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Green Arrow and The Warlord
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Fred Hembeck

Green Arrow and The Warlord
Uploaded June 25, 2000

This may have been the only Hembeck strip to inspire a full-blown published story. (Hey, if I want to see a causal relationship, I'm going to. This is my soapbox, after all. You hear that, Stan? Mine! Go away! Go hype something!)

But first, some background.

In his early years with DC, artist Mike Grell worked on several titles, including Batman and the Legion of Super-Heroes. His style was clearly influenced by that of fellow artist Neal Adams (best known for his work on Green Lantern, Deadman and Batman), which made him a natural choice to collaborate with Denny O'Neil on the revived Green Lantern/Green Arrow title. Denny and Mike had a good run on the revival for a few years, before moving onto other projects.

So far, so good, right? Okay.

One of the other projects that Mike moved onto was a little experiment of DC's called 'First Issue Special'. Structurally, the series was reminiscent of DC's older 'Showcase' book, which had been a springboard for countless characters and concepts to gain their own titles. Notable examples include The Flash, Green Lantern, and an informal zeitgeist of heroes called the 'Justice League of America'.

Why DC didn't just revive the then-defunct 'Showcase' book itself for this project, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps someone high up thought that having the words "first issue" in the title outweighed whatever advantage or benefit the brand awareness of the 'Showcase' title would have brought.

The series lasted some thirteen issues, including a really nice Walt Simonson take on Doctor Fate and a re-engineering of the Manhunter character by Jack Kirby. As is typical of most 'King' Kirby creations, incidentally, his story ideas here have gone on to provide inspiration/fodder for many DC writers since then. The series also included Grell's debut as a writer/artist, with the introduction of his 'Warlord' title.

The title character of the piece was a fighter pilot named Travis Morgan, a man who found himself stranded in a strange, subterranean world accessible only through a portal near the North Pole. It was a 'Land of the Lost' riff - the world was called Skartaris, and the normal rules of the world didn't seem to apply. Time worked in strange, fluid ways, and the people and environments that Morgan encountered seemed to follow sword-and-sorcery and prehistoric dinosaur lines. Thanks to his fighting skills, not to mention the very large caliber gun he had salvaged from his wrecked plane, Morgan became known as 'The Warlord'.

I'll leave it to others to compare the concept and execution (two very different things, by the way) with those of other comic book titles. Obviously, Marvel's 'Savage Land' and 'Ka-Zar' stories pre-date the Warlord run, but both owe their respective inspirations to pulp fiction writers of years past.

The single issue tryout proved successful enough to warrant a full-blown series, which lasted for well over ten years, with Mike eventually turning over first the art chores, and then the writing responsibilities, to others over the course of the series. One of those writers included Mike Fleisher, who had written a series of remarkable Spectre stories in Adventure Comics years earlier.

Here's the interesting thing, though - apart from hair color, Grell's depiction of Travis Morgan was virtually identical to the way he drew Green Arrow. The former had white hair, and the latter was a blonde. That was the only difference; he even drew both with beards and mustaches.

That likeness formed the basis of Fred's gag up on top, about their hair colorist. That's kind of a double-zinger, actually, since a colorist, in comic book parlance, is also the person responsible for painting the black-and-white line artwork provided by the artist. See? It works on multiple levels. I knew you'd be impressed.

Nothing much was ever done with this piece of artistic license, until Grell returned to DC some years later to write a new Green Arrow series. One of his stories featured a vaguely Oliver Queen-ish character making his way through the streets of Seattle (Green Arrow's home base) and getting set upon by assorted lowlifes looking to get medieval on Arrow's ass. Needless to say, by the

time Morgan, who had found his way out of Skartaris, met up with his lookalike, he was righteously pissed.

Cue the obligatory fight between two people ostensibly on the same side. Yes, I know, it's a super-hero cliché, but what the heck - I think the fans had been waiting a long time for this one, if for no other reason than to acknowledge their similar appearances within official DC continuity (ooh, the dreaded c-word!).

Special bonus literary section!!!!!!

A-ha! My brother, who contributed to the Special Bonus Science Section in the Mon-El strip some months back, points out that the shadow of the real world Mount Scartaris, in Iceland, points to the entrance to the underground world in Jules Verne's Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

Thanks, bro!

- NP

The copyrights, trademarks and publication rights to Fred's cartoons belong to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fred Hembeck where appropriate. Proud Robot Productions graphics, site design, cartoon re-coloring and commentary copyrights belong to Neil Polowin and Proud Robot Productions.

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