Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Howardian April Fool's Day

I'd originally considered several different -- and elaborate -- posts to mark April Fool's Day, including "How Dragonlance Fixed Everything," but, humorless Puritan that I am, I couldn't bring myself to write any of them. Besides, the last thing I need is to post something in jest and have even one person misconstrue it. I get enough of that without even trying.

So, instead, I'm posting four pages from issue 18 of Dark Horse's Conan comic series. Like its Marvel predecessors, I have some issues with the series' portrayal of Conan and the Hyborian Age in general, but there's nevertheless much good to be found in its pages. One such example is a short piece written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Bruce Timm. It's a nice reminder of Conan's "gigantic mirth," an aspect of his character often downplayed or overlooked in many treatments of the Cimmerian.

Enjoy!




33 comments:

  1. Well, the Incredible Hulk seems to have been substituted for Conan, (Doesn't anyone ever read the non-pastiche books?) but the action seems to have been inspired by the more entertaining entries of Rolemaster's fumble tables. So good show!

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  2. "How Dragonlance Fixed Everything"

    I would have dearly loved to have seen that. :D

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  3. I applaud you sir! I'm sick of not being able to look at the Internet for one day out of the year.

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  4. Thanks for posting this, JM. Bruce Timm is a big favorite of mine and I hadn't yet seen this story.

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  5. Oh man, Timm and Busiek in one place? Outrageous.

    Pretty good one too.
    I confess again my fondness for Marvel's Conan uber alles, though. Howard just... makes me uncomfortable.

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  6. It seems you need a primer on dry parody.

    One of the best practitioners of the form hails from the Great American Desert, state of Iowa:
    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/

    Here are four of my favorite.

    Heart of Redness:
    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2010/02/heart-of-redness.html

    "Lion of Leinenkugel" Norm Snitker, 62, Laid to Rest
    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2009/08/lion-of-leinenkugel-norm-snitker-72-laid-to-rest.html

    Man, Do I Hate Holiday Travel
    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2009/12/man-do-i-hate-holiday-travel.html

    The Idiossey
    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2009/01/the-idiossey.html

    Captcha: inowt
    Californian for "overrated fast-food burger."

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  7. That's how my group usually reacts when the kobold fumbles and impales himself. Sometimes they only wack themselves on the head for a point of damage, but it is still a crowd pleaser when the enemy jacks himself up.

    I still love Marvel's King Conan stories from the 80's. Not really canon (Conan's youngest son a black wizard with a goat's foot???), but still great stories set in Aquilonia. Red Sonja even shows up for an issue, using Conan in one of her schemes, but the bug lug still doesn't get to nail her. Try to pick some of those up if you haven't seen them. Alas, I chopped up most of my issued almost 20 years ago for an art project (foolish foolish foolish).

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  8. In the meantime, Empire magazine has an article devoted to Conan. Not had a chance to read it yet.

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  9. The best April Fool pranks are offline only, it is too precious to see the reaction of your victims, and really, the entire point.

    However, Moorcock's Multiverse pulled off a zinger for today:

    Hi all!


    After 15 years of hosting multiverse.org focused on the career of Michael Moorcock, we've gotten bored with the whole thing. Themes like time travel, intersecting dimensions, multiple existences, soul eating swords, mortals defeating gods (yeah right), Eternal Champions, and all those other themes are limited in appeal after all. So we've decided to go in a simpler less wonky direction. We've decided instead to focus on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien!


    So visit us in the forums where you can explore the world of J.R.R. Tolkien!
    http://www.multiverse.org/fora/index.php


    Your friend,
    Bilbo Baggins

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  10. Next, I want "A Very Conan Christmas".

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  11. Boy, that Bruce Timm art really does stand out. Just look at the jaw on Conan on that first page.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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  12. I'd had you pegged for a humorless Catholic, James, and I mean that in the best possible way.

    I'd actually love to see your "How Dragonlance Fixed Everything." Not as a joke, but I'd love to see you apply your gift of placing the game in cultural context to that aspect of the Silver Age. I know it's not so much your speed, but I bet it'd be a really excellent piece.

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  13. Not really canon (Conan's youngest son a black wizard with a goat's foot???)

    See, this might be bad Howard, but I feel it's good pulp fantasy.

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  14. >Next, I want "A Very Conan Christmas"<

    Only if it is produced by the creators of the Star Wars Christmas special.

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  15. Whoa, there's a colour version.

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  16. Re: April Fools, the fun one is to make up something plausible that would appeal to the group, and then gradually to add more ludicrous elements, so that people realize pretty quickly that it is a joke.

    If you announced that Desperate Housewives was adding a gamer family next year, that's vaguely plausible. But by the time you explain that the whole plot next year will be driven by guild warfare in WoW, everybody realizes what you're up to.

