Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Treasures of Rammia! By Cromsblood.

Our old friend Cromsblood dropped me a line the other day...he included two attachments a write up and a link...See? His influence is still going...I miss the days when I would go to my favorite blog on the web and see some cool new interesting post created by him or Reis. I do the best I can and I'm pleased as punch Kilsern has amped up our literary scale. I have posts coming involving foreign CONAN covers and custom action figures. So don't you worry folks! I'm gonna do me best to please. Meantime use that link below and enjoy some 60's Conan comics from down Mejico way! See below...

Hi Mike! Please post this if you wouldn't mind. I did a write-up (below) to make it real easy for ya, and I've attached a couple of pics to spice up the post a bit. Change whatever you like. Thanks bro! -Cromsblood ( "I'm keeping it as is thanks CB" -Mike )

Post Title: The Treasures of Rammia!
Cromsblood took a short break from his regular routine to bring you this! Another unauthorized tale from Mexican publisher Ediciones Joma, featuring the most dangerous Viking crew on the Black Coast!
Belit, Yanga, and the blond Cimmerian Conan are lured to the isolated city of Rammia with promises of a king’s ransom and little resistance, only to discover much, much more than they bargained for. Originally published in 1966, with artwork by J Kstro and a script by Silva Quiros , it’s yet another English translation for your perusal - La Reina de la Costa Negra #38!
Download from MediaFire HERE:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Prince Valiant

One of Big John Buscema's influences was Hal Foster and I'd heard him say with my own ears in an in store QnA back in 1986 that he'd always wanted to draw Prince recentlly I got to work searching out images of Val on the web by Big John... alas I could not find any. However I did come across a few images of Val by familar artists who have worked on CONAN...We all know Ernie Chan...Frank Brunner and Rafael Kayanan right? You should. ;) Well as a bit of an Homage to Big John here are a few pieces of art I wanted to share with the readers of CROM...enjoy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sword & Sorcery: Literature or Junk?

I've been silent as of late, due to a high travel tempo for my career and now a case of the good old summer crud; however, as always, I have been reading and thinking about Conan, Robert Howard and the sword and sorcery genre in general. Lately, I have begun re-reading the L. Sprague de Camp/Lin Carter/Björn Nyberg pastiche. This has led to a spate of re-reading much of de Camp's non-fiction essays as they appear in The Spell of Conan and The Blade of Conan. This post won't be my opinion of de Camp, that is a complicated relationship that deserves its own post sometime in the future.

What I do want to talk about is the opinion of Sword & Sorcery in general. Sword & Sorcery, as a genre has been sneered at over the several decades since its unintentional inception by Bob Howard. The predominant opinion among the literati (my favorite term for those that consider themselves the prime, critical connoisseurs of all that should and could be considered Literature, with the capital "L") is that Sword & Sorcery is escapist literature at its best and unhealthy, pseudo-sexual, violent fantasy re-creation at its worst. L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter (and this is a generalization, not a direct quote) have both in various introductions and essays I have read, called Sword & Sorcery (or Sword-play and Sorcery--a de Camp preference) a guilty pleasure meant to help the reader escape to a simpler time.

I take umbrage with the term "guilty pleasure". A long time ago, in a galaxy far-far away, I was in an Introduction to Western Literature class. My professor gave us a lecture that the kernel of which was this: if you read junk, then your mind is full of junk; therefore, you should read the good stuff, so your brain will be full of the good stuff. She then assigned us to write a short essay, completed in class, in which we were to write a few short paragraphs about our favorite guilty pleasures; after all, as she told us, while we should predominantly read "the good stuff", like an athlete on a restrictive diet, it was good to cheat once in awhile, and read some "guilty pleasure" stuff -- perhaps during our Holiday break or during the summer, so that we didn't get the urge to pig-out on the "bad stuff". Take a taste, then get back to the regiment. It will make you more deeply appreciate "the good stuff" (all her opinion, quoted from memory as best as I can).

