CONAN THE BARBARIAN #44

“Of Flame and the Fiend!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story “The Tower of Blood” by David A. English
Artists: John Buscema & The Crusty Bunkers

Conan wakes up in the dungeon with Sonja. The two discuss what has happened to them when Morophla comes. He forces Conan to accompany him to his holding pen for the degraded human captives. He has plans to have Conan mate with his captives for fresh new stock for blood. He uses some powder to stimulate Conan and it descends into a psychedelic distortion as Conan is forced to perform. Later he is brought back to the dungeon. Uathacht the sister comes along and shows a desire for Conan. Conan agrees to be with her if she can set Sonja free. She later comes back with news that she has bound her brother’s soul. Only her jealousy drives her to try and kill Sonja. Sonja manages to win the knife fight and kills Uathacht. Then they are free and find their swords. Morophla while bound can still conjure images from Conan’s mind. So Conan fights a golden ape, an octopus and medusa headed giant snake. Sonja manages to spread oil and set it on fire. The fire reaches Morophla and kills him. The two escape with the help of the bat-men that are now free. Sonja at the end knocks Conan out with a rock since she does not want a man looking after her and rides off leaving an unconscious Conan.

Well this was a strange story. A bit risque for the seventies with its none to subtle rape of Conan. It was still an interesting story. It was nice to see Sonja and her interaction with Conan. An interesting experiment but good that we end it and move on to Conan and his adventuring in the Hyborean world.

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CONAN THE BARBARIAN #43

“Tower of Blood”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by David A. English
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chua

Conan and Sonja are being chased by bounty hunters. The heirs to the king Sonja killed put a big bounty on her head. They manage to shoot an arrow into Sonja’s horse. So Conan finds a cleft in a hill to hide in. Once their they manage to start an avalanche and kill all but one of the bounty hunters. So without horses the two explore what’s through the cleft and find a fog enshrouded valley. A bat creature attacks them which Conan kills. Then they make it to a mysterious tower and a figure knocks them out with a thrown vile that releases a smoke.

Conan wakes and finds that they are prisoners to an immortal brother and sister named Morophla and Uathacht. The two were driven from Stygia by Thoth Amon and cursed to need blood to remain alive. They ruled over a city of humans but the mist in the valley killed and devolved them over time. They plan to use Conan and Sonja to repopulate their human herd. The jealous Uathacht pushes Sonja into a pit that has a cannibalistic monster named Dromek. Conan jumps in and defeats the creature with a bone. Morophla uses his mesmerism to force Conan to take Sonja into a cell where they await their fate.

So here is another interesting story. I never heard of this David English but from this I would like to read some of his work. Continuing on from the debut of Savage Sword we have Sonja and Conan together. Its obvious that Sonja is a likable character and destined for great things including her own series. So how will Conan and Sonja escape from these creepy wizards. Looking forward to the next issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #42

“Night of the Gargoyle!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adopted from “The Purple Heart of Erlik” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: John Buscema

Conan has made it to the City of Thieves in Zamora. While sitting around a beautiful woman attracts his attention. The woman Arlinna is being blackmailed by Baron Takkim. He saw her leaving the scene of the murder of the ambassador from Khitai. It was the servant who murdered him but Takkim will frame Arlinna. So she is forced to impersonate an Aquilonian noblewoman to steal the Dragon-Head of Koblar-Zann from the Khitain merchant Lun-Farr. As she leaves for the merchant she is accosted by three brothers who mean to rob her. Luckily Conan intervenes and makes short work of the thieves. Arlinna who gives the name Merriam then accompanies Conan around the city. Conan wins some gold in a wrestling match and they go back to his rented room.

Here Arlinna knocks out Conan and continues on her mission. Unfortunately she fails to take the Dragon-head and his beaten up by Lun-Farr. Lun-Farr then uses his magic to animate the gargoyle statue of Tavashtri to go kill the man responsible for the attempted robbery. Conan who has recovered from the vase to the head sees Arlinna about to jump off the roof. He saves her and after hearing the story has her lead him to the Baron Takkim. When they arrive the gargoyle Tavashtri also arrives and kills Takkim. Then it fights Conan who fights back. Conan manages to last so long that Lun-Farr loses his mental control over the gargoyle. It abandons the fight and goes to kill Lun-Farr.

This was another adaptation of a non-Conan story by Howard. Once again an excellent tale with plenty of action, beautiful women and sorcery and monsters. I have said it before and will say again that Robert E. Howard was a genius. This story also marks Conan’s return to the Hyborian lands.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #41

“The Garden of Death and Life!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

Conan comes to a small desert village looking for a place to rest. Instead he runs into a young woman fleeing a mob. Naturally Conan being a noble barbarian rescues her and they flee to the desert. The woman is named Zhadorr and she is a bit off. She tells that there is an oasis close by called Shar-Al-Tjinn. They meet four brigands and flee to the the oasis. When Conan arrives he jumps in the pool for a swim and finds skeletons underneath. He remembers the name of the oasis translates to The Bones of Fools. Coming up he is captured by the brigands who plan to sell him and Zhadorr as slaves.

