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Return of the King

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Roy Thomas brought Conan the Barbarian into comics and now, almost 40 years later, he is back writing everyone’s favorite Cimmerian. We’ll detail his history with the character and his return.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, sword-and-sorcery comics were all the rage. Many publishing companies of the era had fantasy characters on their roster, and Marvel was far behind. The company had a plan. Instead of taking years of building up a sword-and-sorcery character of their own, they’d pursue a recognizable character from another media. They set their sights on one character in particular—a barbarian whose recent appearance on bookstore shelves had garnered a legion of loyal fans, one that people were clamoring to have adapted into comics.

That character was Thongor the Barbarian by Lin Carter, a character that had a successful series of pulp novels at the time.

However, negotiations between Carter and Marvel were slow going and didn’t appear to be heading towards a positive resolution. Luckily, Marvel was also in negotiations with the Robert E. Howard estate at the same time and they were much more willing to license their barbarian character to the comic book publisher.

That character, of course, was Conan the Barbarian. And the rest is history.

Marvel’s preeminent writer at the time was Roy Thomas. He was writing eight Marvel titles at the time, including big names such as Avengers, Incredible Hulk, and Sub-Mariner. It was an obvious choice that he would be the one to take the reigns on the character.

What was unusal was the dedication that Thomas showed to the property. He would stay with the title for 10 years and 115 issues. He stayed on the title during his rise to editor-in-chief until he left the company. Even as he stopped writing the numerous titles he was on, he kept Conan. He even returned to writing the series in the 1990s during his brief return to Marvel.

His involvement with the character is not limited to comic books, either. He co-wrote the story treatment for the 1984 film, Conan the Destroyer, with fellow comic book scribe Gerry Conway. The pair was not happy with the changes the studio made to their story, so they later reworked it into the 1990 graphic novel, Conan: The Horn of Azoth.

In 2003, the Conan license was picked up by Dark Horse Comics. The franchise moved over to its new company and became an immediate success—a success that continues to this day. While it started out as an ongoing series, it has evolved into a series of limited series.

The man that shepherded Conan into comics had returned to its latest incarnation. Thomas was tapped to do text pieces for Dark Horse’s reprint series, Chronicles of Conan. But now, the writer is going to take a more hands-on role.

Thomas will be writing Conan: the Road of Kings, a six-issue miniseries that continues the Conan legacy. Conan and his crew are on the high seas, looking for treasure. When they come across a young woman with prophetic dreams of untold riches, they follow the path she sets.  But her dreams may or may not match up with reality.

It might be a bit of hyperbole to say that there wouldn’t be a Conan comic without Roy Thomas. But that doesn’t mean that Conan fans—both young and old—shouldn’t be excited about the writer and character reuniting. It is a pairing that works and can only mean a great read. 

Also out this week:

The Occultist:

The old maxim goes: write what you know. And even though this concept comes from the mind of Dark Horse head honcho Mike Richardson, I’m pretty sure the character being under a “mountain of debt” comes from writer Tim Seeley, himself under a mountain of debt due to his bad experience with Devil’s Due.

But the maxim also applies to the fact that Seeley is dealing with supernatural horror, something he is a master of from writing his creation, Hack/Slash. He is writing the story of a man who comes into possession of a mysterious spell book that a whole bunch of evil beings want for themselves. Problem is, the book has bonded itself to the man and the two are not easily separated.

Tim Seeley (W), Victor Drujiniu (A), Dark Horse Comics, $3.50. One-Shot.

DMZ #60:

The critically acclaimed albeit low-selling DMZ is about to come to an end. Don’t worry, fans of the series, it’s not getting cancelled. Much like other classic Vertigo series like Sandman and Preacher, it is designed for a finite run. This issue begins the series’ final year, and it does so by returning to the past.

This issue begins a two-issue storyline where Brian Wood and guest artist Shawn Martinbrough revisit the events leading up to the Second American Civil War. If you wanted to know how the world of the series got formed and where the new reality got started, this is the place to look. This arc is ideal for long time DMZ fans and new ones as well.

Brian Wood (W), Shawn Martinbrough (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $2.99, Ongoing Series.


Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #1:

The Mouse Guard franchise is an example of how you can make any idea fresh by looking at it through a new perspective. A sword-swinging fantasy has been done numerous times before, but on starring mice in the lead roles? That's fresh. And fans have responded to it in droves, which means the way the concept was presented really paid off.

The franchise continues on this week as we have a new miniseries set in that universe. It acts as a prequel to Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and details the story of the first mouse to wield the powerful black axe of that story. It is a grand adventure that spans the entire world of Mouse Guard and provides excellent background for fans of the franchise.

David Peterson (W/A), Archaia Entertainment, $3.50, Six-Issue Miniseries.

Northern Guard #1:

When we think of the Golden Age, usually our minds don’t wander than much farther than the DC and Timely books. We seldom think of the numerous other comic publishers in the United States, let alone ones in other countries like Canada. Luckily, there’s this series to celebrate the latter.

