Conan!The Chronicles of Conan: Volume 1
by Roy Thomas and Barry (pre-Windsor) Smith

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Conan the Barbarian was considered the best comic book title in the English speaking world, but there was.  Published from 1970 to 1974, the first 24 issues of Conan, along with the first three issues of Savage Tales, represent the high water mark of sword and sorcery comics.  These are the comics wherein Barry Windsor-Smith came into his own and developed his world famous style.  It was these comics that built on the momentum established by the Lancer paperback reissues of the 1960s -- you know, the ones with the celebrated Frank Frazetta covers --  and turned an obscure pulp fiction hero created by Robert E. Howard during the  1930s into a global phenomenon that climaxed with the feature film starring the present governor of California.  Upon reflection, one may decide that this reflects poorly on Conan, and it may; but these issues need not concern us here, as we are focused on the work herein contained, and these are really just great comics, pure and simple; and they exerted a tremendous influence on the comics world at that time.  Cerebus, just to make a single example, was initially conceived of as simply a Conan parody, and Dave Sim’s artwork was more or less a somewhat cartooned imitation of Smith’s.  Anyway, this volume collects the first eight issues of the run.  They’re brilliantly recolored and look great.  While the best of Smith’s art is yet to come -- and will be collected in the forthcoming volumes of this series -- this is where it all begins.

An amazing anecdote about the humble beginnings of Conan at Marvel is told in an afterword by Roy Thomas.  It seems that initially it was all but decided that John Buscema -- one of Marvel’s most popular (and talented) artists at that time -- would do the art on Conan right from the start.  As it turned out, Buscema took over the reigns from Smith starting with issue #25 and went on to become the artist most closely associated with the title, penciling well over 100 issues over the subsequent 15 years, but the reason that he didn’t start out drawing Conan with #1 – and the reason that Barry Smith was – is that Marvel’s publisher (and founder), Martin Goodman was concerned that the book would be a money loser (not without warrant, as it was a departure from Marvel’s established super-hero titles) and so would not grant permission for Buscema to be given the artist chores because -- due to his seniority and popularity -- he was one of Marvel’s highest paid artists and it would cost the company more than Goodman was prepared to risk spending to hire Buscema to draw Conan.  Goodman instead requested that the art chores be given to a rookie at the bottom of the pay scale, thus Barry Smith, with less than a dozen issues under his belt was given the gig, and the rest, as they say, is history.

retail price - $15.95
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retail price - $15.95
copacetic price - $14.35

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