“The Sorcerer and the Soul”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from novel “Conan and the Sorcerer” by Andrew J. Offutt
Artists: John Buscema & Rudy D. Nebres
In Arenjun the City of Thieves Conan has continued his life of a thief after the Tower of the Elephant. He is enjoying himself in a tavern with a beautiful young woman. The woman’s man comes who happens to be a captain in the city watch. This guy doesn’t like Conan being with his woman so a fight ensues. Conan manages to kill the captain and some of his men with the help of a mysterious stranger.
So Conan flees and while on the roof of a building overhears the plot of two people. A man named Karamek and a woman named Isparana. In two days they are going to steal the Eye of Erlik from the wizard Hisarr Zul. Conan decides he’ll steal it tomorrow. As he leaves he doesn’t overhear that they plan to move up the day to tomorrow. So the next day Conan sneaks into the wizard’s house. There he finds the mysterious man who helped him fighting the guards. Conan helps him out. The man in the service of Iranistan’s king than turns on Conan when he hears his plan to steal the amulet. A fight results in the man opening a secret compartment that frees deadly asps and kills him.
Later Conan comes on Karamek and Isparana taking a small sword amulet. Conan fights and kills Karamek as Isparana escapes. Than Conan gets his feet stuck in a trap the wizard set. Hisar Zul uses a mirror to steal Conan’s soul so he will retrieve the amulet.
“The Hyborian Reporter”
By Roy Thomas
An article on how Roy and his girlfriend attended a costume party at a Hollywood producers house on Halloween. He meets a number of people in the industry.
“Wings in the Night”
Writer: Don Glut adapted from story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: David Wenzel
Solomon Kane is in Africa and comes on a village that was destroyed. It seems the village was destroyed by something not human. He comes on a poor man that was mutilated as he was tied to a tree and vows vengeance against this foul opponent. Later he is attacked by a cannibal but some mysterious flying creature takes the man while he was fighting him. Later he finds out the creature was a bat-man and fights and kills two of them.
So this is an adaptation of an Andrew Offutt novel. The first in a trilogy. Offutt was mostly known for writing porn in the seventies and this is probably he only non-porn endeavor. I found it an interesting story so far. Filled with several interesting characters and takes place when Conan is only seventeen. The main importance of this story is to introduce the character of Isparana who plays an important character in later storylines.
The article was OK. The Solomon Kane backup was an excellent story. This was probably one of Howard’s finest Solomon Kane story. Filled with the mystery of Africa and a supernatural type of bat-men that Kane has to defeat. All around a solid issue.
“The Thing in the Crypt!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: Ernie Chan and Sal Buscema
Conan in his youth has just escaped from the Hyberboreans. In the winter he is chased by a pack of ravenous wolves. Conan manages to lead them on a frozen river and many of the pack die when the ice breaks. Yet as Conan crawls out of the freezing river the rest of the pack continues to stalk him. He manages to find a cave to hide in just in time. The cavern has some old furniture and a desiccated skeleton on a throne. The skeleton has a sword which Conan appropriates from himself. This brings the skeleton to life. Conan hacks at it and cuts off the hand yet it still comes at him. The severed hand grasps his ankle. Conan manages to toss the skeleton into the fire and it burns up. He leaves the cavern and continues on to Brythunia.
So apparently John Buscema was on vacation in France and Italy. (Vacation sounds good now.) So they got his brother to pencil this story from a de Camp/Carter short story. A fairly standard type of supernatural skeleton comes alive in a mysterious chamber. It was well done and love that they kept the old horned helmet from the early issues. This was supposed to take place between issues 2-3. Now in the fourth issue Conan made it to Brythunia with his chains. Yet he loses them in this story. I was thinking that Roy is pretty good at merging the continuity of what he has done with what was adapted. Well at the end we get a brief note that Conan was recaptured again by the Hyperboreans and had to escape again. So that is how he loses the sword and regains his chains. I love this guys attention to detail in the continuity. That is what really made this series so good under him.
