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Warrior (comics)

Warrior was a British anthology comic that ran for 26 issues between March 1982 and January 1985. It was edited by Dez Skinn and published by his company Quality Communications, and was notable for publishing early work by noted comics writer Alan Moore, including V for Vendetta and Marvelman.

Rivalling 2000AD, Warrior won 17 Eagle Awards during its short run. Because of thorough distribution and its format, it was one of the comic books in the British market that relied little upon distribution through then format-driven specialist shops and expensive subscriptions for its sales base.

History

Skinn, former editorial director of Marvel UK, launched Warrior in an effort to create a similar mix of stories to the one he had previously put together for Marvel's Hulk Weekly, but with greater creative freedom and a measure of creator ownership. He recruited many of the writers and artists he had previously worked with at Marvel, including Steve Moore, John Bolton, Steve Parkhouse and David Lloyd, adding established creators like Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons, and emerging young talent such as Alan Moore, Garry Leach, Alan Davis and Steve Dillon.

As a nod to American comics fans, Skinn intended to include Marvelman, an obscure British superhero from the 1950s with a massive backlog of available pages. Having seen the advantage of mixing old and new material at Marvel UK, he knew if he could reestablish the character for an '80s audience, he could later answer the by-then demand for a reprint of the original work. While original Marvelman packager Mick Anglo (co wrote many of the stories and lettered them all) was not terribly impressed with the eventual reworking, he saw the sense in it leading to reprints which he would then receive payment for. Skinn offered the scripting to his regular team, who he'd worked alongside since 1970 at IPC/Fleetway. First Parkhouse who had earlier worked for Marvel, then Steve Moore, who had worked on the pre-Marvel UK US-reprint line Power Comics. Neither felt comfortable with the idea of writing superheroes, and Moore suggested a friend Alan Moore (no relation) who had said in a fanzine that he had an ambition to revive the character. Alan Moore was offered the first script on spec and Skinn was impressed enough to give him the assignment. Artist David Lloyd had been asked to create a mystery strip in the vein of his Marvel UK hit Night Raven, and independently suggested Moore, with whom he had worked on Doctor Who and Star Wars stories at Marvel UK, as the writer; their collaboration became V for Vendetta.

Another strip with an Alan Moore connection was Laser Eraser and Pressbutton. A science fiction strip about a pair of assassins, it featured Axel Pressbutton, a violent cyborg who had previously appeared in underground strips written by "Pedro Henry" (a pseudonym for Steve Moore) and drawn by "Curt Vile" (Alan Moore). At Skinn's insistence, Laser Eraser and Pressbutton featured a female partner, Mysta Mystralis, and was written by Pedro Henry and drawn by Steve Dillon. Under his own name, Steve Moore also wrote the occult adventure Father Shandor, Demon Stalker (continuing the stories from Skinn's House of Hammer magazine), among others. Steve Parkhouse, who had written the Arthurian-themed superhero strip Black Knight for Hulk Weekly, wrote and drew a fantasy adventure called The Spiral Path.

Using the same magazine format Skinn had employed for his earlier House of Hammer and Starburst to reach an older audience, Warrior was distributed nationally through newsagents and was launched to strong sales.

Issue 4 was billed as a Summer Special. Its main feature was a Marvelman story set in the future of the character which revealed plot points and new characters which would not have been seen in Warrior for several years. The cover includes 'Big Ben' even though he does not feature in the issue and would not appear in the title for some months. After a few issues Garry Leach bowed out as Marvelman's artist, giving way to Alan Davis. Leach became the magazine's art director, and later drew the Marvelman spin-off Warpsmith as well as Zirk, a lecherous egg-shaped alien spun off from Pressbutton, some of whose stories were drawn by Brian Bolland. After the completion of The Spiral Path, Parkhouse teamed with Alan Moore to create the macabre comedy The Bojeffries Saga, a kind of British working-class Addams Family owing much to Henry Kuttner's Hogben Family. Dez Skinn himself wrote Big Ben, a spin off character from Marvelman, drawn by Will Simpson. Mick Austin contributed some striking painted covers.

