The Savage Sword of Conan 59, 1980 “City of Skulls!”

The black and white magazines from the 1970s are treasures that should be on every comic book collectors list. The artwork is typically phenomenal, and the stories cool as well. One of the best of these without doubt is The Savage Sword of Conan! Each magazine is filled with stories from the barbarian and his adventures. Whether he faces a wizard, a monster, or an army, Conan will prevail!

The mags almost always have extras in them as well. In this particular issue, you’ll see a frontispiece by the terribly underrated Keith Pollard and a pin-up by Gene Day! Also, sandwiched between two tales of the Cimmerian, you get a story called “The Kozaks Ride” by Fred Blosser and some illustrations by “Marvel’s finest.” The other two stories were adapted by Roy Thomas!

The first tale, “The City of Skulls,” was a story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. These two sci-fi writers have a ton of credits and were obviously huge fans of Robert E. Howard! The artwork is by Mike Vosburg and Alfredo Alcala. The second story, “Wolves Beyond the Border” was written by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp.The artwork in this story is by Ernie Chan.

Now, you may be wondering how these other names came to write stories starring everyone’s favorite barbarian. Well, the truth is, many stories were written by others after Howard’s death in 1936. They were either new material using the characters created by Howard or sometimes old material that had not been completed yet by Howard himself. Throw in an incredible painted cover by Clyde Caldwell, and you have a masterpiece of fiction brought to you by Marvel Comics!

 

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Masters of Terror 1, 1975

The black and white magazines from the Bronze Age have so much great material in them! Even if you don’t like horror comics, you can get Conan, The Hulk, etc., but trust me, the horror books are outstanding. Most have excellent artwork, and solid stories as well. Speaking of storytelling, What if I told you (yes, that was in my Laurence Fishburne voice) that Marvel one produced a magazine with names like Robert Bloch (Psycho), Robert E. Howard (Conan), H.P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu), and Theodore Sturgeon (More than Human). Would you believe me? Well luckily you don’t have to take my word for it. In this issue of Masters of Terror, that incredible list of writers are coupled with top artist of that era, and the results is mind-numbing.

The artistic talent is a murderers row if there ever was one. Marie Severin and Frank Giacoia show us a monster (It! adapted by Roy Thomas) that definitely inspired The Heap, Man-Thing, and Swamp Thing! The second tale is brought to us by Frank Brunner (story adapted by Gardner Fox), and anyone that’s read this blog (or anything else I’ve written about him)knows how much praise I’ll heap on the artwork of Frank Brunner (his collaboration with Steve Englehart on Dr. Strange/Marvel Premiere is a masterpiece). The Lovecraft adaptation has Roy Thomas scripting, and a powerhouse team on art that includes Barry Smith, Dan Adkins, and John Verpoorten! The next adaptation is scripted by Ron Goulart, and the art team is the incredibly talented duo of Jim Starlin and Tom Palmer! Finally, Ron Goulart, Gil Kane, and Ralph Reese bring a story about Jack the Ripper!

All of these stories are reprints that appeared in other titles before. Even the cover is a reproduction by Gray Morrow (from a cover by Jim Steranko – Supernatural Thrillers 1, 1972).  Another lesser known story in this issue that was adapted (originally by August Derleth) is called The Drifting Snow. Tony Isabella and Esteban Maroto deliver an absolute gem with this story. You will love this story because it’s very suspenseful and creepy!

 

 

Conan the Barbarian #41, 1974 “Garden of Death and Life!”

Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a good story where Conan thrashes some scoundrels, and then saves the beautiful woman! I know a lot of people will steer clear of a series like this because they think it’s very one-trick pony, but if you really enjoy the genre, give it a try! This story in particular has a very weird and twisting ending. Sometimes Conan can get a little weary in regards to the plot, but action is never missing nor is a mystical/magical aspect that always kept my interest. Throw in an evil sorcerer or a weird creature, and I’m in for the long run!

