Hither Came Conan: Iron Shadows in the Moon, the Bible, and Dark Horse

Monday, March 4th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Hither_Shadows_PirateFightEDITED2 Timothy Truman turned sixty-three recently. Truman is one of the leading graphic book writers and artists in the industry. He was a cornerstone of Dark Horse’s Conan line, both writing and drawing.

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.

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Kelly Chiu Gives us 6 Reasons to Devour Ryōko Kui’s Delicious in Dungeon

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Delicious in Dungeon Volume One-small Delicious in Dungeon Volume Two-small Delicious in Dungeon Volume Three-small

Every few years I promise myself I’m going to do a better job keeping up with the latest fantasy manga, but I never really do. But last year I did manage to discover the delightful Delicious in Dungeon, written and illustrated by Ryōko Kui, and I consider that a major win.

Delicious in Dungeon is a Japanese fantasy comedy about a 6-member adventurer party very nearly wiped out in a Total Party Kill deep in a dungeon. In the last moments before she’s swallowed by a dragon, the magic-user Falin uses the last of her strength to teleport her brother Laios and the rest of the party to the surface. Defeated and demoralized, and faced with the loss of most of their coin and equipment, two members quit immediately, but Laios convinces the last two to join him in a desperate sprint back into the dungeon before his sister is digested and beyond the reach even of the most powerful healing magic. Famished and too penniless to provision, Laios concocts a foolhardy plan to eat the monsters they encounter on their way down.

That’s the basic set-up for a extremely imaginative and frequently hilarious dungeon romp featuring three hapless foodies in a gloriously elaborate monster haven. The setting in fact is a huge part of the charm of this series, and it will be warmly familiar to anyone who’s played D&D or a similar early RPG, with its crowded underground markets and well stocked trading outposts scarcely 50 yards from trap-infested monster gardens. The slimes, mushroom men, man-eating plants and other oddball creatures they come up against will also bring back fond memories of the classic dungeon delves of your youth. They’re delightfully wacky, just like the plans our heroes come up with to eat them.

Late last year Kelly Chiu at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog wrote a fine piece on the series, just before the English translation of the sixth volume arrived in stores. Kelly has a sharp sense for what makes the series so appealing to old school gamers and general comic fans alike, and in 6 Reasons to Devour Delicious in Dungeon she hit on many of the things I most enjoy about it. Here’s a few of her most on-target comments.

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Hither Came Conan: Dave Hardy on “Vale of Lost Women”

Monday, February 25th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Hither_ValeMarvelCoverEDITEDWelcome back to the latest installment of Hither Came Conan, where a leading Robert E. Howard expert (and me) examine one of the original Conan stories each week, highlighting what’s best. Dave Hardy is the leading El Borak scholar around, and today he weighs in with a fresh perspective on what is pretty much regarded as one of Howard’s worst Conan tales.

PAIN CRYSTALLIZED AND MANIFESTED IN FLESH: THE VALE OF LOST WOMEN

“She was drowned in a great gulf of pain—was herself but pain crystallized and manifested in flesh. So she lay without conscious thought or motion, while outside the drums bellowed, the horns clamored, and barbaric voices lifted hideous chants, keeping time to naked feet slapping the heard earth and open palms smiting one another softly.”

“The Vale of Lost Women” is a neglected part of the Conan canon, scorned even. It was not particularly loved in Howard’s time. Howard wrote “Vale of Lost Women” probably around February 1933. Howard was unable to sell “Vale.” If he submitted it to Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales, Wright didn’t buy it. The story was first published in The Magazine of Horror in the Spring, 1967 issue. Compared with such gems as “Queen of the Black Coast,” “Red Nails,” “Black Colossus,” or “Tower of the Elephant,” “Vale” might seem a very slight tale indeed.

And yet there is something primal about “Vale” that defies one to forget it. Despite its crudities and glibness, it taps into dark recesses of fundamental fears and dream logic.

