CONAN CLASSIC #2

“Lair of the Beast-men!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan stands over a giant man-ape that he just killed that attacked him. He ponders why it attacked then continues on his way. He sees a beautiful woman and chases after her. The girl leads him into an ambush by man-apes. They need slaves and take Conan to Brutheim. Here in an underground city Conan finds himself prisoner. Kiord the chief Thrall of the Manlings tells Conan of the place. Far in the past Kiord’s ancestors were warriors who went north to fight a race of man-apes that were developing civilization. Instead the man-apes captured the warriors and made slaves of them. They then captured women from nearby villages to mate with them so now Kiord and his people are born slaves to the beast-men.

Conan is not a good slave which becomes very obvious. So the king Gha-Kree sentences Conan to die in the arena. Kiord smuggles a knife to Conan so he can kill himself but Conan has other ideas. He uses it to kill the snow-lion he has to fight. This inspires Kiord who breaks out of his cage and with Conan use a giant ram to destroy the arena and the beast-men. Kiord dies and Conan crowns him the king.

“Conan the Marvelous Of Bears and Beast-men”
By Roy Thomas

An article on the second issue of Conan. Tells how the top editors were thinking of replacing Barry as artist but this work ended such speculation. Also tells how Barry gave a more Burroughs look to the city than Howard look. Also the beginning had a bear that Conan killed and took the fur for his cloak. The editor insisted that it be changed to a giant beast-man. Also he got the inspiration for the story from Howard’s pseudo-history. It tells of a race of beast-men in the north and a group of warriors that went to destroy them but was never heard of again.

The second Conan continues to establish a quality series. I love the young Conan who is still a teenager and new to the world. There is such a vitality to this story and it was nominated as the best story for the comic awards in 1971. The article was once again interesting and informative. The beginning with the dead beast-man does seem awkward and forced. This is truly a comic classic.

Advertisements

KONG ON THE PLANET OF THE APES #6

“When Chaos Reigns”
Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Artist: Carlos Magno

Kong and Na-ti are running from General Ursus and his army. They come to a cliff at the edge of the ocean. Ursus has his men take a huge wooden spear and start stabbing Kong. Zaius, Cornelius and Zira arrive and try to put a stop to this. Ursus is totally power mad and while they argue Na-ti is shot by Ursus. She falls and Kong falls with her to catch her. They crash through the ground and find themselves in the underground ruins of New York.

Meanwhile back at Ape city the council is going to cover up the whole expedition and its findings. They also plan to make the forbidden zone totally off limits to apes. Zira and Cornelius decide to leave Ape City and get the news of Milo’s discovery of Taylor’s spaceship. Ursus takes his army into the ground after Kong. While tracking him the mutants use their mental powers to project fire which forces the apes to flee. At the end Na-ti is dead and Kong manages to reach the ruins of the World Trade Center where he dies. The mutants see this as a sign that the end is near and plan to detonate the bomb.

So the series comes to a sad end. I figured that Kong was going to meet a tragic end. Appears that Na-ti and the apes in general will also meet one. Indeed the ending set up changes nothing that the original movie didn’t set up. I liked this series. It was done in a clever way to integrate the Apes universe with Kong’s. It managed to stay true to both universes and tell a fascinating if not a tragic story. I wonder what other crazy crossover the Apes universe will get.

SAVAGE TALES ONE-SHOT VAMPIRELLA

“Savage Tales Vampirella”
Writer: Erik Burnham
Artists: Anthony Marques, J. Bone, Fernando Ruiz, and Daniel Hor

Vampirella wakes up in a strange world. Four men are trying to kill her and are controlled by some powerful being. She kills the first three then mind controls the fourth. She finds out that their ruler Ankimu sensed a dangerous presence and ordered them to kill anyone they found at this location. So Vampirella goes to the city of Gharad. She finds a nice place where everyone is happy. Suddenly the people are under the mind control of Ankimu and take Vampirella to his throne room. There a snake-man wants to marry Vampirella. When she refuses he sics the guards on her but they are easy to defeat. So Ankimu turns into a giant snake but Vampirella still manages to tear his head off. She decides to remain as queen to help the people of this city.

