CONAN THE BARBARIAN #46

“The Curse of the Conjurer!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from novel “Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse” by Gardner F. Fox
Artists: John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Conan is riding through the wastelands of the Border Kingdom. He is stalked by the Yemli a crimson-eyed race of demons. As they close in he is confronted by a wizard sitting on a carpet full of food. The wizard used the Yemli to herd Conan to him. He has a job. To deliver a magical cube to the regent of Phalkar. The cube will protect the regent from two wizards. Conan not having much other prospects takes it for the gold it pays.

So on the way he passes through the village of Sfanol and rescues a beautiful blonde from being burned at the stake. Stefanya needs Conan to bring her back to the sorcerer Zoqquanor who she served. Apparently the sorcerer put a curse on her that it he died then she would die. So Conan takes her to the ruins of the sorcerer castle. The peasants abandoned breaking into the tower. When they enter Conan has to fight the sorcerer’s guardian Shokkoth. A big monster man made of stone. Conan’s sword doesn’t affect it but the various potions the wizard has manage to dissolve Shokkoth. They then find the body of Zoqquanor lying on a slab of stone.

Roy once again shows how he can take a non-Conan story and adapt it perfectly to Conan. I believe Fox was a pulp writer from Howard’s time so his story fits well for Conan. I am very interested in this tale of wizards and monsters. Its a quest through some strange lands. Stefanya is a girl I already like. She has a feisty spirit and one who you wouldn’t want to turn your back on. This is shaping up to be a wild adventure.

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DEJAH THORIS #0

“Untitled”
Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: Pasquale Qualano

Young Dejah listens to her grandfather as he tells the story of Barsoom. How it was once full of life and water. That the three races came together and build Ephysium. So when Dejah grows up she dreams of finding this mythical city. One day her father comes back from exploring the ruins with a great white ape. He imprisons it in the dungeon and shows the young Dejah the prisoners there. She later goes through the secret passages to talk to the great ape. The green warrior there asks her why she is there. While talking the green man tells Dejah that he has seen Ephysium and will guide her there if she sets him free. So next day Dejah uses acid to free the white ape. In the distraction the green warrior manages to jump on a fly and get away. He doesn’t take Dejah with him.

So this is going to be a prequel to the first Martian book A Princess of Mars. That is one of my favorites and an excellent choice to set a story. So far I like this introductory issue. It shows a young naive princess and her quest to find a mythical city and save Barsoom. The artwork is beautiful and Dejah looks as incomparable as described in the books. Dejah has been on a role with Dynamite lately.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! #1

“Fact Pages”
Writer: Ben Meares
Artist: Renzo Rodriguez

“Framing Sequence”
Writer: Ben Meares
Artist: David Geotten

A father and son are visiting the odditorium in Branson, Missouri. They listen to a speech by a hologram of Robert Ripley then explore the strange things.

“A Tale as Old as..”
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Hakan Aydin

A new maid drops the tea cup and hears a story from the woman of the mansion. A young boy Petrus Gonsalvus in the Canary Islands has a condition. He has thick hair all over his body. The inhabitants cage him and ship him off to Paris to amuse the nobles. King Henry II sees a soul in the young boy and takes him in. He educates him and he becomes a member of the court. When he grows up they find a young woman to be his wife. They have seven kids and some inherited the hair condition as the daughter that was telling the story.

Fact Page
“Beauty and the Beast” is based on a true story. Pedro Gonzales who became known as Petrus Gonsalvus suffered from the rare condition hypertrichosis which grows thick hair all over the body. He was the first known case and only fifty have been observed. He had seven children and three also had the condition.

“The First Believe It or Not! cartoon wasn’t titled Believe It or Not!” On a slow day at work for a newspaper in New York. Ripley drew a panel featuring various odd achievements in sport. Ten months later he drew a cartoon titled “Believe It or Not!”

“I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”
Writer: Fox Kavanagh
Artist: Daniel Maine

San Francisco 1848. Phinneas Gage works for the railroad. An accident while blowing up a boulder drives a railroad spike through his head. Doctors manage to save Gage but his personality is different. He swears all the time and is mean. He gets fired from his job but gets another by being an attraction in a freak show.

