STRANGE TALES FEATURING WARLOCK #179-181 (1975): 1st Pip and Gamora

Warlock frees some slaves, among whom is Pip the Troll, after Warlock is captured and imprisoned in Magus’ spaceship.  Pip tells Warlock that Magus is in the process of murdering all non-humanoid life forms, as they are not created in Magus’ image.

And we learn that Magus doesn’t just look like Adam Warlock, he IS Adam Warlock.

Oh, and there’s this cute thing Starlin did with the comic code authority stamp:

From there, it’s princesses and evil slaver overlords, wild looking creatures, and Adam gets a better costume.

In a sequence on a slaver ship that feels pretty similar to Guardians of the Galaxy (the first film), we get introduced to Gamora.

The deadliest woman in the galaxy!

Throughout these issues, Warlock uses his soul gem to suck out (murder) the souls of several adversaries, which gradually makes him believe that he is the evil one-not Magus.  Of course, since they are the same people, this is Starlin’s comment on the duality of good and evil, and an expression of his view that comic book “good and evil” is overly simplistic.  He pounds this message home by making two of the bad guys, brainwashers who seek to force Warlock to agree with the Church, after Stan Lee.  He also makes him the leader of the clowns, who crucify a man who questioned the “way things are” (and who is obviously a stand-in for Steve Ditko, to whom Stalin dedicated the issue).  Here’s Lentean (an almost-anagram of Stan Lee), who is the leader of the clowns, who calls people “true believers”

These are extremely “wordy” books, but the words are not filler.  Starlin inserts a lot of philosophy and commentary from the late 1960s/early 1970s pop psychology and New Age movements, such as Warlock saying that “all of us can be leaders” and pondering that life is “an illusion created by my tormented mind for the foul things I’ve done.”  It’s certainly deeper than most comics at the time-or even now.  And there’s the obvious symbolism of a Church that wants to destroy all nonbelievers, and silence all dissent.

And there’s tons of wild and bizarre stuff…

From here, Strange Tales ends and we get a “new” Warlock series that picks up numbering at #9, which is where the original Warlock series left off.

They truly don’t make comics like this anymore.

Creator: Jim Starlin
Grade: A

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