    The problem is... on the Internet, even if you finish up by wishing everyone April Fools, there will still be several people who believe it.

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  17. What exactly is the half-naked woman doing in this comic, beyond draping herself on Conan and looking surprised? This is part of the reason why Conan doesn't get good press.

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  18. New D&D sex scandal on Grognardia!!

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  19. @IBL
    all press is good press? despite my own objections that might be similar to yours, I know I gave this more attention than I would normally give a comic.

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  20. Oh my God! She doesn't even wear a bra...

    And what exactly is doing the half naked man in this comic beyong bulging his muscles and laughing stupidly?

    Burn the heretics!

    :)

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  21. Le Baron,

    That's precisely the point. This comic would have worked just as well without the woman. She's completely superfluous. She's only there because in visual media, for some reason, Conan has to have half-naked women around him. Beats me why this is the case.

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  22. I'll just say one more thing. This ties in precisely with James's post from a few days ago about Sword Woman. If REH had somewhat enlightened views on women, why is it that Conan in other media is so retrograde? Where is that coming from?

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  23. REH had somewhat enlightened views on women<

    Didn't the Howard stories have plenty of village women who were just there to be saved, porked, and discarded by the big guy? I don't think the comics made that up.

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  24. Didn't the Howard stories have plenty of village women who were just there to be saved, porked, and discarded by the big guy? I don't think the comics made that up.

    In a word: no.

    Comparatively few REH-penned Conan tales are anything like this. In fact, Al Harron recently did an analysis of the 21 complete Conan stories by Howard and, of them, only 8 involve the Cimmerian "getting the girl" in the end and, of those 8, most of the women involved were significant characters in their own rights. I hardly think Zenobia or Valeria, for example, are mere prurient ornaments to the stories in which they appear.

    That's not to deny that there aren't occasions where Conan adopts a "love 'em and leave 'em" attitude but that's not the norm and, even in those cases, Conan is far from the cad lesser writers have made him out to be. As is often the case, the fault for this mischaracterization of Conan lies not with Howard primarily but with the pastiche artists who followed him.

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  25. I'd had you pegged for a humorless Catholic, James, and I mean that in the best possible way.

    Heh.

    I'd actually love to see your "How Dragonlance Fixed Everything." Not as a joke, but I'd love to see you apply your gift of placing the game in cultural context to that aspect of the Silver Age. I know it's not so much your speed, but I bet it'd be a really excellent piece.

    Actually, I have a vague notion to do a post on "How Krynn Could Be an Old School Setting" or something of the sort, but I'm always reluctant to write stuff like that, as it'll nicely tick off every one :)

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  26. Re: Conan draped with women

    "It's okay. Boris sent us!"

    REH is a lot more feminist than pretty much all his official adapters. I'm not sure how he manages it. :) So maybe somebody should have commissioned Jessica Amanda Salmonson to write those Conan novels in the 80's. Heh.

    Re: Krynn

    If Krynn didn't have rails, and if Krynn didn't come with novels that acted as cheatsheets, that would be a big step toward old school.

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  27. The woman is there for perspective - notice her expression(s) as Conan laughs. :)

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  28. There is absolutely no reason to scramble for justification for the presence of half-naked women in Conan, or any other fiction.

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  29. James said:
    It's a nice reminder of Conan's "gigantic mirth," an aspect of his character often downplayed or overlooked in many treatments of the Cimmerian.


    Reminds me of Leiber's duo in "Adept's Gambit" and how the laughter of heroes has a special (and sardonic) power....

    Allan.

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  30. "That's precisely the point. This comic would have worked just as well without the woman. She's completely superfluous. She's only there because in visual media, for some reason, Conan has to have half-naked women around him. Beats me why this is the case."

    I'm more baffled by why it's verboten to portray the man with pants and a shirt every now and then.

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  31. Later in his career, Howard wrote some wonderfully funny stories, usually set in his Texas Western milieu. Man had a sense of humor.

    Conan is spoken of as having "gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth," which implies the man liked to party on occasion. However, in the comics, when we see him flush with gold after a successful adventure, he is usually seen brooding in a tavern. If there is a woman present, attempting to seduce him out of his gold, he will send her away because he is not in the mood.

    Either that, or he'll go upstairs with her, get conked on the head, and wake up with empty pockets on a slow boat to Stygia or somewhere.

    I guess this explains the "gigantic melancholies..."

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  32. Conan. Celtic/Fir Bolg name.

    I guarantee you that gigantic melancholies (the infamous black dog) and gigantic mirth come with the territory for us Celts, and even more for the "Black Irish". No jilting, gold, or shanghai-ing required. :)

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