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:
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.
Two new books on shelves this week (to go along with last week’s Magdalena Vol. 2 trade paperback collection). First up is Artifacts #19 from Top Cow/Image, which kicks off a new storyline, featuring an Artifacts bearer we’ve met before, albeit briefly. Dr. Rachel Harrison appeared in issue #14, finding a corpse that was ultimately traced to a gangland execution, Jackie Estacado style.
In issue #19, Rachel takes center stage, setting up her life as an emergency-room doctor, and now bearer of the Heart Stone. The three-issue arc will take Rachel to some unexpected places, and bring her face to face with Tom Judge once again. Art is my Stjepan Sejic, as usual, and you can see a preview here: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=12867
My other work out this week is the introduction I wrote for Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years Vol. 11 from Dark Horse. I suppose my love for Tarzan is no secret at this point, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to wax poetic about one of my favorite characters ever in the intro. I’d work on a Tarzan comic in a heartbeat.
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 love Indiana Jones. Probably even more than Star Wars. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is my favorite movie, ever. To this day, I remember the day that “Raiders” was released in theaters – June 12, 1981. It was the same day that the original “Clash of the Titans” was released. My friends and I wanted to see both, and there was great debate over which to see on opening night. The decision, ultimately, was “Clash” because we figured Ray Harryhausen monsters were a pretty safe bet, but this “Raiders” movie was an unknown, except for starring Han Solo.
(A brief aside: Harrison Ford has a home in the same town in which I live. He’s not seen here very often, but he’s been known to fly into the local airstrip, get a cup of coffee at the diner across the street, and then head for his place. So … pretty cool.)
Anyway, on Friday night, at the Mayfair Twin theater in Kingston, NY, we went to see “Clash” and enjoyed it well enough for a movie with Harry Hamlin in a skirt. Saturday night we lined up for the early show of “Raiders” … and I was transfixed. It was all familiar, but I had never seen anything like it. It was fantastic, with a dose of the supernatural, but it was all believable because the main character – Indy – bled and sweated and strove and even failed. The pace was so break-neck that I would’ve sworn the whole thing went by in mere minutes. It was as much of a transformative experience for me as seeing the original “Star Wars” four years before. The film ended, with the Ark essentially lost again in a vast warehouse, and my friends and I left the theater. We got right back in line, and saw it again immediately.
I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the Indiana Jones comics Marvel published. I wasn’t paying attention to comics in general at the time. A few movies later, the license passed to Dark Horse, by which time I was reading comics again. Eventually I was writing them, including some “Star Wars” comics, which led me to inquire about tackling some Indiana Jones stories. Still hasn’t happened, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I bugged Dave Land, my editor at Dark Horse, on a regular basis about doing an Indiana Jones series, mini-series or even a one-shot. But with Indy seemingly in retirement, there was no traction to get something going, the theory being that if there wasn’t a movie to boost interest, there wouldn’t be enough of an audience for a comic to make financial sense.
Then the rumors of a fourth Indy film started to sound more real. So my Samurai: Heaven and Earth compatriot Luke Ross – also a big Indy fan – and I put together the pages you see here. I wrote this three-page sequence, and as you can plainly see, Luke did a truly amazing job on the art. The pages feature Indy in the Himalayas, relieving Nazis of a Tibetan treasure, with an Asian femme fatale as his sidekick. And, since the setting was Tibet, we simply had to include a yeti.
Page 3 (With snow fx)
The nugget of the story was inspired by something I’d seen on the National Geographic channel, detailing German expeditions into Tibet in 1938-1939, led by an SS officer and zoologist named Ernst Shafer. There’s some evidence that Shafer’s purpose, or at least one of them, was a search for the purported roots of the Aryan race. You can read more about the historical expedition here .
The sample pages were successful in that they landed Luke the gig of drawing the adaptation of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” There was an additional mini, “Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods,” after the adaptation (my buddy Bart Sears ended up filling in on some of the art), as well as a few animated-style “Adventures” editions. But that’s been about it in terms of new Indy material. If nothing else, we got Omnibus editions reprinting the previous Dark Horse and Marvel comics.
I hope these pages aren’t the total of my dalliance with Indiana Jones in comics. But even if they are, I’m pretty pleased with them.
If you happened to be checking out my Twitter stream earlier today, there was yet another discussion of pirating and illegally downloading comics. I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice to say that I’m wholly against downloading, and I’ve yet to see an argument for it that holds any water. If you want a comic, support the industry and pay for it. Or, if you’re just looking to read something for free, there are plenty of choices available. Even some by me. Last time I looked, Top Cow has various complete issues of my Witchbladerun online, as well as the First Born #1 and number of other offerings. You can peruse them here.
You can also check out an 8-page Samurai: Heaven and Earth story that appeared as part of the first Dark Horse Presents “issue” on MySpace. Dark Horse was looking for something a little more visceral to run with Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon’s Sugarshock, and Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s Umbrella Academy (not to mention a short Rick Geary story). A guy with a sword fit the bill, so artist Luke Ross, and I put together a brief, violent tale of our displaced samurai, Asukai Shiro.
Samurai: Heaven and Earth is a creator-owned series by Luke and myself from Dark Horse, with two volumes in print thus far. It’s also absolutely my favorite project ever. The story follows a lone samurai who crosses the globe from East to West, following his kidnapped love, the lady Yoshiko. His travels bring him all the way to the halls of Versailles in Volume 1, where he meets some very familiar swordsmen. Volume 2 takes him to the sands of Egypt.
I think the DHP short story, “The Forest,” stands on its own well enough. But chronologically it takes place between issues #2 and #3 of Volume 1, when Shiro begins his journey westward from China. At one point, I had toyed with the idea of a series of short stories, drawn by various artists, which would fill in the “untold tales” of Shiro’s journey. Luke is the artistic heart and soul of Samurai, but I’ve always liked “themed” anthologies, like Gaiman’s Sandman: Endless Nights or the Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall volume. Maybe that project will still happen at some point. But for now, “The Forest” is what you get, with beautiful art by Luke and colorist Dan Jackson.
For anybody that’s already read Volumes 1 and 2, thanks. Yes, there’s a Volume 3 planned, taking place in the Caribbean, but we’re waiting for Luke to find time amidst his Marvel schedule to draw it. For anybody that hasn’t read the first two volumes, I know they’ve been pirated and offered up online. But please, if you’re interested, do right thing and buy ’em:
Thanks. In the future, I’ll be running some of the pin-ups that have appeared in the collected editions, pieces by buddies of Luke and mine, like Jim Starlin, Greg Land, Mike Deodato Jr., Cully Hamner, Lee Moder and plenty more.
For some reason the link to “The Forest” doesn’t take you directly to the story (it’s supposed to). You can read the story by scrolling down and selecting Issue 1 / Story 3 at the bottom of the page