“Back to Barsoom”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Dean Kotz
On Earth the Martian commander disintegrates the body of John Carter. The Moonheads congratulate themselves as their fleet goes through the portal back to Mars. Only John Carter has made it back to Barsoom. The first half of the Moonhead fleet vanishes. Carter finds his faithful calot Woola and his friends Edgar, Maave and Ramon in the stolen Moonhead craft. Just then the other half of the Moonhead fleet arrives and a battle begins. Luckily the fleet of Helium and Tars Tarkas comes to the rescue. Carter is reunited with Dejah Thoris and everything is looking good. Only the Moonheads have a spy that was cloaked in an invisibility shield. He shoots Dr. Norman.
OK so Carter is back on Barsoom with his Earth friends. He gets reunited with his love and friends. Everything is going good. Now I don’t necessarily understand what is going on. Apparently because of something Barsoom has been reset back to before the Moonheads destroyed it. Also why half their fleet just winks out of existence is a mystery to me. You just have to go with it. Still in spite of its flaws I like this series. It has fun characters and good artwork.
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Cezar Razek
An aircraft crashed in Africa. Fortunately it crashes next to the estate of Tarzan. Jason Gridley the pilot narrates an amazing story. A year ago he received an invitation to speak at an organization called The International Academy for Higher Scientific Inquiry. Only the car that picks him up doesn’t take him to this organization. It gets beamed up in a light and Jason finds himself on another world. A mysterious man tells him he is on the world Karis and a ship that travels between planets named The Resolve brought him there. The man wants Jason to incorporate his Gridley wave with some other technology. As he works on it he discovers the man is building a weapon. So Jason destroys the work.
The man is not too concerned and has The Resolve go back to Earth to retrieve the needed parts. This is where Jason steals a fighter. It gets damaged by fire from the ship so that is how he came to Africa. He enlists Tarzan and Jane’s help in stopping this mysterious man. So they go to Jason’s lab in New Mexico. There he contacts Ulysses Paxton an Earthman on Barsoom. He brings a ship that can travel between the planets. Jason modifies it and Tarzan recruits a crew. The new ship The Venture sets out to stop The Resolve.
I have to say that I love this story. The writer clearly is a fan of Burroughs. He gathers together practically all his minor characters into this epic quest that will take us to all the main worlds that Burroughs created. Of course such a huge cast guarantees that most will be just for show. Still it is a great undertaking to unite all these people in one place. The artist also manages to capture the look of a Burroughs story. So here is a list of the crew of The Venture.
Tarzan and Jane from Tarzan of the Apes.
Korak and Meriem from Son of Tarzan.
Jason Gridley from Tarzan at the Earth’s Core.
Ulysses Paxton from The Mastermind of Mars.
Billy Byrne from The Mucker.
Bridge and The Oskaloosa Kid from The Oakdale Affair.
Barney Custer from The Mad King.
Victoria Custer from The Eternal Savage.
Jim Stone aka Kolani from The Resurrection of Jimber Jaw.
Townsend Harper and Virginia Maxon from The Monster Men.
Johnny La Fitte from Pirate Blood.
The Rider from The Rider.
Shannon Burke from The Girl from Hollywood.
“House of Nightmares”
Writer and Artist: Jack Kirby
Machine Man has a dream where other robots are taunting him for pretending he’s human. He wakes up and still has damage to his anti-grav unit from the fight with the army. In fact the soldiers are still searching for him. So he goes to a service station and buys some tires and parts to make a motorized tricycle. He pays for it by crushing rocks into diamonds. Luckily he completes the tricycle in time to escape the searching soldiers. He makes it the mental hospital where the psychologist who gave him a ride last issue offered his help. The doctor is still open to helping Machine Man. Just then Machine Man intercepts transmissions coming from the hospital to outer space. Seems a patient who claims to be receiving these transmissions wasn’t crazy. They tell of a ship in trouble and needing help.
The second issue does a good job of showing the humanity of Machine Man. For one he can dream and have nightmares. He also doesn’t hurt anyone and actually pays for the parts he needs. There is a humorous scene where he startles some other motorcyclists on the road. He also finds a friend in his flight from the obsessed General Kargg. We also finds out that some patient who seems nuts is actually for real. There is an alien out there transmitting messages to him. It ends with the promise of a new villain being introduced. A very enjoyable series that takes on the concept of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human.
