc-Tangent. The rapid download of the Duke’s memories combined with the psionic strain from the field-resonances has essentially and literally changed Arc-Tangent. This fact is evident from Unit 7709’s speech balloons, which were square-cornered rectangles like every other robot’s before the download, but now are rectangles with rounded corners. The robot’s transformation (transubstantiation?) is not complete here — it is not quite Arc-Tangent but not yet D’Arc Tangent — so the robot refers to itself by its ancillary designation Unit 7709. Later, when Arc-Tangent has become D’Arc Tangent, the robot’s speech balloons become ovals like all the human characters’ speech balloons.[28]

Pages 30-31 appear to represent the moment Cochran and Foglio’s robot begins to acquire a soul. But what kind of soul is it?

Perhaps the most popular Western concept of the soul is that of an immortal entity separate from the body that escapes upon death, an ancient Greek tradition often attributed to Plato.[29] However the Bible,[30] the literary source for so many references in D’Arc Tangent, does not recognize the concept of an immortal soul. The ancient Hebrews believed that man was spirit (rûah, nephesh) and flesh (bāsār). As Zen scholar Masao Abe explains, “A conspicuous feature of Hebraism is that the body is the expression of the soul and both are understood as a unity,” and spirit and flesh were believed to descend together to the netherworld (Shĕ’ōl) after death.[31] The New Testament champions the doctrine of resurrection,[32] and the Apostle Paul “saw in man a duality of what is corruptible, namely, flesh (sarx), and what is incorruptible, namely, spirit (pneúma); the former he calls ‘the outer man,’ and the latter ‘the inner man’ (2 Corinthians 4:16, Romans 7:22).”[33] Judging by D’Arc Tangent’s actions in DT#1, Cochran and Foglio have blessed D’Arc Tangent with a strong Pauline inner man.

Page 34 presents the first demonstration of this as well as a fundamental difference between D’Arvieux’s and Unit 01-34@77709’s inner men. As Unit 7709 descends to Earth in the rescue shuttle, the craft’s blazing entry over the Duke’s castle is camouflaged by a distress signal fired from Avari T’s spaceship by 6SJ7. When D’Arvieux sees the mystifying light filling the night sky he prays for courage: “God grant me strength. My faith must be my sword, or all is lost.”[34] Unit 7709, heading into danger, prays for a weapon: “I must be strong. Only faith and strength will save her. Dear God, but for a sword.”[35]

01-37@7The quality of the robot’s inner man is emphasized on Pages 37-38.[36] Page 37, Panels 1-3 show the priest lighting a torch as he pronounces, “Prepare yourselves, demons, for God’s merciful cleansing hand!”[37] However, in Panel 4, the last and largest panel, Unit 7709 steps out of the darkness behind the priest and shouts, “Stop! They shall not be harmed!” Unit 7709 has become a true savior figure as it strikes another pose reminiscent of the Crucifixion, but, unlike Page 31 where Arc-Tangent writhed powerless within the ghostly or angelic image of itself, Unit 7709 is now an active figure in control of its situation, towering over the priest, who ducks away from the robot and drops his cross, which was moved to his left hand so he could light the torch.[38] Gripped in Unit 7709’s right hand is a sword commandeered from one of the Duke’s mercenaries, which it holds over the priest’s torch so that it resembles a fiery sword, a symbol of Divine righteousness like “God’s cleansing hand.”[39] On Page 38, the mob flees and only Wulfgar, the Duke’s mercenary captain, challenges Unit 7709. The robot could slay Wulfgar, but it knocks the captain senseless with a punch, then confides to Imrak, “Cowards all, but him.” From these actions it would appear that Unit 7709 possesses as good an inner man as any person in the Duke’s castle and probably better than most.

DT#1’s subtlest and most critical biblical references appear on Pages 35-36. Although the events on these pages involve Duke D’Arvieux, they extend to Unit 7709 because of the link between man and robot.

Pages_35_and_36On Page 35, Panel 6, the Duke is standing in front of a tapestry of a large tree and a distant castle. D’Arvieux is shocked as he confronts “Folgoet?”, whose human mask has been mangled to reveal Imrak’s robotic head underneath. Imrak answers, “Oui. The one who told you tales of China and Amerique and Jerusalem. Who lifted you into trees whose branches you could not reach. Who shared your wine and sorrow when your father died. The same.” The tapestry behind the Duke may show the same tree that Folgoet refers to, but, as we will see, it definitely alludes to the Trees of Life and of Knowledge from the Garden of Eden.

The stunned Duke approaches Imrak in Panel 8. “Non, it cannot be! The Folgoet I knew was a man, not…not a…monster.” Imrak insists, “I have not changed, mon ami. Remember what I taught you, in the shade of the forest: the wise do not judge by appearance alone.” Wulfgar confides to D’Arvieux, “In my service abroad, Duke, I have seen many strange heathen. But they were men—these are not. Your people will not suffer them to live, nor will my soldiers. Be warned.”

The composition for Page 36, Panel 1 is similar to Page 35, Panel 6, with one pivotal difference: the Duke is now standing in front of the mob and not the tapestry. Darkness shrouds the mob, transforming the men into an intimidating anonymous shadow with eyes that blaze angrily from the gloom. D’Arvieux, holding his hands up in a helpless gesture, whispers to Imrak, “Do you understand why I must do this thing? I have no choice.” But Imrak insists, “There is always choice, Jacques-Jean … and consequence.” Panel 2 counterpoints Panel 1 with a close-up of Imrak’s face cast in shadows, its eyes glowing as if angry , but, unlike the mob in Panel 1, there is nothing anonymous about the robot, just as there is nothing ambiguous about its reasoning: “That is a truth from which you cannot abdicate.” But the Duke tries. D’Arvieux tells Wulfgar, “Let the priest have his way and be gone. But when the deed is done … do not tell me. In fact, never speak to me of this night again!”

The events on Pages 35-36 are critical because they detail D’Arvieux’s judgment of Imrak and Avari T. While this judgment sets in motion the fundamental face-off between the Duke and Unit 7709, it is the biblical references on these two pages that underscore the importance of the Duke’s judgment.

