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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Winter isn't coming, it is here: Fantasy, Barbarians, Comics, and Books


Every year I try to share the work of fine writers.  Dennis McKiernan writes for people who read, not those who are so elitist as to demand reams of scholarly, encyclopedic, original language research or new cultures created whole cloth.  I've read reviews of his books that are abusive toward the author for bothering to write fantasy and towards the books for not being as new as Tolkien's were in their first genesis.  That is, the reviews were shit.  They were empty without having any content to complain of save the lack of newness.  I am not ready here to shit on Tolkien, or others.  I've a number of higher education degrees, and I've not found any of those unique features necessary to my enjoyment.  But if you do need them, go re-read your Tolkien.  I like these books, and they are enjoyment without a need to have a highly developed universe or point of reference within such a place.   If you believe me to be damning with feint praise do not.  I enjoyed the hell out of every book I read, I shared each one.  I enjoyed all of my Tolkien books too.  I keep all of them next to each other.  They don't fight each other on the shelving.

Comic Book Barbarians

"A barbarian is a human who is perceived to be uncivilized or primitive. The designation is usually applied as generalization based on a popular stereotype; barbarians can be any member of a nation judged by some to be less civilized or orderly (such as a tribal society), but may also be part of a certain "primitive" cultural group (such as nomads) or social class (such as bandits) both within and outside one's own nation. Alternatively, they may instead be admired and romanticized as noble savages. In idiomatic or figurative usage, a "barbarian" may also be an individual reference to a brutal, cruel, warlike, insensitive person." Source Wikipedia

In the 1970s it was not hard to find Barbarians with swords on the comic book shelf.

Thrudd the Barbarian is a brutal parody of Conan and the Barbarian cousins of the guy.  It is bloody, dark humor, with overly muscled enemies and heroes going at it.  If you are looking for genius, this ain't it, but it is funny, in an extremely dark fashion.

Mike Grell's savage brilliance can be found on his Warlord character.  I love it.  He is a genius, with the keyboard typing, and with the pen drawing. 

Chuck Dixon's Brath was the best CrossGen work, period.  The combination of savage Celtic versus Roman action, tight stories, and magnificent art, make this a lost gem begging to be collected in tpb format.

DARK HORSE took the license to tell CONAN stories and reprint others, with some kind of vengeance.  They told old tales, they told new tales and they offered a great variety of new mini-series.  With such a great desire to tell the tales, I am of the opinion that Conan has been, with Dark Horse, in good hands.  However, I believe that some of the best writers of Conan wrote for the Savage Sword of Conan black and white magazine.  Timothy Truman and Kurt Busiek are great writers.  But when they have not been the writers, the quality was slightly less good than the art. 

Red Sonja from Sword Woman Ken Kelly
From DYNAMITE comes the one Barbarian woman we have, Red Sonya.  Her tales came from the source of Conan, Robert E. Howard ala Red Sonya of Rogatino, a character from the short story "The Shadow of the Vulture" (The Magic Carpet, January 1934).  Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith who collaborated to create the original Conan the Barbarian for Marvel Comics wanted a powerful woman to balance Conan against, and so they tweaked Red Sonja from a small role in a short story, into a great character.  Dynamite has reprinted the Red Sonya stories from Marvel and have been creating many of their own.


Frank Frazetta was a very talented painter, a fantasy artist, and utilized many mediums to spread the awareness of his works.  A rare event happened with the adaptation of his character Death Dealer in prose that was extremely well done.  These books are rather expensive, but, damn they are worth it.

 The French books below are new editions, and no doubt as good inside as they are outside.

And if you don't care about the story, just hunt the art collections in many volumes, here are the covers of 1, 2 and 3.  Again, these are all highly collectible.

There was even a magazine devoted to his work, with stories and illustrations