We interrupt our regularly scheduled Warlord Wednesday for special guest column by Jim Shelley of the Flashback Universe Blog. Here's Warlock Wednesday:
I've often felt that Jim Starlin's comic book stories had elements in them that made them feel like a role-playing game. I'm sure it's just common inspirations or coincidence but it's there. The Adam Warlock story "Death Ship" (Strange Tales #179, 1975) is a great example.
The issue starts with Warlock recapping the previous issue (wherein his failure to protect a beautiful damsel in distress leads him to vow vengeance on her killers, the feared Universal Church of Truth.) His quest has brought him to a huge slave ship.
It turns out to be much like star-faring dungeon.
Warlock, like a lot of adventurers, doesn't really have a strategy: he just attacks the ship head on. This of course results in his capture. When he wakes up, he is brought before Captain Autolycus, the commander of the Death Ship.
Autolycus is a name taken from Greek mythology, meaning "The wolf itself." Starlin just probably thought it sounded cool. By the name and rank, it's clear that the Captain is the Ship's boss so expect him and Adam to face off before the end of the issue.
After the meeting, Warlock is thrown into one of the ship's holding cells where he meets a bizarre assortment of alien slaves. As the creatures explain their plight to Warlock, Starlin employs a rather clever layout trick to present this portion of the narrative:
This split screen design isn't something normally used comics, but you will find it employed quite a bit in another medium: rpg monster or character write-ups.
Warlock is next introduced to a character who definitely gives the story an rpg feel: Pip The Troll. Now, aside from Pip's resemble to a mythological creature (which is in itself suggestive of his origins), he's a comic sidekick like Sancho Panza or Planchet. In other words, an entertaining henchman. Pip quickly becomes a welcomed addition to the Adam's entourage.
Pip tries to persuade Warlock to lead a revolt on the ship, but he refuses (but not before recounting a rather hippy-ish parable on the corrupting nature of power.) However, Warlock finally agrees to help them with their uprising (just not lead it) and with that, he's off to spend the next 3 pages attacking the ships guards. To be honest, I'm not sure how this is any less "Dark Force-y" than taking a temporary leadership role, but let's not quibble as it results in this amazing 17(!) panel sequence by Starlin:
So Warlock makes his way through the various "levels" of the ship. He eventually comes face to face with the Autolycus (we all knew it was coming down to this didn't we?), leading to the issue's final battle. Fortunately for Warlock, Autolycus is gracious enough to tell our hero all his stats and abilities before the fighting begins:
Warlock is outmatched by the Captain and spends the next couple of pages getting his golden ass handed to him. Right as Autolycus is about to deliver his death blow, a strange thing happens. The gem in Adam's forehead suddenly seems to come alive and sucks out Autolycus's soul.
That's right. The artifact that the character had, but didn't really know what it did, somehow was integral to solving the adventure. This bit of deus ex machina might reflect on Starlin as a storyteller. It also might or might not tell us something about what sort of DM he would be.
From here, Warlock leaves with Pip the Troll to continue his quest to defeat the leader of the Universal Church of Truth, the Magus. As the saga progresses, his "party" will be joined by an evil wizard Thanos and a sexy assassin Gamora, but that's a tale for another "session" of Warlock Wednesday.
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