I wrote a paragraph, not very long as I remember. My thesis was simple. If I enjoy reading something, I have no reason to feel any guilt about it. If it brings me pleasure, and no laws are broken by my doing so, then who is she, or anyone else for that matter, to tell me what the good stuff is, or the bad stuff? I don't remember her exact reaction, but I don't think that she thought I was truly embracing the spirit of the lecture/exercise.

That is an opinion I will always stand-by. It holds true for all genre literature, comic books (another often attacked pleasure of mine) and movies. But it does not answer the question: is Sword & Sorcery Literature or Junk? How is it defended? Can it be defended? It's a good question and I don't feel I can adequately answer it in one short blog post. It's a topic in need of more research. I would ask the readers of this blog to help me answer it, and perhaps I will explore it more deeply in the future, after my summer crud is gone and I've had the time to investigate it at my local university library.

My short answer is I believe Sword & Sorcery is Literature and not Junk. My defense of this is a long-term project that I am itching to begin working upon.

However, food for thought: Science Fiction is often easily defensible as Literature (with the capital L) as it often serves as a commentary upon our recent society (or the society of its time); consider Stranger in a Strange Land, or even the various robot stories of Asimov (easily viewed as the fear a culture has of an ever increasing mechanized society). Please consider giving your opinions on these statements/questions either as a comment here, or if you prefer as an email (kilsern71 at gmail dot com):

  • Recent history often plays a role in the author's thought process. Consider the recent history of Howard's time. World War I ended in 1918, to what extent did that influence Howard's barbarous created world? 
  • Howard and Lovecraft exchanged letters over an extended time that argued the virtues of civilization versus barbarism, what are some examples of how Conan best stands for Howard's opinion that barbarism was mans natural state? 
  • A revival of sword and sorcery began in the 60's and 70's, the current political state of the U.S. at that time could be viewed as one in which many people believed that it was failing. How does Sword & Sorcery best exemplify this?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The PRIZE....

This is one of my favorite's a Joe Jusko recreation I put a lot of time and effort into...the person with the funniest CLONAN blurb/caption...gets this if you want it.


Just wanted to share my drawing. I had this idea in my head for at lunch it spilled out onto some scrap paper. I have intentions to redraw right into my sketchbook...hope you like it. Hey...this might be fun. Anyone want to give it a caption or a blurb...the funnier the better. So long as it pertains to CONAN or his CLONANS....if your game...the one I like best...I'll draw you up your own pitcher and send it off to ya....( Lets see who bites , who the hell wants a drawing from Mikeyboy lol )

Sunday, July 8, 2012



Thursday, July 5, 2012

B-List Barbarians: Clifford Ball's "The Goddess Awakes"

"The Goddess Awakes" is the third story published by Clifford Ball in what can only be assumed was his attempt to cash in on the audience built by Robert E. Howard in the pages of Weird Tales with his Conan tales (For a look at his first two stories, go here and then here).

Ball's third story originally was published in the February 1938 issue of Weird Tales. The copy I read is included in the book Realms of Wizardry. Realms is an excellent collection of stories published in 1976 and was edited by Lin Carter. I use the word excellent to reflect the talent collected between it's covers: James Branch Cabell, A. Merritt, Lord Dunsany, Robert E. Howard, H. Rider Haggard and H.P. Lovecraft, just to name the authors printed upon the dust jacket. In fact, seventeen authors in total are included; however, one of the stores, "Quest of the Starstone", was a joint written tale by C.L. Moore and her husband Henry Kuttner. It involves Catherine Moore's two most popular characters, Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith, joining forces. The collection also includes an introduction and introductory notes to each story written by Lin Carter. An appendix for further reading is also included. If you find a copy at a used book store, don't hesitate to pick it up.

