Back in November, 2021, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #1, in which Marvel’s new “Warlock” feature made its debut. As we discussed at the time, that first installment found writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane dusting off a few old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby concepts from 1960s issues of Fantastic Four and Thor and combining them to create the most overt religious allegory that had yet appeared in superhero comics. In doing so, they were clearly seeking to tap into the cultural zeitgeist exemplified by the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar both topping both the pop album charts and selling out shows on Broadway, and by the youth-driven “Jesus Movement” being featured on the cover of Time magazine, all of which happened in 1971.
In Thomas and Kane’s conception, the role of the Christian Bible’s God was filled by Lee and Kirby’s highly evolved human scientist, the High Evolutionary (HE for short). HE attempted to create a new, perfect world, dubbed Counter-Earth, on the far side of the sun; unfortunately, his intention was subverted by an earlier creation, the highly evolved wolf known as the Man-Beast (our allegory’s stand-in for Satan), who introduced Evil into the new planet’s accelerated evolution while HE was resting. When HE realized that his new world would be just as flawed as the one from which HE came, HE planned to destroy Counter-Earth and all who lived upon it. But he was talked out of it by our tale’s Christ figure, Him — the “perfect man” created years earlier by a different set of human scientists — whose cocoon (a combination gestation/stasis chamber and spaceship) had come drifting by HE’s asteroid base in the midst of these goings-on. Him offered to follow the Man-Beast and his band of similarly-evolved animals — the “New Men” — to Counter-Earth, there to battle the renegade’s plans for conquest, and, in the process, redeem HE’s flawed creation. Though reluctant, HE accepted Him’s offer, and — after augmenting his new “son”‘s own natural powers with a mysterious green jewel set upon his brow — sent him streaking down to Counter-Earth, giving him a new name — Warlock — as he did so.
The final panel of the story, which showed Warlock’s fall to Earth ending somewhere in the American southwest, may have evoked (as I wrote in my earlier post) “Christmas card tableaux of shepherds in their fields harking to a herald angel, or wise men following a star of wonder across a desert” — but as Thomas and Kane (abetted by inker Dan Adkins) continued their narrative into Marvel Premiere #2, it soon became clear that the most appropriate New Testament analogues for the young people we glimpsed in that panel weren’t shepherds or Magi, but Jesus of Nazareth’s twelve disciples.
These three teens (and one other not shown in MP #1) found Warlock — dazed but otherwise uninjured — right where he’d fallen to earth. They proceeded to bring him to the abandoned barn where they’d recently been staying and then, once he’d fully awakened, they introduced themselves: David Carter, Jason Grey, and Eddie and Ellie Roberts. Warlock’s own memories were still frazzled, however, and all he could do to reciprocate was to tell his new acquaintances that “someone told me once… long ago… that men would call me warlock!” “Hey, a male witch! That’s a groove!” enthused Ellie. Still, while “Warlock” sounded OK for a last name, she figured he still needed a first — and christened him Adam. “Whoever you really are, you’re sure one of a kind.”
Meanwhile. HE monitored the situation from his asteroid, and naturally, monologued about it. This provided him the opportunity not only to recap the saga’s first chapter for anyone who had missed it, but also to elaborate on a critical aspect of the Man-Beast’s corruption of Counter-Earth that had been only obliquely alluded to in Marvel Premiere #1:
In other words, there would be no super-people to stand in the way of the Man-Beast’s conquest of Counter-Earth… with the exception of the just-arrived Adam Warlock. And speaking of the Man-Beast, he was also keeping tabs on Warlock from his own brand-new base; and even as our addled hero tried to get his bearings, his adversary was sending one of his New Men, an evolved rat named Rhodan, to destroy him.
