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.