“Death on the Black Coast!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “Queen of the Black Coast” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
The Tigress has arrived at the mouth of the Zarkheba river. A poisonous river with a sinister jungle. Belit believes a rich city lies further inland. She tells how once they were chasing a Stygian galley that went up the river. A few days later it floated back with the crew gone except one that was stark raving mad. N’yaga thinks this is a bad idea but Belit is obsessed with exploring the river.
While at night Belit has a conversation with Conan about life, the gods and the afterlife. She says that her love would draw her back from the abyss if Conan’s life was ever in danger. A giant snake attacks and kills the watch before Conan kills it. The next morning they come on the ruins of a city. In the distance they see a winged ape fly off. At the temple they find a fortune in gems under the alter. Only the winged ape goes to their ship and destroys the casks of fresh water. Conan leads a party to find some fresh water as Belit has the treasure loaded on the ship.
Conan and his party have little luck in finding fresh water. Conan thinks that something is following so sends M’gora and his men forward while he waits behind. Only Conan stands near Black Lotus blossoms that knock him out. He dreams of a winged race of men with their magnificent city before humans existed. One day a great disaster destroyed their city and poisoned the river. The poisoned river transformed them to hideous winged apes. Throughout the years the sole survivor has turned hapless explorers into hyenas. The final image Conan sees is his arrival and his men being chased by the winged ape.
He comes to and finds that his men were killed. M’gora is still alive but completely insane. Conan is forced to kill his comrade. He runs to the Tigress and finds Belit hanging from the mast with the necklace she found in the city. So Conan wraps her in a red cloak amid the treasure she found. Then he waits at the pyramid. The hyenas attack first and Conan kills them. A tower is collapsed by him and pins him to the ground. The winged ape lands but is confronted by Belit who stabs at him. She disappears but gives Conan enough time to free himself and attack. He kills the winged ape and next morning takes the Tigress to the sea. There he sets it on fire and watches as it disappears over the horizon.
It is a rare occasion for a series to reach 100. Especially nowadays as they just have limited run series. Obviously Conan was a big hit and we get the final payoff of the first 99. It was a very sad story to see Belit die. I was very shocked as a kid that they would actually get rid of her. Those days I never read the letter page or Howard’s original writing to know what was coming. This was a beautiful love story that Howard wrote. The part of Belit coming back was used by Milius in his movie. I know that it was getting a bit old having Conan in a pirate and jungle environment. Still this was a big milestone in Conan’s life to lose his first love. So now Roy would concentrate on getting Conan back to the Hyborean lands but would do it in an exciting fashion. This was a perfect issue.
“Not Quite the Odyssey”
Writer: Keith Griffin
Artist: Steve Rude
Kamandi has been bitten by a Polar Parasite while flying in a hang glider over the sea. He manages to make it to shore where he tears off the parasite and smashes it to death. While on the beach some goat-men come. They claim his is Odysseus come back to smite their enemies. Their enemies a wolf-people come and try to take Kamandi claiming he is Ulysses. The goat-men manage to take Kamandi to their city. There he finds out the two people are fighting over their worship of the Iliad and Odyssey. The goat-men claim that gods name is Odysseus while the wolves Ulysses. Both groups come together in a great sea battle that destroys both fleets. Kamandi manages to escape in a small boat and is confronted by a giant sea monster.
Well this issue was a fun one. I love to see a writer with a classical education. Using the ancient Greek stories of the Iliad and Odyssey was a very inspired idea. To have the two groups fight over the name which I have to admit I have heard both used. It actually inspired me to look it up. One name is Greek and the other Latin. Otherwise it’s the same character. A comic that inspires learning. Kamandi in this thinks that both sides are completely nuts and just wants to continue his search for his parents. Ends on another cool cliffhanger which I can’t wait to find out how he gets out.
Writers: Howard Post and Andrew Gutelle
Artists: Howard Post and Robert Smith
Oliver is the littlest elf. He has his friends spider, scorpion, flea and centipede. As he arrives home from visiting his friends the evil wizard on Mr. Mushmore turns his family’s crop of mushrooms into toadstools. Seems this evil wizard loves toadstools and is turning all the valley’s mushrooms into slimy toadstools. Naturally the elves depend on mushrooms since that’s all they eat. So they gather a mob to go after the wizard. Oliver being the littlest is left behind to chop down the toadstools.