Before Rhodan could make it to Warlock’s SoCal locale, however, he was preceded by the fathers of his four new teenage friends, who’d hired a private detective named Marlowe to track down their runaway offspring. As it turned out, all three of the dads were Very Important People in what many young Americans of that era (on any Earth) termed “the Establishment”; Barney Roberts was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Nathan Carter was a U.S. Senator, and Josiah Grey was, in Marlowe’s words, “the guy who gave Black capitalism a bad name.” None of them could understand why their kids had rejected their values. Adam Warlock attempted to intercede — but that’s when Rhodan showed up. Fortunately, the shock of the attack helped restore Adam’s memory, and he was able to use the power of his brow-emerald (or “soul-jewel”, as it soon came to be called) to devolve the New Man back to his original rodent form before anyone was hurt. Ultimately, the three fathers — still suspicious of Warlock’s motives, but impressed by his power — left peacefully without their children, while the four young people themselves opted to stick with Warlock and follow wherever he led.
The conclusion of the story in Marvel Premiere #2 also marked the end of the “Warlock” feature’s stint in that periodical, as Counter-Earth’s would-be savior graduated to his own bi-monthly title. Arriving on stands in May, 1972, Warlock #1 found Thomas and Kane joined by a new inker, Tom Sutton, who’d remain with the series for its entire run.
In that issue’s “The Day of the Prophet!”, Adam Warlock led his four young followers to the city of Los Angeles, where they encountered the individual referred to in the story’s title. A street preacher who claimed to be the mere forerunner of another greater than himself (ultimately revealed to be Warlock, naturally), the Prophet was an obvious analogue to the Gospels’ John the Baptist. Unlike that Biblical personage, however, this Prophet appeared to have a sister — and unlike him, she was given a name: Astrella. She approached Adam, asking for his aid, just before two flying New Men, Haukk and Pih-Junn, swooped down to attack her brother. Our hero managed to fend these off, at least temporarily, after which the Prophet revealed that the voices in his head had told him not only that Warlock was the one fated to oppose the threat to humankind called the Man-Beast, but also where the latter was currently located.
Telling his friends to remain behind, Warlock followed the Prophet into the sewers beneath the city, where they eventually came upon the underground lair of the New Men. But after Warlock fought his way through a horde of the evoled beast to reach the enthroned figure he believed to be the Man-Beast, he found that it was nothing but a mechanical mannequin…
For anyone out there who may not already know, there’s no comparable passage in the Bible in which John the Baptist is suddenly revealed to be the Devil in disguise. Reading this story as a fifteen-year-old in 1972, my then-devoutly-Southern Baptist self was taken completely by surprise by this twist, as were I suspect many others. Looking back at the sequence today, it reads as an awfully clever way for Thomas and Kane to signal that just because one was familiar with the story of Jesus Christ, one shouldn’t assume that they could predict every development that might be forthcoming in the parallel narrative of Adam Warlock.
The second issue of Warlock brought with it a reduced role for the feature’s creators, as Gil Kane only drew the cover (though he also received a credit as “spiritual advisor”), while for the story John Buscema provided pencilled layouts that were finished in ink by Sutton. At the same time, Roy Thomas — who’d just been promoted to the position of Marvel’s editor-in-chief — plotted, but didn’t script, “Count-Down for Counter-Earth!”, that latter duty going instead to Mike Friedrich.
In this story, the Man-Beast exhorted Adam Warlock to join his cause, taking the hero high into the sky to show him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8), dominion over which could be his if he’d only throw in with his great adversary. When Adam rejected this offer, his tempter changed tactics, opting to challenge Adam’s faith in the basic goodness of humanity by showing him what was happening in L.A. right then. From his heavenly vantage point, Warlock watched as his four followers were pursued into an alley by a mob incensed by the damage done to their neighborhood during Warlock’s fracas with the avian New Men…
In response to the Man-Beast’s taunt over whether he was strong enough to carry out his threat, the thrice-denied Warlock promptly blasted his enemy into nothingness; he then commenced his crusade to “save” the Earth from its own inhabitants by flying to New York and reducing the United Nations building to a slag heap…
“…Peter Parker died of radioactive over-exposure…” That’s pretty dark for 1972.
