Warlord v1 #5

Feb/Mar 77

The Secret of Skartaris
17 pages

Writer/Artist: Mike Grell
Editor: Jack C. Harris
Cover: Mike Grell

Travis Morgan, Tara, Machiste

Morgan and Tara bid farewell to Machiste and head south, beginning their journey to Tara's home, Shamballah. A few warriors travel with them to their homes, all that is left of the army of freedom fighters. As they round a bend in a desolate ravine, they come upon a tyrannosaurus who has just killed a triceratops and isn't happy about sharing the meal. It turns upon the humans and Tara and Morgan, the closest to the dinosaur, seem to have no hope.

But, instead of trying to run away, Morgan scoops up Tara and climbs the cliff getting above the tyrannosaurus. Still, the rest of their party is in danger. A boulder is wedged into the cliff, and a plan quickly comes to the Warlord. He and Tara wedge their bodies between the cliff and boulder, breaking the rock free. It crashes down upon the beast, squishing it like a bug.

Survival has turned into discovery. The rock had hidden a carved stone doorway. Strange, intricate designs decorate the frame. They decide to explore, knowing their scattered men need time to regroup.

Inside, they discover huge man-made structures and complex machinery. For Tara, this is far beyond her comprehension, but Morgan is reminded of a computer centre. He wonders how it could exist here, built so long ago. He doesn't have long to ponder for, as he inadvertently sets his helmet on a shiny, red button the machine comes to life and begins to talk and images appear on a large monitor.

It tells them that in antiquity, the once great continent of Atlantis was sunk by a cataclysm, but not before the survivors who chose to listen to their scientists' predictions of doom fled for the four corners of the Earth in their great ships. One expedition found their way through the frigid arctic seas to the warm currents of the terminator and into Skartaris.

Here, dinosaurs and other creatures extinct on the outer Earth live side by side with their successors on the long road of evolution. The Atlanteans quickly adapted to their lush surroundings and began to rebuild their civilisation. Under the eternal daylight of the inner Earth, the Atlanteans adapted and found that without night they were no longer limited to the solar cycle and their society advanced by leaps and bounds. Their greatest city was Shamballah, and underneath it a huge computer complex that controlled their many machines throughout Skartaris, powered by the Skartarian sun.

However, with great achievement often comes great ambitions and the city states of Skartaris went to war. With their awesome weapons of war it took only a little over seven minutes to bomb them back to the stone and bronze ages. Lingering radiation created devolution and many survivors became beastmen, lizardmen and worse.

Generations passed as their world became more and more savage, their great machines and society all but forgotten, until Deimos found the technical manual for Computer B-100-D and used its hologram projector. But Deimos has paid for his evil deeds and will no longer defile the great legacy of Atlantean technology.

Morgan wishes to explore further, but a pack of hyænodon has found him and Tara and thinks they'll make a good meal. The huge proto-wolves find their match in Morgan and Tara and are quickly dispatched. Crashing through a wooden door during their fight, a train in a tunnel is discovered and Morgan tells Tara they've discovered an Atlantean shuttle that most likely connects to the other Atlantean colonies. Tara fears the strange machine, but Morgan wants to go inside, but as soon as he does the door slides home behind him and neither he nor Tara can open it. Suddenly, the shuttle pulls abruptly away from the platform and Morgan bangs his head, knocking him unconscious. Again.

When he awakens, the shuttle has reached its destination and to his horror finds he himself once again on the outer Earth.

After teases at the ends of issue #s 3 and 4, Grell finally explains the mystery of the technology of Skartaris.

The computer complex beneath Shamballah bears more than a passing resemblance to the alien computer from the classic sf film, Forbidden Planet.

The wooden door Morgan crashes through to discover the train tunnel seems incongruous considering the technology and massive stonework used everywhere else in the cavern.

The Surgeon General warns that overuse of knocking out the main character as a plot device can lead to permanent brain damage.


Mexican edition: Glad Sundays presents Morgan, the Audacious Soldier

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
  • Machiste makes a sly hint as to his fame in Kiro; this will be dealt with in future issues
  • The Atlantean computer has apparently been recording history since the fall of the civilisation that built it, and making a nice documentary on it – for whom?
  • Like a lot of pulp heroes, Morgan is easily knocked out, but never has any lasting neurologic damage

Where It Comes From
In a way, this issue marks the end to the first ‘book’ of Travis Morgan's saga. Warlord, at least at first, is an adventure narrative following very much in the footsteps of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The usual plot outline, as established in A Princess of Mars, has a hero from our world meeting a princess from the fantastic world where he now finds himself, losing her, then regaining her after overcoming the villain(s). Just as they’re about to settle down as a happy couple, circumstances contrive to take the hero back to our world, separating him from his love. Burroughs uses this outline again in the first Pellucidar novel, At the Earth's Core. It's repeated in heavily Burroughs-inspired works like Warriors of Mars and Tarnsman of Gor, too.

The next book on the Burroughs map will have the hero returning, probably meeting new companions, and questing to find his lost love again. Which is exactly what happens in Warlord.

Returning to the details of this issue, the design of the Atlantean computer center seems to be inspired by some classic film and TV science fiction. Some of the details in the first panel echo the set design of Star Trek (original series) and the computer core on page eight seems to be an homage to Forbidden Planet.

The fall of Atlantean society and the degeneration of some of its descendants in non-human forms, echo themes found in pulp fiction, but also common to the post-apocalyptic genre in films (the Planet of the Apes series, Teenage Cave Man), and comics (Mighty Samson).

The dog-like animals that attack Tara and Morgan are referred to as hyænadons. Grell is correct in dating them, as animals in the hyenadon family were extant from the late eocene. However, he suggests that they were the ancestors of wolves, which is incorrect. Hyænadons belong to an extinct order of mammals known as creodonts. eom

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