Conan 0

Quick Rating: Preliminary
Title: The Legend

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Cary Nord
Color: Dave Stewart
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Design: Darin Fabrick
Asst. Editor: Jeremy Barlow and Matt Dryer
Editor: Scott Allie

1926, Brownwood, Texas – nine women are exciting a great deal of attention on the campus of Howard Payne College. They have stationed themselves near the entrance to the school paper, The Yellow Jacket. Calliope is particularly intent, examining each of the students who walks past. Clio has moved to the center of the campus where she now stands on a soapbox, lecturing any and all on the values that can be gained by a close examination of history. Erato has wandered off in order to watch the football team practice. Terpsichore dances about on the lawn. Euterpe is singing ‘Ramona’ by Gene Austin. Melpomene is the only one actually reading the school newspaper. Urania is quietly suggesting to one of the academic reporters that he start an astrology column. Thalia is very obviously thinking very intently.

Polyhymnia has cornered a stubby young man who can’t find the right words to escape the conversation with this bizarre woman. He looks like a deer trapped in her headlights. Panic flashes across his face when Polyhymnia calls to Thalia. Somehow, Polyhymnia leaves the conversation, but Thalia now corners the young man. She tells him to try humor. He might have a talent for it.

This was pretty much how Robert E. Howard got his start. Because he was funny and could write, we have Conan. Because Howard could not deal with the death of his mother, we have a character than many, many writers have grafted onto. Busiek has the same opportunities and faces the same pitfalls as his predecessors.

This issue introduces the character of Conan the Cimmerian through the eyes of a Prince and his Wazir, who stumble upon a fallen statue of the great barbarian. Intrigued, the Prince orders the Wazir to find out about the subject of the statue, dead a long time. The words of the Wazir provide the setting of the impending comic book series. We learn of the lands and are given a brief sketch of Conan’s career. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Prince and the Wazir. They may prove to be nothing more than vessels for reintroduction of Conan into the comic waters or they could provide an interesting commentary on the lives lived and the choices made so long before themselves.

The last page of the pamphlet transcribes a conversation between Busiek and Nord. They discuss the technique of coloring Nord’s pencils directly without an intervening inker. It works well on some pages, like the scenic landscapes on page seven. On the other hand, page eight seems marred by the colorist trying to define figures with a thick black line. I suspect that it may take a few issues to get the formula just right and it may prove enjoyable to observe the learning curve.

Oh, and I’d appreciate it if Arnold would appoint Grace Jones to some high-falutin’ California post.

March, 2004

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