Judgment is another term for “choice,” a critical theme in the Eden story, the Passion Narrative, and DT#1. In Genesis, as Holstein reminds us, “first man and first woman choose to leave the Garden of Eden”[40]:

[W]hat really demarcates life in Eden from life outside Eden is that in Eden man had access to the Tree of Life but not to the Tree of Knowledge while outside of Eden he had access to the Tree of Knowledge but not the to the Tree of Life. Since in Eden man was not subject to death … we can conclude that the Tree of Life was like a fountain of youth. And since life outside of Eden is marked not simply by death but by complicated choices, we can conclude that the “knowledge” gained from the Tree of Knowledge allows man to chart his destiny outside of Eden.[41]

Holstein concludes, “The logic of the story dictates that man and woman both had a choice and understood the consequences of their choice [my emphases].[42] First man and first woman are “depicted as willingly choosing mortality and the world of time over the changelessness of Eden.”[43]

In the Passion Narratives, Jesus stops in Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, where, alone, he prays, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”[44] (Some ancient authorities add two verses to this: “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.[45]) Even though Jesus prophesizes his death and resurrection on three earlier occasions in the Passion Narrative,[46] it is clear that he is free at any time to choose not to sacrifice himself. Jesus chooses to proceed because he knows what the consequences for humanity will be if does not, but this does not make his choice any less difficult to make.[47]

In DT#1 several characters make significant choices preceding Pages 35-36. Some of these include Stuma M and Pavilar T choosing to bond, Avari T choosing to proceed to Earth,[48] and 6SJ7 choosing to download D’Arvieux’s memory into Arc-Tangent, but the Duke D’Arvieux’s judgment of Imrak and Avari T will have the greatest impact on everything that happens the rest of the way in DT#1 (and, one could suppose, in DT #’s 2-16).

The significance of D’Arvieux’s judgment is ramified on Page 35 by Imrak reminding the Duke of Folgoet’s advice about “the wise do not judge by appearance alone” and the Eden references (the tree tapestry and Imrak’s tree and forest allusions).[49] This is a symbolic moment of choice: D’Arvieux must choose between the Tree of Life and opt for the easy way by not risking the ire of the mob, and the Tree of Knowledge with its complicated choices which include accepting that the “monster” is “the same” Folgoet he has known since he was a boy. It is Wulfgar who warns the Duke about the mob’s ire, but the decision to proceed with the executions is D’Arvieux’s alone to make. When the Duke attempts to convince Imrak that the blame belongs to the mob and Imrak refutes him, D’Arvieux comes off like Pilate when Jesus was brought before the Roman procurator:

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood, see it yourselves.[50]

The Duke never states his motives for refusing to help Folgoet/Imrak,[51] but if D’Arvieux, like Pilate, sincerely believes he has no other choice, then it makes sense for him to shrug responsibility for the executions on the mob.[52] Unit 7709, in contrast, is carrying out an order from 6SJ7 when it rescues Avari T, but, when Unit 7709 and the Duke cross swords, D’Arvieux’s defeat serves as tactile evidence that the robot’s faith and strength are greater than the man’s. In fact, starting with Unit 7709’s warrior prayer during the distress signal, it has consistently proven to possess a superior spirit or inner man than does the Duke. The robot is, to coin a phrase, the better man.

01-40@701-39@7The duel between D’Arc Tangent and D’Arvieux takes place in an isolated part of the castle called the Court of Weavers, an appropriate name since the fate of these two characters and the themes of souls and choices are inexorably woven together here. If the Duke had not chose to turn his back on Imrak … if 6SJ7 had not chose to send Arc-Tangent to rescue Avari T … there would have been no “impossible oneness,” D’Arc Tangent may have never been created, and D’Arc Tangent and Avari T might never have bonded.[53]

Bonding and the oneness are two more unanswered mysteries from DT#1. We know that a bond is “empathic joining,” but how a bond happens is never explained. It seems to happen naturally, since choice is a requisite to trigger it. Stuma M and Pavilar T “announced their desire to bond” in the fifth prologue, and, at the end of DT#1, Avari T makes the subconscious choice to bond with D’Arc Tangent:

From deep beneath her own conscious awareness she reaches out [and] the Duke’s emotions and the machine’s semi-telepathic nature interact. A need is felt, and answered. A choice is made; a circuit closes.

Why did Avari T choose to bond with D’Arc Tangent? There is no way to know for sure, but it is obvious that she did make the choice and that was enough to trigger the bond.[54] At first Avari T cannot “accept the consequence of her choice” and flees to the bed she had shared with Avari M. Shivering under the covers, staring at decorative bubbles swirling like vortices overhead, she will try to deny that she made the subconscious decision to bond with D’Arc Tangent, but ultimately (we assume) she will have no choice but to face the fact that she did.[55]

adAs for the oneness experienced by Unit 7709 and the Duke, it does not appear to be a bond. Neither robot nor man makes any sort of choice to trigger it, so, unlike the bond, the oneness does not appear to happen naturally, and, where the bond forever fuses souls together,[56] the oneness lasts only “milliseconds” before Unit 7709 and the Duke “fall back into their own bodies. Separate again, but not as they were.”[57] They are changed but in no way fused together. As for what may have triggered the oneness, our only clue appears in Page 39, Panel 7, where Unit 7709 and the Duke appear in close-ups, “caught in a vortex totally beyond understanding,” and that vortex is in the incongruous shape of the derelict spaceship. Just like on Page 30, no explanation is given why the ship appears here, although it seems logical to suppose that it (or someone or something in the ship) is responsible for the oneness. The ship may even be serving as the conduit between what Cochran and Foglio refer to as “the simulacrum and the real.”

Even if this supposition is accurate, we are still faced with yet another set of questions: “Why do this? What’s the purpose?” In a story where the theme of choice is so important, it may be that choice is the answer. Let us suppose that whoever is responsible for the field-resonances on Earth and Khquggyai is also responsible for what happens to Unit 7709 and the Duke. (There is nothing in DT#1 to suggest this isn’t the case.) Why wouldn’t whoever caused the violent anomalies in humans and the Munchers be fascinated by a machine affected by the field-resonances and housing a human’s lifetime of memories in its Q-Interface? This same whoever could have chosen to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity, imbuing Unit 7709 with the Duke’s persona before their duel to create a technological anomaly.

01-42@7While a robot with a human persona is an intriguing concept, it appears not everyone in D’Arc Tangent would approve. When Imrak informs D’Arc Tangent that it is no longer an Arc-Tangent, D’Arc Tangent asks, “What am I then?”

“Easier to say what you are not. You are not wholly Krithian nor human, man nor machine.”

“Is that bad?” D’Arc Tangent asks as it looks at a window. Instead of seeing its reflection, it sees the Duke D’Arvieux.

“Starsift will think so,” Imrak replies, but explains no more.

