Friday, January 23, 2009

Celebrating REH with some comic-book savagery

As usual, I'm a day late on the news: Yesterday marked what would have been the 103rd birthday of Robert E. Howard, founder and reigning champion of the swords-and-sorcery genre. But my absent-mindedness didn't prevent me from celebrating Howard's life with a bit of fun reading in his memory--namely, revisiting the pages of The Savage Sword of Conan issue 24.

Re-reading SSOC 24 was certainly a blood-soaked trip down memory lane. This particular issue debuted in November 1977; I bought it second-hand in an old comic book shop for $1.00 probably 10 years after that. It's one of the best dollars I've ever spent, in hindsight.

Was there ever a better comic book/magazine than The Savage Sword of Conan? Only a Turanian boot-licker would say yes. For proof, click on the picture above to reveal the awesomeness of this issue's table of contents:

SSOC 24 includes one of Howard's better short stories, The Tower of the Elephant. It's a great adaptation by Roy Thomas, and is illustrated by perhaps my favorite Conan artist, John Buscema. Here's a great panel in which Conan first encounters the blinded and crippled Yag-Kosha, prisoner in the tower of the evil wizard Yara.

As I wrote in a previous post, one of the reasons I hold SSOC in such high esteem is that it was so much more than a comic book--a more accurate description is probably illustrated magazine. In its early days SSOC contained a wide range of articles dedicated to all things REH, and occasionally took a broader look at other happenings in the fantasy genre. This particular issue includes a review of Amra, a long-running fan/literary magazine devoted to the works of Howard and other sword-and-sorcery authors, plus an article on an event held by the Buffalo, NY chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

The SCA photos in the magazine are a howl (there's several more than I've included here). I don't do LARP or dress up in armor (save on a few select occasions), but this does look like fun. Although the guy on the lower left... nice helmet and shield, but the long-sleeve t-shirt and beer gut ruins the effect.

If The Tower of the Elephant, AMRA, and weekend warriors in t-shirts and great helms weren't enough, SSOC 24 also includes a reprint of Howard's epic poem "Cimmeria," as illustrated by the immortal Barry Smith in five glorious black-and-white pages. Here's the last page... nuff said.

If that's not a steal at $1, I don't know what is.

Long live REH!

1 comment:

K. Forest said...

Good stuff! Buscema's Conan is classic. After Frazetta (who obviously inspired him) he's probably my favorite Conan artist. I never really cared for BWS work from this time period, though I think he matured into a top-rate illustrator.