Tag: Conan

In Stores This Week

This week brings the trade paperback collection “Conan and the Daughters of Midora and Other Stories” to shelves. Contained within is the “Island of No Return” storyline by me, Bart Sears, Randy Elliott and Mark Roberts, including the 8-page prequel story that ran in USA Today. The volume also offers Conan tales by Jimmy Palmiotti, Mark Texeira, Tim Truman, Marian Churchland and Mike Oeming, among others.

The 8-page USA Today story can still be accessed here:

http://www.usatoday.com/life/comics/2010-11-22-kissoftheundead22_ST_N.htm

I grew up on Conan, both the Ace paperbacks and the comics, especially Savage Sword magazine. Getting to write Conan, especially with my buddy Bart on art, was very literally the fulfillment of a dream for me. I love the character, I love the world he inhabits. The work of Robert E. Howard is one of the primary reasons I do what I do. So I’m very happy our tale is getting collected with some other “orphan” stories, and wrapped in a lovely painted cover by Tex. This was my first shot at Conan. I hope it’s not my last.

Cheers,

Ron


Conan, by Crom!

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:

http://www.usatoday.com/life/comics/2010-11-22-kissoftheundead22_ST_N.htm

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:

http://bartsearscollector.blogspot.com/2010/11/conan-kiss-of-undead.html

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.

Cheers,

Ron


Passing of a giant


I think it’s fair to say that if I hadn’t discovered Frank Frazetta, I probably wouldn’t be writing comics. There’s really no way a simple post could properly sum up how influential Frazetta was on me. Maybe that’s a curious thing for a writer to say, but it’s an absolute truth. So I can’t really let Frazetta’s passing go without comment.

In my pre-teen years I wasn’t really reading comics. Instead, I was devouring stuff like Burroughs’ Mars and Venus novels, Moorcock’s Elric series and Howard’s Conan tales. The Conan stories were the Ace editions, covers by Frazetta. Equal parts sex and violence, those covers were revelatory for a kid my age. The covers led me to The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, the first Ballantine collection of Frank’s work, which in turn kindled a love of art in general and, well, “fantastic art” in particular. The Ballantine volumes eventually led to Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan magazine, and from there, back to reading all manner of comics.

I never met the man, but had a few brushes, no pun intended. Back when I first agreed to do some work for Valiant Comics, taking over X-O Manowar with Bart Sears and Andy Smith as the artists, Valiant brought all its new creators into New York City for a weekend of wining and dining. Part of the festivities was a private group outing to the Alexander Gallery, which was holding an extensive show of Frazetta originals. It was a breathtaking experience. The hardcover catalog for the show – they were $50 a pop, and everybody received one – still sits on the shelf in my office.

My other Frazetta anecdote involves … a plumber. When my wife and I were first married, we rented a house on a cliff that offered a commanding view of the Hudson Valley. When we needed some plumbing work done, we got a recommendation and had the plumber out to the house. The plumber, whose name I can’t remember, passed my office in the house, saw the kind of work I did, and asked, “Hey, you ever hear of this artist named Frank Frazetta?” I said of course I’d heard of him, everybody in comics knew and worshipped Frank.

The plumber told me he’d grown up with Frank in Brooklyn. “He was a good artist, but he was a better ballplayer,” the plumber said, confirming the stories I’d always heard about Frazetta’s prowess as a baseball player. The plumber also offered this: “You know those girls in his paintings, the ones with the dark hair and the curves? That’s just what Frank’s sisters looked like.” I can’t vouch for the veracity of that particular claim, but if the grin on the plumber’s face was any indication, I’m inclined to believe him.

I’m going to sit down with a stack of Frazetta books tonight and take it all in again. Thanks for everything, Frank.

Cheers,

Ron


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