“Conan the Liberator”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from book by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: John Buscema & Tony Dezuniga
Conan’s army of liberation continues it’s march to Tarantia. Conan’s army has taken a bit of a hit with a mysterious plague and desertions. At the village of Almira he is ambushed and barely escapes with his life. The loyalists have a larger army. Yet there are some positive signs. The king’s own guard the Black Guard has deserted to Conan. They tell how King Numedides has gone completely mad and thinks he is a god. Conan hearing the palace is no longer guarded takes the Black Guard to Tarantia.
In the capital Numedides attempts to rape Alcina but is stopped by Thulandra Thuu. Thuu now openly brags that he is the real ruler of Aquilonia. Soon though Conan arrives. With the help of Dexitheus a Mitra priest who has some knowledge of sorcery in his youth Conan successfully confronts Thuu. The wizard decides that ruling Aquilonia isn’t worth it and takes off. King Numedides at first begs for his life but when Conan turns his back he tries to knife him. Conan chokes him to death and crowns himself king. He banishes Alcina and makes Dexitheus his chancellor. Later a newly crowned Conan finds out he has to deal with the mundane bureaucracy of ruling.
“The Chan Barbarians”
Artist: Ernie Chan
Six portfolios of artwork. They include Conan in some classic scenes from “Tower of the Elephant” and being nailed to a cross. One has the women in Conan’s life and one of Solomon Kane and Kull.
The ending of the story that tells of how Conan becomes king. I found it an enjoyable story. Conan of course will crown himself. The tyrant Numedides proves himself to be a total coward and completely crazy. The evil wizard when confronted goes off in a huff that Aquilonia isn’t worth his time. I wonder if De Camp and Carter ever brought Thulandra Thuu back. He was a good enemy. The traitorous Alcina gets spared since Conan won’t kill a woman. Yet she tries to worm her way back with pleading that she was under the control of Thuu.
Finally the ending was the best. Conan is ready to choose his harem but has to go over the budget for the kingdom. Being king has it’s less than glamourous times. A fun adaptation that gives us how Conan became king with beautiful artwork.
“Savage Doings in Shem!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
Conan, Belit and Zula have made it to the coast and the rendezvous with the Tigress. There is great happiness among the Corsairs that their goddess and Amra have returned. Soon after M’gora comes from the swamp returning from his mission to Asgalun. He is attacked by giant swamp rats but Conan and the Corsairs come to his rescue. From M’gora they learn what is going on in Asgalun. The Stygians have hired Kushite mercenaries to help them keep control of the city. M’gora and the Corsairs with him were drafted by them and were able to enter the city. Nim-Karrak the king who is all but a puppet of the Stygians has hired Hyrkanian mercenaries to guard him. The city is on the verge of a civil war. Belit is determined to go back and have vengeance against her uncle and reclaim the throne.
So Conan, Belit Zula and M’gora are able to infiltrate the city. Thanks to some of the Corsairs who serve with the Kushite mercenaries. They are lead by M’gora to a supposedly easy way to enter the palace. Once in a pleasure garden a trap is sprung by the Stygians. M’gora was under the control of Ptor-Nubis the Stygian advisor to the king. Ptor-Nubis uses his mind control to take over the four and force them to fight each other to the death.
So Conan and Belit are reunited with the Black Corsairs. Nice to have them together after such a long absence. Most of the issue is exposition about Asgalun. This was because Marvel had recently acquired the rights to De Camp’s stories and one of his dealt with Asgalun. So we get a nice detailed backstory that fits in his version with the current storyline. I did find it interesting and Roy like always knows how to integrate such stuff into his official canon. Plus throw in a little giant rat action and you have a fun story. Getting close to the big resolution of Belit’s quest for revenge.
“Warlord of Earth”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Dean Kotz
The Martians continue there reign of destruction. Some are curious about society and get out of their machines to investigate. This is when they are most vulnerable. At Judy’s Diner near the Navajo Nation Edgar and friends have taken John Carter to get some food. He doesn’t remember anything about these strange Martians. Luckily there is a guy at the diner who hypnotizes people. He puts Carter under. Thus he remembers that the Homad Pew Mogel was experimenting with new life forms. They turned out to grow up violent and ran away. They came back a year later with machines and started to destroy Barsoom. John remembers how Dejah blew up Helium and then John finds himself back on Earth.