Fact Page
“Phineas Gage survived after an iron rod was driven through his skull” His injury was very informative to modern neurology and is still being studied today. Gage’s personality returned to normal a few years later while driving a stagecoach.

“The First Ripley’s Odditorium” was opended at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Beds were provided for patrons who fainted due to the shocking sights within.

“A Ride of his Life”
Writer: Dale Mettam
Artist: Allan Otero

A young man comes to an expert to lose weight to qualify to be a jockey. The old man tells a story of Buddy who he helped by sweating him in hot baths and copious does of laxatives. He loses twelve pounds and gets to race Gentle Touch. While racing the grim reaper chases him and touches him on the shoulder. Buddy wins but is soon discovered that he died. He still gets the win since there is no rules about being alive when you cross the finish line. No one will ride the horse again and it becomes known as the Gentle Touch of Death.

Fact Page
“A dead man won a horse race!” 1923 in New York Frank Hayes wins the race. The audience thought he was showboating when slumped over but died of a heart attack. His horse was named Sweet Kiss and no one would ride it. It became known as the Sweet Kiss of Death.

“Robert Ripley collected shrunken heads”. He bought his first head in Panama city. One head was mailed to him from Equador with the message “Please take care of this. I think it is on of my relatives.”

“Mother Nature”
Writer: Victoria Rau
Artist: Pat Broderick

A man and his daughter leave a cabin to go hunting. The man tells the story of how a rainbow lake in the Yellowstone Caldera one day turned into a supervolcano. It covered the land with ash and people starved. At the end they come on the ash covered ruins of Las Vegas.

Fact Page
“The Yellowstone Supervolcano is due for an eruption!” Three eruptions have occurred in Yellowstone at 600,000 to 850,000 intervals. The last one was 640,000 years so we are due.

“Fire Sale!” Ripley tried to buy a newly formed volcano in Mexico but the government wouldn’t let him.

“49 Lives”
Writer: Ben Meares
Artist: Marcelo Basile

At a nursing home a new nurse is introduced to the therapy cat that knows when a person will die. The cat goes to them and lays with them as they die.

Fact Page
“A cat has correctly predicted 100 deaths!” Oscar a therapy cat at Steere House nursing in Rhode Island will take a nap by the person that soon dies. Doctors hypothesis that the cat can smell chemicals that are released when a person dies.

“That’s a Whole lotta Odd!” There are over 100 Ripley attractions in eleven countries worldwide.

Conclusion to the Framing Sequence.

After spending all day at the odditorium the boy and father leave. As they go the holographic image of Ripley gives the boy a wink. The boy comments that he believes it is a ghost and you can Believe It or Not!

I loved Ripley’s Believe it or Not! I remember fondly the old Gold Key issues. So when I saw a new series I had to check it out. It is still an enjoyable read. The new one is about more weird stuff than ghost stories but very entertaining.

THE WARLORD #4

“Man of Two Worlds!”
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Bart Sears

Travis is the guest of honor at a banquet in honor of him opening the vault. King Milnius wants Travis to marry his daughter Tara. While this goes on Brovis kills the sole guard to the harbor so his invasion fleet can enter. He has help from Regine who has betrayed Shamballah. At the banquet after Milnius makes his announcement a flaming ball crashes into him and kills him. The Kolosians have invaded and Travis takes Tara to the vault. Meanwhile Terry and Alexa have found Travis’s plane and it is underwater. Terry goes down to reactivate it and a pterodactyl snatches up Alexa. In the vault Brovis throws a spear and impales Travis but after Terry flips a switch on the ship he disappears and reappears alive and in full armor.

