If you ask any self-respecting comics fan what is good in life, they most likely will say “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.” That, dear readers, is the mantra of Conan the Barbarian – but those words came from a younger warrior; what would an aged Conan say, the Conan who sits on the throne and in shadow in the movies?
That’s what we’re set to find out in the upcoming Dark Horse miniseries King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel. This story takes place years ahead of the movies and the current comics storyline, in a time where Conan has ascended to become King of Aquilonia. As King Conan, the raven-haired slayer still finds a use for the sword and the baser instincts of war when dealing with rival kingdoms. Heavy is the head that wears the crown – good thing it's Conan who's king.
Set to debut in early 2011, the miniseries King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel marks a continuation of a long-time collaboration between writer Tim Truman and artist Tomas Giorello. The pair were responsible for the 25 issue series Conan The Cimmerian which concludes this month, and this new series marks a continuation and also a chance to skip ahead to depict an older, wiser and more scarred Conan. Earlier this month we talked to Truman about the end of Conan The Cimmerian, and now Giorello joins Truman to talk about the new King Conan series.
Newsarama: After the end of Conan The Cimmerian's 25th issue, you're jumping forward in time to a new miniseries called King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel. How far do you jump ahead, and what is Conan like at this point? Tim Truman: Conan is several years older than he is in the ongoing title, of course.
Tomas Giorello: In the main story Conan is about 40 — older, wiser, and more battle scarred.
Truman: I devised a framing sequence where he's a little older than that—we're not sure exactly how much older, but we see some white hair.
Giorello: We never really get to see Conan's features during these framing sequences, but we get the sense that he is quite older. Tim does that in order to follow what Robert E. Howard indicated in a few letters: that Conan ruled Aquilonia for a long time and lived a long time.
Truman: In the framing sequences, Conan is relating the story of the Scarlet Citadel to a young scribe who's been sent to officially transcribe the King's memories for future generations. This official document will be the genesis of the "Nemedian Chronicles"—a history that Howard sort of quotes in the intro to one of his Conan stories (and which Dark Horse has used to kick off all the Conan trade collections—the "Hither came Conan..." bit.)
Nrama: For someone who may just know Conan from the movies, can you explain Conan's domain in Aquilonia and compare him now versus his Barbarian days? Truman: As one might expect, he's tougher, wiser and more battle scarred. He came to the throne after he'd hired himself working as a scout and mercenary for the Aquilonian army. The Aquilonian king was a worthless despot. Conan led a rebellion and strangled the king on his throne. In King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel, he's been king for a few years. He likes being a leader of a nation—it fits well with his "alpha dog" instincts and his need to both direct and protect his "pack." However, he's also a man of action and chaffs when there's too much "down time." Luckily for him, the down-times don't come too often. He's a more democratic ruler than other kings have been. (Robert E. Howard was a big fan of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.) That doesn't sit well with the "old school team" of dukes and princes whose authority Conan deposed. The system of governance also worries the rulers of nearby countries. So there's a lot of treachery and subterfuge going on. Howard actually wrote a handful of King Conan tales. One of them, "Hour of the Dragon" is my favorite Conan story, hands down. When Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson and my editor Phillip Simon asked me to write a Conan miniseries for them, I'd originally wanted to do "Hour of the Dragon." However, as "Hour" is the only Conan novella; there's no way we could do it justice in four issues. Hopefully in the future, though. "Scarlet Citadel"—a short story—is perfect for four issues. I've really had a blast with it. Nrama: Let's dig into the story of this miniseries, Tim. Where are we at?
Truman: Conan actually falls victim to a plot launched by some of the treacherous nobles mentioned above. He and his army ride to the assistance of an ally, only to discover that the whole thing is a ruse. The supposed ally has joined forces with Strabonus, king of Koth and a Stygian sorcerer named Tsotha-lanti. Tsotha is the real leader of the group, though. Conan's army is wiped out and Conan is captured. When he refuses to sign papers of abdication he is thrown into the dungeons of Tsotha's stronghold, the Scarlet Citadel. Most of the story deals with his escape from the dungeons. Overall, the story is one of the most horror-tinged in the Conan canon. Howard always portrayed Conan as a very daring guy, to say the least. But he also took pains to portray his hero as being more than a little anxious about darkness and the supernatural. Thus, even though there are many years between his time as king and when he was a superstitious, wet-behind-the-spears kid from the hills of barbarian Cimmeria, as he makes his way through the crypts, Conan realizes that he hasn't quite shed all his fears about things that go bump in the night.The story also contains one of the most memorable, twisted endings that Howard ever concocted. Guaran-damn-teed. Nrama: Tomas, can you tell us some of the favorite moments you see you'll be drawing in the script?
Giorello: There’s plenty of very cool moments and elements to draw in this particular arc: warriors, battle, sorcery, dungeons, monsters and a lot of barbarian rage!!! You name it, it’s all there!!
Nrama: What do you enjoy most about working on Conan?
Giorello: Besides the fact that I really enjoy drawing him more than anything else, I also love to recreate that universe, the geography, the way we get to see different cultures as we follow him . The landscape, the architecture, the clothing, the armory, the races everything keeps changing as we go and makes it more and more interesting. It’s been 3 years since I worked on my first issue and I find it more and more exciting with each arc!!!!
Nrama: You mentioned earlier that this is adapted from a story of Howard's. Can you tell us about that and how you're translating it to comic form?Truman: Except for the added framing sequence between the shadowy, white-haired Conan and the scribe, I'm sticking pretty close to the original short story. There are a few tweaks here and there, where they're needed. Sometimes you have to juggle a scene or two, or a few bits of dialog, in order to do more justice to one of Howard's scenes visually. Once again, though, this isn't simply a dead-on, by the numbers recital of the original story. REH deserves more than that. To do justice not only to him but to myself as a writer as well, I'm adding a little extra spin: for the first time, Conan is actually the "narrator" of his own story. That's been a pretty cool challenge. It adds an extra color to the tale that wouldn't have been there otherwise. Nrama: You've really written a solid run on Conan, Timothy. With so many issues under your belt, what are your thoughts on the character and how he's proven to be so popular throughout the years?
Truman: I think that people like the fact that there's this darker aspect to him. He's heroic, but not a goody-two-sandals.However, my favorite way of summing him up is this: Remember when you were a kid on the school gymnasium and the coach told you it was time to divide everyone into teams? Well, there was always one guy who everyone wanted to pick first. Every school had one: the person who could hit the ball harder and run faster than anyone else. The one who could out-think any other player and win the whole game by himself, if need be. The "bad boy" whom all the cheerleaders wanted to get in the sack with. Well, Conan is that guy. With a license to use edged weapons. With impunity. Nrama: Tomas, you two have taken Conan to a variety of places – but is there something you haven't yet had the opportunity to draw with Conan that you want to do someday?
Giorello: This is it! I've wanted to work on the King Conan story for a while, so I’m very excited!! Seriously, after drawing Conan in his youth years for almost 30 issues, it's a great opportunity to jump in time and have the chance to see how all his experiences have changed him. It’s gonna be very fun to work on this mature, scarred and harder version of him!!!Eager for the reign of KING CONAN?