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Conan as a Superhero?
The Ape-bat of Marmet Tarn by Michael Fleisher and John Buscema
© 2014 James LaFond
The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, Volume 1, number 96, January, 1984, Marvel Comics, NY, 61 pages, black & white interior
Now I know why I began reading comics in the late 1970’s and stopped in the early 1980’s. I have always hated the concept of the superhero. I have always identified with Robert E. Howard’s Conan character. This 30 year old comic is Conan as a superhero, but still recognizably Conan. Howard’s Conan was ‘rated-R’ this dutiful goon is Conan spliced with Lancelot to make him ‘PG-13’.
Two aspects about this publication that I do like is the letters from the readers in the magazine-like front end, Swords and Scrolls, and the Gary Kwapisz portfolio in the back.
What really ruined this version of Conan is the Dungeons & Dragons frequency of monsters without habitats, inter-dimensional masterminds and their armies of fiends, and a TV-like story line. The rendering of the ape-bat, and the fact that it is sorcererous in nature, is well done. The other demonic villain in superhero garb is just too Marvel. I am so glad that Dark Horse came along to rescue this franchise.
Howard’s World of Conan was so menacing because it was a human world, full of the evil that men do, not a world crawling with giant insects and supernatural armies. It was so well-suited for horror stories because it was a human world, into which deviltry and sorcery impinged rarely and hence all the more horrifically. This comic version of Conan seems like children with crayons trying to copy the Mona Lisa by committee.
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