causticlad: Matter-Eater Lad doing his cracky thing (Default)
[personal profile] causticlad posting in [community profile] scans_daily

Unlike the other comics I've been discussing, this one wasn't in my collection. But I once owned a copy back when it came out in the bygone year of 1977. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it for any particular reason, as my selection of comics was pretty limited in a city where English is a second-language. I think it just showed up at a local used book shop and I bought it with some of my allowance without cracking the cover. Like the other roughly 30 or 40 other Marvel and DC comics I owned at the time it got read literally to pieces and thrown out years ago.

But yesterday I came across another copy of it in a local junk shop and, remembering it, decided to buy it and re-read it. This goes against the general rule of never revisiting a childhood story as you'll almost always be disappointed. In this case it's not least because in the years since I've developed my own fantasy chops up to the point of writing and selling fantasy for role-playing game supplements and the like. I've got pretty high standards for the genre now. A fantasy hipster, that's me.

Much to my surprise Weirdworld's held up pretty well. Doug Moench's writing is derivative, but not in a bad way. Pay no attention to the cover blurb's invocation of Lord of the Rings, as rather it mixes equal parts Robert E. Howard with the more baroque stylings of, say, John Brunner or Clark Ashton Smith. I strongly suspect some Marvel editor was trying to ride the wave of the Tolkien craze, which is sad because it was largely confined to the 1960s. Marvel's had an abysmal record of trying to jump on bandwagons just as they screeched to a halt, caught fire, and then fell into the swamp -- see Dazzler, a couple years later, or Storm's tragic attempts at punky leather. I can nitpick the names Moench gives his characters, but the infliction of bad fantasy names is endemic so I'm inclined to forgive it if the rest holds together.

The art, by Mike Ploog and Alex NiƱo, is above-par for the era, and Glynis Wein's colours are stunning for 1977. Compare and contrast with the ham-handed work in my post of Matt Wagner's Demon.

Eleven pages of thirty-one (is that OK, mods? The rules didn't say how to handle fractions, so I rounded up) now follow...

We start with a nice splash page that has a ridiculous amount of gingerbread on it -- I cut the indicia at least to spare you a little of it. The intro at the top sets the scene as Weirdworld has a truly patchy publishing history (more anon) and Marvel Premiere had no one continuous story after cutting Iron Fist loose a couple of years previous. This was the sole story with these characters published in this series. Meanwhile the clunky name "The Lord of Tyndall's Quest" is another blatant attempt at a Tolkien reference, as even the cover of the book calls it merely "Tyndall's Quest". It's worth noting that our hero Tyndall is a clear example of something Tolkien himself loudly denounced in print, elves as cutesy, short people with pointed ears.

On the other hand, I've got to admit that the Leviathan is pretty badass.

And here we get our second protagonist, Velanna (straight out of Howard, that), the little-person-fetishist pinup. She's not got much agency in this story, but on the other hand she's something of the brains to his brawn. Both she and Tyndall are borderline amnesiac but have instinctual memories of "before". The implication is that their people have been made to forget and then scattered, a plot line that presumably would have been followed if Weirdworld had become a regular series. Thanks to their forgotten memories Velanna and Tyndall instantly bond to the point that they're basically married. Her instinctive knowledge includes the way to their former home Klarn (which is nothing but a name to them) without knowing how, so she takes the lead and her new beau follows.

"Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

Did I mention that Velanna made herself a bikini out of spiderwebs back at the Leviathan? 'Cause, you know...yeah. I bet it's very practical.

This page and the previous have little to do with the over all plot, but establishes Tyndall's strategic wits and his dislike of killing. It's a clever little setpiece if nothing else. However, while our heroes are out romping in the swamp, they've come under the mystically projected eye of one Grithstane, wizard extraordinaire. That name means "Sanctuary Stone" in Old English, but I as far as I can tell Moench doesn't go anywhere with that.

Apart from that, Grithstane's a pretty fun character. I mean, check out the funky magic:

And the guy can talk with a mouthful of molten candlewax! That's an impressive talent, if you ask me. Snark aside, I have to admit I quite like the character design here: Grithstane, his familiar, and the monsters all have some style (though Wein's colour choice for evil Grithstane's skin is unfortunate).

Then the story veers into slash territory at a speed that would make Chuck Yeager go "Dang!":

Let's see, I count:

- Creepy voyeur wizard is creepy
- "I hope you're feeling better now, Tyndall" as they exit a bush giving significant looks
- "It is hot -- and sticky!
- "It looks like the stuff is...growing

So basically we have the Attack of the Sploodge Monsters. I do like how Mike Ploog worked his name into the sound effect in the last panel, though.