Why would Starsift think so? Cochran and Foglio wanted to create “absolutely straight science fiction,” so Starsift’s objection could be the straightforward science fiction anxiety about machines revolting to replace man,[58] but in light of D’Arc Tangent’s subtext and biblical references this almost seems too pat. Perhaps there is more. Perhaps Imrak confided more to D’Arc Tangent than it intended when it said that D’Arc Tangent is “not wholly Krithian nor human, man nor machine.” Could Imrak, who came to Earth over seven thousand years before the birth of Christ, and who told the young D’Arvieux tales of Jerusalem, have used “wholly” as a pun? Considering Imrak’s background, the robot agent ought to know that biblical Hebrews defined the adjective “holy” differently than do most modern cultures. Today we tend to use “holy” to refer to something consecrated or sacred,[59] but in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament “holy” denotes separateness. To be “holy” is to be “set apart.”[60] When Cochran and Foglio wrapped D’Arc Tangent in Nativity and Passion references they were emphasizing that D’Arc Tangent is “holy” in the biblical sense. D’Arc Tangent is not wholly Krithian or human because it is separate or set apart from Krithian and human, and not wholly man nor machine because it is separate or set apart from man and machine.

Even if Imrak was not making a pun, D’Arc Tangent’s holiness is still emphasized by its name. As stated earlier, names are important in DT#1 (e.g., the Court of Weavers), and in literature, especially biblical literature, names often have subtextual meanings. An example of this can be found on Page 11 of DT#2, where Avari T watches a holographic recording of her and Avari M discussing what their bond name should be:

Avari_pageAvari T: I don’t know, M. It’s a little unusual.

Avari M: But perfect for us. I’m a maverick. So are you,beneath that supervisor’s veneer — why should our bond name be traditional?

Avari T: Can we use the Jzen version, “Avari”? In that dialect it means “destined.”[61]

Besides being Jzen for “destined,” Avari is an American female name that means “of the heavens, from the sky,”[62] an apt description for an alien who comes to Earth.

Examples of other names with subtextual meanings in DT#1 include the peasants who first see Avari T on Earth, the timid Alphonse Mouton (whose last name is French for “sheep”) and the theologically optimistic Raphael de Beaurepaire (whose first name is the same as Raphael the Archangel, the force behind the heeling power of the sheep pool in John 5:1-4).[63]

The most crucial name in D’Arc Tangent is, of course, D’Arc Tangent. The name “D’Arc” is an amalgam of “Arc” (from Arc-Tangent) and “D’Arvieux,” and D’Arc Tangent is an amalgam of Arc-Tangent Unit 7709[64] and D’Arvieux, Duke of Broceliande. As for “Tangent,” this word has a variety of definitions that orbit one idea:

 A tangent is a line that touches a circle at only one point without intersecting it. In common speech, it refers to a line of thought that does not follow the course of the current conversation. In mathematics, it is the ratio of the sides opposite and adjacent to the acute angle in a triangle. In music, it is an upright pin that creates pitch in a keyboard instrument by stopping the string at a precise length. Each of these ideas can be considered a variation of the “touching but not intersecting” idea (my emphasis).[65]

The name D’Arc Tangent suggests that the robot touched humanity when the Duke’s total persona was loaded into its Q-Interface during the impossible oneness, but also suggests that D’Arc Tangent will never intersect with humanity. D’Arc Tangent may see the reflection of a man (the Duke) when it looks into a glass, and may possess an inner man (and a good one), but the robot is no more a real man than is its reflection.[66]

Why will Starsift disapprove of D’Arc Tangent? Instead of fearing that D’Arc Tangent is the first step in the evolution of machine over man, Starsift might condemn something about D’Arc Tangent’s built-in holiness.

But what?

To find that out, we must consider the final and most frustrating unanswered questions from DT#1: “Why is D’Arc Tangent a better man than the Duke D’Arvieux and, for that matter, a better man than 6SJ7?” Arc-Tangent Unit 7709’s origin is never told in DT#1, but there is nothing to suggest that the robot is anything more than an average Arc Series[67] whose job (up until Page 31) is to serve its Krithian commanders. 6SJ7 is also a servant, but, unlike an Arc Series, the psi-dwelve is “as much grown as built” to “consider the universe.” On Page 30 we are told that this “simple mapping run” was conducted “under its guidance,” and it is 6SJ7 that orders Arc-Tangent to rescue Avari T. 6SJ7 is the superior machine, in more ways than one, but the psi-dwelve is the first to crack from the psionic strain of the field-resonances, and by the time D’Arc Tangent and Imrak return Avari T to her spaceship 6SJ7’s “high level tracks are totally dysfunctional” and its “lesser tracks [are] damaged, but still functional.” Basically, it’s fried. Meanwhile, field reports Imrak filed to Starsift along with the copy of the Duke’s memories indicate that D’Arvieux is an above-average man, yet, during the rescue of Avari T, D’Arc Tangent behaves better than the Duke.


Remember that the ancient Hebrews believed that “the body is the expression of the soul and both are understood as a unity.”[68] Mathematician and philosopher William Dembski, a researcher in the theory of intelligent design, which attempts to deduce if man was created by an intelligent designer, points out that:

An object that is designed functions within certain design constraints. Transgress those constraints and the object functions poorly or breaks … This simple insight has tremendous implications not just for science but for ethics. If humans are in fact designed, then we can expect psychosocial constraints to be hardwired into us. Transgress those constraints and we personally as well as our society will suffer.[69]

It would seem that D’Arc Tangent is hardwired better than 6SJ7 and D’Arvieux. We know that D’Arc Tangent, unlike 6SJ7, possesses an inner man, without which even a psi-dwelve built to consider the universe will apparently suffer the equivalent of a nervous breakdown after prolonged or intense exposure to the mysterious field-resonances.[70] As for the Duke, his inner man and outer man (flesh) prove inferior to D’Arc Tangent’s during the duel in the Court of Weavers. D’Arc Tangent’s physical victory is hardly a surprise, but, even before the oneness, Unit 7709 demonstrated it possessed a superior spirit to D’Arvieux. If the ancient Hebrews were correct and “the body is the expression of the soul and both are understood as a unity,” and if, as the Apostle Paul believed, flesh is corruptible but spirit is incorruptible, it would seem axiomatic that a living machine and its superior sarx will possess a superior pneúma to man. A humbling thought for us humans. So humbling, perhaps, that Starsift might disapprove of the change in D’Arc Tangent.

There is much more that could be plumbed from D’ARC TANGENT’s subtexts and biblical references — such as allusions of Wulfgar to Eden’s serpent and Avari T to the Virgin Mary[71] — but it might be best to conclude this review by examining the significance of D’Arc Tangent’s outer man.

Cochran and Foglio wanted to tell a straight science fiction story and an epic love story. It is a hallmark of romance and Romantic literature that “Soul is form and doth the Body make.”[72] This sentiment dovetails nicely with the Hebrew concept of body and soul, and, as we have already seen, it is particularly true of D’Arc Tangent’s titular character.


Rafael Sabatini

Like the contemporary science fiction novels of Tim Powers (The Anubis Gate, On Stranger Tides), D’Arc Tangent integrates elements common to the works of Rafael Sabatini, the author of several popular early 20th-century historical-romances, including Captain Blood, The Hounds of God, and The Sword of Islam. Sabatini, a gifted linguist and historian, filled his novels with winning dialogue and historical details, and challenged his characters’ chivalry and honor by putting their beliefs as well as their lives in peril. A number of Sabatini’s romances, such as Bardelys the Magnificent and The Lion’s Skin, have at least part of their story take place in 17th-century France, like D’Arc Tangent. The typical Sabatini hero is a young buck, sometimes of noble birth, generally well educated, but always courageous, quick-witted, and a bit foolhardy, especially when it comes to the typical Sabatini heroine, who compliments the hero in most accounts. (If Avari M had not met an untimely end on Khquggyai, he and Avari T might have made a perfect Sabatini couple.) Their courtship will involve a battle of personalities or wills, long separations are not uncommon, and eventually the hero will put his life, reputation, or personal happiness on the chopping block to rescue the heroine or her honor. Swordfights, identity theft, rebellions, and battles (usually sea battles) are not unusual, and do not be surprised if a grave injustice committed near the story’s beginning (typically against the hero) must be rectified before the lovers can live happily ever after.

Avari T defends D'Arc Tangent in a partial image from the unused second cover.

Avari T defends D’Arc Tangent in a partial image from the unused second cover.

In D’Arc Tangent, the role of Sabatini hero is played by D’Arc Tangent, who exhibits courage and quick-wittedness in the Duke’s castle, putting its existence on the line for Avari T. Thanks to the oneness, D’Arc Tangent possesses not only the education but also the persona of a nobleman. The Sabatini heroine is Avari T, of course, who shares some form of love with D’Arc Tangent because of their bond. It is clear that this couple will have to overcome more than a battle of personalities before they can begin any courtship, and Avari T at least will have her beliefs challenged because of the bond she chose with D’Arc Tangent.

Though hardly a young buck, D’Arc Tangent is a striking character is the style of Breton André-Louis Moreau, the illegitimate hero of Sabatini’s most famous novel Scarmouche. Like André-Louis (and Alexandre Dumas’ incomparable Edmund Dantès from The Count of Monte Cristo), Arc-Tangent Unit 7709 will suffer change and in the process acquire a new identity. In the first chapter of Scarmouche, Sabatini describes André-Louis as “a slight wisp of a fellow” who “was only just redeemed from ugliness by the splendor of a pair of ever-questing, luminous eyes, so dark as to be almost black.” Arc-Tangent Unit 7709 might not exactly be slight — it is seven feet tall — but its exaggerated height does make its thin build appear spindly, and it also possess one “ever-questing” eye which is not just luminous but utterly black.[73] Where André-Louis is an educated commoner at the start of Scarmouche, Arc-Tangent is a techno-servant at the beginning of DT#1. And it looks the part. With its black and silver body and white gloves,[74] Arc-Tangent Unit 7709 looks the very model of what a mechanical butler should be, particularly on Page 16, Panel 1 where it delivers dinner on a tray to Avari T, but an amazing transformation in perception happens on Page 37, where Unit 7709 becomes an active figure. Features of D’Arc Tangent’s body that might have gone unnoticed now come to the forefront. With a sword in its hand the robot’s flat oval-shaped head seems to take on the visage of a helmet and its corrugated neck resembles a beavor, its arms pauldrons and vambraces, its legs cuisses and greaves, and its torso the breastplate and tassets of a suit of plate armor.

D'ArcD’Arc Tangent is a remarkable achievement in character design, which, when coupled with Cochran and Foglio’s Karloff-esque skills of communicating emotions and thoughts through gesture and posture, makes it one of the most physically expressive characters to grace the comics medium since Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man. Possessing a knight’s inner man, D’Arc Tangent’s outer man looks like a knight in armor, satisfying the Romantic technique of “Soul is form and doth the body make.”

Cochran and Foglio aimed “to tell an epic love story that was absolutely straight science fiction,”[75] and judging by DT#1 and the completed pages of DT#2 they were well on their way to succeeding. Confirmation of this can be seen on Pages 24-25 of DT#2 in a double-page spread that codifies this goal. It shows the alien from Prologue One crouched in a chamber of the Starsift spaceship. As big as a tyrannosaurus and reptilian with a lengthy tail and swan-like neck, the alien could pass for a dragon if not for the opposable thumbs of its hands, the wristbands and belt it is wearing, and the intelligence in its dark and malevolent eyes. Avari T is slumped over in a chair, unconscious, her clothes tattered and one leg gashed. Coming to her aid, sword and blaster in gloved hands and ready to challenge the alien, is D’Arc Tangent.

The setting may be a spaceship and not a cave … the monster may be an alien and not a fire-breathing beast … the damsel may be a Krithian supervisor and the hero may be a robot … but the result is the same: like Utter Pendragon and Saint George, D’Arc Tangent intends to slay the dragon and rescue his damsel in distress.

There are people who would scoff at Cochran and Foglio’s goal. People who would argue that the premature end of D’Arc Tangent and Avari T’s story represents no loss to comics as a medium or a literature. Other people, including myself, would disagree and for good reason. In a May 4, 2004 Liverpool Daily Post sarticle about Sabatini, journalist David Charters writes, “He brought adventure to drab classrooms, where chalk scraped slowly on blackboards, and to factories untouched by the sun.”[76] Any story by any writer that accomplishes this has more than justified its worth, and D’Arc Tangent brought this sort of romance and adventure to the science fiction genre and comics medium. Excellently imagined and executed, D’Arc Tangent’s abrupt demise is a loss to comics, to literature, and to lovers of romance and adventure.



[1] A soul is one thing, but robots and androids with artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new concept.

