SAVAGE TALES #6 KA-ZAR

“The Damnation Plague”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: John Buscema and Tony deZuniga

A plague is infecting the people of the Savage land. It turns them into homicidal maniacs. The plague was brought by those from our world who for centuries have been immune. The natives of the Savage Land have no such immunity. A rumor that there is a cure in the Mountains of Darkness of an ancient race that discovered it leads Ka-zar, Zabu and a young woman named Rhyla take off. They come upon a Tyrannosaurus Rex that Zabu attacks and now endangers them all. Meanwhile Ka-zar’s cousin has come to the Savage Land to seek out Ka-zar.

“Walk The Savage Land”
By Roy Thomas

An editorial on Ka-zar and his history. He started out in the thirties first in pulp stories then in the comics in 1939. Interesting to find out that Ka-zar has been around for so long.

“The Sword and The Road: The Saga of Brak the Barbarian”
By Fred Brosser

A chronological history of the John Jakes character Brak the Barbarian. He starts out being banished from his northern tribe for mocking their gods. He is traveling to the southern kingdom of Khurdistan and along the way battles various demons, sorcerers and men. Next issue has the first story and it sounds like an intriguing character.

“Jan—With One—N A Review of Otis Adelbert Kline’s Jungle Hero.”
By Fred Blosser

An article on the 1930’s character Jan of the Jungle. Jan was reared by wild animals in the jungles of South America. His second book takes him to India and the wild adventures he has. Another old character that sounds interesting.

“Fangs of the Black Orchid!”
Writer: Unknown
Artists: Al Williamson and Ralph Mayo

Jann of the Jungle has to rescue her boyfriend Pat Mahoney from the Black Orchid. He has heard about it and wants a picture of it. Some unscrupulous white men overhear and think they could get rich by possessing the orchid. So they follow and one gets a poison thorn shot at him and almost dies. The other almost gets eaten by a carnivorous plant and luckily Jann and Pat save him in time. Nice of them to save such scallywags.

“Dragonseed”
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Steve Gan

Marlok the Merciless is in a foul mood. His entire army was slaughtered and now poor old Marlok can’t conquer. So he goes to a wizard for help. The wizard has dragon teeth that when planted will sprout warriors that will follow Marlok. The wizard doesn’t want to give it but before he can tell the reason Marlok just takes the dragon’s teeth. He grows his warriors and they follow him to the first village. Only they then decide to kill Marlok instead. Marlok manages to cause an avalanche and destroy his new army. He goes to the wizard for revenge but the wizard does point out that Marlok wouldn’t listen to him. Also the owner of the teeth has come back a real large dragon.

“The Night of the Looter!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Buscema

A reprint of Astonishing Tales #14

So the first issue with Ka-zar in the lead. Sadly it didn’t turn out as planned. The Damnation Plague was a full length story but the artist got a kidney infection so the full story was never submitted in time. So we just get a partial story and some reprints. Now the partial story was excellent and shows that Ka-zar translates well into this new format. I expectantly look forward to the conclusion. Its an interesting story with beautiful artwork so it is worth the wait.

The articles were also interesting on old pulp characters. Quite informative and I am interested in checking out some of John Jakes Brak books.

Dragonseed was a solid story. A kooky barbarian who gets his comeuppance.

Otherwise it was reprints. The Jann story was kind of hokey and very similar to past Jann stories that were reprinted. Whoever wrote her stories had a thing for orchids.

The Night of the Looter is a great story but has been reprinted twice so nothing new. Still there is great potential in the series with the conclusion to the Damnation Plague and a new Brak adaptation in the future.

SAVAGE TALES #5 CONAN THE BARBARIAN

“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.

SAVAGE TALES #4 CONAN THE BARBARIAN

“Night of the Dark God”
Writer: Roy Thomas adopted from “The Dark Man” by Robert E. Howard.
Artists: Gil Kane Neal Adams & Diverse Hands

Conan comes upon a fisherman in Vanaheim and takes his boat. He is on a mission to save the woman he loves. Mala is Conan’s first love from his home village in Cimmeria. One day while at a tavern he gets to thinking about her and decides to go to her in his native Cimmeria. When he arrives he finds that Vanir have raided his village and taken Mala. So it leads him to a tribe that lives on an island.

While going there he comes upon a boat with dead Vanir and some dark-skinned race. All that is left is a metal statue of a figure holding a sword. He finds it light as a feather and takes it with him. He then arrives on the island. Some Vanir find his boat and take the statue back to their chieftain. In the great hall the chief Thorfel is about to marry Mala. Mala decides to grab a knife and kill herself. This causes Conan to go berserk but he is overwhelmed by numbers. Just then hordes of the dark-skinned people pour into the hall. Conan manages to kill Thorfel. The dark-skinned men are Picts come to take the statue of Brule the Spear-Slayer. Conan takes his first love back to his village to be buried.

