Saturday, December 1, 2012

CONAN turns 80 - December 1932-2012

This morning I opened my e-mails to find a Happy Birthday wish to CONAN from a Gentleman ( Could'a been a lady ) who signed off with just an initial " T."
       Conan the Cimmerian was created and conceived in a little house in Texas 80 years ago.  In that time an ICON grew into a legend and is now a timeless household name.  Everyone knows CONAN whether they like it or not.  Those who don't " TO HELL WITH THEM ! "  
       When his first official story appeared in a December 1932 issue of WEIRD TALES
 ( the Pheonix on the sword ) it was the beginning of a long Brutal and Beautiful friendship between REH , CONAN and the fans.  Why do we love the big guy so much?  We can't really say any more than his adventures speak to us and we relate in some way to the Loner writer BOB HOWARD.
     CONAN is an icon and his adventures will be shared for 80 more years and beyond. Happy Birthday Big Guy now pull out your axe and whack that cake in half!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Legend of Conan, How Excited should we be?

I received my copy of the Fall 2012 REH Foundation Newsletter today. As usual, it contains items of interest to the REH nut. What caught my attention right off was "The Letter from the Board" in which the "...recent announcement of the new movie The Legend of Conan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger" was discussed.

This is old news to Crom! readers. Mikeyboy pointed us to the breaking news way back on 10/26.

As reported in Reuters, Legend (the most current working title I know of) is based upon the 1982 film staring Arnold and ignores Conan the Destroyer and the 2011 Conan the Barbarian. This means by default that it is only nominally based upon the writings of Bob Howard.

REH purists may rage, but I'm okay with it and I love me some REH. My wife calls it one of my many unhealthy addictions (I find it and many of my other addictions very healthy). It is my truest desire that Schwazenegger's involvement in a long anticipated film will bring new readers to the Conan/REH front and being that I am not a purist, I say bring on some new pastiche! And of course I hope that by summer 2014 Dark Horse Comics will smother us with new Conan/REH titles.

Again quoting from the latest Foundation "Long ago there was a poll, which asked what had brought people to read REH for the first time. Almost a third of those readers came to REH because of Conan the Barbarian". While my first experience with Conan was Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan, it was without a doubt Arnan which made me a Conan and REH fan for life. Furthermore, "An additional benefit...may be that more movie and TV interest in other REH creations will be generated". Here here! I truly hope so.

It may not be REH, but it can still be great and for a wonderful account of what The Legend of Conan should and should not be, check out this great post at The Conan Movie Blog. Read it, then come back. Good stuff wasn't it? And much of it I agree with, even though the concept of putting Conan in the corner is tough to take, in the context of Arnan's age it makes complete sense and I agree with the blogger, don't try to hide the age issue, we are too smart for that. The concept of Conan's son taking center stage is intriguing and combing through the possibilities of who could play that role riles up my nerd.

So how excited should we be? As excited as we dare.

Friday, October 26, 2012



Could hardly believe it when I read it.  Check out the post at JIM SMASH and I'll let him fill ya' in.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The original art to the cover of "CONAN the barbarian" # 31

The composition was worked out by both the Great Gil Kane and John Romita together and inked to completion by Romita.  This is one of the best covers and one of my personal favorite issues.  The interior art...( Buscema and Chan ) is absolutely some of the best CONAN art since the inception of the chracter to comics.  I love the story,Love the art,love the cover...and I absolutley can't say enough about the beauty of B/W art...all that shading and contrast...WOW!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


BLOD: One shot -   Mike Destasio and  Cromsblood (Cromsblood : The best of us) of CROM the Ultimate CONAN fan blog  have gone and done it...they made a comic book.  Anybody interested in getting themselves a digital copy or a comic book they can hold in their hot little bloody hands can go to and put BLOD in the search engine and order up a copy.  It's full of vilolence, action a spattering blood and a boat too.  It's got all the treachery , greed and vengeance you would expect from a comic book where a guy runs around with a sword and decapitates bad guys! So just go to and get yours NOW!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

REH's: Savage Sword

I apologize for my long absence from this blog. Work has swamped me for the past several long weeks. My reading time has been sparse; however, I did manage to catch up on some comics.

