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Comic Book / The Warlord

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In the savage world of Skartaris, life is a constant struggle for survival. Here, beneath an unblinking orb of eternal sunlight, one simple law prevails: If you let down your guard for an instant you will soon be very dead.

The Warlord is a Sword and Sorcery comic book published by DC Comics. The series and eponymous character debuted in 1st Issue Special #8 (November 1975), and was created by Mike Grell. The Warlord was first published in 1976 and ran until 1989 for a total of 133 issues and six annuals. There was also a 6-issue miniseries in 1992 written by Grell.

Vietnam veteran SR-71 pilot Travis Morgan passed through a hole in the earth's crust while flying over the north pole and landed in the underground world of Skartaris, a place strongly reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Pellucidar. There Travis, wielding his .44 AutoMag pistol and joined by scantily-dressed female barbarian Tara, became the Warlord and fought villains such as the evil sorcerer Deimos as well as various kings. He gained various sidekicks such as Machiste, Shakira, a Russian scientist named Mariah and his magic-wielding daughter Jennifer Morgan. In one story arc Morgan even becomes the U.S. President in the far future (Issue 84).


A new Warlord series was launched in 2006, produced by writer Bruce Jones and artist Bart Sears. This series restarted the concept and started with Travis Morgan arriving in Skartaris and was canceled after 10 issues. The series left a number of story points unanswered as issue nine finished on a cliff-hanger, while issue #10 had a standalone story set sometime in the future. This relaunch has been largely ignored throughout the DC continuity.

In March 2008, Grell stated that he was working on a proposal to DC for a new Warlord series. It was announced in July 2008 that Warlord would be returning as an ongoing series written by Mike Grell in time for the 35th anniversary. The series started in April 2009, drawn by Joe Prado.

This was also the setting for an episode of Justice League Unlimited, "Chaos At The Center Of The Earth!"


Not to be confused with the 1965 film The War Lord with Charlton Heston.