“Star-Crossed Swords”
By Roy Thomas
Art: Al Wiliamson

An editorial about the resurrection of Savage Tales. He goes on about the real reason and addresses the various rumors that are false.

“Jason and his Electric Argonauts”
By Erwin Stevenson

An article on the stop motion from the film Jason And The Argonauts. It tells how Ray Harryhausen had to match up his stop motion with real live action. An interesting article on one of my favorite Harryhausen films.

“The Crusader”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Joe Maneely

The man known as El Alemain has found out his true heritage and decided to switch sides and join the crusade. He makes his way to the camp of Richard the Lionheart. There he battles Saladin and defeats him with his Saracen blade but lets him go because he was an honorable opponent.

“The Hour of the Gnome”
By Roy Thomas

An article on Gnome press that was the first to release Conan books in the early fifties. Started by Martin Greenberg who coming back from the war and started to release the classics from the pulp magazines of the thirties.

“The Dweller in the Dark”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Smith

While traveling in Corinthia Conan runs afoul of the soldiers guarding an oasis. He refuses to pay a toll and instead kills the braggart of a captain. The captain was the lover of the queen and so he is captured and taken to her. The queen isn’t too upset and decides to promote Conan to the open position. Now this position basically is to service the queen and Conan starts to want his freedom. He goes to the bath chambers and finds the handmaiden Yaila. Just then the queen walks in and in her jealous rage has both of them tied up in the sewers. The Dweller in the Dark will take care of them.

Conan isn’t one to meekly sit back and with his strength breaks the chains. He finds a sword from a dead victim and fights the Dweller which is a giant octopus like creature. He and Yaila break free and climb up a ladder that leads to the throne room. Conan grabs the queen and pitches her to the Dweller. The people are grateful to be rid of her. They get to choose a new queen and Conan suggests Yaila.

So after another brief hiatus this series is back. I can see why it came back. The articles in this were better than average. The Crusader story was a bit corny but I liked the throw back to a time were there was honor.

The two Conan stories were excellent. The first is a non-Conan story that Roy adapted to Conan. I think I will have to start reading Howard again. He was such a brilliant writer and this story is just excellent. The second was by Roy and shows what a great writer he is. Conan is in his splendid sexist, savage badass barbarian that Howard envisioned him and I love it. A very enjoyable issue.

SAVAGE TALES #3 CONAN THE BARBARIAN

“The Lurker From The Catacombs”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on “Red Nails” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan is looking for Valeria who wandered off in the city of Xuchotl. He finds her battling two fanatics from the opposing faction. He rescues her and with Techotl leads them to his people. They traverse the catacombs and are attacked by a creature that is used by the enemy. Conan wounds it with his sword. At the sanctuary of Techotl’s people they are greeted warmly by Prince Olmec and Princess Tascela. Now they can post five more red nails to a post for the enemy that was killed. They find out the history of this conflict. Fifty years ago a rebel faction was forced to flee Stygia. They made there way to the city and managed to capture it. Later two brothers got into an fight over a woman and now the two factions have been trying to kill each other off. Conan and Valeria are offered a job to fight for them in exchange for treasure. The two agree.

The enemy then attacks and a final battle ensues. The enemy is slaughtered. Olmec sends Conan to check out their stronghold with two of his warriors. They go there and find the dead creature that Conan wounded and the heads preserved in jars of those that were killed. The warriors accompanying Conan go insane and try to kill Conan. Meanwhile Olmec makes his move to capture Valeria but he is stopped by Tascela and her powers of hypnotism. Tascela needs Valeria to sacrifice so she can maintain her youth.

“An Age Undreamed Of”
By Roy Thomas

An editorial on Savage Tales. Seems this issue is once again being put on hold to see if its profitable. Thomas goes on to explain the format he envisions and hopes that the magazine will come back.

“Red Sonja She-Devil of the Turanian Steppes”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Esteban Maroto

A two page spread of Red Sonja with text on how Howard described her.

“The Crimson Bell”
Writer: Ray Capella
Artists: Al Wiliamson & Frank Brunner

A text story with illustration about Arquel of Argos. Arquel is after a mercenary army lead by two women who robbed his father’s castle. Set in the world of Conan.

“The Fury of the Femizons”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Romita

A reprint from Savage Tales #1.

“Red Nails in the Sunset”
By Roy Thomas

An article on the art for Red Nails from Weird Tales. It shows the drawing that have not appeared in over forty years since this story was first published.

“The Once and Future Talon”
Writer & Artist: Jim Steranko

An article about an upcoming sword and sorcery project by Steranko called Talon. Sounds like it had potential and will have to see if it was ever done.