Like "The Thief of Forthe", "The Goddess Awakes" features the character Rald as its main protagonist; however, at this point in his career, Rald has given up thievery and has become a mercenary hiring out his sword to any who can afford him, unless the opposing army is of Forthe. In a vague way, Ball references his earlier story "Thief" in which it was implied that Rald would become involved with a lady of the court of Forthe (actually, the King's daughter). Due to his involvement with the Lady of Forthe, Rald will not take up arms against her kingdom. It is obvious to point out that Ball, by having Rald advance from a thief to now a mercenary is at least vaguely echoing the career of Conan for his character of Rald; he also did this for the first character he created then abandoned, Duar of "Duar the Accursed".

In this story, Rald has joined forces with the smaller framed mercenary Thwaine. Ball creates an easy banter between Rald and Thwaine that brings more life to this story then his former "Thief of Forthe". The two compliment each other well. I have never read the next three stories written by Ball, so I do not know if they were written in the same universe as his first three, if they were, I hope that he kept the team of Rald and Thwaine together. Of the two main protagonists created by Ball for his stories, Duar and Rald, Duar is the most interesting; however, Rald combined with Thwaine makes for a recipe as interesting as Duar and his back-story of cursed fate.

At stories beginning, Rald and Thwaine are on the run from a battle that their side lost. The two barely escape with their lives and are planning their next move. By pure coincidence, they come upon a lost civilization that is composed of warrior women. Ball never names these women as Amazons; however, he does name them as coming from:

[women who] were of warrior stock. It was said that [they] bowed to a dreadful goddess, called Bubaste, the same that ruled in a far-off land known to few, in a strange country by a sluggish river named the Nile.

This quote points out an interesting thing about Clifford Ball. In the three stories I read, he cobbled together his fantasy realm stealing freely from the created mythologies and/or concepts of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft. At the same time, he references places and things from real history. In this story alone, he makes reference to the Nile and to the existence of Buddha. Ball has no compunctions about borrowing from anyone or anything. His world, to me the geek who grew up playing role playing games, seems very like a home brewed world for a Dungeons & Dragons game; of course it is not, as D&D and games of its ilk were not created until the 70's.

Rald and Thwaine become prisoners of this race of warrior women, who are in turn at the mercy of an evil priest/wizard named Throal. Throal claims to have sired the incarnation of the goddess Bubaste, or Bast, the two names are used interchangeably. Many years ago, he brought his demon-goddess, named Hess, to the warrior women's kingdom:

Hess, the sacred blood-relative of Bubaste, of Bast, daughter of Isis

Hess is a statue by day, but under the rays of the full moon comes to life and hunts. Throal, utilizing the fear and awe generated by Hess, has convinced the warrior women to enslave all the men of their kingdom by addicting the males to a drug that leaves them in a zombie like state. Even though the warrior women have a queen, Queen Cene, he rules in all but name. The women fear him so much that they willingly give themselves as sacrifice for what are described in the story as rites of orgy. 

Ball plays with lots of fetish fantasies in this story. It is easy to see why it would appeal to an audience that often read Weird Tales for its lurid covers and thinly disguised sexuality (but don't think for a moment that I don't approve of such things). 

In this story, Ball returns to his concept of fate, which he played with first in his story "Duar the Accursed". Balls characters, both Duar and Rald (but decidedly more Duar) are unable to escape their fate, unlike Howard's Conan who absolutely makes his own fate. Observe one of my favorite paragraphs from "Goddess" in which Rald ponders that perhaps his fate is driven by greater forces, it is also a good bit of exposition: 

Rald clutched his sword-hilt fondly and gazed upward, beyond the torches and helmets of the warrior host, to where the stars of the heavens had begun to twinkle about the yellow planet whose beams were distributed alike over friend and foe. Perhaps there was madness in the lunar rays, mused the ex-thief; perhaps the great orb possessed the power to change mortals into demonic shapes as the seers of so many lands proclaimed, but to him it seemed that a strength beyond the ken of physicians or the use of drugs flowed from those same beams to mingle with his blood-stream; he felt exultant beneath the rays, free like the desert winds, capable of confronting any difficulty he should chance to encounter. Perhaps--it was a wild fancy, but perhaps he was one of the chosen, a child of that great planet, waxing and waning in his impulses, his contrast of a life of thievery mingled with heroic and generous deeds, enven as the dead world was accredited with forces both good and evil. Certainly, beneath its rays, he gained a confidence in his own ability and ultimate preservation he had never experienced beneath the light of day.