The setting is a village in Kush, the fictional equivalent of Africa. Livia is a young woman from Ophir, one of the civilized countries of Hyboria, in Howard’s setting for the Conan stories. It is a pseudo-European country, inhabited by a fair-skinned folk. She had journeyed with her brother, Theteles, who sought to learn sorcerous wisdom in a remote Stygian city. Instead they were captured by Kushite raiders and came to be captives of Bajujh, king of Bakalah.

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The Poison Apple: Mr. Sci-Fi: An Interview with Marc Zicree and the Future with Space Command

Monday, February 18th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

Poster-ComicBook-720px

Crowens: I wanted to interview someone whose focus was not only the entertainment industry but also science fiction. Previously, almost everyone I’ve interviewed has been involved in fantasy or horror. After following you on Facebook I really wanted to interview you. Right away, I’ve been able to pick up on your “contagious enthusiasm” and high energy.

Zicree: Glad I could do it.

What was your very first job in the entertainment industry, and how did you get your foot in the door?

I grew up reading in the genre watching the original versions of Star Trek, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and I started going to science fiction conventions when I was a teenager growing up here in LA. My heroes were the writers. There was a lot of crossover from the stories I read and the writers from those three shows: Richard Mathieson, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Harlan Ellison… they were all doing books and TV shows. When I was ten, I heard Ray Bradbury speak at a local library — a huge influence, and I became a big fan. When I was around fifteen or sixteen-years-old I started going to conventions and meeting them, and from there they became mentors.

There was also a radio show on KPFK in Los Angeles called Hour 25, and they interviewed all the great science fiction writers. Around 1973 when I was eighteen, I wrote a half hour radio play that was a satire of science fiction conventions, TV shows and movies called Lobotomy. So, I wrote, directed and acted in it with three of my friends and it aired on KPFK. On that same show, I heard Harlan Ellison talking about the Clarion Writer’s Workshop. When I was nineteen and an art student at UCLA, I attended Clarion that summer. It was at Michigan State University. The students included people like Kim Stanley Robinson and Robert Crais, who became well-known science fiction and mystery novelists, respectively. Our teachers were Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delaney, Kate Wilhelm, Damon Knight and Joe Haldeman – all very famous and accomplished science fiction writers. It was a great lineup.

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Hither Came Conan: David C. Smith on “Pool of the Black One”

Monday, February 18th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Val Mayerik - Savage Sword of Conan #22

Val Mayerik – Savage Sword of Conan #22

Welcome back to the latest installment of Hither Came Conan, where a leading Robert E. Howard expert (and me) examine one of the original Conan stories each week, highlighting what’s best. Up today, it’s author and Howard literary biographer David C. Smith. I reda Oron long before I discovered Conan. Read on!

By mid-1932, when Robert E. Howard wrote “The Pool of the Black One,” his tenth story to feature Conan the Cimmerian, he was well past the journeyman phase of his career. The very successful Sailor Costigan boxing stories had been appearing regularly in Fight Stories since the summer of 1929; Howard was becoming one of the prize contributors to Oriental Stories with his historical fiction set during the Crusades; and his stories featuring King Kull, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn and the ancient Picts had earned him star status as one of the premier contributors to Weird Tales.

Of the first four Conan stories written in early 1932, Farnsworth Wright had accepted for publication “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Tower of the Elephant.” These stories, together with the two unsold manuscripts — “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” and “The God in the Bowl” — make clear that Howard was finding his way with the character and with his Hyborian Age setting. Conan is introduced in “The Phoenix on the Sword” as the regal king of Aquilonia; in the unsold second story, “The Frost Giant’s Daughter,” he is a lustful young man eager to rape a beautiful goddess. The weird and imaginative “The Tower of the Elephant” takes place in a haunted tower, introduces a space alien trapped by the magic of an evil sorcerer, and concludes with a comically dark turn equal to any of Clark Ashton Smith’s stories. “The God in the Bowl,” on the other hand, is essentially a murder-mystery.

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Book of Space Adventures

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Book-of-Space-Adventures-1963-small

British kids thrilled to real-world rockets and space travel as did American kids. Sputnik conquered space in 1957. By 1963 both the Russians and the U.S. boasted about astronauts circling the Earth. Canada launched the Alouette 1, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to enter space, signals had been bounced off communications satellites, probes flew by the Moon and Venus. The Dyna-Soar project promised a reusable space craft that looked like the coolest rocket plane ever.

Publishers around the world jumped on the trend. A UK firm called Atlas Publishing & Distributing Ltd. wanted a piece. It released Book of Space Adventures, called on the inside the “Boys’ Book of Space : With factual features on the World’s space programme AND fictional adventures of SPACE ACE – intrepid Commander of the Galactic patrol”.

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Hither Came Conan: John C. Hocking on “The Scarlet Citadel”

Monday, February 4th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Hither_ScarletSavageI’m here to sing the praises of Robert E. Howard’s Conan story, “The Scarlet Citadel.”  This classic yarn first appeared in the January 1933 issue of Weird Tales and was the second Conan story to see print, following “The Phoenix on the Sword.”   This is a tale of Conan when he was King of Aquilonia, and many, Karl Edward Wagner among them, have noted it shows clear parallels to Howard’s only Conan novel, the peerless The Hour of the Dragon.

In “The Scarlet Citadel,” Amalrus, King of Ophir, requests military aid from Aquilonia, saying that the kingdom of Koth, ruled by Strabonus, is pushing over his borders.  Conan comes to the aid of an ally in need, of course, but soon finds he has been deceived, that Amalrus and Strabonus are in league to betray and entrap the Cimmerian and his army.  Conan’s forces are mercilessly destroyed, and he is captured and tossed into the dungeons of a sorcerer of Koth, Tsotha-lanti.  This wizard has been using his dungeons to work eldritch experiments and otherwise practice occult deviltry, the result being a dark underworld setting as memorable as Tolkien’s Moria.

Attempting to escape the dungeon, Conan encounters Pelias, a wizardly foe of Tsotha-lanti, and sets him free from the embrace of a grotesque plant.  Pelias, sinister but apparently genuinely grateful, helps Conan escape and get back to Aquilonia, where the barbarian eventually leads an army against his enemies in a spectacularly described battle.

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Hither Came Conan: Jason M Waltz – “The Tower of the Elephant”

Monday, January 28th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

The great Mark Schultz

The great Mark Schultz

Every Monday morning for Hither Came Conan, a Robert E. Howard expert looks at the merits of one of the original Conan stories from REH. Up this week is Jason M Waltz with “The Tower of the Elephant.”

The Tower of the Elephant is #1!

That’s the chant I heard rising above the darkened canopy shrouding the mighty yews and other overgrown vegetation blocking any chance I might have had to see the Pictish village. The heavy hand upon my shoulder kept me from ever knowing if the wattle huts truly stood there, cavernous doorways gaping wide like entrances to giant earthworm tunnels, shadowed gates to a scarcely known past few dared to poke and muck about in.

Pulled backward until I was off my feet and set hard upon the trunk of a fallen giant, I craned to my left to see my captor. A mane of black hair, shaggy strands barely covering the flash of sullen eyes, twisted away, the hand that had never left my neck squeezed tight, forced my face forward. A downward glance caught a mighty foot and shin of brown skin girthed in high-strapped sandals, before they too were snatched from my sight by that iron grip jerking my head upright. A chuckle sounded low behind me, shook the arm up which it traveled till I shook as well.

“You’ve been asking which of my tales is best; none better to tell you than those who know me best. A man’s story is only as good as his foes tell it, after all. You think these Picts will praise the tales within which I slaughter them? Ha! Those are the tales they tell their whelps over the fires to hone their hatred. Their favorite tales, the ones they retell strangers, are my adventures outside their territories.

