Monday, 13 April 2009

Warriors Of The Shadow Realm

Warriors of The Shadow Realm ran in three issues of Marvel Super Special, and was trumpeted by the publicity armadillo's up at Marvel as, variously, 'The comicbook event of the decade!" ' The most acclaimed comic saga of the decade!" and ' Marvel's award-winning fantasy masterpiece!'
Of course, it was none of those things. When you grow up a comic fan, you learn to take with a pinch of salt anything armadillo's say...
Warriors was the brainchild of Doug Moench, and was the third installment of his Weirdworld series, already seen in Marvel Super Action and Marvel Premiere ( in a spectacular Mike Ploog/ Alex Nino job that I'll put up here soon ), and soon to be followed by a serial in Epic. I should start by saying that I am a huge fan of Doug Moench. BUT I am NOT a huge fan of Weirdworld.

Maybe it's me, I 've always preferred the Howardesque style of fantasy to the pixies & elves type typified by Tolkien. ( Bored shitless by the movies by the way, thanks for asking )

Warriors is about two elves, Tyndall and Velanna, and their comedy relief buddy, Mud-Butt ( seen here in a couple of beautiful illo's by Rudy Nebres )

Tyndall & Velanna are from the mysterious island of Klarn, a giant rock which hovers perpetually over the surface of Weirdworld. Neither of them have any memory of their life on Klarn, why they left, or how to get back. This should make them interesting characters with a mystery to solve & a story to tell. Unfortunately, it just makes them little more than ciphers, twee, cute little pixies you don't care about at all.
I think the problem was, ( and why the whole Weirdworld idea failed ) was that Moench, and by extension Marvel, just relied too heavily on the goodwill of the fans. By having the saga appearing in so many different places, and revealing so little of the pre-story, they alienated a lot of readers.
Through all the stories set in this world, we were constantly promised revelations which never came. There is a limit to even a comic fan's patience. Mud-Butt, for instance, ( about whom the best I can say is: He's not too irritating ) wasn't in the Marvel Premiere story preceding this, but we're vaguely told that we'll find out his back story, and how he met the elves, at 'some point' down the line.
Where each segment appeared wasn't, of course, Moench's fault, but he did choose to drip-feed us the backdrop to the characters, to the point where I personally, just stopped caring.

The story, such as it is, concerns itself with how these three try to protect a bunch of mystic gems from Darklens, the evil wizard who created Weirdworld in the first place. They're helped by a mysterious innkeeper and an even more mysterious white wolf, and, at this point, you can pretty much write the rest of it yourself.

Moench always claimed he'd never read Tolkien, ( helpful of the art department to smear his name all over the covers then! ) but even if that's true, this is dreadfully derivative stuff, and not even as much fun as the Premiere segment of the saga.

Where it scores, of course, is in the artwork, courtesy of John Buscema & Rudy Nebres, with colour by Peter Ledger. Here they are, posing for a publicity shot.

Big John had been on Conan for about 150 years at this point, and was clearly ( let's be honest ) phoning it in by this stage. By comparison, his work on Warriors is spectacular, and allied with Nebres & Ledger, it's the very definition of rich, gorgeous artwork.
Something else that made Warriors special, was it's double page and even triple page spreads, like this one, where the gang meet Zarthon, the supposedly 'good' wizard who's going to help them.

Or this bug-fuckingly incredible three page panorama, as Tyndall, Velanna & Mud-Butt enter The City Of Seven Dark Delights.

As an extra treat, you also got sketchbook pages from Buscema, which were worth the cover price alone. Like these:

In the final analysis, Warriors Of The Shadow Realm is an important book, as it was the first time Marvel really experimented with these kind of production techniques. ( We'd already seen similar stuff in Heavy Metal, of course, but this was Marvel's first go at painted art on superior paper. ) What worked far better in this genre, of course, was Epic, which Warriors constantly promoted with this excellent painting on it's back covers. Now that was a fantasy masterpiece.

By the way, I used to live near the town of Newmarket, a british town famous for it's horse-racing. Newmarket has a newsagents/stationers called Tyndalls. I always wanted to go in there and ask if they had any map's of Klarn....


  1. ah, Weirdworld. the Premiere issue is my favourite Mike Ploog job.

    and I'm with you on this: Lord of the Rings blows. there, I've said it. I feel better now.

    oh, and not to be too nit-picky, pete, mate, but I THINK you'll find the second Nebres pic, the Mud-butt one, that's John Buscema. I'm kind of 99% sure of that, but I COULD be wrong.

  2. I tried late last year to give this whole ELFQUEST/WIZARD KING/LORD OF THE RINGS homage universe mess another chance and I simply couldn't do it. I still enjoy the lavish art but (and I'm also a big Moench fan!)I did not care about any of the characters in any way. It's a bit odd actually but...nothing. Just nothing.

  3. Hey, thanks for spotting my deliberate mistake (cough). The Ploog Weirdworld is marvellous too, of course, but only the art, sadly...

  4. Guess I'm in the minority here, but I dig Weirdworld. Not as much as Conan and company, true, but I don't mind the occasional elf.

    Funny how we seem to stay on the same wavelength in regards to what we post. I have Tyndall's debut from Marvel Super Action #1, "An Ugly Mirror on Weirdworld" cued up for this Black and White Wednesday.

  5. A brilliant and mostly forgotten work. In fact, let's just go ahead and say forgotten. Glad to have them in my collection. Thanks for posting this!

  6. It's funny how, as a kid, I had never heard of Lord of the Rings, but between Warriors of the Shadow Realm, Queen's second album Queen II, and Omegaland (a dnd game on the PLATO terminal system that was based on LOR) I ended up being exposed to all the iconography long before begin exposed to the actual source material. The movies are actually really good if you just watch the scenes with Gandalf in them.

  7. I think the Warriors of shadow realm was some of the best artwork I saw at the time it first came out. The colors and vivid drawings are etched on me brain

  8. I think the Warriors of shadow realm was some of the best artwork I saw at the time it first came out. The colors and vivid drawings are etched on me brain