Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: The Curse of the Cobra Queen

It's Wednesday, so 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 Curse of the Cobra Queen" and "Wizard World"
Warlord (vol. 1) #28 (December 1979)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta (first story)

Synopsis: Riding across Skartaris, Morgan and Ashir reach a parting of ways. Ashir rides for Kaambuka to claim his crown, and the responsibility he’s shirked. Morgan is on his way to Shamballah--and his wife with whom he intends to reconcile.

The two haven’t long parted ways, when Morgan is startled by a meteorite streaking across the sky--one that must have chanced to fall through the polar opening and into Skartaris. Morgan is unaware that the meteor’s fall is even stranger than he can guess. It passes through the “corona” of Skartaris’ eternal sun and is bombarded with radiation. It crashes into the jungle, where a serpent comes to bask in the warmth of its eldritch emanations.

Morgan’s ride takes him close to the place of the meteorites fall. Due to the strange flow of time in the inner world, there is no way to know how long its been since he saw the shooting star. In an area of the jungle darkened by the tree canopy, amazons in reptilian headdresses ambush Morgan. Their numbers, and Morgan’s reluctance to fight women. allow them to take him down with a club to the back of the skull.

When Morgan awakens. he's tied before a throne of a bone, where a beautiful, green-skinned woman with a reptilian cast to her features, reclines. This is the cobra queen. She moves toward Morgan with a raised dagger, but instead of using it on him, she cuts his bonds.

Morgan is mesmerized by her sensuous grace; she moves in for a kiss. Suddenly, there’s a stirring in the underbrush, and the cobra queen recoils in terror. Morgan goes to investigate and finds it's only a small mongoose.

When Morgan turns back to the woman, he finds a giant cobra in her stead! The cobra queen’s hand-maiden’s flee in terror, but Morgan lunges with his sword. He stabs the serpent through its hood, but then is caught in its coils. His sword is wrenched from his grasp. Desperately, he stabs at it with his dagger, hoping to loosen its hold enough so that he can pull his pistol.

Finally, he’s able. He shoots the cobra in the head, killing it. He wonders for a moment if it was a woman who became a snake, or a snake who became a woman? Putting such idle thoughts aside, he rides on, leaving the mongoose to sniff at the body of what is now a beautiful woman once more.

“Wizard World”
In the forests near Shamballah, Tara, Machiste, and Mariah also see a fragment of the falling star coming down. Mariah, aware of the rarity of such a sight, rides ahead into an ancient ruin to investigate. Tara warns her that legends say this is a place where black arts were practiced in the Age of Wizard Kings, and magic is said to still be in the stones. Mariah dismisses all that as superstition.

As Mariah gets close to the meteorite fragment, a strange tear occurs in the fabric of reality, and she falls in. Mariah emerges from her fall through darkness inside of a pentagram inscribed on the floor--startling a diminutive wizard who had been trying to summon a three-headed dog!

The wizard (who addresses her as “demon”) tells her he’s Mungo Ironhand, Sorcerer Supreme, and that this is the Age of the Wizard Kings--it won’t be called Skartaris for another eon or two. He says he’s summoned her to do his bidding, and now he bids her to kiss him. Mariah firmly declines.

Meanwhile, back in Skartaris, Tara tries (unsuccessfully) to stop Machiste from following Mariah into the rift...

Things to Notice:
  • Skartarian time weirdness is used in the furtherance of plot (sort of).
  • Apparently, Skartarian cobras have some constrictor-ish characteristics.
  • This is the first Warlord issue with a back-up story.
Where It Comes From:
This issue was perhaps inspired by the 1972 film Night of the Cobra Woman, wherein a beautiful woman, who transforms into a cobra, must seduce and suck the life from men to stay youthful.  It's also possible that the 1966 Hammer film, The Reptile wa in inspiratiom.  Here, a woman cursed by a snake cult takes on a reptilian form--much less attractive then our cobra queen in this issue.

Wizard World is both more "high fantasy" than Skartaris, and more humorous as well.  Grell seems equally inspired by Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz.  Cigar-chomping Mungo Ironhand was perhaps inspired by a another cigar afficiando wizard with a not dissimilar personality--Avatar, from the 1977 animated film, Wizards.

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