What is AI? William Dembski explains in his book, Intelligent Design, that “the goal of artificial intelligence is to reduce intelligent agency to computer algorithms (p.217).” In Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia author John Clute defines AI as a “Computer with human-like intelligence. Common in SF (p.306).”

As far back as the 18th Century, inventors such as French technician Jacques de Vaucanson and Swiss engineer Pierre Jaquet-Droz were constructing machines that not only resembled people and animals, but were capable of drinking and eating, playing musical instruments, and writing (See In Search of Frankenstein, p. 315-316. and “Robotics”). These constructs inspired writers to concoct fiction about intelligent machines, like E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Sandman” (1817) and Luis Senarens’ “Electric Man” (1885), paving the way for Karel Čapek’s landmark 1924 play R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots, Ray Bradbury’s classic “I Sing the Body Electric!” (1969), and Jack Kirby’s quirky comic book Machine Man (1978). The concept of AI in computers became vogue in 1948 thanks to mathematician Norbert Wiener’s book Cybernetics, “whose central theme is the close parallelism between the nervous system of man and the feed-back control system of the all-powerful computer (In Search of Frankenstein, pp. 322-24. Florescu adds: “Whereas machines were used for power in the 19th Century, Wiener conceived them as having a brain and sensory system. Placing his services in the cause of the allies in World War II [he was a refugee of Nazi Germany], Wiener devised the first electronic military hardware which had the ‘brain’ to find its objective, no matter how elusive the target, the ancestors of guided missile systems of today (p. 324).” In 1968 electronic brains and thinking machines joined the ranks of science fiction and pop culture icons with the “mad” H.A.L. in 2001: A Space Odyssey (“Hello, Dave”).

[2] D’Arc Tangent #1 has a cover date of August 1982, but according to Cochran, “We actually published in 1983, despite what it says in the copyright notice in the book, because of art/printing delays (email to author from Cochran, 8/1/2005).”

[3] Interview with Cochran by Richard Arndt (transcript provided to author by Cochran)

[4] “All this actually meant is that [Claremont] reviewed the script and page layouts, then gave us his comments, which we were free to take or leave as we wished (Cochran in a 6/15/2005 email to author).”

[5] Interview with Cochran by Richard Arndt

[6] Which seems strange, considering that the medium’s dominant genre during most of the 20th Century, the superhero genre, is a sub-genre of science fiction, and that such first-rank superheroes as Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man have origins and adventures rooted in science fiction. A possible reason for this could be that comic book science fiction stories had rarely been intelligent or respectful of the genre before 1983. Among the few exceptions were EC’s Weird Fantasy from the 1950s and Jack Katz’s Indy limit series First Kingdom and Marvel’s Star-Lord stories in the 1970s (which had most of its stories written by D’Arc Tangent’s editorial consultant, Chris Claremont, who went on to write First Flight and other science fiction novels). One thing in D’Arc Tangent’s favor was the recent success of Marvel’s adaptations of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. These had helped the space opera genre[vi] gain a foothold in the comics market. (Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia defines space opera as “action tales set in interplanetary or interstellar space, concentrating on warfare between galactic empires.” Galactic empires are defined as “states that rule more than one solar system [p. 306].”) With its intergalactic spaceships and ray guns D’Arc Tangent could certainly pass for space opera. Even graphic designer Duncan Eagleson, the model for the character Duke D’Arvieux, describes Cochran and Foglio’s “comics magnum opus” as “a sprawling space opera epic, a tragic romance (See “Strange Arcs” at www.mcbridemagic.com/ArcMage/podium02.html)[.]”

[7] From DT#2, Page 10, Panel 2: “Starsift: an autonomous information-gathering entity, politically neutral by tradition, originally founded 63,851 years ago as the ex-ref branch of the Krith Central Library.” Provided to author by Cochran.

[8] Cochran and Foglio use visual counterpoints to excellent effect in DT#1. Here (Page 46) Avari T huddles alone under the covers of her bed. Earlier, on Pages 9 and 10, we see her at happier times, engaged in sex with Avari M and then lying under these same covers with Avari M as 6SJ7 wakes them to announce that they have arrived at the Munchers’ planet.

[9] Another fine example of visual counterpoint: on Page 16 Avari T sits in the bridge, staring at the stars as she mourns the death of Avari M.

[10] Interview with Cochran by Richard Arndt

[11] Email to author from Cochran (10/20/2005)

[12] Email to author from Cochran (10/20/2005)

[13] Interview with Cochran by Richard Arndt

[14] Interview with Cochran by Richard Arndt

[15] Email to author from Cochran (8/1/2005)

dteditorial[16] There are two sides to every coin, and to be fair to Foglio he did voice a little of his frustrations when it came to collaborating on D’Arc Tangent in a two-panel cartoon strip, “The Peril of Partnership,” that appeared at the back of DT#1.  In the strip Foglio complains to Cochran about missing too many deadlines. “You’ve got to speed it up!”  In the final panel we see Cochran lying on scaffolding beneath D’Arc Tangent pages taped to a room’s ceiling, working ala Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. “When will it be finished?!” Foglio demands, to which Cochran replies, “When it is done.”

[17] From “An Answer I Wrote In July 1993” (to author from Cochran)

[18] Pages from DT#2 were provided to author by Cochran.

[19] The holographic quantum model of the universe, which envisions everything in the universe as being made up “of sine waves representing all phenomena, such as a particle, an atom, planet, galaxy, objects, a thought, word, concepts or ideas, mind, etc.,” recognizes the existence of vortices within vortices and spacetime vortices. See Huntley, Noel, “The Wave Function is Real: The Holographic Quantum Model,” http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~noelh/Wavefunction.htm.

[20] According to Cochran, “There is yet another layer here. The physics concepts were a dual nod to high-level Krithian science and the cutting edge of 17th-century French cosmology, which was actually bogus — at least as specifically stated — but would have been familiar to D’Arvieux (from an email to author from Cochran, 8/1/2005).”

[21] According to Cochran, “I didn’t set out to build an overt Christian subtext into D’Arc Tangent. But because D’Arvieux is a devout-if-slightly-doubting Catholic circa 1672, I had to make sure that his viewpoint was represented in the story in as many ways as I could, including bits of the subtext. Phil didn’t particularly give a damn (from an email to author from Cochran.)”

[22] In Genesis the first man is not called by the name Adam (the Hebrew word for “man”) until God is listing the consequences of their actions to the serpent, the first woman, and the first man. When God is finished, Adam names the first woman Eve (which resembles the Hebrew word for “living”). In DT#1, Stuma M and Pavilar T give themselves new bond names that assonance with these biblical names (Avari M/Adam and Avari T/Eve).

