15 November 2020

FWS Forgotten Classics: Strikeforce Morituri


















The 1980's were a time of great change in the American comic book industry with The Big 2 attempting to figure out how to survive the changing ground of the 1980's. In 1986, one of the most unique, brutal, and uneven Superhero comics would come out of Marvel Comics: Strikeforce Morituri (SFM). Featuring humans that willingly underwent a process to grain themselves superpowers, dubbed the "Morituri Process" to protect the Earth from the savage inhuman raids by an alien race known as the Horde. In this Forgotten Classic, FWS will be finally looking at this bold and surprising Marvel comic that was a part of my childhood and has left echoes within me since I first read it in 1986.   

What was Strikeforce Morituri 
Running from December of 1986 to July of 1989, Strikeforce Morituri was one of the most original and unique major studio Superhero comic titles ever released in the US. Originally developed by Peter Gillis who was an independent operators that had worked for a variety of comic book outfits during his career, including Dr. Strange and the first computer-generated comic, Shatter. During the mid-1980's, Gillis was attempting to find a buyer for his new take on Superhero comics concept. It was during this time that Jim Shooter of Marvel was looking for titles that could be added to his new vast concept of "The New Universe". There was much discussion at Marvel on how to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the comic book publisher, and Jim Shooter proposed the concept of a shared universe that happened in real-time and could allow new readers to get in on the ground floor of these new series and new fictional universe. While Shooter had proposed to wrap all comics, then relaunch them under the New Universe title, that concept was scaled back to be a dozen brand new titles in the New Universe. With the publisher scouring for new titles, Carol Potts (of Alien Legion fame) took a meeting with Gillis and love the concept and suggested Brent Anderson (who was under contract with Marvel) draw the comic that would have been in the New Universe lineup However, the creative team behind Strikeforce Morituri, passionately protested the comic book's inclusion into the New Universe. Due to the power of the concept, it was decided to not include into the New Universe banner, and instead be under its own universe. The first issue would be published by Marvel Comics in December of 1986, just a few months after the New Universe concept rolled out its first issues. By 1987, Jim Shooter was fired and the New Universe was cancelled by Marvel for lack of sales and lack of future the New Universe had by 1989. This was also the dame year that Strikeforce Moriturir ended their series as well.  

The World of the Horde, Paideia, and Temporary Superheroes
Near the end of the 21st century, Earth was in a more peaceful state and the Paideia Institute was largely reasonable for that. All nuclear weapons had been eliminated and destroyed at this at point in Terran history along with a greater reduction in military spending. While the world was not yet fully united under a single government, the Paideia was closer than the UN ever got. Then the Horde showed up about four years before the events of the comic series and the world united under the Paideia due to the alien threat to pool their resources and cut down on the red tape. The threat that the Earth faced in 2069 was unlike anything else humanity had faced before, but the Horde were known and feared to other civilizations in the galaxy. The Horde (AKA the "Va-Shakk" in their own tongue) were a race condemned to their own dying homeworld. Due to tribal warfare, the environment was failing and it looked like the global civil wars would end the race. At this point, the Va-Shakk were not a spacefaring race nor possessed nuclear weapons. What gave them access to the stars was when a kind, friendly alien race, known as the "Tall Ones" came to the Horde homeworld. These golden-colored beings offered everything with kindness and asked nothing in exchange for their gifts save for the Horde to one day join a brotherhood among the stars. What the Tall Ones got was a blade to the throat and bullets in the belly. 
The Tall Ones ships gave the Horde access to the stars and for over a thousand years, the Horde have wandered the stars looking for habitable worlds to plunder, enslave, and rape while fighting among themselves, never to return to their used-up homeworld. As a society, the Horde are closer to warring clans or street gangs than a unified military and/or government, They want booty and trophies to achieve society standing and honor within their martial society. With the Morituri raids on the home-ships of the Horde in orbit, it has been proposed that the Horde humans encounter are the male warriors and the women, children, and honored elders are in the  home-ships in orbit around Saturn. This has made a true counting of the Hordian society impossible. What is known is that the Hordian marauder society was in deep trouble until they encountered the rich Earth. It has been a very long time since the Hordian society had located a world with such richness that could pull the Hordian society out of near starvation and civil war. It is also believed that the Horde avoid alien civilizations that could repel or defeat them. Earth looked like low-hanging rich fruit...that was until the Morituri came into the war. 
In 2072, Dr. Kimmo Tuolema developed the most effective and terrifying weapon against the Horde: the Morituri Process. This 2-stage process allowed very specific young humans (about 5% of the Terran population) to become temporary superheroes with a new metabolism. The first stage of the transformation was to turn the volunteer into a superior physical human and the second process gifted them superhero powers. However, there were vast drawbacks. For one, the powers granted in the second process varied wildly and two, these powers emerged only during times of stress. Dr. Kimmo's lab used a stress room called "the Garden", based on the X-Men "danger room", to awaken their powers. Seriously, the comic references the characters saying the X-Men gave them the idea. The third drawback was the worst and most famous: the limited lifespan of those that undergo the Morituri Process. Everyone that takes the process dies within one year due to their metabolism breaking down and causing them to explode. Series creator, Peter Gillis had stated that no one was safe from the Morituri Effect...as it was called. The first five that went under the process were called the Black Watch, and only three survived out of the Garden. Their first and only mission was to attack the Horde Earth-side settlement/HQ at Capetown South Africa and killed the First-in-the-Field, the leader of the Horde operations on Earth. Two of the Black Watch were able to leave Capetown, but died when his Morituri Effect took over. In retaliation, the Horde nuked San Diego. Shortly after this, the comic book series would start with the First Generation of Morituri. When the series ended, it was with the 8th generation of Morituri.   

