I’m a late comer to The Savage Sword of Conan. You’d probably have figured that, much as I like sword-and-sorcery, I’d have a huge stack of old sword-and-sorcery comics, but I don’t. I missed out on Savage Sword when it was a mag, and I almost missed out on the Dark Horse reprints. There are 22 of the things, which is a heck of an investment. If, like me, you came upon them with little clue but were curious, you’d probably wonder where to start.
I think anyone who’s heard of these has likewise heard that only the first few compilations are good, because those were the ones with Roy Thomas and John Buscema, and only in the first three or four are they adapting actual Robert E. Howard stories. Their work actually continues on into Volume 6, although by that point they’re mostly adapting pastiche tales, and lesser writers are contributing to some comics in the collection. I have to say that sometimes there’s nothing Thomas could do to make the pastiche better, but sometimes he and Buscema really make it more Howardian than the pastichers ever managed, and occasionally they do even better than that.
The sleep gods beat that plan out of me by cursing me with insomnia. Not the productive kind, but the kind where you keep waking up all night long.
But I’ve been talking about a mysterious book for a long time and I want to say something about it even if I feel like someone just kicked the stuffing out of me. By necessity, I’ll keep it short.
Five Blood Heads is a grimdark tale of sword-and-sorcery shot through with veins of heroism and hope. I don’t like my sword-and-sorcery quite as dark as some modern practitioners, and writer Peter Fugazzoto is just on my side of the line. I’m glad, because he knows how to craft an action scene, and how to pace, and how to get you invested in characters you probably shouldn’t be caring that much about. Sometimes they have even more decency in them than they’re willing to admit in their inner dialogues, for they find themselves acting against their own stated philosophies.
It was a long (4 hour) drive north to drop my first born off at college yesterday and then a long (4 hour) drive back home. I had neglected to swing by the library to grab some books on tape, and with the kid driving separately that left me with no one to talk with. I called a few friends, of course, and I listened to the radio now and then, and I did a lot of plot thinking about three separate projects. Much as I hate long car rides, that kind of time to just sit and think about plot is a real luxury.
I happened to catch the end of a Fresh Air episode where a writer/actor/producer was being interviewed and she mentioned that she had no interest in Game of Thrones; that she drew the line right there at dragons. Apparently if something had dragons it was immediately off the list, and I recall thinking that was a peculair reason to exclude GoT, because for most of its running time there really aren’t many dragons… I remember smirking. What about even the hint of dragons, I wondered, made you immediately turn up your nose? Is it that you think you’re BETTER than that? Read More
I’d intended to tell you about a nifty new sword-and-sorcery novel I read last week, but I’m away from home and short on time today and won’t be able to give the book the time it deserves. Look for details next week.
Today I wanted to remark upon how enjoyable the pulps can be. I’ve mentioned the wonderful collection I bought off of pulp scholar Alfred Lybeck 15 years ago. There are 14 of these volumes in all, and until recently I’ve just been reading an occasional story. This year I started selecting volumes and reading them, slowly, straight through. They’re more enjoyable that way, because Al knew how to pace a collection. A shame he never got to be a professional anthology editor.