Conan has always had a welcome home in comics. Since his inception at Marvel Comics in 1970, the stories of Conan have been published nearly non-stop in the forty years since. Since 2003, Dark Horse Comics has been the home of Conan, as well as other works by its creator Robert E. Howard. Other Howard characters such as Kull and Solomon Kane have joined Conan with miniseries and ongoings at Dark Horse, and at Comic-Con International last week in San Diego, Dark Horse announced a new title which brings those and more together under one roof.
In the new anthology series Savage Sword, the men and women of Howard’s imagination take to comics form – some for the first time.
“Our main reason for creating Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword was that, despite how much fun we've had exploring Robert E. Howard's creations so far, there's always been so much more that we've wanted to do,” explained Dark Horse editor Samantha Robertson. “This series gives us a chance to shine the sequential spotlight on characters and stories that we've wanted to delve into for a long time.”
This new anthology series takes its title from the classic comic series which Dark Horse has been collecting in recent years. Joining the likes of Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane are Howard creations such as Dark Agnes, El Borak, Bran Mak Mom, Cormac Mac Art and Sailor Steve Costigan.
“Some are well-known. Others are lesser-known, but definitely deserving of wider recognition,” explained Robertson. “It's particularly exciting that, with this series, we're going to be able to introduce readers to so many exciting Howard characters that they probably haven't had a chance to enjoy before.”
A significant part of Howard’s popularity over the years has been the wealth of material he published in his relative short lifespan of 30 years. With over 160 published stories and many more unfinished tales, Howard created a wealth of characters that ran the gamut of sword & sorcery – in fact, he’s considered one of the prime originators of the genre. Although not a comics writer himself, Howard’s story heavily influenced comics – not even counting the comics depicting his characters. The stories being told in Dark Horse’s new anthology likewise run the gamut.
“As far as what kind of stories we'll be telling,” explained the editor,” we'll be offering readers a wide variety of content, from new stories to adapted stories to reprinted stories. Since it's all based on the work of Robert E. Howard, you can bet it will all be exciting and action-packed. Plus, there'll be plenty of bonus content to round out each issue's eighty perfect-bound pages.”
Picking up the sword to tell these stories are a variety of comics talent, ranging from newcomers like Paul Tobin and Wellinton Alves to prolific cover artists like Tim Bradstreet, as well as veterans of Howard’s work such as Barry Windsor Smith. When it comes to casting the net for talent for the book, editor Samantha Robertson said it not quite like shooting fish in a barrel.
“As far as how I've been casting the net, what's been most important to me is finding folks who are not only incredibly talented, but who are also really enthusiastic about Robert E. Howard and his creations,” Robertson said. “These are some fun sandboxes we're being allowed to play in, after all. I want creators on board who are as excited about jumping in as I am.”
One of those creators who has been eager to step into the domain of Robert E. Howard is writer Paul Tobin. Tobin, best known for his work on , did his first work with Dark Horse on the recent spinoff and is continuing to wade into more blood-stained waters with his story for Savage Sword.
“My story is a three-parter centering around Conan in his thieving days,” said Tobin. “He's set his sights on a very beautiful jewel. Then things go a bit wrong and some swordplay is involved. After that...things go WAY wrong.”
Tobin’s working with illustrator Wellinton Alves on this story which headlines the first three issues of Savage Sword, and its been something Tobin has been wanting to do for some time.
“I'd been working with editor Scott Allie on the adaptation,” said Tobin,” and had mentioned that I was a fan of Robert E. Howard's characters and to give me a shout if something became available. Then, when editor Samantha Robertson took on this Robert E. Howard anthology project, she dropped me a line and asked if I'd like to work with Conan. I immediately took up my broadsword (I was already wearing a loincloth at the time) and yelled an oath that included ‘Yes, by Crom’four separate times.”
Loincloths aside, Tobin’s love for Conan goes back to the spinner racks of his childhood.
“I grew up grabbing magazines every chance I had,” Tobin revealed. “My local grocery store used to carry them, and while mom was comparing the prices of canned peaches I was admiring Conan's ways with swords and ladies. And those paperbacks with the Frazetta covers were incredibly inspirational to my impressionable young mind. I admired Conan's direct methods of problem-solving. Later, the eerie qualities of the lurking horrors in the Solomon Kane stories really hit a chord. Conan was "merely" chopping his enemies to bits... but Solomon was consigning them to eternal damnation. The man doesn't fool around.”
And as it seems, Dark Horse isn’t fooling around either -- Savage Sword has been green lit as an ongoing series and are already hard at work on the series.
“We've got loads of great ideas for future stories in mind,” said editor Samantha Robertson,” as well as a top-notch roster of talented creators who are eager to explore both the well-known and the lesser-known corners of Robert E. Howard's incredible body of work. Not to mention all the great material out there that we're eager to reprint!”Conan!