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Where Could They Go?
Conan: Queen Of The Black Coast from Dark Horse
© 2013 James LaFond
By Brian Wood with art by Becky Cloonan and James Harren
2013 Dark Horse, Milwaukie, OR, 152 pages
Dark Horse has sold me on comics as a medium. What has long been thought to be the most interesting Conan story is The Queen of The Black Coast, in which Howard’s dark-age womanizing super-soldier actually has a love interest who is more than a prize, and is in fact one of the first female psychopaths in fiction.
I suspect that Belit, the pirate queen was inspired by a historical Chinese pirate queen. She might have been an expression of Howard’s problem connecting with women. In any case the idea of the psychopathic beauty seducing her masculine counterpart and unleashing him on a stained and deserving world is all Howard’s, and very probably grew out of his view as a Depression Era author.
I have read a few earlier issues in Dark Horse’s Conan The Barbarian series and have found their faithfulness to the original stories and the intelligence of their pastiches and back story mining to be something I could well imagine Howard being thrilled with. Those pulp guys would have gone nuts over the prospect of having this level of illustrative quality associated with their work.
The Conan figure is not over-muscled like most depictions but more classically athletic as Howard had described him. The few love scenes are tastefully done and actually seem to matter. There are some exceptional color plates by two other artists as well.
The aspect of the Conan character and the prehistoric fantasy world that he inhabited, that is best reflected in Brian Wood’s work is the corruption of civilization and the descendent poverty among the masses attendant to any ascent to luxury by the elite. This take mixes the fatalistic dark-age mentality of the character and Howard’s own hatred of the American corporate class of his own time, who had just brought down the economy through the stock market a few years before he began writing the Conan character.
Howard would have liked it.
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