Monday, March 31, 2008

Tarzan Goes to India

1962's Tarzan Goes to India is one of the two Tarzan films starring former cowboy actor Jock Mahoney as the ape-man and one of the strongest entries in the long running series. Mahoney, who was 43 at the time that the film was made, is a long, lean, Tarzan but he fills the role well, and like his successor, Mike Henry, Mahoney is closer to the Tarzan of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels than any of his predecessors. This Tarzan speaks perfect English and is an intelligent, capable individual.
The plot is one of those 'nature vs civilization' stories that work so well for Tarzan films. In this one, some ruthless developers and engineers are preparing to flood a valley to make a reservoir for a new hydroelectric dam. Problem is, though they have evacuated the villages in the valley, there's still a herd of about 300 elephants who will be drowned when the floodgates are opened. Attempts to evacuate the elephants are hindered by the fact that the herd is lead by a dangerous rogue.
The local Maharaja calls in his old friend, Tarzan of the Apes, the one man who might be able to save the herd from destruction. Mahoney does all the requisite Tarzan things. Fights a leopard. Swings through the trees. Swims a lot. There's plenty of action. The Indian scenery almost steals the picture. Lots of beautiful shots of the countryside, the animals, and such. There's a nifty showdown with one of the bad guys at an abandoned temple that looks like its right out of the jungle book.
The movie has a 'big' look to it, with hundreds of extras working at the construction sight and an impressive elephant stampede toward the end of the movie. No CGI here. Just lots and lots of elephants.
Anyway, I hadn't seen this one since I was a kid, so I enjoyed rediscovering it. I bought a DVD with Tarzan Goes to India and the other Mahoney film, Tarzan's Three Challenges. Looking forward to watching the other one soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bruce Does Not Like Coffee


I sit at my desk with my coffee before I leave for work. Bruce jumps up on the desk. He would like to have some coffee. I tell him he will not like coffee. He insists that he would. I let him try it. He does not like coffee.


I sit at my desk with my coffee before I leave for work. Bruce jumps up on the desk. He would like to have some coffee. I tell him he will not like coffee. He insists that he would. I let him try it. He does not like coffee.


I sit at my desk with my coffee before I leave for work. Bruce jumps up on the desk. He would like to have some coffee. I tell him he will not like coffee. He insists that he would. I let him try it. He does not like coffee.


I sit at my desk with my coffee before I leave for work. Bruce jumps up on the desk. He would like to have some coffee. I tell him he will not like coffee. He insists that he would. I let him try it. He does not like coffee.


I sit at my desk with my coffee before I leave for work. Bruce jumps up on the desk. He would like to have some coffee. I tell him he will not like coffee. He insists that he would. I let him try it. He does not like coffee.


I sit at my desk with my coffee. Bruce jumps up on the desk. He would like to have some coffee. I tell him he will not like coffee. He insists that he would. I let him try it. He does not like coffee.


I sit at my desk with my coffee. Bruce jumps up on the desk. He would like to have some coffee. I tell him he will not like coffee. He insists that he would. I let him try it. He does not like coffee.

Repeat for two weeks.