“Now my favorites are those times with Bêlit, my queen…” A gigantic sigh echoed, followed by a shake of that mane and a rueful laugh. “Ah, if only I’d met the elephant-man later, there is much I might have asked. But it is he who taught me to open my eyes, he who made me take heart.

“The best of my tales? It must be “The Tower of the Elephant”, all else follows, for I’d not be the man I am without it.”

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Hither Came Conan: Ruminations on “The Phoenix on the Sword”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Hither_PhoenixDHSwordBobby Derie wrote a great essay on the first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” for this Hither Came Conan series. Certainly, better than anything I could ever come up with. But I still wanted to do a post on this tale. Because:

A –I wanted to contribute more than just what is likely going to be a bottom-rung essay on my assignment (fans of “Rogues in the House” – sorry, you drew the short straw); and

B – I’m pretty sure “Phoenix” was the first Conan story I read. Now, it might have been “The Thing in the Crypt,” in the first Lancer/Ace collection, which I had bought and then stuck on a shelf for at least a decade or two. But I didn’t remember that story when I started going through the Ace books, AFTER exploring Conan via the Del Rey trilogy. So, I think it was “Phoenix.”

So, because I’m a wordy typer, what started out as just one-third of a post on the first three essays in our series, grew into a solo show.

The Phoenix on the Sword

It is well known that “The Phoenix on the Sword,” the first story of Conan the Cimmerian, was a rewrite of a previously unsold tale of an earlier Howard character, Kull, an exile from Atlantis.

Howard sold three Kull stories to Weird Tales, appearing in the August and September issues of 1929, and finally, in November of 1930. Howard also wrote nine more tales about the character, which were not published until after his death. So, only 25% of his Kull stories sold. Not exactly a money-maker.

However, “By This Axe I Rule!”, which had failed to sell to Argosy and Adventure, was dusted off to feature a less philosophical barbarian.

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Mage: The Hero Denied 14

Friday, January 18th, 2019 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage 14So we’re down to the penultimate issue of the entire Mage trilogy. Obviously, I’m not expecting any big reveals until the very last issue, so this one is just going to let things simmer just a little bit further until the boil.

We begin with the reveal that Magda and Hugo did NOT kill a Gracklethorn last issue, instead just knocking her out. When two of her sisters find her, they set her free, then start squabbling about what to do about their prisoners escaping. Their argument is interrupted when Karol walks in holding the Fisher King.

The scene shifts to Hugo and Magda walking through a cavern. Magda mentions that the doorway they entered through disappeared, so they can’t go back the way they came. She then reasons that “it had an entrance, which means that it has to have an exit as well.” And while that’s not technically true, she’s likely just saying that to calm her son. Up next, Hugo sees a troll with his magic glasses and knocks it off a cliff with a magic light bulb before it can sneak up on his mother. Before they can go any further, Magda’s wedding ring lights up, which apparently signifies that it’s detected Kevin nearby.

We cut to a scene of Kevin holding Excalibur, which suggests that the Magda’s ring didn’t detect him so much as detect the ignition of his magic. After killing what looks like the entire Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, Kevin is asked by Mirth if he’s all right. It’s at this point that Kevin mentions (for I believe the first time in this series) that his hands sometimes hurt after he uses his power. Mirth explains that, while Kevin’s power continues to grow, it will become more than he can handle. As Kevin, Mirth, and Miranda continue through the caves, we see the little imp hiding behind a rock, observing them.

Cut back to the Fisher King, who explains that he’s finally come out of hiding so that he can bear witness to the “moment of confluence.” He does a whole nine-panel spread of shape-shifting to show that he can assume a variety of forms and a variety of names and that none of them really matter. Olga is about to kill him, when Karol reminds her that the Umbra Sprite needs him alive for the ritual. This is the ritual that the Umbra Sprite has been planning since the very beginning of Hero Discovered. Of course, at this point, the Gracklethorns have no idea where their mother is or how to reach her.

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