VALLEY OF THE WORM: The Best REH Comic Ever?

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

valleyofworm1“One of the greatest monster epics of all time!”  

— Cover text from Supernatural Thrillers #3, 1973

The work of Robert E. Howard inspired a lot of great comics. Yet one of Howard’s more obscure tales served as the basis for what just might be the best REH-inspired comic ever made: Supernatural Thrillers #3 featuring “Valley of the Worm.”

When it comes to sword-and-sorcery comics, Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian set the gold standard by adapting Howard’s most famous creation with roaring success. Roy Thomas, who was helping Stan Lee run Marvel Comics in the late 60s, had the idea to adapt a swashbuckling, sword-swinging pulp character into comics. Little did Roy realize at the time he was inventing a whole new genre of comics. Conan the Barbarian’s success spawned a glut of sword-and-sorcery comics including Howard’s other famous barbarian Kull the Conquerer. There was also Claw the Unconquered, Beowulf, Thongor of Lemuria, Warlord, Red Sonja, and plenty of others. It even spawned a line of black-and-white “mature readers” magazines so the barbaric battles could be seen in all their gory splendor, and the comely maidens could go unclad whenever they pleased.

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Sword and Solomon: The Beginning of Sword and Sorcery

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Posted by James Enge

The great Jeffrey Catherine Jones envisions Solomon Kane.

I haven’t been the most reliable blogger on the Blog Gate lately–something like the least reliable, in fact: my day job and nightly visits from werewolves have conspired to keep me out of the blogosphere almost entirely, these days. But I wanted to show my virtual face here and raise a virtual glass of something intoxicating in honor of Robert E. Howard’s birthday–and in honor of someone who never existed, and probably wouldn’t approve of me toasting him even in non-existent liquor.

Robert E. Howard wrote a lot of stuff worth reading, but for me his central importance lies in the invention of sword-and-sorcery (as the genre was later named by Fritz Leiber). Not in the Conan stories, though: I go along with those who argue that sword-and-sorcery actually begins with the Solomon Kane stories (some of which are online, having battled their way past Mickey Mouse into the public domain; all of them have been collected into a wonderful Ballantine volume, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane).

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Howard and his truths

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Posted by eeknight

one_who_walked_aloneIt’s hard to add much about RE Howard to what’s been said here, but I’ll try.

Howard is easy to compliment on his prose style, his ringing battles so evocative that the blood almost sticks to your hands as you turn the pages. His characters were primal archetypes, quick to take to and want more from. His worldbuilding allowed you to smell the exotic spices in the market street air and hear the shadowy footpads in the alleys — his masterwork Hyborea teemed with life and detail. His sense of rhythm in the telling of Conan’s latest exploit or explosive westerns leavened with physical humor prove him a master yarn-spinner.

But there’s more to him than just technique.

I get writing from amateurs every now and then that about lives up to Howard, even if it’s just aping his style. The stories just seem strangely lifeless for all the careful detail, cacophonous action, and pulpish word-choice. I usually tell these writers to “tell me one of your truths.”

Howard put what he knew to be true in his stories. He was an opinionated man, read Novalyne Price Ellis’s memoir One Who Walked Alone for plenty of examples. He knew the power of entropy, he’d seen it growing up in Texas as the oil men came and went. Cross Plains experienced it in the bust of the Great Depression. Howard’s stories are filled with the frailty of civilization, yet even when all that is dross falls away and the hollow gongs go silent there’s still the rough code of someone like Conan to protect a defenseless woman or Solomon Kane’s relentless resolve to avenge a murder even unto the lawless coasts of the New World. The whole world may have fallen or been left behind, but these characters will still see justice prevail.

Howard was a great reader of history and spoke endlessly of corruption. The rotten old order gives way to the new, not always easily, then the new eventually goes sclerotic and itself is preyed on by another generation of barbarians. The same truth applied to Rome applied to Howard’s Aquilonia and fallen Stygia.

Yes, by all means give R.E. Howard his hard-earned props as a technical master. But he also wrote from his brain, his heart, and his guts about what was important about life, as he saw it. Conan’s broadsword spoke many of Howard’s truths.