The Dark Wraith of Shannara

This is author Terry Brooks' first foray into the world of graphic novels, which is a fancy way of saying a big comic book. Wraith is a 160 page illustrated adventure which takes place in the fantasy world of Shannara, the setting for 16 prose novels so far.
The story is a sequel to Brooks' novella Indomitable, which is itself a sequel to the novel The Wishsong of Shannara. I've read Indomitable, though not Wishsong. Doesn't really matter. The story is self contained and you're given all the necessary information.
After a quick refresher on the end of Indomitable and a quick bit of character exposition, young Jair Omsford is visited by the ghost of the druid Allanon, who warns him that some of his friends are in danger. Kimber and Cogline, two characters from Indomitable have been kidnapped by the lizard men Mwellrets and their ally the Croton Witch. They plan to use Cogline's knowledge of druid magic to open the druid citadel Paranor and use the secrets of the druids to take over the world. Jair sets out to stop them before its too late.
This sounds like a pretty standard Shannara plot and according to the afterward in the book, Brooks plotted the graphic novel before handing it off to writer Robert Place Napton to be broken down into comics form. After the art was in, Terry did a final bit of rewrite and edit.
There are a couple of savvy bits of marketing here. The artwork and packaging are designed to look as much like a manga (Japanese comic) as possible. A very good way to attract young readers to the book. Plus, the first chapter to Wishsong of Shannara is included in the back of the graphic novel, which I'm sure the publishers hope will draw new readers to the novels.
All and all I found Dark Wraith of Shannara to be a fun book. One that fits in well with the existing series and a well told fantasy story all by itself. I'd certainly read more Shannara graphic novels.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I have a small ritual that I perform every morning when I leave home. I lock the front door and then turn the knob twice to make sure it locked. Later in the day, if I suddenly think, "Hey, did I lock the door?" I can flash upon the knob turning and remember that yes, I locked the door.
This morning I was carrying a bunch of stuff when I left home. My jacket, some AutoCAD manuals, a DVD for a co-worker. My hands were full. When I got to work I could not remember turning the door knob. I was reasonably certain that I had, but try as I might, I could not bring up the picture of my hand trying the door. This is one of the few sorts of things that actually bothers me. Zen as I am, something like that will worry me all day, particularly when I am keeping Trish's cats because then I feel I have more responsibility. If some footpad were to try my door and find it unlocked, not only might they steal my stuff, but they might leave the door open and Bruce and Amelia might become lost.
So at 9:30, once commuter traffic has died down, I took an early lunch and drove home to check the door. It was locked of course. My co-workers found this vastly amusing, but I should point out that none of them live alone and therefore don't really have the same situation. There's always someone they can call if they think they left the stove on or the door unlocked. I could have called Bruce I guess, but he's not too good with doors and I don't really want him learning how the lock works.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dark Crusade

I had been saving Karl Edward Wagner's novel Dark Crusade for a rainy day. That day came yesterday. See, Dark Crusade was the last tale of Wagner's anti-hero Kane that I hadn't read. I'd read all the short stories and the other two novels. I knew that once I read Crusade, there would be no more stories about Kane. So I put it away and waited. The dearth of good reading material I mentioned a post or two back finally made me delve back into the dark imagination of Karl Edward Wagner. I wasn't disappointed.
When a former outlaw re-emerges as the prophet of the dark god Sataki, Kane initially thinks that the man is running a scam, using his position to justify his 'Dark Crusade' against unbelievers and raking in a tidy profit. The ever amoral Kane wants in. But as he takes over the prophet's undisciplined army and begins to whip them into a formidable fighting machine, Kane comes to realize that there may really be a god behind the prophet and that Kane's own scheme to usurp the man's power may have placed him in opposition to a threat that even Kane can't deal with.

I mentioned before, in my review of another Kane novel, Bloodstone, that I felt that sword & sorcery's natural medium is the short story and that most novel length S&S tales fall flat. Wagner goes a long way toward proving me wrong as Dark Crusade never really wavers. There's a sense of brooding menace that manages to permeate the entire novel. True, Wagner spends a bit more time with some of the supporting cast than I would like, but I think that was his way of making Kane more mysterious and threatening. Kane seems far more dangerous and unpredictable when he suddenly appears and I found myself anticipating the chapters where he took center stage. There are some amazing large scale battles in this one too. I wish Wagner was still alive so that I could ask him what sort of research he did for the battles. His descriptions of the strategies and the battle order and the complex movements of large groups of troops carry a lot of authentic sounding detail.
Of the three Kane novels, I still probably liked Darkness Weaves the most, but Dark Crusade is right up there. The thing that impresses me most about Wagner's novels (and this is true of his short stories as well) is that he never really repeats himself. Dark Crusade isn't anything like Bloodstone and neither book is like Darkness Weaves. Only Kane remains a constant. Unfortunately there is a finite and all too small supply of stories about Kane. And now I've read them all.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Weekend So Far

