Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: The City in the Sky

Let's 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 City In The Sky"
Warlord (vol. 1) #8 (August-September 1977)

Written and Illustrated by Mike Grell

Synopsis: Morgan, Machiste, and Mariah are loungingin Kiro, admiring Machiste's new mace-head prosthetic, when their attention is called to a flock of pteranodons descending on the city.  The three do battle with the flying reptiles, unil one snatches Mariah in its talons and flies off with her.

For a moment, Morgan thinks he's lost her, but he notices a pteranodon that hasn't taken flight yet.  Morgan jumps on its back, hoping he can ride it to their roost and find Mariah.  While cursing Morgan for a fool, Machiste nonetheless follows.

Their perilous flight takes them over the jungles of Skartaris to a city floating in the sky.  Dismounting before the pteranodon reaches its perch, Morgan and Machiste discover that despite the wondrous nature of the city, its in fact decaying with age.  They set off in search for Mariah, but are themselves discovered by a squad of security robots.  The two warriors make short work of them.  Feeling a greater urgency than ever to find Mariah, they run through the city streets with weapons drawn.

Hearing voices from one buidling, they charge in to find Mariah engaged in relaxed converstation with a bald stranger.  The stranger welcomes them to the city of Skyra and offers them wine.

Morgan remains suspicious despite their host's friendly demeanor and demands answers.  The stranger gives his name as Tragg, and explains that the pteranodons are trained to hunt meat for him to supplement his synthetic food supplies.  They picked up Mariah by mistake.

Skyra was built by the Atlanteans before the Great War as a defense station.  The task of running it was beyond the capacity of the human mind, so Tragg--a cyborg--was created.  The computer interfaces in his brain allow him to control every function of the city with his thoughts--which he demonstrates by having an energy weapon blast a carnosaur in the jungles below.

After that display, Morgan is ready to leave the sky city, but Mariah (ever the archeologist) wants to see Tragg's collection.  Morgan agrees to a quick look around, and he and Machiste step forward into a dark--and strangely cold--room.  Unseen, Tragg grabs Mariah and pulls her away.

The doors shut behind Morgan and Machiste, and they find themselves in a meat-locker full of frozen humans.  The leering voice of Tragg suggests they "stay for dinner."  Morgan realizes that this is what became of the inhabitants of Skyra--the supplies stopped coming and Tragg turned to humans as a source of food. 

Jets of cold liquid began coating the pair, feezing them to human ice-sculptures.  With great effort, Machiste manages to use his mace hand to break free Morgan's right hand--and his gun.  Morgan shoots the freezing device.  That gives Machiste time to smash through the ice and free them.  Before hunting for Mariah, they quickly improvise gliders so they're sure they can make good their escape.

Meanwhile, Tragg offers Mariah the choice to become his bride--or die.  Before he can carry out his threat, he's interrupted by Morgan who has a gun to his head.  Tragg still controls the city, however, and activates jets of flame that trap Morgan and Machiste, and make Morgan drop his pistol.  While Tragg gloats, Mariah dives for Morgan's pistol.  Before the cyborg can react, she's put a bullet through his skull.  

The instant of Tragg's death, Skyra begins to quake.  The three run for the gliders.  They fly away as the sky city crashes into a snowy mountainside.

Things to Notice:
  • This is the first appearance of Machiste's mace hand.
  • Tragg's hunting pteranodons weren't able to find any easier picking that plucking Mariah from the palace of Kiro?
  • Atlantean robots are built from sub-standard materials--Morgan is able to tear 'em apart barehanded.
  • The Atlanteans made Tragg with scary-sharp teeth for some reason.
Where It Comes From:
The idea of a floating city is a common one in science fiction and fantasy. It goes back at least to Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) and the flying island of Laputa. Once such floating city Grell no doubt encounterd was Stratos in the 1969 Star Trek episode "The Cloud Minders."

Tragg's appearance recalls (albeit with a different color scheme) the Silver Age appearance of the Superman villian, Brainiac--who was also an artificial being (at least after a 1964 retcon):

Tragg's plot and freezing modus operandi are clearly inspired by Box, a robot in the 1976 film adaption of Logan's Run. Box operates a freezing facility for foodstuffs ("Fish, plankton, sea greens... protein from the sea!"), but when the food stopped coming he began freezing and storing escaping runners instead:

Interestingly, though the movie Box is a robot, in the original Nolan and Johnson novel he's a cyborg like Tragg.

No comments: