Back To Skartaris

brucejones
Jones Talks Warlord by Matt Brady of Newsarama

Announced the summer of 2005 at DC’s DCU panel at WizardWorld Philadelphia, Warlord is coming back in an ongoing series in January 2006, courtesy of Bruce Jones and Bart Sears.

Originally, the first Warlord series lasted 133 issues, from 1975 to 1989, its popularity due in large part both to the genre’s success at the time (when Warlord launched, Conan was still going very strong at Marvel), as well as the art and writing of Mike Grell. The original series during its run was also the keystone of DC’s sword and sorcery/fantasy franchises, as its pages saw Claw the Unconquered; Arion, Lord of Atlantis; Arak, Son of Thunder; and Conqueror of the Barren Earth springboard into their own series.

Though the original series ended, Grell revisited Morgan and company with a mini series in 1992. Since then, Travis Morgan has been out of luck in regards to his own series. Until now.

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“[Editor] Joey Cavalieri called to ask if I’d be interested in doing some Batman projects and a couple of other characters DC was revitalizing,” Jones told Newsarama. “One of them was Warlord. I remember enjoying the Mike Grell book, and the challenge was that DC wanted to retain the flavor of the old series while giving the new one a more cutting-edge feel. That took some thinking. It’s always tough trying to please both old fans and new without watering things down and ending up with no punch at all. I spent a lot of time just on the initial conceptualizing of this project before plunging into it. The first issue was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm by Joey, Dan [Didio] and others which made all the hard work pay off. I’m having a great time with this one and get excited just thinking about it.”

Jones and Sears’ series will be just what he said – a revitalization. Not taking the existing character and going back to basics, but taking the existing concept back to the beginning.

“Basically what we have here is a collision between two worlds, as Travis Morgan’s fiancée Alexa McKenzie goes into a state of denial when Travis’ test plane crashes… not accepting the fact of his death,” Jones said. “She convinces a mutual friend to keep searching for Travis even after all efforts have been exhausted, and it’s Alexa and her friend who – like Travis – stumbles onto the secret portal through the Arctic ice to the ancient land of Skartaris and the kingdom of Shamballah which is populated by both human and dinosaur. So we have this kind of running duality between Travis’s adventures and Alexa’s search for him in this weird world.”

As Jones said, his and Sears’ job is to take the known elements and brush them up for a contemporary audience. Jones walked us through a little of his through process.

Warlord was conceived back when Robert E. Howard was enjoying a resurgence of interest and comics were attempting to showcase the sword and sorcery genre once popular in the pulps,” the writer said. “Whatever the merits of a particular house or talent, this was pretty straightforward stuff; i.e. lots of swordplay, supernatural monsters, scantily clad maidens, fanatical wizards, ad nauseum. While this made for a colorful palette, it did lend itself to cliché. The imagery, though, was great stuff.

“What we’ve attempted to do is retain the feel and perhaps texture of the genre but remove some of the stigma and inject it with a healthy dose of realism. It may sound oxymoronic, but I really think it’s working pretty well. I thought the genre mix of language might be a problem – the contemporary with the fantastic – but it seems to play okay.”

Though the announcement about the series was made at the DCU panel, Jones cautioned that readers shouldn’t read too much into that aspect. “Warlord, I would say, is set less in the active DCU and more in the realm of the existing universe and the alternate reality of Skartaris and Shamballah where the story unfolds,” Jones said. “Some might call it fantasy; I prefer to think of it as alternate dimensional.”

Central to the first portion of the series, as Jones mentioned, will be the quest aspect, Alexa searching for her fiancée, while Travis is looking for the door marked exit. “There’s an intentional epic, even Homer-esque theme in the same way that Odysseus was trying to get back to Penelope,” Jones said. “Except our Penelope is also searching at the same time. In between, you can just bet – with me at the helm – there will be conflicting encounters with other members of the opposite sex. So the reader can see if Travis and Alexa are behaving themselves even if the other can’t. Vicarious thrills, folks!”

Finally, Jones knows that tackling sword and sorcery/fantasy in today’s market is a gamble but, at the same time, it’s one he views as being worthwhile. “Writing something like this, you end up thinking about the challenges this type of book have all the time,” Jones said. “Why do we need another superhero book in a field rife with them? At the same time, how do you create a more fantasy-oriented piece and not make it appear alien to the fans? While at the same same time, you don’t want to limit yourself to only the fans, or the business itself won’t continue to grow and expand. It’s always a bit of a tight wire act.

“All I can say is, I’m not going to sacrifice those special things inherent in a story of this kind for the sake of making it look like a watered-down super hero book. But neither do I intend to produce yet another sword and sorcery/fantasy title in the same vein we’ve all seen before. The trick is to pay tribute while keeping it fresh and exciting to both reader and creator, without it looking like a conscious effort. When you find out how that’s done, someone drop me a line, will you?” eom

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