When you have a character with the history that Conan has, it’s now extremely difficult to cook up decent stories. That’s not to take anything away from Roy Thomas (writer) mind you, but the groundwork laid by Robert E. Howard (creator) surely deserves the lion-share of the credit. It certainly doesn’t hurt your book when you have an artist the caliber of “Big” John Buscema (pencils, R.I.P.) and Ernie Chan (inker on interiors and cover) to put forth a spectacular visual feast either! Add on Bronze Age stalwarts John Costanza (letters), and Glynis Wein (colors), and the book will ascend to the heights of greatness! Did I forget to mention the cover by the master, Gil Kane?

 

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Kull The Conqueror #2, 1983 “The Blood of Kings!”

You might be cool, but you’ll never be Kull fighting werewolves cool! Sorry to burst your bubble so early on, but it’s true! The story is great, and features Kull, trying to live the good life, and be with his woman, but of course, in typical hero fashion, evil is never far behind! When you mix fantasy and horror, you can get a great mix that spills out into something exceptional. This is definitely one of those times, and we have Robert E. Howard to thank for creating the awesomeness that is Kull the Conqueror!

The Bronze Age of comics gave us the beginnings of some incredible writers. One of those that doesn’t get as much air time as he should, is Doug Moench. If you look at just Werewolf by Night and Moon Knight, that in itself is something to admire. The wraparound cover and interior art is by John Bolton, and if you’ve never seen his work before, look up issues of Classic X-Men, where he and Chris Claremont did supplemental stories in the back pages of that series for a while. Joe Rosen on letters, Christie Scheele (along with Bolton) on colors, and Ralph Macchio editing, round out the creative team on this tale of the supernatural!

 

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Marvel Premiere #7, 1973 “The Shadows of the Starstone!”

As my look at Marvel Premiere rolls on, this next issue brings more intrigue with Shuma-Gorath, and the sorcerer supreme, Dr. Strange! After defeating three seemingly invincible foes recently, the Doc must now travel to Stonehenge, and then to some far out dimension to battle more horrors! This one has Clea, Wong, and others, as guest stars! The good Doctor must battle for his life, and soon, that of his aged mentor, as well!

Another issue written by Gardner Fox, this one starts out with one of the best lines ever in a comic book (Clea speaking)…”What is it that disturbs you, Stephen?” The artwork on the inside is a n incredible creative team. First, on pencils you have an artistic genius in P. Craig Russell. Next, you get inks by committee, with Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, and Dave Hunt! Those three gentleman are synonymous with the decade, and really do a great job on this issue. Jean Izzo was the letterer, and Mimi Gold, the colorist. One thing of note about the interiors is that the colors really pop in this issue. That was something that was outright awesome, and unseen before this time period. And if that wasn’t enough, you get another incredible cover by Mike Ploog!

 

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Marvel Premiere #6, 1973 “The Shambler from the Sea”

You know, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that there was a better age than that of the Bronze Age of comic books. The mix of personalities, both in the books, and within the ranks of the creative offices were outstanding. When you realize all of the creators from previous ages that were still around, plus add in all the new, exciting talent that was making their way into the industry, you were privileged to see an age of entertainment that hasn’t happened since, and probably never will. In this next issue of Marvel Premiere, you get to see the Doc get out of the frying pan and into the fire! Trying to fight a cult, and the entity they worship was bad, but when you have a situation like this issue presents, it just doesn’t get any crazier! The Doc has escaped the clutches of the cult of Sligguth, but now faces another being that is even a bigger challenge because it lives underwater!

The creative team is similar to the previous issue, in that Gardner Fox is still writing. But, the pencils are now by Frank Brunner! And if that wasn’t groovy enough, you get Sal Buscema on inks! Throw in Gaspar Saladino on letters, Roy Thomas editing, and another great cover by  Mike Ploog, and you a recipe for awesomeness!   Image (51) Image (52) Image (53) Image (54) Image (55) Image (56) Image (57)

Marvel Premiere #4, 1972 “The Spawn of Sligguth!”

Anyone that’s read any of my work knows I frequently salivate over certain creators, characters, and books. One of these things being Dr. Strange. Not just anything that the Doc has been in, but specifically his solo series from 1974, and his appearances in Marvel Premiere (1972). In issue #4, we see some material taken from the mind of Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull, Red Sonja, etc.). In this adventure, the Doc has just survived a grave encounter with Nightmare, and now faces an even more vile thereat. An old friend has come calling about a problem in the New England area, and once there, Dr. Strange will meet his doom!