First, I make no apologies, but I am a Dark Horse Fan-Boy. They publish some of my favorite current titles, not the least of which are the further adventures of my favorite barbarian. Among my various DH titles is the sparsely published comic Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword.

In case you have not been keeping up with this book, it is an anthology that features stories based on and/or staring various REH created characters and stories, to include Conan, and all are written and drawn by a variety of folks. It is a full color book. Some of the stories are original and some are adaptions of original REH stories.

The current issue, issue 5, features "Bran Mak Morn: Men of Shadows,  Part 1 of 3" written by Ian Edginton with art by Richard Pace; "In the Forest of Villefere" written by Steven Niles, art by Chris Mitten; "King Conan: Two Birds" drawn and written by the legendary Howard Chaykin; "Dark Agnes: Sword Woman, Part 1 of 3" written by Paul Tobin, drawn by Francesco Francavilla and a reprint of "Kings of Night" written by Roy Thomas with art by David Wenzel. Each issue also features Jim and Ruth Keegan's "The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: True Stories from the Life of Robert E. Howard" which is a strip that brings to life the volumes of letters written by Bob Howard (and is a favorite feature of mine in all of DH's Howard books). This is the first issue to feature a letters column, "Savage Salutations",at least to the best of my muddled memory it is the first issue to have letters.

As can be seen, that is a good line up. My favorite feature of this issue was Chaykin's King Conan tale, but Tobin and Francavilla's adaption of "Sword Woman" is very attractive and I look forward to parts 2 and 3. I also have to give a shout out to Richard Pace's art work in "Men of Shadows" and I must give credit to the coloring of Moose Baumann in the same tale. I am also smitten with the art of Chris Mitten (not so clever pun intended) in the tale "In the Forest of Villefere".

The rest of my review will be short, as I wish to not give spoilers. The stories, to include issues 1 to 5, have ranged from so-so to "HELL YEAH!". Savage Word is an average of 80 pages, and should be with its hefty price tag of $7.99 (in paper, I believe a digital copy can be purchased for less, but I'm not sure--I am a paper snob). The bad, it is an anthology, so the art is uneven by nature. Some has been great, some, to my tastes, not as great. My major quibble is that each issue has featured a reprint of REH stories, from such classic Marvel books as The Savage Sword of Conan, Conan the Barbarian, King Conan, etc.. That is not necessarily a bad thing; however the recent issue features "Kings of Night" by Thomas and Wenzel. It was recently reprinted in the Dark Horse book The Savage Sword of Kull volume 1. These reprints typically take up half or nearly half of the 80 pages of the book. For my $7.99 I would rather see more original material or at the very least works by REH that are not often reprinted. The good thing about the reprints are, many of these stories were originally printed in black and white, and here they are colorized, but again the purist snob in me that loves me some old-school Savage Sword of Conan, likes these stories in their original black and white.

My snobbish quibbles aside, this is an enjoyable book and I hope it sticks around. Its publishing schedule is infrequent and erratic. I had given up on ever seeing an issue 5, but I do hope it is here to stay, and the fact that this features two part one of three stories gives me hope that Dark Horse will at least publish up to 7 issues. If you have not read this book, issue 5 is a good jumping on point as all the stories are either part one of three parts, or one shots.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A furious flurry of CONAN covers from foreign lands!!!

More CONAN fan Salvatore Oliviero

 : Below please see the correspondance from a CROM follower from ITALY....he included two drawings he did himself and I love them.  They are great pieces of work and I encourage Salvatore to send us more as he finds the time we will share with the followers of CROM and the world. 
    If anybody else has some art they'd like to share please feel free to send it on in.  We'll get it on the blog.
Thank you Sal for sharing your work with us!!!

"Hello Mikeyboy,

I'm Salvatore Oliviero from ITALY, I follow you always, Crom! is a great
I love Conan and in my spare time I like to draw, it's my passion so I send
you two of my recent works for Conan
These are my versions of two wonderful stories of R.E.Howard : "The Frost
Giant's Daughter" and "The Tower of the Elephant", using pencil and colored
(the first) with Photoshop. I hope you like it

Thanks and compliments to your other blogs

My artblog:


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TALON : The once and future barbarian epic!