At night the leader decides to take Zhadorr away to rape her. Conan manages to free himself from his bonds. He goes to rescue Zhadorr but finds nothing but bones of the leader. Zhadorr dies and he buries her. Later he hears screams and finds the other brigands and horses being attacked by the huge tree in the oasis. It picks them up and eats them. It then grabs Conan who manages to throw a torch at the tree and sets it aflame. In the morning the only thing left is a pod that gives birth to Zhadorr. Conan hacks the pod woman to pieces and rides out of the oasis.

So this story was an interesting one. Sort of an invasion of the body snatcher type story. Its obvious from the beginning that Zhadorr is weird. She craves sunlight and never wants to eat. This was a different opponent than Conan has been encountering so that was a nice change of pace. A solid single story for this journey back to the Hyborian lands.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #40

“The Fiend from the Forgotten City”
Writer: Roy Thomas adopted from plot by Michael Resnick
Artists: Rich Buckler and Ernie Chua

Conan is riding to Shadizar when he comes on a man dying in the desert. He saves the man and Libro tells of a lost city he was searching for. He offers Conan treasure if he helps him find this city. Naturally Conan likes that idea and they find the lost city of Ababenzzar. At the city Conan finds that some brigands are already fighting over the treasure. He stumbles on a silver-haired woman who he rescues from the brigands. The old man Libro manages to call forth a giant demon to slay the brigands. Then he turns the demon on Conan who manages to throw his knife and kill Libro. The silver-haired woman wants the big diamond which Conan gives her. This transforms the woman into the goddess Ishtar. She was held captive by her former priest Libro but the gem managed to restore her. She then warns Conan not to take any of the gems and Conan leaves once again empty handed.

“The Changeling!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditto

A medieval king has the face of a baboon. He is seeking a wizard that will make him the handsomest man in the kingdom. He finds such a wizard and threatens him with death if he doesn’t deliver. So he turns the king into a beautiful swan. He did want to be the most handsome male in the kingdom and got his wish.

So this is another lost city story. Yes there have been several already and Roy has a slight nod to that effect when Conan believes Lipro since he has already been to a few lost cities. Nevertheless this is another enjoyable story. Lost cities are fun and Conan has plenty of adventure in this one .

As for the short back up story. It was OK but nothing special.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #39

“The Dragon from the Inland Sea!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

Conan is ambushed by three brigands. Naturally the brigands become food for the vultures. Unfortunately Conan’s horse is killed and he is bitten by a snake. He passes out but finds himself being cared for by Ben-Hussal and his niece Rachalla. Ben was the ruler of a city by the Vilayet sea called Keshaan. This city was plagued by a dragon from the sea. His high priest urged leaving a young woman out for sacrifice. This priest Ghul-Azalel soon became the real power and demanded that Rachalla be sacrificed. So Ben and his niece left for Zamora. Only recently they hear that the mad priest died so they are going back.

When they arrive they find out that it was a trick to lure them back. The three are captured and Rachalla is left out to be sacrificed. Conan manages to pull the stake he is tied on out of the ground. He grabs a sword and goes out to free Racalla. Instead he has to battle a giant crocodile. He lures it back to the village where the villagers band together to try to kill it. Conan mortally wounds it with a fence post he pulls out of the ground and throws the mad priest into the netting around the dragon. It goes back into the sea to die thus freeing the people of Keshaan.

So this was a cool story. Conan does just about every bad ass thing a barbarian can do. Kills some bandits. Kills the snake that bites him and sucks out the venom. Pulls the stake he was tied to out of the ground and fight a giant crocodile. I found the twist ending where we find out the mad priest was Ben-Hussal’s brother and the father of Racalla the girl he was trying to kill. Seems Ben-Hussal couldn’t bring himself to kill his brother which is why he fled. Which helps explain how such a brave man would flee this nutjob. Also loved how Conan didn’t necessarily defeat the beast himself but had help from everyone in the village. A very well done story.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #38

“The Warrior and the Were-Woman!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story “The House of Arabu” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: John Buscema

Conan is at a banquet given in his honor for rescuing the princess. He has to deal with a cowardly cousin of his captain Narim-Bey, a fop that tries to blackmail him and a possessed servant girl that tries to stab him. Later he has a dream of a dark vampire woman. His lover Amytis comes and when she hears the story says its Lilitu. That only the wizard Gimul-Ishbi could help him. So off he goes to the wizard.

The wizard give him a talisman with the powder of a soul to stop the were-woman. His price is a human life which Conan gladly gives by stabbing the wizard. Then he goes to some ruins and traps Lilitu’s mate another were-creature. He gets the name of who set her on him and then releases her mate. But he forgets to have them swear not to go after him. He flees and runs into Narim-Bey who is the one who cursed him. Conan knocks him off his horse and leaves him to face the were-creatures. He decides Turan is no longer safe and head off to the Hyborian lands to the west.

