Among the things I tend to pick up on my back-issue dives are comics that came out in my “golden age” -- approx. 1976 to 1985 -- but that I either had no interest in or just didn’t have the money to buy at the time. DC was my favorite publisher as a kid, so it’s the shaggy edges of their line -- the war books, the westerns, the sword-and-sorcery, the mystery titles -- that get a lot of my interest in the dollar bins. So here’s a look at some issues of Warlord I’ve picked up, out of chronological order, likely with huge gaps between issues.
A LOT happens. We open on Travis Morgan, the Warlord, tied to a tree-branch, crucifixion style. On page 2 (and 3), he’s attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger, but has broken the branch down and, in a double-page spread DRIVES THE TIGER BACK USING THE TREE HE’S BEEN CRUCIFIED TO. This is the Warlord aesthetic. It’s important that you love this if we’re going to get through this together.
Having defeated the tiger, Travis meets a sailor with a fancy name, travels with him to the sea, where he’s cold-cocked and press-ganged into being a galley slave. It’s here where he meets Machiste, who’ll be his longtime friend, sitting next to him at the oar. (Machiste has two hands here...this won’t always be the case.) Travis and Machiste, with a moment’s notice, try to revolt against their captors, but are defeated. They’re sentenced to death, but the PIRATES ATTACK! Travis tries to get the pirates to free them, but they won’t, so he helps the crew fight them off. Seeing them fight the captain decides to spare them from death and sell them as gladiators. That is the extent of his appreciation for Travis and Machiste basically saving his ship from plunder.
So: Now on land, Travis and Machiste are trained as gladiators. For a month (and a splash page) they fight, over the constant words of KILL KILL KILL.
And then, of course, Travis and Machiste are told to fight one another to the death. But mid-battle, when Travis has Machiste on the ropes and is given the thumbs-down to end his life -- Travis notices a wristwatch on the prince’s wrist. In Skataris, that can only mean one thing: He knows where Tara is! Travis had given the watch to Tara, a girl Travis met and was separated from, presumably last issue. So Travis flips out, organizes a gladiator revolt, which succeeds (maybe there’s a fundamental problem with arming & training your slaves to be fierce combatants), and then Travis promises the freed gladiators a bunch of gold if they follow him to free Tara from Deimos, and more importantly THE CHANCE TO DIE AS FREE MEN.
And that is the second issue of Warlord. YAAR!
At which point the book went on a 7-month hiatus.
Hmmm.. I've been pronouncing it Ma-CHEEST!
Jeff, I'll be in those first 30 issue for a while longer. I noticed the next couple in my collection are issue 9 and 11. So we're jumping forward, but in very short jumps!
That would have been fine if "When in Rome..." had been her idea. There was a Savage Sword of Conan story that ran two or three issues where a princess loses her clothes and follows Conan around topless, upset at first then getting used to it. At the end he returns her to her throne and one of her subjects tells her it's unroyalty-like to run around that way and he'll fetch her something decent right away. She's honestly surprised because it had long since stopped registering that she should be wearing more than a ragged skirt.
I'd assumed the e in Maciste was silent, but then it's not an English word. Of course this was the English dub, never been able to find one of those films in Italian to make a comparison. They may no longer exist.
Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:
Maybe, but I like the "When in Rome..." explanation well enough (except without the ugly caveat that if you don't dress in the local style, you're liable to get targeted for rape).
Ronald Morgan said:
It would have come out sounding better if her old clothes had gotten badly torn in battle and the new outfit was the best she could find to replace them.
Yeah, whichever way you slice it, it's an excuse to put an attractive woman in something skimpy. Any explanation is going to be little more than a hand-wave.
BTW, I noticed someone in issue 9's lettercol complaining about Mariah's eye decoration, but the editor never indicates whether it's mask or makeup.
"If we ignore it, maybe it will go away."
On the Simpsons, Lucy Lawless said whenever a fan asked her about continuity errors in Xena, she always said "A wizard did it." The DC equivalent would be Superboy-Prime did it.
My experience with Warlord is very tangential at best. I haven't read any of the Jurgens run, but I have a vague memory of checking out an issue of a more recent series (short lived) in the past fifteen years, drawn--appropriately--by Bart Sears. Didn't Bruce Jones write a series as well? It may have been the same one. I'm also remembering art by Phil Winslade on the character at some point.
Wasn't Skartaris also mentioned in the John Ney Reiber Books of Magic book at some point? What a masterful book that was.
There was a Jones/Sears Warlord series in 2006. I didn't read it, but it lasted 10 issues, and Winslade drew the last one.
There was also a 6-issue Grell revival in 1992. He wrote it and drew the covers, and Dameon Willich drew it. (I'm not familiar with Willich at all.)
