Thursday, August 20, 2020

Sword of Sorcery

In the early 1970s, DC Comics acquired the rights to Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tales, resulting in a very short lived bimonthly fantasy comic series called Sword of Sorcery. Denny O'Neil acted as writer, while Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, and Jim Starlin provided the art. Sword of Sorcery only ran five issues, from March 1973 to December of the same year (not counting the lead-in story, which appeared in issue #202 of Wonder Woman). 

During its brief run, O'Neil adapted four of Leiber's short stories ("The Price of Pain Ease," "Thieves' House," "The Cloud of Hate," and "The Sunken Land") and wrote one original tale of the Twain, which appears in issue #3. Interestingly, Chaykin would himself adapt several Nehwon stories for Dark Horse Comics in 2007, this time with Mike Mignola and Al Williamson providing the artwork. 

I'd never seen any of these until fairly recently, since I was quite young when they originally appeared. Overall, they're not bad, roughly comparable to the adaptations you'd see in Marvel's Conan the Barbarian, which predated it by a three years. Indeed, it's quite likely that Sword of Sorcery was part of an attempt by DC to take advantage of the growing popularity of not just Conan, but fantasy stories in general. 

The more one delves into the popular culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the more sense the appearance of Dungeons & Dragons at that precise time makes. There was definitely something in the air at the time. 


  1. I really enjoyed a lot of DC's "swords & sorcery" comics from the 1970s. I picked issues of "Hercules Unbound" and "Claw" off the spinner rack when I was 5 or 6 years old. They no doubt fueled my love of the genre, in years to come.

  2. For what it's worth, the Chaykin/Mignola adaptations were first published by Marvel via its Epic imprint in 1990-1991. The 2007 Dark Horse collection reprints those.

    Mignola also later provided the cover art for the collections of the original stories that were published by Borealis, the fiction arm of White Wolf. I'm not sure if these were original pieces or were somehow associated with the Epic comics; the style is closer to those than to the style Mignola was using at the time in his Hellboy work, for example.