The Trigan Empire: When I was growing up I used to read a publication called Look and Learn. This was a weekly publication, with the idea of educating the minds of young boys. It featured articles on history, dinosaurs, technology and so on. There were occasional comic strips, as well – I have vague memories of one about the Shakespeare play, Macbeth. But the strip which, as a kid, I really enjoyed reading was The Trigan Empire.
The Trigan Empire strip was only two pages. But the comic came out weekly, so you got over a hundred pages of coloured art a year. The artwork, also, was of a very high standard, with some beautiful art by Don Lawrence and others. It was certainly the equal of any other comic book art being published in the United Kingdom at the time.
The strip began in a comic called Ranger. That publication was before my time. By the time that I began reading Look and Learn the publication Ranger had already been absorbed by it. I think that the year it began was 1965, when I was one, and not really interested in anything with writing on. I am not sure precisely when I began reading Look and Learn, but I recall a change in the style of the artwork soon afterwards, so I’m guessing that it was towards the end of the Don Lawrence era.
The Trigan Empire, in the comic strip, was an empire which had been found not all that long ago, by a man called Trigo, on a distant alien planet called Elekton. Each week you would get some part of an adventure set in that world, often dealing with Trigo or his relatives. Despite being the head of state he would be involved in a series of dangerous adventures. Either him or Janno, his nephew.
The comic strip was visually interesting, in that it mixed low technology with high. Soldiers – at least to begin with – were dressed in a style reminiscent of ancient Rome. Yet along with the short swords they would also be armed with ray guns. I think that, as a little kid, it was that mix which I found fascinating.
One of the characters was a philosopher by the name of Peric. Peric dressed like some Ancient Greek philosopher, yet he was also a genius, and would have given many of our scientists a run for their money. He was supposed to just be an architect but, as the series progressed, he turned into a scientist equivalent to Leonardo da Vinci, designing all manner of strange devices.
Whenever I had a new copy of Look and Learn it was always the Trigan Empire which I turned to first, for my weekly two page fix of strange adventure. The rest of the magazine had to wait.
I’m not sure how long I read those Trigan Empire strips for, but it must have been for several years, as I was entranced by events on the planet Elekton. I suppose, in the end, I grew out of them. I think that I gave up on Look and Learn probably not all that long before it ceased publication, back in 1982.
Anyway, the reason for this paean to a dead comic strip was because I was thinking what a wonderful setting the Trigan Empire would be for a role-playing game. The setting might be unfamiliar to most players, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly, as a Gamesmaster, I generally prefer to avoid games tied to well-known series, such as Star Wars or Star Trek. I have played role-playing game set in both of those worlds, but I prefer the freedom of something like Spacemaster or Kult to anything which has appeared on a cinema screen. With something like the Trigan Empire a Gamesmaster does not really have to about his players upbraiding him when he gets one of the details wrong.
The only drawback, I suppose, is that most players would not be familiar with the source material. there is also the fact that, as far as I know, Fleetway still holds the rights to the Trigan Empire, so anybody designing such a game would have to approach Fleetway, if they ever decided to try and publish such a game. however, if a person was content not to make it a commercial concern, and just play the role-playing game with his friends, then the issue of copyright and trademarks cease to be a problem, of course.
I think that I might have a go, some time, at writing a Trigan Empire role-playing game. Now, if I could only bring my Gas-Lamp Fantasy Role-Playing game to completion first…
Fleetway, back in 1989 (I think), published an edited compilation of strips from Look and Learn called Tales from the Trigan Empire. There have been other publications of the strips, though, from Hamlyn and Hawk Books and others. I have the Fleetway compilation, and one by Hamlyn, and I recommend either, if you can manage to get them cheaply.