And I'm almost certain Sakrtaris was mentioned in Books of Magic -- if not the Reiber ongoing, maybe the Gaiman limited series that preceded it, but it's been ages since I've read it.
Jumping ahead an issue, here we are at Warlord #9!
Travis, Machiste, and Mariah are on the move, walking on foot through a valley in the middle of a blizzard. (Yes, Skartaris is underground, and enjoys perpetual sunlight… but this valley somehow has perpetual cloud cover. Roll with it.)
Also of note: Big green cloaks are the only concessions to the weather Travis & Co. make in their wardrobe. Underneath, it’s Disco Gladiator all the way.
Anyhoo, they’re jumped by a bear-sized wolverine, which slices Travis up pretty bad before he jumps on top of it and fires seven (SEVEN!) magnum loads into its head. But after the fight, Travis collapses, and before he can get back on his feet, mastodon-riding jerkfaces come by, taking Machiste and Mariah away from Travis by force (trunk-snatching, ‘natch!), leaving the Warlord for dead.
With sheer force of will, Travis gets up, his clothing shredded, and starts stumbling toward a snowy cave. He collapses, then imagines himself lifted up by a beautiful butterfly lady. He wakes up in a warm cave, completely healed, but wearing nothing but his wristbands. That’s right, this is a WARLORD IN THE BUFF issue, and conscientious framing and conspicuous foreground smoke are going to be working double-duty here.
Travis looks over his shredded tunic and thinks that his healing must have been done by someone who knows advanced science or advanced magic, when into the cave walks a yeti. They fight! And the yeti pins naked Travis against the wall, and his eyes go from rage to a somehow softer emotion…and what kind of comic are we reading, anyhow?
(BTW, here’s the cover, depicting the yeti fight. They decided to keep Travis’s clothes on for this one, because otherwise, this camera angle would NOT have passed the comics code!)
Anyway, Travis and the yeti befriend each other – Travis realizes it was the yeti who saved his life -- and the yeti gives Trav a loincloth and a furry magenta-orange cloak. So Travis heads back into the snow to find his friends.
He tracks them to a settlement on the cliffs above the snow, so he takes out a guard and then ditches his ugly cloak. He finds the villagers dancing in a ceremony as Machiste and Mariah are tied to some sort of ceremonial pillar. It’s decorated with a ring of skulls, so it’s probably not a wedding ceremony.
Travis jumps in, sets them free, and starts to get overwhelmed with all the village’s warriors. And then the yeti (well, they call it a snowdemon), jumps into the fray, turning the tide of the battle. He grabs Travis to pull him to safety, but Machiste, not understanding what’s going on, throws a spear into the yeti’s back, as Travis cries “NO!”
Travis gets snippy with him.
As he cries and cradles the yeti’s body, the BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY LADY SPRINGS FROM THE CORPSE, and explains that long ago she consulted the black arts to save her people from a plague, and as a result was cursed to imprisoned in the yeti’s body until someone could see her beauty within. She gives Travis a kiss (which we probably should have seen coming when she pinned him up against that wall) and flies away.
And then the three pals motor out of the city before the warriors come back and try to tie them all to the skull pillar again.
That’s it! Next up is another short jump… to Warlord 11, if memory serves me right. After that, the jumps start getting bigger.
I have this story in an Australian anthology comic, and a couple of others so far. Your review is a ton of fun.
Stuff like a society of people who ride mastodons is what I want from barbarian comics.
Thanks, Luke! And I completely agree about the mastodon riders. Grell sure knew the ingredients for a fun comic.
And now we enter the lost world of Warlord #11!
Behind a nice cover of Travis Morgan lookin’ tough and ready for action (in front of difficult-to-read scenes of Travis in a brawl and fighting a T-Rex, rendered in a red and yellow color hold) lurks, well, a tale which is mostly flashback. The first clue comes in the title: “FLASHBACK!”
The start is lively enough, with Travis, Machiste, and Mariah being attacked by an angry triceratops. Or perhaps attacking a placid triceratops, who gets angry when Travis tries to shoot it in the face. (The shot bounces off its armored head.) They have no luck against the beast, so the three of them leap off their horses and into a cave, where the triceratops can’t follow them. (At least it’s not inclined to follow the horses, who run off to God knows where.)
So, with an angry triceratops blocking their entrance, Mariah and Machiste decide to make camp. Nap time! Travis stands watch, and reminisces about how he first got to Skartaris…presumably in First Issue Special #1.
I should note that this is the first issue of Warlord I’ve seen without a two-page spread on pages 2-3, nor one throughout the entire book. Which is a tremendous shame, since those shots are one of the best things about the book.
