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.

Rip Off


  1. The Buscema looks great! I forgot he did that one.

  2. I met Big John at an in store appearance back in 1985...He did free sketches and had a brief Q&A. I specifically asked him if he got any of his ideas or inspirations from FRITZ at all in any way...He was a Brusque no nonsense guy and he straightened me out right quick. HE said None of his work was inspired at all by Frazetta he came up with it all on his own. Ideas for stories and cover illo's were shot at him by Roy or Other writers or editors and he ran with it. I FIRMLY BELIEVE in his talent and have no reason to dispute his claim that day. His concepts were orignal...given the subject matter there is always going to be a comparison and some similar compositions.
    His is a talent we all miss...I would like to have met him again before he passed. BUT his work is his legacy. Long live BIG JOHN.

  3. I first saw that cover in Foom 2, too. I must have just turned ten years old and it was like owning porn! My parents must never have seen it because I'm sure my mother would have freaked. Marvel's satanic heroes and its barbarians just made all those DC 100 pagers with their Golden Age heroes look geriatric and sexless.

  4. Don - I don't think I realized it was Buscema for years and I have the issue. It doesn't immediately scream his style for me, but once you know you can see it sure.

    Mikeyboy - I would never doubt the Big Man himself. If he says there was no influence directly on him by Frazetta then that is the way it was as far as I'm concerned.

    I am intrigued by the comment about Roy giving ideas and perhaps that's where the similarity slipped in. Hmmm.

    Dougie - I totally get what you mean. Getting any of the Marvel black and white books was a dicey stuff to do in my community. Even as a teenager, I remember getting guff for an issue of Vampirella I was carrying around with me one day.

    Rip Off

  5. I loved the B/W mags...they were stronger more intriguing and less fluffy.


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