Sunday, July 10, 2016

Weirdworld - The Were-Men Of Lord Raven!

Marvel Fanfare was a really odd comic book. An upscale production, it was positioned strangely in the direct sales marketplace because it used stories generally deemed not good enough (for whatever reason) for publication in a regular Marvel comic and gave them an high-end and glossy presentation. Lots of great stuff appeared in its pages, but all of it had a kind of orphan quality to it.

No less was this case with the three issues of the comic dedicated to Weirdworld. You have to understand that this was published in 1984, but the stories contained in these three issues were produced long before, back in the late 70's, and I assume an abandoned project since the saga of Weirdworld had exploded in other directions under other hands in high-profile ways, but more on that next time. I'm covering this story here because in terms of what passes for continuity it comes next, though readers weren't treated to it for many years after its sequels. (And this is how it's presented in the recent trade volume.)

Doug Moench is back writing his distinctive creation as is artist Mike Ploog, at least for the first chapter. The second two issues are both drawn by Pat Broderick, an artist of no small reputation. Broderick is ill-served here simply because for all his skill, he is a decided step down from Ploog on this kind of material. Superheroes it might've been a different story, but for high-fantasy Ploog had a special panache.

In this story we meet Mud-Butt, twice. What I mean is that the seminal character of Mud-butt underwent a profound physical change between the first and second chapters of the story. Mud-Butt is a dwarf malcontent and thief. Tyndall and Velanna throw in with him when they defend him in a bar fight. The trio then head off to confront the wizard Lord Raven who has send Goblins and other monsters to recapture a prize Mud-Butt had stolen from him. The true nature of the item is revealed in another tale. The trio run from and confront goblins and other weird creatures as they rush into and out of dimensional doors taking them all across Weirdworld. Ultimately they save the day and defeat the villain, but we knew that already.

This seems like a good time to address one of the understandable but apparently untrue notions about Weirdworld. According to Doug Moench, the story was not inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga which had taken the world by storm. Moench claims he never read the stories, save perhaps for The Hobbit before he'd written Weirdworld. While I believe Moench when he says he was not riffing on Tolkien, I cannot accept that knowledge of The Hobbit didn't inform, at least informally, the creation of the world. That Marvel quite wisely used the similarity to advertise and promote the Weirdworld stories is understandable and of course suggests to almost any audience that the work was inspired by same.

Next week we meet the Riders of the Shadow Realm.

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