Our heroes awake in the presence of Grithstane, who threatens Velanna until Tyndall agrees to quest for the wizard's benefit:

Those first couple panels make me regret I already used "creepy wizard is creepy", so I'll move on from there. Though I do notice that Grithstane takes another swing at the slash on the next page by giving Tyndall a leather sac that'll contain every drop of the precious fluids. I don't think that even qualifies as a single entendre.

Another innovative little setpiece, in Mr. Tyndall's Wild Ride. Hats off to Moench for writing up something I can't recall seeing before, to be sure.

Tyndall survives the SMUTCH and comes across a megalithic temple being used by trollish-looking dwarfs who are making a sacrifice -- a black-haired, pointy-eared maiden much like himself, Velanna, and the chained girl in Grithstane's sanctum sanctorum. Proving himself the naif by forgetting the usual literary significance of a black-haired girl when you've a blonde back home, he rescues her and then, well, you can probably guess:

Being strong of steel and pure of heart or whatever, Tyndall's luck holds out:

Thus proving that old maxim, "Never chain your prospective sweetheart to a wall, because she might be a shapeshifter and eat your face." I think it was John Donne that used that first, or maybe it was Neil Diamond.

I must say I'm rather impressed by the Princess Bride-esque last couple of panels ("MAWWIAGE! THAT BWESSED AWWANGEMENT, THAT DWEAM WITHIN A DWEAM!") for being so out of tempo for, well, pretty much every other Marvel comic of the 70s that I can think of.

Apparently the adventures of Tyndall and Velanna were derailed by a contract dispute between Marvel and Mike Ploog, so that the next story in their tale was only published in Marvel Fanfare in 1986, seven years after it was completed; Moench wrote and others illustrated a couple of other stories, later in internal chronology, which were published in the interim. I'm sufficiently intrigued to seek them out, though I'm not entirely enthused by the discovery that they pick up a humorous sidekick called Mudbutt (wince)

Date: 2011-10-09 06:37 am (UTC)
crinos: (Default)
From: [personal profile] crinos
So, we can presume at some point Grithstane ate a lawnmower.

(Wonder if anyone will even get that reference.)

Date: 2011-10-09 07:34 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Excellent write up, though I find the two protagonists slightly disturbing in a "Love is..." couple sort of a way. albeit with a few more clothes.

Date: 2011-10-09 12:21 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] agharta75
Uh ... elves on a quest? How original.

Date: 2011-10-10 02:21 pm (UTC)
wizardru: Hellboy (Default)
From: [personal profile] wizardru
Well, this is fairly standard 70s sword-and-sorcery stuff, at its heart. I mean, this is actually much more influenced by the Frank Frazetta visuals than Tolkien, really. There were actually lots of non-Tolkien inspired fantasy throughout the 50-70s that didn't follow his templates.

Then D&D hit critical mass, borne out of the big Tolkien craze of the late-60s/early-70s and his versions became somewhat cemented.

Date: 2011-10-11 01:43 pm (UTC)
banjomike: (Default)
From: [personal profile] banjomike
It predates Elfquest by a bit more than that. About 2 years I think. The first Weirdworld was a 9 page black and white story in Marvel Super Action in 76 (the one with Punisher on the cover). That story gives Tyndall some backstory.

Date: 2011-10-09 12:57 pm (UTC)
jkcarrier: me, at my old office (Default)
From: [personal profile] jkcarrier
I haven't looked at these in ages...Ploog and Nino make a great team! I recall the other Weirdworld stories being pretty good, too -- the 3-part "Warriors of the Shadow Realm" in Marvel Super Special was one of Marvel's first experiments in full-process, painted color.

Date: 2011-10-10 03:30 am (UTC)
halloweenjack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] halloweenjack
I'd say at least 90% of the attraction of this is Ploog's art.

Date: 2011-10-09 04:35 pm (UTC)
kenn_el: Northstar_Hmm (Default)
From: [personal profile] kenn_el
I'd bet MJ would've coveted a webkini!

Date: 2011-10-10 02:23 pm (UTC)
wizardru: Hellboy (Default)
From: [personal profile] wizardru
The best part of this? The artist's name as a sound effect: "PLOOG!".

That is cracktastically hysterically.


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