Maeve comes up with the theory that if John goes back to Mars like he did last time than his reality will set itself back. On the TV they hear the military has used electromagnetic generators to destroy the Martian saucers. With out their saucers they are very vulnerable to attack. John Carter decides to lure them back to Mars. He takes a captured saucer and attacks. The Moonheads are terrified of John Carter. Than John settles in to breathe the gas that will transport him to Barsoom. Edgar, Ramon and Maeve go through the portal in the captured saucer. As John gets ready to go into his coma the Moonheads find him.
OK there is a lot of stuff happening in this issue. First is some more gobbledygook on how to bring back Barsoom. You just have to go with it for it advances the plot. We get an origin of the Moonheads and it is based on a valid ERB creation from the books. I love to see the writer know his stuff. Some humorous moments that sees John Carter in a Hawaiian shirt and getting real woke about diversity and hashbrowns. A stripper’s swinging kick take out some Martian glass helmets. The Amish going on the offensive. A fair amount of humor. Ends with a cliffhanger. An enjoyable story so far.
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Robert Hack
Archie lies on the gym floor begging for help. The Predator-Archie is getting his ass kicked by his fellow Predators. In space new Betty and Jughead are flying in the captured Predator ship. They talk about their feelings and Jughead names the Predator dog Bratwurst. Jason and Cheryl are locked in the gym basement with the gas leaking. A Predator comes in and Cheryl loses it. She attacks and the Predator shoots. This causes the whole gym to explode.
At the football field the classic Betty and Veronica are sitting with the devil. They are joined by the Predator-Archie which survived. There is some more talking about feelings. The devil turns out to be a really cool guy and puts everything back to normal. At the end the classic Betty and Veronica are sitting in an outdoor café in New York. Predator-Archie is with them. The end.
Well this was a disappointing ending. So they go through all this and the devil just sets thing back to normal. Betty and Veronica get tattoos and lesbian power haircuts. Everything is just hunky dory. Wow what an anti-climatic ending. Just a really disappointing ending. This whole series both the first and second should have been called Betty and Veronica vs. the Predator. Archie was for the most part a minor character that didn’t have any real relevance in the plot. I don’t mind that since I do think the girls are more interesting than Archie. The first series I enjoyed and loved the weird ending. This one well it started with some potential but the lazy writing and the dumb ending just ruined it for me. Can’t see any reason to make a third series. If you want a really cool crossover check out the Batman vs. Predator. Now that was awesome. Someday I will do those on this site.
Writer and Artist: Jack Kirby
A hiker has fallen off a cliff and is hanging on to an outcropping. Fortunately Machine Man comes to the rescue. With his arms that stretch out and anti-gravity device he saves the man. We switch to a government research center. A bureaucrat is talking with Dr. Broadhurst about the X-models project. The X-models were advanced robots that had a malfunction. They all went mad and had to be destroyed after killing a bunch of people. There is one left. X-51 was taken by a psychologist named Abel Stack. The robot was given a human looking appearance and raised like his son. He was also given the name Aaron Stack. Aaron has been monitored by Broadhurst but now the government wants to terminate X-51.
Machine Man continues on his way searching for a place to settle down. He helps a man clear a fallen oak tree off the road and is given a ride. The man turns out to be a psychologist and starts analyzing Machine Man. This gets him pissed off so he gets out and with a skateboard out of his feet takes off. Only he later gets attacked by soldiers. General Kargg is out to destroy Machine Man and tracks him with a homing device implanted in his head. Kargg has a personal grudge against the X-models. They killed many of his men and he lost his eye to them. Machine Man manages to evade the soldiers but is seriously damaged. He notices that Central City is close by and the psychologist that gave him a ride lives there. The psychologist offered to help Machine Man and Machine Man needs all the help he can get right now.
The first in the series by the legendary Jack Kirby. The man created so many iconic comic characters. This one was a fascinating character. Created back in the seventies it was ahead of it’s time. The concept of artificial intelligence having a soul. A personality that wants to just find it’s place in the world like all of us are doing. Aaron Stack a.k.a. Machine Man is a likeable character that the reader can sympathize with. He helps out people as we see when he rescues the hiker. Yet he will have to fight off the government that wants him destroyed. An enjoyable series that probably is somewhat obscure but by no means forgotten.