The Historical Context of Strikeforce Morituri
Before we move into the specifics of SFM, we need to revisit the 1980's again. The world of comic books underwent a shift in the 1980's with the rise of the smaller comic publishers that chipped away at the profits of the Big Two comics (DC & Marvel). Publishers like Dark Horse, First, Comico, and others were willing to take chances on newer, darker, non-mainstream ideas for comics that broke with the types of comics published by the Big Two. Unlike publishers that turned toward non-traditional comic characters, much like Dark Horse, Marvel and DC had traditional ideas of comic subjects with classic (and tired) characters being represented by Spiderman and Superman, plus, the Big Two had their advertisers to think of.  Soon, the Big Two were seeing customers, like myself, turn away for their traditional comic titles for favor of the smaller publishers that offered something different. I was a prime example of this movement in the mid-80's, I hated superheroes and their overdeveloped sense of morality, causing me to spend my allowance on non-Big Two titles. This caused Marvel and DC to take their own chances after decreasing sales, DC published titles like the Dark Knight which is considered to be one of the best comic titles of all time, and Marvel created Epic Comics that printed titles like Alien Legion, Groo, and Akira. But that was not enough, and soon, DC and Marvel started putting title forward that would not have been considered only a few years ago, and Strike Force Morituri was one, along with the much darker Punisher War Journal and the 'Nam. The irony of the situation was that DC and Marvel could take the financial risk of publishing titles that were a break from tradition due to their deep pockets, while smaller comic companies risked everything, betting the farm that readers would pick up their books instead of the latest issue of X-Men. Speak of the X-Men, Marvel had great sales success with that title and used it as a springboard to launch other titles under the X-Men brand and universe, like X-Force, the New Mutants, and even Powerpack 

Why is SFM is a Classic?
The American comic book industry was an odd place in the 1980's and it shows in the comics being produced and by whom. While the Big 2 pumped out familiar titles, like Superman, Batman, the X-Men; there were others putting out titles like Alien Legion, Rust, Concrete, The Terminator, and The Elementals.  This is what made STM an classic: because of who published it. It was not Epic, Comico, First, or even Dark Horse...it was Marvel and STM was unlike anything before or since in the realm of Superhero comics. That is the primary reason that Strikeforce Morituri is a classic, because it is just damn unique. The "superheroes" of the Morituri are complex characters with a range of backstories and issues to deal with and all deal with their impending deaths differently. This causes religion to feature more than most comics I read back in the day and makes prefect sense. While most of us knew that Batman or Superman would be back next month, that was not true of the Morituri. They could be there for several issues or die in the first one. Largely this was due to the dreaded Morituri Effect. In addition, this made the current Morituri team ever changing and altering, who was the leader or the focus, altered based on who was live and who was dead. And who the team lost caused ripples in the team. 
Their ticking time clocks made the Morituri impatient. They wanted to be out there killing Horde and that put them at odds with the Paidiea leadership. While the Terran society idolized the Morituri. even the point of comics, TV shows, and toys being made of them, there were those in the government that mistrusted them. This was a bold step for a Superhero comic and may have lead to its downfall...more on that later. No hero can be complete without an great enemy and the Moritrui were against a unique enemy in the Horde. These alien marauders were violent, materialistic, tribal, and unpredictable. The Horde were nothing to pity, the reader wanted them dead, but since they were interesting, you wanted more about them and their society. And that is just want Anderson and Gillis did. The way that the Horde are presented and the way that operate in a more tribal fashion was refreshing to the standard alien invades along with raids for trophies and not just the standard items or to eat us. The Horde took chocolate, movies, and slaves; causing the entire world to be under fear of being the victim of the next Horde raid. Both of these factors caused the comic to have an air of violence, brutality, boldness, and death that seems more realistic and compelling than the standard Avengers comic of the day. I was ten when I started reading my brothers SFM comics, it shocked and fascinated me. Another cool element that I enjoyed and I think makes SFM  classic is the use of the in-universe comic book showing the hyped up deeds of the prototype Morituri: The Black Watch. It was brilliantly handled with different artist being used to have it look separate from the rest of the comic.                  

Why was SFM Forgotten?
There are works created to shock and unsettle us, like seeing Dennis Franz’s ass in NYPD Blue back in 1993, and in some ways, Strikeforce Morituri was the same and really since. It was designed to be evocative and unsettle the reader with a take on the Superhero genre that was unlike anything else at the time. This comic was heavily hyped and solid well for Marvel and was praised at the time. Like most comic book buyers at the time, you normally bought one or two issues to try it out, and then you made a decision if it was indeed worth your allowance. While my brother made the decision to buy SFM every month until the end of the series, others did not. The shock and awe of the concept, for some, faded. That was true of when the original creative team of Anderson & Gillis departed for other titles and companies. Some did not continue to buy the comic after the radical shift in tone, setting, and overall story. Once the Horde were destroyed by the VXX-199, and the war ended, it was the end for most people buying the comic. After 31 issues, the party was over and while there was the limited series to follow up some ten years later after the end of the Horde War, it sold poorly and most fans dislike the tone, setting, art, and story. Another reason for SFM being forgotten is that the time period in which in came out. With no internet as we understand it today, Strikeforce Morituri was a product of its time, and unless you knew about it, heard about it, or saw in the back-issue bins; it remained hidden. Once the internet came to the level, we know it today, articles and message board posts began to discuss Strikeforce Morituri. Then Marvel reissued the series in 2012 in three trade paperback volumes and even the first issue as a standalone. This increased the visibility of the 1980’s series and there have been other mentions and projects....more on that down below.        

