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The Official Rhesus Factor FAQ
Section One: Beginners Guide
What is Rhesus Factor?Rhesus Factor was a fifty issue storyline published by Bald Eagle Comics from May 1991 to October 1995. The story concerns a world in which superheroes (metahumans) have been created, apparently as a government project involving a designer mutagen known as the Rhesus Serum. As the storyline progresses, it becomes apparent that the Rhesus Serum has actually been created by a race of ancient beings, known as the Antediluvians, who have been manipulating mankind's evolution since prehistoric times.
What is the Rhesus Factor limited edition series?Although the series was not published as a limited edition, when the series was cancelled (after Bald Eagle's purchase by InterNews in 1995) the last issue sported a banner in the top left corner reading 'Issue 50 of a 50 issue Limited Series'. Nick Waring, Rhesus Factor's editor at Bald Eagle said of the in-joke: "hardly anyone was reading it at the end, and we thought if we retroactively made it into a limited series it might make the back issues more collectible."
Who worked on Rhesus Factor?
The first twelve issues of the comic were written by Rael Azara and drawn by Sara Kale, who together created the original Rhesus Factor team. The remaining thirty eight issues were all written by Martin Chase and pencilled by Rob D'Archon. They created an entirely new team after all but one of the original Rhesus Factor characters were slaughtered at the end of issue twelve.
Is there a connection between X Factor and Rhesus Factor?
In an interview, Rael was quoted as saying: "It was fashionable for new superhero comics in the nineties to leech popularity of the top selling comics by stealing part of their titles. Lots of 'counterfeit' X comics, such as Next Men, were produced, and we were just jumping on the band wagon."
Where can I find issues of the comic?
Look in the cheap boxes of most comics stores, and at comic marts. The print run was low throughout, and hence you may have to be persistent if you want to find any.
Why isn't it mentioned in any comic price guide?
According to Nick Waring, Bald Eagle had a falling out with the staff of one of the two major price guides (which must remain nameless for legal reasons) after a late night drinking session in Nashville, TN. The staff at the price guide have since spread the rumour that the comic was "just a joke" and had never been printed, and since demand for the issues was limited and Bald Eagle was bought out no-one has rectified the error.
Section Two: Who were the original Rhesus Factor?
How was the team formed?
In issue one Dr. Lauren Palmer (qv), a scientist assigned to the Rhesus Project, selected John Lawton, Paul Holmes and Carl Ellis for a top secret government project involving a new mutagen known as the Rhesus Serum. The serum activated abilities that had laid dormant in the human genome giving the team 'superpowers'.
Plasma (John Lawton)The original Plasma was a Virginian farmboy who was selected to be team leader of the original Rhesus Project team in the very first issue. His brother, Jasen (qv), would become the new Plasma after John's death in issue twelve, whilst John himself would return as a major part of the amorphous Blood Clot. As Plasma, John had the ability to shoot beams out of his hands to energize friends or enervate foes.
Bloodlust (Emma Rage)John's girlfriend, introduced in the second issue, Emma was a well groomed, feisty woman who filled the role of wise-cracking tough guy in the original Rhesus Factor. Her superpowers remained more or less the same throughout the run of the comic, namely the ability to extrude sharp appendages from any part of her body. Her skin also tended towards the indestructible, often as a boney-white chitinous material. Her personality changed significantly after issue twelve with the extinction of the original team.
Embolism/Coma (Paul Holmes)Up until issue seven, Paul Holmes was the dependable sidekick to his best friend, John. As Embolism, he had the ability to cause obstructions in his opponent's bloodstreams, causing loss of consciousness and (in issue four, where he lost his temper) even death. However, in issue seven he was involved in the car crash which hospitalized John's cousin, Ben Carpenter (qv) and entered into a coma from which he didn't recover. As Coma, Paul had the ability to lie very still indeed. Allegedly, if Rael had continued writing the comic, he would have developed "unique superpowers", but as matters transpired Paul was the first member of the team to be killed by Scandal (qv), at the end of issue eleven.
Adrenalin (Carl Ellis)The last member of the original Rhesus Project Team, Carl, was the member who's background was kept purposefully (and permanently) mysterious. He had the ability to control the flow of adrenalin in his own blood, and in doing so he was able to improve his running speed and reactions beyond human norms. He died in issue twelve when Scandal shot him with a modified version of the Rhesus Serum that caused his power to feedback on itself until his heart burst under the pressure and his body literally exploded from the stress.