“Valaka”
Writer: Doug Murray
Artist: Lui Antonio

A warrior comes back to find his village destroyed. He meets a mysterious hooded woman named Valaka. She tells how she is hunting the wizard who did this. So they join forces to rescue the women and children taken. They come to a castle and battle the zombies that guard it. Inside they find the wizard has sacrificed some of the women and is going to sacrifice the warrior’s betrothed. They have to fight a demon but their combined strength manages to kill it. Then Valaka snaps the neck of the wizard. Valaka then reveals she is a vampire and drains the warrior of his blood. Then feeds on the bound betrothed. Seems she was protecting her source of food.

So every once in a while you get these off the wall single titles released. Having Vampirella on a barbaric world fighting barbarians and sorcery is a pretty cool concept. I love that the cover replicates the original Conan cover from the first cover.. It left the possibility of future stories and hopefully maybe a new Savage Tales series starring Vampirella. I would buy that.

The second story is a reprint from the first Dynamite Savage Tales series. That was a good series and this story was a bit dark. It ending in a very surprising way with the woman being an evil vampire. You were expecting the warrior to be reunited with his betrothed and not killed. A good story and I do remember that old series had a strong lineup of mainly Robert Howard characters. Once again I support the revival of Savage Tales and hope this leads to it.

THE WARLORD #109

“The Revenge of the Vampire!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artist: Ron Randall

Morgan and company are battling Mortalla’s vampire horde and losing. They do manage to take out the vampires but Mortalla is already gone to retrieve her amulet. She gets it and starts to resurrect the dead into an army. Morgan and Shakira with Kbdarr go to the village shaman. He powers up the groups weapons so they kill vampires easy. Then its off to the village where her army is slaughtering the villagers. Morgan and his friends are captured but Morgan manages to escape. He is able to grab the amulet and turn it against Mortalla. She is forced to flee. The world is save from her for now. Daimon is left in a half-dead state which Morgan mercifully puts out of his misery.

The conclusion to the Mortalla vampiress saga. This was kind of a mediocre story. Everything was very predictable and it was a breeze for Morgan to win. Mortalla survived but was never destined to appear again which tells you how interesting the character was. The subplot has Machiste and Mariah having the magic bone boat break up and them forced to swim for it. I didn’t like Fleisher’s portrayal of Machiste as a whiner or Mariah and her newfound obsession with Morgan. Foreshadows events that I was not impressed with. Oh and Daimon was given a noble dead and went to dipshit comic book character heaven. It was very obvious the character was a dud and thankfully he was mercifully put out of his and our misery.

KULL THE VALE OF SHADOW

“The Vale of Shadow”
Writer: Alan Zelenetz
Artist: Tony DeZuniga

Kull has been wounded in battle and lies near death. His friends Brule, Tu, Ridondo and Bora Ballin stand around as Kull mumbles in a delirious state. In fact he is visited by the spirit of death who is a beautiful naked green-skinned woman. While standing around his friends tell stories from Kull’s live. Brule tells of how as a young man of the Sea-Mountain tribe he was on a fishing expedition when a Pict Whaler attacked his boat. It was sunk and all thought killed but Kull survived. He managed to cling to a net and later kill two boats full of Picts.

Then Bora Ballin tells how as a gladiator Kull kills a bull with his bare hands. Then he has to fight a young gladiator who entered the games to impress his girlfriend. Kull spares his life but the king wants blood and orders Kull be shot down with arrows. Bora intervenes and buys Kull’s freedom for 2000 gold.

Ridondo then tells of how as a conspirator they convinced Kull that King Bora was going to abolish the Black Legion. This sends Kull to confront Bora which leads to a fight and Kull kills the king. Only instead of stepping aside he seizes the crown and declares himself king.

Tu has a story of how Kull was touring a villa with frescoes. One has lovers separated by a chasm. Kull magically enters the frescoe and chop down a tree that the woman can use to cross to her lover. The painting now shows the two lovers embracing with the fallen tree in the background.

Finally Kull manages to charm death enough to leave him alone and rejoins the world of the living.

So this is the only Kull graphic novel ever made. Unfortunately it isn’t very good. The artwork is mediocre and the colors are not very good. Zelenetz has written some brilliant stories for Kull but this is not one of them. It is dull with narrated stories that have already been done or just not that exciting. You expect more from a graphic novel and this just did not deliver.