Robert E. Howard’s Thriller

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Charles Saunders

When I first encountered the work of Robert E. Howard, I was not aware that I was encountering the work of Robert E. Howard.   I know, I know … that statement needs clarification.00-titlepigeonsfromhell

To be technical about it, that first brush was actually with a television adaptation of one of REH’s short stories.  The story was “Pigeons from Hell,” which was also the title of a Thriller TV series episode I watched as a wide-eyed teenager back in 1961.  The episode scared me — and I wasn’t alone.  Some consider “Pigeons from Hell” to be the best episode in Thriller‘s three-year run.

If Howard received story recognition in the credits roll at the end of the episode, I don’t recall seeing it.  Even if it had, his name would not have meant anything to me back then.

Five years later, Howard’s name recognition skyrocketed with the release of the first Lancer Books editions of his Conan stories.  Frank Frazetta’s dynamic cover paintings of the barbaric Cimmerian immediately caught my eye amid numerous other offerings on the paperback racks.  And when I started reading the stories, I became hooked like an alcoholic or a junkie.

But the link between the creator of Conan and the Thriller episode remained elusive.  I didn’t make the connection until the mid-1970s, when I began writing stories about my Conan-inspired hero, Imaro.  During that time, I saw a Zebra Books collection of Howard stories with the title Pigeons from Hell on its cover.  Immediately, my memory of the Thriller episode kicked in.  I bought the book and dove right into the title story.

Howard’s original story affected me far more than the TV adaptation, which was far from a slouch.  The TV version scared me.  Howard’s version skeered me.  Trust me; there’s a difference.

And so, on the 104th anniversary of Robert E. Howard’s birth, I take my hat off to a writer who knew how to skeer people.

Encountering Howard

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Bill Ward

sowers-thunderTo write something on the occasion of Robert E. Howard’s birthday is a bit, well, intimidating. As imposing a presence as the Texan was in life, his reputation a century on has approached the status of myth. Not only that, but his work is the subject of formidable scholarship of the sort seen over at The Cimmerian and at the Robert E. Howard forums — and I’ll admit that the breadth of knowledge and insight displayed in even the most casual thread or post at either of those sites leaves me in the dust. Then too there are my fellow BGers who plan to post something today, many of whom have a deep and abiding passion for Howard and a long familiarity with his work. But in my case, on the subject of Howard, I’m a rank amateur.

But I’m an enthusiastic amateur, and if I can’t write from a position of deep learning, than I can at least offer my own personal appreciation for his work, which I was a long time in coming to. I met him first through Conan, naturally, a character more famous than his creator. It was as a wee lad sitting in front of the television and watching a behind-the-scenes special on an R-rated movie that I was not yet allowed to watch that I first encountered the iron-thewed Cimmerian . . . and a future governor of California. When I finally did get to see Conan the Barbarian, it immediately became one of my favorite films, cementing nicely with the melange of fantasy loves such as Dragonslayer and the old Robin Hood BBC series,  The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and Dragonlance, and, of course, Dungeons & Dragons.

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“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”: The First Time I Met Robert E. Howard

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Today’s is Robert E. Howard’s birthday—I’ve always felt pleased that it lies so close to mine, as January is a lonely month in which to have your birthday—and for my gesture to commemorate the Great Lord of Blood, Thunder, and Thick Mountain Accents, I’m going to take a short glance back at my first encounter with him, in the story “The Fire of Asshurbanipal.”

Okay, I lied. It’s not short . . .

