Archive for the 'Howard Illustrated' Category

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Like many Howard fans, I was first introduced to his lusty characters through Marvel comics. Piggy-backing on the success of Lancer’s paperbacks, Marvel launched the four-color Conan in 1970. It ushered in a comics phenomenon that continues until today, almost half a century later. Let’s look at some of the highlights of Howard’s comics career, starting with Conan and Kull.

I think it is significant that Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian was released in 1970, a watershed year, heralding the end of the Sixties and the love and peace generation. The black-maned barbarian may have worn his hair long, but nobody would’ve mistaken him for a pacifistic flower child. Here was a red-blooded, assertive hero for a new era in which the disillusionment of Vietnam seeped into pop culture, spawning a generation of amoral anti-heroes. Eschewing garish, day-glo spandex and traditional heroic virtues, Conan anticipated the punk movement, which swept away the last vestiges of the love generation. He was a Hyborian Sid Vicious avant la lettre with a broadsword.

First Exposure

Naturally, I didn’t realize any of that when I first came across the character on the cover of CtB #4 on a newsstand in Melbourne in the early Seventies. I was about nine years old and a loyal Marvelite and superhero devotee. I recognized the Marvel logo, but who was this bare-chested, helmeted lout masquerading as a hero? I didn’t know and I wasn’t interested despite the pulp allure of the giant spider and the scantily-clad damsel in distress. It all seemed a bit seedy and steamy. Being a good little Catholic, I was more interested in wholesome Peter Parker and his virginal sweetheart Gwen Stacy. So, I passed on the classic “Tower of the Elephant,” a decision that was to haunt me for many a year. Ah, the sins of youth.

Green Empress of Melniboné

I wouldn’t become a full-blown Conan fan for another year or two with issues 14 and 15. At the time, I was really enjoying Barry Smith’s short run on the Avengers. Issues 98 and 99 had already come out and I was looking forward to issue 100 with all the anticipation a pre-pubescent boy can summon (and that’s plenty). One fateful afternoon, I found my big brother lounging on the living room couch reading his latest acquisitions. Even upside down, I recognized Smith’s distinctive style, but I mistakenly thought it was the eagerly-anticipated Avengers #100. Little did I realize it at the time that it was something even better. Due to the unpredictable vicissitudes of comic distribution in Australia in the early 70s, my brother had managed to snag issues 14 and 15 of Conan. It was a rip-roaring double-parter pitting Conan and Elric of Melniboné against the evil sorcerer Zukala and the Green Empress of Melniboné. I had never read anything quite as enthralling and exciting, nor seen art as mesmerising and visceral, marrying an ornate grace with an almost operatic sturm-und-drang. It made me a fan of Conan and Barry Smith for life.

Kull Cometh

My next introduction to the Howard’s creations and the sword and sorcery genre came shortly after. I’m not completely sure of the chronology, so forgive me if I play loose and fast with history. My brother had come home with another treasure; Monsters on the Prowl #16 featuring Kull the Conqueror. He looked vaguely like Conan, but the artwork was clearly not Smith, which was a bit of a let-down initially. This was actually Kull’s fourth Marvel appearance. He had debuted a bit earlier in Creatures on the Loose #10 in a story by none other than Berni Wrightson in a story called “The Skull of Silence.” It is a beautifully illustrated tale and the young Wrightson does himself proud. It was probably better than what Smith was doing on Conan at the same time. It would be years, however, before I would ever lay eyes on that masterpiece. Kull then premiered in his eponymous mag, illustrated by the unlikely and miss-matched team of Ross Andru and Wally Wood.

Severin Heaven

Issue 2 of Kull the Conqueror saw the debut of the mag’s regular artistic team consisting of the siblings Marie and John Severin. They would go onto craft a wonderful 10-issue run on the mag, which is among the highlights of sword & sorcery comics. It took me a little while to get used to the Severins’ artwork compared to Smith’s, but once I made the mindshift, I loved their work almost equally. John Severin’s meticulous inks lent the mag a classic look that owed more to Harold Foster’s Prince Valiant than to Smith, who was then writing the book on sword and sorcery comics. Severin’s take is more traditional and less visceral than Smith’s, but it has a timeless, illustrative quality that easily makes it stand the test of time. Monsters on the Prowl (MotP) #16 with its fetid swamps, leviathans and serpent men sent thrills and chills down my spine. Until this day I still remember with a shudder the scene in which a young guardsman begs Kull to kill him before he comes under the thrall of the loathsome serpent men. The noble Kull honors his request without hesitation. This was a different kind of hero than your average Marvel adventurer.