So Conan finally decides to leave Turan which is about time. I didn’t see much point in staying around. He needs to be traveling and having adventures in new lands. This story another excellent Howard adaptation was a good one to end his time in Turan. I loved all the cool touches. How he stabbed the dark wizard. I mean he met his obligation. Oh and at the banquet how he threatened the fop by offering to let him live. The final fate of the cuckold Narim-Bey who brags about beating his wife so you know he deserves his fate. Another enjoyable Conan issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #37

“The Curse of the Golden Skull!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on short story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Neal Adams

Rotath of Lemuria lay dying killed by Kull. He utters a curse and many years later a hillman comes to the ruins of the temple. He finds a golden skeleton and when he touches it the skeleton takes the man’s flesh. Conan is part of a troop of Turanians transporting the princess Yolinda north. They are ambushed by hill-men. Well armed hillmen with armor and good weapons. Only Conan and a black Juma are spared to be slaves. They are taken to a tropical valley and a mysterious tower. The hillmen’s leader is a golden skinned man. He plans to marry Yolinda and have his children be heirs to the Turanian throne.

A brief fight sees Conan and Juma knocked out and put to work in the gold mines. They escape to the passage where the gold is sent and find a giant lizard. The lizard is eaten by a giant snail. The snail chases the two after they load up with gold. They lead the giant snail to Rotath who is about to marry Yolinda. The snail eats Rotath’s golden skeleton and Conan and Juma ride off with the princess.

So this story was originally meant for the Savage Tales magazine but it was on hiatus so got transferred to the Conan series. It had twelve pages cut so some stuff is missing. Still the story was exciting and filled with many interesting monsters, wizards and action. This is also the first time Juma appears in the series. Juma was a creation of deCamp and Carter so obviously their stuff was becoming available to the series. I can see this as a Howard story. Another excellent story in the series.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #36

“Beware the Hyrkanians Bearing Gifts…!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

Conan comes riding back to Aghrapur the capital of Turan. He rides right up to King Yildiz who is inspecting his sorry looking palace guard. The horse collapses dead and Conan also collapses from exhaustion. This impresses Yildiz who wants Conan for his guard. So Conan settles in and trains in all the aspects of warfare. When not training he is having an affair with Amytis the wife of the King’s adviser. One day a gift arrives from one of the newly conquered city-states. A stone head that matched a statue from another conquest. Yildiz places the head on the statue and it comes alive. Conan notices that the priest who brought it is controlling it and throws his ax to kill the priest. The adviser wants to sent Conan north to fight the rebellious hill tribes after he notices how much concern his wife shows the barbarian.

So Conan decides to come back to Aghrapur and finds himself in the palace guard. A fun story that gives Conan time to learn many of the finer points to civilized warfare. I love his time training with the bow. He finds it an unmanly weapon and the scene with the heckling Turanians is priceless. It starts with a quote from R.E.H.

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

So needless to say the Turanians learn a hard lesson. So Yildiz is finally shown and he is one weak fop. He now wonders if his ambitious son didn’t try to kill him with the statue. So Karim Bey finally figured out that Conan is cuckolding him and that should make for an interesting story. I think Conan’s time in the Turanian army is coming to an end.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #35

“The Hell-Spawn of Kara-Shehr”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story “The Fire of Asshurbanipal” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: John Buscema

Conan and Bourtai are traveling by camel through the desert to Aghraphur. They come on a man being attacked by four brigands. Conan drives off the brigands but soon more come and Conan takes the injured man and flees. Later the man is dying and tries to warn Conan about the dangers of the Eye of Azure in Kara-Shehr. A sand storm losses the water the two have but they find the lost city of Kara-Shehr. Exploring they find a throne room with a skeleton clutching the huge gem. Only the brigands come and capture Conan and Bourtai. The brigands are lead by Kai Shaan a man that Conan had a run in with some issues back. Kai wants to torture Conan but first takes the gem against the advice of his men. No sooner than than he claims the gem a sandstorm appears in the throne room and a winged demon comes. The demon kills Kai Shaan and Bourtai who also tries to take the gem. The demon leaves and Conan finds the skeleton clutching the gem with the skeletons of Kai Shaan and Bourtai next to it. Conan decides to leave while he is ahead.

Another adaptation of a non-Conan Howard story. This guy was a brilliant writer. I have to start looking for more of his work to read. This story fit nicely with the current storyline. I loved the big two page spread of the reveal of the city. It had brigands and monsters and lost cities. We also say good-bye to Bourtai or monkey-face as Conan liked to call him. Obviously Roy didn’t see much point of keeping him around as a companion. I think that was a wise idea. He would start to wear quickly.