1st Issue Special #8 (November, 1975)
“Land of Fear!”
Writer and Illustrator – Mike Grell
Editor – Joe Orlando
Cover Price: $0.25
Welcome to the first piece I am writing under the new domain! To commemorate my 400th Daily bit, I decided “What the heck?” and went ahead and made it official. From this point on we’re at chrisisoninfiniteearths.com which might just be a teensy bit shorter than it was before, but still… pretty neat! Everything is still in the same place, so it shouldn’t take long for us to take off our shoes, brew a cup of coffee, and get comfortable with our DC Comics.
Today we’re going to follow one of the Demandments of the humble blog… if we see 1st Issue Special… we grab it! Gotta feed my strange fascination with this series… hell, if I had more talent and patience I’d make a 1st Chrissue Special button for the sidebar… maybe I’ll get around to figuring it out…
Anyhoo, the fella we’re going to meet today is… Travis Morgan, the Warlord! Before we head into his “lost world”, I wanna let you know that pals of the blog, Ruth and Darrin over at Warlord Worlds have a great podcast dedicated to the franchise (along with other Grell works Green Arrow and Jon Sable, Freelance)… actually they’ve got a whole network of stuff that comes highly recommended!
We open with our man Travis Morgan in the heat of battle with a Deinonychus. He is battle-scarred and is protecting a fallen woman… but how in the world did he wind up here? Well, ya see… Travis is a Lieutenant Colonel for the United States Air Force who was on a mission to snap a few pics of a Soviet installation from the air. After filling his film, he turns to head home… unfortunately, by this point… his presence is known. The Russians fire off some missiles… which Morgan is almost able to outmaneuver… however, he winds up taking one in the fuel tank!
He considers his options and decides his best possibility of survival is getting to an Emergency Support Base in Alaska… and in order to do so, he will have to fly directly over the North Pole. This, he will soon learn, is easier said than done. Funny thing about navigation… a man’s compass might go wonky at the North Pole! Morgan attempts to radio… and finds it dead. He presses on… until he comes across a break in the clouds. Thinking he is above the Yukon, he parachutes in.
Once on the ground, he notes how large the Sun seems… and how it’s uncharacteristically high in the sky for the hour. He also notices that there doesn’t seem to be a horizon… but instead, rivers and lush jungles… in Canada?!
Luckily Travis is no stranger to survival, and so he recounts his inventory… which I might mention, includes a .38 Special! He travels into the lush green and follows a stream for several hours… all the while, the Sun remains directly overhead. He is alerted by the sound of struggle… and so, he decides to investigate. Wouldn’tcha know it, it’s that Deinonychus dinosaur and the young lady from the open!
The woman is struck down by the beast, and so Travis leaps into action. He empties his gun into it… which doesn’t even slow it down. He enters into close combat to try to out-muscle it… thankfully, his distraction opens up the opportunity for the woman to sink her sword into the baddie’s heart!
They have precious little time to celebrate their “win”, as a tribe of warriors begin to swarm. Morgan reloads his firearm and pops off two shots. This stops the remaining warriors cold in their tracks!
Except for the leader, that is! He takes Morgan’s second-to-last-bullet… and dies a few grams heavier. After a momentary standoff, the Warriors send forward a spokesperson. They wish for Morgan and the woman to follow them. Our man cautiously agrees…
They are taken on a long trek to a magnificent palace within the fabulous walled city Thera… the Sun still shines brightly. Once inside, the pair are put before a King, beside whom stands the High Priest Deimos. Deimos reveals a strange globe… which appears to effect Morgan, almost causing him to black out. Before he might, however, he fires his last bullet through the bauble… shattering it!
This display causes quite a stir among the court… and Morgan is treated like the Big Man in Castle… bathed, clothed, entertained. Life, for the moment… is good. Deimos ain’t all that pleased… but what’s he gonna do about it? I bet we find out soon.