The Tale of the Two Strikeforce Morituri
For those of us that read SFM back in the day when it was being published, it came as a shock when we realized the the two creators, Peter Gillis and Brent Anderson, had left and James Hudnall was in as the writer of the series. The tone and overall theme of the comic shifted within the first two issues under new management. This resulted in the frst 20 issues of Strikeforce: Morituri being the original Classic Coke and issue 21-31 being the New Coke of the SFM universe. So, why did Gillis and Anderson leave? This was a time of great flux at Marvel and DC Comics was paying good money for talent here in the States and overseas, like with Alan Moore. They had offered Gillis more money to come over to DC Comics and work on Tailgunner Jo and  Gammarauders, that was connected to the old post-nuclear war world game of Gamma World from good old TSR. Gillis had also worked on Shatter, the first computer-generated comic and even Dr. Strange. It is uncertain why Anderson left...his career has been hit -or-miss for years since leaving Marvel...it is possible he saw where the wind was blowing at Marvel after the firing of Jim Shooter. Marvel tapped James Hudnall to write with a series of different artists. This seriously altered the tone, setting, characters, and story of the SFM series to the degree that they can be considered nearly two different stories within the same universe.  
Within six issues of James Hudnall taking the conn, the Horde threat was basically neutralized by the new aliens coming to the "aid" of humanity in the form of the VXX-199 (who are quite inventive in concept). From issue 26 to issue 31, the story alters to be about a conspiracy within the one-world government, the Paideia, a new group of Morituri assassins developed to forward the conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Ministry of the Paideia and stage a coup to seize power after the Horde threat. At the end of the series, the coup plot is foiled by the current Morituri team, and the VXX-199 are set up as the coming threat. The epilogue sets up the next limited series as a more cyberpunk setting. One of the researchers of the comic has stated that it is possible that Hudnall moved the Morituri storyline to an early death to embark on the more cyberpunk theme. No one knows if Gillis had left Hudnall some notes or an outline to upcoming storylines...did Gillis have the VXX-199 in mind for the end of the Horde? Another uncomfortable angle is that since the VXX-199 ended the Horde threat, what was the sacrifice of the Morituri for ultimately? Was it a waste? To me, the involvement of the VXX-199 undercut the entire comic and its unique setting. Also adding to this, an Horde virus is found that could counteract the Morituri Effect and give the current the Morituri extended life beyond the "within on year" rule. This completely shatters the basic rules of the SFM comic that Gillis set down and a critical element of the comic. This changed the tone so completely that it spoiled the entire rest of the comic for me and many others. In one way that tone was altered was the one-world government of Paideia and the society it represented. In the Gillis-era, the world was united against the Horde and the Morituri were heroes. In the Hudnall-era, there are force within the Paideia being used to seize power after the Horde threat and the Morituri were twisted into assassins.     

If SFM was so Great why did it end after 31 Issues?
It seems the going rate that some of the best comics only run for a short time then end, like Dynamo Joe. So, the question begs itself: if Strikeforce Morituri was so great why did the series end after just 31 issues? First, the basic nature of the concept of the temporary Superhero caused the structure of the characters and the team to alter all the time, sometimes even from issue-to-issue. This is direct contrast to the basic narratively structure of the classic Superhero comic that have all events orbit around the central characters. This model breaks down when it comes to the SFM series and that turned off some readers and ruined its long-term prospects. The lack of SFM being a longer series that ran for years also was hampered by its setting: the Horde War. Wars are mostly not forever (sorry Joe Haldeman!) and if you are centering your fictional universe around a war, it mostly will be limited. While creators find ways to extend a wartime setting for years (see Star Wars or Sgt. Rock), SFM project that the Horde War was coming to end due to the appearance of the Morituri. Some have argued that SFM should have been designed originally to be a limited series, especially given what happened after issue #20. When Gillis and Anderson left after issue #20, James Hudnall was installed as the writer and his reign over the SFM comic series changed some many of the core elements. From issue #21-#31, the artwork, writing, and the coloring changed for the worst, the Horde War was ended and Hudnall switched to a conspiracy involving the global government and some black ops Morituri team. Some people online have suggested that Hudnall wanted to change the world of Strikeforce Morituri the entire time to more of cyberpunk vide and without a one-world government. It remains unknown if Anderson and Gillis had stayed on as the creative team of SFM, how the comic would have progressed and if it would have remained on the stands longer than just 31 issues.

What About the Sequel "Electric Undertow"?!
At the end of issue #31, another limited series was teased in a epilogue about ten years into the future. In December of 1989, the sequel to the original SFM series came out with the same creative team of the second part of the SFM series: James Hudnall, Mark Bagley, and Carlos Garzon. At the end of the original series, the new organic technology using alien race, the VXX-199, have wiped the Earth-orbit Horde armada and the remains of the Horde retreat to Mars or to Saturn. It is heavily hinted that the VXX-199 liberated us for the Horde only to put us on their dinner menu. While exploring the VXX-199 plans for humanity would have been interesting, it was not within the plans of James Hudnall. He wanted to tell a cyberpunk story with some of his political views inserted complete with AI ghosts. I do not remember this coming out in 1989 and I am very glad I never spent money on it. Basically, it is shit. Pure unfiltered chili-with-extra-beans-the-night-before shit. Badly written to the degree of humor, unimaginative, and dull. This is to be forgotten and avoid. If you want to read the story, find for free (don't pay for this fucking thing!) on one of those comic scanning sites and enjoy with some liberal use of Jack-and-Coke.

 The Impact and Legacy of SFM
At the time of release, there was much buzz around the concept of the comic and the sales were good along with the press. Many praised the setting and the “twist” on the Superhero genre. However, it did not spawn other similar comics at the time in the mid-to-late 80’s. Despite this, the people that read the comic back in the day remember it and some, like me, remember it as iconic and legendary. It was not just confined to us comic book geeks of the 80’s, but Hollywood came knocking for a movie and/or TV series. In 2002, the Sci-Fi Channel thought the basic concept of the comic would make a great TV series, which I agree given the Morituri Effect. With the amount of characters coming in and out, the television format would work well to allow the audience to feel the impact of the Morituri Process and the Effect on characters they get to know over several episodes. It was going to be titled “A Thousand Days”. From some of the information online, The 1,000 Day series may not have followed the format or central plot of the show. Given that the Morituri Process was best on people between 18 and early 20’s, this could have been designed and packaged to be aimed at younger viewers. 
However, legal issues stop the project before developed was too far along. There was a disagreement between Gillis and Marvel about who owed the rights to the comic. Gillis and his lawyer maintained that he did not sign over the rights to the Strikeforce Morituri to Marvel and therefore Marvel could not license the rights to Sci-Fi Channel. This legal disagreement killed the deal and “The 1,000 Days” became “The Zero Day”. In 2011, Watermark Entertainment and Peter Gillis entered into a deal to bring the SFM comic to the big screen and with Gillis working on the script. Nothing really came from this and there the possible franchise for SFM hangs. Given the legacy that SFM has among those that are in the know about this series, some other comic books in the Marvel universe have made reference to the Morituri. In the #4 and #5 issues of the 2014 X-Force, there several reference to the alternate Earth (Earth-1287) that spawned the Morituri Process and why. The character of Christoph Nord from the Exiles series was from the Earth of the Morituri and the Horde.    