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A Phantasmagorical Feast

My next big Howard thrill came with Kull #3, which takes place after right after Monsters on the Prowl #16. The story pits Kull and his faithful companion Brule the Spearslayer against the evil necromancer, Thulsa Doom.

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An epic battle unfolds, in which the barbarian king confronts skeletal horses, demons, goblins and all kinds of other horrors conjured up by Doom. Kull eventually wins the mismatched battle through a combination of sheer grit, tenacity and valor. The Severins turned in a beautiful job and the issue is a phantasmagorical visual feast, the likes of which had never been witnessed in comics before. This was real sword and sorcery. Both issues were superbly scripted by Roy Thomas, but issue 3 was his last issue for the nonce. The Severins went on produce another seven issues of Kull with various writers. They were all beautiful to behold and provide good solid, sword and sorcery thrills, but they never again reached the pinnacle of MotP #16 and Kull #3 with Roy at the writing helm.

“The Black Hound of Vengeance”

My next encounter with Smith’s Conan came a few months later, when I stumbled across a copy of issue 20 while visiting my father’s work in the heart of Melbourne. It was another mind-blowing mag and until this day “The Black Hound of Vengeance” remains my second favorite issue of Smith’s color run on Conan and among my most cherished sword & sorcery comics ever. Within the span of mere two years, Smith had developed into a masterful storyteller, producing seamless visual narratives. The pacing and staging was incredible as Smith masterfully manipulated the reader, just as the evil sorcerer of besieged Makkelet, Kharim Azar, sends Conan scurrying like a scared rat through his labyrinth of mirrors, pulling his strings like a master puppeteer. This imagery is further enhanced by the image of a puppet with severed strings in the bottom panel of page 19.

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These kinds of subtle visual cues showed Smith’s complete mastery of his craft, even at such a young age. Of course, I had no idea why Smith’s work had such a powerful impact on me. All I knew is I wanted more, which led me on a year’s long search for back issues.

Meteoric Rise

The great joy of Barry Smith’s meteoric rise to fame on Conan is tracing his rapid evolution from a faux Kirby on Conan #1 to a consummate comics artist with a distinctive style all his own. Smith’s unique combination of cinematic story-telling with an unerring eye for decorative detail, presented comic readers with “an age undreamed of.” To be honest, you had to be a veritable Oracle of Delphi to predict his later greatness based on issue 1, but he progressed by leaps and bounds, producing a certifiable comics classic with the aforementioned “Tower of the Elephant.” Issue 4 is universally acclaimed as Smith’s first great work and it is a fine comic, but as far as I’m concerned Smith’s first real masterpiece is Conan #7; “The God in the Bowl.” This probably has something to do with Dan Adkins doing part of the inks.

Seeds of Greatness

Smith quickly went from strength to strength, developing at an amazing rate under the constant deadline pressures. You see his decorative style slowly emerge under Sal Buscema’s overpowering inks and his storytelling prowess improves with leaps and bounds. Smith reached his peak when he found an inker more sensitive to his pencils like Dan Adkins. Outside of his self-inked work, Smith produced his best material on Conan with the assistance of Adkins. Sadly they only did a handful of issues together.

During his short tenure on Conan, Smith actually produced his best work on the b&w mags, where free of tight deadlines, he was allowed more time to give free rein to his imagination and to ink his own work. His first b&w tale was The Frost Giant’s Daughter for Savage Tales (ST) #1, followed shortly after by the amazing Dweller in the Dark, which bears all the seeds of latter-day Smith’s greatness; ornateness, opulence, decadence, sensuality and hair-trigger violence.

Smith Sees Red

Smith’s evolving style is often mistakenly described as art noveau, but it owes more to the romantic, illustrative style of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood than the more decorative work of Beardsley and Mucha. This style reached its peak in on Ctb #24; The Song of Red Sonja and his epic two-part adaptation of Red Nails in ST 2 & 3. Red Sonja was Smith’s swansong on CtB and a fine tune it was. He went all out on the issue, inking and coloring it himself. It’s an exquisitely rendered tale full of lusty, red-blooded action, as Conan allows the eponymous Red Sonja to let his loins do his thinking for him.

The story contains some of most subtly sensual imagery in comics up until then. Despite Smith’s delicate handling, Marvel still felt it necessary to move Conan’s hands from under the water’s surface, where they were having a party and place them demurely on the small of Sonja’s back. Smith certainly went out in style, but he would return for an encore and what an encore it was.

