Secret Origins #16: Warlord, ‘Mazing Man, and Hourman

Ryan Daly and guest Professor Alan review the origin (if you can call it that) of Warlord from Secret Origins #16. Then, Rob Kelly joins Ryan to explore the very dense, very lengthy origin of ‘Mazing Man. Finally, Al Gerding (Van Zee) joins Ryan for the story of the Golden Age Hourman.

Listen to Episode 16!

Subscribe to Secret Origins Podcast on iTunes!

Sample pages from Secret Origins #16, written Michael Fleisher with art by Adam Kubert (Warlord), and Bob Rozakis with art by Stephen DeStefano and Karl Kesel (‘Mazing Man), and Roy & Dann Thomas with art by Michael Bair and Mike Gustovich (Hourman), and a cover by DeStefano and Dick Giordano.

#16cover #16page2 #16page11 #16page15 #16Bpage1 #16Cpage1 #16Cpage8 #16Cpage11 #16Cpage14

Plus, sample covers from Warlord #3 by Mike Grell, ‘Mazing Man #12 by Stephen DeStefano, Karl Kesel, and Frank Miller, and Adventure Comics #48 by Bernard Bailey.

Warlord3 'Mazing12 Adv48

Check out Professor Alan’s podcasts at the Relatively Geeky Network

And find Rob Kelly at the Aquaman Shrine at:

And the Fire & Water Podcast at:

“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music this episode: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel; “Too Much Time On My Hands” by Styx; “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin.

Leave a comment, Secret Admirers!

15 thoughts on “Secret Origins #16: Warlord, ‘Mazing Man, and Hourman

  1. Very good timing on this issue for me – I just recently discovered a slew of Warlord posts on the fantastic website Diversions of the Groovy Kind. They appear to have full issue scans of the character’s first appearance along with the entirety of the first 9 issues. I read the first appearance just last week and LOVED it! I’m hoping to work my way through the rest in time via that fantastic site. Also, over the past year or so I’ve seen bundles of Warlord issues at my LCS – often collecting a series of issues (say, #32-36) for somewhere between 4-6 bucks, maybe. I really should have snagged them. I’ll take a look again next time I’m there. But I have to ask – WHY OH WHY WON’T DC JUST COLLECT THIS? In a series of trades. They’re collecting an awful lot of random stuff from the 70s and 80s lately, so there is hope, I suppose.

    Warlord is a character I’ve been interested in since my childhood, when I would see the book on the stands or in back issue bins and wonder “Is this worth my allowance or should I stick to the superhero stuff I’m more comfortable with?” Well, as per usual, I chose superheroes. Which is weird because I’ve always enjoyed Sword & Sorcery tales (in literature and comics) and even read (and loved) Marvel’s Conan series. But for some reason or other I passed on Travis Morgan – the Ollie Queen lookalike. Speaking of, I need to read that issue of Grell’s Green Arrow run where Morgan and Queen meet!

    I have to say, though, that this Warlord Secret Origin sounds terrible. Great cover to this issue, though.

    ‘Mazing Man is a character I avoided back in the day and haven’t thought of him since. But my comics interests tend to sync up well with Rob Kelly’s, so maybe I need to give it a shot one day.

    On to the Hourman segment…

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  2. You know, I bought this issue off the stands, but it never occurred to me how similar the costumes of Hourman and ‘Mazing Man are.

    It’s always a treat to hear Professor Alan. The man brings a scholarly class with one any podcast he graces. But that Warlord story…yeah. Warlord was one of those book on my radar that I never read. I had a few of the action figures by Remco (you know the ones who were He-Man rip-offs?), but never Travis Morgan himself, because I couldn’t find him. So when I bought this Secret Origins for the Hourman story, I was hoping to get a feel for the series. Not so much. Not sure WHO thought this was a good tale for this comic. Maybe a backup in a Warlord annual, but not here. Perfect opportunity to create a primer for new Warlord readers blown. Pretty art, though!

    I hate to say this, given I may lose my Power Records gig, but I never read ‘Mazing Man either. I do have issue #12 for the Miller cover (see Rob, it DID work), but that’s it. I thought it looked fun, but I wasn’t looking for fun comics at that time. I had the aforementioned JL/JLI for that. The dog character did weird me out. I think that aspect hurt the book. I would like to give it a read now though. ‘Mazing Man DID show up on an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold a few years ago, so he’s not completely forgotten!

