Selim the Slaver
Writer: Don Freeman
Artist: Steve Dowling/John Allard
Published: 11/7/49 – 26/11/49 (H163 – H282)
Number of Episodes: 120
With Garth a magnanimous victor in the Manhunt, he has gained Cain’s respect and friendship. They are recuperating from their ordeal in the town of El Wadi, whilst Lumiere, Dawn and Karen await their return some miles away at Cain’s base camp. Garth and Cain witness a procession of warriors through the town, bearing the carriage of the notorious Sheik, Selim the Slaver. Cain informs Garth that Selim’s power and influence is such that the authorities turn a blind eye to his nefarious activities. Selim conducts business from a “floating city” – collapsible buildings assembled on board a great raft, which floats down river to a fresh location after Selim has conducted his business.
Returning to Cain’s base camp, Garth and Cain learn that Selim’s raiding party have kidnapped Dawn and Karen, leaving a badly wounded Lumiere behind. Acting on Cain’s advice that the authorities will be hard to convince and slow to act, Garth decides to play a lone hand to rescue the girls. Whilst Cain remains behind to look after Lumiere and try and convince the authorities to send a force to El Wadi, Garth returns there with the help of Nimrod’s loyal black tracker, and Ahmed, a young local trader who had assisted him in the previous story. He manages to gain an audience with Selim, posing as the reputedly wealthy Captain Cain.
As Cain, Garth offers to buy the two white women that he understands Selim is holding to be sold as slaves. Selim is initially taken in, and agrees in principle, but tells Garth that he is awaiting the arrival of another rich prospective bidder, and that Dawn and Karen will be sold to the highest bidder. After making his presence known to Dawn and Karen, Garth can only agree to await the auction, remaining aboard the floating city as Selim’s “guest”.
Meanwhile, Cain has offered a reward for the rescue of Garth and the girls and persuaded the commandant of police to lead an unwilling expedition against Selim. Garth tells Selim that he has no money on him, but that he holds unlimited credit at the bank of El Wadi. The suspicious and cautious Selim agrees that Garth’s black guide, Nimrod, can return there to collect the money – but with an escort of Selim’d men. Garth had been banking on Nimrod meeting Cain’s reinforcements en route and guiding them to the floating city. The mysterious “other client” arrives at the raft by helicopter, and turns out to be a white man named Gorgon, whose face is completely hidden behind a close-fitting flesh-coloured mask. Gorgon tells Garth that he wants to buy a white woman to become his wife.
Dawn and Karen are paraded at the auction and Gorgon is smitten by the beautiful Karen. A spirited bidding war ensues, until Garth wins with a fantastic bid of £50,000, outstripping his rival’s limit of £40,000.
Meanwhile, Nimrod has overpowered Selim’s escort and met with Cain and the police, and is guiding them to Selim. But one of Selim’s men has survived and escaped, and is able to warn Selim, who promptly order’s Garth’s arrest, and for the city to get on the move. After a terrific scrap, Garth is overpowered by sheer weight of numbers. Witnessing his impressive struggle, Gorgon decides to intervene as Garth is about to be killed and thrown in the river. He offers Selim his previous bid of £40,000 for the two women – but only provided that Garth is also sold to him. Selim agrees.
Gorgon visits the imprisoned girls and informs them that he has bought them – and Garth. He learns from their reactions that Karen loves Garth, and tells her that he is willing to let all three go free – but only on condition that Karen agrees to marry him. He wants a willing wife who will represent him in places where he can’t appear because of his facial deformities. Gorgon then visits the captive Garth, and tells his strange story.
He had begun life in a fair, not as a showman but as the show – a human monster. But he was too hideous even for that, so he had taken up the business side, running sideshows, circuses and boxing booths. Eventually he had become one of the richest boxing promoters in Europe. Now he needs a beautiful woman to stand by his side in society. Garth is enraged to learn that Karen has consented to be his wife, but being under Selim’s armed guard is unable to attack Gorgon. Gorgon then pays Selim his money. Selim is confident that by effecting a speedy exodus he has escaped Cain’s forces, and can successfully hide in the jungle. But young Ahmed has escaped and leads Cain and Nimrod to Selim’s new camp site. Cain then leads an attack.
Selim’s men are overcome, but Cain is shot and dies in Karen’s arms, watched by the loyal Nimrod who, enraged, murders Selim with a dagger in his stomach. Cain is buried where he died, mourned by Garth’s party and Nimrod, and Karen confirms to Garth that she intends to keep her promise to marry Gorgon.
Synopsis by Philip Harbottle
In a feature encompassing the entire history of the much-loved strip, Garth writer Philip Harbottle pays tribute to artist and editor John Allard, who worked at the Mirror for over 50 years, outlining his huge contribution to Garth‘s enduring success
Strip dates given are those of their original appearance in the British newspaper the Daily Mirror, first compiled by Geoffrey Wren and Ann Holmes and updated by Ant Jones and Philip Harbottle
Garth © REACH/ Daily Mirror