Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: This Savage World

Continuing my examination of DC Comic's Warlord...

"This Savage World"
Warlord (vol. 1) #1 (January-February 1976)

Written and Illustrated by Mike Grell

Synopsis: In the jungles of Skartaris, Morgan trains in use of the sword with Tara. He recalls the events that led to this point--giving a recap of 1st Issue Special #8. After completing their practice, the two continue their journey to Tara's home city of Shamballah. Morgan tries (again) to explain to Tara about the hollow earth, but she still doesn't believe him. In their travels they glimpse a coffle of slaves being taken to Bal Shazar, and Tara is mesmerized by a satyr--who Morgan knocks out with one punch. Unfortunately, the smoke of their campfire draws the slave raiders, and the are ambushed. Tara and Morgan are chained with the other slaves and marched out across the desert. Unwilling to give up, Morgan begins to saw through Tara's slave collar with the titanium chain of his dog tags. After some time, he manages to free her, but not before they're noticed by the guards. Tara is able to escape on horseback, while Morgan fights off the slavers. Eventually, he's brought down by a blow to the back of his skull. When he regains consconsciousness, he's tied hanging from a tree by his arms, where the angry slavemaster leaves him to die.

Things to Notice:
  • The recap gives the name of the Theran king (Baldur) which wasn't given last issue.
  • Neither Tara or Morgan understand gravity. Tara has no conception of it, and Morgan gets it wrong.
  • The leader of the slavers wears a winged helm much like the one Morgan will eventually adopt.
  • The worst invective Vietnam vet Travis Morgan can hurl at the slaver who just crucified him is "stick it in your ear!"
Where It Comes From:
Tara and Morgan are on their way to Tara's home city of Shamballah.  The name comes from the Tibetian Buddhist tradition, where it came to be seen as a earthly paradise of sorts. It enters into the Western occult lore through the theosophist writings of HP Blavatsky. Grell probably encountered it in the Three Dog Night song of the same name ("Shambala") from 1975.

Tara's Skartarian cosmological mythology snippet is a nice bit of color.  Her giant is the Skartarian equivalent of Atlas, the titan who held up the heavens from Greek mythology.  The Atlas Mountains of North (western) Africa are named for him. The name of Tara's giant is "Ashanti" which is the name of a Western African ethnic group, who ruled a pre-colonial empire in what is now Ghana.

The slavers and their hapless captives are on their way to another Skartarian city, Bal Shazar--which is only a slight modification of Belshazzar (Akkadian Bal-sarra-usur meaning "Bel (lord) protect the king"), the name of a prince of Babylon according to the Old Testament Book of Daniel.  Grell probably uses it for its ancient Middle Eastern sort of sound which fits thematically with the slave coffle's trek across the desert.
The satyr sequence drives home the fantasy elements of Skartaris, which serves as a counterpoint to the dinosaurs and other lost world trappings.  The satyr is from Greek mythology, though his protrayal here shows that Grell follows the tendency--present since the Roman era--to conflate them with the god Pan, himself. The specific events in the story may have been inspired by a sequence from the 1964 film, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, where Barbara Eden's character suffers a similar musical seduction.


Patrick Mallah said...

I'm surprised you haven't indexed these entries. Scrolling back to the first one was a pain!

Trey said...

I think you would have an easier time of it using the archive in the side bar.

Trey said...

And this is not actually the first one.