Rald and Thwaine are to be sacrificed to Hess. I won't give away fine details, but I must say, the manner in which they do away with Hess and her master was disappointing at best. 

While I found the ending disappointing, I enjoyed this story much more then "Thief of Forthe" and I liked it bit more than "Duar the Accursed". In his introductory notes, Lin Carter states: 

No one has ever collected Ball's Sword & Sorcery tales into a book, which seems to me a shame. His stories--possibly the only ones he ever wrote--today molder forgotten in the yellowing pages of an extinct pulp magazine, and their author is a forgotten man in the history of modern fantasy.

While I don't feel as strongly about Ball's stories as Mr. Carter, it is a shame that they are so hard to find.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dark Horse Comics - Conan Motion comic

B-List Barbarians: Clifford Ball's "The Thief of Forthe"

In a previous post, I wrote of Clifford Ball's history (what little is known of him) and his first story published in Weird Tales, "Duar the Accursed". As I mentioned in that post, after the death of Robert E. Howard, Farnsworth Wright seemed to be attempting to find an author to fill the void left with the absence of Howard's stories (a decision Wright would shortly have second thoughts about and would in fact stop seeking/accepting stories that seemed imitative of Howard's style and/or stories). "The Thief of Forthe" was Ball's second published attempt to write a story in the tradition of Conan.

"Thief" first saw print in the July 1937 issue of Weird Tales. It has seen reprinting a couple of times. My reading copy comes from the story collection Savage Heroes (1975). Heroes, even without the Ball story, is a solid collection featuring: "Jirel Meets Magic" - C.L. Moore (and I have written of the the Jirel stories before); "The Spawn of Dagon" - Henry Kuttner; "Necromancy in Naat" - Clark Ashton Smith; "The Song at the Hub of the Garden" - Ramesy Campbell; "Alma Mater" - Daphne Castell; "In the Lair of Yslsl" - Karl Edward Wagner (whose Conan pastiche The Road of Kings, I have written of before); "The Barrow Troll" - David A. Drake; and lastly, "The Temple of Abomination" by my dearly loved Robert E. Howard.

Strangely, the cover states "Edited by Michel Parry"; however, the publication credits states the editor's name as Eric Pendragon. I am not sure if Eric Pendragon is a pseudonymous for Michel Parry, or not. In either case, it is illustrated throughout by Jim Pitts. I am not familiar with any previous or post work by Pitts and can share no information about him. Any further information known by readers would be appreciated.

As to the story itself, like "Duar", "Thief" is fast paced with no lack of action. In this story, gone is the character Duar to be replaced with the less interesting Rald. Rald is a thief to rival Conan, and it can not be helped but to draw comparisons between the two. Surly, Mr. Ball intended his stories to have a ready made audience and wasted no time making things familiar for the reader.

Rald the thief is drawn into a plot to steal the legendary Necklace of the Ebon Dynasty by Karlk the Magician. Via the deed of stealing the necklace, Karlk plots that Rald the Thief will become Rald the King, and hence in gratitude allow, either willingly or not, Karlk to be the power behind the throne. This gossamer reasoning is based upon the history of the Necklace:

"...the chief virtue of the heirloom lay not in its marketable worth, but in the legendary credits supposedly bestowed upon it by the multiple blessings of the Seven Gods...Hence the reasoning of Karlk, the magician: Many kings had worn the Necklace in judicial omnipotence, until the people of Forthe saw the wearer as a representative of the Seven Gods; if a man wore it...would not that man...[have] the right of kingship?"

