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.

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.

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.

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.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #97

“The Long Night of Fang and Talon! Part Two”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan is tied up on an alter as Ajaga calls the beasts to the Bloodmoon feast. They come from the jungle, snakes, crocodiles, leopards, and hawks. Ajaga will have them tear apart Conan. At this time Belit with Sholo come on the scene and attack. Belit manages to knock out Ajaga and free Conan. Conan than dumps a cauldron of water on the symbol of Jhebbal Sag. Ajaga comes to surrounded by his animals but has forgotten the language because of the knock on his head. So his creatures turn on him. When they finish tearing him apart, they revert back to their true natures and attack each other. Sholo saves Conan from one of Ajaga’s cheiftains but is impaled on the spear. The timely arrival of the Black Corsairs save Conan and Belit. They free the captive chief’s daughters and sail off with all the booty they can carry from Abombi.

The end of the Beast King of Abombi sage. It was an enjoyable story. The beast king came to a gruesome end by his own animals. Shlomo sacrificed his life to save Conan. Conan and Belit secure their position on the Black Coast. Now we are fast approaching the big 100 issue. Roy could have tried to pad this story out some more but choose wisely to end it. So we will get some more fill in adventures until the big 100 event.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #96

“The Long Night of Fang and Talon! Part One”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan and the lion Shlomo continue on to Abombi. They find a cave that leads to the city. Only a trap was set and the floor gives way. Conan and Shlomo are thrown into an underground river. A giant electric eel attacks Conan. He gets a shock when his sword touches the eel. So Conan has to use a rock to cut off the eel’s head. Conan then passes out from lack of oxygen and floats to the surface. The followers of Ajaga find him and take him to Ajaga. The beast king has plans to sacrifice both Conan and Belit to solidify his bid to control the Black Coast.

Shlomo is swept down the river until he is washed ashore. There he manages to find Belit who is captive with the daughters of chiefs from surrounding villages. Shlomo recognizes Belit and manages to tear out the bars so she can escapes. The two continue to look for Conan as Conan is tied to an alter to be sacrificed.

So Conan has some fun adventures that highlight how much a bad ass he is. An interesting idea to bring back Shlomo from the early days and have him be a loyal companion to Conan. Belit is shown to also be a tough woman who refuses to give up. Another early comic I remember as a kid that I enjoyed very much.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #95

“The Return of Amra!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Ajaga the Beast King of Abombi has captured Belit. He takes her to his city and brags about how he plans to have her killed slowly. Conan is assumed dead after being knocked off a cliff by two baboons. The tree branches and body of a baboon manage to cushion his fall. As he lies unconscious a black lion comes and shoos off the jackals. Conan awakes and finds that Shlomo the lion that served the old Amra has now come to look out for him. So Conan heads off to rescue Belit and get revenge on Ajaga.

His journey takes him to a cave with a bizarre symbol on the ground. Shlomo will not cross it. So Conan goes alone into the cave. There he finds an old witch doctor name G’Chambi. G’Chambi is hiding out from Ajaga and tells him of the symbol and how it relates to Jhebbal Sag. G’Chambi is suddenly attacked by a small dinosaur that found a way in. Conan than fights it and manages to bash it’s head on a rock. He takes out G’Chambi and learns he must draw the symbol perfectly to shield him. G’Chambi dies and is buried as Conan continues on to Abombi.

This was actually the first of the color Conan the Barbarian’s that I started to regularly collect this series instead of casually. I really loved this story. It had a very Tarzan vibe to it and I loved Tarzan. Still do. A cool story with lions and dinosaurs. Cool idea to use a plot point from one of Howard’s stories about Jhebbal Sag. A good solid idea for Conan’s final story arc with Belit and the Black Corsairs.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #94

“The Beast-King of Abombi!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Zula and some of the crew of the Tigress have decided to leave and find their fortunes in the Hyborian lands. Thus Conan and Belit sail back to the Black Coast. Only they find the villages along the coast either destroyed or deserted. They finally come to the peaceful village of the Watambi. The chief Ombassa is a broken man. He tells the story of Ajaga. Ajaga was exiled from his tribe for trying to overthrow his father. With his followers he went to the abandoned city of Abombi. There a strange mist gave him the power to speak to beasts. So Ajaga has been destroying the areas villages.

