Conan the Barbarian #175
Hi there fantastic followers fear not, follow me to find a fellow who literally spits in the face of DEATH HIMSELF! That's right Conan the Barbarian is the source of this week's deep dive into comic history, care of one James Owsley, better known as Christopher Priest!
We open on Conan, companion #117 (why even learn his name, really) and Tetra (a teenage girl who becomes pivotal in the next couple arcs) entering a town and procuring a boat in a most Conanesque way. Once upon the boat they find themselves under attack. The boatman takes them on an alternate course into ADVENTURE!
Owsley’s run on Conan can be a bit campy, but to me that’s just lots of fun. The dialogue feels right and the fight with death was really well done. I like the character of Tetra and think this issue does some legwork to that end. This issue is pretty typical of the tone Owsley brings to the table throughout his Conan run which lasted a good 25-30 issues plus some annuals.
The story itself moves briskly and organically from a standard Conan opening with a twist in that he just threatens the bar patrons and Tetra is the one who does the chopping. The mysterious boatman is never really anything but shady so his final reveal is unsurprising. The quick jaunt to “Cimmeria” is cool but the random characters we meet don’t matter and accomplish as much as a signpost.
Unsurprisingly the art by Big John Buscema (inked by Ernie Chan) is spectacular with quite a few standout panels my favorite probably being the boat being sucked into the vortex. The fight with Death is well sequenced and ends nicely visually. I love the way Buscema does backgrounds, they are always so detailed and lush thanks to colorist George Roussos. Letterer Janice Chang is given a difficult task due to Priest’s dense scripting coupled with the dense prose style characteristic of Conan comics, which often try to invoke the feel of the novellas they spin out of through heavy narration.
This issue is canonically notable due to being the first appearance of Tetra but it’s value is fairly unaffected with single issues being plentiful on ebay for 5$ or less, although they may occasionally appear in the wild for less. (think I paid 2$ for my copy?) Also available is the trade paperback Chronicles of Conan vol 23 THE WELL OF SOULS from Dark Horse which is out of print but can still be found cheaply for 10-15$ online. The hardcover Conan omnibuses Marvel is currently releasing will likely hit this issue in volume 4 of course assuming they get that far.
A fun one off story that spins into bigger things if you feel like following it. Conan never let's me down. As always thanks for reading see you next week!
ANCIENT HISTORY #20: FACE DEATH HIMSELF!
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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