I am not giving much away when I tell the good reader that Karlk is not what he seems and his intentions are not good. He really is not what he seems at all, meaning *SPOILER ALERT* Karlk is not human. He is what can best be described as an evolved white ape of Burroughs Barsoom stories (thinly veiled in Ball's story as "Jarsoom") whose evolution somewhat echoes the flavor of H.P. Lovecraft's stories (or perhaps more accurately, the flavor of a slip-shod Lovecraft pastiche).

As interesting as this twist is, it does not save Ball's story from being an obvious attempt to cash in on the absence of Howard's Conan yarns in the pages of Weird Tales. While it is a more focused tale than his previous "Duar the Accursed", it is also, for me, less interesting.

The only interior illustration for the story, art by Jim Pitts

Quotes, Facts and Scenes from the Worlds of REH: Howard's "Suicide Note" II

I thought I might share this for those that missed it. In my previous post on Howard's "suicide note", a comment was supplied by CROM! reader Biopunk. Biopunk supplied a link to an issue of Marvel Comics Epic Illustrated that showed engagingly just how well the myth of Howard's suicide note has been adopted as common knowledge. 

Thank you Mr. Biopunk!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The REH Foundation Newsletter

Spring 2012 and Summer 2012
Hello CROM! readers. I have been silent lately, and for that I apologize, but my career has kept me uber busy. Also, my recent reading of Mark Finn's Blood & Thunder has placed me on a biography reading kick. Right now I am immersed in S.T. Joshi's H.P. Lovecraft: A Life. Joshi's book has also spun me onto several side quests involving reading Lovecraft material I have not read in ages, and in some cases never have. More on that in the future.

In a recent post, I mentioned that I made the decision to join the Robert E. Howard Foundation. If you're not familiar with them, please take the time to check them out at their site, as they have a mission that is important to me.

At the level of membership I am at, I receive their newsletter as it becomes available. I came home from my recent business travels to discover that in my absence, I received two issues of the newsletter, Spring 2012 number 1 and Summer 2012 number 2 (both volume 6). Both issues are 18 pages in length, printed on good quality paper. The newsletter is standard 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

I have been looking forward to perusing the newsletters. They are a treat for the Howard fan. To illustrate why, I present the content pages of both issues so the reader will have an idea of what kind of articles/contents are in a typical issue:

Spring 2012

Summer 2012
I can offer a few comments on the contents of both issues. With the sad passing of Glenn Lord in December 2011, there is an expected amount of Lord content. I particularly liked Rusty Burke's essay, "Glenn Lord, 1931-2011".  Most, if not all newsletters feature original Howard content. These two issues feature: "The Door to the Garden" (an incomplete tale first published in Fantasy Crosswinds #2 [Stygian Isle Press, 1977], then later completed by Joseph F. Pulver and published in Nameless Cults [Chaosium, 2001] as "The Door to the World"--this is the version I have read in the past); the poem "A Rattlesnake Sings in the Grass" (previously unpublished and found in Glenn Lord's collection after his death); "Brachan the Kelt" (an incomplete James Allison tale previously published only twice before, 1981's The Barbarian Swordsmen and 1998's "New" Howard Reader #1). In all cases for these two issues, the original Howard content is presented as clear, easy to read photo copies of Howard's original typescript. For me, that is like looking into a camera lens and viewing the past. Way cool. 

The other contents of both issues are rounded out with news and events of interest to the Howard fan, biographical information and items such as a school paper about athletics that Howard wrote in 1921 for a school project, and this is a photo copy of the original paper and is written in Howard's long-hand cursive script. Again, I really enjoy things like that. There are also newly discovered photos either of or pertaining to Robert E. Howard. I particularly enjoyed three photos of Howard goofing as a pirate with his neighbors, the brother and sister Leroy and Faustine Butler.

I wish I could in good conscience share these items with you, but I do not feel I have the permission to do so. I am a big fan of Howard's poetry, so the opportunity to read a poem by Bob ("A Rattlesnake Sings in the Grass") that I have not encountered before, is well worth the price of admission alone. 

I encourage you, if you are a Bob Howard nut such as myself to visit the above link to the REH Foundation, and become a member.