Conan 2

Quick Rating: Looking Backward a Bit Too Much
Title: The Frost Giant’s Daughter


Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Cary Nord
Color: Dave Stewart
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Design: Darin Fabrick
Editor: Scott Allie

And so, my enthusiasm wanes.

I remember stumbling upon a horde of Savage Sword of Conan as a pre-adolescent. They were a glorious sight- covers that hinted at violence and other secrets. The tales were in over-sized black and white, quite exotic. The comics felt more text-heavy than even your run-of-the-mill seventies Marvel comic, which was packed with words. Conan and his friends were always half-naked, which had more and more appeal in succeeding years. And it seemed as though an issue or two was always popping up in somebody’s house. Yet no one had a pile of them, like there were piles of Superman or Spiderman. The reason was that every issue felt the same. And that feeling was apathy. The individual issues may have told different stories, but the final impression was otherwise.

This could be because Conan stinks as a character. It’s a fact, folks, and it’s about time we admitted it and moved on.

This issue opens with Conan finishing a battle which leaves him as the lone survivor. A gorgeous naked woman appears before him, which is unexpected in the middle of a frozen wasteland. She lures him off his path and into a trap.

Comic books, like real books, generally rely on empathy to maintain interest. Some sort of connection must be made between the reader and a character in the tale. This was the secret that Stan Lee stumbled upon, as did the long gone pioneers who created sidekicks. The challenge faced by monthly comics is maintaining that reader/character connection across vast periods of no input. (This may be one of the secrets of adult difficulties with comics. I have found that the younger set have a miraculous ability to recall the minutest detail of a comic read one, two, or three month previous. Children don’t need trade paperbacks. Their parents do. Perhaps adult brains are overwhelmed by information during the course of a month. Maybe they’re just full.) It is impossible to empathize with Conan. He always wins. He never has any discernable thought of any real interest. He lives in a world of unimaginable violence, which he mostly causes. He never sympathizes with anyone else. If you met him, you would not like him. He would be contemptuous of you and hopefully just growl at you. He’s the Hulk without the fine points. For that matter, the Hulk is pretty tedious, too, but he does have that whole dual personality thing going on.

There is nothing to be done about Conan, though. Robert Howard deserves credit for creating a character that has lasted so long. If he had lived longer, I suspect that he would have done a bit more with him—maybe not though. He might just have moved on to another genre, as seemed to be his wont after a few years.

The art continues to be an interesting experiment with coloring the pencils directly. It reminds me a little of N.C. Wyeth, but those were book illustrations and a little static.

If you remember the old Marvel Conan with great fondness, then this is likely to be your cup of brew. You may however find that you were not as fond of the whole concept as you thought.

April, 2004

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