Warlock’s war on the world escalated quickly. Neither law enforcement nor the American military were able to put a dent in him by conventional means. He decimated the capitols of the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China in turn; and when a retaliatory nuclear strike left him unscathed, it seemed that it was all over for Counter-Earth.
Then, as Warlock soared over the rubble of a destroyed city, he saw them — “The kids!!”
So if Warlock had killed the four teens while under the Man-Beast’s hypnotic trance, all the other mayhem he’d committed up to that point would have become “real” — but since he didn’t, it didn’t? I’m not sure that that makes much logical sense within the terms of our narrative; still, it makes a certain kind of thematic sense, given the story’s pseudo-religious framing. So, I’m inclined to give it a pass… just as I suspect I did way back in 1972.
The conclusion of Warlock #2 seemed to mark a turning point for the series, with the supervillain who’d dominated the narrative up to this point having to all appearances been utterly — well, not destroyed, exactly, but certainly disembodied… becoming, it seemed, a nebulous spirit of evil dispersed throughout the whole human population of Counter-Earth. Such a conclusion definitely begged the question of who or what Adam Warlock was going to fight, going forward — since, whatever (or whoever) he might have represented allegorically, at base he was still a Marvel superhero… and the superhero genre obviously came with certain audience expectations.
As it turned out, who Warlock would fight — at least for the next couple of issues — were more of the Man-Beast’s New Men. In Warlock #3, returning artist Gil Kane and continuing writer Mike Friedrich (now flying solo, rather than working from a plot by Roy Thomas) introduced us to the individual who’d stepped into the leadership vacuum left by the Man-Beast’s dissipation: a human-looking, even rather handsome, fellow calling himself Apollo. Apollo and his followers first came after Warlock and company as they were en route by boat to attend a rocket launching at the invitation of Colonel Roberts and Senator Carter; after Warlock repelled that attack (in a sequence that evoked the Gospels’ account of Christ calming a storm), they proceeded on to the launch site, where both they and we made the acquaintance of yet another new character:
Immediately ollowing this encounter, the rocket was launched, only to be blown out of the sky by missiles fired from the flying submarine that was Apollo’s warship. Warlock leapt to the defense of his friends and the other people on site, and in battling Apollo hand-to-hand, he forced the latter to drop his illusion of humanity, revealing his true nature as an evolved warthog. But Apollo — or, as he now called himself, Triax — struck back by seizing the Roberts twins, Ellie and Eddie, and threatening to kill them if Warlock didn’t surrender.
The story continued into issue #4, as a new — or rather, returning — figure entered the picture: Astrella. Remember her from Warlock #1? Well, so did David Carter and company — although they appeared to have forgotten the little detail of her having introduced herself back then as being the sister of the Prophet — who of course turned out to be the Man-Beast. Even if Adam never filled in his four young friends as to the true identity of the supposed street-corner preacher (and he really ought to have, don’t you think?), it seems that that should have raised a red flag or two. I’m inclined to think that Mike Friedrich either missed that little detail in #1 (which, you’ll recall, was the last issue scripted by Roy Thomas), or it simply slipped his mind; if not here, then perhaps in a later issue, where the young woman with the star on her right cheek will be identified as the sister of another character entirely… but that’s a discussion for a later post.
Anyway, Astrella answered Col. Roberts’ question by announcing that she knew who could really stop Triax — and that was none other than presidential candidate Rex Carpenter:
Reluctantly, Carpenter approached Triax, and began to speak to him…
After Carpenter’s efforts failed to end the standoff, Eddie and Ellie’s dad decided to take matters into his own hands, scrambling the base’s fighter jets in an attempt to take out Triax once and for all…
In November, 1972, Eddie Roberts’ death came as a shock — not only because of how sudden and unexpected it was, but also because of its relatively graphic depiction. In that era, you didn’t generally see blood spatter in a Comics Code-approved book (even when the blood was colored black).
Reeling from Warlock’s furious assault, Triax attempted to escape — but as he wrenched free from Warlock’s grasp, his flight suit was torn, and he fell to his death, instead.
