Two-Bit Comics: WARP #1

Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

March 16, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
WARP #1
Published by First Comics
Written by: Frank Brunner and Peter Gillis
Art by: Frank Brunner

SOMETHING IS SERIOUSLY WRONG HERE.

Michael Jackson swears that “the kid is not my son,” while Kenny Rogers and Shena Easton assure us that “We’ve Got Tonight”. That’s right, it’s March of 1983. All the girls watching The Thorn Birds on TV want to be Meggie (Rachel Ward) because none of them knew that Richard Chamberlain was gay. Hanging out at the movie theater, do you go see Max Dugan Returns or sneak in to watch the beer-guzzling fun of Spring Break? Yes, there’s entertainment everywhere, including your local comic shop. In March 1983, First Comics publishes Warp #1, and suddenly provocatively placed medallions try to become a fashion statement.

Having gone into the history of First Comics before when I reviewed Badger #14, I will instead talk about the history of Warp, as it is far more interesting. According to Mike Gold, the Managing Editor of First Comics, “Warp got its start back in 1971 on the stage of the Organic Theater Company” in Chicago. This was a stage play. Written and performed by the Organic Theater Company. In 1971. Now it’s a comic.

UH-OH….

Warp was originally conceived as a three-part production: Warp I: My Battlefield, My Body; Warp II: Unleashed, Unchained; and Warp III: To Die … Alive. Of the production, Gold says, “Strange lighting effects, sweaty actors producing mammoth fight scenes right there on stage … all the magic of the epic comic books was all there on stage, right before your eyes!” Warp kept being produced for around a year and after an amazing “Warpathon” where they performed all three episodes, the cast and crew left Chicago for the bright lights of Broadway.

What happened next? Gold informs us that “in spite of excellent reviews in such places as Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and Playboy, and in spite of excellent attendance at the previews, the concept of Warp was just a bit too much for the more staid critics of the daily papers … Warp closed in three weeks.”

Back in Chicago, Warp rose from the dead in 1979, played a sold-out five month run, moved to a larger theater, and “racked up an impressive eight month stay.” Then, in 1980, “40 comics pros attending the Chicago Comicon saw Warp II: Unleased, Unchained.” This sparked some kind of vague bidding war or something for the rights to make Warp into a comic book. Gold writes that “for a variety of business-type reasons, we thought it might be better for us to do the comic book on our own.” Three years later, First Comics brings out Warp #1.

Just to reiterate. Warp was originally a stage play done by an experimental theater group in Chicago in 1971. Twelve years later it became a comic book. I’m only trying to prepare you for this. I am in no way liable for anything that may happen next.

Sooooooo…………

Warp opens with a pretty cool splash page of some hooded guy staring into some device that allows him to look at the universe. A text box on the left states, “For eons I, Lugulbanda, have searched the Holy Search throughout the scattered universes.”

Here we go. The guy’s name is Lugulbanda. He’s searching throughout universes – with an “s” — plural. At least they didn’t take long to let us know what we are in for.

Lugulbanda is looking for their “deliverer” who is “the warrior, the champion, our last, best hope!” Why he is looking for this person is as yet unclear, but luckily Lugulbanda finds this person on … wait for it … EARTH!

The comic then jumps to Central City Bank, specifically on over-worked bank teller David Carson. David’s got blonde hair and glasses, so we can guess that he is the one for whom Lugulbanda has been seeking. David not only has an exciting career as a bank teller, but he also has a hot girlfriend named Mary Louise. When Mary Louise is first introduced, though, we get this scene:

She calls him “Daddy?” When I first read this, I completely misunderstood what was happening. Turns out Mary Louise is not a gold-digging whore at all; she’s the daughter of the bank manager, Mr. Bigelow. My mistake. I guess it was that whole arms akimbo in a tight dress drawn from behind thing that threw me.

David then suffers a huge headache which he downplays in front of Mary Louise and her father. He doesn’t want to tell them that the reason he has headaches like this was because of the years he “spent in the INSANE ASYLUM.” I guess it never came up during the job interview or any of the dates he’s been on with Mary Louise.

Flashback to the INSANE ASYLUM and we see David having some sort of vision with smoke trails emanating from his forehead. In this vision he sees an afro-sporting red man with hipster tribal tattoos who says, “I have won, Lord Cumulus! I have won and I am FREE!” This is obviously foreshadowing, but can you have foreshadowing in a flashback? Isn’t that unnecessarily confusing? And how did they manage this during the stage production?