 

Farewell Fab Barry

With Red Nails, Smith’s comics career reached its absolute zenith. It’s his Abbey Road. Like the Fab Four, Smith’s talents developed at an unprecedented pace. Compare the bubblegum pop of Please, Please Me to the sublime song-smithing on Abbey Road. The difference is light years apart and not a mere 8 years. Now compare CtB #1 with Red Nails, a mere three years later. There is a quantum leap in quality. As if sensing it would be his final word on the character he helped catapult to iconic status, Smith pulled out all the stop, leisurely pacing the story and even adopting a new, lush inking style, perfectly utilizing the b&w medium. Rarely had the comics medium witnessed such finely-wrought, fully-conceived, evocative imagery. The result is a visual cornucopia of vivid images that etch themselves into the reader’s minds-eye like those catchy Beatles song, lingering long after the final page has been turned on. And thus the book closed on Smith’s Conan career, ending an era in the mag’s history.

The Common Denominator

The common denominator in most of these stories is writer Roy Thomas, who ensured Howard was first adapted into comics and who skilfully shepherded his various creations for more than a decade. Thomas deserves a great deal of credit for his masterful work on Howard’s properties, displaying a clear understanding of their characters and respect for them. He also did a fine job of translating Howard’s prose and ethos to comics, presenting a much more faithful version than most of Howard’s prose pastichers. Doug Moench wrote some decent material on Kull, as did Alan Zelenetz, but when it came to Marvel, nobody wrote better sword and sorcery than Roy.

End of part one. In part two; Barbarians in Full Color B&W, David takes a look at more Howardian highlights in comics, including the Thomas/Buscema era on Ctb and Savage Sword of Conan, Mike Ploog on Kull, Frank Brunner’s only Conan classic and Solomon Kane’s storied comics career.

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If, like me, you love the work of Robert E. Howard (and if you are reading this blog, I know you do), you may be possessed of literary OCD. You need to get it all. Depending on the depth of your OCD, you will fall into several categories – the reader/collector, the completist, the minutia gatherer, or the super collector.

The super collector is that rare individual. They want the best of everything. They need the Herbert Jenkins A Gent From Bear Creek, The Hyborian Age, Skull-Face and Others, Always Comes Evening, the Gnome Press Conans, and complete runs of The Howard Collector and Amra. These collectors are an exclusive bunch and this article is not specifically directed at them.

grant-sowersofthethunderThere are plenty of fine Howard editions out there for the finding. I love the Donald M. Grant The Sowers of the Thunder. Illustrated by Roy G. Krenkel, one of Frank Frazetta’s friends, collaborators and mentors, it is a work of art as well as a collection of four fine stories. Pre-ordered copies from Grant came autographed by Krenkel! In a similar vein The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane from Wandering Star with illustrations from Gary Gianni carried forward that tradition. Both volumes contain numerous illustrations ranging from full color paintings to large detailed black and white illustrations to tiny spot sketches throughout the book. You cannot go five pages without encountering some figure or scene in the text or margin. The illustrations really enhanced the reading experience to me.

So, as a collector, the big question is “How do I do this without breaking (or robbing) the bank? The easiest answer is “You can’t!” There is just too much material out there. Even if you get paperback copies of everything, you will spend several hundred dollars. And much more, if you want nice copies of those paperbacks.

berkley-hourofthedragon-1stAs I write this, American Book exchange (one of the largest online purveyors/pushers of my OCD) lists 11,863 entries when you search for “Robert E. Howard.” This includes 7,180 paperback entries. (now this number is inflated since anthologies listing a Howard piece will be listed as well as any books that feature the names Robert and Howard somewhere in their description). Prices start at $3.00 plus shipping and go to several thousand for some really rare items. Over on eBay, there are 2,468 entries in Books alone (670 in Collectibles). The prices show 728 items over $35 and 818 under $13.

So there is a lot of material out there. How do you go about gathering your collection? There are several tried and tested methods:

  • Buy whatever you can find – REH, de Camp and Carter, pastiches, Role Playing Games, movies. Make Serendipity your favorite muse. I’ve done this on multiple occasions myself. I didn’t really know what I wanted until I saw it, so I bought it all. OCD, I love you.
  • Set up some filters early on. Do you want only the pure REH stuff? Or all the Conans no matter who wrote them? Do you want novels only? (This is not recommended in combination with the pure REH as you will get Almuric and The Hour of the Dragon and be done. And Almuric will be cheating some as it was finished by someone, probably Farnsworth Wright after Howard’s death.) Perhaps it is the artists associated with Howard – Frazetta, Krenkel, Brundidge, Boris, Achilles, Jones, or any of the other great artists who have tackled his work. There are a lot of them too. What about poetry, boxing, oriental, essays? This can help limit what you go after and allow you to focus in on some nice specific items.
  • Pick your format. Paperback? Combine it with the filters above. Hardcovers? Are you interested in any version, first editions, illustrated editions, signed and numbered, US only, US and UK, or full international?
  • Price point is the next important area. What are you willing to pay? Is $50 too much? Then the Arkham House, Wandering Star, and Gnome Press titles are going to be out of your price range. You want a nice Skull-Face and Others with a pristine Hannes Bok dustjacket. Be prepared to shell out some big bucks, generally $600 or more, up to a price with a comma in it. But, if you just want the stories, you have several options. You can get the entire volume in three paperbacks from the UK Panther Press ($25 or more). Or for a hardback copy, the Neville Spearman reprint from the mid-1970’s can be found for $35 to $50. However, it has an awful cover rather than the beautiful Bok cover. Other than that, you can track down the individual stories and/or pulps (Don’t get me started on that path. That way lies MADNESS!! And an extended money sinkhole.) However, going for the individual piece will mean you won’t get the August Derleth introduction or the memories of Lovecraft and E. Hoffman Price which are original and are not reprinted elsewhere that I know of.
  • The thing that happened when collectors get together to discuss their books, the question always comes up about the one that got away. When I was in college, I worked part time for about 20 hours a week at slightly less than $2.00 an hour. My take home was about $32 a week. Things were a lot cheaper then but still. Every time I visited my bookseller/pusher, she showed me a book. It was lovely, bound in bright red leather. The binding said Presentation Copy. It was Phantasmagoria by Lewis Carroll. I was holding a signed Lewis Carroll book. The price was $150. That was roughly five weeks pay! I was already a starving college student trying to justify $5.00 in paperbacks. I regret not getting it to this day, more than 40 years later. But, I could not afford it. The thing to remember is, if you find it and you can afford it, buy it. You don’t generally regret the books you buy. You always regret the ones you did not buy.
  • The most important rule is simply, buy what you like. Do not buy with the idea of investing and making a fortune over the years. Buy what you like at a price you think is fair and you will be happy. Sure some of the prices may go up. But to realize those prices, you have to find someone willing to pay that price. Which means selling it yourself. I’ve been involved in the book selling world for more than 40 years. There is something sad about seeing the face of someone who wants to sell their collection to me. They come in with high, high expectations. But the reality is the buyer (me) has to realize a certain price and profit for that purchase, that means, if I don’t have an immediate buyer, I am going to sit on this investment for a while. So, I have to store it and advertise that I have it and take it to shows and talk to people about it and, if it suffers some wear and tear along the way, mark it down. It might sell in two months, or six months, or maybe, two years. My money is tied up all the time I hold on to it. That means I have to figure all that in what I can offer. And it will not be what you were hoping. That is the sad reality of it. You may decide you want to keep it. Then, if it is something you loved and enjoyed and bought for a price you were happy with, you will generally remain happy. If you bought it as an investment, you may be disappointed. Be happy. It’s better for your life.

So now, where to start? For series characters, you can’t go wrong with the Del Rey omnibus volumes of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, El Borak, or Bran Mak Morn. And they have several great collections of short stories, such as The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard and The Best of Robert E. Howard (a two volume set). Reasonably priced, they contain a lot of great reading. Pick a character and dive in! But this isn’t nearly all there is. You want more!

bison-endofthetrailAnother great place to look is the set of paperbacks published by Zebra Books in the late 1970’s. They include The Sowers of the Thunder mentioned earlier with the great spot illustrations included though there is a different cover. There are at least 13 paperback volumes, most with covers by the amazing Jeff Jones. And these are (generally) not the series characters, no Conan, Kull, Kane. There are some Breckinridge Elkins and El Borak stories. The series includes fantasy, adventure, boxing, oriental, westerns, and other types of fiction. There are many other sets and collections. The Bison Press, Wildside Press and Penguin Books reprints are out there and are worth seeking out. Find the Ace The Howard Collector volume. Search, find, acquire, gloat that you have them. Wallow in the OCD.

And that’s not including the electronic versions out there. My Kindle has a collection of 99 Howard stories from various series as well as standalone pieces. And since I have a Kindle on my smart phone, I always have Howard with me for those times when I am waiting for a movie or a table at a restaurant. (Of course, my Kindle has a couple of hundred books on it!) There are many electronic collections out there. For free you can check out Project Gutenberg or manybooks.net which have a mix of stories available.

rehfoundationpress-fistsofironAnd I would be remiss if I do not address the work of the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press and the fabulous hardcover books they publish. Titles like Spicy Adventures and Tales of Weird Menace feature the more obscure stories, variants, outlines, and their history of writing and publication. And the four volume Fists of Iron is to die for. These are for the hardcore collector who wants it all. Check them out. True story here. When I first looked at them, I was at Howard Days at a time when I was unemployed and looking for work. I saw the books and I wanted them. I bought $300 of them at the show, I did not hesitate or think about it. I wanted them right then and I knew that if I hesitated I would regret it.