Jim Steranko created a barbarian hero for Marvel Comics named Talon. Marvel rejected Steranko's concept and Jim planned to publish Talon on his own. Although that graphic story has yet to materialize, some great drawings were produced.

The way I interpret this little tale of half truth and possible fact is this way: Jim Steranko had a concept and drew up some fabulous pieces of work and pitched the idea of a Barbarian hero to Stan Lee...the last word at Marvel comics in 1969. His concept was that of a Barbarian hero who for some reason or another had adventures in the distant forgotten past and in the far flung future. His name was Talon. But Stan...he was not sold on the idea and Jim walked away with his concept. But due to that little meeting a seed was planted in Stan's head. Now Stan was searching for an idea and asked around the bullpen if anyone had any idea's or similar concepts and a few came to mind. THONGOR and you all know Stan's penchant for ridiculous names...just take a look at the names on all those Monsters from the late 50's and early 60' he wanted to run with THONGOR!!! For one reason or another that fell through.

Another route was taken...a route that led to the greatest Barbarian hero ever to walk the earth. Hither came CONAN...but that is another story.

Check out Mr. Steranko's pics. Some of which came later after the pitch to Marvel. I look forward to one day perhaps seeing a TALON graphic novel by STERANKO. I know from experience that once you have a day you'll see it through.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Custom Conan the Destroyer by Владимир Голяев

Владимир Голяев - ( Vladimir ) shared this awesome custom with me...he'd stated that he shared this figure with us before...but I never saw it. I whipped up this collage to share with the followers of CROM enjoy...DIG IT!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Return of Conan the Jedi...

Someone went and took the time to put this together...and it is interesting as well as humorous to see Conan's sword turned into a flashing light sabre.  There are quite a few Conan parodies on youtube but...very few worth sharing.  I like this one.  ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

In the name of the Father - Andy Kubert

Many years ago I'd always said " Wow it would be cool if Joe Kubert went to Marvel and drew some Conan comics"...Well it never really happened. Joe drew a promo poster for Dark Horse a couple of years back but that's about it. But when Joe's able bodied son Andy...a very big name in the industry today got a gig drawing the Savage Sword of Conan # 160 he blew my socks off. I had seen his work before and knew he was good , but not this good. I tell ya' he draws exactly like his Legendary Dad. ( When he wants to ) You can tell some panels used old TARZAN comics as reference ( nothing wrong with that ) but his style his technique his line quality and his dynamic approach to page layout had all the markings of a future hall of famer. Andy is a big wig over at DC comics now ( A really real Big wig ) and deservedly so. He is a was in his blood. He and his brother Adam made a name for themselves...not by riding on Joe's coat tails...they trained and worked and studied and busted their asses off to be the Masters they are today....That's the way Joe wanted it...if this was the life they chose then they are going to learn it right. He taught them like he taught any other student at his school and took no favorites in doing so. That's the reason why they're so good...they're naturals and they learned from the was ingrained and embedded in the DNA..Imprinting if you will.

Andy did some more work for Savage Sword and even a cover for CTB here and there but...Nothing I say can tell you the thrill I got when I bought this issue of SSOC and saw the brilliant work by Andy Kubert. Joe Kubert has passed on now...his sons carry on and provide fine and worthy contributions to the industry they love...that he loved.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The passing of Joe Kubert...

Joe Kubert passed away yesterday he was 85 years of age. He left an indelible mark on the industry and taught and continues to inspire legions. His passing marks the end of an era.

There will be many Joe Kubert postings on the blogs and elsewhere on the web in the coming I won't get into my thoughts and feelings here @ CROM but know this. I grieve. Rest in peace Joe Kubert.

You will live on in our hearts.

La furia de Conan

Sharing a beautiful new painting by Master SANJULIAN....enjoy

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"CHIBI the Destroyer"

Well while we're at it with cute little CONAN Funko's and Chibi's I would like to share with you a little piece by Michael Cannon sent via his account at Deviant art. Conan ( Chibi ) the Destroyer. It took him 30 painstaking hours to finish up his homage to the late great Masterpiece by Frank Frazetta and I must say...I like it a lot.

