More than Warlord: Catching up with Mike Grell

SDCC 08 - Grell on the Return of Warlord

Last month we talked with creator Mike Grell about the announcement of a new Warlord series from DC with him at the helm. This announcement marks a renewed focus on comics for Grell, having made his name years ago for the creation of Warlord as well as Jon Sable Freelance and writing a critically acclaimed run on Green Arrow.

Covering Warlord in our previous interview, we now talk about his upcoming projects and what he does when he's not writing. We talked with Grell by phone from his home in Washington state.

Newsarama: We talked during San Diego Comic-con about your upcoming stint on a new Warlord series, but now let's go deeper. What else have you got coming up?

Mike Grell: I'm actually working on a re-write of the Jon Sable screenplay and working with a producer to develop a project based on Shaman's Tears. Coming up I have a follow-on Jon Sable story called "Rules of the Hunt" that will be appearing on comicmix.com. It's a sequel story to "Ashes To Eden", and another piece of the broad library of Sable stories. That will be 132 pages, but before that I'm working with actor/writer/great storyteller Mark Ryan on something called The Pilgrim. As I'm sitting here, the logo popped up on my screensaver.

NRAMA: What's The Pilgrim about, Mike?

MG: The story that Mark concocted is Tom Clancy meets M. Night Shyamalan. It's an eerie kind of tale about the group who was working in Britain during World War 2 to counter-act the Nazis' occult program. You can argue if magic actually exists, but Hitler and the Nazi hierarchy were into occult mysteries. Anyone's who has watched Indiana Jones & The Raiders of the Lost Ark can see some of that. It's enough to know that your enemy believes in it for you to want to invest in it yourself.

Did you know what Winston Churchill took part in druidic ceremonies, and those were rather widely publicized at the time.

And Mark, who is a British actor, has a extensive background of research into this. He wrote a book called Greenwood Tarot and created an entirely new tarot system that works in and of itself. But he's got a great imagination, and is a darn good storyteller. He actually worked with me back on a Green Arrow annual in 1991 – he wrote #4, which had to do with the characters of Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance traveling back through time and interacting with Robin Hood characters.

And that was natural, because he was an actor in the Robin of Sherwood tv series – a fine actor. In fact, he created the character of Nasir which was new to the Robin Hood mythos – and a variation of the character has been included in future versions including the Kevin Costner movie. It was the first "Arabic" character in the story, but it's become part of the legend so to speak.

Prior to that, Mark was on stage in London's West End --- as Che Guevera in the original cast of Evita, and also in a revival of Guys & Dolls. People now probably know him as the voice of Bumblebee in the Transformers movie.

He's a great guy – we got together almost twenty years ago, and we've been close buddies ever since. He first told me the story of The Pilgrim 15 years ago, and I've been bugging him to write it down ever since. Not so much that I wanted to work on it – I wanted to read it!

NRAMA: And The Pilgrim -- it's going up on comicmix.com too, right?

MG: Right. I''m finishing up the first chapter – I don't know when it will begin running, but it won't be too far.

NRAMA: Great news there. Let's shift subjects now to something you mentioned when we were preparing to talk. Horses – you said you raise horses now when you're not writing. Can you tell us about that?

MG: Yes, I raise horses with my wife. She's an amazingly talented trainer.She's trained everything – from goldfish to being the first licensed falconer in the state of Washington. She used to train guard dogs, but now she trains horses – Friesian horses.

Fresian horses are like the ones in movies like Ladyhawk and Mask of Zorro. That hrose wasn't actually a black Andalusian, but 3 Friesian geldings. They come in black, black and black.

NRAMA: [laughs]

MG: Friesians are the horses that the Teutonic Knights rode in the 12th Century. They became very popular in Britain as carragies horses for their very high-stepping action while being both bold and docile. They've got a very tranquil temperament but can be fiery when you want them to. Lauri and I perform with them as part of the Seattle Knights.

For that we do jousting and sword-fighting while on the horses.

Lauri's developed a method for training horses at liberty – meaning not confined by a lead rope or halter. They follow you along like a dog on heel. She can do it with any horse within about 20 or 30 minutes.

I'm going on and on about this because I'm such a big fan. I don't quite understand all of it, but it's enough that she does. It all works through body language and herd hierarchy. It works to the extent that when friends of ours imported horses from Holland, the horses couldn't understand English commands. It's funnier than you might think, but not unusually. The horses knew Dutch commands, but the new owners didn't speak a word of Dutch.

They hired Lorie and within 20 minutes they were completely relaxed. She showed that she could speak their language, and taught them English words for commands. Her system is called EQUUST, and I'm her biggest fan…but I mostly shovel poop.

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