Next Time on FWS...
There are few firearms in all of the history of guns that have been more of a “statement gun” than the subject of our next Guns from the Future article: the Magnum Research/IMI Desert Eagle. A daring of the video game shooter, loved by anime creators, hated by shooters, and passionately embraced by cinema. While the Desert Eagle has a complex relationship with the worlds of entertainment and firearms, it was widely accepted by the community of science fiction as a weapon that looked like it was from the future. 

29 October 2020

Future Military Profiles: The EarthForce from Babylon 5

When humanity took to the stars, they were greeted with a galaxy that was already inhabited with a number of races, new and old. The united Earth made her way into deep space with help from the Centauri gift of the jumpgates. By the 3rd Age of Man, the defenders of Earth and her colonies was the EarthForce and during the mid-23rd centuries, the EarthForce was tested like never since her founding with the Earth-Minbari War, the Shadow War, and the Earth Civil War coming within 20 years. Despite being one of the newer races on the galactic scene, the men and women of the EarthForce tried their best be prepared for war and peace. Here is a profile of EarthForce around the 2260's, during one of most critical points in the history of the galaxy. 

A Word about the Sources and the Information
In these articles about Future Military Profiles, I attempt to pull from canon sources and develop these sections to a certain depth. Unfortunately, I could not do this with this one due to the terrible secondary sources associated with the RPG and even some elements of the TV show. I was forced to fill in pieces with my own imagination and some information designed by fans. For example, the Fleet of EarthForce is larger, like tens of thousands of ships, but the official losses for the war is 250,000. 250,000. When you watch the excellent "In the Beginning", the TNT prequel to B5 that showed the Earth-Minbari War, Earth warships are wiped out along with all of the off-world military bases battle after battle. Starfleet lost 11,000 at the Battle of Wolf 359 when the Borg cube destroyed 39 starships. I call bullshit that EarthForce number on that my friends. In this article, the EarthForce lost millions and nearly all of their space navy. To be honest, the secondary source material, like the RPG source book for EarthForce (GROPOS is awesome!) is badly written and terribly done and it fueled my desire to fill in the holes. Due to this article, I will never write a Future Military Profile on the classic Battlestar Galactica Colonial Warrior military.    

What is EARTHFORCE?
In the 23rd century, Earth, her dozen colonies, and outposts that are spread out over 14 star systems are governed over by the Earth Alliance, based at the city Geneva in the  complex known as the EarthDome. Established in 2064 when Earth began to founded colonies on Luna and Mars. By 2085, the Earth Alliance replaced and surpassed the UN as the united government of humanity. 
While it was hoped by the governments of Earth that the stars could be used for peace, piracy fueled the EA to push for its members to vote on the formation of defensive organization to protect the colonies and space lanes from pirates and rival corporations. In 2130, the EarthForce was established as both a military and law enforcement organization in the Sol System. By the 23rd century, the EarthForce organization within the larger Earth Alliance was responsible for defense of Earth and her colonies, exploration, and scientific endeavors. Millions of Terrans volunteer for EarthForce serve has both enlisted and officer roles along with civilian contractors. For the most part, there are no aliens in the service of the EarthForce. 
Within its own organization, it has four divisions or "Corps": Space (the Fleet), the Marines (GROPOS), Medical, and Security. The Fleet encompasses the largest amount of personnel, money, and exposure. Fully 2/3rds of the EarthForce budget is devoted to the Fleet and its operations. By the time of the 2260's, the Fleet was divided up into Eight Fleet Groups based around major colonies or off-world bases. For example, The 1st Fleet is based in the Sol, while 3rd Fleet is based at Proxima III, and the 8th Fleet is based at the Orion Colonies. 
However, the Space Corps is much more than a space navy, space exploration is also undertaken with vessels like the vast Explorer class along with scientific missions to strangle new worlds. In addition, the Terran network of Jumpgates are also maintained and served by EF Fleet personnel. While the Fleet operates in the inky blackness of space, the EF Marine Corps operates in the various exo-planet environments and does work closely with the Fleet for transport, VBSS operations, and some internal ship security operations. Much like the Fleet, the EFMC (or "GROPOS") is much more than off-world stocktroopers, but also includes tactical air, armored vehicles, and artillery. 
To serve and patch back up the soldiers of the Fleet and the Marines was the Medical branch that encompassed doctors, nurses, and technicians. The last Corps of the EarthForce is the Security Corps. This was unlike any other Corps of the EarthForce in that it was not devoted to warfare, but law enforcement among the colonies and outposts of Earth. While not a direct military role, there have been times when the Colonial Militia and their local "space marshals" had to defend a colony until the cavalry arrived through a Jumpgate.    

