Monday, January 22, 2018

Your Friendly Neighborhood Barbarian!


I just read the news that Robert E. Howard's creation, including the mighty Conan the Barbarian will be hooking up once again with the sprawling monster which is the Marvel Universe, which itself has been absorbed into the maw of the mammoth Walt Disney empire.


I don't find any specific mention of King Kull or Solomon Kane, other relatively high-profile creations of Robert E. Howard. I always assumed they traveled together, but in these wacky times with licenses whipsawing across the globe it's not at all a certain thing. IDW just published a Kull series in which they moved him to a modern, even futuristic setting which was seriously dumb. So I'm guessing the characters are all on their own now, with Kull at IDW, Red Sonja at Dynamite, and now Conan at Marvel yet again. Solomon Kane needs a home I guess, or is he still at Dark Horse?


Marvel certainly gets full props for making Conan a successful property in the long term. Roy Thomas and Stan Lee rather stumbled into it after failing to get hold of Lin Carter's Thongor, but what they did with it was amazing. Tapping a novice Barry (Not-Yet-Windsor) Smith to draw was a decision that might've killed the project (probably should have), but they lucked out in that Smith became utterly awesome growing in real time before our eyes issue to issue and month by month. By the time the big gun John Buscema stepped in with gusto, Conan was a powerhouse and would only become more so.


But the energy drained from the series over the long years (especially after Roy left) and it was frankly a good thing for Conan and Kull and the gang when they got over to Dark Horse. Mike Richardson's group really charged up the character again with writers like Kurt Busiek giving us new renditions of classic tales and up and coming artists like Cary Nord bringing a vitality to the character which had been missing for some time. But now that era seems to be over and I can't say I'm really sad. Marvel has the character back, now let's see what they do with it. Maybe he'll join the Avengers, or team up with Chewbacca or do an adventure with Scrooge McDuck! After Groo all things are possible.

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12 comments:

  1. Reading the reprinted Conan tales in the UK Mighty World of Marvel weekly directly led to my first books bought with my own money as a young kid when I found four of the REH novels in a second-hand shop. I will always have a soft spot for Marvel's take on the barbarian.
    Tim

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    1. I found the REH novel The Hour of the Dragon at my local library just before Marvel got the license and knew Conan first there, but got to know the Cimmerian best in Marvel's books.

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  2. Wow, this is great news - I always hoped Conan would return home to Marvel. Like Tim Field, I first discovered Conan thanks to Marvel UK - Savage Sword of Conan weekly No.2 in March 1975 to be precise ("The Lair Of The Beast-Men" by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith/Sal Buscema). Last year I decided to re-read all of the R.E.H. Conan stories (in e-book format) and also all six of the Solomon Kane stories. I could only dimly recall Solomon Kane from the UK Savage Sword monthly so I was looking forward to getting re-acquainted with the character. I really enjoyed the Solomon Kane stories and it's a pity he's not better known.

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    1. I'm a big fan of Solomon Kane but he's never really caught on despite several decent efforts to get him over. He works for me and REH's original stories are among his scariest.

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  3. I suspected that Conan may be heading back to Marvel when I saw a BWS drawing of the Cimmerian in the 2018 Marvel calendar (which I acquired back in December), so it's good to have it confirmed. I'll be looking forward to seeing the Epic Collections of the early Conan The Barbarian tales. (Even though I spent a small fortune buying the first issue several months back.)

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    1. I spent a lot of dough on the Dark Horse reprint series and so won't likely buy them again. One of my favorite books is the Essential Conan volume Marvel released just before they lost the license. It's a neat readable tome.

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  4. Great to see Conan back where he belongs (it would be even better to have Kull and Sonja back a well) as Conan was my favourite Marvel comic for many a year. I’m not sure how they will re-energise the character all the same with big John (and Alfredo) and Roy Thomas may not be up for another stint on the character - maybe BWS? - Anyway let’s hope they treat him better that some of their own creations

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  5. Sorry shoud have said "WITHOUT" Big John and Alfredo.."

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    1. I have little hope for new stuff. Frankly I think Marvel's original take was the best (Big John was the ideal artist for the feature) and I doubt we'll see much which rivals that.

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  6. I'm hoping for a decent reprinting of the BWS Conan, which was tragically botched by Dark Horse, in my opinion. A hardcover omnibus would be nice, and it could be enhanced by all of the later art Windsor-Smith produced for Conan's magazine reprintings and his own art for Conan prints and portfolios. Of course I'm just hallucinating here, but if something can be imagined, it can happen...

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    1. I rather like the Dark Horse reprints, but I understand the criticisms. Having another one in the marketplace won't hurt my feelings at all.

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  7. I personally was a bit taken aback at Marvel reacquiring the rights to Conan. It feels like Cabinet Entertainment, who hold the rights to Conan, have given a disservice to Dark Horse Comics who took a discarded character and made him a critical and financial success. There was a lot of love given to the character from some absolutely amazing creators. I can only assume it was likely that Marvel seriously outbid the much smaller Dark Horse Comics for the rights. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
    On a separate matter... great blog! I've been visiting for a while now. Always entertaining and insightful.

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