Back in July of 1976 I bought a copy of Warlord #3 that I found on the spinner rack of a 7-11 store. I had never heard of the comic before and was bummed that I had missed the first two issues. Fortunately, I was able to buy the two missing issues from Robert Bell--a mail order back-issues dealer who was one of the few sources for finding old comics in those halcyon days before comic book specialty shops and the Internet existed.
Unfortunately, when issues #1 and #2 arrived in the mail sometime in August 1976 I read the first issue only to discover it wasn't the "real first issue." No, the "real first issue" was in DC's First Issue Special #8--so I had to order that one from Robert Bell, too, and it arrived just before school started on September 7 (old timers like me will recall when the school year started the day after Labor Day).
I collected all of the issues written by Mike Grell--up to issue #71 (though the last 18 are now said to have been written by Sharon Grell, his then-wife). I know I continued to buy the series for several issues after the Grells were no longer writing it. Heck, I may have continued to buy it all the way to the end when it was canceled, but since the issues after Mike Grell was no longer writing it are very forgettable, I can't say for certain.
Obviously, I no longer have any of those issues--much to my regret. I still recall, though, the text page of either First Issue Special #8 or Warlord #1 in which Grell wrote about the "Hollow Earth Theory," Admiral Richard E. Byrd's supposed flight over the North Pole in 1926 during which he saw the "Hollow Earth," and several old books about the Hollow Earth.
At the time, my geometry teacher's husband owned a store specializing in rare books, and I gave her a list of the titles Grell included in his text article. She was able to find one of them, but it was out of my price range since I was only getting a weekly allowance from my parents at the time.
I since have come to realize that the entire "Hollow Earth" idea is physically impossible given what we know of the Earth' composition and planet formation. After Grell left, DC even ret-conned the world of the Warlord (Skartaris) so that it existed in "another dimension" rather than inside the Earth's supposed hollow interior--a dimensional world that can be accessed, of course, through portals located at the North Pole, the South Pole, and other strategic locations where the ancient Atlanteans once had outposts.
Though I no longer have any of my old Warlord issues, I've always loved Grell's concept and stories (admittedly owing much to Edgar Rice Burroughs's Pelucidar novels, of which At the Earth's Core was the first), and I've longed for the day when either DC would reprint them all in trade paperback collections or I could afford to buy all of the issues again.
Amazon.com lists a Showcase Presents: The Warlord volume one that is scheduled to come out on September 8, 2009 (though it's not yet on DC's Web site). I don't care for those giant coloring books that DC publishes on bad paper, but I might actually breakdown and buy it if and when it comes out. At 528 pages, I figure it will contain about the first 25 issues (or so) of Grell's run--or about half of the issues that Grell actually wrote himself). It's probably the best chance I'll get to own those treasured stories of the past.
Fortunately, we also have DC's new Warlord series that is written by Grell (who also provides the covers) and illustrated by Joe Prado. I have been looking forward to this series since it was announced at the San Diego Comic Con last July. It's finally here, and it did not disappoint me in the least.
Essentially, though, Grell is simply picking up the story from where he left off--either after issue #52 of the first series or after issue #71 (with his ex-wife having ghost written #53-71 for him). In other words, if you didn't read Grell's original series in the 1970s and 1980s, you might be lost--which is why the giant Warlord coloring book that DC is supposedly publishing on September 9 is something everyone should pick up so that they can thoroughly enjoy this new series that continues Grell's story and ignores any of the issues published after he stopped writing the character (save, perhaps, for the issues written by his ex-wife).
While I miss Grell's work on the interior illustrations, Prado does a commendable job in filling in for the author. His style is similar enough to Grell's own illustration style that longtime fans of Grell's work shouldn't be put off (in contrast to the terrible series that DC published in 2006 by Bruce Jones and Bart Sears that was canceled, fortunately, after only ten issues).
As for the story, I don't want to spoil it, but it involves an expedition that enters Skartaris through an opening in the Himalayas, and they apparently end up causing trouble for the locals who live in the shadowy region where the constant sun in Skartaris (a small sun suspended in the middle of the Earth's hollow core) begins to give way to the darkness where the interior of the Earth curves outward at its openings to the exterior surface of the planet.
I'll also say that past Warlord readers who recall wondering how much ammunition Travis Morgan had for the .44 Magnum that he carried with him for scores of issues will enjoy the implication of the last page of this first issue.
Anyway, if you're a longtime fan of Mike Grell's character, this new Warlord series is something you will probably like. If you're not, I suggest trying it--but also plan on buying Showcase Presents: The Warlord volume one when it comes out in September.
What did you think of this book?
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