Despite my love for the genre, Livia and I haven't made many forays into sword and sorcery. This short story is one of them, and I think it's a pretty good one. We wrote it a while back for an anthology called NEW AMAZONS, which was edited by Margaret Weis. "Look You on Beauty and Death" has got swordplay, an evil wizard, a little humor, and a few plot twists. We've gone through it, revising it and expanding it some from its original version. I hope those of you who like heroic fantasy will check it out. It's only 99 cents for 7,000 words of action.
I have an unpublished fantasy novel sitting in my files, but it's going to take a considerable amount of work before it's ready to see the light of day. I expect to have it available as an e-book, too, sooner or later.
Paizo Press re-issued these pulp tales a few years back, and I found inexpensive copies of these handsomely designed volumes online. With luck, they'll arrive before the holiday and in good shape. I'm looking forward to adding them to my ever-growing "To Be Read" pile....
For those of my blog readers who aren't all that into space fantasy and are waiting for me to write about hardboiled crime pulp/films again, just be patient. I'm in an outer space state of mind at the moment, but my pop culture passions tend to be cyclical. I'll be back working on the new Femme Noir graphic novel around New Year's and I'm sure I'll be totally immersed in that decidedly more Earthbound genre then!
Having recently enjoyed re-watching the 1938 Universal movie serial Red Barry, starring Buster Crabbe, I became curious about the Will Gould newspaper comic strip that it was based on. After a little hunting around online, I discovered a 1989 Red Barry strip collection from Fantagraphics. I ordered a copy, and am more than halfway through it. Terrific stuff!
I then went through my Amazon wish list to see if anything I had on there had gone down in price. I've long wanted a copy of DC's The Warlord: The Savage Empire trade paperback by Mike Grell & company, but it's long out of print and used copies tended to be prohibitively expensive. Surprisingly, I was able to find a reasonably-priced copy listed and ordered it. It hasn't arrived yet, so I have my fingers crossed that it arrives in the "Very Good" condition advertised by the seller.
Another collection from the same time period that I ordered was DC's Cosmic Odyssey trade paperback by Jim Starlin & Mike Mignola. I missed the original 4-issue miniseries when it came out back in '88 and never got my hands on it after that. But it popped up on my radar recently thanks to Rip Jagger's Dojo, and since I've always loved Mignola's art, I decided to get it. I'm especially looking forward to his handling of Jack Kirby's Darkseid and The New Gods characters.
The last of the graphic novels I purchased was the new Fantagraphics collection of Basil Wolverton's Spacehawk comics, originally published in the 1940's as a feature in Target Comics. Back in the 90s, Dark Horse reprinted many of these bizarre and brilliant adventures in B&W comic book reprints, with a few new stories about the character produced by various artists and writers. I have four of five of these issues, but I'm missing at least one, and I'm not sure if Dark Horse actually got around to reprinting the entire run. This new collection is both complete and in color. I love Wolverton's work, and I love the character - he's sort of like Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name" in space, an unfathomable and unstoppable entity with a vast array of weapons and gadgets at his disposable.
Finally, in the non-comics category, I placed an order for an early Andrew Offutt sword & planet papernck novel. Chieftain of Andor. I read a lot of Offutt's fantasy novels in the 80s - primarily his Robert E. Howard pastiches and Thieves World stories - and look forward to reading this one, too.
Being somewhat familiar with Resnick's later work, I was surprised to find that he had dabbled in the interplanetary swashbuckler genre at the beginning of his career, and it piqued my interest. The review of Goddess was fairly positive, and a little research soon found that there was a sequel to the book, Pursuit On Ganymede. From what little I've detremined from my Googling, it looks like there might be a bit of sword & sorcery in the mix, too.
You all know that I love this sort of stuff, so I went ahead and ordered copies of both books tonight. I expect that I'll enjoy them - after all, I genuinely like Lin Carter's and Gardner Fox's "sword & planet" novels, and if nothing else, those lovely Jeff Jones (I think) covers are worth having on my shelf. Hopefully, they'll show up soon and in good condition...
For three years, I patiently waited for an American distributor to pick it up. Never happened. And, despite the temptation, I even virtuously avoided illegal downloads and unauthorized YouTube vids -- but -- I could wait no longer! Once Brandi told me she'd bought us a multi-region DVD player, I scooted over to Amazon UK and ordered a Region 2 PAL DVD of 2009's Solomon Kane, based on the character created by Robert E. Howard.
