In the last post, I looked at the Conan Treasury edition from the summer of 1977. Today I want to talk briefly about its sequel of sorts: Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian Annual 3 from the same year.
As the cover indicates, the comic contains two tales of Robert E. Howard’s barbarian heroes. The first story, At the Mountain of the Moon-God is by the classic Thomas/Buscema team. It is a colour reprint from Savage Sword of Conan 3 (1974) and is a direct sequel to the REH story Black Colossus.
A stylish and confident wordless prologue sets the scene, in the boudoir of Princess Yasmela. It’s a story of court intrigue as Conan goes on a rescue mission to liberate Yasmela’s captive brother. The condottiere Murilo from the colour series gets a namecheck in this medieval adventure but it’s marred rather by a silly monster of the month: a full-grown pterosaur that hatches from an egg accidentally boiled in oil.
The panels are small and cluttered and there is slightly more innuendo and violence than the colour comic: the treacherous handmaiden Vateesa literally falls on her sword. We discover how Conan loses his position within Yasmela’s court via a lesson in marital alliances and political expediency. It’s a reasonably accomplished comic book but it lacks any of Howard’s exotic necromancy and sense of decay, achieving a rather Harryhausen tone.
The second story is Beast from the Abyss, a Kull story adapted from a 1967 Lin Carter reworking of an REH outline. It was originally published in SSOC 2, also in 1974.
The “dreamy pleasure city” of Kamula is “lazy and languid…like some intricate fountain: gay and sparkling when it functioned, cold and stagnant when it stopped.” This effete and decadent civilzation is postively yelling sexual deviancy and devil-worship. When one of Kull’s Pictish allies is abducted, the king discovers a cult of human sacrifice, centred around Zugthuu the Slitherer: an archetypal Lin Carter monster- a giant slug with an implied human intelligence.
This Steve Englehart/Howard Chaykin tale is a prettily drawn if simplistic tale. Chaykin’s figurework and action are a refreshing change from the Buscema model and of course are remisicent of DC strips: Iron Wolf and Fafhrd and the Mouser. I doubt however if a Chaykin Kull series (or Conan for that matter) would have been any more successful than DC’s stab at Sword and Sorcery.
As a taster for the b/w magazine, this is a reasonably effective marketing tool. I had read the Conan story in the UK SSOC monthly around 1978 but it was never one of my favourites. The Kull story is one-dimensional and a retread of Carter’s ideas from his derivative and rather juvenile Thongor series. For diehard Marvel Conan fans only.
Coming soon: a brace of posts on the dynamic Defenders.
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