After only two appearances in Conan the Barbarian (issues 23 and 24), Red Sonja was already on her way to becoming a fan favorite. A strong, intelligent woman with the courage of Conan, if not his strict moral code (or upper body strength). Her dress sense (a chain mail tunic and red shorts) provided ease of movement and showed just enough skin to be sexy without being exploitive.
So where did the chain mail bikini come from?
Before the Internet, fan art was published mostly in fanzines or pin-up pages in comics. Artist Esteban Maroto was the first to draw Red Sonja in her now-famous bikini and, having nowhere else to publish it, mailed it to Conan writer/editor Roy Thomas. The visual was so striking that, when she next made an appearance, artist John Buscema drew her in the same outfit. Furthermore, Maroto was hired to draw the back-up story in that same issue. And to make it a hat-trick, a third artist (none other than Boris Vallejo) painted the cover art with the metallic swimwear.
The issue where all this took place would have been iconic anyway. Savage Sword of Conan 1 premiered in August 1974. The popularity of Conan the Barbarian had made the publication of a second Conan book just good business sense. To give you an idea of just how popular the character was, Marvel wouldn’t get around to publishing two Spider-Man titles until 1976.
Of course, Savage Sword would promise to be far from more-of-the-same. Its format as an over-sized black-and-white publication classified it as a magazine rather than a comic book. “So what?” you may ask. In 1974, comics were still heavily regulated by the Comics Code Authority. There was only so much violence (and sex) that could be shown in Conan the Barbarian. But as a ‘magazine’, Savage Sword of Conan could show as much violence (and, eventually, nudity) as Marvel dared. And as the series went on, they dared a lot.
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Six artists were now represented in my Art Evolution project, beginning here, and the feelings of dread that I couldn’t get this accomplished were turning into the problematic emotion what will I do if this success continues? I needed to push forward with the concepts involving Art Evolution, and the Eras of Art that I’d put into play.
My newest contribution, ‘Planescape Lyssa’, gave me a great snapshot of the twilight of TSR. This time-period was something I called The CCG Era [Collectible Card Game], and with the artists I’d already collected I had wonderful representations of The OGL Era of the two-thousands, The Independents Era of the late eighties, and The Groovy Era of the late seventies. A fine collection, but I was missing one glaring contribution, something from The Masters of Oil Era of the early eighties.
To fill this slot, I was going to have to go after at least one of the Big Four, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Keith Parkinson, or Clyde Caldwell. I’d studied the names and their art, and for the first time began putting my research down in a written format. Research became paramount as I started piecing together my feelings on the subject matter.
Styles came out, mediums used in different time periods, and what the industry was leaning toward from year to year. It was a revelation, and I used whatever knowledge I could to push the project forward.
Of the Master of Oil, Easley was certainly the most prolific in gaming terms of the remaining artists but he had no website or available email. I managed to get some contact information from Jeff Laubenstein, who had met Easley during his time at FASA and at several renaissance fairs around the Chicago area. Connections inside the industry were starting to come together, and the more I talked to artists, the more entwined I became in their world.
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King’s Blood Four, by Sheri S. Tepper
Ace (202 pages, $2.50, 1983)
I know Sheri S. Tepper primarily as a science fiction author. She tends to write sociological stuff, a little bit like Ursula K. LeGuin’s science fiction. I feel that she’s prone to having her message hijack her story, but I still read her books whenever I see a new one in the library. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of her fantasy.
As it turns out, King’s Blood Four might or might not be set in a fantasy universe. There is a strong hint that it might be crypto-SF. In a way, it doesn’t matter; fantasy or science fiction, it’s still a study of an alien society.
The story is narrated by Peter, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives at a boarding school devoted to teaching a peculiar chess-like game. In fact, it’s a training exercise for the deadly True Game. It seems that many people in this world have magic — or possibly psychic — powers, and the True Game forms a framework for their power struggles. It includes everything from dueling to intrigue to outright war, and children such as Peter are sent to the Schooltowns so that the True Game doesn’t chew them up as cannon fodder before they can come into their power. (We find out later that peasants — called pawns, in keeping with the chess theme — don’t ordinarily get this privilege, although at least one pawn’s mother found a way to manage it.) We also find out that Peter has been seduced by one of the teachers, a man named Mandor. The affair is forbidden, and one of the other teachers tries to warn Peter about it, but he’s convinced that he has it all under control.
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Right now, as I type this and most likely as you read it, a movie titled John Carter of Mars, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars, is in production. Not in development. Not in pre-production. Not in meetings. It is in front of cameras. Andrew Stanton, director of the brilliant CGI Pixar films Finding Nemo and WALL·E, is shooting John Carter of Mars from a script by Stanton, Michael Chabon, and Mark Andrews, in London this very minute, in this dimension, and it will reach theaters in 2012, in time for the novel’s one hundreth birthday.
Really. Honest and for true. It is actually happening.
This is both the perfect and imperfect (although not the pluperfect or future perfect) time for an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Martian novels. It is perfect because the level of special effect visualization has finally caught up to the wild genius of Burroughs’s Barsoom, and the current mania for fantasy and and science-fantasy spectacle has climbed to a level where a wide audience will open up its arms to embrace the wonder of John Carter slashing his way across the dreamworld of Mars. And in Andrew Stanton, we may very well have the perfect director to achieve it. (He has never done a live-action film, but I’ll give the person who directed the new science-fiction classic WALL·E the benefit of the doubt any time). It’s the imperfect time because many viewers will believe that a John Carter of Mars project is some kind of Avatar clone. James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster borrows heavily from Edgar Rice Burroughs—to the point that I almost could think of nothing else but ERB while I was watching it—but general audiences probably won’t know that not only does John Carter date back to 1912, but a film project has been going through constant development hell since the 1980s. For years, I’ve had my hopes raised with each announcement in the trades that made it seem that a Barsoomian adventure was finally about to make it to theaters: the close-call with John McTiernan (I own a copy of that Rossio-Elliott script; not bad), the almost with Robert Rodriguez from a Mark Protosevich script, the near-miss with Kerry Conran, and the so-close brush with John Favreau before Iron Man called.
But the story of the development Purgatorio of John Carter goes back even farther into history. Farther even then the discussion of Ray Harryhausen adapting the property in the 1950s. To see what might have been, during the only other time that John Carter could have been properly imagined for theaters, we must look back to the Great Decade of the 1930s.
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From Jason Sizemore of Apex Magazine:
This month we present a special “international” issue of our online
magazine. Lavie Tidhar, editor of The Apex Book of World SF, guest
edits this issue and brings us three excellent selections from around
the globe. To round things out, Charles Tan interviews Malaysian
author Tunku Halim and Lavie writes an editorial about the
international genre scene.
Editorial: “A Celebration of World SF” by Lavie Tidhar
Interview: Tunku Halim by Charles Tan
Short Fiction: “After the Fire” by Aliette de Bodard
Short Fiction: “Benjamin Schneider’s Little Greys” by Nir Yaniv
Short Fiction: “An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, With Lydia on My
Mind” by Alexsandar Žiljak