Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Showcase #82: DC Beats Marvel to Sword and Sorcery
The timing for a sword and sorcery feature was excellent. JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, initially published in 1954-55, had grown in popularity and become phenomenally successful in the late 1960s. In addition, the Conan tales of Robert E. Howard had been reprinted by Lancer/Ace Books in 1966-67, to strong sales.
Better still, DC assigned a pretty good creative team to the series, with Denny O'Neill, soon to be considered one of the best young writers in comics, teamed up with accomplished penciller Jerry Grandinetti and Hall of Fame inker Dick Giordano. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, O'Neill or his editor (Murray Boltinoff) decided to make the lead character a rock star:
After the obligatory fight with some audience members who appear to be fraternity fascists (very common in the hippie Greenwich Village scene where the story opens), Jim Rook and his girlfriend Janet decide to check out the new restaurant:
Now that part, I don't mind at all. It doesn't fit with the Lord of the Rings or Conan, both of which featured characters living in their normal reality, but it does give us a lead character (like Carter) who is as baffled with this new world as we are.
Jim meets a gnome king who explains that he has been summoned to this world because he is a descendent of a warrior from that world known as "Nacht" (German for night). Nacht and another warrior named Brom had been given weapons of incredible power by some earlier king. But Brom betrayed the king and it was only through Nacht's great courage that an attempted coup d'etat by him and Farben the Wizard was foiled. However, Farben had banished Nacht to Earth and the battle between the Wizards and the gnomes (who had originally been human-like, but shriveled under the magical onslaught) had raged ever since. Only recently had the gnomes been able to open up the dimensional portal and bring Jim into their world. Can he save them from the final battle?
Well, despite insisting that he doesn't know swordplay, he picks up the weapon of power and before you know it, he's smiting like the dickens:
But when the fight is over, he wants to return to his own world, with his fiancee.
Comments: There are some elements that work here, and some that fail. Although I am an admirer of Grandinetti's artwork on the war comics, here he flounders. Ah, but in the next issue, guess who took up the reins? But that, my friends, is where this post leaves off, and the next one will begin.