An all-Canadian team of creators join together to celebrate the heroes of the Canadian Golden Age! They will be updating characters such as Johnny Canuck, Commander Steele, and Ghost Woman. What’s more, while these characters will be updated in the main story of each issue, their classic adventures will be reprinted in the back! If you love the Golden Age of Comics, then this peek at a little known part of that era is a must read.

Ty Templeton (W), David Cutler (A), Moonstone Comics, $3.99, Ongoing Series.

The Bridge Project:

The great part about comics is that each geographic region has its own grouping talent who each develop their own style shaped and formed by where they live. And another great thing about comics is that it is a collaborative medium. Two or more creative minds can come together and form a piece of art that can move and affect the people who see it.

This graphic novel combines those two things in an imaginative way. The greatest independent creators that San Francisco have to offer are teaming up with the greatest independent creators Portland has to offer to collaborate on a number of stories to see what a melding of their geographic influences would have to offer. If you like artistic experimentation in your comics, then this graphic novel should interest you.

Various (W), Various (A), Scraped Knee, $9.95. Original Graphic Novel.

Fubar:

F.U.B.A.R is a military acronym that stands for "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition". Actually, it stands for something a little different, but since this is a family column, we can't tell you what takes the place of "fouled." But the acronym is used when thing get a little too crazy or out of hand, so you can probably guess the F-word in question.

In this particular graphic novel, the F.U.B.A.R situation involves everybody's favorite undead cannon fodder—zombies. In 13 stories set during World War II, some of the biggest names in indie comics put a bunch of soldiers up against the living dead. It's heavy artillery and high-caliber ammo versus the nasty brain eaters. Will the Greatest Generation live to be called that?

Various (W), Various (A), Alterna Comics Inc., $11.99, Original Graphic Novel.


Star Wars: Legacy—War #1:

When Star Wars: Legacy ended several months ago, you probably thought that would be the last you’d see of Cade Skywalker and the Legacy era of the Star Wars franchise. Well, you were close. Star Wars: Legacy returns with this miniseries. However, it will only be to present its final chapter as the miniseries begins wrapping up the storyline.

The series isn’t the only one returning. Darth Krayt is back from the dead and more powerful than ever. Cade Skywalker has come to realize that his destiny doesn’t lie with either the Jedi or the Sith but with stopping Krayt at all costs. But since his prophetic visions end with his final battle with Krayt, that cost might just be his life.

John Ostrander (W), Jan Duursema (A), Dark Horse Comics, $3.50. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Proof: Endangered #1:

There is a saying that it takes a thief to catch a thief. Well, what if you want to catch fairies, chupacabras, demons, gnomes, and jackalopes? Then you’d need a Sasquatch. But not just any Sasquatch, you’d need John “Proof” Prufrock, agent of The Lodge.

However, information found on his last mission has caused Proof to be hunted by the very agency that once employed him. It was information that concerned who he was and where he came from. Now, Proof is on the run, trying to find answers to his hidden past. And all roads lead to a teenager that claims to own Proof’s body.

The cult series finally returns as the hunter becomes the hunted. It’s a perfect chance for new fans to jump aboard.

Alex Grecian (W), Riley Rossmo (A), Image Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Green Lantern/Plastic Man: Weapons of Mass Deception #1:

When a comic book character has a movie coming out in the near future, this usually means that there will be a deluge of books coming out that feature that character. This could be both a good and bad thing.

It could be a bad thing because fans of that particular character, in this case Green Lantern, will feel compelled to buy another title they don’t need and can’t afford. However, it could be a good thing because it could give two legendary creators, in this case Marv Wolfman and Brent Anderson, a chance at a little more exposure and it will give one of the best characters in comic book history, in this case Plastic Man, a chance at escaping the ranks of the criminally underused.

Marv Wolfman (W), Brent Anderson (A), DC Comics, $4.99, One-Shot.

Black Panther: Man Without Fear #513:

The idea of bringing the Black Panther, a.k.a T’Challa, from his native African nation of Wakanda to the United States is not a new one. It happened several times in the past and the question was the same each time—why is a king of an African nation spending so much time in the U.S.?

Well, now his homeland is in turmoil and he is on a mission to prove himself—much like the former resident of this title, Daredevil. He is going to travel to Hell’s Kitchen and act as it’s protector until Daredevil gets back. His first challenge is dealing with all the people looking to take over leadership of the neighborhood now that it's guardian devil is gone.

David Liss (W), Francesco Francavilla (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Doc Macabre #1:

Bernie Wrightson is a legendary artist in the genre of horror who worked on horror during the late 1960s and 1970s on titles such as Swamp Thing, House of Mystery, and Frankenstein. Steve Niles is a legendary writer in the genre of horror, who worked on horror during the 2000s on titles such as 30 Days of Night, Freaks of the Heartland, and Criminal Macabre. Separately, they are each masters of the own generation. Together, they are the team every horror fan should get excited about.

This series is their third pairing (after City of Others and Dead, She Said). It focuses on a man whose job it is to clean up supernatural menaces. He’s a one-man team of Ghostbusters; a secular exorcist and a janitor cleaning up the ghosts and ghoulies in your life.

Steve Niles (W), Bernie Wrightson (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

 

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