[23] The Jewish Experience (3rd Edition), p. 97. The Eden parallel is emphasized on Page 9, Panel 4, which shows Avari M and Avari T copulating as we read: “System evaluations were infrequent and usually routine. The rest of their time was their own. They preferred it that way. The bond grew strong [my emphasis].” Genesis 2:25 tells us, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed,” and the New Oxford Annotated Bible explains the meaning behind this pericipe: “Sex is not regarded as evil but as a God-given impulse which draws man and woman together so that they become one flesh (New Oxford Annotated Bible With Apocrypha (Expanded Edition, Revised Standard Version), p. 4, n.. 24-25).” Even when Avari M and Avari T wear clothes aboard the Starsift spaceship, the outfits are either so formfitting or revealing that the couple might as well be as naked as Adam and Eve. (See also n. 34.) Not that this should matter. As Professor George Forell points out in The Protestant Faith, “The notion seems to be quite prevalent that ‘original’ sin is sexual sin, and that sex is somehow the result of sin (p. 136).” This is not true. “[Sin] is a personal revolt against God (p. 133),” and “original sin describes the fact that the human being is born in revolt (p. 134).”

[24] Jewish Experience (3rd Edition), p. 97

[25] This blank circle could be a representation of the unknown or the unknowable.

[26] 6SJ7’s sensitive nature is established on Page 15 during a dialogue with Arc-Tangent soon after Avari M’s death: “There is a plan to the cosmos. A pattern for its intelligences. Empathy is favored. Random violence is not.” This is an oddly poetic statement for one machine to interchange with another, even one with artificial intelligence (AI), but it is also an important one in relation to the D’Arc Tangent storyline. An importance emphasized by the statement’s poetic structure. Emphasizing dialogue by giving it a lyrical or poetic structure is an Elizabethan technique, one Shakespeare used in many of the concluding speeches of his plays. The poetic structure of 6SJ7’s dialogue is rudimentary — the first two lines each contain ten syllables, and the second two lines each contain six syllables — but it serves the trick.

[27] Such attention to detail in layout is evident throughout DT#1, and, according to Cochran, he and Foglio “talked about panel layouts for hours per page, sketching possibilities at each other as we went (Interview with Cochran by Richard Arndt).”

[28] When Imrak is pretending to be Folgoet, its speech balloons are ovals like humans. However, as soon as Imrak stops pretending, its speech balloons become rectangles with square corners. Even if Imrak has been affected by the field-resonances on Earth, he has not made the leap towards humanity that Arc-Tangent does by experiencing momentary oneness with the Duke. (See also n. 216)

[29] In Plato’s day the concept of the immortality of the soul was also part of the Orphic religion and the Pythagorean school. See Abe, Masao “The Problem of Death in East and West: Immortality, Eternal Life, Unbornness,” p. 31

[30] When referring to the Bible, I mean the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. the Old Testament) and the New Testament. If it is appropriate to specifically refer to the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament, I will do so using these titles.

[31] “The Problem of Death in East and West,” p. 38, n.1

[32] “Most religions base their hope for a life after death upon the somewhat vague notion of the immortality of the soul. But, while many Christians believe also in the immortality of the soul, this is not the category which the Bible uses to describe life after death. Immortality of the soul seems to rest the life after death in some indestructible part of the person, namely, his soul … While the emphasis on the immortality of the soul seems to suggest that there is something in humanity which is of necessity immortal, the doctrine of the resurrection asserts that the God who created human beings in the first place can recreate them in the second place.” (George W. Forell, The Protestant Faith, p. 232)  Masao adds, “The Christian ‘resurrection’ differs in essence from the Platonic ‘immortality of soul.’ Just as death in Christianity is not merely the perishing of the body but death as unity of soul and body, so too the Christian resurrection is not merely resurrection of the soul, but of the dead person who is a unity of soul and body (“The Problem of Death in East and West,” p.44).

[33] “The Problem of Death in East and West,” p. 38, f.1

[34] This prayer is not only poetic but demonstrates New Testament knowledge on the Duke’s part. During the Last Supper, Jesus advises his disciples, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one (Luke 22:36).” The disciples tell Jesus, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’ (Luke 22:38). The Oxford Annotated Bible (Page 1279, n. 36) explains, “The sword apparently meant to Jesus a preparation to live by one’s own resources against hostility. The natural meaning of v. 38 is that the disciples supposed he spoke of an actual sword, only to learn that swords were sufficient for the whole enterprise, i.e., were not to be used at all.” D’Arvieux is praying that his faith will give him sufficient strength to face this inexplicable phenomenon.

[35] The distress signal is also another biblical reference linking Unit 7709 to the Nativity Narratives.  This distress signal is evocative of the “star in the East” that led the Magi to the Christ child (Matthew 2:2) and incites the same sort of awesome fear among the villagers and the soldiers that gripped the shepherds outside Jerusalem when the angel of the Lord appeared before them to announce the savior’s birth (“And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear [Luke 2:8-9].” The Oxford Annotated Bible explains that “fear” here “indicates recognition of the limits of human understanding and power before God,” so it may not come as a surprise that, in the Duke’s castle, a mercenary captain named Wulfgar looks into the light and thinks, “Gott im Himmel! Is Doomsday upon us?”).

[36] Page 37’s layout also links it to Pages 30-31 where Arc-Tangent begins to acquire a soul. Like those two pages, Page 37 has four panels: three small panels dominated by a large panel.

[37] This speech, loaded with irony, is foreshadowed on Page 32. Avari T and Imrak have been overpowered, and a villager asks the priest what should they do with the “demons.” The priest answers, “They are born of Hellfire. It is their meat, their wine! They wrap themselves within it. And copulate in mockery of God’s Holy Seal. Build a pyre.”

This speech is an ironic counterpoint to the reworked Eden story in Prologue Five. In the Eden story, sex is “a God-given impulse which draws man and woman together so that they become one flesh,” but according to the priest demons copulate only to insult the Holy Spirit (“God’s Holy Seal”, one of the Holy Trinity). Also, up until landing on Earth, Avari T has been seen wearing nothing but revealing clothing that some people in 17th-century Brittany might have found shocking. Much like Eve outside Eden, Avari T on Earth, costumed in her period clothes, is less “naked” than ever been before, yet now her mortality has never been more at risk.