Section Three: Who are the new Rhesus Factor?
How was the new team formed?The story of the new Rhesus Factor begins in issues thirteen to sixteen, in a story arc called 'Empty Vessels'. After Scandal eliminated almost the entire team in issue twelve, Emma (the only survivor) tried to hide by staying with John's brother, Jasen Lawton, a student at University of Tennessee in Music City. Driven temporarily insane by the death of her lover, Emma sleeps with Jasen thus infecting him with the Rhesus Serum. Aware that Scandal is Fleeing from the city, they decide to hide out at Jasen's grandparent's house across the border in Virginia, where Ben is recuperating from his transfusion. When they arrive the house, it is overrun by goblins and the grandparents are badly hurt. Before they can do anything about it, they encounter Blood Clot (qv) who has been trying to follow Emma. The team is thrust together when Scandal attacks, and carnage ensues.
The New Plasma (Jasen Lawton)Infected with the Rhesus Serum the one and only time Emma sleeps with him, Jasen is the self-proclaimed leader of the new team. He has no leadership skills, no charisma and few redeeming qualities. Jasen has always envied his big brother, John, and sees his current inheritance' of John's powers as his chance to prove himself. He seldom, if ever, suceeds. As a biochemistry major, Jasen has a greater understanding of the Plasma-abilities than his brother did. He can use his powers to manipulate the contents of the bloodstreams of his targets - increasing adrenalin levels, removing fatigue toxins, cause depression or incite euphoria. If he was slightly less self-obsessed, he could be a force to be reckoned with. As it happens, Plasma tends to use his abilities to attempt to get laid, or to enhance his enjoyment of masturbation. He remains obsessed with Emma, and refuses to accept that she loathes him.
Hemorrhage (Emma Rage)Although neither she nor any other member would say it, Emma is the only reason that the team manages to survive. If she wasn't such an ill tempered, permanently pre-menstrual, psychotic bitch, she would be the perfect team leader. As it happens, Hemorrhage's main contribution to the team (other than piling verbal abuse onto Jasen) is to kill ninety percent of the people who get in their way. Part of Emma's problem is that she is addicted to the Rhesus Serum and when the team leaves Music City she becomes cut off from the supply. The blue chemical has a heroin like effect on her and her premenstrual tension only subsides after she has taken a dose.
Note: in the Rhesus Factor fiction (qv), this character's name is written Haemorrhage.
HemoGoblin (Ben Carpenter)John and Jasen's pubescent cousin, Ben became infected with the Rhesus Serum after being in the car crash that left Embolism in a Coma. In need of a blood transfusion, and possessing an extremely rare blood type resulting from an inherited genetic disorder, John is the only donor in the State who can save him. Although the transfusion takes place in issue seven, Ben's powers don't begin to develop until issue thirteen (the first of the New Rhesus Factor). As Hemogoblin, Ben doesn't so much develop powers as suffer from an affliction. Whenever Ben loses his temper, gets upset, depressed, turned on or in any other way emotional, his skin begins to warp and bubble and (if he cannot keep his emotions in check) tiny 'goblins' burst from his skin. As a teenager, this happens practically all the time.
Note: in the Rhesus Factor fiction (qv), this character's name is written HaemoGoblin.
The GoblinsThe goblins come in two flavors (red and blue) and are autonomous from Ben until he reabsorbs them. Because they are made from his own cells, he becomes weaker the more goblins he spawns. It has been hinted that if he spawns too many at any one time he could die. The blue goblins are well behaved, supportive obedient little critters; the red goblins are bad tempered, mischievous vicious little bastards. The two types of goblin hate each other. Pure oxygen can be used to transform blue goblins into red goblins, and Plasma can effect a change either way (from red to blue, for example). Ben has a weak mental connection to his goblins, but only a limited amount of control over their behavior. Often, all he can do is suggest one form of mischief over another.
Blood ClotWhen a metahuman created by the Rhesus Serum dies, their bodies have a tendency to explode as a result of rapid decomposition of dead tissue catalyzed by the Rhesus Serum mutagen. After Scandal destroyed the original Rhesus Project team, their remains became scattered across Music City. However, as a result of John's rare blood type, John's remains became protoplasmically alive. (The mechanism is similar to Ben's goblins, but with no single individual to co-ordinate, theBlood Clot protoplasm is only barely intelligent). The protoplasm was dimly aware that it needed to get its team to 'regroup', and gradually merged with all the fragments of dead cells from the rest of the team. The result is a huge mound of quivering protoplasm known affectionately as Blood Clot. Although most of the time Clot is too stupid to do anything, it is capable of speech and at times has even shown evidence of remembering parts of the lives of its constituents. Blood Clot has very little in the way of strength, but a lot in the way of mass: his chief means of attack is to drop heavily onto opponents. It can also drive its protoplasm into small cracks and force that crack open, flow through tiny openings and quiver menacingly.
