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Warlord was a weekly British comic first published in 1974 by DC Thomson. As its title suggests, the contents were mostly comprised of war stories (primarily World War I and II). Stylistically, Warlord was known for incorporating splash panels at the beginning of each comic strip, an uncommon practice at the time, but one that caught many reader’s attention. This was done at the insistence of Pete Clark, the editor for Warlord. The splash panels provided an appropriate space to provide detail for war stories, so the result was a success. The comic was absorbed into Victor in 1986, but still produced Warlord specials until 1991.

Warlord’s most prominent character used the comic’s namesake: Codename Warlord. He was a secret agent and soldier who fought the enemy with the help of amazing gadgets. Warlord also featured a character named Union Jack Johnson, a British marine fighting alongside Americans. His distinguishing trademark was wearing the Union Jack on his helmet amidst a sea of US soldiers. Other popular characters included Sergeant Ryker, an African American character who battled his enemies. Though his stories occasionally drifted into stereotypical situations, the presence of a minority character allowed the writers to make poignant messages about racism. A character called Fireball, (who was later identified as Warlord’s nephew) who was introduced after Warlord absorbed Bullet. Though most stories in Warlord featured an allied protagonist, there were a few stories from the perspective of German soldiers. One such character, Major Heinz, was a German soldier who refused to follow orders from his Nazi commander because he felt they were morally wrong.

In addition to fictional war stories, Warlord also featured real life war stories sent in by readers. This section of the comic provided a place for heroes to be celebrated and memories shared. Warlord also included informative articles about weapons, and sometimes offered free toys as well. The war stories in Warlord differed from stories about war that ran during the 1940s. Warlord’s content featured a greater emphasis on violence and a greater depiction of blood. Even though the “good guy” almost always won the day, the danger of the situation was greatly embellished.

Warlord was successful enough to provoke a rival IPC comic entitled Battle Picture Weekly which debuted in 1975. Though similar in structure, Battle Picture Weekly’s stories were even more violent, while Warlord’s stories focused mostly on epic adventures.However, Warlord remained successful enough to absorb Bullet in 1978 and run for eight more years.Victor also used some of Warlord’s characters in its stories until it, too, was canceled in 1994.

— Michael Baker

Further Reading

  • Chapman, James. British Comics : A Cultural History. London: Reaktion Books, 2012.
  • Khoury, George, ed. True Brit: Celebrating The Comic Book Artists Of England. Raleigh: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004.
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