The series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Tara, the warrior queen of Skataris' largest city-state; Mariah, the Fiery Redhead Adventurer Archaeologist turned sword-swinging heroine; Shakira, spear-wielding Nubile Savage who transforms into a cat.
  • Action Mom: Tara after she gives birth to Joshua.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Mariah is an archaeologist who becomes a sword-swinging heroine upon her transport to the Lost World of Skartaris.
  • The Ageless: The 2009 series reveals that Travis hasn't aged at all ever since he arrived to Skartaris in the 1970s, looking in his thirties despite chronologically being in his eighties. Most of the inhabitants of Skartaris are the same, with Tara looking exactly the same age as her adult son Joshua even after decades on Earth have passed.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From #1:
    June 16, 1969: Gasoline is up to 35 cents a gallon this summer, censors are in an uproar about Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, a story about a man who has become disconnected in time. The provisional IRA is throwing bricks and bombs in Belfast... students are protesting the war in Vietnam... the Soviet Union and China have been fighting along their border. And NBC have just cancelled Star Trek.
  • Back from the Dead: Deimos, although each time in worse shape than before: first time he had the sword scar across his face; second time, his body was fused with the dog that killed him; third time he was a head on a hand; final time he was a skull in a magical golem body.
  • Barbarian Hero: Every character. Travis Morgan, a USAF officer from modern-day earth, enthusiastically adopts the lifestyle when he is stranded in Skartaris, eventually becoming its greatest hero.
  • Beard of Evil: Fitting for a classical Evil Sorcerer, Deimos has a black goatee and is the Arch-Enemy of Travis Morgan.
  • Blade on a Stick: Nubile Savage Shakira wields a spear as her weapon.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Travis Morgan was a lot happier in the savage Lost World of Skartaris than he ever had been in the 20th Century.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The 2006 series. And the '92 miniseries dismissal of Tara's death in the post-Grell issues.
  • Capture and Replicate: During the "War of the Gods" arc, Y'Smalla imprison Tara in a dungeon beneath Machiste's palace in Kiro, and uses the Apokoliptan technology provided to her by Desaad to assume Tara's form and start a romance with Machiste, thereby driving a wedge between him and Morgan.
  • Cloning Blues: Deimos creates a clone of Morgan's son Joshua, ages it to adulthood, and sends it to attack Morgan, leading Morgan to believe he has killed his own son.
  • Cool Helmet: Travis' signature winged helmet. It passes to his son Joshua when he becomes the new Warlord.
  • Deal with the Devil: Deimos makes a deal with the Evil One to get his body back.
  • Dirty Commies: When Mariah ends up back in the USSR, she is branded a traitor and sent to a gulag.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: In The Warlord #125, the Scavenger dresses Tara in in his cloak and throws her at Morgan, making it look like she is attacking him and causing Morgan to stab his own wife.
  • Emergency Impersonation: Happens accidentally to Shakira in one issue. She happens to be a dead ringer for a kidnapped princess, leading the villains to assume the princess has escaped.
  • Endless Daytime: Skartaris is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar and has a similar 'eternal noon', save at the poles at the very edge of the world.
  • Evil Overlord: One of the more common types of foe. Deimos was the most dangerous and most persistent.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Initially Deimos used advanced New Atlantean science to achieve his ends, later he became an adept of black magic.
  • Evil Weapon: The cursed axe that possessed Machiste.
  • Fake King: Morgan was once imprisoned while an Identical Stranger took his place as warlord of Skartaris.
  • Fiery Redhead: Mariah. Fascinated by all things ancient and with a strong taste for adventure, Mariah jumped at the chance to accompany the handsome Warlord to the mysterious land of the never-ending sun, Skartaris.
  • Fur Bikini: Tara and Shakira. Although Tara later adopts other outfits, Shakira wears the same fur bikini for the whole run.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: The 2009 run features Ned Hankins, one of the richest men in the world, who spends his free time on safaris, deep-sea diving trips, and breaking land speed records. He is persuaded to lead and finance a journey to the Earth's core. Once they arrive, he reveals some long-hidden fantasies about brutally conquering civilizations and setting himself up as a god now that he doesn't think anyone can stop him.
  • Gladiator Games: Travis Morgan captured and made into a gladiatorial slave. He eventually led a Gladiator Revolt that gained him the title of Warlord.
  • Gladiator Revolt: Early in his career, Travis Morgan was captured and spent time as an enslaved gladiator. He earned his title leading his fellow gladiators to freedom.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: After being exiled from Venturia, Queen Clea tries to become Queen of Skartaris, nearly destroying that realm in the process.
  • The Grim Reaper: Travis Morgan was once visited by a gorgeous Death, as Stripperific as any other woman in the series, who invited, "Come to me, my love!" and then took him through a vision of his past. He refused to go with her and recovered from his illness at the end of the issue.
  • The Gulag: Mariah is imprisoned in one after she returns to the USSR.
  • Hand Cannon: Morgan's .44 AutoMag
  • Heroic Fantasy: Morgan triumphs largely through his ability to cleave through problems with his sword.
  • Hollow World: Skartaris, later Retconed to be an alternate dimension instead of underground.
  • Hot Witch:
    • Jennifer Morgan who sported a costume boasting Navel-Deep Neckline.
    • Her rival Ashiya is also pretty good-looking (At least her illusory form, her real form is an old hag).
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Stryker subjects Morgan to one of these in the story "Target" in The Warlord #13.
  • I Choose to Stay: Any time Travis Morgan had an opportunity to return to the surface world, he always to chose to stay (or return, if he was forced back to Earth) in the Lost World of Skartaris, as he felt more at home in Skartaris than he ever had on 20th C. Earth.
  • Identical Stranger: Both Morgan and Shakira have exact doubles in Skartaris. Morgan's is used in a plot to take over Shamballah. Shakira's leads to an Emergency Impersonation scenario.
    • It's also been established that Travis looks enough like Green Arrow that they can easily be mistaken for one another. Fortunately, the two guys don't have many acquaintances in common to get confused.
  • In Harm's Way: Travis Morgan passes up the opportunity to settle down peacefully when it is presented to him, because he needs to keep traveling and adventuring.
    • One of Morgan's friends became the ruler of some city-state or other ... and was bored. He was delighted when a visit by Morgan coincided with the discovery of a serious plot to overthrow him, saying he'd finally found something that made the job worthwhile: "Enemies!"