So the fourth issue was where this series started to lose me. I mean it starts off fine. Brovis with the help of the treacherous Regine have invaded Shamballah. Travis’s friends have found his ship. I notice that there is a night with stars so Skartaris must not be the inner world that Grell created. Anyway the whole weird stuff with the transformation is only the beginning. It gets really weird in the next issue.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #4

“Iron Shadows in the Moon”
Writer: Roy Thomas adopted from story by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Shah Amurath is chasing the young woman Olivia through a field of reeds. She trips and the evil Shah plans to take his escaped slave back. Only he instead finds himself confronting a wild barbarian. Conan is all that is left of the Kozaki a band of brigands that were recently slaughtered by the Shah’s forces. He quickly takes his revenge against the cowardly Shah. The escaped slave girl Olivia begs for Conan to take her with him. He agrees and together in a boat he stole row out into the Vilayet sea.

They land on an island and decide to rest there and get some fresh fruit. Only they are attacked by a flying block of granite that was thrown at them. A block that no human could throw at such great distances. They come on an abandoned temple filled with iron statues of demonic looking men. While staying the night Olivia as a dream of a young man in the temple being sacrificed by the demons. A god appears and turns the demons to statues as he takes the young man away. She wakes up screaming and runs from the temple. Conan follows and they decide to leave. Only the boat has been smashed by the mysterious being that stalks them.

Soon after the island is visited by pirates. Conan goes down to join them and finds the captain is Sergius a man he left behind during last issues adventure. He wants revenge and the two fight with Conan winning. Only a rat-faced member of the crew hurls a rock that knocks Conan unconscious. They take him and tie Conan up in the temple while they get to some heavy drinking. During the night Olivia sneaks in and frees Conan. Outside they run into the creature that has been stalking them a giant man-eating ape. Conan manages to kill it. Just then the moon animates the iron statues and they start to kill the crew. The survivors make it to the ship and find Conan there and threatening to kill anyone who tries to board unless they acknowledge him the captain. The crew is only so glad to pledge their loyalty to escape this cursed island.

“The Corbin Conan”
Artist: Richard V. Corbin

A portfolio of scenes from Conan’s famous moments by underground cartoonist Corbin.

“Blackmark Triumphant!”
Writer & Artist: Gil Kane

Blackmark has defeated the flame lizard in the arena and the people demand his freedom. King Kargon decides to have Blackmark executed but his men hold off because of the mood of the people. Blackmark’s friend Balzamo tells that Blackmark has the knowledge in him of King Amarix and should take advantage by making the rocket fly. Blackmark demands to have the chance knowing the punishment for failure is death. He does manage to get the rocket in the air and bring it back fulfilling a prophecy that the man who makes the ship fly will be king of New Earth. A revolt ensues where the king is killed and Blackmark is make the ruler.

This full length adaptation of Howard is probably one of my favorites. I have the giant color treasury edition when I was a kid and this just mesmerized me. I loved the mysterious story of an island with pirates, creepy iron statues that come alive and a giant ape. This is definitely one of Howard’s best Conan stories.

Corbin’s artwork is good and a nice filler.

The Blackmark story continues along nicely with Blackmark basically becoming the king. A nice blend of post-apocalyptic and Conan type story.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #45

“The Last Ballad of Laza-Lanti”
Writer: Roy Thomas with songs by Robert E. Howard
Artist: John Buscema

Conan is in a tavern in Shadizar the Wicked. He is melancholy after the way Red Sonja left him. A bard singing lightens his mood. So much that he intervenes when a bully is accosting the bard. Naturally Conan kicks his ass and his friends too. Only him and the bard get thrown into the dungeon by the city guard. The bard who is Laza-Lanti has a knife in his lyre and manages to threaten the jailer to release them.

Later the two ride to Laza’s home of Dark Valley. They come on a sacrifice of cattle by the locals for the dark lord. So they decide to wait and see who comes for the cattle. It is a beautiful woman who leads the cattle to a cave. Inside is the dark lord who is a giant blob that starts shoving the cattle down it’s throat. Laza thinks the woman is in danger and both him and Conan attack. Laza manages to cut off the thing’s antenna which kills it. Only the young woman is not happy. She tells the story of being a dancing girl who was traveling with a carnival troupe. When the group stopped near the cave the creature captured her. They had twin sons which Laza-Lanti was one. The woman turns old and kills herself to be with her lover. Laza-Lanti goes insane and orders Conan to leave. As Conan leaves he hears the sound of Laza-Lanti killing himself.