The wizard uses his wand to turn the mob into toadstools. He than notices Oliver chopping down his toadstools and grows bat wings and tries to turn him into a toadstool. Only while chasing him he isn’t paying attention and crashes into a chimney. Oliver grabs up the wand and it takes him away. He goes looking for the other elves never realizing they were turned to toadstools.
The wizard than goes to his insect friends and hypnotizes them to go after Oliver. Only the littlest segment of the centipede is not hypnotized and warns Oliver. Oliver uses the wand to turn his bug friends into mushrooms. He than forces the wizard to un-hypnotize his friends and turn everyone back. Oliver’s final act is to zap the evil wizard and make him a good one.
So this mini-comic was included with the Atari game Centipede. It was a fun little comic with all the characters from the video game. It gave a good story to the game. I loved these little extra comics that were included with the games. They were well done.
“Byte of the Binary Bug!”
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Steve Ditko
A man in a green suit and jet pack breaks into an expensive condo in New York. He goes to an apartment to steal the securities in a safe. The buildings guards try to stop him but are knocked out by gas. Fortunately Machine Man and Dr. Spaulding are there to visit someone. Machine Man manages to drive off the thief but is temporarily disabled by one of the gadgets that the thief has. So the owner comes back and this is the guy they were there to visit. He is very grateful to Machine Man for saving his money. So in gratitude he agrees to give Machine Man a job.
Next day with a new suit he starts his job at Delmar Insurance as an investigator. Later the Binary Bug as the thief calls himself breaks into the insurance company and accesses the computer to find out where the valuables of the companies insured are. He goes and steals millions in diamonds and art. The Binary Bug is actually Joseph Rambo the fired investigator that Machine Man replaced. Rambo wants revenge for being fired and is attempting to drive Delmar Insurance into bankruptcy as well as enrich himself. His next target is Khan of Xanadu.
Khan of Xanadu is a fat guy that goes around in a blimp. Fortunately for him Machine Man figures out that he is the next target of the Binary Bug. The two fight and Binary Bug screws up while not looking and flies into a power line, killing him.
I love this issue. So Machine Man decides to learn more about humans by getting a job. He has some very interesting observations as the cubicles seem very dehumanizing. As someone who worked in a cubicle at insurance companies I can agree with that. He also blows off the office floozy and finds out the man he replaced is the one behind all the robberies. At the end we also find out Khan was the one last issue responsible for trying to destroy Machine Man. He now very much wants to possess Machine Man. A brief subplot involves Senator Brickman still out to use the threat of Machine Man to win the White House. A real offbeat and surprising story to have Machine Man put on a suit and join the daily grind. Plus we get the hint of the future villains that he will face. A very enjoyable issue.
“The Wizard Fiend of Zingara!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artist: John Buscema
Three men are sneaking into the castle of the wizard Tamar Shah Khun. Zingara has recently been through a civil war that has devastated the countryside. It is said that the wizard has found a way to grow livestock and crops to enormous size. It could feed all the people. Only the wizard is not very sociable and soon does away with the intruders.
Meanwhile Conan has lead the armies of King Phememenes to victory against the rebels. He takes the leader to the king. The rebel manages to break his bonds and grab an ax to threaten the king. Only Conan manages to kill him and save the king. This was all part of a plan by the Queen Shermela and her lover captain Bar-helm to overthrow the king and take over. They soon realize that to accomplish this they must get rid of Conan. So first they convince a simple giant named Zerbo to lead some men and ambush Conan. They are to make it look like a robbery but Conan obviously is too much a match for them. Zerbo is punished by the queen by having his eye gouged out by her falcon.
Next the queen convinces her husband to send Conan on a mission to the wizard Tamar to gain his secret of enlarging animals and crops. They hope that Conan will be killed on this mission. While Conan is riding to the castle he is met by Zerbo who confesses the queen’s involvement in trying to assassinate him. He joins forces with Conan as the two come on two beautiful young women treed by a dragon. Conan manages to lure the dragon over the cliff. Unfortunately the two women turn out to be demons in disguise sent by the wizard. They kill Zerbo but Conan manages to take them both out.
At the castle he finds the wizard and many traps. One puts him in a chamber that fills with water. The wizard unleashes a giant eel that Conan manages to kill. It’s death throws bust a wall that floods the castle and drowns the wizard. Conan goes back to Kordava and confronts the traitorous queen and her lover. Conan manages to kill Bar-Helm. At the end it is revealed that the king was aware of his wife’s plot but decides to forgive her. Conan is disgusted with this attitude and rides off.
