BY CROM! By Mike Wall
I could not figure out what to write for my blog entry this time. So, I asked Dawn (my associate) what I should do and she said write something about the resurgence of Conan the Barbarian by Marvel. We did have a conversation about it on Wednesday morning. So once again I am going to take her advice. Here is another chapter of Mike’s ramblings. Though this time I am not on pain pills.
I have always been a Conan fan since I can remember. My father used to buy them for me and “preview” them to make sure they were alright for me to read. My wife recently asked me why I like that character and I really did not have a definitive answer. Is it the sword and sorcery aspect, the violence, the storytelling, or the monsters? I honestly still don’t know. All I know is that when I read a story whether it be prose or comic I am thoroughly entertained. You can even ask Dan in the St. Charles store about my affinity for the character. For years he listened to me yammer with customers about stories. I think it was when Dark Horse started publishing Conan, he started getting into it. Please don’t quote me on that. Now I am super excited that Marvel got the rights and are putting out quite a few books. This entry will be MY history with Conan not a definitive reading list or chronology. It is just a peek at my love for one character.
I started reading the Conan the Barbarian comics that Marvel started in 1970. My first issue was #53. It was the Brotherhood of the Blade story. The cover just grabbed me as a kid. The story for a kid was great with lots of action and adventure. St Charles Dan would always make fun of me for liking that one because there are so many other better stories. Yet that is the one that introduced me to the character. Sadly, I had no comic stores around me at that time for it was the mid 1970s so I had to get issues wherever I could. My collection was spotty at best. I really enjoyed the first 100 issues of the book even if I had to read them in collections or reprints later. The whole Marvel run was purely entertaining yet the first 100 hold a dear place in my heart. The covers always made me want to find out who or what is he fighting or what trap is he going to get out of. I knew there were prose stories out there but Marvel’s comics were good enough for me.
Then when I got a little older, I found out about a black and white magazine called Savage Sword of Conan. It was a little racier than the regular comics but it was the same kind of stories that I loved from the color comics. These were even harder for me to find. I don’t know why but I could fid them at the drug store at my grandmother’s house in Elkhart, Indiana. I could always find them there. My father did not care how many comics I bought as long as I was reading them. I really did not dabble too much into this aspect of the Conan comics due to the unavailability to me. Yet once Jamie Graham opened a store in Elmhurst, I had plenty of issues at hand. Also Dark Horse later collected all of them in trade format.
Also, remember there was a movie in 1982 that came out with Arnold Schwarzenegger? I was only 13 but my father took me to the movie even though it was rated R. He knew I loved the character and he wanted to see the movie as well. I loved it and still do. I even like the Conan the Destroyer movie that came later. All this movie did was fuel my love of the character.
After 1996, it seems that Marvel lost the license. It was not until 2003 that Dark Horse Comics picked Conan up. Dark Horse has always been know to treat licensed products well and they did. The title called just Conan had the writer Kurt Busiek and the artist Cary Nord. It started off with a bang. Great art and great stories. The one thing that Dark Horse did differently that was not done (to my knowledge) before was tell stories of Conan’s youth. They were called Born on the Battlefield. I thought they gave more insight to the character. They ran with the character until 2017 with a myriad of “ongoing” series and mini-series. All and all Dark Horse did a respectful job with Conan.
Then in 2019 Marvel announced that they will be publishing Conan again. They were putting Jason Aaron on the book. I was stoked. They started with just Conan the Barbarian but would bring others out later. They resurrected Savage Sword of Conan. Yet sadly not in the black and white magazine format which I do not think it would viable in the current market place. Then Age of Conan came out which features the supporting characters in his universe. Personally, I enjoy the Barbarian book the best and read the others because of the love of the character and universe.
Now Marvel is trying to have Conan in the regular Marvel universe. He is on an Avengers team and in the 2099 universe. Some of this I am not to happy with because sometimes it seems like they are trying too hard. Yet they just brought out a new series called Conan Serpent War. It has Conan teaming up with other Howard characters Solomon Kane and Dark Agnes. Yet they are putting Moon Knight into the mix which with his mythology it works.
I am glad Marvel has taken over Conan. I think more people are reading it. Plus a younger generation is reading it and enjoying it. I know Conan it a total dude book yet every once in awhile they can write a story that is for everyone. I hope that ramblings will get you to at least look at the Conan books. Be it the newer or older books, you can’t go wrong.