I grew up on Conan. I devoured the Ace paperbacks that gathered the original Robert E. Howard prose tales with pastiches by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. I’m sure the initial attraction there was the Frazetta cover imagery; what boy could resist those? In fairly short order, I discovered Conan in the comics, drawn to the black-and-white magazine Savage Sword of Conan more than the color Conan the Barbarian monthly (both from Marvel). Presumably this had more to do with the higher quotient of violence and nudity in Savage Sword. I kept up with a few comics at the time, like Avengers and Uncanny X-Men, they were a distant second to bloody swords and heaving bosoms.
Conan was always a “checklist” character for me – one of those characters I wanted to write at least once in my career. I’ve been able to put a mark next to a lot of the character on my personal list: Tarzan, the Phantom, Batman and a number of others. But an opportunity to write Conan hadn’t presented itself until now. My editor at Dark Horse, Dave Land, offered up the chance during the San Diego con, asking if I might like to do an eight-page story that would see print in USA Today. He didn’t have to ask twice, especially with my friend Bart Sears in place to draw it. The result can be seen here:
Obviously eight pages is not a huge amount of space for a one-and-done story, especially one that needs to introduce the main character to an audience that might not be familiar with him. Thus, the use of the familiar Nemedian Chronicles passage on page 1. The rest shows off Conan as he’s meant to be, complete with the trappings of a lovely maiden and some horrific opponents who need killing.
I can’t think of an artist whose sensibilities mesh better with Conan and his world than Bart. He and I have talked about doing a Conan story numerous times through the years, but it never came to fruition until now. Here’s a pretty fascinating blog piece from a Bart fan site, showing off the process of putting together the story’s art, with lots of previously unseen images:
I’m happy to report this won’t be the last time Bart and I tackle Conan. And next time we’ll have a few more pages to tell our story. More news on that as soon as I can.