In 1988, James Hudnall conceived and wrote a comic called Harsh Realm with illustrator Andrew Paquette. In 1992, Harris Publications turned the duo's virtual-reality tales into a comic book. In 1998, Fox decided to convert the comic into a TV series produced by the creator of The X-Files.

A dream come true, right?

More like a nightmare for Hudnall and Paquette. The two are suing 20th Century Fox, series executive producer Chris Carter and Harris Publications for more than $5 million in damages--angry that they're not getting on-screen credits on the new Friday night series.

The suit--alleging breach of contract, among other claims--was filed Monday in New York.

"We've been badly taken advantage of," Paquette said today from his home in California. "[Originally] we wanted to work out a settlement. Suing is a delicate process in Hollywood."

Harsh Realm--the TV series--is about a former soldier (played by ex-Party of Five heavy Scott Bairstow) who becomes involved with a virtual-reality military-styled computer game. Harsh Realm--the comic--was set in a virtual fantasy world inhabited by dragons and elves.

Carter has said that the TV show differs vastly from the comic. "It's a big departure from the comic-book idea," he told Starlog magazine. "We've changed everything."

Paquette and Hudnall disagree.

"Superficially, they may be different [names, places, etc.], but fundamentally they are the same," Paquette said. "The premise is exactly from Harsh Realm and that sets the story for each episode."

On the tube, it's Carter who's listed as the creator of Harsh Realm, with no mention of Paquette and Hudnall. On the pilot episode, aired October 8, Harris Publishing received a note of "special thanks," but again no Paquette and Hudnall.

In the lawsuit, the two claim Harris broke a contract when the company didn't register them as Harsh Realm's creators. Carter is accused of falsely branding himself as the creator.

No word on the lawsuit yet from Harris Publishing. Fox and Carter declined comment.

Ratingswise, Harsh Realm is dealing with even harsher critics than Paquette and Hudnall. Since debuting, the show has consistently run fourth in its 9-10 p.m., Friday time slot.

The Harsh Realm lawsuit, meanwhile, is the second this year involving Carter and Fox. In August, X-Files star David Duchovny sued the network, charging he lost millions when Fox reputedly undersold the long-running show's rerun rights to its own cable network, FX.

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