Well the cats decided that I really needed to be up at 5:00 this morning. They didn't want anything, Just wanted me to join the party I guess. Of course both of them were fast asleep again before an hour had passed. Sigh.
So, the long weekend. What have I been up to? Let's see. Thursday I went out book shopping early but didn't have much luck. Still kind of blah about most of the new stuff out there. I did end up buying two collections of British mystery short stories from the remaindered table. So not a complete loss.
I picked up the Disney movie, Enchanted, which I kept meaning to see at the theater and kept forgetting. I really enjoyed it. I know, I know. Sappy comedy romance but I found it a lot of fun, particularly the references to old Disney cartoons. There are nice tips of the hat to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and especially Snow White. If you have fond memories of old Disney films, you'll get a kick out of Enchanted. The cast is great too, especially Amy Adams as Giselle and Susan Sarandon, chewing the scenery like nobody's business, as the evil Queen Narissa. James Marsden (Cyclops) is good as the clueless prince. Terrific special effects in a dragon sequence lifted from Sleeping Beauty and a couple of really funny bits too.
Of course it didn't hurt that the movie had a built in hook for me, since it involves one of my favorite premises, a fictional character come to the real world. (This also explains why I'm apparently the only person who liked the Schwarzenegger film The Last Action Hero.)
Friday I met Brian for lunch and we went to the Kennesaw Fed-Ex hub to pick up something Brian had ordered. That's a BIG place. I did a re-read of Fritz Lieber's The Swords of Lankhmar, the only novel length adventure of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Then I watched a couple of episodes of season two of Torchwood that Whitney was kind enough to loan me. I'm enjoying the show, though I don't think the writing is quite as strong as it was last year, and I'm getting a little tired of Captain Jack snogging everything that moves. Still the cast seems a bit more settled and comfortable in their roles and there's a guest shot by Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones. I love Martha.
Played Lord of the Rings online a little bit, but Laura is out of town and it's not as much fun without her. Then I read some of the short stories I'd bought. Did the usual mindless internet surfing. Played with Bruce. He loves the laser pointer. Amelia is settled in now though she had a rough night Thursday when a couple of stray cats showed up on the breezeway at my apartment. She did NOT like that. Much howling and spitting through the door. I'm sure the strays were suitably impressed.
So now it's Saturday morning and I realized I hadn't blogged much this week so I sat down to type out this rambling update. Hey, I was up anyway.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On the Horizon

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I'm having trouble finding books that will hold my attention. Did a little research to see what various authors I read have in the offing for summer and fall. July seems to be the big month with Robert Crais's new Elvis Cole novel, Perfect Night, hitting the shelves on July 1st. I'll be interested in seeing how Crais follows up the phenomenal The Watchman. July 3rd marks the publication of Resolution, the sequel to Robert B. Parker's western Appaloosa, which turned out to be one of my favorite Parker books. Looks like Parker's next Spenser novel is due sometime in October, but he's been so hit or miss with Spenser lately that I don't get as worked up about those as I used to. Nothing on the radar from Andrew Vachss.
Fantasy-wise things look bleak. No series I'm waiting on or authors I'm looking forward to. Just have to keep checking the bookstores for new writers I guess. There should be another volume of the short stories of Clark Ashton Smith fairly soon and the third and final volume of the Letters of Robert E. Howard is out there somewhere.
Not exactly a flood of books but at least a few to look forward to.

Another Good Friday

Just as I did last year, I'm using the Good Friday holiday at my job to get a four day weekend for four hours of vacation. Falls out like this. We normally work 9 hour days Monday through Thursday and four hours on Friday so I automatically get a half day every week, which is a pretty decent perk. But, since we only come in for four hours on Friday, in order to take an eight hour holiday we have to leave at midday on Thursday. So, I decided to put in for the other half day and just take all of Thursday off. Thus, by using four hours of vacation I end up being off four days in a row. Not bad at all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cat Report

Considering that I haven't kept the cats since before Christmas, Bruce and Amelia have done pretty well so far. Amelia has been a little grumpy at being abandoned as usual, but she hasn't had any late night howling spells, so no real problems. There was a slight hiccup when Trish realized that due to haste she had failed to pack Bruce's toys or Amelia's hairball paste, both of which are pretty necessary since Amelia is a long haired cat and prone to hairballs and Bruce is still full of kitten energy and needs his toys, so Sunday morning I made a trip down to Trish's place to pick up the aforementioned items. Trish had boxed up the stuff so all I had to do was walk in and get it. Another crisis narrowly averted.
Bruce is still extremely interested in anything I am cooking or eating, but so far I have managed to keep him from diving into any of my meals. He almost got a face full of oatmeal this morning, making a lunge for the bowl while I was sipping coffee.
The most amusing incident so far was early yesterday morning. I went into the bathroom and noticed something in the corner behind one of the doors. I wasn't wearing my glasses, so it was blurry, but it seemed to be a small silver object with spines. I wondered if it was some sort of beetle so I went for a closer look. It was a helmet. Conan's helmet. Apparently during the night one of the cats had knocked the helmet off of my McFarlane Toys King Conan statue and batted it around for a while. Said helmet is now safely in a drawer...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Reading Report

