The Tempo-Star Conan the Barbarian Paperbacks: Part 2

Sunday , 16, August 2020 1 Comment

In 1978, Grosset & Dunlap began reprinting Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian in mass market paperback form. The company used the Ace Books imprint for distribution. Ace was also distributing the Conan Lancer paperbacks repacked under the Prestige imprint.

                Another foray was the publication of trade paperbacks under the Grosset & Dunlap imprint of two Conan books using sheets and contents from Donald M. Grant Conan hardbacks. The Devil in Iron (1978) was a direct reprint of the Grant hardcover including art, contents, and layout. The Tower of the Elephant used leftover sheets from the Donald G. Grant hardback. Those were the only Conan books in that format.

Perhaps it was all part of the Conan Properties deal giving something to Glenn Lord after Ace reprinted de Camp’s Lancer books.  This is after Berkley Medallion published three paperbacks of Robert E. Howard’s in August, September, and October 1977, edited by Karl Edward Wagner. The formation of Conan Properties, Inc. caused the discontinuation of Wagner’s series in favor of de Camp’s. Stan Lee Present CONAN THE BARBARIAN Vol 2 was released February 10, 1978, one month after Vol 1. It had 158 pages. Price was $1.95.

Roy Thomas has a 2 page introduction with a brief history of the comic book:

“Thus was sword-and-sorcery, a genre which for the most part comic fan had avoided like the Black Plague which it had very occasionally appeared in four-color form, finally accepted into the ranks of the type of subject matter which make for popular best-selling comic-books. . .a category which had previously seemed limited (in the 1960’s) to super-heroes, cowboys, monsters, and World War Two.”

Vol 2 started with the reprint of “The Tower of the Elephant” that originally appeared in Conan the Barbarian #4, April 1971. “The Tower of the Elephant” is Roy Thomas’ favorite Robert E. Howard Conan story. This was the first REH story for Thomas and Smith to adapt but not the first to appear. The adaptation has epic panels with the aliens from Yag coming to Earth and creating their civilization. I can remember seeing the panel with the sinking cities back in Sixth Grade, my first exposure to Conan and Robert E. Howard. That was in either late 1974 or early 1975. I can remember seeing the comic book with “Grim Gray God” also. Might have been 1970 issues getting passed around in study hall.

Thomas wrote in Barbarian Days:

  “I was never able to get any of the artists to visualize Yag-Kosha, the alien being held captive in the tower of the sorcerer Yara, in a way that I think REH would have liked.”

“Zukala’s Daughter” (originally in Conan the Barbarian, May 1971) was an original story by Roy Thomas “inspired” by a poem by Robert E. Howard. Conan is hired to kill the sorcerer Zukala who is terrorizing a village in Zamora. Zukala’s daughter, Zephra, can shape-shift into a tiger. She also falls immediately in love with Conan. The story is a decent enough sword and sorcery story but not especially Howardesque.

“Devil Wings Over Shadizar” (CtB, June 1971) is an original story by Roy Thomas. Sal Buscema did the inking with Barry Smith at the pencils. Conan is in Shadizar with the prostitute Jenna. While out at the edge of town to have some in-out in-out, Jenna is taken by masked men. Conan finds she has been taken as a sacrifice for the Night-God. He infiltrates the temple at the ceremony but discovered. There is a climax as he fights and kills the Night-God who is a giant bat. This is a decent little sword and sorcery story that would have made a fine prose story in a magazine or anthology.

                Two characters, Blackrat and Fafnir are stand-ins for Harry Otto Fischer & Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser in this story.

So, the second in the series of paperback reprints is a strong one. The cover is a reprint from the comic book issue containing “The Tower of the Elephant” with giant spider and damsel in distress.

            

               

One Comment
  • Mike Tuggle says:

    It’s good to see Roy Thomas getting some of the recognition he deserves.

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