“Barbarians By Day”
Artist: Gene Day
A portfolio of Gene Day’s on characters from Howard. They include Kull, Thulsa Doom, Conan, Dennis Dorgan, Solomon Kane, El Borak and Dark Agnes.
So this is the first issue without Roy Thomas. On the whole it doesn’t look much different. It still has the title page and the next page with the map of the Hyborian world with a quote from the Nemedian Chroniclers. It also still has Big John drawing it. What it doesn’t have are the articles which were jettisoned. I was OK with that for to be honest it was the stories I was always interested in. Thankfully they chose Michael Fleisher to write and he kept up the high quality of this magazine. It was a story filled with wizards, conspiracy and plenty of monsters. It felt just like a Conan story. This series was the only black & white one to survive the seventies. It actually lasted into the nineties and I can say it’s quality never faltered. A real tribute to Roy and the ones that came after him.
“Devil-Crabs of the Dark Cliffs!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “The People of the Black Coast” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
The crew of the Tigress are restless. Belit is obsessed with finding treasure and will not go back to the Silver Isles for rest and to recruit more men. While sailing past the Black Cliffs they come on an abandoned Argossean ship. It is empty except for some dead sailors that had their heads and arms tore off. Some Khitai treasure whets the avarice of Belit. A further search of the cliffs and they find a city of crab-men. The crew of the ship is their prisoners. Conan finds out that they had sailed to Khitai and were heading back home. The crab-men used telepathy to lure them in and are now performing scientific experiments on them. So Conan manages to free them and Belit forces them to lead her to the treasure. They grab the treasure but are discovered by the crab-men. They are chased into a cul-de-sac. The area is geothermally active and they manage to push a boulder onto another that is keeping the steam in check. It roasts the crab-men. The surviving Argosseans split the treasure with Conan and Belit then head for home.
The last one before the big 100. Roy managed to do a very enjoyable filler issue just before the big event. He adapted a fun Howard story of crab-men and treasure. He also sets up Belit’s obsession with treasure and the events that will lead to the final story of Belit. This was a great issue and while I think the time of Conan among the Corsairs was getting old, I still have some sadness that it is ending.
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Dan Jurgens
Kamandi has been thrown into the atomic reactor of Mishkingrad. Luckily he grabbed hold of the Cortex Crown. He uses it to transport him away and to his captive friend Renzi. He finds some dog-women taking his friend. They also grab him and put him in a sack. They then escape the city on hang gliders. Later Kamandi is freed and finds his friend all chums with the dog-women. The dog-women are The Bulldog Britanneks and they are on a dirigible called The Damnable Dirigible Doghouse. Kamandi finds out his mother build the dirigible and is now somewhere to the south.
A missile comes out of nowhere and destroys the dirigible. The Britanneks have parachutes and manage to grab Kamandi. They land in forbidden territory called The Wasteland. An ice wizard has control of giant polar parasites that take over some of the Britanneks. Kamandi uses the wreckage of the dirigible and the Cortex Crown to fashion a strange walking machine. He squashes the polar parasites and rescues the captive Britanneks. The Britanneks build a hot air balloon to go home. Kamandi goes south on a hang glider to find his mother. A parasite has managed to sneak into his pouch and comes out and bites Kamandi.
Another old group from the original series in the Bulldog Britanniks makes an appearance. Only the leader is a bulldog and they are a different group than what Kirby originally created. They had to have a scene where the dogs were playing poker. So the last writer would have used the Cortex Crown to just have Kamandi go through the reactor safely. We find out Kamandi’s mother is still alive and he is getting close. I also thought the cliffhanger was another original idea. So will be interesting how the next writer gets him out of this.
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Cezar Razek
Rokoff has now captured The Resolve. He threatens to kill the women if Gridley and the men don’t commit to building the superweapon. After his meeting Rokoff orders Miranda to kill the women anyway. He plans to kill the captives after they finish. So Gridley and the captives manage to build this superweapon. When it is time to test it, the whole big machine disintegrates. Gridley had rigged it to self-destruct. Rokoff also finds out that the women weren’t killed. Carson Napier was smuggled aboard and used his telepathy to make the angan guards see the women tossed out of the ship. Miranda reveals himself as Tarzan and snaps the neck of Rokoff. Dejah Thoris manages to kill the master before he can cause anymore trouble. The universe is saved and the ship arrives at the planet Poloda. But that is another story.