My reading reports have been getting a little slim lately. Not because of any lapse in interest I can assure you, but rather due to lack of anything good to read. Times are tough just now in the mystery and sword & sorcery genres. I've been pruning my list of mystery writers for the last couple of years now, and it's reached a point where I'm having trouble finding new authors to replace the ones I've culled. Perhaps I'm just jaded. Seems like I've seen it all before.
On the S&S front, as I've noted before, no one is really writing much new sword & sorcery fiction and I've read and re-read most of what's out there. Believe it or not, there is still some Robert E. Howard material I haven't read, but most of that falls into the category of his humorous fiction, which doesn't interest me much. I have found a few of his historical adventure yarns lately that I never got around to, which are pretty much sword & sorcery without the sorcery. Read a couple of those this weekend. Black Vulmea's Vengeance is a rollicking good pirate yarn, one that could easily be made into a Conan tale with a little de Camp style editing. In fact the Conan story The Black Stranger was re-written at one point as a Black Vulmea story after it failed to sell. The King of the Forgotten People is sort of an odd cross between Lost Horizon and a mad scientist story. Not one of REH's best. I'll probably read some of his Kirby O'Donnell stories next.
I re-read Philip Jose Farmer's pulp parody Greatheart Silver from the 1970s anthology Weird Heroes. Still funny over thirty years later. Also read an interview with Fritz Lieber, some short stories from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and a couple of comics which I'll talk more about later.
Not a lot of non-fiction in this rambling report. I'm between obsessions. I did re-read Atlanta:The Gate City, which is a slim book about Atlanta in the year 1890, with many nifty photographs of a world long vanished. Good grist for a time travel story, actually.
Anyway, that's the report for the weekend.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


And speaking of storms, Trish left last night for a two week training mission with her air force reserve unit, so her cats, Bruce and Amelia, are back to visit and they weren't too thrilled with the wave of thunderstorms that crossed my neck of the woods this morning. At the first big boom they both ran back to the bedroom and got under my bed. Bruce is back in action now, but Amelia, older, wiser, and more skittish, is still staying close to the bedroom.
Otherwise they both passed a quiet and uneventful first night. Amelia is, as always, stand-offish at the moment, but she always takes a couple of days to acclimate. Bruce was at home within fifteen minutes and spent what little time he slept last night curled up by my hip. Right now he's perched on the window sill, menacing the local birds in the tree outside my windows. It always takes me a couple of days to get used to having living things in the apartment. I keep catching movement out of the corner of my eye and have to remind myself that I have guests.

Stormy Weather

There were some heavy thunderstorms moving in last night when I went to bed, but most of it passed me by. Downtown Atlanta wasn't as lucky apparently. The news reports this morning are full of footage of damage. It looks like a tornado may have actually struck in the middle of the city. The verdict is still out as I write this, but if it turns out to have been a tornado, it will have been the first one in history to ever to strike the downtown area. The weatherman says another band of storms might move through later today. Guess we'll see.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


When I got to the comic book store last night, I had a package waiting for me. Six books that I had won in an ebay auction. The seller had listed the books as being in good condition with normal shelf wear. That was true of four of them. They had tight spines, all pages and covers intact, and were generally solid books. The other two books weren't quite up to what the seller had promised. One had a tear in the cover painting, where a sticker or something had been removed, and the other had a loose spine and a partially detached cover. I'd consider these reading copies at best.
Now the good news is they were really cheap. The price I paid was certainly worth the four books in good shape. The bad news is, one of the two that was damaged was one I really needed for my collection, so now I have to try and find another copy.
It's unlikely that I'll leave negative feedback. I was pleased with four of the books, and as I said, I didn't pay too much so I'll probably just let it go. However, I do wonder if the seller really thought those two chewed up books were in "good shape." Matters of opinion aside, they were pretty obviously damaged. Keep in mind, I'm not looking for perfect copies. Wouldn't be shopping online if I were. But I do want books in good condition unless it's something I just plan to read and get rid of.
The search goes on.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bolgers, Buckland, and Bombadil

Well after playing the Lord of the Rings Online for a couple of weeks, I've been fairly impressed with the level of Tolkien inspired incidents in the game that weren't in the movies. For instance one of your early quests is to swing by Frodo's house in Crickhollow to help Fredegar "Fatty" Bolger who is staying in the house hoping to delay the servants of the enemy, aka the ring wraiths. This is a subplot from the book that isn't in the Peter Jackson film of the Fellowship of the Ring.
Later you encounter the treacherous Bill Ferney, who is in league with the ruffians of the mysterious Sharkey. Again, threads from the books. There are also a lot of ruins and such that are mentioned in the appendices of LotR which you visit as parts of quests. You have to go into the Old Forest near Buckland and visit Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry. Tom is pretty much as you'd expect, dancing around and hard to pin down to ask questions. He even speaks in rhyme. And his boots are yellow.
Basically you're running around on the fringes of the book/movies plot, having adventures in between those of the main characters from LotR. The only main character I've interacted with so far is Strider (Aragorn) who is waiting for the hobbits at the Prancing Pony in Bree, but has time to send me on a couple of missions.
I've only begun to travel in the game but I've seen quite a bit of stuff pulled from the books. Good to see that the game developers have done their research. You don't have to have read The Lord of the Rings to play the game, but if you have, you'll pick up a lot of extra nuances and references.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Kirby is Here!

