Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: The Gamble

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 Gamble"
Warlord (vol. 1) #44 (April 1981)

Writing and art by Mike Grell; inks by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: On a lonely Skartarian beach, Jennifer Morgan awakens to the sound of a voice commenting on her beauty, and finds herself under the gaze of a hooded man carrying a brass-bound wooden box on his shoulder.

Along the Terminator, the rim where the outer North Pole meets the inner world of Skataris, Morgan and Aton arrive at the city of Bantuhm.  Finding Jennifer is their goal ultimate, but Morgan's brought them to this “den of thieves and assassins” because he needs a good swordsmith.  He must have a replacement for the magical Hellfire sword which he was forced to give up to escape its malign influence.  Morgan tells Aton to find a bar and he’ll meet him later.

Aton hasn’t even gotten his drink before he’s enticed into a game of chance by the roguish Tevalco El Cint, over the warnings of the establishment’s barmaid.   A simple shell game is what el Cint offers—and a small wager.

When Morgan finds Aton later he’s looking downcast over his ale.  Morgan has had no luck finding a blade, and it doesn’t improve his mood to hear Aton lost their horses gambling!  Morgan’s response to this news:

The Tevalco el Cint intervenes to offer Morgan a deal.  There’s “a certain jewel in a certain tower at the center of a walled maze” that el Cint will exchange for their horses.  Morgan reluctanting agrees, and soon the three are standing outside the large gates in the wall around the tower.

Morgan wonders why there are no guards.  El Cint tells them they're not needed.  He ushers the two through the gate, telling them the difficulty isn’t getting in, but getting out—and he slams the gate behind them, locking it somehow.  The key to the gate, he assures them, is in the same chamber as the jewel.

Morgan and Aton have no choice; they start out through the hedge maze.  The correct path is hard to find—and the maze has deadly traps, including rabid dogs that come running at them out of the darkness.  Morgan and Aton have to dispatch them without getting bitten, which they succeed in doing, but at the cost of Morgan’s remaining ammunition.

Making it through the rest of the maze without incident, the two come to the door in the base of the tower, guarded by two apparently empty suits of armor—one which turns its head to follow them when they’ve past!  They're only a little ways up the tower stairs when they realize the suits of armor are behind them.

Morgan knocks one down with a handy flaming brazier, proving for certain that no one is inside.  More suits of armor join the chase, and with the fire is spreading.  The two run into a room where they find the key and the jewel.  Aton snatches up the key, but the room is ablaze, and Morgan isn’t about to let them burn to get el Cint his treasure.  The two are forced to jump from a high tower window into water below.

When the two walk back into the tavern, el Cint is surpised to see them—he had bet 100 silver pieces that they wouldn’t make it!  Since they don’t have the jewel he won’t return the horses, but he does offer Morgan an attempt at his game: a chance to win the horses against their service in another enterprise.  Morgan agrees.

El Cint works his shell game again, and asks Morgan to guess where the pearl is.  Morgan’s response:

Then Morgan tells the now one-handed el Cint how it is:

Morgan and Aton walk toward their horses, and encounter a black cat that transforms into Shakira.  She tells Morgan not to be so surprised: she told him they’d meet again.  She asks where they're going.  Morgan doesn’t know, but he does know they’ll have to make a side-trip to pick up more ammo first.

Much later, the trio ride into the ruined city where Morgan stashed his ammunition.  While Morgan and Aton retreive it, Shakira walks into an old room and activates a monitor, making it show an image of how the city must have looked in ages past.  Shakira sheds tears, staring at it.   Then, she turns the computer off and leaves the room.

Things to Notice:
  • The Terminator tavern girl sports the raccoon-eye make-up not seen in Warlord sense the seventies.
  • Was Shakira following Morgan and Aton all this time?  It doesn't seem likely she'd just turn up in the same city.
  • We get a hint at Shakira's mysterious past.
Where It Comes From:
The hard-to-breach tower with treasure inside is a Sword & Sorcery staple, perhaps starting with the Conan story "Tower of the Elephant" (1933).

Bantuhm is perhaps derived from Ban Thum, a district in Thailand, or Bantoom, a Barsoomian city-state.

"Tevalco el Cint" is a pseudo-Spanish name; "el cint" is apart of several Catalan place names.


Kilian Spector said...


I've been following your blog and more concretely your warlord wednesday section since I'm a huge fan of the character. In fact in 2009 I began with a similar project which I could not carry on because I didn't have most of the issues of the warlord's first series. Here I leave you the link to the warlord entries in my blog so you can give them a look eventhough it's written in Spanish.

Now that I got the Warlord Showcase Vol. 1 maybe I will carry on with the project tanking yours into account if you don't mind.

Why I decided to leave a comment today and now? Well, basically it has to do with something you wrote down today. Being catalan myself and catalan language my mother tongue, I don't think that Grell inspired himself on that small catalan town called El Cint which I think really few people know and even less an American in the early 80's where internet was mere Sci Fi. Also take into account that in some places of catalonia (where they obviously speak catalan), "El Cint" means "the belt" (the one you use to hold on your pants) or also "a band" or "strip" like the ones you put on your forehead to hold your hair (like Rambo OMG), etc.

Well, that's all I wanted to comment and just let you know that I'm here every wednesday to read you awesome Warlord Wednesday. I've still gotta add you to my blog roll.

Kudos and keep up the good work,


Trey said...

Thanks so much, Killian!

I knew from itnernet searching that "el cint" showed up in Catalan place names, but I never could get a good translation. I'm glad a native speaker was able to clear that up. :)

Thanks for being a reader. I'll check up your Warlord stuff--though I'll have to get the internet to translate. ;) I certainly don't mind you using some of my stuff, just credit me.

slegge said...

Bit of trivia for you: "Tevalco el Cint" is an anagram of "Vince Colletta", the long-time Warlord inker. Grell was not happy with Colletta because he was a notoriously fast inker who over simplified intricate pencils. Grell wanted Colletta replaced.

Note that Grell has Morgan cut off El Cint's hands.

Trey said...

So that's where that vexing name came from!