    I’m in complete agreement with Al (Van Zee) on Hourman. LOVED the way Perez drew him in that classic JLA/JSA/SSOV crossover. Perez also gets to draw him in the Hourman/Starman chapter of All-Star Squadron Annual #3 Al mentioned. Chuck Patton ran with that visual take as well. His cowl has always puzzled me, if artists don’t render the black as shadow. How does something yellow have a black shadow?

    If you guys want to read those excellent Gardner Fox/Murphy Anderson Dr. Fate/Hourman team-ups from Showcase, they are reprinted in the Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups trade paperbacks. Another place Hourman shined was in James Robinson’s and Paul Smith’s excellent Golden Age mini-series. Hourman is portrayed as a take-charge guy, and along with Alan Scott, takes the place of the absent Superman as far as power goes. He plays a pivotal role in the story’s gobsmacking climax. Robinson uses him in the same manner at the end of his Starman run. Great, great stuff.

    Fantastic episode, and a spectacular debut for Al!


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  3. Great episode as usual. Unfortunately this is one of the few issues of Secret Origins I don’t own so I am going along for the ride a bit.

    I have never had much interest in Warlord or ‘Mazing Man. So Hourman was the hook. How many times has anyone said that.

    My first encounter with him was in the ‘Whatever happened to…’ story in DCCP.
    Later I saw him in All Star Squadron. Remember kids, just say no! That meant the inevitable ‘addiction’ issue would come up. Of course, this is why I had a hard time showing my kids classic Underdog cartoons with his ‘secret energy pill’ hidden in his ring!

    Can you imagine this character today with all the concern about performance enhancing drugs and doping?

    Anyways, great listen. I will definitely pick the issue up when I inevitably come across it in a $1 box.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never read a Warlord story either. It’s not that I’m averse to sword and sorcery – I loved the JM DeMatteis run on Conan, and I’m the Arak fan. But I’ve never been one for Mike Grell, his art had the look of an inferior Neal Adams (at collation parties for UK LSH apas we’ve been known to pose with legs so far apart we’re doing the splits, in homage to the way Grell would have Legionnaires stand in the Seventies, legs seven feet apart). And as for lost worldszzzzzz – the only time I’ve ever enjoyed one of those was in the unexpectedly wonderful Ka-Zar book by Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson. So the adventures of an elderly Ollie Queen lookalike thrusting his weapon at dragons held no appeal. And I doubt this story would have convinced me.

    Hourman, I always found dull beyond belief in the few guest shots I saw, it was only when he began appearing in the android’s book that he became interesting. As for his son, Rick Tyler was just a boring nobody.

    ‘Maze is another matter, I bought his comics as they were coming out and loved them. I’d love to know what he, Brenda, Eddie, Guido, KP and Denton are up to today. The series was just charming as heck and who cares if there’s a dog-faced comic book artist, it makes a change from all the ‘husky’, beardy fellows?

    All in all, not an issue I’d want to own… Actually, I likely do own it but have forgotten. Give the whole book to ‘Mazing Man, I say!


    1. Well, I can understand all of that; but, had Grell done the origin story, or if they had just reprinted First Issue Special #8, you might have had a different reaction. Grell on Warlord was way better than Grell on the LSH (and I liked his Legion work). What he lacked in writing skills (he was good; but he would get much better) he more than made up for in artistic skill. Warlord was his baby and he put everything into it. It was swashbuckling adventure at its best. Besides, he didn’t just thrust a sword at “dragons” (or dinosaurs, to be more exact); he also blasted them with a .44 Auto Mag, long before Harry Callahan got one (leading to a favorite letter page topic of how much ammo he brought with him, though no one questioned why a reconnaissance pilot would carry such a cannon). Or maybe not. However, Warlord was one of DC’s best selling books of the era for a reason. He also had the best covers and splash pages of the period.

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  5. Wow, Prof Alan and I share a lot of parallels. I was around 11, when I saw my first Warlord issue; and, I have a degree in economics! Now, if he had been a naval officer, I’m going to wonder if I’m on Earth-2.