Warlock #4’s last-page entrance by Counter-Earth’s version of the “regular” Marvel Earth’s number one supervillain (first glimpsed in HE’s reverie-flashback in Marvel Premiere #2) gave further credence to the idea that the feature had entered a new phase following the Man-Beast’s apparent defeat at the conclusion of Warlock #2. True, the notion of “new beginnings” had taken a bit of a blow with the continuing presence of the New Men as Warlock’s primary foes… but, on the other hand, after four issues in which the Biblical parallels had been coming at readers almost non-stop, the strip’s creators seemed to have decided to ease up considerably on the religious allegory, at least for a while. Outside of the storm-calming sequence early in Warlock #3, the Apollo-Triax two-parter was essentially devoid of specific call-backs to the New Testament; certainly, none of the Four Evangelists described a scene in which any of Jesus’ Twelve Disciples (well, excluding Judas) met such a fate as befell poor Eddie Roberts in Warlock #4.
Meanwhile, the advent of Professor Victor von Doom suggested that Warlock was beginning to focus on the potential of a different sort of parallel than the Biblical ones that had driven the feature’s early storylines– more specifically, the notion of a parallel Earth. It’s worth remembering that for all the multiversal shenanigans that would drive Marvel Comics plotlines in years to come, as of 1972-73, the House of Ideas had barely dipped its toe into the waters of alternate realities and timelines. (Even at DC, where the “multiple Earths” concept was comparatively well-established, the amount of overlap in heroes and villains between Earths One and Two was rather modest, all things considered.)
But, in any case, we’ve finally arrived at the comic book that this post is supposed to be about (and it only took 2,600-plus words to get here). Need a break before we continue? No problem, I’ll wait…
Ready now? Great, then it’s on to Warlock #5:
The credits for “The Day of the Death Birds!” include one brand-new name: Ron Goulart. Goulart (who passed away just a little over a year ago, at this writing) was a prolific writer in multiple genres, including mystery, romance, and science fiction, and the author of a number of pop culture histories and reference works. His career as a writer of comic books and strips was off-and-on over the decades, with about a year’s worth of Marvel scripts in 1972-73 — mostly one-off stories for the publisher’s anthology titles — representing his most consistent stint in the former category (at least until the eighteen issues of TekWorld he wrote for Marvel in the early 1990s —TekWorld being a licensed property based on the TekWar series of SF novels released under the byline of William Shatner, though evidently actually written by Goulart). As for comic strips, from 1977 to 1981 Goulart was the writer of Star Hawks, a science-fiction feature co-created in collaboration with the same artist who drew what would turn out to be Goulart’s one and only issue of Warlock: Gil Kane.
Adam takes no notice of the two geologists at first; instead, he goes into a reverie-flashback regarding the aftermath of issue #4’s tragic events, recalling the decision he announced at Eddie’s funeral…
Leaving his friends behind, Warlock flew alone into the Mojave Desert…
The geologists explain to Warlock that an underground bomb test scheduled to take place in the area in just two hours’ time may, according to their data, activate the San Andreas Fault and cause a massive earthquake. They advise the golden-skinned stranger to get as far as he can as fast as he can, but when Warlock demurs, musing that he “must have been awakened for some reason“, they quite understandably hustle back to their Jeep and drive away.
Meanwhile, at a government testing station in the Livermore Valley, we find a familiar “face” perusing the information he’s just received from the two scientists…
I’m not sure which is harder to believe — that a brilliant but benign scientist with no interest in scaring the bejesus out of people would go around with his entire head covered in metal plate, regardless of how badly scarred his face is; or that such a scientist (or, really, any scientist) would have a direct hotline to the President of the United States. But hey, maybe this Rex Carpenter guy really is a different breed…
OK, maybe he’s not so different, after all.
This scene and those that follow it, showing a superhero using their mighty powers to combat a major disaster, are nothing most comics fans (even those of 1973) haven’t seen before. But, as depicted in the dynamic but graceful style of Gil Kane, they’re still highly enjoyable — even exhilarating — to view. Half a century later, one can’t help but regret that this is the last story that Kane would illustrate of the feature he’d co-created with Roy Thomas over a year before.