Section Four: Who were the major recurring characters?
ScandalThe CIA's top secret operative, Scandal's identity prior to her cybernetic alterations is unknown. Described by Senator Ron Baynes (the government official in charge of Scandal's assignment) on one occasion as "98% flesh free", Scandal is little more than a customizable killing machine. Scandals arms have been replaced with oversized novelty cannons, and most of her body has been replaced with weapon systems of some description. Although she is frequently seen to be 'killed', there is always just enough of Scandal left for her to be rebuilt. Scandal is sometimes supported by two ineffective CIA agents, Wayne Knight and Eric Damsel, who are slaughtered in issue seventeen, 'Overkill', the first part of the 'Life on the Run' story arc.
Dr. Lauren PalmerThe biochemist in charge of the Rhesus Project, Lauren is credited with creating the Rhesus Serum. When the government pulls the plug on the Project and sends Scandal to liquidate the team, Dr. Palmer went into hiding (presumably in or around issue twelve). The new Rhesus Factor try to track down Lauren in order to get fresh supplies of the serum for Emma, and in the hope that she can help them. When they find her, she reveals that she was not responsible for the serum, but was just the project figurehead. She reveals that the project director, Salmanazar, gave her the biochemical schematics for the serum and she just administered it.
David George, RA
Dr. Palmer's research assistant, David has a small role in the storyline. It is George who provides the new Rhesus Factor with the information on where Lauren is hiding, thus allowing the team to find her. He appears in issues twenty nine and thirty, after which he disappears, presumably killed by either Scandal or the Antediluvian assassins.
SalmanazarThe mysterious Salmanazar appears only in shadows for the first thirty issues. Presented as the government contact and director of the Rhesus Project, it is Salmanazar who orders Scandal to kill the original team. In issue thirty one, it is revealed that Salmanazar is an Antediluvian - a race of extremely ancient beings, older than humankind by millions of years.
The AntediluviansThe Antediluvians are non-corporeal entities which exist slightly outside of normal space-time. They can possess a corporeal body and take control of it indefinately. When an Antediluvian leaves a host, the host usually dies, the flesh shriveling up and decaying to dust in seconds. Alive since the middle of the cretaceous period (the last dance of the dinosaurs) the Antediluvians engineered the evolution of mankind because of what Salmanazar once describes as "cosmic ennui". Human history has been a slow and deliberate battle between the different Antediluvians. The fight, not maliciously, but simply for entertainment. They don't care about humanity: they made them, and they can throw them away when they get bored. After all, they have only been around for a few hundred thousand years. Most of the back story of the Antediluvians is revealed in issue thirty three ('Salmanazar').
Imperials and Magnus
There are at least two different factions of Antediluvians identified in the comic. Firstly there are the Imperials, the faction to which Salmanazar belongs, who have been the driving force between all of humanities great Empires, including the modern Capitalist Empire in the United States. Other Imperials mention include Jeroboam, Rehoboam and Nebuchadnezzar. Most of the time, the Imperials enjoy playing their Empires off against each other, but they are also opposed by the anarchic Magnus. This faction would prefer to see humanity wipe itself out ("just for a laugh", as Melchior says) and are enormously entertained by mankind's foolish antics. The only Magnus mentioned by name are Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar.
The Neo-Anarchist AllianceA group of idealistic terrorists consisting of Tony Cheung, Grunt, Sarah Wallace and Stumpy. They befriend the new team while they are on the run, and they form a temporary alliance until the NAA betray Rhesus Factor and leave them trapped in an office building, under siege from the FBI and trapped with a bomb that the anarchists have planted (Rhesus Factor twenty one through twenty five, in the 'Secrets' plot arc). The members of the Neo-Anarchist Alliance reappear in the later story arcs, 'The Bloodchild' (issues thirty four to forty) and 'Apocalypse Chime (issues forty one to fifty) where they have since been transformed into metahumans - Carnage (Cheung), Grunt, Scream (Wallace) and Stump.
