New Reviews of Old Comics
I find comic magazines hard to resist; and when I say magazine I’m talking about the big (almost) 8 ½” X 11” magazines, not the standard comic book sized issues. I have several issues of The Spirit magazine published by Warren back in the 70s, even though I have the stories in comic format. along with issues of Heavy Metal, Savage Tales and even Conan Saga. For the non-Conan fans out there, (and for a long, long time I wasn’t a fan, but I didn’t hate Conan either. I was just ambivalent) Conan Saga is a reprint magazine, and I’m not positive, but I think it’s reprinting Savage Sword of Conan. I bought the first issue and a couple subsequent issues when they first came out and then stopped. As I’ve said in an earlier review, Conan was always just OK by me. I liked the concept and even the plots, but the actual executoin just never had that spark for me. Since I haven’t totally given up on Conan I had to pick up this magazine when I saw it for a buck at one of the area estate shops.
Frank Brunner provides a painted cover of Conan riding a pterodactyl looking thing with a purple-hazey looking wizard cackling in the background. It’s a cool cover and has exactly nothing to with the interior stories written by Roy Thomas and drawn by John Buscema. The cover gives me the information I dread; “Part one of two,” because I know my chances of stumbling across part two are slim to none and slim is out of town. The issue is actually two stories with the second being a continuation of the first, “The Curse of the Conjurer!” Here we have our hulking hero riding an overburdened horse through a desert where they come across a wizard, and of course Conan has a deep seated distrust of all wizards (he apparently never met Harry Potter). This doesn’t stop Conan from eating the wizard’s food or turning down his job offer to carry an amulet to the town of Phalkar. On his way to said town Conan then gets in the middle of villages from a different town looking to burn a witch (or so they say) at the stake. Since the Cimmerian is something of a ladies man he frees her and from there his original mission to Phalkar takes a series of twists and turns. He fights a stone monster, starts hauling around the lifeless body of a wizard (who had a relationship with the girl Conan rescued) and slays some hobgobs (don’t ask) before the story ends. Part two “The Rats Dance at Ravengard!” was even better than the first part. Conan tells a story from his youth where he meets and “lays down” (if-you-know-what-I-mean) with a bear Goddess he finds in the local mountain range. Then Conan actually gets beaten by someone (and his friends) who tries to feed him to rats. Of course he escapes that, but then has to fight wolves, some other people, make his way through a castle to rescue his chick before the last page is turned with a cliffhanger ending. Of course. Like I’m ever going to find #82 and finish this story.
While I wouldn’t say I’m turning into a huge fan, the Conan stories are starting to connect with me and I’ll keep picking them up. The Roy Thomas stories are an entertaining mix of action, humor and plot movement. John Buscema has provided all of the Conan art I’ve seen recently, but I know from past experience the Barry Windsor –Smith work is even better. While I’m finding Conan to be something of an acquired taste I’m also glad I’m sticking with it.
Notable Ad: Only one ad in this entire magazine and it’s for someone in Tom’s River, NJ selling pin-up art of busty babes along with some Conan paperbacks. Yes, this seems properly targeted to readers of this magazine, but doesn’t do much for my purposes here. The ad is kind of dull. It would be better if someone hadn’t put little black squares over the babes’ naughty bits. I’ll have to go read some issues of Heavy Metal to get comics of the uncensored variety.