Having made makeshift repairs to the dam by using his cosmic energy to fuse the crumbling walls solid again, Warlock turns his attention to the water that’s already escaped its confines. He blasts a new channel that safely diverts the flood to a nearby lake; then, surveying his work, announces: “There. The worst is over!”
OK, whose idea was it to bury a cache of “outlawed weapons” deemed “too vicious for civilized warfare” — which, as it happens, can be accidentally activated by excessive vibration — right next door to the San Andreas Fault? Nobody in charge of military armaments in the real world could possibly be so foolish, amirite? On second thought, don’t answer that…
Well, that’s rude. But while this iteration of Doctor Doom may not have the resources of an entire European country to draw on, or (I’m guessing) any sorcerous abilities to speak of, he’s still got that genius noggin. And it so happens that he’s got a “portable deactivator” lying around that just might work on the Deathbirds; heck, it’s even already packed up in a handy carry-case. So Von Doom grabs the case, hops in his red sports car, and speeds away to intercept the airborne weapons before it’s too late.
But even as he does so, above a highway packed with refugees…
Dazed by the blast, Warlock almost makes a crash landing, but manages to pull out of his dive just before impact. Still, he’s worn out, and though he ultimately touches down gently (more or less), he immediately loses consciousness.
When he comes to, he’s no longer alone…
Hmm, I’m not sure that “deactivator” is the best name for a device that makes missiles detonate sooner, rather than later… but I suppose we shouldn’t necessarily expect Von Doom’s genius to extend to thinking up appropriate appellations for the stuff he invents.
Despite the scientist’s friendliness, Warlock is hesitant to engage socially with him, let alone anyone else. Still, he reluctantly allows Von Doom to drive him to a refugee camp, where survivors of the disaster recognize him as the person who fixed the dam. A woman with a small child in tow approaches Adam, eager to thank him; he tells her, “There is no need.”
The concluding scenes of Warlock #5 make it clear that the series has hardly left the overall religious allegory that informs its core premise behind; like Jesus Christ before him, Adam Warlock is beginning to attract a mass following among ordinary people, even as he simultaneously attracts negative attention from the powers that be. Still, I’m fairly confident that in January, 1973, while my fifteen-year-old self was intrigued to see where those developments would lead, I was considerably more keen to meet the Counter-Earth version of Reed Richards, and to learn “the startling secret of Victor von Doom!!”
And, assuming that you don’t know (or don’t remember) what happens next, that may very well apply to you also, faithful reader. Alas, I regret to inform you that it’ll be a few months — perhaps as many as six — before the blog gets back to the saga of Adam Warlock… though we will get there eventually, I promise. (As to whether it’ll be worth the wait… well, that’s something you’ll all have to decide for yourselves, right?)
Two things: I was JUST reading an interview with Joe Staton from Comic Book Artist 12 where he revealed he “was” Gil Kane on any number of assignments where Gil didn’t have time to do his own layouts (news to me), and looking at what you reproduce here from Warlock 2 – those bendy shapes are NOT John Buscema as credited. That looks very much like Joe Staton doing a Gil to me. He did this stuff uncredited because he was a Charlton artist at this time.
Second thing: when I paid a visit to Roslyn Chapel near Edinburgh in Scotland, one sculptural detail that stood out there was John the Baptist depicted as having horns. Yes! Apparently this arises from a mis-translation of the Bible’s original Hebrew description of his hair… whether Roy Thomas knew this or not when he chose that role for Man-Beast, I don’t know, but I kind of doubt it. Groovy coincidence tho, no?
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Michelangelo’s 16th century sculpture of Moses (in Italy) has horns because Jerome’s 4th century Latin Vulgate translation of the Hebrew passage was erroneously written as “horns” instead of “rays of light” (which shone from his face when he descended from Mt. Sinai after 40 days in the presence of God).
I like Gil’s pencils, but I was never a fan of Warlock.
