Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: The Secret of the Crystal Skull

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 Secret of the Crystal Skull"
Warlord #106 (June 1986)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Art by Ron Randall

Synopsis: Morgan and Shakira ride into Shalmandar, the farthest point on the map, closer to their goal of the Greenfire Sea and the wizard Hagar-Zinn.  Morgan hopes Hagar-Zinn can save his daughter from a magical malady of rapid aging.

Shakira seems startled by something: a wanted poster showing a man wearing a collar just like Shakira’s. 

A woman’s cry distracts Morgan from further consideration. He rides in and makes short work of the ruffians attacking her palanquin. The woman is Ladah Panar, member of prominent family, who was traveling into town with quite a bit of gold to give alms to the poor. She recognizes Morgan as the hero of the New Atlantean War and offers our heroes the hospitality of her home.

Ladah Panar’s “house” is practically palatial. She gives our heroes a tour ending up in her husband’s treasure room. Her favorite piece is a large diamond:

Both black diamonds are rumored to the eye sockets of a crystal skull, but no one knows where that might be (That's what we call foreshadowing). 

Morgan asks about the safety of the treasures. Ladah assures him that not only are they behind a thick door, with a small air vent the only other entrance, but disturbance of any object would trigger the sounding of brass bells as an alarm.

That night, when everyone is asleep Shakira turns into cat form, and leaps out a window. A little later, Morgan is awakened by the treasure room bells.  When he arrives at the room, he sees an unusual thief escaping: a black cat!

While Ladah’s guards pursue the cat, Morgan goes to Shakira’s room. He confronts her about theft. She asks if he ever consider that it might be another cat? Then she shuts the door on him.

Meanwhile, Machiste and Mariah have been born by the undead rowers to an island.  They’re greeted by the island’s inhabitants:

Back in Shalmandar, at another mansion, Shakira finds Damon, the man from the wanted poster. He's also the thief who stole the black diamond for Imag Grann. It turns out, they know each other:

Shakira knew that he must have stolen the diamond and came looking for him. She convinces him to take it back to Ladah, hoping to get some reward. Before they can get away, Imag shows up, shoots Damon with a crossbow, and takes the diamond.

Conveniently, Morgan comes riding up. He goes after Imag and finds him in a cellar with the crystal skull in a strange device. Imag knows who Morgan is because he’s psychic and was eavesdropping on him talking to Ladah. He believes the crystal skull and the diamonds are accumulators that transmit psychic energy to whoever’s wearing an associated headdress.

Imag levitates. then flies, then throws Morgan around with telekinesis. He’s able to read Morgan’s mind and knows when Morgan realizes he will have to kill him. Imag takes Morgan’s sword from him with mind-power—but Morgan pulls his gun and shoots Imag between the eyes. Imag could read Morgan’s mind, but Morgan’s mind was quicker.

He returns to Shakira and Damon.. As he carries the wounded Damon, he warns Shakira the thief may not make it. Shakira assures Morgan that she will make sure Damon does.

Things to Notice:
  • This is the first time we see a man who can transform into a cat in the saga.
  • Morgan (and Fleisher's) musings on Shakira's origins continues.
  • Speaking of Damon, he looks a bit like Douglas Fairbanks in Thief of Bagdad (1924).
Where it Comes From:
The crystal skull was inspired by the real world arifacts and some of the paranormal and New Age speculation about them.  Warlord got here before Indiana Jones!

One of Ladah Panar's treasures comes from Dilmun.  Dilmun is a place mentioned by ancient Mesopotamian records. It shows up in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Presumably, there's one in Skartaris, too.

Unmaschal and it's inhabitants were inspired by a couple Clark Ashton Smith stories. "Necromancy in Naat" provides the wizards using undead servants and taking advantage of shipwrecks, while the torture angle comes from "The Isle of Torturers."


Timothy S. Brannan said...

Sounds like an issue I would have enjoyed. I loved all things "Crystal Skull" back then and anything inspired by CAS was good in my book.

Trey said...

Yeah, I don't always give Fleisher run the credit it deserves. While this story could have stood a little more development (or either fewer subplots sucking up space) the basic premise is cool and like you I like the CAS references.