The Composition of EARTHFORCE

The Ships
The pride and joy of any spacefaring race is their space fleet/navy.  The fleet is critically important to maintain security around the colonies, shipping lanes, and the borders. Given the vastness of outer space, governments have to field and maintain a vast space fleet to vend off any aggressors, bother internal and external This means that any spacefaring power, like the Earth Alliance, must have a space fleet and for any military organization that is the branch that costs the most in terms of manpower, resources, maintenance, and money. One top-of-the-line warship could be a sizable investment and for some governments, they have to be selective, such as the case with the EarthForce. The ships that were constructed altered greatly before and after the Earth-Minbari War in terms of numbers and the classes of the EarthForce Fleet. 
Prior to the bloody Earth-Minbari War (beginning in 2245), the EarthForce was around 50,000-60,000 ships in total in the service of the EF Fleet. About 18,000 of these were considered capitol ships of primary combat roles. The primary combat vessel of the EF Fleet was the Hyperion class Heavy Cruiser and made in vast numbers. Along side the Hyperion class, was the older Olympus class corvette and the Nova class dreadnought. The Fleet that was involved in the Earth Civil War was smaller, but more focused and deadly, via the Omega class. The leadership of the Fleet and the ships assembled were educated and altered due to the War with the Dilgar (2230-2232). It was that post-Dilgar War EF Fleet that stumped into war with one of the most power races and nearly ended humanity. 
Soon after the war started, it was clear that the Terran fleet was overwhelmed and not prepared for the technology of the Minbari warrior caste. Every engage was a loss and thousands of ships and millions of service personnel died along side civilians that stood up for their colonies. Despite to fight the war and prevent the Minbari reaching Terra, the Fleet built ships at a unpresented rate with those rushed wartime constructions being crewed by fewer and fewer personnel due to the causalities of the war. The EarthForce turned to automation of much of the ship's operations as the only way to replace some of the crushing losses inflicted by the Minbari Warrior Caste. These vessels would not have passed shipyard inspection for being spaceworthy during peacetime, but these were despite times. 
One of the primary differences was that the wartime construction ships were not internally finished to the same degree as their pre-war brethren. Some of these vessels became little more than fireships or made suicide runs at the organic-looking Minbari warships just to bloody the nose of the invading aliens. When the war finally came to the Sol System, after the Minbari had finished dismantled the entire Earth Alliance colonial network, every Earth ship that was spaceworthy was armed to buy time with their lives for the evacuating civilian transports to leave the solar system. Just as the slaughter was about to begin, the Minbari asked for a ceasefire. Earth and the whole of mankind had been spared from the gallows. 
When the war suddenly ended in 2248 at the Battle of the Line, there were a few dozen proper warships that survived that war and all were either made during the massive fleet construction effort or were pre-war originals that were repaired and redeployed. This gave the EarthForce an interesting opportunity. After the devastating war with the Minbari, the Earthforce Fleet was nearly nonexistent and the rebuilding of Earth's primary line of defense was undertaken with careful consideration to getting the most in the investment in people and credits that both were lean in the aftermath of the destruction across lightyears.
This gave an opportunity to weed out the older designs and field new designs forged from the hard learned lessons from the War. That meant, the new Omega class Destroyer was the primary warship constructed and fielded due to its abilities. The iconic Omega class Destroyer could be a serious threat to all but the Vorlons in ship combat. Just as the Earth-Minbari was beginning, Rocketdyne Industries was testing several prototypes of Omega class destroyer and due to the desperate conditions of the wartime losses, Rocketdyne Industries put the prototypes into battle. This reshaped the class and gave Rocketdyne Industries valuable information to redevelop the Omega class Destroyer into the ship we know today. This class became the phoenix symbol of the EarthForce and the Terran people regaining their strength after the wholesale slaughter of the war. 
While improved Hyperion and Nova class warships were constructed, they were nowhere near in the same numbers as the workhorse Omega class and her variants, like the Essex class carrier, the Poseidon class heavy carrier, and the Normandy class assault ship. Despite being patterned after the primary hull of the Nova class, the Omega class Destroyer was given the credit publicly for being pattern for the new ad improved EarthForce Fleet of the post-war period. For naval historians, the post-Minbari War EarthForce as a whole was symbolized by this one vessel class.  
When the 1st Earth Civil War erupted after the 2nd Shadow War, it should be noted that the EarthForce Fleet was still not up to the same strength levels as the pre-Earth-Minbari War EarthForce Fleet. 
After this terrible period of wars, the Interstellar Alliance was formed and Earth Alliance became a member. During this post-war period, the EarthForce Fleet produced the Warlock class Destroyer, which was a hybrid design of both Terran and alien technology and was the first human vessel to have artificial gravity plating generator, abandoning the spinning sections of the Omega and Explorer classes. For many naval historians, the Warlock class represented the end of the traditional human naval architecture and technology in favor of the designs more based around the White Star class and her alien technology, such as the Destroyer class heavy White Star. These new ships ended the era of the Omega class, but given these ships importance to human history, several were preserved and displayed in museums, like EAS Agamemnon.  

The Space Fighters
While the combat ships of the Fleet were not regarded well by the older races, there was on element of the Fleet that every race who had tangled with them had come to respect: The Starfury class of EarthForce space fighters. Unlike other space combat vehicles, the Starfury fighter is able to utilize all three-dimensions of space for ACM and was considered deadly by the other races. The most iconic of the Starfury class starfighters that grew out of the 2168 AEGIS Program was the 2250's-2260's  SA-23E Aurora and its 2-manned larger, longer range brother, the SA-25 Badger. After the Erth-Minbari War, a larger, more heavily armored and armed Starfury was developed that also could be dual-atmospheric. 
This became the Lockheed-Mitchell SA-32 Thunderbolt Starfury. Interestingly enough, a great number of the most celebrated figures of the 23rd century EarthForce were trained to be Starfury pilots, like Commander Sinclair, Garibaldi, and President Sheridan. While most combat ships of the Fleet carry Starfury fighters, there are transport vessels like the Porcupine and Shepherd classed of simple Starfury haulers and then there is the Omega-based Poseidon class and the aging Avenger class carriers. 

