| THOUGHTS AT THREE A.M.
by editor I forgot my name
Discussed this month: The story behind this issue and a word (or two) about the genre.
The Story Behind this Issue:
Sword & Sorcery month? Where the heck did this come from?
The seeds for the issue you're now reading were planted sometime last August on the old Fanzing Forum. D.J. LoTempio, my partner in crime in putting this issue together, mentioned the Warlord as being one character he'd like to write, if given the chance. Having fond memories of the Warlord series, I fired back a response, asking D.J. what his favorite issues were.
A few e-mails later, and D.J. and I had decided to do a Warlord feature for the "Affirmative Action Comics" issue. As we point out elsewhere in this issue, the Warlord cast is one of the most diverse in comics, having strong female characters and characters such as Machiste, Ashir, and Scarhart who, if they were living in the USA instead of Skartaris, would be African-American, Arab-American, and Native-American, respectively.
As we put the finishing touches on the Character Profiles feature, we thought "Gee, remember all those great issues from the series? Wouldn't it be cool if we could point other readers towards the best of the Warlord?" And so was born the "Warlord Reading Guide" feature. Instead of just pointing out our favorite issues, though, we got carried away and did summaries for every issue and every guest appearance.
And then, having done all that research for the Reading Guide, we compiled examples of the series' great dialogue into another feature. And then, because Warlord hadn't been an on-going series for 12 plus years, we needed an introduction ..but why stop there?
Why shoehorn all this Warlord stuff into the "Affirmative Action Comics" issue? We should do a full fledged Sword & Sorcery issue! Just imagine: articles on Nightmaster, Starfire, etc!
I confess .. I just got carried away.
That's not so bad, I guess. Besides, how much Nightwing can a person stomach?
A word on the Sword & Sorcery genre:
I wish there was a simple definition, but there's not. Classifying a title as being either a sword & sorcery, fantasy, or just plain adventure comic is sometimes tough. And oftentimes, science fiction and sword & sorcery overlap. Ironwolf, Starfire, and Claw the Unconquered's recent appearances in Creature Commandos all fall into this overlap region.
(As an aside, I think Claw was so well written in the miniseries that he stole the spotlight from the title characters in many a scene. I wonder if Tim Truman has any future plans for him?)
These are up for debate, but I think that a series needs to meet the following criteria to be considered a Sword & Sorcery book;
1) The main character must not have blatant superpowers - A little bit is OK (i.e. Claw's demon hand occasionally protects him from danger), and obviously, being a mystic/sorcerer is OK too. Mystic swords which grant power are OK too (i.e. Warlord's Hellfire, Claw's Moonthorn, Dragonsword's umm.. sword).
2) The main character is either a swordsman (woman) or mystic - They rely on their courage, wits, and athletic ability to get them out of jams.
3) The setting has to be another planet, another dimension, another reality. - Something that's not Earth (at least the current day earth) or the surface of Earth. We've got to believe that all sorts of neat/weird/magical things can happen there. Arak is OK since he lived in a time period where Earth was a bit more primitive and magical. Ditto for Arion.
4) Skimpy costumes all around - Sword and sorcery gives both genders an equal opportunity to run around half naked.
5) Strange creatures abound - Dinosaurs in Skartaris, domineering aliens in Starfire, the Qlov/Mulge/Harahasha in Barren Earth, etc.
And even this definition doesn't do the genre justice. Adventure strips such as Anthro, Tor, and Kong the Untamed meet all five of my requirements for a sword & sorcery book, yet I wouldn't consider them as such.
There's got to be some other criteria I'm missing that would set sword and sorcery apart from strips like Anthro. If anybody has a better definition of the sword and sorcery genre, I'm all ears.
Another observation on the genre:
In most S&S titles, there's either lots of swordplay or lots of magic, but very rarely an equal dose of both. In Conqueror of the Barren Earth, for example, there is very little sorcery, yet on the other hand, there are titles like Amethyst, which have very little swordplay
It's somewhat ironic that the genre is called sword and sorcery when it often seems like sword or sorcery.
Alas, we've left many a stone uncovered:
After putting the finishing touches on S&S month, I realized that the many features, columns, and art in this issue only provide a small taste of the many offerings of the genre. How could I have done an S&S issue without mentioning creators such as Edgar Rice Burroughs? Or Robert E. Howard? Or J.R. Tolkien? Or Michael Moorcock? At least, thanks to the great art of Marla Fair, we were able to do a little bit about Fritz Lieber's works.
And how could I have done an S&S issue without mentioning characters such as David Innes, Abner Perry, or Duke Elric? What about John Carter, the Warlord of Mars (not to be confused with the Warlord of Skartaris)? Or everybody's favorite barbarian Conan? I could've simply consoled myself in the belief that we're doing a DC Comics fanzine here, and although these characters have all appeared in comics, they're technically not owned by DC.
Even with the DC characters though, we've omitted quite a few big names. Arak. Arion. Claw. I could go on. Perhaps if there's enough interest, we could do a Sword and Sorcery Month Part Deux. There's definitely enough material to cover .
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
This column is © 2001 by David R. Black
Fanzing is not associated with DC Comics.
All DC Comics characters, trademarks and images (where used) are DC Comics, Inc.
DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
Fanzing site version 7.4