    I loved Warlord from the moment I laid eyes on it. Swords, big guns, winged helmets, chicks with little clothing, dinosaurs, swashbuckling adventure; great stuff. However, Warlord was never very good, to me, outside of Grell’s hands, and this issue proves it. I wasn’t as wild about the Warlord issues that Grell wrote, but didn’t draw (just ’cause the art was never quite as dynamic); however, the book was usually pretty boring when he wasn’t around. This really isn’t much of an origin, since it doesn’t really focus on the actual character; just a character created for a later story. I won’t even get into the technical errors (and there are many), which wouldn’t have come out of Grell’s pen (he was actually in the Air Force, in Vietnam). The whole point of Warlord is adventure and this story comes across as a weak technothriller. It’s definitely a product of the 80s (Hunt for Red October was the hottest book of the era, in that genre).

    Point of order, though, it’s Burroughs’ Pellucidar stories that Grell is swiping, not John Carter. That would make Travis Morgan David Innes (though he does acto more like Jon Carter).

    Mike Grell did rip off everyone under the sun, in Warlord (Burroughs, Moorcock, Tolkien, a bit of Lieber, some Hal Foster, some Robert E Howard); but, he grew beyond that and developed into a pretty darn good writer. The was also the book where he went from being a Neal Adams clone into MIKE GRELL.. He just got better and better from here, with Starslayer, Jon Sable, and Longbow Hunters (not to mention James Bond).

    I liked Michael Fleischer on Spectre and Jonah Hex; but, this wasn’t really his wheelhouse and his Warlord stuff wasn’t that memorable. Adam Kubert’s art is fine, though it feels more like his father’s war comics than The Viking Prince or Tor, which are far closer in tone to Grell’s Warlord.

    Prof Alan is right; the Army did not accept people dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. In fact, he probably couldn’t have gotten a job anywhere, with that on his record (it was not uncommon for Vietnam era military who got anything other than an honorable or medical discharge, to find it hard to get a job. Changes in labor laws helped put an end to this, as many soldiers got “other than honorable” discharges for ridiculous reasons, especially racial).

    I bought this issue because it had Warlord; but, was so disappointed. Grell was unparalleled on that book and he was also one of my all-time favorite artists. After many years, I finally got to meet him and spend a good chunk of an afternoon talking to him. Nice guy (and shorter than you would think, which was a running gag in Jon Sable) and a hell of an artist. As I type this I am staring at a pencil sketch of Robin Hood, which Grell drew for me (he illustrated an edition of Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of robin Hood, for Donning-Starblaze, back in the 80s). Meanwhile, if people enjoy Grell and Warlord, you have to read his 6 issues of Starslayer (story is okay; but art is great) and Jon Sable (which is great all around). Sable features Grell doing a hard-boiled detective/adventurer. It includes homages to everything from James Bond to Dashiell Hammett, to Anthony Hope. Unfortunately, the art started suffering towards the end (which Grell has admitted was, in part, due to going through a divorce).

    Loved the “Mazing Man one-pager. That made me want to read those comics, though I only recently got ahold of the entire run (still haven’t read them yet). It’s very much in the spirit of Sheldon Meyer’s work, back in the Golden Age (and later, with Sugar and Spike). As Rob says, DC, in this era, was willing to really experiment. The book probably would have had a longer run at a place like Eclipse, though the parties involved might have had to wait a heck of a lot longer to get paid.

    Hourman was a character who I always thought had a great concept; but, the stories I have seen haven’t done much for me, including Roy’s (here and Infinity, Inc.). This story doesn’t do a whole lot for me. I like Bair’s art (he always did Hourman well); but, Roy and Dann’s story is just, okay. I do have to disclose, though, that the credit’s “written by Roy and Dann Thomas” usually sent me running in the other direction. I like a lot of Roy’s work; but, not much in this era (apart from All-Star Squadron and bits and pieces of Infinity, Inc). Dann didn’t add much, to my tastes.

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  6. My dad was a civilian in the Defense Dept, so that’s as close as we get … although every time Ryan talks about “___ Nettleton” leaving a comment, I do wonder if that was me, and then I remember … “no I didn’t leave that comment.” GREAT MINDS!

    Love Jon Sable, too. And as for Starslayer … it’s really just Warlord … IN SPACE !!!!! (but that’s not a bad thing)


    1. You wouldn’t believe how many times my last name has been misinterpreted as Middleton. I was stationed in Charleston, SC, where there was a Middleton Plantation, and a ton of people with that name. So, anytime I ordered a pizza or had to give my name, locally, I would just spell it out, rather than saying it, as people automatically heard “Middleton.”

