Robert E. Howard

I’ve written of the power of Robert E. Howard’s prose any number of times, and I’m sure that there’s more that could be said, and that will be said. Today on his birthday, though, I’ll merely reflect again on what I’ve written in the past, and this evening hoist a drink to one of my favorite writers while reading one of my favorite stories by him.

Over the weekend I finished the last of the Marvel collections that assembled all of the Roy Thomas Conan run. I’m not sure I’d recommend running out and buying that particular collection, unless you’re a completist. On the whole, the earlier phase of Thomas on Conan was better. Let me provide another shout out for the Thomas 12 issue arc for Dark Horse, collected in two graphic novels. (Those are volumes 11 and 12, The Road of Kings and Throne of Aquilonia, and they are two of only three volumes from the Dark Horse run that I’ve bothered to keep hold of.)

I’ve been told that story arc really isn’t very popular and I can’t for the life of me figure out why that is. The storytelling was top notch and Conan sounded and behaved like Conan… and the world felt right, too, which is something that doesn’t seem to be appreciated enough by some readers, who only care about whether or not Conan’s muscles are the size they think appropriate. In issues written by other hands there’s too much of the supernatural, so that it almost feels common place, or the plotting is off, or, worst of all, Conan isn’t right.

Roy Thomas gets Conan and what his world is like more than nearly any other pastiche writer, and consistently got him better than any other comic pastiche writer, period. That’s not to say that there weren’t some great issues and arcs written by others, but Thomas usually got it right. Even in a lesser story, Conan still acted like himself. And that’s a lot more complicated that it seems, or there’d be a lot more good pastiche out there.

During the day lately I’ve been reading my newest novel aloud after what are hopefully the last big changes. I took most of Saturday and all of Sunday off from that project, but will be back on that momentarily. It’s a time consuming process, but it’s a crucial final step, because when you read aloud, little errors pop out, like word echo or unclear phrasing, or even bad rhythm or overly long sentences.

Robert E. Howard often spoke the words aloud as he was drafting, which is a tactic I sometimes use if I’m feeling a lack of momentum. I find it helps me get into the prose better. If I’m already lost in the scene, I don’t bother, because it WILL dry out your throat!

5 Comments on “Celebration

  1. I love the Busiek series. But I stopped with it at Vol. 6. Volume 7 has been in my Hoopla digital queue for a long time now. I know that i’m going to miss Cary Nord’s beautiful artwork. I really like his minimal inking style. I didn’t even realize Dark Horse got Roy Thomas back to work on it.

    Did you see the news that DH lost the Conan license? Its back at Marvel and they are supposed to start publishing material in early 2019. It would be tempting to pick up any Savage Sword of Conan reprints they do if they are faithful to the original magazine size.

    • I DID see that. I wonder how that will fare? Very briefly I thought about trying to get involved, and then I came to my senses. My plate is full. Maybe someday I’ll try my hand at a Conan story, but I don’t want to devote years of my life to someone else’s character. I want to work with my own.

  2. I have to misuse this space for a general comment about your site: That banner at the top displaying your books shows them at different sized, which causes the whole page to constantly move up and down. Which really makes the whole thing needlessly difficult to read. If all the images where the same size, that problem should go away.

    • Sorry about that, Martin. It drives me crazy, too.

      It’s not a sophisticated interface, unfortunately. I have to manually size every picture. And the pictures are different widths. Hence the bumping. I thought it was just a minor annoyance on the front page, but if it’s something that’s actually annoying maybe it’s time to invest in a new site design.

  3. I’m kind of loving that picture of REH. Those steely panther-like thews!

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