Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"...a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth..."

For those who are fans of Robert E. Howard and his grim, northern barbarian, a recent surge of interest in Conan has been welcome treat. Over the last few years, a number of new books have been published that collect Howard’s fantastic tales. Among them are a series of trade paperbacks by Dark Horse Comics that collect the wildly popular Savage Sword of Conan magazine. Originally published by Marvel Comics, the series got its start in 1974 during the peak years of Conan’s popularity and is now a cult classic.

The magazine was more adult in nature than the Conan comic book and featured some stunning black and white artwork by the likes of Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala. The Hyborian age never looked so good. The stories were written by Roy Thomas and included adaptations of Howard’s classic yarns as well as original Conan stories. Savage Sword was also famous for its amazing cover art which usually included Conan fighting some hideous creature while a very nearly nude woman cowered below. This appeal to young men and teenage boys undoubtedly propelled its success.

This magazine became a staple of mine right after high school when a couple of buddies and I rented a house together. Several issues of the Savage Sword could be seen strewn about the house at any one time, or as reading material in the bathroom. Since copies of the magazine are scarce these days, I am grateful that I may enjoy all of Conan’s mighty exploits in these new trade paperbacks. Each one is about 500 pages and collects around fifteen issues. So for those, like me, who occasionally need a Conan fix, look no further. The pages spark with energy and are just plain fun to read.


Anonymous said...

You know, I've still got a lot of those SSoC magazines that were strewn around the Ward Dr. house. I've got all of the story arc where Conan gets mixed up (again) with the demon Imhotep who has been cast out from his demon night raiders and is seen by all but Conan as a tall Stygian. It's a great story arc and Buscema's art is at it's best which puts it so far above just about everyone else it's not even funny. I really think that Buscema's art style could be the perfect match with the Hyborian Age and the black and white format.

I also think that more often than not the stories in SSoC came a lot closer to Howard's vision of Conan than most. Conan, while still mind-numbingly bad ass, is not a hulking brute. He's often portrayed as the very crafty person that Howard made him. I have a hard time picturing the Conan from a lot of the pastiche material as well as the two films actually claiming the throne of Aquilonia on his own.

A lot of what Roy Thomas wrote for the SSoC had a healthy dose of funny irony and gallows humor.

I want to say that these collections go for about $13 a pop on Amazon. It's such a good price for the amount of material (500 - 550 pages) that I'm ashamed to say I own none of them. That's right under a buck an issue, which is what I was paying for new issues in the early nineties. Time to shake out the piggy bank, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, I'll check them out. As you know I love the Conan books, and found him attractive and wanted to be one of his women until I left the fantasy world and met Chris. haa.
I still love to read the books though, and love to add to my collection any chance I get.