      Starslayer; yeah, Warlord in space, in reverse (warrior from ancient Britain transported to the future, to save a dying Earth, by a woman in a skimpy outfit, and a space ship that looks like a pirate ship, with solar sails).

      Also, for the uninitiated, Warlord started out as a comic strip pitch Grell created, called The Savage Empire. After being rejected by the syndicates, Grell brought it to DC, after he started working there. Grell was also an assistant to Dale Messick, on Brenda Starr. He later got to do a comic strip, his lifelong favorite, Tarzan. However, the deadlines were murder and the rates were low. Plus, the strip wasn’t being carried in many papers, anymore. The Warlord’s iconic helmet was inspired by one worn by Kirk Douglas, in the movie The Vikings.


  7. Another episode, just as timely as last week! Well done, Bryan!

    Growing up I was never interested in Warlord. I had the issues with the Arion back-ups and the Legends crossovers, but sword and sorcery never grabbed me (even Arion, which I wanted to love, was only somewhat engaging). As I’ve matured, I realize I still don’t care for sword and sorcery, unless there is a character I can relate to. In this example, Travis Morgan being from “our world” is that relateable character. Reading all the Warlord-related WHO’S WHO entries recently convinced me to give it a try. I’ve been slowly building my Warlord collection over the past year and have read the first 10 issues or so. Wow! What a fun and adventurous comic! Lots of action, hot women, and fun storytelling! If you love comics from the 1980s, then these early issues are definitely worth your time. Many are one-and-done, so just pick up any early issue and give it a try. Sad to hear the origin in this issue was pulled from the later years, but the angle of being an outsider’s perspective at least sounds interesting.

    If anyone is interested in hearing Alan’s coverage of Warlord #50 that he referenced, it can be found on the Flame and Puddle podcast at this link:

    WTF?!?! I lost my Adam Strange Secret Origins gig to Alan?!? So glad I found out this way. Thanks, jerks. So glad I invested in those Adam Strange Archives that I paid more than the original $50 cover price per volume!!!

    Love me some Hourman! Rex Tyler is a boss!! I’m not terribly familiar with his origin, so this was an interesting listen. Great job, Van Zee! Welcome to the wonderful world of podcasting! You did an excellent job on your first outing!!

    You mentioned Hourman’s cowl. The yellow hood with black on the front has always perplexed me, but the comparison to Bronze Age Batman’s black/shadowy cowl is probably a good one. Also, you wondered why Daredevil appeared. Just speculation, but perhaps Roy Thomas suggested to the artist to include Daredevil, but was thinking of the golden age two-tone Daredevil, rather than Matt Murdock. Perhaps the artist misinterpreted. After all, Roy wrote Marvel’s Daredevil for a while after Stan Lee. Just a thought.

    You guys mentioned “Time-Point” in JSA, but there was no mention of it’s origin. That originally appeared in the outstanding Hourman ongoing series from 1999 written by Tom Peyer (only lasted 25 issues). This was the robotic character that spun out of the terrible DC One Million crossover. This was the surprise sleeper of DC at the time. It wasn’t selling big numbers, but it was soooooooooo good! If I recall, Mark Waid used to walk around conventions putting copies in people’s hands because he believed in the book so much. You can probably find the back issues cheap, so I highly recommend you give it a read. Hourman legacy represent!

    Great episode! Really enjoyed the coverage of Warlord and Hourman. I believe there may have been a problem with your audio software or the MP3. For whatever reason, between Warlord and Hourman, there was a bunch of warbly annoying sounds that lasted about 10 minutes. Might want to check the file.

    Looking forward to next week talking about Adam Str… oh wait … hate you guys.

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  8. We’re still going through the series, but so far this is the least appealing cover of the run. I like the ‘Mazing Man drawing in the foreground, but I don’t have a strong interest in him or the other two characters, who are drawn perfunctorily.

