Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Blood Moon

And now, let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Quest, Part III: Blood Moon"
Warlord (vol. 1) #18 (February 1979)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: The desert behind them, Morgan and Tara now ride through the jungle, still on their quest to find Deimos--and Joshua. Morgan hopes that the magical crystal he took from Timgad will be helpful in defeating the power of Deimos--though he doesn't know how.

Such thoughts will have to wait, however, as the riders come upon (yet another) orange carnosaur. Morgan's horse gets spooked and throws him, so Tara pulls him up behind her. The hungry dinosaur is close behind.

When they ride into a wide swath of destruction cut into the jungle, the carnosaur inexplicably gives up and turns tail. That's fortunate for our heroes, because Tara's horse steps in a hole, and breaks a leg. Morgan is forced to put the horse out of its misery with his pistol.  So occupied, our heroes don't notice the incredible thing coming up behind them, until it is all but upon them.

They turn to see a red, crater-pocked planetoid--a moon--filling the sky as it travels the path it cut in the jungle. Before the two can react, men on sky-sleds emerge from it, and start firing energy blasts at them. Our heroes manage to destroy a few of the craft, but first Shadow falls, then her owners. Beams from the remaining sleds lift them and carry them into the moon.

They awaken in the presence of the eccentrically dressed Bornaa. He explains that what Morgan took for a moon is actually the cratered, protective shielding of a starship from the planet Alces Shirasi. The crew is all that remains of their billion year-old, interplanetary civilization, destroyed when their sun went supernova. In truth, they are the descendants of those last survivors, who were forced to cross-breed with humans, captured and genetically transmutated for that purpose. Now, they are close to being able to breed with unaltered humanity, and then they will be able spread their civilization and culture throughout Skartaris. Bornaa expects Morgan and Tara to take part in his people's plan.

Morgan declines--and not so politely, as he leaps forward to throttle Bornaa. Our heroes try to flee, but Bornaa manages to trap them in a force field. They lock Morgan in their transmutation machine. "If he insists on acting like a savage beast," Bornaa explains to Tara. "It's only fitting that he look the part as well." Bornaa leads the horrified Tara away, and the machine turns Morgan into a bull-headed creature. As his rational mind slips away, his strength surges and he breaks free.

Meanwhile, Bornaa is putting the moves on Tara with lines like: "I am much higher on the evolutionary scale." Tara plays along only long enough to steal his pistol and blast him. She runs back to save Morgan, and finds him fighting the crew, raging bull style. The voice of his beloved Tara soothes the savage beast and gets him back into the machine so the technician (at gun-point) can return him to normal. The two free Shadow from a nearby cage, then escape on sky-sleds.

An overzealous guard tries to stop their escape, but misses and hits the ship's reactor instead. Morgan and Tara escape, but the starship explodes as they look on from a distance, marking the final end to the Shirasi people.

Things to Notice:
  • Tara misquotes Saaba--she says the witch told them they could find Deimos "in a place of eternal shadow," but what she actually said was "a place of half-light, half-shadow."
  • Shadow, Tara's dog, is still with the pair.
  • The Shirasians may have pioneered that fundamental of United Federation of Planets chronometry--the stardate. 
Where It Comes From:
"Blood moon" is another name for the "hunter's moon" which is the first full moon after the harvest moon (the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox).

The use of a stardate in the Star Trek style, points to this issue's possible inspiration in the original series episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" which features a generation ship that appears to be an asteroid.

It's also possible that the idea that our moon is actually an alien spacecraft was at least part of the inspiration. This is the so-called "Spaceship Moon Theory" proposed by Vasin and Shcherbakov in a 1970 article, and popularized by Don Wilson in the 1975 book Our Mysterious Spaceship Moon.

Grell engages in a bit of a joke with the name of the alien invaders. "Alces Shirasi" is the species and subspecies name of the Shirasi Moose (Alces alces shirasi), the smallest species of moose--native to Morgan's home state of Wyoming. Perhaps this is sly reference to their penchant for human-ungulate mash-ups, or either Grell just thought it sounded cool.

Morgan's quip about being able to do beer commercials in his minotaur form references the famous Schlitz Malt Liquor TV ad campaign, beginning in 1972, that features a black Brahma bull rampaging through any place a Schlitz is opened. Morgan, having been in Skartaris since 1969, would be unaware of this bit of pop culture, but his line is not necessarily an anachronism since Schlitz Malt Liquor had featured a Minoan-esque bull-head on its label since its inception in 1963.

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