Monday, April 30, 2012

Andrew J. Offutt: The Conan Pastiche

Introduction: Around the age of 12, I read a steady diet of Conan pastiche. A Conan pastiche (to me the word "pastiche" sounds like a good cheese) is a story featuring the character Conan, but not written by Howard (although a pastiche is not a cheese, some Conan pastiche are indeed cheesy). It was not until the recent publication of Howard's works in their unadulterated entirety that I made the move from a "works of Howard fan" to a "Robert E. Howard fan". While I am now solidly in the camp of REH Fans, I am not a pastiche snob, meaning, I will give a pastiche a good shake without immediate dismissal. Some recent lucky finds at a yard sale have given me liberty to dive into the realm of Conan pastiche. Some works I am re-reading after 25 years, others I am reading for the first time.

The Skinny: Conan and the Sorcerer and Conan The Mercenary were written in 1978 and 1980 respectively. They were published by Ace Fantasy, written by Andrew J. Offutt and featured about 50 internal illustrations each by the artist Esteban Maroto.  They were written as "Mercenary" being a sequel of sorts to "Sorcerer"; however, Offutt recaps the events of "Sorcerer" in "Mercenary" well enough that either could be read independently of the other. A third book exists, The Sword of Skelos, that I have not read which makes a trilogy. Andrew J. Offutt has written much Howard pastiche for the character Cormac Mac Art and is also known for his stories adding to the "Thieves World" series, particularly for the creation of the character Shadowspawn. Offutt is also well known for editing the Swords Against Darkness volumes. Esteban Maroto is no stranger to Howard's creations either. He created the famous chain-mail bikini worn by the Howard inspired, but Roy Thomas created, character Red Sonja and was at the forefront of the "Spanish" invasion of comics during the 1970's. His early works were featured in the Warren Publishing titles Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella.

The plot (SPOILERS ALERT): The two stories take place shortly after Howard's tale "The Tower of the Elephant", feature a very young Conan (his age is placed at 17 in the books) in search of wealth and adventure. The plot of "Sorcerer" has Conan trying to steal a relic called the Eye of Erlik from a sorcerer's tower. While doing so, he stumbles across two other thieves who beat him to the prize; however, it is Conan who is caught by the sorcerer, one Hisarr Zul. Zul is a sorcerer that steals men's souls and forces their soulless bodies into his servitude. Conan encounters some of Hisarr Zul's soulless guardians and is freaked out by them. As punishment for his attempted burglary, Hisarr Zul steals Conan's soul and traps it in a mirror. He then places Conan on a quest to steal back the Eye of Erlik from the thief that made off with it (a lovely she-thief named Isparana). In "Mercenary", after recovering the Eye of Erlik and slaying Hisarr Zul (events which occurred in "Sorcerer"), Conan has recovered the mirror that holds his soul, but is still separated from his soul within. He sells his services to a young, lovely lady noble named Khastris. Conan journeys with her to her homeland in hopes that her cousin, the Queen of Khauran, can join him with his soul (he learned from a sand lich in "Sorcerer" that one way of retrieving his soul is to have the mirror shattered by one wearing a crown). In Khauran, he gets embroiled in a sorcerous plot to take over the kingdom.

The Good: Offutt does not attempt to imitate Howard; instead, he writes in his own voice. This is something I prefer in pastiche versus someone trying to sound like Howard. While Offutt is not, in my opinion, the strongest of writers, he is accomplished enough to push a "Howardesque" yarn along. Complementing Offutt's writing are a healthy dose of illustrations by Esteban Maroto. See examples (with my apologies for my slip-shod photography):
Conan battling the Sand-Lich (Conan and the Sorcerer)

Illustration of Isparana of Zamboula (Conan And the Sorcerer)

Conan rescuing Lady Khashtris from night assassins (Conan the Mercenary

Conan brooding over his murdered lover (Conan the Mercenary)

The Good (continued): The highlight of both short novels for me was Conan's encounter with the Sand-Lich. An indestructible creature clearly out of his league, Offutt doesn't miss a chance to highlight Howard's character and his defiance of death and giving up. All in all, Offutt writes a fast paced yarn, full of well written fight scenes. His portrayal of Hyborea is well done, written with simple, yet effect prose.

The Bad: While I found "Sorcerer" an enjoyable, if forgettable read, "Mercenary" held far less appeal for me. There were three main reasons for this. 1. "Mercenary" lacks a memorable villain. There is a sorcerer introduced in the prologue of the story, but he never makes another appearance. In the prologue, the sorcerer uses his dark arts to make an aging baron appear years younger. The baron hopes to use his young appearing form to strengthen his place in a circle of nobles that have denied him respect and power. It is never explained what this mysterious sorcerer is gaining from this. 2. An interesting back story is set up with the Queen of Khauran, each generation will see the birth of a witch that must be killed. Because of this curse the Queen kills her own child. This has much potential, but is not exploited in the story and rests as back ground noise. 3. Offutt has Conan playing detective in this story, and in the climax, Conan disguises himself as a seer in order to ensnare plotters against the throne in a trap. This rung untrue for me. While I recognize that Conan, as told by Howard, was more intelligent then most give him credit for, it just didn't seem very "Conan-like" to me.

The Ugly: The biggest crime committed in the two short novels occurs in "Mercenary". Offutt commits the crime of "telling versus showing". In about three short paragraphs, he narrates a tale of how Conan is kicked out of the courts of Khauran, falls in love and later in that chapter, broods over the murdered corpse of his young lover vowing that from here on out he will not fall in love. It was way too much story crowded into a short narrative chapter.

Odd Observations: The sand creatures that Conan battled in the 2011 movie Conan the Barbarian share a similarity to Offutt's Sand-Lich in "Sorcerer"; I wonder if there was an inspiration here? The 1997 - 1998 TV series Conan the Adventurer, features as a main villain a sorcerer named Hissah Zuhl (played by Jeremy Kemp). The names Hissah Zuhl and Hisarr Zul strike a certain similarity that again makes me wonder, was Offutt's idea aped for the series?

Conclusion: While I wouldn't recommend these stories as a nice jumping on point for potential Howard enthusiasts, I would recommend them at least as decently written pastiche without glaring non-Howardian faults. The illustrations by Esteban Maroto help elevate them on the list for Conan pastiche collectors, if not as must-haves, then certainly as entertaining curiosities.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the REH art of TOM YEATES

This is a little parody drawing Tom and Cary Nord teamed up on they call..."CONAN'S LUNCH." lol

I've always loved Tom Yeates work from the time I first saw his work in DC comics WARLORD comic book on the back up feature DRAGONSWORD and then CLAW all the way up through his run on SWAMP THING all the way to recent times where he's done work for Dark Horse on a TARZAN feature in Dark Horse Presents now where he's currently carrying on a sacred legacy by drawing the PRINCE VALIANT syndicated strip....I love his classic line and use of blacks...he can spot blacks like no one else can...he pushes the subject matter forward in an almost photographic image but yet maintains that classic look about his work that reminds you that's about the love of the art and it's all in the technique. He's a modern master and I look forward to his work as it comes weekly. Thats a tough task in and of itself.

See the work of Tom Yeates...Love it!

Conan the Barbarian Candid On-Set Pics!

CROM! reader (and future contributor?) Robert Hir sent me some links to these amazing candid shots clearly taken during the making of the original Conan the Barbarian motion picture. This kind of stuff really gets me excited about my all-time favorite movie. Just looking at these behind-the-scenes shots of Arnold and Sandahl make me want to hunker down with the DVD again.

Major thanks to Robert for passing these along and our apologies to Feed The Flies for swiping them all and reposting them.

Monday, April 23, 2012



It's funny to think that this little fan blog that I started all by my lonesome way back in 2007, originally on Myspace, but eventually moved to the Blogger network, has become such a huge hub for all things Hyborean. With the help of the mighty Cromsblood (whom we still miss greatly), the savage Atom Kid and the unstoppable Mikeyboy (who has been really keeping this blog thriving almost completely on his own lately), CROM! just keeps getting better and better.

So I want to take a quick second to thanks all of the readers and commenters and especially my fellow contributors for making CROM! everything that it is today.

However, that doesn't mean that the blog couldn't use some FRESH BLOOD! That's why I am once again offering up an official invitation to all Conan fans out there to BECOME A CROM! CONTRIBUTOR!!!

Got something to say? Like to review Conan books? Do you have a ton of Conan collectibles? Do you write Conan fan-fiction? WE WANT IT ALL!

All you have to do is send an email to me (Reis) or Mikeyboy (now officially an administrator to the blog) with a little about yourself, what you'd like to contribute to CROM! and preferably a sample of your blogging/writing. You can find our email links by clicking on our names under the contributor's list on the left-hand side of the blog.



(Apologies to the uncanny Joe Jusko for us shamelessly using his art for this post!)

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Saturday, April 14, 2012

The ANVIL of CROM "Riddle of Steel 2012 Preview"

I was contacted by this organization of enthusiasts by a representitive so they could use a piece of my art for the flyer for the next event. Similar to the SCA ( Society of creative anachronisms ) they have their own way of doing things and they have a penchant for CONAN and CONAN related terminology. Aquilonia , CROM etc'...HOW COULD I SAY NO? Of course you can use my art for your flyer. If any of the followers of "CROM the Ultimate CONAN fan blog" live in that area and want to get involved go to the website and contact them yourselves and let the blood fly! Go here >

I used to belong to the SCA myself so I know the feeling and support these folks. It's a group after my own heart.

For what is steel compared to the power of the hand that wields it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Alagg the Barbarian Web Comic!

Cromsblood sent me this comic that he found via the REH Forums, called Alagg the Barbarian!

While not quite Conan, he's certainly very much inspired by all the things we savages here think are best in life.

Here's some samples...

Click HERE to visit the main site! (May not be the safest thing to read at work.)

Gerry Lopez Interview from!

Randy Jennings was cool enough to send me a link to this great interview with the one and only Gerry Lopez, aka Subotai. It's a brilliant slice of conversation with an actor who, although never built much of a Hollywood career (by choice), still remains one of the most indelible best friend/sidekick characters in movie history.

We all need a homie to pull us down from the Tree of Woe, right?

You can read the full article HERE.

And again, thanks to Randy Jennings for passing this along!

Friday, April 6, 2012


Here is little interesting video I found.
The intersting part about it was how i came across it. I was buying milk and bread of all things at the local 7 and 11 store when I came across a HEAVY METAL magazine. I did not even know they still published that I snatched it up. As always it contained the usual adult fair. But in the back of the magazine there was a catalog.. I spotted the Name and then I noticed there was a sketchbook out there to order. I punched that baby up in my search engine and it led me directly to this video. I'll still be trying to get my hands on the sketch book.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Impressive Conan Tattoo!

This is some seriously KILLER ink! I think you have a challenger Mikeyboy! ;)

One of these days I'm going to get my own Conan tattoo. Nothing that would even come close to the sheer epicness of this massive piece, of course. But I'm definitely inspired!

Thanks to Cromsblood (yes, he's still out there) for sending this our way!

Via The Sons of Cimmeria.

Conan vs He-Man!

(found on Facebook)