So, now if you have followed the guidelines, you have a roadmap for your collecting habits. There is a whole wide world of Robert E. Howard material waiting for you to step up and find it. Or, you could just go off-roading.

2After participating in the Howard Days panel about the Lancer Conan series,  I realized quite a few are interested in Lancer Books and the later Zebra Books. The presentation (and my previous article) concentrated on Frazetta’s influence, but now let’s talk a little more about Irwin Stein and Walter Zacharius, the founders of Lancer Books.

Irwin Stein had a journalist background but had an affinity for comic books and science fiction. He wrote for Quality Comics (chiefly known for Jack Cole’s Plastic Man) and later the romance comics line for St. John. When he left comic books to start his own company, Royal Publications, he published genre magazines (men’s adventures, detective, SF, monsters).

4Stein and Zacharime partners somewhere along the line. They formed Magnum Communications Corporation. One of their first purchases was Swank Magazine. Martin Goodman (Timely/Atlas/Marvel) was the owner at that time. Swank had a reputation as a quality men’s magazine. Aficionados of these things say the quality took a slightly downward slide after their takeover. Magnum Publications include Untamed, Lion Adventures and True War.

They then started Lancer Books in 1961. Later Stein hired Larry Shaw as editor. Shaw was instrumental in acquiring the Conan series and in getting Frazetta to illustrate the first cover. Mr. Shaw was honored with a special Hugo Award for lifetime achievement in 1984, a year before his death.

The early Lancer books had a distinctive green (often bluish looking) edge around the pages. 1962 saw the start of the Lancer Science Fiction Library. These sold for 75 cents at a time when most paperbacks were only 50 cents. Lancer realized they were pitching to a specialty market that would pay a premium. In 1966 they began publishing paperback originals with the purple colored edges. One notable entry was Michael Moorcock (writing as Edward P. Bradbury) doing a Martian series that owed a great deal to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

For Robert E. Howard fans, the key year was 1966, and the publication of Conan the Adventurer.  There is no need to rehash that story again; suffice to say everyone knew that the Frazetta cover was a smash!

Stein in an interview, from Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics by John Benson, talks about that first Conan painting:

Yes, those covers really put him on the map, I think. He was known mostly to the fans at the time. I tried to keep one of the paintings, and he threatened to come up with a gun. Well, most of the cover artists, if you said you liked something, they’d say, “Keep it.”  What the hell, they had very little residual value at the time. But Frazetta always had a huge sense of his own worth. And rightfully so. Generally, there were very few that I really wanted to keep for myself. But that was one of them, and I asked him for it.

In 1968 they reissued Conan the Adventurer and issued Conan the Wanderer at 95 cents. From the fanzine, Megavore, which featured a Lancer SF Checklist in their 10th issue comes this comment:

It tells you something about the popularity of the series that Lancer could jump the price so rapidly and not have to worry about the effect it would have on sales.

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Lancer was doing well and besides the Conan books published Howard’s King Kull, The Dark Man and Others, and Wolfshead. Larry Shaw left Lancer in 1968. He was replaced by Robert Hoskins. Hoskins, apparently a fan of S&S, edited an anthology Swords Against Tomorrow for Signet Books that mentions REH as a literary descendant of Homer.

conan-the-adventuer11971 saw the change from purple edges to yellow and 1973 brought with it the bankruptcy.

The details of the bankruptcy can probably be found with enough patience and access to legal archives but suffice to say Lancer Books was no more. Magnum Communications Corporation continued on with various publishing ventures and at least three other non-publishing ventures: Vacation Ownership Marketing; Capital Solutions I, and Fuda Faucet Works.

Gerald Jones in Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book tells the story of Harry Donnenfeld. Donnenfeld started National (DC) comics. Donnenfeld apparently had ties to gangster Frank Costello. New York publishers bought a lot of paper shipped from Canada. Canada was in full liquor production during the failed U.S. experiment of prohibition. Along with shipments of paper there was plenty of booze. So pretty much all publishers of exploitation literature (comics, pornography, and men’s adventures) have rumors of mob money.

3As mentioned before Stein and Zacharius purchased Swank from Martin Goodman (of Marvel Comics fame) and Stein worked for various comic book companies. So, yes, they traveled in the same circles as Donnenfeld and others that might have had mob ties. No doubt pornography publishing makes strange bedfellows, but no real evidence of organized crime exists. There was the occasional article in the SFWA Bulletin newsletter about Lancer not paying royalties and offering lame excuses and after the Lancer bankruptcy their remaining publishing arm, Magnum Books, republished books from the Lancer catalog that were in violation of previous contracts. So there were shady-doings but nothing that other publishers had not set as a precedent.