    The Warlord wasn’t even my favorite action figure in The Warlord toy line. I swiftly lost his weapon, his cheap sheet of “animal skin,” and one of the wings off his helmet. That made him easy to identify when I found my best friend’s younger brother had stolen it. In retrospect, I should have just let him keep it, since I didn’t legit care about the figure and soon lost it to a storage unit the family neglected to pay for. Matters of principle are overrated. As I’ve mentioned on Who’s Who, I briefly collected the book at a Professor-approved price from a flea market vender, but I either lost interest or the source dried up. I liked those issues at the time, but none I’ve tried since, and I’m not even especially fond of Mike Grell’s writing. In my limited experience based on random issues of Sable, Green Arrow, Shaman’s Tears, Bar Sinister & Starslayer, Grell heroes mostly default to all agency, no personality.

    If Fleisher had intended or did in fact create a childhood nemesis for Travis Morgan through this parallel narrative of the Warlord’s origin, that would have been fine, except that I can’t think of an example where that ever truly worked. Secret family members or a cruel adult turning up later in life are one thing, but the childhood friend/enemy arriving well into a hero’s career? Hush! The story itself was also very dumb, with unlikely contrivances aplenty. I do think you guys were a bit hard on Morgan though, as he clearly had placed whatsisface in check, so there was no need to be overt about it. Whatsisface was smart and jumped on an unforeseeable third option, while the real rookie move would have been for Travis to declare his full intentions and force such extreme maneuvering. If I recall correctly, Nathaniel Adam made a lot of noise about a similar situation in Vietnam and ended up framed for murder. Speaking of which, tying Morgan to ‘Nam in 1987 might have been in vogue, but nowadays it would be like some kid only familiar with Chuck Norris through a meme being surprised Walker Texas Ranger was an escaped P.O.W.

    ‘Mazing Man’s art always appealed to me because of the juicy, flashy detailed inks, but Destafano’s basic cartoony style and the mild-but-not-funny stories left me cold. I liked some of his stuff with the Instant Piano guys, though.

    I can’t say too much about the Hourman story because I gave up on reading it partway through page 9. Hourman and the Atom have always been in close competition for JSAer I have the least patience with. I definitely hate Hourman’s costume more, with the hideous application of an unspectacular color scheme and that stupid hourglass around his neck. It seemed like every story I ever read with him offered the reminder that he only had one hour of power, whether he was holding it in reserve or stressing over its dwindling. I found his power set too limited to justify his also having such a severe limitation on having any powers at all, plus I mostly did just say no and I had too many unpleasant experiences with junkies growing up to see Rex “Strung-Out” Tyler as a hero. Beyond my great disdain for the character, this story was more than I am willing to bear at this time. From the brick of a “letter excerpt” on the splash page through the fractional percentage of page 4 devoted to tedious workplace dialogue balloons to the dishwater dull early Michael Bair art sabotaged by Mike Gustovich’s ill-considered inks, the tale is an exemplar of everything I hate about Secret Origins. Plus, those 1930s infrared glasses were totally 1980s new wave specs.

    The part where you guys talk about E. Nelson Bridwell speculating about Wendy on Super Friends being the Earth-1 version of Hourman’s babymama? That is exactly why we needed the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Since Ryan repeated himself on this topic, I’ll reiterate that “Earth-Two” is to DC Comics as “Zero” or “Caffeine Free” are to Coca-Cola… a niche market product.

    Thanks for running our spot for The Marvel Super Heroes Podcast! It’s been on hiatus, but will be back this month. Also, hearing the spot during a bleary-eyed morning commute reminded me that thing’s got zing.


    1. Yeah baby yeah! Gecko and Snakeman (or whatever they were called) were out favorites. You might even say Gecko was my kid brother’s security blanket for a while.


  9. Yeah, that Warlord origin doesn’t quite go far enough. I tried, really tried to get into Warlord when I started to get very interested in sword and sorcery thanks to D&D. But the Mike Grell era had come ad gone by then and I enjoyed the Barren Earth back-up more than the main stories – give or take Shakira lust – and didn’t stick with it.

    ‘Mazing Man is something I read late in life, like, only in the last couple years, and it was very enjoyable, even touching. My thoughts mirror Rob’s, except that I would have mentioned the Fred Hembeck pages which were the comic (Zoot Sputnik) inside the comic.

    Hourman was my favorite member of All-Star Squadron. He was the lead in the issue that made me want to pick up the book every month and even go back to collect it all.

    Good show Ryan and co.! Only sorry I’m so late commenting. Been a busy month, still catching up.


  10. Finally! Something Rob and I agree on! I, too, am a fan of ‘Mazing Man. I also briefly read Warlord. I remember liking it but feeling really lost reading it.


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