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

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.

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.

KULL THE CONQUEROR #10

“While Valusia Sleeps”
Writer: Alan Zelenetz
Artist: John Buscema

Kull and Gonra are out hunting boar. They get some very aggressive boars and Gonra shows that he is indeed an equal to Kull. So after a feast two unsavory characters manage to convince drunk Gonra to pull out the sword that seals King Eallal room. They hope to get treasure. What they find is serpent-men and the evil spirit of Eallal. Gonra fights the serpent-men but the spirit goes to Kull’s room. It manages to take over the guards and have them kill each other. Kull knows the proper words to make sure Eallal is banished. He runs to the room and finds Gonra and the door open. As he goes in Gonra locks the door and he is confronted by serpent-men. Kull easily kills them then Gonra who was a serpent-man in disguise. Gonra comes to the rescue with the palace guard. Kull plans to cleanse the room with fire and seal it with bricks. Meanwhile Brule is captive of the evil shaman who has taken over his tribe. The fair Daphna is still in a love sick coma. A wizard manages to stabilize her but only the love of Kull will wake her.

So this is the final issue in the third and last run of Kull for Marvel. It ended on a fairly dull note. The story was mediocre. It also seems unfinished. What of the fair Daphne and her lovesick coma? What was the fate of Brule? Does he free his tribe from the evil shaman? Unanswered questions. Perhaps it was continued in the Savage Sword but I can’t remember. When we get to those issues maybe we will find out. For now it is over. This series started out so strong it is a shame to end on such a dull note. This would be the last that Kull ever got a series from Marvel. Although he did appear in the black and white Savage Sword of Conan. He also made an appearance in Dark Horse and just recently for IDW so Kull is not forgotten.

THE DESTROYER #8

“America is Worth a Life”
Writer: Will Murray
Artists: Lee Weeks and Brett Blevins

Late at night Dr. Smith the head of CURE is working when the computer system is penetrated. Someone now knows about CURE. Smith assigns MacCleary to find Remo and give him the assignment to track down the culprits and kill them. MacCleary finds Remo hiding in a closet from Chiun who wants to cure him of his fear of heights. Going to jump out of an airplane without a parachute. Remo refuses the assignment because he has some morals that won’t have him kill someone blindly. So MacCleary goes to do the job as Remo gets to jump out of an airplane.

MacCleary finds the house and when he enters falls through a trap door in the floor. The place is run by Cuban intelligence. Now Dr. Smith is facing the prospect of closing down CURE to protect the President. That means killing himself and everyone involved with the agency. He sends Remo and Chiun to find MacCleary and if necessary kill him. So the two go to the house and indeed find it full of armed Cubans. They take them out with easy and rescue MacCleary who is wounded and Remo allows him to kill himself with his own hook. The place is destroyed and the agents killed thus saving CURE.

“The So-Called Destroyer Solar System”
Writer: Will Murray
Artists: James W. Fry and Bill Sienkiewicz

A letter from Chiun explaining what this is. Seems someone was asking why the Destroyer isn’t in the Official Marvel Universe Handbook. Short answer the master of Sinanju does not associate with individuals who wear their underwear on the outside. So he compiles a Solar System of the Destroyer since there are only four characters. A drawing and fact sheet follows for Emperor David the First, Chiun, Reigning Master of Sinanju, The Late Conrad MacCleary and Remo Williams. Can’t understand the question of First Appearance and has Remo munching down fast food.

So in this issue Remo gets to meet Emperor Smith the head of CURE. Actually a doctor and an unassuming old man who according to Chiun secretly rules America. We get some more antics with Chiun teaching Remo to overcome his fear of heights. Appears Sinanju masters don’t need a parachute when jumping from a plane. This is the end of MacCleary. A somewhat amoral character with a heavy drinking problem. But as Chiun states in the profile a friend to the House of Sinanju for bringing the proper payment. I wonder if this happened early in the book series. Remo continues to grow as a Sinanju master and should be interesting to see the dynamic with Emperor Smith.

KULL THE CONQUEROR #9

“The Sword of Gonra!”
Writer: Alen Zelenetz
Artist: John Buscema

Kull is bored with the loss of his friend Brule. Daphne though has a plan that she got from the old crone that lives in a cave. The crone tells her the location of the sword of Gonra. Gonra was an ancient king of Valusia. If Kull can retrieve the sword then it will waken Gonra from his long slumber and Kull will have a companion of strength. Kull jumps at the chance but to the disappointment of Daphne the king is still completely uninterested in her romantically. Kull takes Ridondo along and he does find the sword in the alter of the scorpion. This wakes up Gorna who is real pissed at being disturbed. The two battle with Kull eventually pinning Gonra. Gonra yields and Kull now has a worthy companion. Meanwhile Brule is heading home when he and his escort are ambushed by a giant snake. The snake is an illusion. Daphne is so brokenhearted that she falls into a coma. A coma that could lead to death unless her love for Kull is returned.

So this was a quirky issue. Several things are going on and it ends with several threads left hanging. Always a good sign to have the story leaving the reader wanting more. Daphne really has it for Kull and the gold she paid the crone isn’t delivering. It is interesting that Kull would embrace what is obviously something supernatural. He must be real bored to dabble in it. Nothing good can come of this. I have a feeling the old crone is working with or is Thulsa Doom. Brule is also heading toward a showdown with sorcery. A good set up to a big conclusion next issue.

