Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Real Treasure(y)

One of the greatest "free surprise gifts" I ever got my hands on was the great Marvel Treasury Edition #4 featuring Conan. I had ordered some stuff (a back-issue of FOOM magazine and some other goodies) from an issue of the Superhero Merchandise Catalog (remember those?) for Christmas (1976), and they were out of stock on something, so, along with a refund, they tossed in this gem. Up until the time I got this tabloid-size comic, I never paid too much attention to Conan.

All of that changed by the time I got to the last of its 100 pages! I had always been a fan of Roy Thomas, but Barry (pre-Windsor) Smith was a taste I, being used to guys like Sal Buscema, Jack Kirby, and Dick Dillin, had not yet acquired. The only real exposure I'd had to his art was in Avengers (Vol. 1--I HATE doing that!) 98-100. I loved his cover for #100, but wasn't too impressed with anything else.

For some reason, maybe I was finally maturing (I WAS 13, y'know), I totally flipped out over Smith's art in this Treasury Edition. The first story, "Rogues in the House" (reprinted from Conan the Barbarian # 11) and was inked by Sal Buscema. It looked incredible. Very slick, very detailed, a fantasy world like something from a storybook for grownups. The rest of the book reprinted Thomas/Smith's magnum opus, "Red Nails" from Savage Tales #'s 2-3, and was inked by Smith, himself. The art in this story was even more striking; more rough-hewn and moody. I was always a Thomas fan, but from then on, I became a Smith and (naturally) Robert E. Howard fan. All through the 70s and 80s, if there was Windsor-Smith art in a comic (even if it was just on the cover), I bought it, no question. And of course, I went on to collect the entire Ace paperback Conan series, reveling in the magnificence of REH's original "Rogues in the House" and "Red Nails" prose masterpieces.

I am still an REH and Conan nut, and would strongly suggest you buy any and all of Dark Horse's Conan/REH material, including their own 50 issue comicbook series Conan (with writing and art by such luminaries as Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord, Tim Truman, and many others), or it's trade paperback reprints, their tpb reprints of ALL the Marvel Conan catalogue, and Del Rey's mind-staggering Robert E. Howard Library series. It's all good stuff!

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