Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Marvel's Conan The Barbarian

Conan The Barbarian, known to most as a lumbering Arnold Schwarzenegger, to some as the main character in the pulp 1930’s novels of Robert E Howard and soon to be immortalised on screen by Jason Momoa. To many Conan was introduced through the pages of Marvel comics in the early 70s under the author ship of Roy Thomas and the seminal artwork of Britain’s Barry Smith. For those comic book aficionados bought up on super heroes, secret identities and bloodless battles Marvel's Conan the Barbarian had a distinctly grown up feel; sound effects free and featuring disembowelment and nudity amidst the mysticism.  
Thomas' storytelling used rich dialogue free from cliche and it was most definitely Smith's pre-Raphaelite leanings that added the beauty to offset the violence. 
The run of Thomas and Smith did not run for long but was a watershed moment for Marvel and led them to diversify into different more adult orientated formats. The audience that comics had built in the 60s was growing older and more sophisticated and Marvel realised this with the success of the Conan books. Moving into longer paged publications and using black and white Marvel developed Conan into a darker and more brutal character, and it was these books The Savage Sword of Conan that met the needs of the fan base who were now adults. Thomas stayed with the character and was joined by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala and the stories they produced were almost novels in comic book form. The success of the SSoC was what led to Hollywood interest. Like anyone who has followed a fictional character through TV, Movies or Books the path that Conan has taken in the hands of Marvel has been an interesting one. Falling outside the margins of the comic books of the seventies Conan represented the moment that Comic books and their readers grew up.

To have a look at Conan's world there are omnibus paperbacks available, try reading with a flagon of ale.

The Chronicles of Conan Volume (Dark Horse) 1-5 by Barry Smith and Roy Thomas

Savage Sword Of Conan Volume 1-8 (Dark Horse) by John Buscema /Various and Roy Thomas

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