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It's Sword and Sorcery at its finest!
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It's Sword and Sorcery at its finest!
Posted March 10, 2006
First off, let me say one of the greatest things to happen to Conan in recent years was Dark Horse getting the rights to reprint the Conan the Barbarian comic originally published by Marvel Comics. The character had begun to languish at Marvel and thankfully Dark Horse stepped up to the plate to take him over. Volume 9 of the series 'Riders of the River Dragon and Other Stories' reprints issues 60 - 63, 65, and 69 - 71 of the original comic series with all new re-mastered coloring on slick paper. While some have been critical of the re-mastered color, I think it looks fantastic. People seem to forget just how dull looking those comics looked under the old printing process and on newsprint. Just pick up and issue and compare it. I'm showing my age but I read and used to own all the comics in this most recent volume. Thirty years later I'm amazed at how the memories flooded back as I first recalled reading these as a kid. Credit for this goes first to Roy Thomas, probably the finest Conan writer outside of Robert E. Howard himself. More than any other modern day writer, Thomas understood the character so well. Roy knew that Conan need not face some all-powerful wizard in every issue or some demonic monster. Some of Howard's best Conan Stories were those that involved very little if any magic in them such as 'Beyond the Black River' which is a wilderness adventure story at it's finest. Roy has demonstrated this in Volume 9 as Conan and Belit, the she-pirate, travel with her corsairs throughout the southern jungle lands of the Hyborian lands, REH's version of Africa. The first multi-part story finds Conan and Belit entering a village who normally pays tribute to Belit and her crew with gifts of ivory but on this occasion they have none to give, as its been plundered by the dreaded Dragon-Riders, warriors who ride upon large alligators as mounts. Belit is soon kidnapped as she sleeps off the effects of a drug, and taken by the Dragon-Riders to be the mate of their master Amra, Lord of the Lions. In Amra, we get Roy's influence by Edgar Rice Burroughs in creating a red-haired version of Tarzan. Thomas provides a lengthy essay at the books conclusion as he explains his love for ERB and the creation of Amra. Conan gathers the rest of the crew and gets on the trail of the Dragon-Riders, climaxing in a battle to the death between Conan and Amra. Robert E. Howard was perhaps the most pragmatic pulp writer that ever lived. If Howard had a Kull Story rejected, he would often turn around and re-write the story as a Conan adventure. Similarly he would re-use Conan stories in other genres. The story 'The Black Stranger' was rewritten into a pirate story for his character Black Vulmea. Roy Thomas often employed the same strategy in the comics. He would adapt other Howard stories and turn them into Conan yarns. There are a couple of examples of this in volume 9. In 'Demon out of the Deep' Conan relates a story to Belit from his youth. He was captured by a tribe of Vanir and taken to their village along the Western Sea. Soon several members of the tribe turn up dead and Conan has to confront the horrid thing behind the killings. In the final story, Thomas adapts the Howard story 'Marchers of Valhalla', a historical adventure, into a Conan story called 'City in the Storm' that finds Conan, Belit, and their crew locating a mysterious island city. Of course the other person who deserves credit for these great Conan Stories is penciller John Buscema. Because of the hundreds of Conan stories that he did on the regular Conan Comic, King Conan, and the black & white Savage Sword of Conan magazine, perhaps no artist, other than maybe Frank Frazetta, is more associated with Conan than Big John. As always, John's pencils were embellished by his long-time inking partner Ernie Chan. Val Mayerik does the pencils on one issue and fills-in magnificently. I always loved these Conan tales taking place in those dark jungle kingdoms as it was aWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 8, 2010
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