Take a peek at the how to process in the bottom photo there. He drew it out and then got busy wit' da' colors. I'd give this a 10 on the excellent scale. In fact Michael Cannon created a masterpiece of his own...great job Michael and thank you for sharing. We look forward to more great art from you.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Custom Conan Funko Pop! Figure...

Funko recently held a custom contest using their Pop! figures and this is the entry that won!

This was done by Robert Slomkowski. I tip my horned helmet to him.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Conan Art by Pakoto!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

15mm Aquilonians

Here are some miniatures I converted to represent Aquilonian Knights, more specifically Black Dragon Guard, Standard Bearer and King Conan.  I used Roundway Miniatures using the body of the Spanish Knights figures and the heads of Russian Heavy Lancers.  The king was from the Spanish Command pack and I switched out the horse with a Persian Heavy Lancer.  I also sculpted on some capes with procreate and mounted a Games Workshop Bretonnian decal on the flag .  I really liked the way they turned out, it's definitely a departure from the Conan Comics "Aquiromian" look, instead presenting them in full plate armor as it states in the original books.  Sorry the pics are a little dark.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Treasures of Rammia! By Cromsblood.

Our old friend Cromsblood dropped me a line the other day...he included two attachments a write up and a link...See? His influence is still going...I miss the days when I would go to my favorite blog on the web and see some cool new interesting post created by him or Reis. I do the best I can and I'm pleased as punch Kilsern has amped up our literary scale. I have posts coming involving foreign CONAN covers and custom action figures. So don't you worry folks! I'm gonna do me best to please. Meantime use that link below and enjoy some 60's Conan comics from down Mejico way! See below...

Hi Mike! Please post this if you wouldn't mind. I did a write-up (below) to make it real easy for ya, and I've attached a couple of pics to spice up the post a bit. Change whatever you like. Thanks bro! -Cromsblood ( "I'm keeping it as is thanks CB" -Mike )

Post Title: The Treasures of Rammia!
Cromsblood took a short break from his regular routine to bring you this! Another unauthorized tale from Mexican publisher Ediciones Joma, featuring the most dangerous Viking crew on the Black Coast!
Belit, Yanga, and the blond Cimmerian Conan are lured to the isolated city of Rammia with promises of a king’s ransom and little resistance, only to discover much, much more than they bargained for. Originally published in 1966, with artwork by J Kstro and a script by Silva Quiros , it’s yet another English translation for your perusal - La Reina de la Costa Negra #38!
Download from MediaFire HERE:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Prince Valiant

One of Big John Buscema's influences was Hal Foster and I'd heard him say with my own ears in an in store QnA back in 1986 that he'd always wanted to draw Prince recentlly I got to work searching out images of Val on the web by Big John... alas I could not find any. However I did come across a few images of Val by familar artists who have worked on CONAN...We all know Ernie Chan...Frank Brunner and Rafael Kayanan right? You should. ;) Well as a bit of an Homage to Big John here are a few pieces of art I wanted to share with the readers of CROM...enjoy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sword & Sorcery: Literature or Junk?

I've been silent as of late, due to a high travel tempo for my career and now a case of the good old summer crud; however, as always, I have been reading and thinking about Conan, Robert Howard and the sword and sorcery genre in general. Lately, I have begun re-reading the L. Sprague de Camp/Lin Carter/Björn Nyberg pastiche. This has led to a spate of re-reading much of de Camp's non-fiction essays as they appear in The Spell of Conan and The Blade of Conan. This post won't be my opinion of de Camp, that is a complicated relationship that deserves its own post sometime in the future.

What I do want to talk about is the opinion of Sword & Sorcery in general. Sword & Sorcery, as a genre has been sneered at over the several decades since its unintentional inception by Bob Howard. The predominant opinion among the literati (my favorite term for those that consider themselves the prime, critical connoisseurs of all that should and could be considered Literature, with the capital "L") is that Sword & Sorcery is escapist literature at its best and unhealthy, pseudo-sexual, violent fantasy re-creation at its worst. L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter (and this is a generalization, not a direct quote) have both in various introductions and essays I have read, called Sword & Sorcery (or Sword-play and Sorcery--a de Camp preference) a guilty pleasure meant to help the reader escape to a simpler time.