Skinn wanted each strip to form part of a Warrior Universe and connect with each other. This never really happened as Skinn intended, although there were some crossover strips: Big Ben and Warpsmith tied into Marvelman; Grant Morrison's The Liberators was also part of this universe, set in the future of Big Ben's timeline and featuring alien characters in common. More oddly and never mentioned to Skinn, it was apparently intended early on that the character of V in V for Vendetta would be revealed to be Marvelman: there are some early hints of this in V for Vendetta but Moore soon abandoned the idea .

Despite a strong launch and critical acclaim, sales were not strong and for much of its run the magazine was subsidised from the profits of Skinn's comic shop, Quality Comics. Offered to newsagents on a "sale or return" basis, it suffered a high rate of returns. The high level of creator control also led to problems: the second series of Laser Eraser and Pressbutton was never completed because artist Steve Dillon went AWOL, and issues began to turn up late when contributors missed deadlines and fill-in artists could not be commissioned, as the originating artists owned the work. The title had also managed to appeal to a female audience unlike 2000AD thanks to the inclusion of strong women characters but as later issues became dominated by more sexist material that readership declined. The final nail in its coffin would turn out to be its most popular character.

Marvelman controversy

Marvelman last appeared in Warrior in issue 21. This was ostensibly because, after Quality published a spin-off Marvelman Special featuring stories from the character's original run, Marvel Comics objected to the publication of a comic with "Marvel" in the title. Although Marvelman had been copyrighted before Marvel began publishing under that name, the dispute was not over copyright but trademark. Marvel had been happy for Warrior to publish Marvelman as part of an anthology, but felt that a comic called "Marvelman" was "passing off" as connected to the better known Marvel brand name.

Skinn ran a series of legal letters in the magazine, but this was a smokescreen disguising the fact that Alan Davis and Alan Moore had fallen out over a proposed deal to reprint Captain Britain material for the American market. Moore opposed the deal, Davis wanted the royalties. DC and Marvel were unable to licence the property; editorial director Dick Giordano at DC told Skinn he had enough problems with Captain Marvel while Marvel's Jim Shooter said publishing a character with Marvel in his name meant the story would have to be a flagship for the company, not a skewed look at superheroics. Through Mike Friedrich's Star*Reach agency, Skinn signed all the Warrior work (except V for Vendetta) to Pacific Comics. They folded within months, and another American independent publisher Eclipse Comics picked them up. where it was reprinted and continued, its name changed to Miracleman. The legal ownership of the character appears to be murky (see the Miracleman article for a fuller treatment of this issue).

Creative dispute problems also affected other strips with only V for Vendetta not suffering any gaps in publication. Many of the title's top creators were being offered work from U.S. publishing companies causing problems in finding new talent, although in its last few issues it printed material from a new generation of creators such as Grant Morrison.

Warrior ended its run with issue 26 in 1985. A final "Spring Special" flipbook issue was published in #76 of Comics International in 1996.

"It did its job. Despite the inevitable disagreements such leads to, it showed what could be done with comics when creators are given ownership of properties," Skinn commented when interviewed about the title.

Uncompleted stories such as Marvelman and V for Vendetta were completed elsewhere.

Influence

Warrior engaged British comic fans like no other title since 2000 AD but its influence could be said to be much larger. DC Comics editor Len Wein was one regular reader and it was thanks to Warrior that he hired Alan Moore to write Swamp Thing, beginning the "British invasion" of American comics during the 1980s. Its influence was also felt on UK titles like 2000 AD, which absorbed much of the new talent Warrior had found, and began to feature more mature material and launch titles for the specialist market. Many leading comic creators from the UK, including Warren Ellis, had fan letters published in Warrior and refer to it as their inspiration to work in the medium.

Stories

Stories that featured in Warrior include:

References

  • Khoury, George (2003), The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore, TwoMorrows Publishing ISBN 1-893905-24-1
  • Khoury, George (2001), Kimota! The Miracleman Companion, TwoMorrows Publishing

External links

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