“A Probable Outline of Roy Thomas Career”
Writer Unknown.

An article on Roy Thomas and his career from a English High School teacher to Executive Editor at Marvel.

“An Informal History of Barry the Barbarian”
Writer Unknown.

A brief biography on artist Barry Smith who draws for Conan.

“He Comes from the Dark”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on Red Nails by Robert E. Howard.
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan comes upon Techotl who was stabbed in the back by Olmec when he betrayed Valeria. He has crawled to warn Conan of his treachery. So he comes later upon Olmec strapped to a torture device. He frees him in exchange for leading him to Valeria. Olmec tries later to stab Conan in the back but doesn’t succeed. Conan comes on the throne room were Tescala is sacrificing Valeria. A steel trap in the floor catches Conan’s foot. Just then the old body of a lover of Tescala arrives with a wand that shoots a laser beam. He starts shooting down the survivors and Tescala frees Conan so he can kill the old man which Conan does. Then Tescala grabs the fallen wand but is stopped by Valeria who stabs her in the back. The two decide to leave this place and seek riches as pirates.

Well the only really thing of note about this issue was the adaptation of “Red Nails.” This was one of Howard’s best stories and was a true joy. It was to be spread out over another issue but the second cancellation had it included in this one. Of course this series still has life in it as we will see next week.

Otherwise not much of interest. The articles ranged from interesting to boring fillers. The Femizon story was a reprint from #1. I understand including it here since the first issue didn’t get much circulation but since I read it just recently not much new.

SAVAGE TALES #2 CONAN THE BARBARIAN

“Red Nails”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Barry Smith

Valeria a woman pirate who was serving as a mercenary for the Stygians has been forced to flee after killing the commander who was forcing himself on her. Now she is in the wilds south in the black kingdoms. Conan has followed her because he wants her and was bored with the garrison duty. His courtship is put on hold when they are attacked by a stegosaurus. The stegosaurus eats their horses and tries to eat them. Conan finds some poison in apples and manages to poison the beast. Now on the plans where the jungle ends they come on a city. The city appears to have been abandoned a long time ago.

Valeria rests and falls asleep while Conan continues to explore the city. When she wakes she comes on a man being attacked by a walking skeleton. The skeleton is a man in disguise and Valeria kills him managing to save the man she saw. This man Techotl tells that they are in the city of Xuchotl. He is part of a clan who lives by the west gate and they are in perpetual warfare with the clan at the east gate. She goes with Techotl to find Conan in the city.

“The Hyborian Rage”
By Roy Thomas

An editorial explaining this series. Two and a half years later after the failure of the first issue this series gets another go. This time Marvel is devoting resources to come out with several lines of the Black and White magazines. This series will be oriented toward Conan and other Robert Howard type stories.

“Robert E. Howard: Lone Star Fictioneer”
Writer: Glenn Lord.
Artists: Frank Brunner & George Barr

An abridged article from the Howard biography The Last Celt.It tells of Howard’s early life growing up in Cross Plains, Texas. How he started writing at nine and sold his first story at eighteen. He eventually made a living at one time making over $2,000 year. This was a great article and I have a love of Howard’s work. It is amazing that he managed to make a living writing while living in the middle of nowhere.

“Dark Tomorrow”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artist: Gray Morrow

In the future ecological disaster forces people to live in enclosed cities. They come up with a chivalry code that has them dueling for any slight to their honor. Its meant to cull the population. Karl Linders kills someone in a duel then will be exiled outside. Instead he and his mate escape. They are about to then get executed by the Wets outside. The Wets have been engineered to live in the polluted atmosphere and service the machinery outside. Damian Linders is the brother of Karl and helps him escape. Karl then shows his contempt for all Wets and Damian then kills Karl. Definitely a dark story but quite interesting.

“Cimmeria”
Writer: Robert E. Howard
Artist: Barry Smith

A poem by Howard about Conan’s homeland Cimmeria.

“The Crusader”
Writer: Unknown
Artist: Joe Maneely

A group of crusaders traveling to the holy land are struck by plague and set up camp. A Saracen with a band of Mongols comes upon them. The leader finds no honor in attacking sick men. The Mongols have no such qualms and the Mongol leader wants the Saracen blade that the leader has. The Mongol treacherously attacks and is killed. Later the Saracen finds out that the crusader leader is his half-brother. An old reprint from the fifties but kind of interesting if a little bit hokey.

“A Probably Outline of Conan’s Career”
By P. Schuyler Miller & John D. Clark, Pd.D.

An article that outlines Conan’s life based on Howards’ writing. It starts with Conan as a youth and his experiences as a thief. He later moves on to being a mercenary and pirate. Finally he becomes king of Aquilonia. A very informative article on the history of Conan.