I take umbrage with the term "guilty pleasure". A long time ago, in a galaxy far-far away, I was in an Introduction to Western Literature class. My professor gave us a lecture that the kernel of which was this: if you read junk, then your mind is full of junk; therefore, you should read the good stuff, so your brain will be full of the good stuff. She then assigned us to write a short essay, completed in class, in which we were to write a few short paragraphs about our favorite guilty pleasures; after all, as she told us, while we should predominantly read "the good stuff", like an athlete on a restrictive diet, it was good to cheat once in awhile, and read some "guilty pleasure" stuff -- perhaps during our Holiday break or during the summer, so that we didn't get the urge to pig-out on the "bad stuff". Take a taste, then get back to the regiment. It will make you more deeply appreciate "the good stuff" (all her opinion, quoted from memory as best as I can).

I wrote a paragraph, not very long as I remember. My thesis was simple. If I enjoy reading something, I have no reason to feel any guilt about it. If it brings me pleasure, and no laws are broken by my doing so, then who is she, or anyone else for that matter, to tell me what the good stuff is, or the bad stuff? I don't remember her exact reaction, but I don't think that she thought I was truly embracing the spirit of the lecture/exercise.

That is an opinion I will always stand-by. It holds true for all genre literature, comic books (another often attacked pleasure of mine) and movies. But it does not answer the question: is Sword & Sorcery Literature or Junk? How is it defended? Can it be defended? It's a good question and I don't feel I can adequately answer it in one short blog post. It's a topic in need of more research. I would ask the readers of this blog to help me answer it, and perhaps I will explore it more deeply in the future, after my summer crud is gone and I've had the time to investigate it at my local university library.

My short answer is I believe Sword & Sorcery is Literature and not Junk. My defense of this is a long-term project that I am itching to begin working upon.

However, food for thought: Science Fiction is often easily defensible as Literature (with the capital L) as it often serves as a commentary upon our recent society (or the society of its time); consider Stranger in a Strange Land, or even the various robot stories of Asimov (easily viewed as the fear a culture has of an ever increasing mechanized society). Please consider giving your opinions on these statements/questions either as a comment here, or if you prefer as an email (kilsern71 at gmail dot com):

  • Recent history often plays a role in the author's thought process. Consider the recent history of Howard's time. World War I ended in 1918, to what extent did that influence Howard's barbarous created world? 
  • Howard and Lovecraft exchanged letters over an extended time that argued the virtues of civilization versus barbarism, what are some examples of how Conan best stands for Howard's opinion that barbarism was mans natural state? 
  • A revival of sword and sorcery began in the 60's and 70's, the current political state of the U.S. at that time could be viewed as one in which many people believed that it was failing. How does Sword & Sorcery best exemplify this?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The PRIZE....

This is one of my favorite's a Joe Jusko recreation I put a lot of time and effort into...the person with the funniest CLONAN blurb/caption...gets this if you want it.


Just wanted to share my drawing. I had this idea in my head for at lunch it spilled out onto some scrap paper. I have intentions to redraw right into my sketchbook...hope you like it. Hey...this might be fun. Anyone want to give it a caption or a blurb...the funnier the better. So long as it pertains to CONAN or his CLONANS....if your game...the one I like best...I'll draw you up your own pitcher and send it off to ya....( Lets see who bites , who the hell wants a drawing from Mikeyboy lol )

Sunday, July 8, 2012



Thursday, July 5, 2012

B-List Barbarians: Clifford Ball's "The Goddess Awakes"

"The Goddess Awakes" is the third story published by Clifford Ball in what can only be assumed was his attempt to cash in on the audience built by Robert E. Howard in the pages of Weird Tales with his Conan tales (For a look at his first two stories, go here and then here).

Ball's third story originally was published in the February 1938 issue of Weird Tales. The copy I read is included in the book Realms of Wizardry. Realms is an excellent collection of stories published in 1976 and was edited by Lin Carter. I use the word excellent to reflect the talent collected between it's covers: James Branch Cabell, A. Merritt, Lord Dunsany, Robert E. Howard, H. Rider Haggard and H.P. Lovecraft, just to name the authors printed upon the dust jacket. In fact, seventeen authors in total are included; however, one of the stores, "Quest of the Starstone", was a joint written tale by C.L. Moore and her husband Henry Kuttner. It involves Catherine Moore's two most popular characters, Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith, joining forces. The collection also includes an introduction and introductory notes to each story written by Lin Carter. An appendix for further reading is also included. If you find a copy at a used book store, don't hesitate to pick it up.

