Warlord v1 #1

warlord001
Jan/Feb 1976

This Savage World
18 pages

Credits
Writer/Artist: Mike Grell
Editor: Joe Orlando
Cover: Mike Grell

Characters
Travis Morgan, Tara

Synopsis
Morgan and Tara have paused after their flight from Thera, and while Tara teaches him swordsmanship, Morgan thinks about how he came to Skartaris and all that has happened to them thus far. After Morgan disarms Tara, she is forced to admit that he has become the better swordsman, but she does not let him relish his victory for long. She flips him to the ground, telling him to always expect the unexpected in her world.

They set out for Shamballah and Morgan once again tries to convince Tara that they live in the hollow Earth, and that 800 miles beneath their feet is his outside world.

Tara tells him again that he is mad. Her belief is that a giant named Ashanti holds the bowl of Skartaris up to the Sun and if you go too near the edge of the bowl you fall into the abyss.

Despite the vast differences in their cultures, the two find themselves drawn to each other, and for a time their journey is pleasant. However, after jumping into a tree to avoid being eaten by a tyrannosaurus rex of dubious breeding, they watch a column of chained slaves being marched by slavers on horseback. Morgan ruefully comments that he hoped it was different here in Skartaris. Sadly, there's nothing they can do against a large group of well-armed men, so they continue on, finding game and a cave for shelter.

After Morgan discovers that Tara's highly developed navigation skills are due to a crude compass, they lay down to sleep, but Tara is awoken by strange music. When Morgan awakes, he finds her gone and she did not take her weapons. He runs through the jungle, searching, and when he finds a dark grotto of thick jungle, he too hears the music.

A satyr has used his pan flute to lure the savage princess to his lair. Morgan sneaks up on him and pastes him one with a good right fist, knocking the mythical creature senseless. Tara comes out of her hypnotic trance and she and Morgan head back to the cave.

But the smoke from their cooking fire has attracted the slave raiders and the couple run into an ambush in the cave. Morgan and Tara fight fiercely, though to no avail. A hurled mace knocks Morgan unconscious and when he awakens, he finds that he and Tara have joined the ranks of the slaves, an iron collar and chain joining them to their fellow captives at the back of the line. Under the urging of whip they are marched across a vast desert towards the city of Bal Shazar. During their rest periods, Morgan uses the titanium alloy chain from his dogtags to slowly file away at Tara's collar.

Finally, the great desert is crossed and mountains lie ahead. Bal Shazar is near, and Morgan must break through Tara's collar at the next rest stop if they are to escape. They cross a narrow, natural bridge and set up camp. As Morgan attempts to file through the last bit of iron, they are discovered. Desperately, Morgan throws dirt in the guard's eye and punches him. He pulls hard on Tara's collar and it snaps free. Now unchained from the rest of the slaves, the two dash for the horses, but the slavers are too close behind, and only Tara mounts up. Morgan hits the horse on the haunch with the flat of his sword so that at least she will get away.

Morgan stands in the middle of the bridge, where only a few soldiers can fight him at any one time. After killing nearly 20 men, his luck runs out and he is knocked unconscious, but Tara is long gone.

When Morgan awakens, the leader of the slavers compliments him on his fighting ability, but still leaves him there. Morgan's arms are spread wide like Christ on the cross, tied to a branch on a dead tree, his body hanging, feet not touching the earth.

Notes
According to some, this was Warlord's second start. While it is true that DC put Warlord on hold after #2, awaiting sales reports to see if anyone was buying the book, the short time period between First Issue Special #8 and Warlord #1 meant that Warlord #1 was already in production when FIS #8 went on sale. Further clarification on this point would be appreciated.

"Chain Mail," the letter column, makes its debut this issue with an article by Mike Grell on some of the inspirations for his hollow Earth concept.

Having a character crucified shows up again in Grell's work in Jon Sable #13.


Trey Causey’s Notes
Trey is a blogger with an interest in Warlord and the following comments come courtesy of his From the Sorcerer’s Skull blog

Things to Notice
  • The recap gives the name of the Theran king (Baldur) which wasn't given last issue
  • Neither Tara nor Morgan understand gravity: Tara has no conception of it, and Morgan gets it wrong
  • The leader of the slavers wears a winged helm much like the one Morgan will eventually adopt
  • The worst invective Vietnam vet Travis Morgan can hurl at the slaver who just crucified him is, “Stick it in your ear!"

Where It Comes From
Tara and Morgan are on their way to Tara's home city of Shamballah. The name comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, where it came to be seen as an earthly paradise of sorts. It enters into the Western occult lore through the theosophist writings of HP Blavatsky. Grell probably encountered it in the Three Dog Night song of the same name – ”Shambala” – from 1975.

Tara's Skartarian cosmological mythology snippet is a nice bit of colour. Her giant is the Skartarian equivalent of Atlas, the titan who held up the heavens from Greek mythology. The Atlas Mountains of Northwestern Africa are named for him. The name of Tara's giant is Ashanti which is the name of a Western African ethnic group, who ruled a pre-colonial empire in what is now Ghana.

The slavers and their hapless captives are on their way to another Skartarian city, Bal Shazar – which is only a slight modification of Belshazzar (Akkadian Bal-sarra-usur meaning "Bel (lord) protect the king”) – the name of a prince of Babylon according to the Old Testament Book of Daniel. Grell probably uses it for its ancient Middle Eastern sort of sound which fits thematically with the slave coffle's trek across the desert.

The satyr sequence drives home the fantasy elements of Skartaris, which serve as a counterpoint to the dinosaurs and other lost world trappings. The satyr is from Greek mythology, though his portrayal here shows that Grell follows the tendency – present since the Roman era – to conflate them with the god Pan himself. The specific events in the story may have been inspired by a sequence from the 1964 film 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, where Barbara Eden's character suffers a similar musical seduction. eom

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