Other MetahumansAmongst the metahumans to cross paths with Rhesus Factor regularly are the supervillain trio Lust, Pump and Meat; the vigilante guardian of Music City, Dr. Music; and the decaying remains of Rot (A.K.A. the Villain Currently Known As Rot).
Night Soil (Jon Dunn)
Actually a character from another comic crossing over into Rhesus Factor, Night Soil appears briefly in the Hemorrhage vehicle 'Blood and Guts' (Rhesus Factor number twenty, part of the 'Life on the Run' storyline). Jon Dunn was a diabetic who was transformed into a animate pile of sewage after inadvertantly consuming a lethal enzymatic chemical cocktail by mistake. Sugar is poisonous to him while insulin can temporarily restore him to normality.
Section Five: Where else has Rhesus Factor appeared?
Night SoilThe new Rhesus Factor appear in issue five of the Night Soil comic ('Blood Sugar'), also from Bald Eagle. The issue follows on from 'Blood and Guts' story, mentioned above. At the time, Rhesus Factor's popularity seemed like an easy way to boost the sales of fledgling comic Night Soil. The book was canceled after issue twelve. It is most remembered for its tagline "All who know fear shit at the sight of Night Soil."
Rhesus Factor FictionSince the cancellation of Rhesus Factor, and the collapse of Bald Eagle, the Rhesus Factor license became available. It has been acquired by British writers Spiral Lobster ('Downtime', 'Dreamtime') and Richard Boon ('A Secret Life of Words', 'Hub') who have written a number of short stories featuring the 'new' Rhesus Factor (and are continuing to do so between other projects). It has been rumored that they are collaborating on a Rhesus Factor film screenplay. Any questions regarding the Rhesus Factor license should be directed to Discordia Incorporated.
Section Six: Fanboy Questions
What is the Zinc Age?Amongst the Rhesus Factor fans, the first twelve issues are collectively known as the 'Zinc Age' (after the tendency to refer to early comics as Golden or Silver age). It is usually used disparagingly, although some regulars on alt.fan.rhesusfactor use the term affectionately.
Is Music City really Nashville?No. Nashville is in the center of Tennessee but Music City is presumably somewhere on the East side of Tennessee, since it is close to the border of Virginia. According to Rael, "Music City is to Nashville what Metropolis is to New York."
Why do dead metahumans not explode before issue twenty three?There is no official explanation for this, although it is made apparent that not all metahumans explode after death. The most popular fan explanation is that the Rhesus Serum mutated somewhere down the line and hence 'second generation' metahumans are more likely to explode than 'first generation'. Other possible explanations include dramatic license, Antediluvian influence and just sheer chance.
How much of the Earth is left after the Apocalypse Chime?According to Martin Chase: "Pretty much all of it, it's just all the people who are dead." However, since Rhesus Factor ended without showing anything more than the devastated surroundings around the team, it is possible that there are other survivors. Nick Waring says on the end of the comic: "If there was a resurgence in popularity, I'm certain Martin and Rob would find a way to keep the story going."
What does PMPB stand for?This is an abbreviation for 'Pre-Menstrual Psycho Bitch', usually used by regulars on alt.fan.rhesusfactor to refer to Hemorrhage when she is at her most tempestuous.
Are there Rhesus Factor collectibles?There are a small number of collectible items associated with the comic. Firstly, there was the unlicensed Rhesus Factor T-shirt, printed by Dismal Designs, a Virginia-based company based in Isle of Wight County. (They also printed a Night Soil T-shirt featuring that comic's tagline). Secondly, there was a Rhesus Factor trading card series printed by Prentis consisting of forty cards featuring art from all fifty issues on relatively cheap cardstock. Finally, there is a compilation CD produced in 1995 entitled 'Music from the Rhesus Factor Comics', out on the Ars Cloaca label.
Why is Rhesus Factor so sexist?Probably because you don't understand what the term means. The comic has a rather dim view of just about everyone and everything, regardless of age, race or gender.
Why did Rael and Sara leave the comic?In his last (known) public appearance at the San Diego Comicon, Rael said that he would have been happy to carry on writing the comic as long as Sara stayed as his artist. But she was finding it increasingly more difficult to make deadlines, and in the end they had to drop the book.