The priest’s speech is ironic in two more ways. First, on Page 31, the “daemon” Arc-Tangent has just “become one flesh” with the Duke’s memories via what could be described as a mechanical form of copulation. (Arc-Tangent even had to plug the male end of a cable into a female port in his chest to facilitate the download). Second, on Page 33, as Arc-Tangent flies the rescue shuttle to Earth (descends from Heaven?), he is surrounded (wrapped) in fire during entry into Earth’s orbit, leaving a long thin trail behind that resembles the blade of a fiery sword, a symbol picked up on in Page 37, Panel 4.

But the most ironic element of this speech is also a condemnation of the priest’s and the mob’s desire to execute Avari T and Imrak. As Forell explains, “The very zeal of the religious person who burns the unbeliever to the greater glory of God is the expression of sin (Protestant Faith, p. 135).” This is a fact not only lost on the priest but many terrorists in the world today.

[38] Many religions as well as superstitions associate the left hand with the Devil or evil and the right hand with God or goodness. See www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk/lefty_myths.html.

[39] In Genesis 3:34, we read, “[God] drove out the man; and at the east end of the garden of Eden He placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the Tree of Life, ” so this could be a visual reference back to the Eden story retold in Prologue Five. In Ephesians 6:17 we also read, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The sword could also be another allusion to Jesus, who we are told “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).”

[40] Jewish Experience, p. 4

[41] Jewish Experience, p. 86-87

[42] Jewish Experience, p. 89

[43] Jewish Experience, p. 110

[44] Luke 22:42. See also Matthew 26:39 and Mark 14:36. Masao writes, “Even Jesus, faced with death in the garden of Gethsemane, was ‘greatly distressed and troubled’ and complained to his disciples that ‘my soul is very sorrowful, even to death.’ (Mark 14:33-34) On the cross he emitted the sorrowful cry, ‘My God, my God, why has though forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34) (p. 39).”

[45] Luke 22:43-44, Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 1280

[46] Matthew 16: 13-23, Mark 8:27-33, Luke 9:18-22/Matthew 17:22-23, Mark 30-32, Luke 9:43b-45/Matthew 20:17-19, mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34

[47] Protestant theologian Oscar Cullman explains that Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane did not mean that Jesus’ was not afraid of death. Just the opposite. However, if crucifixion was God’s will, then Jesus would obey (Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?, p. 22). Jesus comments on how difficult this choice is and his reason for making it soon after he enters Jerusalem: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. (John 12:27)” See also Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:1-5.

[48]Avari T makes another important choice immediately after Avari M’s death when she trains her spaceship’s guns on Khquggyai to destroy the Munchers’ planet. The quality of her character — some might say her “better angels” — win out and she chooses not to exact vengeance.  This could also serve as a contrast to the shadowy alien, who, in his prologue appearance, has every intention of fulfilling a vengeance that will “shatter worlds.”

[49] Another verbal ramification that appears on Page 35 occurs after Wulfgar informs the Duke that Folgoet may really be a demon like the mob insists. The Duke thinks this is nonsense, but Wulfgar tells the Duke, “Judge for yourself [my emphasis].”

[50] Matthew 27:24. The Duke’s order to “Let the priest have his way and be gone” is reminiscent of the description of Pilate forsaking his prisoner: “but Jesus he delivered up to their will (Luke 23:25).”

[51] Perhaps the Duke felt betrayed that the trusted Folgoet turned out to be a “monster”? This is merely an educated guess with only the circumstantial evidence of the Duke’s lack of faith in Folgoet (Imrak) and his lack of strength in defending the hermit (robot) to support it.

[52] We know from Imrak’s reports to Starsift that D’Arvieux is an educated man, and from his prayer during the distress signal that he is a religious man with knowledge of the New Testament, including the Passion Narrative. The Duke would therefore be familiar with Jesus being brought to Pilate by the high priest, and Jesus telling Pilate, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin (John 19:11).” He would understand that Jesus is explaining that God controls evil, without setting aside human responsibility, so the primary responsibility (“greater sin”) for Jesus’ crucifixion belongs to the high priest, not Pilate (See Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 1314, n.11). It is likely that D’Arvieux sincerely believed that the primary responsibility for the execution of Imrak and Avari T should then belong to the priest, the mob, and the mercenaries. If so, then D’Arvieux has overlooked that Jesus never excuses Pilate from any responsibility; therefore, the Duke is not totally excused from his responsibility, either. Despite what D’Arvieux might believe, he will not escape the consequences of his choice (judgment) by turning his back on the “monster” he once thought of as a friend.

[53] The notion of weavers augments the import to Cochran and Foglio’s use of a tapestry to underscore the significance of the Duke’s judgment (choice). This significance is underscored even more if we realize that any tapestry hanging in the Duke’s castle was likely wove in the Weaver’s Court tower. While DT#1’s numerous plot threads are woven together in the tower—creating the tapestry that will be the D’Arc Tangent story—none are more critical than D’Arvieux’s judgment. Imagine if the Duke had decided to face down the mobs and called off the executions. Even if 6SJ7 had downloaded the Duke’s memory into Arc-Tangent, Unit 7709 would not have had to rush in to rescue Avari T … which might have led to Avari T bonding with D’Arvieux instead … and I doubt even Cochran and Foglio knows where that would have led!

[54] Even a relative newcomer to humanity much less bonding like D’Arc Tangent can figure this out. On Page 10, Panel 5 of DT#2, D’Arc Tangent is studying a computer “bonding education module” to find out what has happened to him and Avari T. Later, on Page 15, Panel 1, he implores to Avari T, “But…but mademoiselle, you chose this bond. I did not. How could I?”

[55] On Page 14 of DT#2, Avari T is still in her bedroom, watching a hologram of Avari M. As she studies this electric ghost, she tries to deny what she has done: “No, it isn’t true—I bonded with Avari M—I…” Eventually she shuts off the hologram, but still can’t find the strength to accept her choice.

[56] Again, even a newcomer like D’Arc Tangent realizes this. In Panels 3-4 on Page 12 of DT#2, D’Arc Tangent attempts to telepathically communicate with Avari T, telling himself as he does, “She is Avari T, and I am … what I am. And we are bonded. She is herself, as I am myself, and we are bonded … she is/I am/we are.”

[57] A far cry from “His soul and hers, fused together forever.” In Prologue Five Starsift sent Avari M and Avari T on their isolated mission soon after they bonded because “Such total rapport must be carefully nurtured.” The Avari bond is fragile at first, but ends up becoming more permanent than love alone. In contrast, the “oneness” that assaults Unit 7709 and the Duke may only lasts mere “milliseconds” but has every indication of being even more enduring than Avari M and Avari T’s bond.

[58] The most famous example of this science fiction anxiety is probably Čapek’s R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots.

[59] Webster’s New World Dictionary, p. 670

[60] J. Kenneth Kuntz in an email to author (7/12/05). The ultimate example of this separateness is God. God is “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3) because God is three times set apart from anything else in Creation. (“Thrice-holy for emphasis.” Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 830, n. 3. See also Jeremiah 7:4 and 22:29.) There is no god or being like God, which is one reason for the Incarnation. God “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” and “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8), to make God understandable to human beings. “Without this incarnation God would be utterly incomprehensible to people,” writes Forell. “He must speak to them with words and symbols they can understand. Since they cannot understand God as God, God must translate himself into their terms so that they may understand God as a human being. This is what happened in Jesus Christ (Protestant Faith, p. 161).”

[61] DT#2, Page 11, Panel 1-2. Artwork provided to author by Cochran. Perhaps not coincidentally this scene takes place post-sex, the pair acting and speaking like a young couple discussing names for an expected newborn.

[62] See http://www.babynamesworld.com. For what it is worth, in The Lord of the Rings (another story that incorporates biblical references) the Avari are a branch of the Elves.

[63] A further irony: Raphael is the patron saint of travelers, good health, and young people.

[64] Before returning to Earth Imrak informs D’Arc Tangent that “your basic programming is intact.”

[65] “Dave Sim, Off At A Tangent?”, Deeley, Michael (See http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/soapbox/98969979347483,print.htm)

[66] In a 8/1/2005 email to the author, Cochran reports that the name “‘D’Arc Tangent’ was…in place before I showed up, but Phil didn’t create that one. It was invented by his friend Doug Rice, and it was intended as nothing more than a ‘mathematics’ pun on the famous Three Muskaeteers character ‘d’Artagnan.’ You’ve got a robot with a sword, what else would you call him? What I did when I came on board was try and make everything real. To give us a solid plot, actual historical settings, and accurate costumes, language, and characterization, including names. In D’Arc’s case that meant finding a non-pun, non-joke justification, which in turn required bringing in all the elements you allude to.” Later in that same email Cochran adds, “After [D’Arc Tangent’s] character design was finalized, I was digging through folktales from period Brittany and found multiple references to a mysterious silent armored ‘black knight’ who was supposed to be taller than any ordinary man, seen only at night, and of magical origins. I worked that into the script for #2, when our hero is writing in his journal…

‘I revolt her.

‘I revolt myself.

‘It is dix-sept Avril, the Year of Our Lord Sixteen Hundred and Seventy-Two. It is also 412-jjE S-Standard. Such is my confusion. The question before me would try the sardonic intelligence of Monsieur Molie`re himself, were he here. Have I gone mad?

‘What voice do I speak with? Am I Jacques-Jean D’Arvieux, Duke of the great forest Broceliande? Husband to a dead woman, father of two dead sons, believer in faith and reason…


‘Am I Arc-Tangent Unit 7709, a multi-purpose construct of Krithian origin, manufactured for convenience, programmed for loyalty, heir to nothing…


‘Or am I the Black Knight, that tale for scaring wicked children, brought to life out of Merlin’s Step by sinful magics?


‘Perhaps I am all three, and it is the world that is mad. God grant me strength.’

Hint: the answer is “all three.”

[67] But if you have to be a robot, being an Arc-Tangent isn’t bad! On Page 10, Panel 4 of DT#2, D’Arc Tangent studies a module on robotics and learns that “Tri-Mod/Arc Series robots owe their successful implementation to the structural diversification allowed by valence transcoding. The most versatile is the Arc-Tangent [.]”

[68] “The Problem of Death in East and West,” p. 38, n.1

[69] Intelligent Design, p. 151

[70] How Imrak has escaped this fate after nine thousand years on Earth is curious. Unless, of course, Imrak has not escaped this fate. When the robot agent detects the field-resonances during its diagnoses of 6SJ7 and D’Arc Tangent, it wonders, “Has it affected me as well?” Imrak is certainly excellent mimic when it comes to pretending to be a man—right down to the speech balloons—but, without a spirit, pretending is all Imrak can do, while D’Arc Tangent has touched humanity.

[71] For example, in the last panel on page 35, Wulfgar (an animal-sounding name) puts his left hand on D’Arvieux’s shoulder and speaks quietly into the Duke’s ear in a pose reminiscent of a tempter like Iago. As for Avari T, when Raphael and Alphonse see her shuttle land in the forest near Folgoet’s cabin, Alphonse is afraid it may be demons, but when they spy Avari T leaving the glimmering craft Raphael believes she is a vision of the Virgin: “This could be a miracle!” Also, the name “Avari” in relation to the Virgin Mary calls to mind “Ave Maria” (“Hail Mary”) from the Roman Catholic prayer of the same name. And if nothing else, consider that, in the Nativity Narratives, God impregnates Mary [the Immaculate Conception], but it is Mary who makes the Incarnation possible by delivering Jesus into the world. In DT#1, D’Arc Tangent gets his human memories and persona from D’Arvieux, but it is Avari T who completes the process by bonding with D’Arc Tangent and instilling in D’Arc Tangent with the greatest of emotions, love. Unfortunately for D’Arc Tangent, Avari T flees to her bed after seeing what she has done, just as a certain Victor Frankenstein does after his creature comes to life.

[72] “A Hymn in Honour of Beauty,” Spenser, Edmund. This poem contains a stanza that seems apropos to Avari T and Avari M (and, perhaps, Avari T and D’Arc Tangent):

For love is a celestial harmony Of likely hearts compos’d of stars’ concent, Which join together in sweet sympathy, To work each other’s joy and true content, Which they have harbour’d since their first descent Out of their heavenly bowers, where they did see And know each other here belov’d to be.

[73] Although, as Cochran points out in a 8/1/2005 email, beginning on Page 31 “a spark, a glow that was not there before” appears on Arc-Tangent Unit 7709’s “face” or eye “in every panel afterwards.”

[74] Arc-Tangent Unit 7709 is the only robot in DT#1 that wears clothes, a rather inspired and witty touch, in the same vein as Scarmouche’s famous opening sentence: “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

[75] Interview with Cochran by Richard Arndt (transcript provided to author by Cochran)

[76] See “Swashbuckling Hero the World Forgot”


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