Truman scripted “Iron Shadows in the Moon,” which Morgan Holmes recently expounded on. So, today we’ve got a bonus Hither Came Conan post, looking at Dark Horse’s version. Along with some discussion of the ‘before and after’ in that storyline.
The Free Companions covered issues 16 -18 of Dark Horse’s Conan The Cimmerian run. They picked up the storyline after the end of “Black Colossus,” with Conan at Yasmela’s side, to the disapproval of the Khorajans. He rescues her brother, king Khossus, but by story’s end, is displaced by Prince Julion of Muric (Al-Muric), an exiled stepson of King Strabonus.
Issues 19 – 21, Kozaki, cover Conan leading the Free Companions. After being dismissed from Khorajan service by Al-Muric, they raided willy nilly, building up some enmity.
But all of this is muddled together, as Dark Horse has Conan, near dead, in the swamps of the Ilbars River, the lone survivor of the Free Companions. And until Shah Amaruth shows up, pursuing Olivia, the story is a mélange of flashbacks involving Conan, Olivia’s story, and activity in the swamps. It will take more effort than it’s worth to sort through all that, so I’ll just work in a relatively linear fashion, time-wise.
I’m working from the Conan Omnibus #4, Mercenaries and Madness, so there might be some inconsistencies here and there with how the original issues are laid out. Such is life.
Truman adapted Issues 22 – 25 of “Iron Shadows in the Moon,” wrapping up the Conan the Cimmerian run. The legendary Roy Thomas would script the twelve-issue The Road of Kings storyline, leading up to events of “Queen of the Black Coast.”
Because of the flashback approach, much of the background of Howard’s “Iron Shadows” has already been told. The fight at the Ilbars River, Olivia’s story of slavery to Amaruth, Conan barely subsisting in the swamp as he hides from the Shah’s men, and the opening scene of the story, with Amaruth capturing Olivia, then being butchered by Conan, appeared in prior issues.
From the title page, Dark Horse’s “Iron Shadows” starts with what is Oliva’s dream sequence in Howard’s story. With no frame of any kind, the story of the ‘Children of the Nameless Gods, who dwelled on an island in the Great Inland Sea.’
In six paragraphs, Howard tells the story of how the Iron Statues came to be, dripping with menace and descriptors. I think it’s an excellent example of his ability to convey a lot of interesting information without excess verbiage to do so.
Truman uses six pages and twenty-nine panels, to do the same. BTW – Tomas Giorello and Jose Vaillarrubia did most of the art and coloring for this issue, and I think it looks absolutely fantastic!
“A golden-haired Son of Heaven came to them, that he might walk among them and learn their ways.” However, the proud and arrogant warrior race tied him to a pillar and tortured and then killed him as a sacrifice to their own might, slitting his throat under the full moon.
The son had been crying out to his father just as he was killed. And then “came a din of thunder, as of unseen chariot wheels, and around the room shone a bright celestial light. The doors unto heaven were cast open, and the veil between the worlds was rent…and into the midst of the slayers came the Father, – a living God, materialized out empty air – in answer to his son’s plea.”
The Father cursed the natives, “Yagkoolan yok tha, Xuthalla!” This is the same phrase the parrot cries out to Conan and Olivia, which is pretty cool. “Xuthal of the Dusk” is the next story Howard wrote about Conan, though I haven’t dug into the connections between the two (besides this phrase…).
They slowly petrify as they stand there, while the Father cuts loose his son’s chains and picks up the body. He turned and pointed to the moon, and the living statues understood the gesture – which is not spelled out any further either in Dark Horse or in Howard. It seems a bit more obvious in Dark Horse, with the illustrations accompanying the story.
That ends the “Iron Statues” story.
The Biblical overtones here are impossible to miss. While not exactly the same situation, it brings to mind The Parable of the Tenants. A vineyard owner had sent servants to collect his due from the farmer-workers.
They killed one, beat another, then stoned a third. The same happened to the next batch of servants. The third time, he sent his own son, thinking they would respect him. But they told themselves that they could kill the son and take his inheritance. So, they do kill him. When Jesus asks what his listeners think the owner will do, they reply, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end.”
The warriors did slay the son to offer him as a sacrifice to themselves, somewhat akin to gaining his inheritance, and when the Father did come, the wretches most certainly did come to a wretched end.
Also, the Son calling out to the Father as he is being put to death has similarities to Christ dying on the Cross. Jesus, tortured and close to death, cried out to God on the Cross. The Son, likewise innocent of wrongdoing but being foully abused, cries out to his Father, just before he dies.
Thunder, loud noise, bright light, the veil between worlds rent – clearly, something big has just happened: and is about to happen.
When Jesus died, the earth shook and rocks split. The curtain in the temple, which separated man from God, was torn in two. And in the story, the Father carries the Son back to heaven. While in the Bible, Jesus ascended into heaven after three days.
Howard was very familiar with the Bible, and it can be asserted, at least, that the inclusion of these elements was not accidental.
The next page begins with Olivia recounting her story, the first five pages of which had finished the prior issue in slightly different form. Olivia’s wording here makes it clearer than in Howard that she recognizes that her father was more barbaric in selling her than Conan’s people are – the supposed savages. Howard’s ongoing discourse regarding barbarism vs. civilization is never really very far from the surface of his stories.
I plan on writing a bit more on the Marvel and Dark Horse Conan stories, so I just thought I’d stretch my legs a little with this post. I may take a look at the storyline about Conan returning Olivia to her father, which reads like a de Camp/Carter pastiche (in general, I’m fine with those stories, so that’s not a dig).
Prior Posts in the Series:
Here Comes Conan!
The Best Conan Story Written by REH Was…?
Bobby Derie on “The Phoenix in the Sword”
Fletcher Vredenburgh on “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”
Ruminations on “The Phoenix on the Sword”
Jason M Waltz on “The Tower of the Elephant”
John C. Hocking on “The Scarlet Citadel”
Morgan Holmes on “Iron Shadows in the Moon”
David C. Smith on “The Pool of the Black One”
Dave Hardy on “The Vale of Lost Women”
Next Week it’s Jason Durall with “Xuthal of the Dusk/The Slithering Shadow”
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!).
He also organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.
He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.
And he will be in the anthology of new Solar Pons stories coming this Spring.