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Groovy indeed, ed ILYA! As to the Joe Staton business, it’s an interesting hypothesis, but I must confess myself skeptical. I have no doubt that Staton’s work appears uncredited in stories that appeared under Gil Kane’s byline around this time, but I can’t imagine why he would have worked on a story credited (and presumably originally assigned) to John Buscema. If it had been a Gil Kane assignment, wouldn’t it have run under Kane’s name? I’m not flat out saying you’re wrong, just that I’m a bit dubious. 😉
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Agreed on the credit given. But does that LOOK like Buscema to you? The way the figures are structured, even the ‘faux Gil’ layout, says to me it is not. Perhaps we’ll never know for certain.
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Wanted to double check on this before commenting.
Yes, Joe Staton did indeed work as an assistant for Gil Kane for about a year, providing layouts for Kane for several stories. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Staton from Comic Book Artist magazine:
CBA: You worked as an assistant to Gil Kane?
CBA: What time would that be, roughly?
Joe: I think I was still on E-Man, I’m not sure. I know Gil had seen E-Man, and he said I composed panels in depth, which is what he did, so he wanted me to do layouts for him. So, that’s what I did for less than a year, but somewhere in there.
CBA: So this would’ve been mostly Marvel assignments?
Joe: Yeah. No DC stuff, it was mostly all Marvel… some Spider-Man, a Conan, a Ghost Rider…
The first issue of E-Man was cover-dated October 1973, approximately six months after Kane’s last issue of Warlock. Also, one of the stories Staton definitely remembers providing layouts for was Amazing Spider-Man #150. That was published in 1975, two years after Kane was working on Warlock. So it seems very unlikely that Staton worked on any of these issues. That said, Kane could have been using someone else as an assistant who was providing layouts for him while he was on Warlock.
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Of Warlock’s first run, the only issue I got was #6, wherein the Counter-Earth Reed Richards was introduced and turned out to have the power to transform into the very unpleasant and ugly Brute, who would later make it to Earth to join the Frightfujl Four and cause some great difficulties for our more familiar Reed Richards, just as he was losing his powers. I did eventually get most of the back issues of Warlock that I had missed, including the final issue of this run, #8, which ended on a cliffhanger that was resolved in The Incredible Hulk, which included a Last Supper scene and the crucifixion of Warlock. I did recognize the parallels in that Hulk trilogy to the Christ story but didn’t realize at the time how much that entire first series of Warlock was inspired by the Jesus mythos. Of course, a bit later, Jim Starlin would pick up on the messianic theme and take it into a much different direction in what I regard as a contender as one of the best epics in comics produced in the 1970s, with Warlock vs. the Magus.
This first run, IMO, doesn’t reach the heights Starlin achieved, but is still fascinating. The pop culture of the late ’60s early ’70s was infused with Judeo-Christian mythological takes on good and evil, with both Jesus Christ Superstar and The Exorcist, some popular god-rock pop songs, such as George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, the Doobie Brother’s cover of Jesus Is Just All Right with Me, Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky, etc. And in comics, Warlock, Ghost Rider and its spin-off Son of Satan. Might also count Stan Lee’s Silver Surfer series, which tended to play off the Surfer as a Christ-like or angelic figure, who had, in the Lee-Kirby Galactus trilogy, come down from the “Heavens” to signal the end of the world at the hands of his “father”, Galactus, but then had a change of heart and defied his father-figure to save the world. Then, of course, in collaboration with John Buscema, Lee had the Surfer confront the original Marvel stand-in for Satan, Mephisto, about the closest Lee got to explicitly making the Surfer into a pseudo-Christ. Thomas went much further, although he did it with characters primarily created by Kirby — the High Evolutionary now characterized a god, the Man-Beast now the devil, and Him redubbed Adam Warlock and standing in for Christ. Interesting that although those characters were all born on the Marvel Earth, Thomas had HE create a new world as a stage for their performance, the better to make him even more of a god-figure than he had been as depicted by Lee or Kirby. But when Starlin set out to tell his own Warlock story, he set it in an even far more distant world, so far away that the only other previously created character who would show up in the run was Thanos.
