Wednesday, 25 May 2016

My Top Ten Savage Sword of Conan covers.

Not that I'm a violent man but there are times in this life when all I want to do is pick up my broadsword and hack a monster to death.

The only problem is I can't because I've already killed them all.

Happily, I can at least seek solace in the adventures of Conan, a man who's clearly determined to follow in my footsteps.

And that leads me to fling together another of those Top Tens that always push up the site's visitor numbers. This time, I'm looking at the covers of Marvel/Curtis's Savage Sword of Conan. How impressed by their covers I remember being when I was a mere lad.

As so often with these things, I've not given them any sort of ranking, as doing such a thing tends to hurt my brain, and so they're posted here in a purely random order.

What does strike me is how many of them are from the title's early days. There are some covers I like from later on in the mag's run but I don't like them enough to put them in the Top Ten. Plus, a fair number of them are badly marred by what, to me, seems to be a highly unsympathetic typography that destroys their chances of feeling suitably Howardian no matter how hard the artist tries.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #1

It's issue #1 and I've only just discovered that this cover's by Boris Vallejo. It doesn't look as photographic to me as his usual efforts. It also feels a lot livelier and more comic-booky than I'm used to from him.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #2

Neal Adams shows what he can do when let loose on our favourite swordsman.

And what he can do is give us a bold image with an elegant background.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #3

Mike Kaluta gives us a dynamic scene where the strongly-lit characters contrast starkly with their black background.

That might not sound like a big deal but an awful lot of the covers that I rejected failed to make it because their total lack of colour variation between background and foreground made them fail to grab the attention.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #4

This was the first issue of the mag I ever had and probably my first ever exposure to the work of Boris Vallejo. It had a huge impact on me.

Nowadays, I do feel that, accomplished as he was, his practise of painting from photos means his work does lack the energy and character of Frank Frazetta who he was clearly influenced by. Still, it's all lovely stuff to look at and he was clearly the king of the Savage Sword of Conan cover artists.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #5

It's Vallejo again. I know I said I wasn't going to put the covers into any sort of order but I must confess this is easily my favourite. It has Conan being crucified. It has a giant skull. It has a vulture. How could I not love it?

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #6

Alex Nino and Frank Magsino give us a subterranean battle to the death.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #7

Boris Vallejo again.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #9

I'd say this is the least impressive of the Vallejo covers, with it all looking too much like models posing but it would definitely have made me want to buy it when I was a kid, so it makes the list.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #13

Vallejo again.

My main memory of this issue is me throwing up halfway through reading it.

Fortunately, it was because I had a bug, not because I didn't approve of its cover.

Marvel Comics, Savage Sword of Conan  #192

Bob Larkin. I don't like the painting style on this cover as much as on the others I've chosen - because it all looks far too clean and modern for my liking - but what matters is the sheer strikingness of its imagery, with our hero about to be swallowed by a well-known movie star.


Dougie said...

The cover that impressed you least was my first but of course, The Abode of the Damned is not the story inside.

Anonymous said...

That last cover has a Planet of the Apes vibe to me. Probably not surprising given that it's a Bob Larkin.


Anonymous said...

You guys had this magazine in the U.K.?
That's kind of cool, because I was a religious reader of this magazine back in the early '80's, as a teenager. I was considering devoting my life to barbarism back then, before settling on about eight or ten other career choices after that. Right now I'm toying with "grumpy old bastard."

Russ said...

I recall some later covers by Michael Golden (especially one of Conan on horseback) that seemed to invoke the spirit of Richard Corben quite beautifully.

Steve W. said...

MP, we didn't only have this mag in the UK but, in the late 1970s, Marvel UK launched their own monthly version of it, re-using its stories and covers, which meant we got it twice.

Anonymous said...

Yes Steve, Marvel UK launched their own version, beginning in November 1977, but for some reason the stories (and covers) were printed in a completely different order to the U.S. original. For example "Iron Shadows In The Moon" was the U.S. #4 but the UK #1 and "Tree Of Death" was #5 in the U.S. version but didn't appear in the UK Savage Sword till about #30 !! But my favourite of these covers is the one for "Iron Shadows In The Moon" which I first read in colour in the 1978 Conan Treasury Edition (with a new cover by John Buscema). Despite being a Conan fan I didn't start buying Savage Sword (UK) till #8 (dated June 1978) which I acquired on May 30th 1978, the very day I went to see Star Wars.

Unknown said...

I was a massive Conan (and Kull) fan back in the day - all the covers of SSOC were pretty good (well they were excellent) even most of the later issues , which unfortunately may not always have had the best interior art that the first few years had' My favourite covers along with the Neal Adams one shown here were issues 16 (Norem) 27 and 39 (both Boris ) - I think the Michael Golden cover Russ refers to was issue 117 (a wee gem) - A full list of covers is on this website if any one is interested