Sometimes I stumble upon these comics I’d never previously heard of (or if I had, I had clearly promptly forgotten in a merciful fit of amnesia) but that have a hundred-something issue runs. For instance, I don’t remember this… sophisticated, steel-torso-ed and silver-haired fox at all. How poor my life must have been!
Created by Mike Grell, sword-and-sorcery champion Travis Morgan (actually an American pilot who accidentally discovers a new world in Earth’s hollow core) fights for the freedom of people from Skartaris – and also looks really good in a loincloth. Grell based Morgan on himself, using his experience as a former member of the Air Force (as an illustrator) and his own goatee* as a starting point, though hopefully the loincloth was an improvisation.
That Grell freely borrowed from Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs et al. and peppered this regurgitation with Greek-mythology creatures (harpies, unicorns, a Pegasus, minotaurs, the Atlanteans…) is not by itself enough to condemn this comic, because I’m trying very hard to be fair about it. However, given the stilted dialogue, ridiculous costumes and dubious anatomy, it is distinctly starting to look like Warlord is a chapter of comic book history that’s best forgotten.
But one thing I can say about him is that in his many (MANY) fight scenes, he often struggles against tentacles, whether they belong to an amœba, an actual octopus, a plant, or a dinosaur-thing.
Let’s have a look at those tentacles I was promising.
After the Tower of Fear, we get the Citadel of Death – a perfectly logical transition.
Skipping ahead a few issues, we find that Morgan added some nice billowing sleeves to his outfit.
And now we go into non-Grell territory. Does this make the art or the scripting a little better? Yes, actually, for a little while. The Jurgens-Adkins team, for one thing, can draw horses that actually look like horses (okay, unicorns, whatever). They also do some fun stuff with panel transitions. Witness these two, admittedly fun, pages, taken from Curse of the Unicorn, scripted by Cary Burkett, pencilled by Dan Jurgens and inked by Dan Adkins. This was published in Warlord no. 72 (August 1983).
Here is the same team working on the next issue’s continuation, Cry Plague, scripted by Cary Burkett and Jennifer Reinhold, pencilled by Dan Jurgens and inked by Dan Adkins. It was published in Warlord no. 73 (September 1983).
Warlord lasted 133 issues, all the way until winter, 1988. The last couple of years also involved tentacles. For instance, this page from The Kraken Pentacle, scripted by Michael Fleisher, pencilled by Ron Randall and inked by Pablo Marcos. This story was published in Warlord no. 119 (July 1987). Morgan has a bad case of ugly horse teeth in this issue, but thankfully they’re not too visible on this page.
There are tentacles on 120’s cover, too, but it’s just too ugly to share here. The inside stories, alas, just get worse and worse (and they were none too hot to start with), dragging in characters from Jack Kirby‘s New Gods, to add insult to injury.
And so a comic that was never great to begin with – but had its readable moments, somewhere in the middle – finished as a steaming pile of shit. I can go back to pretending it never existed 😉
Admire the dashing near-nudity of jewel-loving Travis Morgan and go on to greener pastures…
*Now if Grell based Travis Morgan upon himself, and since Travis Morgan is just Grell’s Green Arrow stripped naked and with white instead of blond hair, and given that Grell’s GA is a continuation of Neal Adams’ GA, does it follow that Adams begat, or at least designed, Mike Grell?