Like "The Thief of Forthe", "The Goddess Awakes" features the character Rald as its main protagonist; however, at this point in his career, Rald has given up thievery and has become a mercenary hiring out his sword to any who can afford him, unless the opposing army is of Forthe. In a vague way, Ball references his earlier story "Thief" in which it was implied that Rald would become involved with a lady of the court of Forthe (actually, the King's daughter). Due to his involvement with the Lady of Forthe, Rald will not take up arms against her kingdom. It is obvious to point out that Ball, by having Rald advance from a thief to now a mercenary is at least vaguely echoing the career of Conan for his character of Rald; he also did this for the first character he created then abandoned, Duar of "Duar the Accursed".

In this story, Rald has joined forces with the smaller framed mercenary Thwaine. Ball creates an easy banter between Rald and Thwaine that brings more life to this story then his former "Thief of Forthe". The two compliment each other well. I have never read the next three stories written by Ball, so I do not know if they were written in the same universe as his first three, if they were, I hope that he kept the team of Rald and Thwaine together. Of the two main protagonists created by Ball for his stories, Duar and Rald, Duar is the most interesting; however, Rald combined with Thwaine makes for a recipe as interesting as Duar and his back-story of cursed fate.

At stories beginning, Rald and Thwaine are on the run from a battle that their side lost. The two barely escape with their lives and are planning their next move. By pure coincidence, they come upon a lost civilization that is composed of warrior women. Ball never names these women as Amazons; however, he does name them as coming from:

[women who] were of warrior stock. It was said that [they] bowed to a dreadful goddess, called Bubaste, the same that ruled in a far-off land known to few, in a strange country by a sluggish river named the Nile.

This quote points out an interesting thing about Clifford Ball. In the three stories I read, he cobbled together his fantasy realm stealing freely from the created mythologies and/or concepts of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft. At the same time, he references places and things from real history. In this story alone, he makes reference to the Nile and to the existence of Buddha. Ball has no compunctions about borrowing from anyone or anything. His world, to me the geek who grew up playing role playing games, seems very like a home brewed world for a Dungeons & Dragons game; of course it is not, as D&D and games of its ilk were not created until the 70's.

Rald and Thwaine become prisoners of this race of warrior women, who are in turn at the mercy of an evil priest/wizard named Throal. Throal claims to have sired the incarnation of the goddess Bubaste, or Bast, the two names are used interchangeably. Many years ago, he brought his demon-goddess, named Hess, to the warrior women's kingdom:

Hess, the sacred blood-relative of Bubaste, of Bast, daughter of Isis

Hess is a statue by day, but under the rays of the full moon comes to life and hunts. Throal, utilizing the fear and awe generated by Hess, has convinced the warrior women to enslave all the men of their kingdom by addicting the males to a drug that leaves them in a zombie like state. Even though the warrior women have a queen, Queen Cene, he rules in all but name. The women fear him so much that they willingly give themselves as sacrifice for what are described in the story as rites of orgy. 

Ball plays with lots of fetish fantasies in this story. It is easy to see why it would appeal to an audience that often read Weird Tales for its lurid covers and thinly disguised sexuality (but don't think for a moment that I don't approve of such things). 

In this story, Ball returns to his concept of fate, which he played with first in his story "Duar the Accursed". Balls characters, both Duar and Rald (but decidedly more Duar) are unable to escape their fate, unlike Howard's Conan who absolutely makes his own fate. Observe one of my favorite paragraphs from "Goddess" in which Rald ponders that perhaps his fate is driven by greater forces, it is also a good bit of exposition: 