So this was a very dark and offbeat issue. Based on a poem by Howard it captures the mood. I feel that this could be a story written by Howard. Conan is a spectator in this story which was an effective way to tell this story. It starts off as a very light action adventure and Laza seems to be a well adjusted young man. It does go a complete 180 and into a very dark place. You can feel Laza-Lanti go insane as he tries to come to terms of his parentage. It also hints at the end that Conan is destined to meet his twin brother some time in the future. An excellent story.

CARSON OF VENUS #3

“The Flames Beyond”
Writer: Christopher Paul Carey
Artist: Cyrus Mesarcia

Duare and her allies are attacking Havatoo. Varlek Sar threatens to shoot Carson if he doesn’t have Duare stop the attack. Loto decides to rebel and kicks the pistol out of Varlek’s hand. Then Carson grabs her and jumps out the window. He was a stuntman after all. They slide down the roof and into a passing car. After knocking out the driver they continue on. Carson can hear the commands of Varlek in his head to his duplicates and knows they are going to the armory. Only the police manage to stop them and take them to the Sanjong the ruling council of Havatoo.

While on trial Varlek Sar comes with his army of duplicates to start a revolution. Carson then comes into mental contact with the captured Myposian and with his help manages to take control of the duplicates. Varlek Sar then escapes to his rocket ship where he plans to go to Earth and conquer it with his new found abilities to create a duplicate army out of thin air. Only the captured Myposian sacrifices himself and uses his mental powers to blow up the rocket. Later Carson is allowed to go free and his friends Ero Shan and Nalte decide to go with them to Korva.

So the series ends in a very fast and exciting way. There is definitely plenty of action. In some ways it ended a little too fast. For instance what happened to the allied armies attacking. We do know that Loto was transported after Varlek Sar died to someplace else that looks like Barsoom. I also loved the ending where Carson had reestablished his mental link with Earth and was telling his story to the descendants of Burroughs. A very satisfying series.

BARON RAT AND THE GREAT CHEESE CAPER

“The Great Cheese Caper”
Writer: Troy Vevasis
Artist: Aleksandar Jovic

Its another morning at the home of Mr. Crypt. As he leaves for work he finds the morning newspaper and gives it to his friend Baron Rat. Baron reads the paper and finds out that today a cheese festival is going on. He immediately heads out and tries to lift a big wheel of cheese. Only the owner chases him away with a broom. Not the be deterred Baron then climbs up on the roof of a building and repels down. He loads up a bag of cheese and takes off running. This pisses off the local residents who get together with a pitchfork and torch welding mob. Baron manages to evade them and make it home to gorge himself on all the cheese he can eat. Later Mr. Crypt comes back and tells about the news that some horrible monster had taken all the cheese. He asks Baron if he saw it and of course Baron Rat shrugs his shoulders innocently.

So Baron Rat the pet rat of Mr. Crypt gets his own one-shot issue. It is a charming little comic. Obviously written for children but I still found it entertaining as an adult. Troy Vevasis has an enjoyable humorous ability to make his characters so lovable. I have heard that next month a new mini-series called The Adventures of Mr. Crypt and Baron Rat is coming out. Looking forward to the enjoyable adventures of these two.

THE WARLORD #3

“Beasts Against Blades!”
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Bart Sears

So Travis is now considered the god Crassus. Regine plays up the god belief and Brovis is taken to the dungeon. Travis then starts to enjoy the perks of godhood. On the surface in Antartica his fiance and friend have landed their helicopter. They find a cypress tree growing in the snow. They also find a T-Rex which smashes up their helicopter. Then it chases them over a ledge. They land in a body of water in a tropical environment. Back in Shamballah Travis is summoned to open the door that the god Crassus left. Surprisingly he uses the medallion he has around his neck and the door opens. Inside is a rocket.