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Bloody Brilliance: Why I Love Robert E. Howard

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

Why do I love the works of Robert E. Howard?kull

Emerald jungles filled with scalp-hungry picts. The primordial perfection of axe and spear. The clang of steel on steel beneath tattered banners, and the dying howls of winged terrors. Lost temples and fantastic jewels, mounds of gold steeped in the glow of eldritch flames…

The thunderous cadence of tribal drums and clouds rushing grey as death. Ruby-eyed witches and bloody claws trailing torn flesh. The primal rush of muscle and bone…battle cries like phantom bats above the field of honor. The stench of Stygian darkness where serpents gleam and glide, as terrible gods demand red sacrifices…

 The sorcerer who peers beyond and calls up fiends from Hell…the clash of iron and the defiance of tyranny. The triumph of the noble savage against the cruelty of opulent empires. Colossal spiders and spitting vipers. The turn of a supple leg, the heaving of breasts and swirling of gossamer veils. The crushing embrace of bronze arms, the blazing passion of life against the black gloom of death…

The galloping hosts of antique nations, the cry of a night-beast wailing at the moon. The precarious dance of flesh and metal, the arcs of flying crimson. Spilling viscera. The brutal grace of prehistoric combat, the strength of arm and gnashing of teeth. The sparkling visions of a misted age, the mysteries of old worlds heavy as dreams…

The Cimmerian snow and glaciers, the breath of northern myth…the sweltering desert where vultures stalk parched prey…the rise of Slave to King…the simplicity of might making right in a world tossed on seas of blood. The damsels in distress and the avenging hero…the lantern jaws and sapphire eyes. The glittering towers collapsing in shards…


The ancient world transmogrified, embroidered with the brilliants of legend, steeped in the wine of epic storms. The blood and thunder. The broad-shouldered lug and the skull-faced horror…the sting of a whisper in darkness. The dripping dagger and the broken blade…

Crumbling continents and rushing seas, the cataclysm of evolution…Atlantis and the descendents of Valusia. Tiger totems. Solemn kings brooding on golden thrones…the serpents that walk on two legs…the wizards haunting graveyards and the bones that rattle and walk in moonlight…the Valley of the Worm.

The mystic spell of language…the well-turned phrase and the phantasm of imagery. The tales of obsession, the obsession with tales. The poetry of doom and the marching specters…the man, the legend, the visionary…

The spectacular stories, the gripping yarns, the wonderfully weird tales…

Immortality wrought in ink and parchment.

All this and more…that’s why I love REH.

Happy Birthday, Bob.

— John R. Fultz

Goth Chick News – Cool Stuff to Warm Up Your January

Thursday, January 21st, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

chicago-winterA year ago I would have said that if you didn’t live in the Midwest (and basically that means Chicago to me) you really don’t understand the true meaning of the word “cold.” 

Nothing turns you blue faster than that already chill Canadian air barreling its way south over a frozen Lake Michigan.  I mean, where else can you hear the term “freezing fog” as part of the normal forecast?

So why would any sane human being choose to live somewhere the temperature is at or below freezing more than half the year? 

In the immortal words of Chris Farley, who kept a condo in Chicago until his death in 1997, “The cold weather keeps out the riff-raff.”

shiningThanks to The Shining, we all know what happens if you don’t have meaningful mental stimulation during the dark months of winter.  Therefore, as we hunker down by the fire with our favorite form of entertainment, we scavenge for cool and unusual things to get our sluggish blood moving. 

Here are some interesting tidbits that may entice me to get out of my Nightmare Before Christmas fuzzy slippers and venture forth.

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Heroscape Wave 10: Valkrill’s Gambit

Thursday, January 21st, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

heroscape-wave-101One of the things I most enjoy about Heroscape is the great variety of figures in the expansions. Because I was introduced to the game years after it first debuted, I’ve missed out on a number of the earlier sets. I’ve been trying out all of the recent expansion sets, though. What I didn’t know when Wave 10 arrived was that half of it was a reprint from Wave 5t — now very hard to find — that another quarter of it reprinted some hard-to-find special release figures, and that the final quarter recast earlier molds with different colors and rules. I don’t mean that to sound like a complaint, because 3/4 of those figures are nearly impossible to lay hands on and the other quarter, those recasts, are now among my favorite squads.

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SKULLS – Chapter 3

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz



For best viewing:

– Scroll to the right to see the entire comic page

– Hit your F11 key to maximize your viewing area

– Scroll down to read from page to page

To view previous installments:

– Type SKULLS into the search field at the left and the earlier chapters will pop up. Enjoy…


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