Off-World Bases 
Off-world colonization and the control of Terran space have fueled the need for EarthForce to create and maintain military bases, installations, and space stations across settled space. It is EarthForce policy to have some sort of EarthForce presence on every colonial world and a network of space stations. One of the most important is the transfer station near the Jovian moon of Io. Most of the EarthForce off-world installations were destroyed during the Earth-Minbari War, causing EarthGov to reconstruct all of the bases and outposts. 
In the post-war period, there was no station more important (or more expensive) than Babylon 5 in neutral space. Rapidly, B5 became the place to be for junior officers to get experience that no outpost could compare and it looked great on a service record. It is interesting how the Babylon 5 station rapidly became the most visited designation in the entire galaxy and one of the most visual representations of Earth and her people out among the stars. However, there is a major difference between B5 and other EarthForce space stations: it is not a military installation, and it created an interstellar diplomatic issue when the EarthForce sent the Matok GROPOS Taskforce, comprised of 25,000 GROPOS combat personnel, to the station for temporary layover. Little did anyone know how important B5 would become during the 2nd Shadow War and the 1st Earth Civil War. 

Ground Forces
When the Centauri sold the secret of interstellar travel via the FLT Jumpgates, it put the Earth space military concept into a new context and when the EarthForce met other races beyond the Centauri, it was firmly believed that the days of ground combat were over. That changed when the rebellious Mars colony situation grew hot and the EarthForce was met with Narn weapons and vehicles in 2122. While the Martians lost and the EarthForce easily controlled orbital space, it was far bloody on the surface that it should have been. After the Dilgar War, the newly emboldened and empowered EarthForce foolishly fell head first into a war with one of the most powerful races: the Minbari. While it has been well known that the nearly every naval engagement with the powerful alien race came in the form of defeat, it was not the same story planetside. The EarthForce ground forces were able to bloody the nose of the Minbari Warrior Caste in the dirt far better than the Navy boys and so costly was ground combat with the Humans, that the Minbari decided to blockade planets and not land on them. 
When that war ended and the reconstruction of the military began, the GROPOS were seen in a different light. Unlike the majority of the other races, Earth had been more experienced in land combat prior to the Earth being not united, and this shaped the EarthForce to have something like the  GROPOS within their space forces. While other races had armored vehicles, there was not one with the ground forces philosphy of the EarthForce, and while other races could defeat the EarthForce in the arena of space combat, planetside was much different. This fueled the GROPOS to become the largest planetary army during this time period in galactic history. 
During the 2260's, the GROPOS reached its peak and engagements like the battle at Matok on Akdor under General Franklin only proved its effectiveness. When examining the strike at Matok, we can see how the 356th of the GROPOS operated with the Fleet and how it could be a rapid deployment force. When the 25,000 GROPOS marines were deployed, the Fleet provided some orbital protection and some added punch with one of the bad mother fuckers of the Fleet: the Nova class dreadnought. Coming up behind the EAS Schwarzkopf  was five Condor class long-range troop space transports. Tucked into the EAS Schwarzkopf was several Valkyrie class atmospheric gunships to provide CAS to the marines. No armored vehicles were sent to the Matok operation. In the inventory of the GROPOS was an extensive array of wheeled and tracked armored vehicles that could lay down the hate with missiles heavy KEW and DEW systems in the form of lasers, Gauss guns, and even Rail cannons for the MBTs. Adding to the tactical air power of the EarthForce was some model of the Starfury class of fighters could operate endoatmospherically. 

Special Forces
Very little information is devoted to the Special Operations units of the GROPOS. We know that there are elite units within the intelligence circles and within the Marines, there are such units. Devoted to the arts of sniping, recon, and infiltrating, these Operators use the speed of the Frigga class assault aero-craft to gain mobility and gain surprise on the enemy all types of exo-planet enviroment.  


Intelligence
All of the various branches of the military and the civilian government need fresh intelligence that informs the EarthGov of what could and what is happening in the big galaxy of the 23rd century. The Earth Special Intelligence Division was just that, the gathers of intelligence for the bulk of EarthGov and EarthForce. After the Earth-Minbari War, EarthGov funded the intelligence services very well and recurited the brightest minds they could get to figure out the next threat to humanity as it rebuilt. 



Service Personnel
At the time of the Earth-Minbari War, tens of millions were in the service of the EarthForce with the Fleet needing the majority of the manpower for their thousands of ships. EarthForce recruits their service personnel from the civilian world of Earth and her colonies and enlistment is open to all humans save for psionics. There are several pathways of service. One can enlist into the EarthForce right from the street into the four major branches or corps of the EarthForce: Medical, Security, Space (the Fleet), or the Marines (GROPOS) or attempt entry into the elite Academy to become an commissioned officer in the various branches of the military. 
There was also Officer Candidate School that could be entered into in several ways, mostly by military and civilian colleges both on Terra and off-world. Service in the Corps of the EarthForce was normally in 3, 4, or 9 year blocks. Those that signed up for a 9 year block was given more money and at times, more access to juicy assignments. While service in the EarthForce was volunteer, that did alter during the Earth-Minbari War when the chips were down and the fate of humanity was on the line, causing a planet-wide draft.  
That was one issue that haunted the EarthForce for nearly two decades after the war, the veterans vs. the newbies. The survivors of the war were combat veterans that lived through the worst war in human history and next to them were fresh-faced kids that had watched the war on the news screens or had a family member die at the hands of the boneheads. This was seen in the senior leadership of the Babylon 5 station in Lt. Cmder Susan Ivanova and Captain John Sheridan.    