THE DESTROYER #7

“Stone Killer”
Writer: Will Murry
Artists: Rik Levins and Chris Ivy

In the jungles of Peru a college activist meets with the Shining Path rebels. Things aren’t going good for the Maoist world revolution. Recruitment is way down. The activist only collected $69 dollars to give them. That is after the airfare for our college activist. While here the guerrillas give her a juice from a leave that causes stone to liquify for a brief period of time. This will be used to strike back at the corrupt Capitalists and wake up the people to the need for a revolution.

So they use it on the Statue of Liberty only it just turns the base to mush. Didn’t work on copper. Seems the C.Y.L.T Communist Youth Thought League didn’t know that copper isn’t stone. They haven’t been going to class and their leader orders them to start so they know stuff. Here Remo and Chiun try to infiltrate the group. Remo says that Chiun is the twin brother of Ho named Ho Chi Mung. The dolts believe him but it all falls apart when Chiun takes exception to him being recognized as Vietnamese and not a Korean. Luckily Remo gets him out of the way by reminding him is soap is about to start. Later Remo finds out they are going to attack Mount Rushmore.

Remo and Chiun find them spraying the juice on Washington then Lincoln. Chiun and Remo manage to hold up the images from sliding down until they solidify. Then they chase the commies onto a ledge where Chiun goads them by disparaging Mao. This gets them mad that they lose their footing and fall to their deaths.

“Destroyer Gallery”
Artist: Lee Weeks

Four full page drawing of Remo in action.

Well this was another funny story. Now this was a ridiculous satire back in 1990. Sadly there are Antifa thugs out there that think just like this. Universities are just popping these dipshits out like an assembly line. I think the guy who wrote this didn’t realize how prescient he was. I really do love this series. I must check out the books sometime.

KULL THE CONQUEROR #8

“Blade of Justice!”
Writer: Alan Zelenetz
Artist: Sal Buscema

A man is executed for murdering the temple virgins. Everyone is all pumped up about the justice being served except Kull. He feels only true justice is done when you catch the person in the act and kill him on the spot. Not imprison him and then chop his head off while he is all tied up. Apparently this man was not the killer for the murders of temple virgins continues. The mob demands justice and Kull pledges to personally track down the culprit. Going undercover he catches the killer in the act. One of his own Red Slayers who is angry at being rejected by the virgins. So Kull fights and wins. Later Baron Kaanuub is sentenced to death but Kull decides to commute the sentence. Instead Kaanuub is stripped of his citizenship and banished. Meanwhile Brule is heading back home and is confronted by a sea creature that warns him to turn back.

So this issue was good but not great one. We get some insight into Kull’s vision of justice. Naturally it consists of it being administered immediately without any of the civilized formalities. Interesting his mercy for Kaanuub might be more cruel than a quick death. Someone like the weak cowardly Kaanuub may not last too long on his own. The subplot with Brule is looking interesting. Sounds like a wizard is now the chief of his tribe and the monster he confronts is a sign that wizard feels threatened by the return of Brule. Oh and there is another subplot that involves Daphna the noble’s daughter he saved from the goblins. She has fallen in love with Kull and goes to seek a love potion from an old hag of a wizard.

THE DESTROYER #6

“Mafia Crossfire”
Writer: Will Murray
Artists: Carmine Infantino and Tom Morgan

A man in a sportscar is pulled over by a highway patrolman. Only it is really McCleary who is posing as one and shoots the man in the head. Later he tells Chiun that Remo is dead and shows him the body. Chiun is upset because this ruins his reputation. His pupil is killed by a bullet that he couldn’t dodge. So he goes back to Korea. Then McCleary tells Remo about the assassination. Remo was given the face of a mob hitman known as the Miami Vise. CURE had plans to infiltrate Remo into the mob. The mob is going to war between rival Dons in Boston and Rhode Island. Remo is to infiltrate and get the evidence to put them away.

So in his new persona he finds out he is to make a hit on the don in Rhode Island. He goes down and does shoot the don and his guards. Later while telling the Boston don he explains they were ready for him and he was betrayed by someone in his organization. Remo gets into a fight and kills the suspected traitor. The don plans to go down and claim Rhode Island. Only the other don is alive. He was wearing a kevlar vest. It is revealed that McCleary was the man who was feeding info to both dons. A fight ensues where both sides kill each other. McCleary’s plan worked in he got the two sides to kill each other. When Remo gets back he finds Chiun waiting for him. He wasn’t fooled by the dead body and promises to increase Remo’s training.

“Why There is No Letter Page”
Writer: Will Murray
Artists: James Fry and Chris Ivy

A letter from Chiun on why the magazine has no letter page. The reason is there is no letters worthy of being printed. They all praise the incompetent writer and artists and in some cases Remo. There is not one in praise of Chiun. A hilarious letter to explain the absence of a letter column.

“Destroyer Gallery”
Artists: James Fry, Chris Ivy and Stan Drake.

Portfolio of Remo and Chiun in various action sequences. One is Remo lecturing Chiun he can’t waste people because they interrupt his soap operas.

This was a real fun issue. This is the first that showcases Remo. The other ones before had him relying a lot for help from Chiun. He is now gaining enough experience to go it alone. A really wild and convoluted plot that somehow works. This also prominently features McCleary and shows his Machiavellian plot to take down the mafia. Also shows a growing relationship between Remo and Chiun. A really fun issue.