I'd been waiting for Mark Evanier's biography of my hero, Jack Kirby, since he mentioned he was working on it a few years back. Now Jack Kirby: King of Comics is here and it was worth the wait. Kirby, in case you've forgotten, was the creator or co-creator of such comics legends as Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, The New Gods, Mr. Miracle, The Mighty Thor, and many many more.
Evanier's book covers all the well known phases of Kirby's career. His time working for Victor Fox. His days in the comics job shop run by Will Eisner (another important figure if the history of comics). His first stays at DC and Marvel. His explosion into Comics legend during his 60s work at Marvel. His return to DC and the creation of his "Fourth World." His final return to Marvel. His days in the animation business. His entry into the then new independent comics industry. Viewed all together it's easy to see why Kirby is still considered the King of comics. At every stage of the industry, from the 1930s to the early 1990s, he was at the forefront, inventing characters, defining storytelling and art styles, setting the pace that others tried to follow. Kirby was an unstoppable juggernaut. An elemental force in the comics world.
None of this was new to me, having read many bios and interviews about Kirby over the years. What was new was all the inside information about Kirby the man. Evanier, who first met Jack when Mark was just a teenager, became a lifelong friend of Kirby and his family. Evanier has more stories, quotes, and anecdotes from and about Kirby that anyone outside Kirby's immediate family. And he knows how to tell them. Evanier is a natural raconteur. Just go to his website, POV Online, if you don't believe me.
Through Evanier's fond reminiscences I felt I got a better picture of Kirby as a person than I've ever had. About his personal life, his family, his quirks, his likes and dislikes. That's what makes this book so special. Is it the definitive Kirby biography? Probably not. There are quite a few parts of Jack's life that the book merely touches upon that I'd like to know more about. But for an overall look back at the life and career of possibly the most important single individual in the history of comic books, Jack Kirby: King of Comics would be hard to beat.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Yesterday afternoon I had all the windows open and the ceiling fans going. This morning I awoke to sleet pinging on my windows. It's flurrying snow out there now as I type this. March is apparently coming in like a very confused lion...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gary Gygax 1938-2008

I learned this morning that Gary Gygax died yesterday. If you're not familiar with the name, Gygax was one of the co-creators (along with Dave Arneson) of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, and thus pretty much the spiritual father of all modern video games, MMORPGs and related forms of entertainment. Don't believe me? Go to your X-Box or PS2 and start a game. See all those specs? Health. Strength. Stamina. etc, etc. Pretty much all the rpg games out there are based on D&D's system of levels and specs. Hit points and Experience points and all those other points can be traced back to the original and Advanced D&D game.
I'm not a D&D player myself. No one I grew up with was into it, so I never got the chance to play the original game. However I have played quite a few PC, platform, and now online games that owe much to Mr. Gygax. Plus I have long enjoyed many of the books spawned by Forgotten Realms, War Hammer, and other D&D spin offs and imitators.
There are some who argue that D&D has actually hurt fantasy literature by making the genre more generic, as the preponderance of epic fantasy series out there generally owe as much to gaming as to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Some series, such as Raymond Feist's Krondor books were even spawned from the author's D&D campaigns. I think it unlikely that the game has done the genre any harm. As the old saw goes, any publicity is good publicity.
So though I'm not a D&D player, I still feel I owe Gygax a debt of thanks. So thanks, Gary. I hope you're rolling up a new character right now.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Middle Earth at Last

