While Conan’s popularity and longevity can be attributed to a continuous comic book run dating back to the 70s and three silver screen appearances, it is sad that his creator, Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), never got to enjoy the success of his greatest creation. At least, not until the release of this milestone anniversary issue that unites both creator and creation in an offbeat adventure.
Our columnist pays tribute to his late father by reviewing a Conan comic in which the Barbarian meets his creator.
I WAS a lucky kid growing up – my dad didn’t want me to drown myself in literature, and decided to substitute it with comics. I started out withNova, then on to an amazing wall-crawler, which opened the floodgates for every major character the Marvel Universe has spawned, killed and resurrected.
Back then, quality time with dad meant late nights reading comics together, accompanied by constant banter on comic plots and character development.
In most eyes, all this would not have qualified dad as an educationist, but it was this priceless exposure to the creative world that has moulded me into the individual I am today.
My father passed away two weeks ago (on March 15) at the age of 69, and I miss those moments where we would share our passion for comics.
He always had a contrasting view of epics such as The Dark Knight Returns to Kingdom Come, which could never meet his “benchmarks”, which comprised the likes of 2000 A.D., Warrior (from England) and a certain barbarian named Conan.
It took me a while to get accustomed to dad’s creative tastebuds, especially Conan (no thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies as well).
Back then, reading dad’s Savage Sword Of Conan collection was like taking bad medicine, especially with its colourless façade and spandex-less setting.
However, as I grew weary of mindless mutant gatherings, a chance reunion with his collection gave me a whole new perspective of the barbarian.
I have been a regular visitor to the Hyborian Age since, and here I would like to review the issue that best pays tribute to my father: Savage Sword Of Conan #200.
Thanks for always being there, dad.
Savage Sword of Conan #200 (1992) Publisher:Marvel Writer:Roy Thomas Artists:John Buscema and Joe Jusko (cover)
MENTION Conan and two celebrities come to mind – one a popular talk show host, the other, a former California governor.
However, in the world of comics there is only one Conan, also known as The Barbarian, The Cimmerian, The Destroyer and King of Aquilonia.
While Conan’s popularity and longevity can be attributed to a continuous comic book run dating back to the 70s and three silver screen appearances, it is sad that his creator, Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), never got to enjoy the success of his greatest creation.
At least, not until the release of this milestone anniversary issue that unites both creator and creation in an offbeat adventure.
Set in two different eras, we see a middle-aged Conan slashing his Turanian enemies in the Hyborian Age, while his creator travels to Rio Grande during post-Depression times (1932) in search of creative inspiration.
Despite the differences in era and environment, both men shared the same determination in getting what they want, albeit with a different approach.
For Conan, it is another day on the battlefield, as he unleashes his steel against King Yezdigerd’s troops.
It takes a mage’s spell and a giant bat to whisk Conan off on a one-way trip to the Zamorian Border.
Obviously, having its main character devoured by flying rodents would not befit the Nemedian Chronicles, so it comes as no surprise that Conan manages to stage a daring escape.
He recuperates at a nearby tavern, only to cross paths with a mage who plans to sacrifice him and seize his fierce vitality.
Ultimately, it takes the betrayal of a woman, and enough lotus powder to fell a regiment, to finally capture Conan.
At the sacrificial ritual, the mage shares visions of Conan’s past achievements and those from days to come, all gradually dissolving like the Barbarian’s life essence.
Conan manages to free himself, and kills all his enemies and their hellspawn.
In true barbarian fashion, he seeks out the treacherous wench so she can pay for her transgression – by keeping Conan warm after his fiery escapade!
Fast-forward 12,000 years, and a perspiring Robert E. Howard departs for Rio Grande in search of inspiration for a character that could rival his existing creations, which include King Kull, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn.
With his contribution to the “pulps” (inexpensive fiction magazines) hitting a dry spell, Howard needs a fresh hero to revive his career.
A chance encounter with an Indian trader named Ranjit Topi not only provides the writer with the impetus towards creating that character, but also gives him the adventure of a lifetime.
Howard also encounters danger and betrayal at the city’s cantina, and is captured by the conniving Ranjit.
Although he is not armed with cold Hyrkanian steel, Howard’s fists are enough to protect him from the man’s thugs until a wild slash sends him plunging into a murky river.
Howard returns for Round Two, and gets his payback in spades by bushwhacking Ranjit and his men.
With both creator and creation victorious in their respective adventures, the nexus is established between them via a premonition that Howard receives after his escapade, in which (to quote Howard’s first Conan story The Phoenix On The Sword, 1932) “Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet”.
Ever since Buddy Baker aka. Animal Man met his creator Grant Morrison in 1990’s Animal Man #26, I have always been fascinated by these “meta” meetings between creator and creation.
I certainly got more than I bargained for here – in addition to the usual sword and sorcery that accompanies Conan’s adventures, it beautifully presents the Barbarian’s origins from his creator’s standpoint.
Prior to this book, I knew nothing about Howard’s personal life and contributions to the world of fantasy.
Considering how his creations have withstood the test of time, Howard’s revolutionary ideas have left an insurmountable legacy in the sword and sorcery genre.