Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Wizard World

This week, let's journey to the distant past of the lost world of DC Comic's Warlord, and check up on Machiste, Mariah, and Mungo Ironhand in the "Wizard World" back-up feature...

"The Book of the Dead" Parts 1 & 2
Warlord (vol. 1) #40 (December 1980) and #41 (January 1981)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Dwarf wizard Mungo Ironhand searches for something in the library of the recently deceased Wralf the Wretched while Mariah and Machiste look on. Mungo stops his search briefly to have a martini, and leaning against a wall, manages to accidentally open a secret door. In the small room behind it, he serendipitously finds what he’s looking for--The Book of the Dead, a tome of the dark arts.

Mariah is skeptical, but is concerned that even if it's real, it’s a thing of evil. Mungo assures her that power is neither good nor evil--it depends on how its used. He thinks he can use the book to send them back to their own time.

At that moment, a wizard appears in a burst of fire and brimstone, and snatches up the book. Machiste throws a dagger, but it’s too late. The wizard is gone as quickly as he came.

Mungo tells the other two that that was Zarrgon Fire-Eye. He lives inside a volcano called Great Fire Mountain. They have to get the book back from Zarrgon, or they’ll see what happens when the book falls into the wrong hands!

Astride giant, flightless birds the trio head for Great Fire Mountain. At the volcano’s base, they abandon their mounts, and climb. They find Zarrgon’s fortress in the volcano’s smoldering crater.

Our heroes descend into the crater only to be attack by diminutive brutes riding small pteranodons. Their tiny spears are little more than an annoyance, but one of the flying reptiles grabs Mariah by the hair--and begins to raise her into the sky. Machiste grabs her hand, and pulls her back to safety. Mungo suggests they take shelter in a cave up ahead.

Zarrgon, watching the trio escape his minions uses a blast of energy to cause an avalanche. Our heroes are buried!

Or so it appears. Actually, Mungo uses his magic to shield them. They manage to get into the cave before Mungo’s strength gives out, but the cave’s entrance is now blocked. The three are plunged into darkness.

Mungo fumbles for a moment, but manages to produce a magic flame from his finger. In the light he casts, the three are surprised to see a crouching humanoid:

The thing, which calls itself Craetur, bounds off promising that Zarrgon will make them pretty trophies, too. Mariah wonders what he’s talking about, but not for long. Mungo points her to a wall of skulls.

Determined not to wind up on that wall. the trio makes their way deeper into the volcano until they discover a stairway leading upward to a door. They soon find themselves in Zarrgon’s fortress, and after a short and stealthy search, locate the wizard, lost in study of the book.

Mungo has a plan. They waylay two guards and get disguises for Mungo and Machiste. They enter the wizards chamber, and move closer to attack. Before they can, Zarrgon glimpses Machiste’s mace hand.

Quickly, Machiste throws a dagger. Zarrgon laughs when it strikes the Necronomicon, not him. He blasts away at the two with magic energy. Mungo fires a blast of his own, but hits the dagger embedded in the book. Again Zarrgon mocks them.

He doesn’t see the dagger pommel begin to grow and change into the shape of a woman. He has no idea he’s been tricked until Mariah grabs him by the shoulder, then spins him around and punches him off the platform.

The three grab the book and try to make their escape before Zarrgon recovers. Before they can climb out of the crater, a recovered Zarrgon blasts them. The path crumbling beneath his feet, Mungo almost falls into the volcano, but Mariah saves him.

The Necronomicon, however, falls into the roiling smoke below. Mungo’s lost his chance to be sorcerer supreme, but consoles himself with the knowledge that the book can no longer fall into the wrong hands.

In the volcano below, Craetur picks up the book from the rubble, and pronounces it “pretty.”

Things to Notice:
  • Wizardly knowledge is vast. Mungo Ironhand knows a lot of 20th century popular culture.
  • Mariah has heard of the Necronomicon.
  • Zarrgon's name is mispelled throughout Part 2.
Where It Comes From:
The evil sorcerer Zarrgon maybe be named for the comic book character Sargon the Sorcerer, or more likely, they both take their names from Sargon the Great of Akkad.

The Necronomicon, of course, comes from the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Craetur's appearance and behavior is modelled on that of Gollum in the works of J.R.R.Tolkien.


anarchist said...

Is it possible that Machiste's name comes from Maciste, the wandering adventurer of many old Italian films?

Trey said...

More than a possibility, it's quite likely, I think. See my commentary on Warlord #2.

netherwerks said...

Doesn't this issue in particular really read like a Warlord RPG scenario? the bit with Craetur picking up the bad, bad book was fun--but do we ever see Craetur again after this last panel? That could have been cool...

Trey said...

I hadn't thought of that, but it really does! As far as I can recall, this is the last we saw of Craetur. I think it was a potential story Grell never got back around to.