Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 452, January 20, 2008

"They promise us a world of fear"

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Review of Roswell, Texas
by Darian Worden

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Roswell, Texas, the webcomic about an alternate-universe Roswell incident, has recently concluded. I enjoyed Roswell, Texas a ton, and I will miss it.

Writers L. Neil Smith and Rex F. May set the story in the Federated States of Texas, which never joined the United States in the universe they describe. After Air Militia pilot Gene Roddenberry shoots down a UFO near the Texan town of Roswell, three Texas Rangers and a familiar-looking hatchet man race to the scene against foreign soldiers and numerous people who were famous in our timeline. The three rangers are the alternate incarnations of people often considered villains in our world: Meir Kahane, Malcolm X, and George Lincoln Rockwell.

The use of cooperating characters who likely wouldn't get along in our timeline illustrates how freedom can bring people together. Those who seek political power feed on pain and strife, and often create more when it suits them. Many others ruthlessly defend programs that encourage inequality if the programs somehow give them more power. When there is abundant opportunity for everyone, little poverty, no ghettos, and few problems to make scapegoats for, prejudice will find little fertile ground. As Smith stated in a blog post introducing the story:

"Our original object was simply to have a little pointless fun that we could eventually share with readers. Gradually, however, because of the sort of twisted, demented, perverted individuals we are, a Theme began to struggle up out of the primordial muck, much like early life arising on the planet, despite our most strenuous efforts to prevent it.

"It is simply this: while each and every one of us is responsible for his or her own life, and you cannot properly blame whatever personal shortcomings you may have on the society around you, it's undeniably easier to be a decent human being if you live in a decent society."

The fun the writers had certainly pours through the pages. The work was not an illustrated ideological tome, but simply smart fun. Something about pink-clad Nazis flying to battle in a Mickey Mouse zeppelin really grabs my funny bone.

Historical references were one of my favorite things about Roswell. From a propeller driven flying-wing to "Fleming, Ian Fleming," the sometimes obscure allusions always added flair.

Smith and May probably had fun creating a world where one has to apply for a permit to not carry a firearm. They flipped today's licensing (i.e. infringement) of an inalienable right on its head. This government requirement and other facts revealed in the story show that the Federated States are not purely libertarian. It does present an interesting "what if" question and a twist on the nearly universally-armed society advocated by many libertarians (and many of America's founders).

Another exploratory facet of the story I enjoyed was the Deaf Smith Greeting Card Company. Because the Texas government is prohibited from spying (and from keeping secrets), a private company exists to fill that role. With so many royal ambitions around the world, it is likely that free-market espionage will become a necessity one day. For true liberty to survive, such an organization would have to be prevented from becoming the Wal-Mart of NKVD. Though alternate-Texas is not a pure libertarian paradise, Deaf Smith is an interesting look at how such an agency could work.

The graphic part of the novel did not disappoint either. The illustrations by Scott Bieser and coloring by Jen Zach were excellent. The art not only helped tell the story but added a comical edge and lots of things to look at. A panel of robots chasing Nazi paratroopers sticks out as one of my favorite illustrations. I wonder how some of these details will be explained in the forthcoming text version of the story.

I really couldn't find many negatives to pick at. I recall the plot occasionally losing me, but it stayed interesting. This could be partly due to the updating schedule. When I missed a few days I had to navigate backwards through the last few pages. I was going to mention this in the Big Head Press forums but did not get around to it. It is also difficult to see how the Roswell secret was kept. Of course Roswell, Texas was supposed to be a comedy, so I probably shouldn't worry about it. Or maybe it was explained and I was distracted by some of the sexier illustrations. In any case, I hope to add the paper version to my collection soon.


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