Anyway, back to Travis’s memories: Back on June 16, 1969, Travis is flying a high-altitude spyplane over Russia, musing about the futility of nuclear war. But the Russians lock onto him with antiaircraft missiles, which he evades, but just barely (“Maggie’s Drawers, comrade—you missed me!”). Unfortunately, the shrapnel from the explosion has damaged his systems – and fuel is leaking like crazy. The shortest route to an emergency support base in Alaska is over the north pole, so he heads north. Problem is…once he’s there, his compass is useless. It’s south in every direction!
*”Maggie’s Drawers” is old military slang, referencing the red flag that's used to indicate a miss. It comes from the ribald song “Those Old Red Flannel Drawers that Maggie Wore,” that you can find a good recording of on YouTube just by googling! (I’m not gonna link here, since this is a family show.)
Travis maintains a straight course, but is running out of fuel, and soon his spyplane is an expensive, superfast glider. But he sees a break in the clouds, parachutes out, and—he lands in a jungle? With the sun directly overhead, even though it was evening when he jumped? What gives?
So he abandons his chute and brings his survival vest with him – complete with knife, compass, .38 special, and 12 rounds of ammo – and starts walking. Soon he hears a human voice, and discovers Tara – dressed in standard-issue jungle-girl animal skin bikini – defending herself from a dinosaur. Travis empties his clip into the thing, then rushes in to fight with his knife. As he struggles with the dino, Tara leaps back into the fray to stab it in the heart, killing it.
Another important point: Travis’s uniform gets SHREDDED. He’s basically down to boots, short-shorts and a mesh tank top. Grell puts a little something in for everybody.
There’s a little attempted chit-chat, as Tara urges Travis to follow her, quickly, but Travis can’t understand why…until a squad of centurion-style soldiers comes into the clearing. Travis reloads his pistol to defend Tara, and after one shot, the centurions are momentarily too scared of the gun to continue. Their leader rallies them, and they attack again – Travis killing their leader, and firing until he’s down to one bullet left.
But then the soldiers send a spokesperson instead of attacking again, and Travis, knowing he and Tara won’t get out of this alive, agrees to go with them. The soldiers lead them to “a fabulous walled city towering high above the topical jungle.” It’s there they meet Deimos, the high priest of the city and the baddie of the early issues of the book.
Upon hearing of Travis’s gun, Deimos decides to eliminate him (somehow) by taking an orb out of his sleeve and using its power to – oh, who knows? Travis shoots the thing out of his hands. Deimos runs from the room, and Travis thinks, “That was my last bullet…but they don’t know that!”
At this point, Travis starts getting groped by sexy palace girls (in the same weird face makeup that Mariah wears—it really IS fashionable!) and he gets bathed and given a new set of clothes—the basic grey disco gladiator outfit—while Tara looks on disapprovingly. (Deimos looks on disapprovingly too, as Travis and Tara enjoy a night out, so there’s a lot of disapproval to go around.) Finally, Travis goes to sleep…
…and WAKES UP WITH A FULL BEARD. Honestly, this and Maggie's Drawers are my favorite parts of this issue.
He quickly shaves it down to the Warrior’s Van Dyke we know and love. And just as quickly, learns Tara’s language, so he can finally talk with her. And he finds out that Tara was originally from a tribe who were captured to be sacrificed by Deimos to a blood god. She escaped, which is when Travis found her. (She think’s he’s also a god, but Travis laughs it off.)
Then he spends a little time talking about the hollow earth, and that there’s a sun inside, and there are openings to the surface world at both poles. Travis has a diagram that looks like a cored apple.
I’m just gonna quote this whole section:
“It’s a cross section of the Earth! It’s hollow like a ball – with openings at both poles!
But the openings are so huge that when my plane entered at the north pole, I didn’t notice the gradual curve of the earth…I thought I was on level ground!
Your sun is a ball of flaming gas, held in the exact center of the Earth by gravity pulling equally on it on all sides! That’s why there is never any night in Skartaris…only perpetual daylight!”
Tara scoffs at this explanation. Her sticking point: “You flew here in a thing called a plane? You’re crazy!”
Anyway, eventually Deimos’s men come to assassinate Travis and Tara, but they get the drop on them and escape. And then we’re back to Travis’s musing in the cave: “Tara! She’s out there, somewhere, lost in a savage world! If it takes the rest of my life, I will find her! I swear it!”
I can’t say I was too crazy about this issue. There’s no inker credited, but there seems to be a heavy hand over Grell’s art for a lot of this, and because of the high incidents in the flashback, there isn’t nearly enough room for Grell’s art to breathe. He seems to be spinning his wheels here, and wanting to remind people about Tara…and it’s notable, I think, that he never says here that Deimos was eventually killed. I have a feeling that guy will be back, somehow.
Next up – I dug out my older issues of Warlord to combine with my newer purchases, so I actually have Warlord #12. Stay tuned for…”Trilogy!”
Jeez, these just get longer and longer. I'm going to try to make #12 a little shorter so no one has to take an afternoon off to read it.