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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

WARLORD shakes things up (1974)

British comics based around one theme were nothing new but in the 1970s they began to proliferate. IPC's all-football comic Scorcher proved popular for a few years, but comics in general were looking dated and tired. In 1974 came a weekly that would give the industry the kick up the pants it needed. Published by D.C. Thomson on Wednesday 25th September 1974, Warlord No.1 blasted onto the stands.

British comics at the time looked quite refined in comparison to Warlord's dynamic cover. Its logo looked like it was daubed in blood, the colour palette was condensed to bold orange-reds and yellow (the colour of fire) and it featured one single figure, gun blazing, charging towards the reader. The side banner used three key phrases in cover design: "No.1", "NEW", and "FREE" all boldly set to be noticed halfway across a shop. How could any young lad resist this comic? 

Inside, even the editorial page looked exciting with "ACTION" the remit of the comic. 
The story pages had a radical design too, for a British comic. Usually in those days, there'd be a banner or boxed in header and around eight panels on a page. Warlord's strips used big splash panels and huge logos that yelled out to the readers. Design wise, this was a loud comic, befitting a war weekly. 
The strips played up the action angle too, although by and large they retained many of the traditional and pro-establishment approaches to comics such as the more staid Victor. There was also an element of familiarity by using some long-established D.C. Thomson characters such as Braddock and The Wolf of Kabul, but that was a sensible move on D.C. Thomson's part. 

The main strip was Code Name: Warlord, often running to eight pages, and given nine pages for his debut episode. Lord Peter Flint was the Warlord, so not exactly someone for working class kids to relate to but he still proved popular. 
Warlord's impact on the UK comics industry was just what it needed. It inspired IPC to commission Pat Mills and John Wagner to create a rival comic, - Battle Picture Weekly (see here) which in turn led to the gritty Action, and then 2000AD. The latter's influence on comics and movies has been immense. 

As a bonus, here are the front and back covers of issues 2 to 4. D.C. Thomson's designers were the masters of the compelling house ad...


dementeddad said...

The amazing thing is that the tank that featured on the editorial page was the only piece of Ian Kennedy's work to grace the pages of the early issues.

Just found out last night that the Braddock artist, Keith Shone is still going. He is painting beautiful pastels in the wilds of Wales.

I fully understand what you mean about the action covers, but the amazing thing is that none of the front covers you posted are the work of Jeff Bevan. Now he did know how to do a dynamic cover as you can see from his work on the Then And Now page.

Nice article Lew

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks. Yes, I think Warlord's covers became even more dynamic when Jeff Bevan did them later. I must admit I've never been a fan of war comics but I do appreciate the importance of Warlord and Battle in their part in comics history.

Wil Overton said...

I don't have many free gifts from days gone by but I do still have my Warlord medals!

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