So the great adventure comes to an end. It was a satisfying ending. We find out that the master was some super-evolved human from Caspak. The series was on the whole a very enjoyable experience. It did have too many characters which did get in the way of the story. Still I love the spirit of this series. It had some beautiful artwork and it was nice to see many of these characters together. It ended on the possibility of another story so who knows. Maybe we will get the story of their adventures on Poloda.
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Steve Ditko
Machine Man has been seriously injured fighting the Hulk. Dr. Broadhurst and Spaulding take him to a lab in New York to work on. Broadhurst manages to fix Machine Man but has to alter his systems. He no longer has the weapons like a flame thrower and laser gun. Machine Man is disturbed that this being was so easily altered and goes off alone to think. While alone a holographic message from his father Abel is activated. Abel tells Machine Man that he knew that some day his systems would cause him trouble. Yet he knew that Machine Man would find friends to help him out. He also says that his programming can never be tampered with and he loves him.
Soon after Machine Man is attacked by a jet. He captures the pilot but the pilot uses a sonic gun to knock him out. While unconscious Senator Blackburn, Colonel Kragg, Spaulding and Blackburn come on him. A rockslide traps them but Machine Man manages to free them. Everyone is grateful except Senator Blackburn who has an unreasoning hatred of Machine Man and vows to destroy him.
So after a brief hiatus Machine Man is back. With a new writer and artist. Both are accomplished and well respected and so far I love the new look. First Machine Man has been stripped of his weapons which makes him not so overpowering. Yet he has powers as he proved in taking out the jet and rescuing his friends. We also get a look at his father who sacrificed his life to remove the government bomb in him. There are friends for Machine Man in Drs. Spaulding and Blackburn as well as Colonel Kragg. Also enemies in the opportunistic Senator Blackburn and some mysterious organization that has jets. It is great to see Machine Man back and in capable hands.
“The Ivory Goddess”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: John Buscema & Danny Bulandi
After Conan’s adventures in the “Jewels of Gwahlur” he decides to go to neighboring Punt. With the girl Muriela he wants to use her to pose as a goddess and scam the king of Punt. Only he already knows that Thutmekri has already ingratiated himself with the king. So they go to a holy building and find a statue of the goddess Nebethet. Only the goddess has a skull for a head. Still Conan is not to be deterred. He finds a hidden alcove where a priest hides to throw his voice. While alone Muriela is assaulted by an old crone and her half-hyena man. Conan has a fight with the creature and kills it. Soon after the king arrives with Thutmekri.
The king consults the oracle statue and Muriela uses her voice to expose Thutmekri as a fraud and have Conan made general of the army. Only the statue falls and breaks. Muriela now stands before everyone only she has a glow about her. She says she is the real goddess inhabiting her body. To prove it she strikes down one of Thutmekri’s men. She commands Thutmekri be fed to the crocodiles but Conan can be spared because he was nice to Muriela. A fight ensues with Thutmekri’s men and the kings. Conan fight Thutmekri and chops off his head. This causes his followers to flee. Conan confronts the goddess and finds out that she is real. He agrees to leave.
“Conan of the Storyboards”
Writer: Mike W. Barr
Artist: Neal Adams
A storyboard done by Adams for the upcoming Conan movie. He did it on spec and hoped to sell it. Needless to say it was never used but is interesting. It is to open the movie and has four riders approach a camp. The riders manage to kill the sentries and then slaughter the men. Only one mysterious figure manages to kill them. At the end it is revealed to be Conan. That would have been a cool opening.
So this is a sad issue. It was the last Roy Thomas would edit. He would be leaving to work for DC. There would still be some of his stories in the can but he was gone. Roy was the creative genius behind Conan and consistently wrote the color comic, Savage Sword and the new King Conan. Not to mention the various Red Sonja, Kull and Solomon Kane. He practically single-handed made the sword and sorcery line of comics for Marvel a success. He also paved the way for the renewed interest in Conan books and movies. He ended on a mediocre story that with his adaptation made it seem quite exciting. Thankfully the high standards he established carried on. This was the only black and white magazine from the seventies to survive well into the nineties. He would come back to see it to it’s end. He left with an excellent body of work that I think is the best in comics.