After the Lancer bankruptcy Walter Zacharius chose to start the Kensington Publishing Corporation (which included Zebra Books) with a new partner, Roberta Grossman. Apparently there was a falling out with Stein but other than a very brief mention in Publishing Romance: The History of an Industry, 1940s to the Present by John Markert not much has been said.

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Zebra Books published 14 REH books:

  1. The Sowers of the Thunder
  2. Tigers of the Sea
  3. Worms of the Earth
  4. A Gent From Bear Creek
  5. The Vultures of Whapeton
  6. The Incredible Adventures of Dennis Dorgan
  7. The Lost Valley of Iskander
  8. The Iron Man
  9. The Book of Robert E. Howard
  10. The Second Book of Robert E. Howard
  11. Pigeons From Hell
  12. Black Vulmea’s Vengeance
  13. The Sword Woman
  14. Three Bladed Doom

According to Leon Nielsen in Robert E. Howard: A Collector’s Descriptive Bibliography:

[the] books were selling so well that Zebra capitalized on its success by adding the line, “Heroic fantasy in the tradition of ROBERT E. HOWARD” to the front cover of any book that might fit loosely into the category of heroic fantasy.

Second only to Frazetta as a fan favorite, most of the REH Zebra books featured art by Jeff Jones. Even the most conservative REH fan would probably let Jeff Jones go to the public restroom of his choosing.

Jeff Jones was a troubled fellow with loads of artistic talent. If Frazetta was power, then Jones was poetry. I think it is possible he could surpass Frank Frazetta as a REH fan favorite one day. His best work is breathtaking if not always true to the story.

Walter Zacharius was always an innovator. Early in his career he helped start the Ace Double Novel line (along with Aaron Wyn), and with Kensington he signed deals with Wal-Mart and QVC, and made the first forays into e-books.

One of his more exploitative tricks was during the height of Lee Iacocca’s success with the automobile corporation, Chrysler. Iacocca was popularly known as an innovative entrepreneur (there was talk of him running for President, as if Americans would vote for someone with no political experience!). He had a best-selling autobiography eating up the sales chart. Zacharius republished a previously little read paperback with the same title and it ended up as one of the best selling paperbacks of 1985.

Even with his other successes the Lancer Conan series was a hallmark. His New York Times obituary had this to say in summing up his accomplishments:

With Irwin Stein, he founded Lancer Books in 1961 to publish genre fiction, primarily science fiction and fantasy, notably the “Conan the Barbarian” stories of Robert E. Howard…

The New York Times knew “those were books!”

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This is Part Four, the final part of a series featuring photos taken at the home of Doug Ellis and his wife by TGR blogger Barbara Barrett. As you can see, Doug has amassed a huge collection of original pulp art, pulps and other collectibles. Here is Barbara’s introduction to this series in Part One.

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Photos courtesy of Doug Ellis

Part One, Part TwoPart Three

This entry filed under Howard Illustrated.

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As a reader and amateur historian of the field of the fantastic, this is the type of publication I want to read.

-Keith Taylor

If you have some time this weekend, you might want to take a look at the Skelos Magazine website, which is up and running.  All sorts of information is located there, including a plethora of different options for ordering the The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy.

The first issue is now shipping and this is one magazine you don’t want to miss out on.

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This is Part Three of a series featuring photos taken at the home of Doug Ellis and his wife by TGR blogger Barbara Barrett. As you can see, Doug has amassed a huge collection of original pulp art, pulps and other collectibles. Here is Barbara’s introduction to this series in Part One.

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Photos courtesy of Doug Ellis

Part One, Part Two

This entry filed under Howard Illustrated.

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This is Part Two of a series featuring photos taken at the home of Doug Ellis and his wife by TGR blogger Barbara Barrett. As you can see, Doug has amassed a huge collection of original pulp art, pulps and other collectibles. Here is Barbara’s introduction to this series in Part One.

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And here are some pulps, a Shadow pinball machine and action figures thrown in for good measure.

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Photos courtesy of Doug Ellis

Part One, Part Three 

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, Howard Illustrated.

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Another enjoyable Howard Days has come and gone, and it is safe to say that any who attended were glad they did.  The number of attendees on June 10th and 11th seemed to be a bit above average, reflecting a trend toward straining the capacity of current venues and program formats.  The panel audiences are already larger than could be served by formerly used facilities like the Cross Plains Library and the Howard House Pavilion.  Panels this year were held at the CP High School and the CP Senior Center.  Many new faces were evident at the banquet in the Community Center.  The weather was hot but otherwise pleasant, though mosquito repellent was sometimes required.

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The day before the festivities began, the staff of the Cross Plains Review newspaper kindly offered a tour of their old facilities, complete with antique printing press and other equipment.  Original copies of editions containing articles about or by Robert E. Howard were on display.

