Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: The Children of Ba'al

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 Children of Ba'al"
Warlord (vol. 1) #23 (July 1979)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Travis Morgan has left the twilight of the Terminator behind, and we find him back under the eternal Skartarian sun, bathing in a forest pool. Morgan’s “jungle-sharpened” hearing leads him downstream where he finds beautiful, golden-skinned, blonde youths of both sexes frolicking in the water. It’s a tableau of merriment incongruous with his experience of Skartaris.

As Morgan watches, the idyllic scene is shattered by an attack by green-skinned, Neanderthalish brutes. He springs into action, and unarmed, takes out several of the brutes quickly. They have numbers on there side though, and Morgan only defeats the last after a desperate underwater struggle.

When the battle’s over, Morgan confronts the golden-skinned folk. At no time in during the melee did any of them raise a hand to help themselves--or him. Morgan wants to know why. A beautiful woman bids him peace, and expresses gratitude for his help. She offers to tend his wounds and take him to there village where all will be explained.

The people call themselves the Children of Ba’al. Morgan is surprised by the openness of their dwelling. He can’t understand their lack of fortifications any more than their lack of self-defense. He directs his questions to a groovily mustachioed man he takes as their leader, but the man, Arn, tells him they are a society of equals. They don’t fight the green-men, the Orms, because they are too powerful.

That really gets Morgan going, and he gives the golden-folk a speech about the need to defend themselves, or be picked off one-by-one. Perhaps somewhat shamed by Morgan, a group reluctantly leads him to the entrance to the Orms’ subterranean city. Morgan plans to go below, and asks if any will accompany him. Only the woman who first spoke to him volunteers.

The two move underground. Morgan is surprised by a glow ahead in the tunnels.  The woman tells him it comes from the power source of the Orms which gives them light and warmth. Morgan suggests they need to move quietly now, as guards will be near.

Morgan’s intuitions prove correct. He drops stealthily upon a group of them. When one begins to get away, he’s fell by a spear thrown by the woman, much to Morgan’s surprise.

Finally in sight of the city, Morgan is amazed that the primitive-appearing Orms built something so impressive. They find the machine that generates their artificial sun. Morgan sabotages it with a shot from his gun. He and the woman flee the city, fighting as they go.

As they're emerging from the tunnels to the surface, someone strikes Morgan on the head and knocks him unconscious.

Morgan awakens tied to a skull-adorned stake. The Children of Ba’al dance around him in wild abandon. Dead Orms are strung up in front of a grotesquely grinning idol, and a large cauldron. Arn tells Morgan they owe him a debt--and they plan to repay him by affording him the honor of sacrifice to the great god, Ba’al. Morgan politely declines, but Arn tells him that he must be sacrificed so they can proceed with the feast of Ba’al. Only then does Morgan notice the Orm arm hanging out of the cauldron--or cook-pot--and realises with horror what the feast entails.

Before Arn can light the kindling beneath Morgan, he’s impaled by an Orm's spear. The Orms massacre the Children of Ba’al, then turn to face Morgan. He’s recognized as the one who raided their city. Morgan begins to offer some explanation, but to his surprise an Orm frees him. The damage he did to their power source was minor, and they enjoyed watching him squirm as when he thought he was going to end up in the cook pot.

Morgan feels like a fool. The Orm agrees he should. Because of him, the Children of Ba’al, who were only a minor threat before, had to be wiped out. Morgan was going to teach them to fight, and that would have made them too dangerous. Sheepishly, Morgan asks if there’s anything he can do to make it up to them.

The Orm tells him to stay away--or next time he’ll end up in their cook pot.

Things to Notice:
  • One of the girl's of Ba'al gives the Vulcan salute as a sign of peace.
  • Arn has a groovey seventies' moustache reminiscent of Peter Wyngarde as Jason King.
  • Skulls are common sacrifice-stake accessories in Skartaris.  The one Machiste and Mariah were tied to in issue #9 is identically decorated to the one here.
Where It Comes From:
The inspiration for this issue seems have common from a combination of the Star Trek original series episode "The Apple" and a clever inversion of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine

"The Apple" has the Enterprise crew interacting with a race of beautiful innocents, called "The Feeders of Vaal," who serve a giant monster-head idol, and need to learn to stand-up for themselves.

The Time Machine, of course, has the protagonist siding with the beautiful but ineffectual Eloi, against the bestial, but more advanced Morlocks--who it turns out use the Eloi as a food source.

Ba'al is a Northwest Semitic language title meaning "lord" or "master."  It can be used to refer to any god, but is often used to refer to the primary god of a given people or city.  Baal has come to be used as the name of a demon in Christian demonology.

Orm is a word found in modern languages descended from Old Norse that can mean variously "worm", "snake", or "dragon."


Aaron E. Steele said...

Good stuff. Just purchased the B&W Warlord compilation. Must find time to sit down and read it cover to cover.

Trey said...

Great! I'm sure you'll find the actually stories more interesting than my recitation of them.

Aaron E. Steele said...

You're reviews were sufficiently inspiring to make me want to re-acquaint myself with them, so a big thanks. Keep em coming, I find your reviews valuable!