By Geoff Hoppe
May 3, 2007 - 22:11
Any given Friday night in Cimmeria.
You never find back issues of Savage Sword of Conan. The buzz on the internet maintains it’s perhaps the best Conan title. It hasn’t been collected in any trade paperbacks, to the best of my knowledge, and it isn’t easy to find. Not that there isn’t demand—hang around a comic book store long enough, and you’re likely to hear a few adults ask the clerk if they have any copies of the fabled mag. The usual answer is no.
Thanks to one of my local comics shops buying an entire collection of the series, sword-and-sorcery junkies (like myself) have reason to scream like eighth-grade girls at a Vanessa Hudgens concert and offer futile votaries to the mute, uncaring visage of Crom, Cimmerian god of death.
Savage Sword was more than a comic: it was an ambitious little magazine that sought to satisfy fans who wanted more. There’s a comic book story featuring everyone’s favorite Cimmerian, but there are also articles and stories featuring other characters created by Conan brainchild Robert E. Howard. Issue #13, for instance, has a short tale featuring Solomon Kane, Howard’s Puritan vagabond. It also has a critical article addressing a thematic element of Howard’s work, and an article (read: advertisement) that publicizes the republication of another Conan story.
Savage Sword is an intriguing chimera, part comic book, part journal, part forum for Conan fans to discuss their favorite character. If the ambition and quality of issue #13 is any indication, the rest of the series must have been fantastic. Which is why I’m surprised something this (comparatively) cerebral and entertaining lasted as long as it did.
A great deal of the reason probably rests with Roy Thomas, who penned the Conan story in this issue, and many others. Thomas’ name is well-known among Conan fans. Along with his longtime work on Marvel’s Conan titles, he also wrote last year’s
Conan: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Savage Barbarian, that, despite the cheesy title, is pretty good. His story in issue #13, “The Thing in the
The pencils by Gil Kane, Ralph Reese and Dan Adkins are not as impressive as Thomas’ writing, but are still good. Their quality vacillates: there are lavish battle scenes, but there are also sloppy depictions of Pythonesque villains. While the characters are well drawn, the haunted temples and ancient cities are singularly unimpressive. Throw in issue 13’s corny villain and it looks like a campout with the Society for Creative Anachronism.* Still, the overall effect of the artwork mirrors Thomas’ story, and the Savage Sword reader feels they’ve stumbled on a forgotten gem from Howard’s own journals.
Worth the money? If you can find it and you’re a fan, absolutely. Caveat emptor—they’re anywhere from $3 to $50 for a single issue.
*They actually exist.