CONAN CLASSIC #1

“The Coming of Conan!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Smith

On a battlefield in Vanaheim a young Cimmerian named Conan is working as a mercenary for the Aesir. They battle a group of raiders from Vanir. Conan manages to save the leader of the Aesir Olav. The Vanir are driven off. Their leaders Volff and Hothar abandon their men to escape. They come on a cave and find an old man and young girl. The man is called The Shaman. He offers to help the Vanir by defeating the Aesir in exchange for the capture of Conan.

So while the Aesir are battling the remnants of the Vanir, three winged demons attack both groups. Those that don’t flee are killed and Conan is captured. Taken to the cave he witnesses the Shaman as he calls on the Star Stone to show the Vanir its power. It shows the past and the glory of Valusia under King Kull. Then the cataclysm that destroyed the world. It shows Conan being crowned king. This disturbs the Shaman since Conan is not meant to have a future. It has the stone show more and it shows the future up to the space age. This drives the Shaman insane. Conan escapes and shatters the stone. It destroys the Shaman, the winged demons and the Vanir. At the end the young girl is turned into a winged demon. The Shaman pulled her from the stone to serve him and was going to use Conan as the victim to sacrifice so she could stay in our world. The girl disappears and Conan continues on for further adventures.

“Conan the Marvelous A Personal Preface by Roy Thomas

An article on how Conan came about. Readers were asking for a sword and sorcery book. A book was approved but with a pittance for a budget. At first Roy tried to get Thongor but the money was not enough. While reading the Conan books he came across the contact for the estate and figured he would try to get Conan. Glen Howard was more than cooperative and Roy gave more money than was authorized. So his only recourse was to write the issue and if the overpayment was noticed he would forfeit his salary. John Buscema was the first choice but once again the pittance of salary chose the new nineteen year old British artist Barry Smith. The rest is history.

This is the very first Conan comic. Thankfully back in the nineties they released the first issues as Conan Classic so I could get these without having to take out a bank loan. This is truly comic history. This issue was without a doubt the reason for the popularity of Robert E. Howard and not only his Conan but King Kull, Red Sonja, Solomon Kane and others. There would be no career for Schwartzenegger without this comic. I can see why this book was a success. The wonderful story and beautiful artwork established a truly unique idea in a sea of superheroes. The article shows the happenstance that gave us Roy’s writing. He would continue for ten years to solely write both the color comic and black and white magazine. He had such a passion for this character and it shows. Barry Smith cemented his career with this title. All because of the small pittance for a budget that gave birth to the greatest comic series in history.

KONG ON THE PLANET OF THE APES #5

“Untitled”
Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Artist: Carlos Magno

The raptors have escaped and are causing untold death and destruction in Ape City. General Ursus and his troops rally and start to kill the raptors. The last ones are attacking a cage of humans with Ni’ta inside. The apes start to attack with a flamethrower. Kong sees his friend being attacked and breaks loose from his cage. He scoops up the girl and goes on a rampage of Ape City. Ursus and his troops manage to drive it into the Forbidden Zone and plan to follow to hunt it down. Zaius is condemned by the council while Dr. Milo and Lucius discover a dead human astronaut at the dead sea.

So this issue has been a real disaster for the apes. The raptors killed a bunch of apes. Zaius is the scapegoat for the mess. Ursus is coming out looking like a hero for defeating the raptors and Kong. Considering its all his fault that is a stroke of luck for Ursus. In a lot of ways this is the same as King Kong. He gets angry at the treatment of the girl and breaks out of his cage then goes on a rampage. Have a feeling its heading toward a conclusion at the Empire State Building.

RED SONJA #17

“Hell or Hyrkania”
Writer: Amy Chu & Erik Burnham
Artist: Daniel Hdr

Sonja is winding down from her adventures with a friendly sparing workout with a troll. Adin the Unkillable was cursed to wake up each morning healed of his wounds. So he makes a great sparing partner for adventurers. During the fight Adin notices that Sonja’s blade is out of balance and recommends a local blacksmith. So Sonja goes to the blacksmith and fixes the blade. While there the blacksmith recognizes the sword as belonging to Skath. He was a great warrior who one day got into a fight with a visitor from Shem. Skath had a sacred skin of a Candle leopard on the wall. So the two have their followers battle and Skath is victorious. The Shemite reveals that he brought a fire-breathing dragon. Skath kills it by plunging his sword into it’s chest. The dragon mortally wounded flies off with his sword. At the end the blacksmith mentions a huge reward for the sword which gets Sonja thinking of visiting this Skath in Cimmeria.

