CONAN THE BARBARIAN #101

“The Devil Has Many Legs!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan is eating his meal by the fire at night when he is attacked by a savage tribe. He fights valiantly but weight of numbers overpower him. A warrior named Yorubo is for killing Conan there but the others insist on taking him to the village. Conan had killed their war chief and the new one when chosen will decide his fate. So Conan is trussed up and carried to the village. There Yorubo gets in an argument with another claimant and kills him. Conan uses this moment to break his bonds and challenge Yorubo for position of war chief of the Bamulas. So the two are placed on a log over a pit with a giant spider. Conan manages to knock Yorubo into the pit. Yorubo’s wife jumps in to die with her husband. Conan decides to jump in and kill the spider to save them. Yorubo still wants to kill Conan but Conan manages to kill him. Conan is proclaimed the war chief and gets his wife.

The first story after the tragic loss of Belit. Naturally Conan would be alone brooding in the jungle. Roy though finds plenty of action to take Conan’s mind off his recent loss. Howard established in his writings that Conan became a war chief so we find out how Conan got that title. A fun story with a a real dickhead as his opponent. Throw in a giant spider and you get a decent story. Conan now has the wife of the slain Yorubo as his and she did contemplate knifing Conan while he sleeps. A good if not great start to the next chapter in Conan’s journey.

MACHINE MAN #12

“Where Walk the Gods!”
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Steve Ditko

Machine Man is out patrolling New York when he comes on an old woman being mugged. He saves her but the old hag is scarred of Machine Man. He doesn’t have much time to waste with her for there is another incident. This time a car hits a man and drives off. Machine Man captures the driver and finds out he was hired to run over the guy. Well soon there is a shot and Machine Man finds a young boy over his father. Machine Man captures the man and finds out he was hired to kill this guy. This is the last straw and Machine Man just goes nuts. He releases bolts of energy. One hits a chemical lab in a building and blows it up. The five inhabitants are transformed into some other beings.

So in Machine Man’s rage he is about to kill the assassin when these beings he changed come and stop him. They have been transformed into some higher beings that can see the future. They debate whether Machine Man should be disassembled or allowed to continue on. Machine Man is just real bitter about humanity but the young boy of the man he saved speaks on his behalf. He is grateful for Machine Man saving his father and doesn’t want to kill the would be murderer. This brings Machine Man out of his anger and he realizes that there is good in humanity. The beings he created pardon Machine Man and go out into the stars.

Wow was this a heavy issue. First Machine Man is just hip deep in people trying to kill others. Sound like how New York is nowadays. He stops a car and magnetizes a manhole cover to get one of the assassins. He saves a man and gets real angry about the whole human race. He even contemplates murder. Oh and his accidental bolt of energy turns some people into godlike beings. This was a fun and interesting issue. Very heavy on philosophy and exploring Machine Man’s own humanity.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #62

“The Temple of the Tiger”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: John Buscema and Ernie Chan

Conan is the captain of The Temptress a pirate ship on the Vilayet Sea. Lately the ship has not had much luck in finding ships to raid. The crew is about to mutiny when a ship is seen on the horizon. They take it and kill the fat merchant who eats a mysterious map. The ship has nothing of value except a beautiful woman. Conan takes her to his cabin and finds out the merchant was going to an island of amazons. Just then the crew burst in and mutiny. Conan gets overwhelmed but before they can kill him, a storm crashes the ship among the rocks of an island. Conan fights off the sharks and makes it to the beach. There he is found by some peaceful fishermen who nurse him back to health.

The peaceful village is soon attacked by beautiful women riding on tigers. They slaughter the inhabitants and wound Conan with an arrow. He is taken to their city of Z’Harr Hr’Ann. Conan is sent to a gladiator arena and fights his former crew who he manages to kill with ease. Conan then is chosen by the queen Sahriana. A eyepatch wearing woman who claims to have also cut off her right breast to draw a bow better. Only she looks like she still has both breasts so not really sure about that.

From her Conan finds the history of this city. Eons ago it was ruled by men who worshipped a half-man half-tiger god called Dorgna’ath. Women were sacrificed to him and one day they preyed to the goddess Kilili. Kilili came and turned Dorgan’ath to stone. Then the women drove out the men and have been living in peace ever since. They are nearly immortal but occasionally take men to breed fresh blood. Conan is taken to witness a birth and they are about to feed the boy baby to a tiger. Conan breaks free and kills the tiger with his bare hands.

So his punishment is to be tied to two horses and pulled apart. Only Conan breaks the rope with his strength and takes one of the horses. He goes to the temple to take the emerald eyes from the stone Dorgna’ath. He easily dispatches the two eunuch guards. Once he takes out the eyes the stone god comes to life and attacks. Queen Sahriana comes and is killed by the enraged but blind god. She dies and turns to a skeleton. A curse that said an ungelded man entering the temple would doom the city proves to be true. Conan escapes before the city disappears. The only thing he has are the emerald eyes of the god.

“The One Black Stain”
Writer: Robert E. Howard
Artist: David Wenzel

A poem by Howard of the execution of Sir Thomas Dougherty by Francis Drake. Solomon Kane is part of the crew and confronts Drake about the injustice of this execution. Kane is put in chains and the execution continues. Later at night Kane escapes and goes to Drake. Only Drake is pitiful with grief with what he did and Kane spares him. An enjoyable story of putting his poem to images. Probably something left over from Roy Thomas.

So this is the second non-Thomas issue. Michael Fleisher is proving to be an excellent choice to carry on this series. He gets what Conan is all about. In this issue he goes from fighting his pirate crew to sharks. Than amazons on tigers in a mysterious city. He performs amazing feats and ends up battling a stone god and destroying this lost city. A real action packed story with beautiful artwork. This insured that the series would continue for years to come.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #100

“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.

MACHINE MAN #11

“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.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #61

“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.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #99

“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.

MACHINE MAN #10

“Renewal!”
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.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #60

“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.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #98

“Sea-Woman!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

The Tigress comes on a beautiful woman with blue skin and green hair floating on a giant lily pad. He manages to turn away a shark. Belit at first wants to leave her but N’Yaga intercedes. So she is taken on board. Naturally she causes some friction with the crew as they have been without female companionship for a while. The woman is mute and starts to flirt with the crewmembers including Conan. One crewman disappears and is assumed to have fallen overboard. One night the woman entrances a crewmember and lures him out to sea. There while kissing him she also drowns him. Conan sees this and sounds the alarm. Only the woman than mesmerizes Conan. He jumps over and swims out to her. Belit manages to break the spell with her love. Conan grabs the woman by the hair and drags her back to the ship. When he arrives he finds that he clutches a hand full of seaweed.

As we approach the big 100 issue these issues are mostly going to be filler until that big event. Roy chose a great story for one of those fillers. A hauntingly subtle story of this beautiful siren that can bewitch men. The story was inspired by a poem from Howard that was used as the siren song. What I loved most about this story was that it really established the love between Conan and Belit. A sad tale since we know the tragedy that is soon coming. An enjoyable issue with some beautiful Howard poetry and an equally beautiful blue-skinned woman.