Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now THAT'S What I'm Talking About

Back in 1975 the only serious sword & sorcery comic book competition to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian was DC Comics' The Warlord. Written and illustrated by Mike Grell, and based on an unsold newspaper strip, The Savage Empire, Warlord was something of a cross between Conan and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar novels.
Travis Morgan, a U.S. Air force pilot flies through an opening in the Earth's crust to find himself in a world called Skartaris. Skartaris is a mix of cavemen and bronze age people with sorcery and dinosaurs thrown in for good measure. What more could a 12 year old boy want? I absolutely loved Warlord, almost as much as I loved the Conan comic. Others must have shared my fondness for the book as it was the only S&S comic to even approach Conan the Barbarian's 235 issue run with an impressive 133 issues between 1976 and 1989. Warlord actually got its start in 1975 in DC's anthology title, First Issue Special.
Anyway, it was one of my favorite comics. A couple of years back DC announced that it was bringing Warlord back in a new ongoing series. I was dubious when I learned that Mike Grell wouldn't be attached to the project because Warlord, even in the days before creator owned series became common, was very much the work of one man. Though other writers and artists worked on the title late in the series, they followed Grell's lead. The new series, written by Bruce Jones and illustrated by Bart Sears was to be a reboot, unconnected to the original title.
In two words, it tanked.
Now I like both Jones and Sears. Jones is currently writing DC's revamped War That Time Forgot and he's doing a bang-up job. And I've enjoyed Sears' work on many titles. I didn't care for either's work on the new Warlord. The art seemed to be all talking heads and lacking in detail and the writing was similarly uninspired. Again, I wasn't the only one who thought so and the title was cancelled after 10 issues. I was a little annoyed at first because usually when a relaunch fails, the comic company will wait several years before attempting to bring that character back again.
Last year, however, I began to hear rumors that DC was going to give Warlord another try, and this time Mike Grell would be back to write the new adventures of his signature character. Found out yesterday that the first issue should hit the stands in April. Grell won't be drawing the comic this time, though he will be supplying new covers, (See the illo above) and who knows? Maybe he'll get time to actually draw an issue or two down the line.
I've always been a fan of Grell's work. He strikes me as sort of a more cartoonish version of Neal Adams. His anatomy can be a little wonky at times but it works for comics. Grell has done some great work, not only on Warlord, but on Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Jon Sable, and any number of comics. He also was the artist for a memorable run on the Tarzan newspaper strip.
Grell is a huge fan of Tarzan and Edgar Rice Burroughs and in fact one of my prize possessions is a commissioned painting of Tarzan and John Carter that Grell did for me a while back. I don't have a scan of it because it's bloody huge, but trust me, it's beautiful.
Anyway, in case you can't tell, I'm really looking forward to new Warlord adventures from Mike Grell. That is, indeed, what I'm talking about.

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