Flash-forward to the “present” and David starts hearing voices in his head telling him that Fen-Ra awaits him and that he must protect THE CRYSTAL! David runs out the door and is either hit by a truck or falls in a big hole or (as it turns out) sucked into “Another Time and Space” – but the artwork doesn’t quite make this clear until you look at the next page.

David pulls himself together and notices that not only is he in some very strange environment but he’s now wearing a black boots, a cape, and a black “Borat” thong thing with a gold medallion strategically placed over his manhood.

Well said…..

David finds himself in the home of Valaria, some kind of green mothwoman who is not a big fan of covering herself modestly. She explains to David that the evil Lugulbanda is out to get him. She has her monkey servent, Symax, give David some wine and he begins to relax and lie down with Valaria. Suddenly, a shiny gold man holding a trident appears and tells David not to trust Valaria. The shiny gold man is called a “Faceless One”. Probably because he has no face. I’m just guessing, though.

David points at the Faceless One, which subsequently explodes. Valaria tries to get David to relax, does some sort of witchy thing to make him drowsy, and then pulls a knife on him. All pretense of moth-lady loving now thrown to the wind, David turns and says, “Oh no you DON’T, you little bitch!” Valaria reacts:

The DEATHSWARM is, of course, BEES! I wonder how they pulled that off during the stage production… I could make all sorts of “Wicker Man” jokes at this point, but I shall take the high road.

Suddenly more Faceless Ones show up and zap the bees with their tridents. They then take David to Lugulbanda on Fen-Ra. Lugulbanda tells David that he is not really David Carson, but is actually Lord Cumulus. Earth had been his “incubator”, but Fen-Ra is actually his home. Lugulbanda goes on to say that Prince Chaos (they are named Lugulbanda, Valaria, Cumulus, and his name is Chaos??) must be stopped or “all that lives shall end”, and Cumulus/David is the only one powerful enough to stop him. Is this confusing yet?

Lugulbanda then introduces Cumulus/David to his trainer, Sargon:

And of course she wears a metal bra and a red cloth thong. No wonder this was a successful stage production.

Sargon teaches Cumulus/David how to use mind blasts as a tactical weapon, at one point goading him, “Harder! HARDER! Think harder, my lord!” This sexually charged admonition does the trick, and Cumulus/David blasts all sorts of Faceless Ones. David then mentions Valaria (who has been completely forgotten at this point) to Sargon. Sargon reacts:

Her reaction does make one wonder about the exact nature of their “friendship”. Anything to sell some comics or fill some theater seats, I guess.

After “many exhausting days later,” Lugulbanda asks Sargon about Cumulus/David’s progress. She asks for more time. Lugulbanda tells her there is no more time, and the story ends with another splash page.

Prince Chaos prepares for war. Prince Chaos has a sweet afro. Prince Chaos obviously gets fashion advice from Kraven the Hunter. Prince Chaos’ gold medallion strategically placed over his manhood is way cooler than Cumulus/David’s.

And so Warp #1 ends.

There is an eight-page back up story called “Sargon, Mistress of War: Rough and Tumble”. It is written by John Ostrander and penciled by Lenin Delsol. In it Sargon has to get Lugulbanda’s amulet back from Skorbamtipmula the Short. It hurts my brain to even think about it. Let’s just pretend that it isn’t there.

So what can I say about Warp #1? I’d like to start with “Well, for fifty cents….” but I can’t even do that. Maybe in 1971 this was way cool, but by 1983 it had to start feeling a little sad. In 2011, I found it in the Bargain Bin – nuff said. As Cumulus/David says: “Something is seriously wrong here.”

On the upside, the artwork is good and some of the panel layouts are pretty interesting. It helps move the story along nicely, although it does take pains to give the reader plenty of “ass angles” on every woman in the book. In lieu of good storytelling, though, I guess this can sell a comic. I can only imagine what the stage performance was like.

WOW…. This was the only image I could find in my 5 minute Google. If anyone has any other photos of the stage play, I would love to see them.

Warp, the comic, ran for nineteen issues, with three “special issues” as well.

About Daniel Elkin

Daniel Elkin has been reading and commenting on comics since the mid 70's. His wife and son claim that this accounts for his many interesting personality tics; however, they stick by him and shelter him from the cold. He is currently living in Northern, CA surrounded by Great Danes, which he claims to be the real cause of his interesting personality tics. Daniel has worked in bars, restaurants, department stores, classrooms, and offices. He is a published poet, member of MENSA, and can over-intellectualize just about anything. He runs the blog "Morning Becomes Electric".

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