A new storyline and artist for this series. It seems like its going into a good direction. The story of Skath was interesting and to the point. We now are getting back to the classic Red Sonja stories of her as a wanderer in the Hyborian age which I think is a good idea. Sort of getting back to the basics that made this character so popular. The time travel was interesting but starting to fizzle so looking forward to the new adventure.

THE WARLORD #108

“The Cold Night of the Undead!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artist: Ron Randall

Morgan, Shakira and Daimon are traveling through one of the valley’s with a perpetual cloud cover. Thus it has a winter-like environment. Suddenly they are attacked by men riding mammoths. When Shakira turns into a cat to save Daimon the men panic at the sorcery and flee. Later the three set up camp and Daimon goes off to gather wood. He hears a woman’s voice calling him and it leads to a tomb in the middle of the frozen wastes. Inside is a beautiful white-skinned woman with a wooden stake through her heart. Daimon decides to pull it out and the woman awakes very grateful.

Later Morgan goes looking for Daimon and finds him. Only he is now under a trance with incredible strength. The mammoth men show up and drive him off. They tell Morgan their story. That a long time ago the female vampire called a Lamia terrorized Skartaris. Only through weight of numbers were they able to drive a stake in her heart and imprison her in the isolated tomb. An amulet that gives her the power to raise armies of undead is buried under a tree not far off. So Morgan and Skakira join the men to search for the Lamia. They find her but she has turned some ice fishermen into her slaves and they ambush the group. Meanwhile Mariah and Machiste are under attack by the water demon. Mariah gets their captive to boil the sea and the demon. Then the skeleton boat they are on begins to disintegrate.

OK well this was a decent story. Daimon is a dense guy. Anyone with a brain cell would know not to take out a stake from what is clearly a vampire. This guy’s time is fast approaching and he will not be missed. There is a nod to Grell with this story. A valley with a cloud cover and men that ride mammoths. Reminds me of the classic issue 9. Strange that there are several of these valleys around. Sounds like a potential story idea. Sadly never explored. The Machiste/Mariah subplot is coming along nicely. We already see Mariah bitching about poor Machiste’s indecision and pining over Morgan. More on this in future issues.

THE DESTROYER #9

“Dr. Quake”
Writer: Will Murray
Artists: Rik Levins and Chris Ivy

A man meets a mysterious death in a cave in California. Seems the local chamber of commerce in San Aquino are being extorted by a Dr. Quake. In exchange for earthquake insurance they won’t get killed by an earthquake. So CURE sets up Remo as the new owner of a department store. Remo finds out the local sheriff is the bag man for Dr. Quake and sets up a meeting. He brings along Chiun who gets angry at the sheriff for him calling him a chink. He is Korean not Chinese and kills the man. Then they take out the other men except one. He doesn’t know anything so Chiun takes him out.

They then visit Dr. Smith’s contact a Dr. Forben. Forben has developed a water laser that is designed to prevent earthquakes. He also has a hot daughter named Jacki who Remo makes a date with. She takes him to a cave and tries to kill him with the water laser. Chiun rescues him and they go to confront the father. Only its the twin daughter who is also in on the extortion. She sets off the water laser to destroy California but Chiun manages to stop the machine and kills the twin in the process. Dr. Forben doesn’t seem to care that his daughter’s are dead but wants to continue his experiments. Chiun induces a heart attack so his experiments don’t endanger the world.

“Warren Murphy Speaks”

An interview with Warren Murphy the co-creator of the Destroyer series. He tells how while working in politics in New Jersey he met a reporter named Richard Sapir. The two became friends and wrote this idea they discussed into a book. A good thing the series was a success since everyone Murphy was working with was put in jail. Deciding writing was better than the seedy world of New Jersey politics he when into it full time. He tells how the characters came about and how the two wrote the books. His take on the movie and TV pilot and the ghost writers that were hired for the series including his wife and this comics writer Will Murray. A very interesting and informative interview.

So this is the last issue in the series. I really think the series ended on a high note. All the stories were excellent and the interview confirmed that they are faithful to the book series. Which just makes me want more to check them out some day in the future. Too bad it didn’t last but I suppose the big black and white magazines were just not something that there was a market for. Indeed the long running Savage Sword of Conan came to an end a few years later. I would like to see a revival of this format. I think it would meet with success. So I thank Marvel for introducing me to this fascinating adventure series that has sold over 30 million books.