The History of the EARTHFORCE

Before the Earth-Minbari War
It took sometime for humanity to start the journey into their solar system. After the success of the Armstrong Lunar base, the Earth Alliance was formed in 2075 and it took power more in 2085. With the access to the Sol system and its resources, came issues with colonies, namely Mars and issues with piracy. This become bad enough in the 2130's that the members of the Earth Alliance founded space defensive organizations: the EarthForce. While mostly a police force at first, it was reshaped by issues on Mars, terrorism, and then First Contact. The Centauri made first contact with humanity on April 7th, 2156. Everything changes for humanity, EarthGov, and EarthForce...especially when humanity was given access to the stars via the Centauri "gift" of Jumpgate between Earth and Luna (called the Stargate by humans), they discovered that not only was humanity not alone in the galaxy, but we were at the kids table with the older races like the Minbari and the Vorlons at the head of the adults table. 
After the first jump capability Earth Alliance vessel, the EAS Argo launched in 2159, Earth began to colonize and need for FTL warships of a proper size to defend those colonial ventures. This gave rise to the space fleet to we understand today. Explorer ships like the Oracle class and the massive Pathfinder venture out. By 2164, the first exo-solar colony is founded on Proxima III along with the first constructed jumpgate connecting Proxima III to Terra using Centauri parts. In the 2160's, EarthForce would fund a massive program, AEGIS, to develop new weapon systems (like the Starfury fighters and interceptors) and have the first hostile contact between Earth and an alien species. In 2169, the Koulani Directorate conducted a raid on an human outpost in the Signet system. While the brief hostile contact with the Koulani ended peacefully, it was not the same with the Ch'lonas. In 2170, the opportunistic Ch'lonas attacked Leonis VI. Unlike the hushed defeat of the EarthForce at the hands of the Koulandi, the EarthForce was ready. Since the Koulani raid, the EarthForce had been getting ready for the balloon to go up and during this time, the EarthForce had fielded the first Starfury class space fighters. Then Ch'lonas threat to the Earth Alliance colony in the Leons system was dealt with. 
In 2179, EarthGov identifies a sphere of about 20-40 LYs from the Sol system that could allow for Earth to expanse without running into the other races. From 2190-2220, the Earth Alliance entered into a period of expansion with new colonies, outposts, and Earth constructed jumpgates established (the first being at Io). A great deal happens on the interstellar stage with the Narn achieving independence, the Centauri Republic weakening, and Earth growing in strength. This fueled the development of the League of the Non-Aligned Worlds (LONAW). Some of the iconic warships of the EarthForce Fleet are developed: the Hyperion and Nova classes. During this time as well, there was the Narn raid on the colony on the Epsilon Indi system. However, it is the movements of the Dilgar Empire that bring the Earth Alliance into their greatest moment. 
The xenophobic feline-like Dilgar saw that the time had come to strike and secure new systems due to some instability in their own sun. Pride prevented the Dilgar from reaching out to the LONAW for help. Instead, in 2230, the Dilgar's new massive warfleet marched out of their limited space and conquered the governments near their imperial borders. This rang the alarm, and the LONAW was unable to repel the Dilgar assault. By the end of 2231, the Earth Alliance deployed Taskforce 77 under Admiral Hamato to engage the Dilgar. While superior in technological terms, the EarthForce was able to defeat them and soon, the Dilgar were faced with an real enemy in the humans. Within one year, the EarthForce drove the Dilgar from their occupied systems and all the way back to their home star system after their defeat at the Battle of Balos. 
It was there that the Dilgar were forced to disarm and surrender their military and their warmasters...save for one though. Today, it is strongly believed that the Shadows may have been behind parts of this conflict. Shortly after the Dilgar War ended, their sun went nova, killing their entire race and some believe know that the Shadows may have accelerated the sun's dying to critical mass and killed their client Dilgar for their failure. That victory and the saving of the LONAW propelled the Earth Alliance to new heights of power and respect. It was one of the finest moments in EarthForce military history....it was also dangerous in the fact that it covered the eyes of the EarthGov leadership and EarthForce brass to the realities of space. In the summer of 2245, EarthForce decided to expand to their sphere of influence to near the Minbari Federation, however, nearly nothing was known about them. EarthGov reached out to Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari for information on their bases, borders, and ships to avoid the EF expedition. The Ambassador was no less pleased and told them to not undertake this, because they might "wake the dragon". 
On July 12th, 2245, the EAS Prometheus under the loose-cannon command of Michael Jankowski encountered the Minbari. It was no less than the flagship with the Grey Council and its leader, Dukhat. When the Minbari warship Valen'Tha opened her gun ports as a sign of respect, the Prometheus took it as a hostile action and fired, damaging the Minbari warship and killing Dukhat. What remained of the Grey Council voted to find the human base and wipe it out. Soon after, the Minbari visited the Jericho 3 space station, and wiped it out completely. Thus, began the Earth-Minbari War. This was the most destructive conflict in human history, with more lives lost than most Earth wars combined. Everyone who was alive at the time of the war was effected directly. Millions died, the EarthForce fleet was nearly completely wiped out, and every colony, space station, and base was attacked. For his sins, Michael Jankowski was stripped of his rank, court marshalled, and left to watch the destruction of the human race. Unable to deal with his unforgivable sin, Jankowski would take his own life via PPG pistol. 
 
After the Earth-Minbari War
When the Minbari requested a ceasefire at the Battle of the Line, it saved what remainded of the shattered EarthForce. Out of tens of thousands of EarthForce ships, only a few hundred were able to be spaceworthy enough to be put into action for the last defense of humanity. With the Earth-Minbari War ended in 2248, humanity took stock of what was left of their interstellar society. Millions were dead, billions traumatized, every colony (save for Mars) was either destroyed or damaged, the Fleet was nearly gone, and the war seemed pointless. To prevent another interstellar apocalypse, Earth President Elizabeth Levy proposed the Babylon Project to construct a diplomacy and trade space station in neutral territory to promote and maintain peace among the other races. Part of the Babylon Project would involve the EarthForce. 
Between 2248 and 2256, the EarthForce was constructing the best hope for peace and rebuilding their defense capability. The symbol of this massive reconstruction and reordering of the EarthForce was the new Omega class Destroyer. Due the massive manpower loss, economic hardships, the harsh realities of the recent war, EarthForce could not deploy as large of a Fleet or ground force as existed prior to the Earth-Minbari War. One element of the new face of EarthForce was the massive Explorer class long-range exploration/science ship that surveyed outer space beyond the Earth Alliance and assembled Jumpgates along the way. Due their expense, only a few were assembled.  After the end of the 1st Earth Alliance Civil War in the winter of 2261 and the suicide of Present Clark, the new EarthGov joined the Interstellar Alliance as the EarthForce rebuilt again from another costly war. 
Used by Permission by David & Christy Guertin 
From the ashes of the 2nd Shadow War and the 1st Earth Alliance Civil War, arose the powerful Warlock class advanced destroyer…the replacement for the Omega class. This class, coupled with the new Interstellar Alliance Victory class Destroyer helped defend the Earth from the Drakh assault in December of 2266. With the Drakh virus threatening to force the evacuation of Earth, the IAS Excalibur is sent out into the galaxy to locate a cure with an EarthForce captain at her helm. 
The next pivotal crisis for the EarthForce came in the 2760’s, when two factions within EarthGov came to armed conflict over the role of the Interstellar Alliance in the future of humanity. In 2762, a nuclear war erupts on Earth between the two factions resulting in the “Great Burn” and sending the survivors into a new dark age. The damaged Earth and broken society was more or less isolated by the wider Interstellar Alliance. It would take hundreds of years until Earth recovered. The Great Burn ended the Earth Alliance and the EarthForce as we understand it.    

