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COMICS: Weirdworld

In recent years, Marvel Comics has dived deep into its pool of back-issues and defunct titles to pull together trade paperback collections and modern re-boots of titles one might easily have thought were lost to the mists of time. Recently, they’ve done BOTH these things for one of my favorite obscure properties from my early days of comic collecting—Weirdworld!

I want to take pretty detailed look at Weirdworld, so I’m going to break this up into three posts. Below I’m going to talk about the background and history of Weirdworld overall, particularly the influence it had on me personally. 

Let’s begin by talking about what Weirdworld is. Some have derisively called it “Marvel’s rip off of Middle Earth,” and it true that several of the original 1970s publications featured cover call-outs such as “In the fantasy tradition of Tolkien.” And it’s undeniable that there is SOME influence (the “Nightrangers” clearly owe their existence to the Nazgul, for example, and the story in Marvel Premiere was pointlessly titled “The Lord of Tyndall’s Quest”). But really, Weirdworld owes as much to Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber as it does to Tolkein.

It’s a heroic fantasy world in the pulp adventure tradition that focuses on the story of two elves trying to find their place in a world of less-sylvan races. It’s got monsters, magic, prophecies, meddling gods, and everything else we’ve come to expect in generic fantasy worlds. It even, from the earliest incarnations, had a cool map of a dragon-head-shaped continent featuring tantalizingly named locations like “Flame-Moss Moor” and “The City of Seven Dark Delights.”

I first came across Weirdworld in 1977 when it appeared in Marvel Premiere #38, around about the same time I first heard of Dungeons & Dragons. And I’ll be honest, the fact of the matter is that Weirdworld had more influence than Tolkien did on my early D&D characters and adventures . . . and rightfully so. The action in a typical D&D game more closely resembles the high-action, four-color antics in that comic than it does Tolkien’s thoughtful prose. It was also more approachable and (perhaps more importantly) more easily reproducible for a teenager who dreamed of being a cartoonist . . . or a writer . . . or a game designer.

Sadly, most of fandom obviously didn’t love Weirdworld as much as I did, because that one issue of Marvel Premiere was not immediately followed up with any more tales. However, perhaps it was the continued Tolkien-craze of the late 70s, or the success Marvel was having with its Conan comic or (even more importantly) the Savage Sword of Conan magazine, but in 1979, Weirdworld got another shot. This time, it was in the pages of a three-issue magazine-sized Marvel Super Special series called Warriors of the Shadow Realm

This was a bigger tale, not only in page size and page count but also in scope. It took us to some of the interesting spots on the Weirdworld map, and introduced epic “high level” characters. What’s more, the art was done by comics legend John Buscema, who was then also the artist on most of the Conan comics, and was painted rather than flat-colored. It was, in a word, GORGEOUS.

I read and re-read my copies of WotSR, and dreamed of creating something that wonderful someday myself. What’s more, this about the time that I bought my own first D&D products (particularly the Official D&D Coloring Album and the original blue-book version of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, still two of the best and most influential gaming products I’ve ever seen) and began DMing regularly.

Unfortunately, Weirdworld still failed to catch on with a larger audience. And although it did pop up two more times (as another gorgeously rendered series in the pages Epic Illustrated and as a three-issue throw-back story in Marvel Fanfare), it sat all but forgotten in the Marvel archives . . . that is, until this spring!

Now Marvel has released a Weirdworld trade paperback collection and has relaunched Weirdworld as a monthly comic book. My next WW post will look at the TPB and then I’ll do a final post to talk about the new comic.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. COMICS: Weirdworld (New Comic) – Stannex on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    […] be talking about the current mini-series bearing that title. (My previous posts talked about history of Weirdworld and reviewed the recently released trade paperback collecting the stories published in the […]

  2. COMICS: Weirdworld (TPB) – Stannex on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    […] I made a post giving the background for Marvel Comics’s fantasy title Weirdworld and talking a fair bit […]

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