Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Savage Empire


This week, let’s take a look at Warlord’s prehistory--not the Atlantean origins of Skartarian civilization, but the origins of the series itself. Before there was the hollow world, the eternal sun, and Travis Morgan, Grell conceived of an archeologist transported back to ancient Atlantis to become ruler of a Savage Empire.

While attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, Grell created a comic strip called Savage Empire, born of his admiration for Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant and Burne Hogarth’s rendition of Tarzan. In 1973, Grell went to New York to try to sell the strip to a syndicate editor, but was unable to even get an interview to present it. He was told: “Adventure strips are dead.”


During that trip, he also went to New York Comicon. He left with a job at DC Comics, but Savage Empire was still in limbo. While working at DC, he pitched the idea to Atlas Comics. When DC publisher Carmine Infantino found out from Jeff Rovin about the meeting with Atlas, he wanted to hear Grell’s idea. While Infantino took a phone call, Grell had a few minutes to rethink things, and so when he pitched what came out was Warlord.

The two strips had a lot of similarities. The heroes looked something alike, and the female leads do too--they both look like Raquel Welch. In fact, the love interest of Savage Empire was named Tahnee (which happens to be the name of Welch’s daughter, also an actress, born in 1961). This Tahnee was “a lovely savage from the jungle kingdom of Valka” (perhaps showing some Robert E. Howard influence as “Valka” is the name of the favorite deity of his Atlantean savage turned king, Kull).

Raquel, "Tahnee," and Tahnee

Jason Cord, archeologist, was exploring a tomb on the isle of Kalliste (Santorini) when he was caught in the “laser-like light of a mystic jewel” and transport to the fabled lost continent. He was just in time to save Tahnee from sacrifice by the priest...Deimos. Obviously, the genetic relationship between Savage Empire and the Warlord of First Issue Special #8 is clear.

Grell relates this history and more in Back Issue #46 from TwoMorrows. Check it out and see more great Grell art.

7 comments:

JimShelley said...

I guess I can see why newspaper editors might be disinclined to take on a syndicated adventure strip at that time (Mike Nomad and Dick Tracy are the only ones I can remember seeing in the paper during that period.) Still, the combo of Grell's fantastic art and interesting concept might have saved the world from one too many Garfield collections!

The Angry Lurker said...

Good info my friend and I will.

Trey said...

@Jim - I don't remember too many strips from '73 (having just been born and all ;)), but yeah, when I was a kid it was Dick Tracy, Steve Canyon, and Spider-Man.

@Angry Lurker - Thanks.

Needles said...

Aha another Back Issue reader! Good stuff Trey & very too the point without summerizing everything something I've got to work on! Have a great Wednesday man!

Trey said...

I think you do alright. :)

Have a great Hump Day, yourself.

NetherWerks said...

So how long until some one tries to re-imagine Grell's Savage Empire for fun and money? Things might have developed very differently had Mr. Gell actually gotten a shot at doing his adventure strip--the form might not have died quite so easily...if anyone might have revived it, that would have been Grell...

Trey said...

Who knows? With digital coming to the fore, maybe the adventure strip could make a comeback.