Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Black and White Wednesday: Worms of the Earth Part 1 by Thomas, Smith, and Conrad

Many fans of Robert E. Howard point toward "Worms of the Earth" as the author from Cross Plains' best horror story, if not his best story period. It ranks pretty high on Ol' Groove's list of favorite REH tales, too. For many moons, author/editor Roy Thomas promised the tale, which he would adapt with Barry (pre-Windsor) Smith, would see publication in Savage Sword of Conan. It took longer than anticipated for the comicbook adaptation to be completed. What was to be Smith's comicbook swan-song instead became his unfinished symphony ten or so pages into the story. It took another visionary young artist, Tim Conrad, to pick up the artistic reins and complete the art side of the project.

Conrad, who's resume added up to about 15 pages of sequential comics and a fistful of pin-ups and spot illos, more than admirably stepped into the outgoing super-star artist's shoes. Finishing the pencils on a couple of Smith's pages and inking the whole story, Conrad blended his developing style with Smith's so smoothly that few readers noticed that the final five pages were pure Conrad. Most astounding of all was the magnificent air-brushed gray tones Conrad finished the project with, giving the highly-stylized art a stunning and solid air of realism. According to Thomas in the letters page of SSoC #19, Conrad's skill with the gray tones came from the artist having "...spent several hours watching black and white movies on TV!"

In Ol' Groove's eyes, the art on Marvel's adaptation of WotE is second only to Smith's "Red Nails" art from the early issues of Savage Tales. And seeing as how I believe "Red Nails" sports the most gorgeous comicbook art of all time...Well, I ain't gonna lay a hard sell on ya. I say it's a masterpiece. If you don't dig "Worms of the Earth"...better truck on down to your optometrist, and fast! Here it is: part one of REH's greatest Bran Mak Morn tale from Savage Sword of Conan #16 (November 1976)!

Next Wednesday: The cataclysmic conclusion of WotE! If you miss it you'll be so bummed!


  1. CROM!!
    Thanks so much for posting this. I never seen it, so it's even cool to see it now. I can't wait to see part II. It brings back great childhood memories of buying issues of the Conan color comic for me. Off my corner stores, comic rack.

    I had a hard time as a kid trying to buy issues of the Savage Sword of Conan. For two reasons either, it was ordered by my locale magazune/book stores. Or I'd have to deal with a little old lady, who frownded up comics in generl. Much less Conan, Vampirilla, etc. With half naked woman, even if they were just mere drawings.

    I never Tim Conrad drew any comics. I only see the two covers he did for Pacific Comic's Marvel Superhero idexes. One was a beautiful Thor piece & the other I forgot. I sent Roy thomas a e-mail early this morning. With a link to this site. He told me sadly, Tim Conrad has been ill for quite a while. From a serious accident he had several years ago.

    But also that he owns a page from this story. When the tower falls. So I can't wait to see Part II. As we'll as the full Man-God story. We'll thanks again for posting this beautiful art. I agree, I think it ones of Mr.Smith's best. Thanks to Tim's beautiful gray washes on this artwork. I guess I've rambled on here enough huh? "Nuff said!"

  2. From what I understand and from the looks of it, pure Tim Conrad seems to begin with the second page of Bran's dream/vision. While Windsor-Smith drew the first few pages, the majority of the art is Timothy Conrad's and it's beautiful. Conrad does something that very few comic book artists seem to be able to do and that is to create a sense of place and atmosphere. The feeling that one can just step into the world being depicted. When Bran is standing at the edge of the lake in the story (not depicted in the pages shown here) I am right there, experiencing that primordial landscape.

    I would suggest that anyone interested get a hold of the original back issues. As nice as it is to see on the internet, it's even better to see it "live". There exists a colorized version that gathers all the story in one place. While it's nice (and I have it), nothing tops the black and white pages.

    That's skill. That is Art.

  3. I agree O Solis 200%!

    He takes you into the art itself. Just like Jack Kirby's art was about power & being 3-D almost. His art draws you into that world. Where Kirby's jumped off the page at you. Kirby's art made you feel those punches, cosmic blasts & ray beams! Like your teeth shook! Tim Conrad & Barry Windsor Smith both pulled you into those stories & worlds.

    I agree most comic artist today. Only know how to draw pretty pictures with almost no story telling abilities. When I took commerical art in the 70's. At the same school my friend PRO Jerry Ordway did. Our teachers were great, they actually taught us ALOT! Even at times we be like "man, this guy is critical!". They were being honest & pushing us to keep learning. To always improve & always keep our minds hungry.

  4. Thanks Mike. You're right about Kirby. Whay power. And your right to mention Windsor-Smith. One of the few to make you feel you were "there". In the same vein I would include:

    Tom Sutton
    Bernie Wrightson
    Michael Kaluta
    Graham Ingels
    Stephen Bissette
    Joe Kubert
    Eddie Campbell

    to name a few. Just my opinion

  5. O Solis, I'm glad you brought up the fact that these comics I share electronically are only ghosts of the REAL thing. My posts are reminders of what is out there (whether in reprint or back-issue form) deserving of being sought out and acquired. No one should be satisfied with what they see on the screen. Comics are to be held, beheld, and yes, smelled! ;D



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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

Note to "The Man": All images are presumed copyright by the respective copyright holders and are presented here as fair use under applicable laws, man! If you hold the copyright to a work I've posted and would like me to remove it, just drop me an e-mail and it's gone, baby, gone.

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As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1970s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!