Of this particular tale, it is a bit fun to see a very different take on Victor Von Doom, as an actual good guy with a very different speech pattern and no apparent desire to conquer the world and bend it to his will. Great overview of the series up to this issue, Alan!
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That’s right, the Reed Richards of Counter-Earth became the Brute! I guess, having already established that the Doctor Doom of Counter-Earth is a benevolent scientist, it made thematic sense to then have Reed be the one who became a villain.
It’s been observed on more than a few occasions that Doom and Richards are actually quite similar, and that given slightly different circumstances Doom could have been a hero and Richards a villain. I’d forgotten that the idea was being explored this early on, just a little over a decade after the introduction of the two characters.
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That was the only I had back when it was on the stands.
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Alan, I’ve often wonder if readers who weren’t raised in the kind of fundamentalist Judeo-Christian home you and I were enjoyed Warlock more because of the allusions to the life of Jesus or less, because they kinda’ knew what was coming. I thoroughly enjoyed the series back in the day, so maybe that answers my own question. I remember loving the fact that there was a super-hero who so unabashedly reflected my own faith and what I believed, even if the hero in question wasn’t himself particularly “religious” in nature.
Regardless, I read the Warlock book “religiously” (see what I did there?) when it first came out in the 70’s and even bought the only issues of the Hulk I had ever purchased up to that time for the wrap-up the Warlock’s messianic storyline when they first came out. While, like Fred, I prefer what Starlin did later with the character, this small run is a great compliment to the Jesus Movement of the early 70’s and highlights a very interesting moment in American counter-culture. The fact that my own personal “artistic messiah,” Gil Kane drew most of Warlock’s adventures is just the icing on the cake.
I still have most, if not all, of this run in the original issues, however they suffered some serious damage from a busted pipe or some such nonsense back in the day, making them difficult to read. I probably should have thrown them away by now, but I have such a soft spot for this series, I’ve found it difficult to let them go. Thanks for the recap, Alan. Fifty years later, I’m surprised at how much less I enjoy this type of allegory than I did then, but it’s still a fun trip down memory lane.
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Beautiful artwork on this chapter by Gil Kane & Tom Sutton. The two of them had very different styles, but working together they produced some incredible art.
It’s been said that the appeal, the strength of William Shakespeare’s work is that he understood the human condition, and that he so successfully explored universal themes that over the long centuries have continued to remain incredibly relevant to humanity. I found myself thinking about the same thing when I read your summaries of these Warlock stories by Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Ron Goulet and others.
Adam Warlock very much taps into humanity’s yearning for a messiah, for a being who will bring meaning & purpose to our lives, and to show us the way forward to a better place. However, these stories *also* demonstrate how almost always there are those who see such figures as a means to cynically exploit to their own ends to amass wealth & power, and therefor how a messiah figure, or at least his self-proclaimed followers, can very quickly, very easily become a dangerous enemy to freedom & justice. The Man-Wolf posing as the Prophet and Triax posing as Apollo both represent that danger.
It’s interesting that even the early Christians recognized this danger. As it says in 2 Corinthians 11, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.”
Recently someone said words to the effect that in the 21st Century the Devil isn’t vaunting around with red horns & pitchfork amidst eruptions of hellfire exhorting people to evil; rather he’s insinuated himself into the Evangelical Christian movement and wrapped himself in the cloak or righteousness where he has encouraged its members to embody every sin that Jesus preached against. That observation came to mind as I read about these Adam Warlock stories. So, yes, Thomas, Kane et al really did tap into a vital universal theme, the double-edged sword of religious faith.
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As a kid I’d have seen nothing significant in the president’s name being Rex Carpenter. Reading the Essential Warlock — the first time I read the whole Counter-Earth story — it’s pretty obvious. Though of course he turns out not to be the messiah implied by the name but the Antichrist.
What strikes me about this particular issue is that remote–controlled drones are presented as some abomination of warfare (not the first time — the Doc Savage novel “The Munitions Master” had a similar take years earlier) where today they’re just business as usual, alas.
