“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.