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On Friday, following the bus tour of the CP area hosted by Project Pride veteran Don Clark, a panel composed of Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier, and Susan McNeel-Childers discussed the first 30 years of Howard Days celebrations.  REHupans Burke and Vern Clark made an initial foray to Cross Plains in 1985.  Impressed by the wide open spaces of Texas and even more by how imaginative Howard must have been to have envisioned stories in such settings, Burke thought that other serious fans might be lured to visit Cross Plains, and so organized a trip there the next year by ten REHupans, including Cavalier and Glenn Lord.  The Friends of the Library, headed by Joan McCowen, gave a gracious reception to those they called international scholars on June 6th, which the mayor proclaimed to be “Robert Howard Day.”  Those the visitors talked to included Cross Plains Review editor Jack Scott, head librarian Billie Ruth Loving, REH heirs Alla Ray Kuykendall and Alla Ray Morris, and Charlotte Laughlin of Howard Payne University in Brownwood.  Laughlin would act to preserve what remained of REH’s personal book collection that his father had donated to HPU and which now resides in the Howard House.  Seeing the commercial possibilities in attracting more such visitors, the founding members of Project Pride (originally created to spruce up the downtown area of Cross Plains) bought the Howard House in 1989, which Project Pride then renovated and operated as a museum with the aid of donations.  Alla Ray Morris contributed $10,000 to Project Pride just before her death in 1995. The money was used to install central heat and air conditioning and to remodel the inside of the house. Project Pride also received a portion of Alla Ray’s estate and that money was used to build the pavilion next to the house and finish the remodeling. The pavilion was completed in 2000 and dedicated to Alla Ray. By that time Howard Days had become an annual 2-day event organized by Project Pride and REHupa, who have done so much to welcome and educate fans of the Texas author and to change the once-low opinion of many of the residents regarding Howard and his admirers.

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Guest of Honor Michael Scott Myers spoke at the banquet and was interviewed by REHupan Mark Finn at a Friday panel marking the 20th anniversary of the film The Whole Wide World, which Myers had adapted from the memoir One Who Walked Alone, written by Howard’s sometime girlfriend Novalyne Price Ellis.  Myers was a speech student of Ellis during her last years at Louisiana State University.  As a movie publicist, Myers saw the potential in making a small independent film based on her book, but many individual factors have to align before such a movie can be made.  Myers optioned the book for $20 and wrote the script between 1989 and 1994.  Director Dan Ireland and the actor portraying REH, Vincent D’Onofrio were on board early on.  Replacing actress Olivia d’Abo, who had become pregnant, in Novalyne’s part was Renee Zellweger in her first major role.  TWWW was filmed over 3 and a half weeks in the summer of 1996 for $1.2M.  While it did well at the Sundance Film Festival, an unfavorable release date held the film back until positive reviews led to its success on home video and cable TV.  It served as many people’s introduction to REH, and the film helped to bring a less narrow, more nuanced, and very human portrayal of the author to the fan public.  Ellis did see and enjoy the movie.  After the interview, TWWW was screened in the high school auditorium.

The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were bestowed Friday afternoon.  The winners are spotlighted elsewhere on this blog.

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REHupans Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeffrey Shanks staged another of their always entertaining “Fists at the Ice House” presentations outdoors at the site where Howard boxed with his friends and locals.  This sport, REH’s part in it, and his boxing fiction were the subjects.  Experts on these stories, the speakers recommended them highly to all.  Even if one is not into the sport, the surprisingly good humor of the yarns will be enough to get one through them.  And Howard’s enthusiasm and versatility shed light on important aspects of the author’s personality that one might have no clue about if one is familiar only with his fantasy tales.  Howard’s boxing and boxing stories served as vital releases for the pressures and frustrations that were dogging him at the time.

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The first panel on Saturday concerned REH and artist Frank Frazetta, who painted the covers of most of the Lancer Conan paperbacks of the late 1960s which did so much to attract readers to Howard’s fiction.  The panelists were REHupans Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier, Gary Romeo, and Jeff Shanks.  Cavalier called the publication of Conan the Adventurer the single most significant event in the history of Howard publishing and the one that drew him in personally.  Shanks noted that this was the 50th anniversary of that event.  Frazetta had illustrated comic books, but it was his covers of Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks that got him noticed.  Frazetta’s artistic resonance with the material made for an impressive product that was greater than the sum of its parts.  Burke said that the Conan stories had come out earlier in book form as Arkham House and Gnome Press hardbacks.  Writer L. Sprague de Camp was a fan of REH and, working with agent Oscar Friend, took on the editing of the Conan reprints.  Romeo explained that de Camp assiduously shopped the stories to publishers, finally hooking Lancer’s Larry Shaw, as well as Frazetta by letting him keep the ownership of his art.  Romeo thinks that Frazetta’s art was a big part of Conan’s appeal, but not as much as the prose itself.  Burke added that, though you can’t judge a book by its cover, the cover can be important in providing an essential good first impression of and introduction to the character.  Shanks observed that, even though the images were static, Frazetta’s dynamic, exciting poses were a game changer for fantastic art.