Are There Any Aliens in EarthForce?
When it comes to comparing the concept of the EarthForce within the B5 universe to something like Starfleet, there is several major differences. One that stood out to me was that there seem to be no non-humans in the service of EarthForce, which is completely the opposite to something like other fictional military organizations like Starfleet or the Alien Legion. It seems from my research, until the Army of the Light and the Interstellar Alliance, the Earth Alliance EarthForce was strictly an homo sapiens only club.     

The Enemies of EARTHFORCE
What is dynamic about the B5 galaxy is that every alien race in the series could swing between being hostile to the Earth Alliance or being an ally. Take the Minbari for example. They came damn close to wiping out humanity forever until the ceasefire at the Battle of the Line, and then they supported the Babylon Project. The same is true of the Narn and Centauri, they were enemies to Earth at times, and allies at others. While the Dilgar were a direct threat, they were removed as a threat to the League of Non-Aligned Worlds in the 2250's.
The two biggest threats to the Earth Alliance and humanity was the Shadows and themselves. The interesting thing about the threat to Earth by the Shadows was more about control than direct military action. While some members of the EarthForce engaged in combat with the Shadows, they confined to the Babylon 5 station and later, the Army of the Light. It is true that the Shadows were an enemy, they were elusive and cunning than other aliens EarthForce had faced, because the Shadows turned mankind against themselves with the reign of President Clark. That brings us to the last enemy of EarthForce, other humans. Humans have always been good at killing each other, and that was proven with the troubles on the Mars colony, the 1st and 2nd Earth Alliance Civil Wars, and even space pirates. The genesis behind the EarthForce was actually human aggressors prior to the first contact with the Centauri, and some of the greatest losses assoicated with combat in the EarthForce history have been at the hands of other humans, such as the 1st and 2nd EarthForce Civil Wars.   

Final Assessment of EARTHFORCE
Often fictional military organization are ranked, and I’ve often wondered what kind of grade the EarthForce would get if was ranked. So, here it is: the final assessment of the Earth Alliance EarthForce. While Earth was one of the younger planets to venture into this part of the galaxy, they soon assembled a vast space fleet of lower technology that could overwhelm and out-brutalize the more advanced enemies that were NOT the Minbari and Vorlon. However, internal conflicts, the recovery from the bloody Earth-Minbari War, and the reign of President Clark weakened the EarthForce along with all of the Earth Alliance. 
However, there should be praise given to the men and women of the EarthForce that served during the bloody and senseless Minbari War that continued to stand against the darkness. Also, praise should be given to those that served on Babylon 5, because they attempted to keep the station running and maintain the peace that the galaxy needed. For that, I think the EarthForce is a solid "B". 


The Impact and Importance of EARTHFORCE
Despite the full run of the TV show along with an RPG system, the impact and importance of this fictional military organization pales in comparison with other fictional military organizations like Starfleet, the Rebel Alliance, or the Colonial Marines; the Babylon 5 EathForce is relatively unknown to the wider public. While fans of military sci-fi, especially those of us that lived through the 1990’s, know of the EarthForce via the iconic Babylon 5 show, it still has not risen to the level of Starfleet within those circles. This also applies to licensed products and again, the EarthForce does not come anywhere close to its contemporaries. Part of this maybe due to the materials developed for the RPG system and the true focus of the show itself. Where there seems that the EarthForce is celebrated to this very day, is in the modelling community, where the iconic hardware of the EarthForce is constructed and celebrated.     

The Sources for this Article:
One of the primary sources for this article was the "The Babylon 5 Project: The EarthForce Source" published by Chameleon Eclectic Entertainment in 1998. This was meant, like many technical manuals, to be used for the Babylon 5 RPG and the wargame. I ordered this, never read it prior, and it was a mess and a real disappointment. A true mess. Some of the information makes no sense or had no foundation in reality, it is light on details topped off with terrible art, and did not contain anything that was compelling like other technical manuals in my collection. The EarthForce Sourcebook is completely dreadful when compared to  contemporaries like the much superior 1998 Voyager Entertainment Starblazer Technical Manual. To help with this breakdown of the EarthForce I would like to thank the various B5 wiki sites, EFNI, and BFtech.org. 
   


Next Time on FWS...
The realm of superheroes is enjoying a bit of a moment in the sun and many of the comics I read in the 80's are coming to the big & small screens in ways I could not imagine when I was a kid going to Time Warp Comics and Starbase 21 in Tulsa. As many of you know, I am not into superheroes as many others are, but there was one superhero comic (besides Watchmen!) that was so unique and special during that time that even to this day, it has not been replicated. That is Marvel Comics' Strikeforce Mortituri. In the next installment of Forgotten Classics, FWS will be diving into one of the most unique superhero comics of all time.