Did Rael and Sara approve of their successors?Nick Waring claims that Rael and Sara didn't mind what happened to Rhesus Factor after they left it, but Rael has been quoted as saying: "I was a little upset with what [Martin and Rob] did to our comic after we left, but it was still nice to see it live on for a few more years. I can't say I like what they did to Emma, but the title belonged to Bald Eagle and not to us, so there wasn't anything we could do."
Section Seven: Issue Guide
Issues 1-12 (May 91 - April 92) "The Zinc Age"
- 1 (May 91): First appearance of original Rhesus Factor team (excluding Emma), first Dr. Palmer, first Salmanazar.
- 2 (June 91): First Emma (as Bloodlust).
- 7 (November 91): First Ben; blood transfusion from John. Embolism becomes Coma.
- 11 (March 92): First Scandal; Coma killed.
- 12 (April 92): Entire original team slaughtered by Scandal, except for Emma.
Issues 13-26 (August 1992-September 1993)
- 13, 'Tourniquet' (August 92): Title page first states 'featuring the New Rhesus Factor'. Start of the 'Empty Vessels' arc (part 1 of 3). New Rhesus Factor team introduced.
- 14, 'Bloodlines' (September 92): Scene involving Salmanazar hints at the Antediluvians for the first time..
- 15, 'Sutures' (October 92): First mention of Emma as Hemorrhage.
- 16, 'Hospital Apocalypse' (November 92): First Dr. Music (versus Scandal and Rhesus Factor). Note: although 'Empty Vessels was listed as a three part run, this issue is tagged as 'Empty Vessels: Epilogue'.
- 17, 'Overkill' (December 92): Start of the 'Life on the Run' arc (part 1 of 4). Knight and Damsel appear and are killed; Rhesus Factor splits up.
- 18, 'Normal, Everyday Lives' (January 93): Plasma and Blood Clot only, set in the University of Tennessee at Music City. Note: this is the first issue to drop the 'New' on the title page.
- 19, 'Freaks' (February 93): Hemogoblin only, set in a freakshow.
- 20, 'Blood & Guts' (March 93): Hemorrhage/Night Soil crossover. Continued in Night Soil #5.
- 21, 'New Blood' (April 93): Start of the 'Secrets' arc (part 1 of 5). First Sarah (finds Emma) and Tony (finds Plasma and Blood Clot).
- 22, 'Reunion' (May 93): First Neo-Anarchist Alliance (mentioned by name), Rhesus Factor reunited.
- 23, 'Opening Old Wounds' (June 93): first exploding metahuman; Rhesus Factor get government files on the Rhesus Project.
- 24 'Blood Pressure' (July 93): ends with the infamous FBI siege scene.
- 25 'Scapegoats' (August 93): first issue with death count in excess of one hundred.
- 26 'Sifting the Ashes (September 93): Epilogue to 'Secrets'. There was no Rhesus Factor in October 93 owing to Rob's wife giving birth.
Issues 27-50 (November 93 - October 95)
- 27, 'The Other Side - Part 1' (November 93): part one of a four part storyline.
- 30, 'The Other Side - Part 4' (February 94): last appearance of David George.
- 31, 'Roots - Part 1' (March 94): first mention of the Antediluvians; Rhesus Factor encounter Salmanazar for the first time (but don't trust him).
- 32, 'Roots - Part 2' (April 94): first appearance of an Antediluvian other than Salmanazar ( Jeroboam).
- 33, 'Salmanazar (May 94): No Rhesus Factor; issue tells back story of the Antediluvians.
- 34, 'Ties of Blood' (June 94): start of 'The Bloodchild' arc which runs for seven issues.
- 41, 'Ask Not...' (January 95): start of the 'Apocalypse Chime' arc which runs for ten issues.
- 50, 'Last Orders on a Grand Scale' (October 95): last issue. Entire planet destroyed, except for Rhesus Factor team.
The Official Rhesus Factor FAQ is maintained by Fabian Boyle.
Contributions from Ian Bass, Tyler Lee, Tomas Sanchez, Casey Rehrer, Brandon Smith, Polly Gerle, Tupou Mataele, Chris Yura, David Flefla, Jeremy Wheeler, Josh Aliveto, Austin Bousman, George Patterson, Jacob Estrada, Jon Smirnoff, Chris Joint, Mark Wigal, Thomas Porchia, Devonta Townes, Brad Hegg, Tyson Luthi, Rob Guinness and Wes Graham.
Special thanks to Nick Waring and Martin Chase for their assistance in compiling this FAQ.