Conan Graphic Novels

chronicles conan 6I’ve come down with an odd recurring fever. I’ll be perfectly miserable for hours, then it will break, and I’ll think I’m on the mend… only to have the damned thing come back. It’s really messing with my ability to get writing and house work finished. Also it’s uncomfortable.

The one bright spot is that I’ve finally been able to read the old Marvel Conan comics, written/adapted by Roy Thomas. The local library has a pretty complete collection. I never read these when I was a kid (no idea why) so I’m coming upon them very fresh, and it turns out that they’re really fun sword-and-sorcery comics.

I started reading with volume 6, which is when Roy Thomas himself writes that he felt like he really had a handle on what he was doing.

roy-thomas

Roy Thomas

You know, I came upon Harold Lamb and Robert E. Howard backwards from the way people normally do — I’d read thousands of pages of Harold Lamb before I ever seriously read Robert E. Howard. And I’ve come to these Thomas Conan comics backwards as well, because I started by reading the year’s worth of Conan comics he wrote for Dark Horse. I thought them better conceived than most of the other graphic novel collections from the new Dark Horse line (as a matter of fact, they’re two out of only three of those Conan graphic novels that I’ve kept).

So I figured I might enjoy these others, written decades before, and I am. When I woke last night with more aches and chills and couldn’t sleep, I just sat down to enjoy another tale of my favorite Cimmerian. After polishing off two collections I think I can safely say that Roy Thomas is one of the best REH pastiche writers we’ve had. It doesn’t hurt that John Buscema drew the stories with such vigor and detail, either.

5 Comments on “Conan Graphic Novels

  1. Yeah, I have a soft spot for the Conan comics of Roy Thomas.
    Maybe because I read every issue as it came out monthly from when I was 13 until I was 20.

    Sometimes I think too many modern readers dismiss Thomas’s achievement with Conan, and who seem unaware of the circumstances under which Thomas first brought the barbarian to comics.
    Given the compromised literary status of REH at the time, the conditions Thomas had to work with at Marvel (where nobody seemed to have a clue about REH save himself), the irritating strictures of the Comics Code, and the demands of turning out story after story, month after month, for years on end, I wonder how many other authors might have been able to produce anything nearly as consistent, enjoyable and REH-friendly.
    Please note what became of the Marvel comic after he left.

    This was a Marvel Comics Conan, and yes, it was an ongoing serial story and it’s darkness and violence were subdued compared to the original prose Conan of REH, but given what it was and when it was created it could not have been anything else.
    And even so, compared to most other comics on the stands at the time it was a revelation. Just about everything else seemed like weak tea by comparison.

    I know there are those who dislike hearing it, but I think Roy Thomas did more to popularize and spread the word about Conan and REH than anyone.

    • I don’t really know much about them, other than your reverence for them and what I’ve read. I’m curious — I find reference that Thomas returned to writing Conan in the ’90s. Were those as enjoyable as these Conan stories from the ’70s? As you well know, I really dug Thomas’ writing on those Dark Horse Conan stories.

  2. I tried the first volume of the marvel color Conan series and I couldn’t get into it. I preferred volume 1 of the savage sword of conan series.

    The dark horse series has been my favorite so far but they deviate and add to the stories (and do it well imho.)

    I’ve read the first 5 volumes of the Conan series. I love how they all connect and I think Kurt Busiek did a really good job taking the original stories and using them as a foundation for a more detailed story.

    • Hey Mormegil,

      Try the Marvel color comic reprints starting with volume 6. I wasn’t as taken for the first volume of the old ones myself, even though the art was pretty spectacular.

      I like parts of all of the first few new Dark Horse collections, particularly the first volume.

  3. Sal’s brother John was the long running Conan artist, and he was great. Big John often said Conan was a favorite to draw and it showed.

    I loved Barry Windsor Smith’s art for the early Marvel Conan; the first appearance of Red Sonja and the story “Shadow of the Vulture” is hands down the best REH non-Conan to Conan adaption ever done.

    Finally, it can’t be stressed how illuminating Thomas’ commentary is. Must reads, in my opinion.

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