Read the rest of this entry »

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TGR contributor Barbara Barrett recently visited the home of Doug Ellis and his wife and had the opportunity to take some photos of their massive collection of pulp and fantasy art. Here’s Barbara’s introduction to the photos of the artwork:

A Pulp Art Mind-Blowing Experience

While I was in Ohio for three weeks in April, John DeWalt and I went to the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention Show which was held Friday through Sunday, April 22, 23 and 24th 2016. But the day before, on Thursday, April 21st, we were very fortunate to attend an Open House at the home of Doug Ellis (coordinator and manager of the Windy) and his wife, Deb Fulton.

John and I arrived about noon. After I introduced myself to Doug—and keeping in mind a request I had from Neil Mechem of Girasol Collectables—I asked if I could photograph the pulp covers Neil needed. I took out my camera as I followed Doug downstairs to a library-like room filled with stacks of book shelves containing plastic covered pulp magazines. It’s well organized and within a few minutes he checked here and then in another room on the second floor. Unfortunately, he didn’t have those particular issues.

When Doug went back to his other guests, my camera was out and ready but it was difficult to know where to begin. John DeWalt had told me Doug Ellis has an extensive pulp and art collection but nothing prepared me for how awesome it is. The paintings cover most of the wall space in their three floor, five-bedroom+ home. Even the bathrooms contained works of art.

With Doug’s permission to photograph his collection, I snapped pictures until the battery died in my camera. I apologize for the spot of bright light in some of them. Almost all the paintings and drawings were framed and covered with glass making them very difficult to photograph. None of the art identifies the artist. However, many of the readers here will recognize the work of their favorites.

I hope you enjoy the photos. Walking through those rooms with pulp magazines and artwork everywhere I looked is an experience I’ll remember for a long time.

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Part Two, Part Three

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, Howard Illustrated.

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The 2016 Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were announced at an awards ceremony held on the afternoon of June 10th in Cross Plains. Here are the winners:

The Atlantean — Outstanding Achievement, Book (non-anthology/collection)

DERIE, BOBBY – The Collected Letters of REH: Index and Addenda (REH Foundation Press)

The Hyrkanian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Print)

SHANKS, JEFFREY – “Evolutionary Otherness: Anthropological Anxiety in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Worms of the Earth’” The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales

The Cimmerian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Online)

TIE:

BARRETT, BARBARA – “Hester Jane Ervin Howard and Tuberculosis (3 parts)” REH: Two Gun Raconteur Blog

PISKE, DAVID – “Barbarism and Civilization in the Letters of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft: A Summary with Commentary (6 parts)” On an Underwood No. 5

The Venarium — Emerging Scholar

DERIE, BOBBY – Contributed essays to TGR blog, On an Underwood No. 5, and compiled the The Collected Letters of REH: Index and Addenda

The Stygian—Outstanding Achievement, Website

REH: TWO-GUN RACONTEUR BLOG (Damon Sasser)

The Aquilonian — Outstanding Achievement, Periodical

REH: TWO GUN RACONTEUR (Damon Sasser)

The Black Lotus – Outstanding Achievement, Multimedia

FRIBERG, BEN – Howard Days Panels (videos)

The Black River—Special Achievement

ROEHM, ROB – For his biographical research published at the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur Blog, On an Underwood No. 5, and the Black Gate website.

The Rankin — Artistic achievement in the depiction of REH’s life and/or work (Art must have made its first public published appearance in the previous calendar year.)

GIORELLO, TOMAS and JOSE VILLARRUBIA: Cover and interior artwork for adaptation of “Wolves Beyond the Border” King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border issue 1 (Dark Horse)

Black Circle Award – Lifetime Achievement

THOMAS, ROY – Approved

Congratulations to all the winners.

A Note from the Editor: Having received the The Stygian and The Aquilonian awards, I want to thank all the contributors to both the blog and print journal and I also want to thank all the Howard fans who read and support the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur blog and journal. None of this would be possible without you. And I must congratulate Barbara Barrett for her fine essay that won her The Cimmerian award for her series “Hester Jane Ervin Howard and Tuberculosis” posted on the blog, and David Piske as well since it was a dead heat between these two fine Howard scholars.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Shanks.