“The Skull of Silence!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Berni Wrightson

Kull and his Red Slayers are returning to The City of Wonders which is the capital of Kull’s kingdom. He decides to stay at a castle in spite of the warning a slave gives him. The castle is supposed to be where a sorcerer Raama imprisoned the Spectre of Silence. Kull scoffs at such superstitions and breaks the seal on the door. They are assaulted by silence. Kull manages to ring a gong that breaks the silence.

So Savage Tales is revived and it comes back strong. We get two Howard stories adapted by Roy Thomas who you can tell loves his work. Red Nails is supposed to be Howard’s last Conan story he wrote before his untimely death. It is definitely a classic and I can’t wait for the conclusion. The Kull story was also good. I don’t think I did it justice in summarizing it. You have to read it to appreciate it.

The two articles were very interesting. I have an interest in Howard and enjoy reading about him.

It is really great that Marvel managed to revive the magazine titles. I don’t know what my Sundays as a child would have been like without them.

SAVAGE TALES #1

“The Frost Giant’s Daughter”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story written by Robert E. Howard.
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan is fighting the last survivor of the Vanir that attacked the Aesir he was with and kills him. Conan is seriously tired and falls into the snow. He is later awakened by a beautiful woman naked except for a thin gossamer veil. She taunts Conan who finds the strength to get up and chase after her. The woman leads him into an ambush. Two giants that are her brothers are waiting to kill him for sport. Conan isn’t one to go out meekly and kills both the giants. The girl panics and after Conan grabs her veil she calls on her father Ymir to rescue her. She is transported away in a beam of light and Conan passes out.

The Aesir find him and he thinks its a dream. An old man named Gorm tells that he saw the woman when he was young. She is Atali the Frost Giant’s daughter and she likes to lure men for her brothers to ambush. Everyone thinks its just a myth but Conan is grasping the gossamer veil.

“Fury of the Femizons”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Romita

It is the 23rd century and woman rule after some sort of apocalypse. The United Sisterhood Alliance and its creed of Sexuality! Solidarity! Superiority! are enforced in the New USA. Men are meek and subservient. Lyra the queen’s sister is approached by a man named Mogon who is from a tribe of men still free. He discovers that Lyra has forbidden history tapes and the two join forces to overthrow the Sisterhood. The evil Syrani who heads the secret police discovers the plot and Lyra is forced to kill Mogon to keep it from being exposed.

“…Man-Thing!”
Writers: Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas
Artist: Gray Morrow

Ted Sallis is a chemist who is working for the Army to perfect a super-soldier serum. Unfortunately his girlfriend sells him out and he finds some thugs that are there to take his serum. He escapes and injects it into himself to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. His car goes into the swamp and this turns him into the Man-Thing. The Man-Thing gets revenge on those who were after him.

“Black Brother!”
Writer: Sergius O’Shaughnessy
Artists: Gene Colan & Tom Palmer

A woman is being sold for money by her father. This is stopped by the arrival of Joshua who is governor of Potonga a province of the newly independent nation of Orbia. Joshua is a real hands on governor who opposes the central governments plan to sell out his province to foreign interests. These interests manage to have a reporter try to seduce him and they get pictures of it. The pictures of him with a white woman cause outrage among his people and force him to flee.

“The Night of the Looter!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Art: John Buscema

A Ka-zar story reprinted in Astonishing Tales #14.

This is the first of the black and white magazines that Marvel started publishing in the seventies and as such is rare. I just spent $172 bucks for it but figured it was my birthday and it would complete my collection. It didn’t succeed because an editor didn’t want to get into this market and let it fail. Fortunately Roy Thomas manged to resurrect the idea when the editor left and so we are blessed with the many magazines that came out.

It starts with a Conan story written by Robert E. Howard and this was in the early days when Conan was already becoming a runaway success so its not surprising that Conan was chosen to be the main feature for this series. He was so successful that he moved on to his own magazine The Savage Sword of Conan. It features the original team of Thomas and Smith who made the Conan character the success it is today.

The Femizon story was a fun story. I always love these futuristic post-apocalypse stories. I read somewhere that this is being considered as a possible movie to be developed. Nothing probably will come of it but you never know.

The Man-Thing story was the first one and has his origin. Now Man-Thing has gone on to be a successful second tier character in the Marvel universe.

Black Brother was an interesting idea. Sort of like Shaft as a governor of a province in Africa. A bit dark but this magazine didn’t have the comic code so it could explore more mature themes. This and the Femizons looked like they were meant to be regular features for this series. To my knowledge nothing further was done with either stories.

Ka-zar was reprinted in Astonishing Tales and you can follow the link above to read that. Ka-zar would replace Conan as the main feature for this series when Conan moved on.

I definitely loved this series. A great mix of adventure stories and R rated in showing nudity and violence. Set the stage for all the magazines to come later.