Mike Friedrich’s efforts to write deep, meaningful stories rarely worked for me, but he found his perfect fit here. I reviewed this early run over at Atomic Junk Shop (https://atomicjunkshop.com/and-men-shall-call-him-warlock-adam-warlocks-before-jim-starlin/)
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Is it just me, or do those last two panels of Rex Carpenter have a distinct look of Richard Nixon about them?
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I can definitely see that, Colin!
I cannot state strongly enough how much I love Adam Warlock the character and every series and mini he’s starred in (with one exception). Part of this might be that it was the very first series I read from issue one on. It’s obvious now too that growing up in an Evangelical home, going to Jesus festivals, and participating in signng up for things after viewing Jesus Christ Superstar, the early love would have came from the religous allegory too. Not that I recognized the allegory was there until the Hulk issues tying up the series.
(An aside: I wish on one hand they still finished up cancelled series in other series while on the other hand remembering the abomination the Omega The Unknown story in Defenders was)
The Starlin rejiggering was awesome as well. Has anyone else baked in a character’s final fate in plain sight without us realizing before or since? I really wish Starlin would do more minis with Warlock. I know he’s irritated at the stupid things they did with his concepts in Guardians of the Galaxy (and they were really very poorly done by any standard) but his deluxe minis to me are an alt timeline divorced from the rest of MU continuity.
BTW, is ayone else as eager to read Ron Marz’s upcoming Warlock mini? The man created the best Green Lantern ever and left a blueprint for subsequent writers to excel with after all. Not only that but he seems to be the first person ever to realize Eve Warlock is a painfully obvious choice of a character to create for it. Best of all? She’s not a retooled Kismet!
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“I cannot state strongly enough how much I love Adam Warlock the character and every series and mini he’s starred in (with one exception). ”
OK, Steve, give. That exception would be…?
” I really wish Starlin would do more minis with Warlock.” Agreed. I’m of the opinion that Starlin is the only creator who’s ever been able to write Thanos properly (though I don’t begrudge Marvel’s other writers trying… what else can they do, after all?) — and that’s close to being true for Adam Warlock as well, at least since Starlin got his hands on him way back when.
“BTW, is ayone else as eager to read Ron Marz’s upcoming Warlock mini?” Well, Steve, let’s just say your enthusiasm makes me more interested than I was previously. 😉
I loved Starlin’s work in the 1970s but post Death of Captain Marvel he lost his mojo for me. I found the Infinity whatevers excruciating to read.
I like Kyle but only when he’s written by someone other than his creator.
I agree with you about the Omega wrap-up though. But yes, I do miss the days when other writers would pick up on a dropped series or leftover plotlines. These days, nobody remembers them except to dismiss them — “that superhero team created five years ago just got killed to establish how bad ass this villain is!”
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Basically anything Guardians related.
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Very cool! I have thousands of comics from the 1960s-late70s/early 80s comics and have not read any in decades simply because I already read most and am very fussy about grading (a trait I got from coin collecting that I started in 1959). Yesterday, I pulled a comic from a box of 600 mostly unread mint and boarded that are probably late 90s into the earlier 2000s that I got at a garage sale for 50c each; purchased just because most books were mint and boarded. It was interesting and I read the entire issue but had no idea of who the characters are and was pleasantly surprised by the “new style” art (to me); rather neat to me but not Kirby et el. but still very cool! So Warlock was a series that caught my eye from the first issue. It was nice to review the stories again without having to where cotton gloves to read the originals. Thanks and keep up the good work! Oh, I think my best purchases were Hulk 180-181-182; NM now I wish I’d have never opened them but that IS the way it IS! 🙂
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I have always thought Warlock had a distinct “Gil Kane on Green Lantern” vibe..’
Perhaps I think that because Mike Friedrich and Giil Kane did three issues of Green Lantern (#61 and # 73 and 74).
Mike Friedrich, later in life became a Methodist Permanent Deacon.
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