Friday 9 September 2011

Conan the Barbarian #5.

Conan the Barbarian #5, Zukala's Daughter, tigress, Barry Windsor Smith

I'm pretty down with the street gangs, winning them over instantly with my mammoth break-dancing skills. "Gordon Bennett!" they declare, "We've never seen anyone spin on his head like you do! Please become the leader of our crew and teach us your skillz so we can save our local youth club from closure, with the winnings from next week's National Street-Dance Disco Dancing Competition!"

Sadly, not everyone's as popular as me; and the evil sorcerer Zukala's among them. He keeps sending his daughter Zephra into the nearest town to demand taxes from the locals.

This might not sound like much of a problem for the said locals. Can they not just show her pictures of sad kittens until she cries?

But Zephra's no ordinary gal. Like 1960s pop legend Lulu, she can turn herself into a tiger.

Conan the Barbarian #5, Zukala's Daughter, tiger attack, Barry Windsor Smith

Unfortunately for Zukala, on this particular occasion, Conan the Barbarian just happens to be in town, and one look at his horny helmet sends her so horny she decides to side with him against her father.

After being promised lots of money by the locals, Conan sets off to Zukala's castle and takes on the wizard - but not before Zukala summons the demon Jaggta-Noga to collect the taxes his daughter so miserably neglected to gather.

It all ends with Zephra fighting Jaggta-Noga before, to protect her, Zukala sends the demon back to where it came from, and he and his daughter vanish off to some mystic dimension, leaving Conan to help himself to the collected taxes they've left behind.

Conan the Barbarian #5, Zukala's Daughter, Zukala summons the demon Jaggta-Noga, Barry Windsor Smith

This was the first Conan story I ever read - in the pages of Fleetway's Marvel Annual 1972/3 - and it was love at first sight. How could I not love a story with a sorcerer, a tiger and a demon in it? How could I not love a story with a castle?

Granted, I didn't at that point have a clue who Conan was and, because Thor got mentioned in an article elsewhere in the annual, I somehow convinced myself the star of this tale was Thor - even though everyone kept calling him Conan.

It's from the strip's early months and thus features Barry Smith's art when it was still partway between his days of badly imitating Jack Kirby and his more ornate later style. But even here there's a class about it - an appreciation of "camera-angles", perspective and poses - that hints at the true potential behind the pencil. Smith's renditions of the tiger, and Jaggta-Noga are especially appealing. Frank Giacoia's inking doesn't best suit Smith's pencils, being too crisp and harsh, but it's not enough to spoil the enjoyment.
Conan the Barbarian #5, Zukala's Daughter, Jaggta-Noga and Zephra the tigress fight, Barry Windsor Smith

The more observant may notice the colouring in the images I'm posting here isn't quite the same as in the original comic. Those devoid of marbles might think it's because I have a priceless and rare edition re-coloured by the great man Bazza himself.

They'd be wrong.

It's because at some point as child I decided it'd be a good idea to colour-in the otherwise black and white reprint with felt-tip pens. Comic book colouring? Break-dancing? Truly I am the Renaissance Man.


Dougie said...

This was the second Conan story I ever read, also in that Marvel Annual, which was bought for me in Lorimer's in Strathaven (now WH Smith).

My first issue was "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth" in wicked, spider-haunted Shadizar- er, Glasgow's Queen Street Station the previous year. (See my "Kane and the Barbarians" blog entry for June 26th)

bliss_infinte said...

Nice job on the coloring, sir!

Steve W. said...

Thanks, bliss. :)

Kid said...

I had previously read the very first issue of CONAN THE BARBARIAN about a year or so before, sitting on the back doorstep of a friend's house. (Even then, I considered the scene with the astronaut somehow out of place in a sword and sorcery mag.) However, I had forgotten all about it by the time I bought the MARVEL ANNUAL for 1973 at the end of October or beginning of November 1972, in a local shop by the name of W & R HOLMES. There's a panel on page 2 of the Conan story which has been relettered, and it's so noticeable I always wondered why it had been done. I eventually found out, but it really wasn't that necessary.

In the early '90s, Marvel reprinted about 11 issues of Conan in a title called CONAN CLASSIC, even using the original colour negs in most, if not all ('though it might've been) cases. I always liked CTB #5 - probably because of reading it in the annual all those years ago.

And my copy of that Annual is in perfect condition. Rassssspppppp!

Steve W. said...

I've always wondered if the dog on the opening splash page of that Marvel Annual Conan reprint has been touched up by someone. Even when I was little, its legs always struck me as looking very odd.

Kid said...

Me too. The problem was caused by the removal of the credits box (which covered most of the dog) and the bottom of the page being slightly extended.

Simon B said...

Sounds like that Marvel Annual had a major impact on a whole generation of British comics fans! It was my first introduction to Conan and, just like you Steve, I was hooked from then on.

Dougie said...

My copy of the Marvel Annual may still be in The Cupboard of Fear in my Glasgow flat, hopefully. I'll have a look when I'm down in October. It was in reasonable nick.