Rald clutched his sword-hilt fondly and gazed upward, beyond the torches and helmets of the warrior host, to where the stars of the heavens had begun to twinkle about the yellow planet whose beams were distributed alike over friend and foe. Perhaps there was madness in the lunar rays, mused the ex-thief; perhaps the great orb possessed the power to change mortals into demonic shapes as the seers of so many lands proclaimed, but to him it seemed that a strength beyond the ken of physicians or the use of drugs flowed from those same beams to mingle with his blood-stream; he felt exultant beneath the rays, free like the desert winds, capable of confronting any difficulty he should chance to encounter. Perhaps--it was a wild fancy, but perhaps he was one of the chosen, a child of that great planet, waxing and waning in his impulses, his contrast of a life of thievery mingled with heroic and generous deeds, enven as the dead world was accredited with forces both good and evil. Certainly, beneath its rays, he gained a confidence in his own ability and ultimate preservation he had never experienced beneath the light of day.

Rald and Thwaine are to be sacrificed to Hess. I won't give away fine details, but I must say, the manner in which they do away with Hess and her master was disappointing at best. 

While I found the ending disappointing, I enjoyed this story much more then "Thief of Forthe" and I liked it bit more than "Duar the Accursed". In his introductory notes, Lin Carter states: 

No one has ever collected Ball's Sword & Sorcery tales into a book, which seems to me a shame. His stories--possibly the only ones he ever wrote--today molder forgotten in the yellowing pages of an extinct pulp magazine, and their author is a forgotten man in the history of modern fantasy.

While I don't feel as strongly about Ball's stories as Mr. Carter, it is a shame that they are so hard to find.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dark Horse Comics - Conan Motion comic

B-List Barbarians: Clifford Ball's "The Thief of Forthe"

In a previous post, I wrote of Clifford Ball's history (what little is known of him) and his first story published in Weird Tales, "Duar the Accursed". As I mentioned in that post, after the death of Robert E. Howard, Farnsworth Wright seemed to be attempting to find an author to fill the void left with the absence of Howard's stories (a decision Wright would shortly have second thoughts about and would in fact stop seeking/accepting stories that seemed imitative of Howard's style and/or stories). "The Thief of Forthe" was Ball's second published attempt to write a story in the tradition of Conan.

"Thief" first saw print in the July 1937 issue of Weird Tales. It has seen reprinting a couple of times. My reading copy comes from the story collection Savage Heroes (1975). Heroes, even without the Ball story, is a solid collection featuring: "Jirel Meets Magic" - C.L. Moore (and I have written of the the Jirel stories before); "The Spawn of Dagon" - Henry Kuttner; "Necromancy in Naat" - Clark Ashton Smith; "The Song at the Hub of the Garden" - Ramesy Campbell; "Alma Mater" - Daphne Castell; "In the Lair of Yslsl" - Karl Edward Wagner (whose Conan pastiche The Road of Kings, I have written of before); "The Barrow Troll" - David A. Drake; and lastly, "The Temple of Abomination" by my dearly loved Robert E. Howard.

Strangely, the cover states "Edited by Michel Parry"; however, the publication credits states the editor's name as Eric Pendragon. I am not sure if Eric Pendragon is a pseudonymous for Michel Parry, or not. In either case, it is illustrated throughout by Jim Pitts. I am not familiar with any previous or post work by Pitts and can share no information about him. Any further information known by readers would be appreciated.

As to the story itself, like "Duar", "Thief" is fast paced with no lack of action. In this story, gone is the character Duar to be replaced with the less interesting Rald. Rald is a thief to rival Conan, and it can not be helped but to draw comparisons between the two. Surly, Mr. Ball intended his stories to have a ready made audience and wasted no time making things familiar for the reader.

Rald the thief is drawn into a plot to steal the legendary Necklace of the Ebon Dynasty by Karlk the Magician. Via the deed of stealing the necklace, Karlk plots that Rald the Thief will become Rald the King, and hence in gratitude allow, either willingly or not, Karlk to be the power behind the throne. This gossamer reasoning is based upon the history of the Necklace:

"...the chief virtue of the heirloom lay not in its marketable worth, but in the legendary credits supposedly bestowed upon it by the multiple blessings of the Seven Gods...Hence the reasoning of Karlk, the magician: Many kings had worn the Necklace in judicial omnipotence, until the people of Forthe saw the wearer as a representative of the Seven Gods; if a man wore it...would not that man...[have] the right of kingship?"

