Thursday, September 29, 2011

Conan in the Hands of an Angry Thesaurus

The Chronicles of Conan Volume 2: Rogues in the House and Other Stories, written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith, Sal Buscema and Others (1970-71; collected 2003): This second volume of Thomas and Windsor-Smith's pivotal Conan Marvel comic-book work of the early 1970's offers one fairly faithful adaptation of a Robert E. Howard Conan novelette (the eponymous "Rogues"), a lovingly rendered adaptation of short story "The Frost-Giant's Daughter", and several other stories of young Conan as he wanders around thieving, getting arrested, escaping arrest, and fighting wizards, gods and monsters.

Windsor-Smith's art grows more splendid and idiosyncratic throughout this volume as he changes from Kirbyesque super-hero artist to lush, pre-Raphaelite-influenced illustrator at a fairly astonishing rate of progression. He wouldn't stay on Conan much beyond this point, but he'd remain the acknowledged, definitive comic-book Conan artist ever afterwards, though John Buscema would soon surpass him in page count if not in overall effect.

Writer Roy Thomas thuds along as if he were paid by the word (which he wasn't). He'd work on Conan's comic-book adventures at Marvel for a decade and become the "definitive" Conan comic-book writer through sheer weight of output. Occasionally, the artwork creaks and shudders under the weight of all that obscuring prose. Uk wuk. Recommended.

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