The creative team on this one is certainly top-notch. The story was written by “Amiable” Archie Goodwin, with the plot and editing by “Rascally” Roy Thomas. The pencils by none other than “Bashful” Barry Windsor-Smith, inks by “Far Out” Frank Brunner! Letters by John Costanza, and cover by BWS and Tom Palmer! Enjoy this classic tale from the past of Dr. Strange!

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Marvel Feature #2 (V2), 1975 “Blood of the Hunter”

Taking a look at another Marvel heroine from the 1970’s (previously Spider-Woman), the Robert E. Howard creation, Red Sonja is ready to kick some butt! Of course, the title was part of the zeitgeist of the times, but Howard was a little ahead of time, to say the least. Creating a female character that could hold her own against any male warrior was something quite astonishing for the 1930’s. So, yeah, if you don’t know much about the work of the brilliant man who was Robert E. Howard, look him up!

The creative team is a bit of a mystery for me personally, as I’m not familiar with either the writer, Bruce Jones, or the artist, Frank Thorne. I can find plenty of work both gentlemen have done, but most are titles that are either not my thing (Heavy Metal) or just not something I’ve acquired yet (House of Mystery). The editor, “Rascally” Roy Thomas, on the other hand is very familiar to me, and his work especially in revitalizing the work of Howard, is very well-known to those in and around comics. Thank you, Mr. Thomas!

 

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Kull the Conqueror #4, 1983 “Death Stalks a Councilor”

My love for Robert E. Howard created material is something that if most don’t already know about, you soon will. Of course, Conan is the biggest REH character, but if you look deeper into his world, you’ll see others, like Red Sonja, Solomon Kane, and Kull! Kull is basically a Conan “type” character, but more refined as a ruler. He’s a savage warrior like Conan, but most of the stories are as Kull as a ruler, not a thief, or pirate. His trusted friend, Brule, is a warrior born but also a man of great intellect when it comes to war. Kull is a man born in Atlantis, but rules the kingdom of Valusia.

This story was scripted by perennial Bronze Age writer, Alan Zelenetz. He’s done some other great work in this category (Thor/Warriors Three), and should be applauded for his efforts. Penciling, we have the legend himself, ‘Big’ John Buscema, and we all know of his accolades in the industry. An incredible artist taken to soon from the world. Dan Green and Joe Chiodo add their abilities to the artwork (inks), and throw in letters by John Morelli, and colors by Christie Scheele, and cover by Bill Sienkiewicz (inks on the second story as well) make this issue a winner!

 

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Marvel Premiere #8, 1973. “The Doom That Bloomed on Kathulos”

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As if Dr. Strange, Clea, and Stonehenge wasn’t enough, you get a story inspired by the fantasy legend, Robert E. Howard, scripted by Gardner Fox, pencils by Jim Starlin, and inks by Frank Giacoia! This A-list creative team brings us a tale of the good ‘ol Doc, as he and Clea have faced down trial after trial lately. In this issue, Strange finds out that not only must he face Kathulos in some dark, creepy dimension, but that if he does, waiting in the wings is his master Shuma-Gorath! We also see in flashback, these last few days, and its bizarre adventures. From an undersea nightmare, to another demon, spawned to serve Shuma-Gorath.

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Throughout the book, we get amazing work by Starlin, and it really shows how great he would have been on a title like this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love Frank Brunner, Gene Colan, and all the other artists on the different series, but the awesomeness of Starlin’s work cannot be denied! Just look at those panels, by Starlin, Giacoia, Hunt, and Goldberg! Let us not diminish the writing by comic book great, Gardner Fox! His Golden and Silver Age work is nothing short of astounding (JSA, Starman, Sandman, etc.)!

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Adapting the works of a great writer like Howard doesn’t hurt your chances at making something great either though. Howard’s countless creations (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, etc.) have inspired hundreds of writers, artists, and authors for decades. And I’m sure they will for many more to come! See you soon!