I am not giving much away when I tell the good reader that Karlk is not what he seems and his intentions are not good. He really is not what he seems at all, meaning *SPOILER ALERT* Karlk is not human. He is what can best be described as an evolved white ape of Burroughs Barsoom stories (thinly veiled in Ball's story as "Jarsoom") whose evolution somewhat echoes the flavor of H.P. Lovecraft's stories (or perhaps more accurately, the flavor of a slip-shod Lovecraft pastiche).

As interesting as this twist is, it does not save Ball's story from being an obvious attempt to cash in on the absence of Howard's Conan yarns in the pages of Weird Tales. While it is a more focused tale than his previous "Duar the Accursed", it is also, for me, less interesting.

The only interior illustration for the story, art by Jim Pitts

Quotes, Facts and Scenes from the Worlds of REH: Howard's "Suicide Note" II

I thought I might share this for those that missed it. In my previous post on Howard's "suicide note", a comment was supplied by CROM! reader Biopunk. Biopunk supplied a link to an issue of Marvel Comics Epic Illustrated that showed engagingly just how well the myth of Howard's suicide note has been adopted as common knowledge. 

Thank you Mr. Biopunk!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The REH Foundation Newsletter

Spring 2012 and Summer 2012
Hello CROM! readers. I have been silent lately, and for that I apologize, but my career has kept me uber busy. Also, my recent reading of Mark Finn's Blood & Thunder has placed me on a biography reading kick. Right now I am immersed in S.T. Joshi's H.P. Lovecraft: A Life. Joshi's book has also spun me onto several side quests involving reading Lovecraft material I have not read in ages, and in some cases never have. More on that in the future.

In a recent post, I mentioned that I made the decision to join the Robert E. Howard Foundation. If you're not familiar with them, please take the time to check them out at their site, as they have a mission that is important to me.

At the level of membership I am at, I receive their newsletter as it becomes available. I came home from my recent business travels to discover that in my absence, I received two issues of the newsletter, Spring 2012 number 1 and Summer 2012 number 2 (both volume 6). Both issues are 18 pages in length, printed on good quality paper. The newsletter is standard 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

I have been looking forward to perusing the newsletters. They are a treat for the Howard fan. To illustrate why, I present the content pages of both issues so the reader will have an idea of what kind of articles/contents are in a typical issue:

Spring 2012

Summer 2012
I can offer a few comments on the contents of both issues. With the sad passing of Glenn Lord in December 2011, there is an expected amount of Lord content. I particularly liked Rusty Burke's essay, "Glenn Lord, 1931-2011".  Most, if not all newsletters feature original Howard content. These two issues feature: "The Door to the Garden" (an incomplete tale first published in Fantasy Crosswinds #2 [Stygian Isle Press, 1977], then later completed by Joseph F. Pulver and published in Nameless Cults [Chaosium, 2001] as "The Door to the World"--this is the version I have read in the past); the poem "A Rattlesnake Sings in the Grass" (previously unpublished and found in Glenn Lord's collection after his death); "Brachan the Kelt" (an incomplete James Allison tale previously published only twice before, 1981's The Barbarian Swordsmen and 1998's "New" Howard Reader #1). In all cases for these two issues, the original Howard content is presented as clear, easy to read photo copies of Howard's original typescript. For me, that is like looking into a camera lens and viewing the past. Way cool. 

The other contents of both issues are rounded out with news and events of interest to the Howard fan, biographical information and items such as a school paper about athletics that Howard wrote in 1921 for a school project, and this is a photo copy of the original paper and is written in Howard's long-hand cursive script. Again, I really enjoy things like that. There are also newly discovered photos either of or pertaining to Robert E. Howard. I particularly enjoyed three photos of Howard goofing as a pirate with his neighbors, the brother and sister Leroy and Faustine Butler.

I wish I could in good conscience share these items with you, but I do not feel I have the permission to do so. I am a big fan of Howard's poetry, so the opportunity to read a poem by Bob ("A Rattlesnake Sings in the Grass") that I have not encountered before, is well worth the price of admission alone. 

I encourage you, if you are a Bob Howard nut such as myself to visit the above link to the REH Foundation, and become a member.