Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Two Savage Tales!
The lush painting above is by Big John Buscema for the second issue of Marvel's black and white genre magazine Savage Tales.
This issue is dated October 1973 and came out nearly two years after the debut issue. I've always been struck by the way Conan is treated on this cover, very differently than on most.
On this cover, the Cimmerian is a victim. Chained to a wall, he's helpless to protect the lovely naked woman (her bum hidden by the caressing fumes) who is being attacked by the leering axe-wielding executioner. This cover reminds me of many pulp covers where in fact the hero is helpless and has to watch a beautiful woman suffer various tortures. This woman-in-peril approach was a common pulp cover convention, both for the classic pulps of the 30's and 40's, and the men's sweat magazines of the 60's.
Here's the same image minus the colors from a promo spot in FOOM magazine #2.
When contrasted with 1971's debut issue of Savage Tales also by John Buscema, there's a big difference in the way Conan is portrayed. On the debut he's a brawny barbarian howling in triumph, striking pose of defiance and swinging a severed head as a girl nestles next to his leg.
This is the Conan I'm more accustomed to seeing on covers from the paperback period, and in fact this image seems reminiscent of Frank Frazetta's classic pose for Conan the Adventurer. The girl in particular seems very similar.
Actually to my eye this seems almost to have a John Romita Sr. flair to the main figure. The cover is credited fully to Buscema, but I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Romita might've had something to do with this one.
Two very different ways to treat a classic pulp character indeed. I'd have to say the cover for the second issue is the better painting, but the cover for the first is the more exciting image.