Friday, April 23, 2010


Of course, you do.  It’s fascinating.   Now you’ve scratched the surface, you have to have more.  Well, put on the breaks, hot-rod.  You’re gonna blow your engine, and we’re still at the starting gate.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Besides, this is heavy-duty mojo you’re dealing with.  Too much understanding could blast you into a pillar of salt.  For your benefit, and the safety of the whole community, we’re going to step out of the high performance machine you seem keen to ride to your oblivion, and take a walking tour of the  great landscape that is the fertile imagination of yours truly.
Now, you’re got your comfy shoes on…
Why comics, you ask?  Why not put these hands to work painting chapel ceilings, or carving divinity from stone?  Great questions, sport.  I can tell you’ve got a lot on the ball.  The answer is simple.  Conan.

That’s right.  Don’t swallow it.  Swish it around, a bit.
I didn’t read comics as a kid.  I was far too busy playing sports, waging b.b. gun wars and riding my bike for miles.  But when I was  about 12, I discovered Conan.
Like the explorers of old, my ship had come ashore on a strange new land, with nothing before me, but adventure, scantily clad women and bludgeoning, bludgeoning, bludgeoning.  Conan’s creator, Robert E. Howard, wrote with a style that was like a punch to the face.  You can argue, and I will, buddy-boy, Howard was the first modern action writer.  He stripped away all but the essential.  It was all action all the time, and if it didn’t thrill or move the story along, it had no place.  What more could my young fevered brain ask for?

John Carter, Warlord of Mars.  That’s what.
The Mars series had the action, adventure and half-naked broads of Conan, plus ray guns, flying ships and monsters with multiple appendages.  Crap on toast!  Is this heaven?!  Edgar Rice Burroughs is better known for creating Tarzan.  But if you ask any serious fan of far-flung adventure, they’ll tell you Tarzan is a light weight in a tenth grade world next to J.C.
If Howard is the first modern adventure writer, Burroughs is the last great Victorian adventure writer ( you wanna fight about it?!).  His style  is florid and graceful, if somewhat stiff and corny.   And while his ideas on science and biology are often silly and just plain wrong, they’re born of the same brilliant imagination that created some of the greatest adventure stories on, or in, the nine planets.
Making all these stories even greater, were the illustrations.  They showcased the work of modern masters of paint and pen- Roy Krenkel, Esteban Maroto, and most importantly Frank Frazetta ( known by myself and most other adventure artists as GOD ALMIGHTY).
Then, why didn’t I become a book illustrator?  Well, good God junior,  who illustrates books, any more?!  Nobody.  Well, a few publishers do, but not enough to pay the bills.  Sure, there are children’s books, and I have nothing against them.  I’d love to take a crack at it.  By how long do you think your Uncle Joltin’ Johnny could illustrate cutesy kiddie stories, for dull-witted yuppie kids, whose parents don’t believe in spanking, much less real violence.  I’d split in two!
Luckily, it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon John Severin’s and Mike Ploog’s Kull comics ( another character created by Howard ) and Savage Sword of Conan magazine, as drawn by “Big” John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala.  They’re some of the most beautiful comics you’ll ever see.
So, that’s why comics.  Satisfied?    Well, how could you be?   This is all just so damn intoxicating.  I fear you’ll develop a taste for it…

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