After the revelry, Morgan retires to his quarters. He sleeps for… well, quite awhile. Long enough to grow out his hair and a full beard anyway.
Next we get a bit of Skartaris 101… that’s the name of the place Morgan landed, by the way. Here time is… different. Trav realizes he probably won’t have to wear a watch while he’s here. In the, er time, that follows, Morgan teaches himself the language and learns all about his travel companion, Tara. As he works things out in his head, Travis floats a theory about the true nature and whereabouts of Skartaris. They are inside the Earth!
Unbeknownst to Travis or Tara, his theory is overheard by a servant (?) girl with extraordinarily thick green eye makeup. She dutifully reports this all back to Deimos, who thanks her… by poisoning her! Well, turning her into a serpent anyway.
That night (?) while our pair slumbers, three mercenaries sneak into their room. Just as one is about to plunge his sword into Tara, Travis springs into action!
The couple takes down the baddies with the swiftness. They pause for a moment to collect themselves… and realize one thing is abundantly clear… Thera is no longer a safe place. We wrap up as they flee!
Well that was a lot of fun… it’s been far too long since I’ve been on an adventure with Travis Morgan!
Before we unpack, just want to mention something. This, unlike the other issues of 1st Issue we’ve discussed, doesn’t end with a call to arms to letter writers. Nobody needed to clap their hands so Tinkerbell might live… this was basically a pilot episode for an already green-lit series! It says in the (included below) The Story Behind the Story page that Warlord #1 would hit newsstands two months after this very issue!
Also, I had planned to cover an issue of Warlord back on my birthday last year (December 27). Warlord is the only comic I can deduce, if the “Next Issue on Sale” blurb is accurate, was released on the day that I was born! I figured that would’ve been a neat one to cover that day… but, found myself far too busy to spelunk through my comics library. I think we discussed Danger Girl that day instead… not quite an even trade, but whattayagonnado?
Okay, onto the issue. Let’s start with all the great details Grell included. One that leapt off the page immediately was Morgan’s use of a compass… well, both kinds of compasses while his charger spilled fuel all over the arctic. Such attention to detail was greatly appreciated… and isn’t something we see often enough. The very idea that the North Pole would wonk-up a compass might not be one that a reader would think of.
Let’s talk about world-building for a bit. How cool is it that this entire Skartaris is a fully fleshed out world unto itself? I’ve seen maps online, a few of which have been included in later comics… and it’s just excellent. It’s also neat to consider that this is occurring in (or under!) the DC Universe.
Not only is the world built land-wise… there are also the people of Skartaris. Disparate cultures who live in different areas, all of whom face any number of threats to their survival… and Travis Morgan serves as a wonderful point-of-view character for us to tag along with, and learn with. Here we meet a few members of what will become our main cast (good and bad). They are introduced organically, and are instantly recognizable… even maybe a bit relate-able. And let’s face it… it doesn’t hurt that people and places alike are rendered by Mr. Mike Grell. Absolutely gorgeous work here!
The underworld is also home to a plethora of otherwise-anachronistic beasties. Outside of the Silver Age, it’d be pretty hard to get away with a Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping down the streets of Gotham… but in Skartaris, that’s Tuesday! So many possibilities… and now I’m really itching to read some more.
Overall, well… it’s 1st Issue Special, so yeah… ya gotta pick it up if you come across it… that’s just “da way it is”. In this case… it’s also Warlord, so yeah… recommended. This has the odd distinction of being an issue of 1st Issue that has been collected. Unfortunately, the book it’s been collected in… is outta print. SHOWCASE Presents Warlord is one’a them black and white “phone book” types which I love, but totally understand if many folks don’t. I wouldn’t recommend buying this at inflated online prices… but keep your eye out for it at the shops, I’m sure many still have it on the shelf for cover price.
Before we go, just wanna give another shout to pals Ruth and Darrin over at Warlord Worlds. Check ’em out!
(Not the) Letters Page: