Warlord v1 #7

Jun/Jul 77

The Iron Devil
17 pages

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

Travis Morgan, Mariah, Machiste, Dak Bel Shan, Captain Ghedron

Morgan and Mariah have been on the road from the Atlantean shuttle station, and by accident have arrived at the city of Kiro. Morgan had been hoping to find the way to Shamballah and Tara. He has some business to take care of and Mariah decides to have a look around, but the pretty Russian finds herself the object of curiosity in her non-Skartarian clothing. A group of men surround her, intent on compromising her honour. Luckily, Morgan was not far away and he descends upon the ne'er-do-wells, hacking them to pieces.

As good as Morgan is, he misses one behind him, and Mariah puts a bullet from her .243 rifle in the barbarian's back. The man spins around, intent on cleaving her skull in two with his double-headed axe, but staggers and dies at her feet instead.

The fight over, they head for the swordmaker Dak Bel Shan's shop (Morgan's 'business'. Bel Shan knows the secret of making Damascus steel. Morgan gives him Mariah's rifle to melt down for the steel. When she protests, he reminds her that it is a light sporting rifle, she's almost out of ammo, and that there are no sporting goods shops in Skartaris. Having a sword will be much more practical for her.

He also explains that her outer Earth garments are what brought the unwanted attention. Morgan takes Mariah to a bath house where she is transformed from a 20th century Russian archæology professor into a beautiful Skartarian barbarian, complete with skimpy costume and funky yellow make-up.

They return to the swordmaker's and pick up their blades. Morgan's is a broadsword, while Mariah's has a thinner blade with a weighted tip and a stiletto in the hilt. Morgan offers lessons on how to use it, but Mariah informs him that she was the Russian National Sabre Champion for six years.

As they leave they are ambushed by a group of men and, typical for Morgan, he gets bonked on the head from behind by a mace. When he awakens he finds himself sharing a cell with Mariah. Shortly, a guard comes summoning them to the presence of their king and gives the pair back their weapons.

The king is none other than Machiste, Morgan's friend and comrade-at-arms, now carrying a unique axe. They sit and talk and Morgan tells him that though he had been outside Skartaris for less than 24 hours, it must have been longer for Tara, for she apparently left and continued on to Shamballah alone.

When Mariah asks about Machiste's axe, he tells them he found it on his return journey to Kiro after he and Morgan had parted. It had been in a cave, lying beside the skeleton of a man who had cut off his own hand that had held the axe. Having it turned near defeat into victory over a marauding band of beast men. Just holding it sent a fire of blood lust through him. An unfortunate side effect is that he can't put it down. Far from being upset about its effect upon himself, Machiste revels in its evil power and almost kills a serving wench when she accidentally knocks over his drink. Thankfully, Morgan steps in and stops him, telling his friend that he is disappointed at Machiste's poor behaviour. A good man who fights for freedom does not abuse power and Morgan moves to leave the palace with Mariah.

Machiste, certainly not in his right mind, has the guards attack the pair. Morgan and Mariah make quick work of the six men, and then Morgan has to deal with Machiste. Broadsword and axe clash as the two former friends battle fiercely. Machiste slices a deep wound across Morgan's chest, and the Warlord sags against the wall with pain. Just as Machiste is about to cleave Morgan's head in two, Mariah leaps in and takes Morgan to the floor. Machiste's swing embeds the axe in the stone wall.

Before he can pull it free, Morgan pulls himself to his feet and takes Machiste's right hand off at the wrist with the cut of his broadsword, leaving it dangling from the axe's strap. The evil that possessed the king of Kiro has ended, and they cauterise his wrist with the flame of a torch. Morgan apologises, but they knew he had no choice.

Later, a palace guard is trusted with the task of taking the cursed axe to a volcano for destruction, but as soon as he picks it up, he too becomes cursed and leaves with the weapon.

The swords made for Morgan and Mariah become their permanent weapons.

Mariah's last name is spelt Ramanova here, though in other appearances it is spelt Romanova. Perhaps it's a typo, but the altered spelling is used to make a point that it is not a variation on Romanoff, the surname of the Russian czars.

Captain Ghedron is the unnamed Kiroan palace guard who takes the axe to the volcano, and would appear again in Warlord v1 #29.

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
  • Mariah's chained up on the cover, but not in the issue
  • One of the ruffians attacking Mariah looks kind of like Conan
  • The fashion-forward gals at the Kiro public baths give Mariah the 70s comic raccoon-eye make-up (last seen in First Issue Special #8), and Farrah Fawcett hair
  • The temporal weirdness of Skartaris serves the purpose of story
  • As noted before, like a lot of pulp heroes, Morgan is easily (and frequently) knocked out

  • Where It Comes From
The title of this issue recalls the Robert E. Howard Conan story "The Devil in Iron," first in published Weird Tales in August 1934. The plots of the two stories share nothing in common, however.

"Kiro" may come from Cairo (from the Arabic al-Qāhira) the capital and largest city in Egypt. Another possibility is from KIRO, the designation of a radio and TV station in Seattle. Grell lives in Washington state, and moved Green Arrow to Seattle in the 80s, but I don't know whether he was acquainted with the area at the time he was working on Warlord, so the name may be a coincidence.

Damascus steel was used in sword-making in the Middle East between 1100–1700 AD. The swords produced were legendary for strength and sharpness. The exact technique used in the making of historical Damascus steel is uncertain, but Damascus steel used Wootz steel from India as a base, which is not what Mariah's rifle would be made of. What Morgan undoubtedly means with the use of the term (which is supported by the smith's description of his process on page 7) is a pattern-welding technique which can duplicate the appearance of Damascus steel. In this technique, layers of steel are combined with layers of a softer metal and folded over many times to remove impurities in the metal. By this folding a laminate is formed, and the resultant blade is more flexible for it, without sacrificing hardness.

Cursed weapons like Machiste's axe appear have a long pedigree in mythology, folklore, and literature. The Knight Balyn has a cursed sword in Le Morte D'Arthur, as does Svafrlami in the Poetic Edda. Morgan will get his own later in the series. eom

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