“The Secret of Skull River!”
Writers: Roy Thomas & John Jakes
Artists: Jim Starlin & Al Milgrom
Conan is traveling Zamora and looking for water. A blind man directs him ahead to a valley with a river but warns him that the water is unsafe. Later Conan is attacked by a giant named Hanuman who Conan manages to kill. He gets to the river and starts to drink when he notices that it looks wrong. He passes out and wakes up in a village. A beautiful woman named Naia has been looking after him. Her father the mayor comes and has a job for Conan. The village has been in a sorry state since the local warlord Sophos hired a wizard named Anaximander. The wizards experiments have been dumping waste into the river their only source of water. The waste has been turning the people to disfigured horrors that shun the light.
Conan decides to help and when he sneaks into the castle is captured. Another giant Grandall tries to kill him. Conan defeats him and finds out that the giant and his brother were turned this way by the wizard. He agrees to help and leads Conan to their lab. There the wizard has succeeded in finding a formula for turning iron into gold. The giant overhears the wizard say he has no plans for turning him back to normal. Thus the two come in and slay the warlord and wizard. The giant dies and Conan gets a new horse out of the deal to continue on his way.
“Savage Tales is Dead! Long Live Savage Tales”
By Roy Thomas
Art by Roy Krenkel
An editorial on the state of Savage Tales. Conan is so successful that it it getting its own title “The Savage Sword of Conan.” Ka-zar will be the new main feature.
“The Legacy of Greenberg”
By Roy Thomas
Art by Tony DeZuniga & Roy Krenkel
The second part of the Gnome press article from last issue. It tells of the success and failures in reprinting the Conan stories. It then tells how L. Sprague deCamp was hired to rewrite non-Conan Howard stories into Conan. Later a Scandinavian named Bjorn Nyberg submits some stories. An interesting article.
“Spell of the Dragon!”
Writer: John Jakes
Artists: Val Mayerik & Joe Sinott
Brak the Barbarian has been hired by a village to slay a dragon. He goes to a witch for magic. She agrees but there is a catch. He must kill the dragon at the sun’s zenith and can not look at anyone for an hour or he will kill that person. Brak then kills the dragon and the beautiful daughter of the village headman comes. Luckily Brak is blinded by the sun and manages to grab a sash to tie around his eyes. The old witch sent the girl out there saying Brak was injured and needed help. She hates the beautiful woman and wanted her dead. Brak instead kills the old hag.
“The Legend of the Lizard Men!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Buscema
A reprint from Astonishing Tales #9.
So the big news is that Conan is moving on to his own magazine and Ka-zar will be taking over. This is a transition issue. Now its interesting that two of the stories were by John Jakes a writer known more for his epic historical novels that were turned into mini-series back in the ’70s & ’80s. Apparently he also created his own barbarian hero in Brak. Brak is going to be a fixture of this new Savage Tales. Ka-zar was a good choice. The story in this was a reprint. Apparently it was written for the second issue but found its way into Astonishing Tales after the series first cancellation. A good story and actually looks better in the larger black and white format.
So Ka-zar and Brak are two welcome additions to this series.