Friday, April 24, 2009

Famous First Fridays: Mike Grell's Warlord #1

As I rapped about in my very first post, DC has finally reunited Mike Grell with his greatest creation, Travis Morgan, the Warlord. To say Ol' Groove is a little excited about it would be like saying Valerie Bertinelli is kinda cute. To celebrate the return of the real Warlord, I thought we'd take a look back at the original first issue, which picks up right after Travis Morgan's debut in First Issue Special #8. You can read that story right here. If you want the back-story of how Warlord came to be, check this out. And if you're interested in learning more about Warlord creator Mike Grell, Ol' Groove's got ya covered right here.

I've mentioned many times that the Warlord is my favorite original creation from Groovy Age DC. My love for sword and sorcery, fantasy, and science fiction--especially my love for Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter, were perfectly blended together and given vibrant life in the hands of "Iron Mike" Grell; it was like he created Travis Morgan's world just for me to enjoy. Warlord became one of DC's top-selling titles, it's staying power was proven when it survived the infamous "DC Implosion" of 1978 when DC was forced to cancel all but a handful of their comics. Dig it: Black Lightning, Firestorm, Steel, Ragman, Secret Society of Super Villains, Isis, Freedom Fighters, Kung Fu Fighter, Claw the Unconquered, Starfire, Star Hunters, the revivals of the New Gods, Mister Miracle, All-Star Comics, Showcase, Aquaman, and Challengers of the Unknown, and even long-running titles like Kamandi and Shazam! bit the dust. When the smoke cleared, all that was left of DC were the Superman and Batman families of titles, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Jonah Hex, the Dollar Comics line, a few war and mystery titles...and Warlord. Grell's unique vision and style kept his creation alive during one of the most horrible spinner-rack purges of all time. He stuck with the title as writer/artist through issue 51 (August 1981), co-wrote (with his then-wife Sharon) and drew the covers for issues 52-71 (September 1981-May 1983), then went full-time to work on his Jon Sable, Freelance comic for First Comics.

Hey, how 'bout we take a little break from our history lesson and read the comic?


Folks like Cary Bates, Dan Jurgens, Jan Duursema, Mike Fleisher, and a young Adam Kubert picked up where Grell left off and kept Warlord going strong for a few more years, but something more devastating than the "DC Implosion" hit. Crisis on Infinite Earths. Part of what made Warlord work so well was that Grell kept Travis Morgan and his friends away from the DC Universe. Skartaris was a world all its own. When the Crisis hit, the powers-that-were insisted that every DC comic be involved, including Warlord. When you have costumed folk like Power Girl showing up in Travis Morgan's world (even if you get Mike Grell to come back and do some covers), it's all over but the crying. Still, Warlord hung around for an unprecedented 133 issues, ending in the winter of 1988.

Here's hoping the new series lasts longer than the original!

1 comment:

  1. Man, 35 years later, I still love these issues!

    Arguably Grell's best work. From the Origin Story in FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL 8 (Nov 1975) and then getting his own series in issues 1 and 2 (Feb and Apr 1976). And then cancelled for 8 months until November 1976, when --apparently-- sales figures came in and caused DC to resurrect it.

    If those 3 issues had been the only ones, this would still be one of my favorite series.

    But gloriously, as if in answer to prayer and dreams, issue 3 came out and brought it back!
    And good as Grell's art had already been, he had visibly improved in the intervening 8 months. Pages 2 and 3 in particular are suitable for framing.
    Grell penciled and inked the first 14 issues, 15 was inked by Joe Rubinstein, and Vinced Colletta inked Grell's pencils up to issue 50, except for a few issues inked by Bob Smith.

    I highly recommend the WARLORD: SAVAGE EMPIRE trade collection (1991) that is long overdue for DC to put back in print, but that you can still find on Amazon or Ebay. Collecting FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL 8, and WARLORD 1-10 and 12 (issue 11 was only a reprint of FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL 8)

    Thank you for posting the first 2 appearances here. The nit-picky completest in me hoped you put up issue 2 here as well, to complete the first 3-issue storyline.

    Thanks also for your other topics with the Grell double-page spreads. Many of which are suitable for framing.

    ReplyDelete

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