Even with shipping, it only cost me five and a half bucks, American.
The disc arrived today, and I watched it this evening with Brandi.
Although not strictly faithful to the Word, Solomon Kane nonetheless captures the spirit of the Bob Howard pulp stories in a way that no other REH adaptation has yet approached. The screenplay is a bit too Hollywood boilerplate - and, thus, predictable - but the film as a whole rises above its script's over-familiar conventions and is, ultimately, a superior entertainment. Production design, casting, photography and musical score are well above par.
As for the special effects, yeah, there are a few dodgy CGI bits in the beginning and some cartoon demons in there, but it is a sword & sorcery saga, after all. I've heard more than a few complaints about the end of the film, but it mostly worked for me. Compared to every big budget Hollywood fantasy film I've seen in the last 5+ years, the climactic scene of Solomon Kane was positively restrained in its use of CGI; it was hardly the sort of pixelated overkill/cartoon orgy that's become de rigueur these days.
It's not Van Helsing. It's not Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter. It's a very modern, surprisingly mainstream special effects adventure film, and I cannot fathom why it hasn't garnered an official U.S. release. If the suits considered it too dark, or the character too obscure, or Purefoy too unknown for wide theatrical distribution, I sorta get it. But it doesn't explain why it hasn't shown up on SyFy or on DVD. I'm sure there's some good reason for it, but it's a mystery to me.
In short, though Solomon Kane is not a perfect film, nor a literal adaptation of Howard's prose, I loved the movie. Best sword & sorcery flick I've seen in ages, and far better than the most recent Conan film.
I suspect the gentleman from Cross Plains would have gotten a kick out of it, too.
Although tales of swordsmen and sorcerers had certainly preceded them, it would be the stories of Robert E. Howard’s Conan of Cimmeria that would popularize the genre, paving the way for characters such as C. L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné, Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane, and Glen Cook’s Black Company.
Debuting in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales in "The Phoenix on the Sword," Conan seemed to spring full-bodied to the mind of Robert E. Howard:
The man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed…almost without effort….I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded on episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-writing.
Following hot on the heels of that first story, "The Scarlet Citadel" would appear in the January 1933 issue of "The Unique Magazine." The classic "The Tower of the Elephant" would run two months later in the March number. Fourteen more tales of the Cimmerian would appear in Weird Tales, including gems such as "Rogues in the House," "Queen of the Black Coast," "Beyond the Black River," and "Red Nails," which closed out the series in 1936.
On Saturday, August 11th, PulpFest will celebrate the eightieth birthday of Conan and the sword and sorcery genre with a panel presentation hosted by Rusty Burke, the editor of the highly acclaimed Howard reprint series published by Del Rey Books, the president of the Robert E. Howard Foundation, and a member of REHupa (The Robert E. Howard United Press Association).
Joining Rusty for Robert E. Howard’s Conan and the Birth of Sword and Sorcery will be Don Herron, editor of The Dark Barbarian (Greenwood Press, 1984), the first book to treat Howard’s work seriously, and its sequel The Barbaric Triumph (Wildside Press, 2004). For a quarter century, Don has been leading San Francisco’s Dashiell Hammett Tour, the longest-running literary tour in the United States. Also on board will be Brian Leno, an award-winning Howard scholar whose essays have appeared in The Cimmerian, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, and Up and Down These Mean Streets, and John D. Squires, an Ohio bookseller whose knowledge of fantastic fiction is broad and deep. John is an expert on the work of M. P. Shiel and publisher of JDS Books and The Vainglory Press.
The cover art above is by Margaret Brundage for the August 1934 issue of Weird Tales, illustrating Robert E. Howard’s "The Devil in Iron." The scan was provided by Girasol Collectables.
I first noticed the artist's work on Batman and Detective Comics, where he drew a damned fine Dark Knight. He was also DC's go-to cover artist for a couple of years there in the mid-Seventies. Later, he was praised for his work on Marvel's barbarian, where he often inked John Buscema on both the color Conan comic and the Savage Sword of Conan B&W magazine. I'll always associate him with the short-lived Claw, though. His Conan work was more polished, and his Batman stuff more widely-seen and appreciated, but Claw was his book. He was the first artist on it, and defined the character's fantasy world.
I always loved his lush inkline, and thought he was a great storyteller. He'll be missed.