He came to the Watambi and demanded tribute which they refused. So he unleased the beasts of the jungle and had baboons kidnap the chief’s daughter. The Watambis are forced to capitulate. Belit agrees to go and put an end to this Ajaga. They arrive at Abombi and Conan leads the Corsairs up the cliff. Only the beasts of Abombi are waiting for them. Three baboons knock Conan off the cliff. Belit is knocked unconscious and the other Corsairs are forced to surrender.

So a new adventure before the big 100. A nice little scene where Zula and some of the crew leave. I love this story of a beast king that uses the old language of Jhebbel Sag. It has a real feel of the Black Coast and its exotic peoples and animals. A good story to wind up the saga of Belit and the Corsairs.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #93

“Of Rage and Revenge!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Ptor-Nubis the Stygian sorcery has hypnotized Conan and company. Now they are ordered to fight each other to the death. Only Zula who has knowledge of hypnotism is not effected. He manages to maneuver to Ptor-Nubis and strike him down. With the spell broken Conan and friends make short work of the Stygian guards. So they plan to overthrow Nik-Karrak and place Belit on the throne of Asgalun. They spread the word among the population of Belit’s return.

The Stygians have other plans and overthrow Nim-Karrak and annex the province. Nim-Karrak manages to escape but Uriaz the other royal is arrested and sentenced to be publicly executed. At the execution the executioner instead kills the Stygian leader. He turns out to be Conan who then exhorts the crowd to support Belit. Zula and the black corsairs start a fight disguised as the Kushite mercenaries against the Hyrkanian mercenaries. Soon a battle ensues that sees the Stygians defeated. Nim-Karrak tries to knife Belit in the back but Zula uses his hypnotism to conjure an illusion. This illusion makes him stumble and fall to his death.

Now Belit can be crowned but when she hears that it would be for live she decides to forgo the crown and give it to the weak Uriaz. She and Conan with their corsairs sneak out of the city as it descends into fighting and the mad king Akhirom comes riding up to take the crown.

The end of Belit’s quest for vengeance was a very satisfying conclusion. A story filled with many different components that all fit into place at the end. Belit gets her revenge in a way by seeing her uncle dead. The Stygians are kicked out. I loved the ending where seeing how fickle the crowd was she wisely decided that being a queen was not what it was cracked up to be.

So we are heading into the home stretch of the Belit era. The next issues will give us some good old fashioned pirate adventures to end it. A fitting end to what I think is the best of the Marvel Conan.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL #4

“The Return of the Conqueror!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan has regained his throne after the conspiracy of Xaltotun. Now he rides with the captive Nemedian king to his capital Belverus to claim the girl Zenobia. Zenobia helped Conan escape the dungeon and on a whim has vowed to make her his queen. King Tarascus convinces Conan to not bring in his army for fear that would trigger an uprising. So Conan goes with Phaidon the son of his trusted general and two other men. In the palace he finds Zenobia but the treacherous Tarascus ambushes him. Later Conan is set in a maze with a mirror on the ceiling. Zenobia is ties to a stake in the middle. Also the Manotar half man, half bull is also released in the maze. The torch is doused so he can’t see in the mirror and goes to rescue Zenobia.

Conan arrives just in time to fight the Manotar. He kills it with his bare hands. Later it is revealed to be Phaidon who was turned into a Manotar by magic. This drives Conan mad and carrying Zenobia he fights through the guards and kills the king’s commander. Zenobia uses a crossbow to shoot Tarascus in the back as he goes to knife Conan while he is recovering from the fight. The two manage to escape the city and Zenobia learns that she is to be the Queen of Aquilonia. Conan proposes and she accepts.

So at the end of “Conan the Conqueror” Howard ended with Conan promising to retrieve Zenobia and make her his queen. Roy has given us a fine sequel to Howard’s only novel. I love the Manotaur which was the opposite of a Minotaur. This Manotar had the torso of a man and body of a bull. Of course we find out Tarascus used magic on a friend. This would start the trend of making annuals have original stories instead of reprints which two of the last three were. I enjoyed the extra length annuals from the old days. A great little bonus to celebrate a series anniversary. This was a classic and enjoyable story that Roy gave us.