Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It Only Seems Like Eternity

The Chronicles of Conan Volume 16: The Eternity War and Others: written by Roy Thomas and J.M. de Matteis; illustrated by John Buscema, Bob McLeod, and Ernie Chan (1980; collected 2008): Workmanlike Dark Horse reprints of Conan adventures originally published by Marvel Comics in the early 1980's. The only item of historical note is that this collection bridges the transition from writer Roy Thomas to other writers on the Conan colour comic book.

Thomas had written the Marvel Conan pretty much by himself since the comic started publication in 1970. But 1979-1980 saw Thomas out at Marvel and in at DC, where he'd soon be writing his self-created sword-and-sorcery book, Arak, Son of Thunder. While two Conan Annuals present some of Thomas' last Conan work for the next ten years or so, a young J.M. de Matteis does nothing to embarass himself here on the included issues of the monthly book: but Marvel's Conan was, like a a lot of other Marvel comics of the time, pretty bland gruel.

Long-time Conan artist John Buscema was only doing breakdowns by this point, leaving it to other inkers to put perhaps too much of a hard edge on the final art (Buscema was apparently chronically dissatisfied with Ernie Chan's work as an inker/finisher which, given the eternal perversity of Marvel Comics, probably explains why Chan finished so much Buscema work). Chan would be a good inker for Buscema if super-heroes were involved but on Conan a lighter hand (or maybe a moodier one like Alfredo Alcala) would have added some sorcery to the cleanly, blandly depicted swordplay.

I'll tell you, though, Buscema really had problems with drawing horses. And don't get me started on the Manotaur, a creature as badly designed as its name was badly chosen. Only recommended for Conan completists.

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