35 Years Ago Today—Warlord: All Action, All Picture, War Stories!
by Jeremy Briggs
by Jeremy Briggs
In 1974 when many of the other British boys comics were set in their ways, Warlord was a shot in the arm for the market. Its first editor Pete Clark wanted it to look different and decided on having splash panels at the beginning of each strip. Warlord's second editor, Bill Graham, said in an interview on downthetubes, "Pete Clark had great visual flair. He introduced the big opening frames, some taking up the whole page, and cut the number of frames per page to 6 or 7. The artists could then produce great action-packed scenes, ideal for war stories."
Warlord wasn't the first title to do this but it was different enough at the time that IPC decided that they needed to respond. Bill Graham goes on to say, "I heard a story that the day Warlord came out, the managing editor of IPC called all his boys' paper editors together and threw a copy of Warlord on the table and told them they had to get out their version as soon as possible. Battle came out about six months later." The first issue of IPC's Battle Picture Weekly was dated 8 March 1975.
The first issue of Warlord had six different comic strips of which four were set in WWII, and one in WWI. The sixth strip was a prequel strip for DCT's long running character the Wolf Of Kabul entitled Young Wolf and set in British India at a vague time between the two world wars. The very first strip in the issue, Union Jack Jackson, was set in the Pacific during WWII. It had begun as a text story in the story paper version of Hotspur in 1957 followed by a short lived comic strip in the comic strip version in 1962, yet it would go on to become a reader favourite in Warlord and was still popular enough twelve years later to continue on into Victor when the two titles were amalgamated. The reliance on WWII stories remained for much of Warlord's existence although the title did work through Korean and Vietnam stories before moving into the near future with stories like Holocaust Squadron and then on in to the far future with more obvious SF war stories like Sabor’s Army.
Despite the weekly Warlord folding into Victor on 26 October 1986, Warlord summer specials and annuals continued to be published into 1990. Indeed Warlord was successful enough in its early days for DC Thomson to launch a sister (or perhaps that should be nephew) title, an adventure comic in the same vein—Bullet. IPC's equivalent to Bullet was the infamous Action and this time they were not six months behind DC Thomson as the first issue of Action has exactly the same cover date as the first issue of Bullet, 14 February 1976. Ironically enough both would fold into the earlier war titles with Action joining Battle with the issue dated 19 November 1977 and Bullet joining Warlord in issue 220 dated 9 December 1978. It was the only comic to be amalgamated into Warlord.
With Battle and then Action leading to the creation of 2000AD in 1977 perhaps it isn't going too far to suggest that the chain of events that lead to the first issue of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic was started by that first issue of Warlord 35 years ago today.
(* Warlord © DC Thomson and Co Ltd.)