So the story so far continues to have merit. Travis is now considered a god and his new girlfriend Regine is helping him along with the act. His friends on the surface have found a way into Skartaris. We get some more background on the legend of Crassus. And it ends with the reveal of the mysterious rocket. It has kept my interest in finding out what happens next.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #3

“At the Mountain of the Moon-God”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Pablo Marcos

Conan is enjoying the celebrations after his defeat of Nahotek. He goes with princess Yasmela to her room when a dying man bursts in. It was a spy sent by Yasmela to find the whereabouts of her brother held captive by Ophir. He dies but delivers a map showing a secret passage to the Mountain of the Moon-God. Her handmaid Vateesa is jealous of Yasmela because she loves Conan. So Vateesa goes and sells the map to the king of Koth. Strabonis the king of Koth sends his man Sergius and his men to rescue the king so he can claim Khoraja for his kingdom.

Conan has taken off to rescue King Khossus with two men. While climbing the cliff Sergius starts an avalanche that kills the two men with Conan but Conan manages to escape and find a cleft that leads inside. Sergius and his men are ambushed and captured. Conan though manages to free the king and capture the traitor Vateesa. They flee down the cleft as the Ophir commander pours the cauldron of hot oil down. The oil manages to hatch a pterodactyl egg. The pterodactyl kills Vateesa but Conan breaks off it’s beak with his bare hands and manages to kill it. He returns the king to Khoraja but Yasmela has decided to marry the Stygian prince in exile that once served Natohk. Conan being Conan just shrugs and takes some serving wenches to celebrate.

“The First Barbarian Chronicles of the Sword Part II”
By Lin Carter
Illustrations by John Severin

The second part of the article on the birth of sword & sorcery. This one deals with Robert E. Howard and his first ever story of sword & sorcery “The Shadow Kingdom”. He wrote nine Kull stories in total but only was able to sell two.

“The Testing of Blackmark”
Writer and Artist: Gil Kane

Blackmark has now grown to adulthood. He apparently escaped slavery and became a successful bandit chief. Only King Kargon has captured him and is pissed that Blackmark is still not cowed. So he has him fight in the gladiatorial arena. Blackmark is paired with Balzamo the man who served king Amarix. He was there when Amarix transferred his knowledge into Blackmark’s mother. The two fight a giant fire-breathing lizard. Blackmark manages to kill it by climbing a statue in the arena and jumping down and driving his sword into the lizard’s brain.

“Kull of Atlantis”
Writer: Roy Thomas with quotations from “Exile of Atlantis” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Barry Smith

A brief retelling on Kull’s origin. This was originally planned as a Kull paperback that was to be done by Thomas and Smith but never came to fruition.

“Demons of the Summit”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story by Bjorn Nyberg
Artist: Tony daZuniga

Conan is in the Turanian army and escapes the Khozgari after they ambush and massacre the men he was with. Only one man survived with him. The come on a woman named Shanya the daughter of the chief of the Khozgari. They take her as hostage and plan to go through the Misty Mountains. Shanya warns them that demons inhabit the mountains but Conan is not superstitious. When they get there his companion is crushed by a boulder and the girl is kidnapped. Conan follows to a fortress inhabited by some weird guys in masks. Conan kills them all and has to fight a spider like demon.

So this has an excellent sequel to “Black Colossus” from last issue. Thomas knew how to write just like Howard. The story is an enjoyable telling of the loose threads that Howard never explained.

The article is an interesting telling of Howard’s early Kull stories and why they didn’t become the success with “Weird Tales”.

Blackmark continues to be an interesting read. We are introduced to King Kargon and his scheming wife. There is also a rocket in the arena that foretells that the one who makes it fly will rule the kingdom. Blackmark also sees the warlord that killed his parents as a guest of Kargon. Sets up all the big plot points to this epic.

Finally the Kull story was an interesting look at a possible project that was never done. The Nyberg story was also an interesting look at Conan’s days in the Turanian army. Another excellent issue.