Conan the Barbarian #221

It’s #FantasyComicsMonth courtesy of Professor Alan, who sent me this via the #ComicBookCircleofLife. Can I use more hashtags.

I need to do a longer blog post or perhaps even a podcast episode about my history with Conan. As it is with many in my generation, it starts with the Arnold Schwarzenegger films, of which Conan the Barbarian is one of the all-time great testosterone-fueled swordfests (and has one of my favorite non-John Williams scores). The novels used to be available at my local library, but for some reason I never checked them out. I think I made a note to do so at some point but then went for the Star Trek novels that I pored over endlessly through junior high and high school.

As for the comics, I started collecting right around the time that Conan was on its way out as a going concern at Marvel. The classic Barry Windsor-Smith issues were hard to find and not very much was readily available in trade. I probably could have bought an issue or two, but with a limited budget that was taken up by books with an X on the cover, I tended to skip those adventures.

In recent years, I’ve started collecting a run of Conan the King (or King Conan depending on which issues you’re reading) and am going to try and complete it before giving it an entire read-through and evaluation on this website. But I haven’t been that interested in the original Conan title, even if there’s plenty of low-grade issues out there in bins.

Like this one, which Alan sent me. Titled “Drum Song,” it’s written by Larry Hama with art by Gary Kwapisz. Of course, I remember Hama from the days of G.I. Joe, and Kwapisz is an artist whose name I recall from a few issues of The ‘Nam. In fact, Don Daley, who would edit The ‘Nam for quite a while after Hama’s editorial run, was the editor here. The story is of a fateful sea voyage and the man who beat the Stygian drum as a battle took place between two ships. What sets this apart is that Hama has written it in verse and tells the story thus without word or thought balloons. It’s as if Kwapisz was illustrating a comic version of a great poem (like the one I have that contains “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”).

Now, as far as the comic goes, I want to say that the nature of most of the Conan the Barbarian series is full of one-and-done stories, which makes it easy to just check out a random issue. And there’s not much you have to know about Conan going into the book that you cannot pick up within the first few pages. That makes it worth the money without even opening it up. Hama’s writing and Kwapisz’ art, which is gorgeous, make this well worth the money. While I’m not quite sure if I’m going to track down other issues of this particular Conan series, I wouldn’t turn down any given to me or that I found on the really cheap.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?


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