As some of you may recall, I had attempted to play Turbine's MMORPG The Lord of the Rings Online early last year, but my poor old computer just wasn't up to it. Of course the new PC, which Trish says I should call Conan because it's so bulked up, plays the game beautifully. The big monitor displays the hi-res images to their best advantage.
I'm really impressed with the graphics on the game. The textures on buildings, rocks, trees, etc are extremely well done. There some amazing touches. Fields of wild flowers sparkle with color. Groves of trees throw dappled shadows on the ground that waver as the wind stirs the leaves. Deer move like deer through the woods.
Combat is well done, once you gain a few levels. I'm playing a tank as usual, and I have any number of nifty sword attacks and feats. Camera moves are smooth and so far I haven't run into any of the glitches I occasionally encountered while playing Guild Wars. This weekend, Laura and I played quite a bit and I got to give the game a real workout. My only real complaint is that LotR online has the usual early levels errand oriented quests. You know the kind. Go to this hobbit's farm and pick up this thing. Take it to this guy. Go collect berries and roots and take them to this other guy to stop a plague. Run down to the ruins in the marsh and kill this many spiders. Gets a bit tedious, but it's the only way to level up and it also teaches you how to play the game as you go so I guess it has its purpose. However, if I ever design an online game, I'm skipping that stage.
Now as far as Middle Earth goes, the look of the game is, not surprisingly, pretty much the look of the Peter Jackson LotR films. Costumes and armor and weapons all look like the movie versions. I'm basically okay with that. The storyline of the first release takes place during the story of The Lord of the Rings but your character is far from the action, at least initially. There are some references. One NPC mentioned Strider had been through town a few days earlier and another mentioned trouble in the shire.
Now a personal note. Whenever I play a computer game, be it PC, PS2 or MMORPG, I always test just how virtual is it. What can I do and what can't I? Like, can I climb on the buildings? Yes I can, though it takes a little work. Players have been a bit surprised to find me running around on the roofs in Bree.
And, Oh here's a waterfall. Can I go over the falls if I jump in the river, and if I do will it kill me? Yes I can and no it didn't. And, hey I can swim in the lakes. Can I go underwater? No. If an animal or monster attacks me and I leap into the lake, will it follow me into the lake? Yes it will. Will it sink after I kill it? Yes it will. Can I jump on the furniture in the inn? Yes. Can I jump in the fountain? Yes. Can I hide under the waterfall? Yes. Get the idea? I'm just a curious guy. I always wonder what the interface will allow.
So anyway, I'm giving LotR online a thumbs up. Overall I've been pretty impressed with it so far. I only wish the game would let me play a barbarian. I named my character Kharrn, after one of my Conan stand ins and I gave him long hair, but he doesn't look too barbarous in his green tunic and tan leggings. Maybe after I get some armor I can roughen him up a bit...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Savage Sword Volume 2

The second volume of Dark Horse Comics collected Savage Sword of Conan came out Wednesday night. It is perhaps even more nifty than volume one in that it contains half a dozen adaptations of actual Robert E. Howard Conan short stories, almost a third of the canon. These include The Slithering Shadow, The People of the Black Circle, and The Devil in Iron. Most of the art in this volume is by John Buscema and some of the best inkers to ever embellish his work. There's also a great two part story with art by Gil Kane and an adaptation of Howard's Shadows in Zamboula with art by Neal Adams and the crusty bunkers. There's sort of a sad story behind that story, since reportedly Adams wanted to pencil and ink the entire thing himself, but when the deadlines loomed, the powers at be at Marvel handed out the unfinished pages to a group of inkers. It's unfortunate because the pages and panels that Adams completed solo are just beautiful. But back in the day, a monthly comic had to appear on time, and Neal Adams has long been known as one of the slowest artists out there. (Though according to some, it's not really that he's so slow but rather that he just keeps drawing everything over and over.)
Anyway, it's a great package and one that Conan fans should love. There was some great stuff done in Savage Sword and I'm glad that Dark Horse is making it available for a new generation of readers. It also keeps me from having to dig through all those magazines...

The Last Celt

Glenn Lord's The Last Celt was one of the first and most revered books about Robert E. Howard, and despite my nearly lifelong interest in the creator of Conan and my large collection of Howard related materials, I've never owned a copy. There are two reasons for this. One, the book has always been vastly overpriced whenever I've come across a copy. Two, while the hardback weighs in at a hefty 400 plus pages, right at three quarters of those pages are given over to a bibliography of Howard's works. There's barely a hundred pages of information about Howard in the volume. The rest of the book is basically a big list.
The redoubtable Cliff was kind enough to loan me his copy, and I read through the articles pretty quickly. Not much here that I didn't already know, especially since most of the contents of the book, which was originally published in 1976, have been reprinted and quoted in many other Howard publications. Still, it was nice to finally read The Last Celt after hearing about it for so many years. I'll pick it up if I ever come across a copy that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.