  • Inept Mage: Mongo Iron-Hand. Mongo is an eccentric who has considerable skill at performing small-scale magical feats, but has difficulty in performing large-scale ones. He somehow has knowledge of the Earth of our present day, which enables him to conjure up cigars and martinis for himself.
  • Jumped at the Call: Russian Adventurer Archaeologist Mariah needed no persuading when she was offered the opportunity to accompany Morgan to the Lost World of Skartaris, even though it meant she might never be able to return to Earth.
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water: Both Travis Morgan and later Mariah make the change to living in the Lost World of Skataris very easily. Mariah's easy adjustment catches Morgan by surprise as he did not suspect that the archaeologist was also a champion sabre fencer.
  • Living Dinosaurs: Skataris is overrun by a variety of prehistoric creatures from all geological eras; most notably dinosaurs.
  • Lost World: Initially taking a Hollow World approach, Skartaris was later retconned as being an alternate dimension which could only be accessed through hidden portals in the Arctic and Antarctic.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: Some of the civilisations of Skartaris have access to advanced Atlantean Lost Technology, but no understanding of how it actually works.
  • Magic from Technology: Some of Deimos' 'magic' was actually sufficiently advanced Atlantean technology.
  • Man in the Iron Mask: Happens to Morgan when he is imprisoned while an Identical Stranger takes his place.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Happens to Mariah when she returns to the USSR after years in Skartaris.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: There is an entrance to Skartaris in Antarctica near the South Pole.
  • Mystical White Hair: Jennifer Morgan, Travis's white-haired daughter who becomes the sorceress supreme of Skataris.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Jennifer Morgan's sorceress outfit is open all the way to her navel.
  • Nubile Savage: The Fur Bikini-clad Shakira.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Mikola Rostov was a Russian fencing instructor cursed to become a werewolf every full moon. Rostov followed his lover Mariah to the other-dimensional realm of Skartaris, hoping the perpetual sunlight would free him of his curse. He eventually went back in time to the age when the land was called Wizard World. There Jennifer Morgan cast a spell that cured him from his werewolf curse. However he can still use his "wolf spirit" in battle.
  • Pirate: Captain Hawk, a.k.a. the Sea Snake, was a fairly treacherous sometimes-ally of Travis Morgan.
  • Pirate Girl: Captain Bloodhawke, the commander of the Sky Pirates who come to aid of Morgan's son Joshua.
  • Planetary Romance: An Earth man is transported to a Hollow World where he becomes its greatest champion.
  • Power Fist: After Travis Morgan cuts off Machiste's right hand to free from possession by a cursed axe, Machiste has his stump fitted with a spiked mace head.
  • Reincarnation: When Death comes for Travis Morgan in #14, it is revealed that Morgan is latest incarnation of a long line of legendary heroes. This revelation gives Morgan the resolve to keep fighting and drive off Death.
  • Sand Necktie: In #131, Morgan's Rival Turned Evil Maddox drugs Morgan so he can extract revenge for years of perceived wrongs. the first torture he inflicts on Morgan is burying him up to his neck.
  • Sea Monster: The oceans of Skartaris are brimming with fantastic beasts.
  • Serial Prostheses: Deimos was killed and resurrected multiple times; each time coming back as slightly less than he had been. Eventually he was reduced to just a head.
  • Shout-Out: Grell, after Morgan makes a particularly long-range shot with his Auto Mag from the silhouette Creedmoor position, gives one to Elmer Keith.
  • Sideboob: A major part of the appeal of Mariah's outfit.
  • Sky Pirate: Captain Bloodhawke and her crew who become allies of Joshua in the 2008 series.
  • Slave Collar: Shakira wears a spiked collar in both human and cat forms. One storyline implied that she was the product of sorcerous experimentation as all of the sorcerer's other subjects wore identical collars. After defeating the sorcerer, Morgan took the collar off and threw it away. Shakira retrieved it and put it back on.
  • Slipping a Mickey: In #131, Rival Turned Evil Maddox feigns friendship with Morgan and the two of them spend the evening drinking and reminiscing about old times. Maddox takes the opportunity to drug Morgan's wine, and when Morgan wakes up he is in Maddox's dungeon.
  • Solitary Sorceress: Travis Morgan's daughter Jennifer eventually becomes the most powerful sorceress in the Lost World of Skartaris. She dwells by herself in a tower at the edge of Skartaris' portal region.
  • Splash Panel: Usually of the the two-page variety when Mike Grell drew it.
  • Stripperiffic: Neither females nor males wear very much clothing in Skartaris. (However, the new Warlord seems to have adopted an outfit that covers a lot more than his father's did.)
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Out of date by decades, Travis Morgan experiences this whenever he returns to Earth.
  • Sword and Gun: Morgan. The gun is a .44 AutoMag.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Travis Morgan uses this tactic multiple times. It is almost always successful.
  • Token Black Friend: Machiste, a black former slave who, despite being king of his own land, spends most of his time as the loyal companion to Travis Morgan.
  • Trapped in Another World: A deliberate homage to Pellucidar (in setting) and John Carter of Mars (in tone).
  • Ultraterrestrials: In keeping with the Hollow World theme.
  • Unwilling Suspension: In #131, Morgan is suspended by his ankles above a vat of boiling oil by his Rival Turned Evil Maddox. Maddox places a burning candle beneath the hope suspending Morgan, so that when the candle burns through the rope, Morgan will plunge headfirst into the oil.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Shakira can transform into a black cat at will.
    • Or she may be a black cat who can transform into a gorgeous fur-bikini clad amazon at will. It never HAS been explained and it is unlikely it ever will be.
  • Walking the Earth: Travis Morgan; sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. (Actually it was 'walking the hollow Earth world of Skartaris', but close enough.)
  • Warts and All: This was the main theme of the 1992 miniseries, which largely consisted of the Warlord's friends and family telling the viewpoint character "Well, yes, he's a hero, but..." There's a fair amount of it in the current series, as well.
  • Wham Episode: Issue #12 in the new series. Tinder is revealed to be Travis' long-lost thought-dead son - but not before father and son are unknowingly set against each other. Travis is killed, and Tinder apparently becomes the new Warlord.
  • Wolf Man: Mikola Rostov was a Russian fencing instructor cursed to become a werewolf every full moon. He tried to escape his curse by moving to world of perpetual sunlight. This was not as successful as he might have hoped.