Sunday, December 16, 2012

Conan The Phenomenon!

I don't know why frankly I balked at picking Conan the Phenomenon by Paul M. Sammon up when it first arrived on the stands. Likely it was the price or maybe the slightly clumsy title, but that seems long ago and the price seems less odious today. The cover by Frazetta is in your face and was in fact the first image of Conan I ever encountered as the cover to the Lancer paperback edition of Conan the Conqueror. This overview of the decades-spanning career of Conan is exceedingly well illustrated. The original Frazetta paintings are all here presented in full page glory sans copy and with. The artwork of such luminaries as Vallejo, Gianni, Windsor-Smith, Nord, and Kaluta adds some real splendor to the text which touches on Conan in his original form as well as his adapted variations in comics and in film.

But the artwork which put me over the top on this collection was a beautifully lush image of John Buscema's first cover for Savage Tales that itself evoked Frazetta's iconic image for Conan the Adventurer. Seeing that artwork for the first time minus the cover copy was revelatory (it was apparently flipped for publication). Also included are double-page spreads of Ken Kelly's superb covers for Berkley's Conan paperbacks of the late 70's.

So this is a mighty-thewed scan of Conan's impressive publishing history. I'll likely spend quite a bit of the day reading up on what I already know and learning what I'm sure I don't, which is likely to still be considerable.

It dawned on me that one reason I originally passed on the Sammon book was that  Conan - The Ultimate Guide to the World's Most Savage Barbarian by Roy Thomas came out about the same time. I gave that one a tumble assuming I think mistakenly that they covered the same territory. They do, but Roy's book seems more about the characters and stories themselves than the publishing history. I'll have to compare and contrast them now that both are in my clutches.

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