Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Song of Ligia

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...

"Song of Ligia"
Warlord (vol. 1) #24 (August 1979)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: A Kiroan merchant ship plies the southern coast, bound for marketplaces in Kallistan. One passenger is the subject of shipboard conversation--Travis Morgan, the man called the Warlord. Morgan takes no pleasure in that recognition. It reminds him he was once a man with a purpose. Now, he’s just a wanderer.

He doesn’t have long to dwell on self-pity, because he sees a ship bearing down on his vessel--not a good sign, as the captain avers that these waters harbor only pirates and slave-raiders. As the pirate ship closes, Morgan comes alive with anticipation of the coming battle, and takes command of the frightened crew and passengers. He leads a charge on to the pirate vessel, bringing slaughter where he goes, until a pirate’s arrow pierces his shoulder. He topples from the ship, into the sea.

Morgan manages to fight his way back to the surface where he clings to a piece of mast. The merchant vessel, still in the clutches of the pirate ship, burns in the distant. Adrift, alone, and losing blood, Morgan’s thought drift to Tara, his wife. In his delirium, he hears Tara accuse him of killing their son then abandoning her. Shouting her name, Morgan lets go of the piece of mast and raises his sword high, as he sinks into the depths.

Unconscious, Morgan somehow comes into the hands of a beautiful, green-skinned woman. His presence is an unexpected gift from the sea. She removes the arrow from him, then heals his wound by using her magical song to transfer it to her own shoulder, where it then fades--though plainly, the process causes her pain.

Morgan’s pain continues, too, though his physical injury is gone. The woman reads his emotional torment in his memories. Again, she sings, and takes it away. Morgan awakens in an idyllic world fashioned from his dreams, without any memory of his past life. With the woman in his arms, his memory loss doesn’t seem to matter.

Morgan and the woman, Ligia, live together in love in the magical dream-world she created in an air-filled bubble for him at the bottom of the sea. She provides food and everything else he needs. But as time passes, Morgan becomes increasing preoccupied with his lack of memory. He’s nagged by the feeling he’s forgotten something important. He spends his moments alone staring at his rusting weapons and armor, hoping they will give him some clue.

Abruptedly, their peace is shattered by an attack of the Piscines-- fish-men--who capture Ligia. Without a thought, Morgan arms himself and plunges through the skin of the bubble, into the ocean, to try and rescue her. The battle-fever returns, and he slaughters all the Piscines but one. That one throws a trident at Ligia.

Morgan dives to deflect the weapon, but his timing is off, and instead it pierces him in the stomach. Ligia is in despair. She has wanted to protect Morgan, and now he lies dying. She realizes she has been wrong to take away his past and try to make him something he could never fully be.

She doesn’t wish to lose him, but neither does she want to see him die. She must use all of her power to save him--her magic will be at an end. So she sings, and the bubble collapses, and the sea washes away the dreamworld.

Travis Morgan washes up on a beach. His memories are returned, but now he has a new one to haunt him. The name “Ligia” is on his lips.

In the ocean depths, a green dolphin frolics in the cool waters and hunts among the coral. Occasionally, she passes a tiny, ruined castle on the ocean-floor, and she, too, remembers.

Things to Notice:
  • Despite carrying a shield, Morgan doesn't seem to use it much for actual defense.
  • Ligia seems to have scales around her eyes, giving her a "fish-woman" sort of appearance--which is odd given the reveal of her nature at the end of the issue.
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue references the fact that Ligia (sometimes Ligeia) is often given as the name of one of the sirens in Greek mythology.  Grell's Ligia acts as the exact opposite of a siren, since she saves Morgan, rather than using her song to lure him to his death, but the element of beguiling is still there.  Though the sirens were island-dwelling creatures in the original myths, later folklore and art has given then an aquatic, often mermaid like character, again similar to Ligia here.

This issue seems to draw inspiration from a couple of episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series.  Ligia's ability to heal by taking wounds on to herself was likely inspired by the identical abilities of Gem, the title character of "The Empath," a 1968 episode. The basic plot--a woman who is not quite what she seems who builds a world/sanctuary for the human man she's in love with--is essential the same as a 1967 episode "Metamorphosis." 

And while we're on the subject of Star Trek references, Ligia's green-skinned, black-haired appearance might have been suggested by the Orion slave girls--if not from a certain green-skinned goliath popular at DC's competition.

No comments: