I don’t remember reading this when it first came out, but I know that I must have as any reading material that came into our house was fair game for all five of us. I do remember seeing that lurid yellow and red cover and thinking “I don’t know what it is but I want it!”
Warlord, in itself, was a departure from the norm of the time as it was a dedicated war comic. If you look at comics before September 1974, you will find that they were all anthologies in that they featured war, sport, humour, adventure and historical stories. Warlord was the first dedicated to a single genre and as such caused a comic revolution that led us to other single genre comics and paved the way for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic to be commissioned. But more on that at another time, this issue by issue review is to look at Warlord, explain a little about the characters and give credit, where possible, to the editors, artists and writers that gave us this comic.
This cover, which will be recognisable to any fan of the comic is a colourised version of one of the most enduring characters. Union Jack Jackson was drawn with amazing flair by Carlos Cruz Gonzalez. And Carlos put out an amazing amount of work for Warlord as we will seeing over the life of this review.
Union Jack Jackson is a Royal Marine who is separated from his service when the Japanese sink HMS Attacker. He is washed up on a Pacific island where he is rescued by a detachment of US Marines and ends up fighting the rest of his war with them. This episode is the origin story of how UJJ ended up fighting with the USMC rather than the Royals and the beginning of his friendship with Marine O’Bannion and Sergeant Lonnigan.
UJJ was not a new character. He had originally appeared way back in 1957 in the text story paper, the Hotspur and while I have read only one of the UJJ text stories, I am willing to put a decent amount of money on the fact that most of the Warlord strips were re-edited scripts brought up to date for a new generation of comic readers in 1974.
The next character to appear in issue 1 of Warlord was Sergeant Matt Braddock VC of the Royal Air Force. Braddock was another character to have originally appeared in the text story papers, but in Braddock’s case, he came from Rover and the first picture we have of him features Douglas Phillips’ header from the Rover with Keith Shone continuing to hold the reins for the strips as Keith had also done the Braddock strips in the Victor from 1961.
Braddock was usually teamed up with his navigator and fellow Sergeant George Bourne. In fact, in one of the first Braddock stories, the tale was told from George Bourne’s point of view and that was from way back in 1952. In this story arc, Braddock shows his usual disregard for pompous authority and shows a bloody minded singularity of purpose in doing whatever it took to defeat the Axis forces. Here, Braddock is posted to an operational bombing unit where skill and knowledge counts for more than your ability to pull rank.
Our next tale is rather unusual in that it is not a person that is the centre of attention but an object. As we go through the issues of Warlord, we will see this more and more often with stories such as The Gun and Iron Annie, but here in issue 1, we have one of the stranger types of hand grenade featured in The Toffee Apple Tankbusters.
In this story, it tells of how the grenade was used as an anti-tank weapon. In reality, it was used until the Allied Forces had a better way of dealing with enemy armour by the deployment of anti-tank artillery rather than a hand grenade that needed insane courage to deal with enemy armoured vehicles. A good read on these can be found on the Wikipedia page as they were also called sticky bombs. And I believe that this story was drawn by Clemente Rezzonico, who is still going strong and drawing the occasional issue of Commando.
In the 1970s, D C Thomson had still not let go of the text story idea and you would still find text stories in your annuals and even in your weekly comics. The last text story paper was still going strong as Secrets (even though it was marketed as a ladies magazine, it was printed in the same format as any of the comics) still sold in healthy numbers to the female market. And Warlord was no different as we had a text article on the death of HMS Jervis Bay when it was sacrificed to allow convoy HX-84 to escape being destroyed by the Kreigsmarine pocket battleship Admiral Scheer.
These true stories of war were a staple of D C Thomson’s boys comics. In Warlord’s case, they certainly helped to foster the idea of a war comic as it not only featured stories about war, but also articles on the true stories of the brave men that fought in them. Here we have two illustrations by Terry Patrick to stop the story from being a wall of text.
The next story is interesting as it seems to have taken its’ inspiration from the World War One usage of a Martinsyde bomber on the Dead Sea to harass and interdict Turkish shipping. However in this version of The Wingless Wonder, it is a Fairey Swordfish of the Fleet Air Arm that is used to harass the might of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Lieutenant Robbie Gates RN and Petty Officer Sam Booker are shot down after they successfully sink a Japanese supply ship. Crash landing on an island off the coast of Japanese occupied Malaya, they enlist the help of Tom Hanley, a tea planter who is trying to escape the Japanese and they convert their fuselage to a high speed hydroplane to carry on the fight against the Japanese forces.
If you ask me, the A-team had nothing on this lot! Unfortunately, this is the first of many stories where I cannot name the artist which is annoying, but hopefully one of my two readers will be able to help me with that.
Can you believe that this only takes us up to page 17 of the first issue?
Anyhoo, this is where we now introduce the star of the comic, Lord Peter Flint aka Codename Warlord. And aptly for the first issue, we get the origin story of how Lord Peter Flint becomes known as a coward for his perceived failure to carry out his duty and join up to fight in World War Two.
In this first issue, we see how much an all-rounder Peter Flint is. We see him as a racing driver, a mountain climber, a skier, a cliff diver, a long distance swimmer, a pole vaulter and a pilot and that’s only in the first four pages of this nine page story! And that was the other departure for this story. It was a complete story in each issue and it was always at least seven pages long, which meant it was almost always at least twice as long as any other story in each issue. The other good thing was that you had a rotation of artists so if there was an artist that you were not a fan of, then it would not be long before another artist would be drawing the story. For the character of Peter Flint, you are best to think of James Bond but working for British Intelligence during World War Two.
For this story, Lord Peter is involved in a road race where one of his rivals is assassinated and Peter discovers that his opponent has to get some vital information back to British Intelligence. Once the information was passed to British Intelligence, it was discovered that a further piece of evidence is still within the enemy’s hands and Flint volunteers to return to Germany to get it. Flint is successful in retrieving the evidence and begins his career as a secret agent while pretending to be a card carrying coward.
After this is another article to reinforce the militarist theme of Warlord and that is Fighting Planes of World War Two and it concentrates on the medium bombers of each side. It was not unusual to see the work of several artists used to create an article so that the reader thinks it is the work of one person or even that a montage was always the original idea.
In this case, the page is a mix of the work of staff artist Jeff Bevan (for the Heinkel, the Typhoon and the Stuka) and freelancer Jim Watson (the Halifax). And yes, I am sure that it is Jim Watson’s work as the cross-hatching is typical of his work.
Our next tale sees another character taken from the D C Thomson archives and that is a youthful Bill Samson, who will become known as The Wolf Of Kabul. In this episode, we are introduced to young Bill as a schoolboy and discover how he befriends his devoted servant, Chung and how Chung finds his greatest weapon, Clicky-Ba!
This is the only story in the first issue that is not directly connected to either of the World Wars and is set during the inter-war period on the North West Frontier. The character of the Wolf of Kabul has been around since 1930, confirmed thanks to This Was The Wizard. Again, this is another artist where I recognise the style, but cannot put a name to it. Hopefully, one of my readers will be able to help and put me out of my misery.
And our final story in this issue is a new character from 1916, and that is future RFC recruit, Johnny “Spider” Wells. Trapped in a family with an abusive step-father, Spider cannot wait to escape to join the RFC. But when his step-father provokes him once too often, Spider lashes out and knocks him out. Fearing that he has killed his step-father, Spider runs away and joins up to fight in the Great War. Little does Spider realise, but his troubles are only just beginning.
Once again, Spider Wells is drawn by an artist unknown to myself. Hopefully, I can find out the name of the artist before we reach the conclusion of this story.
And all that leaves us with is the back cover, which reminds us of the fact that the comic was always dated for the date that it could be returned to the publisher if it had not sold, rather than the date it was actually on sale from and Warlord was available to pick up, regular as clockwork, from our local comic dealer, The Blue Shop in Kirriemuir every Wednesday. One of the good things in beginning this issue by issue review is that I went out and saw that my original comic dealer is still going strong!
It looks like the art for this page was done by Terry Patrick and as you can see, it promised the additional replica foil medals that you needed to complete your collection within the card. As free gifts went, it might not have been the most exciting, but to a kid of 1974, it was as shiny as you could want and wasn’t likely to put your eye out!
I can’t imagine that many of my future posts will be as detailed as this, but I hope that this has been as enjoyable for you to read as it has been for me to research. In future posts, I will try to be as in depth and hope that some of you reading this can give me feedback on what you think of it.