Word Balloons: Conan the Barbarian returns to Marvel Comics
A wild barbarian with ties to Oklahoma is back in a new series from Marvel.
The sword-slinging barbarian Conan returns to his original comic-book publisher, Marvel Comics, in a new series that launched last week in comic shops.
Robert E. Howard, the author and creator of “Conan,” launched the character in the 1932 issue of the pulp magazine “Weird Tales.” Howard was born in Peaster, Texas, in 1906 and lived in Texas and western Oklahoma as a youth before settling in Cross Plains, Texas, in 1919.
Jason Aaron, known for his work on “Thor” and “The Avengers,” is chronicling the tales of the Cimmerian warrior originally created by Howard. Aaron is joined by artist Mahmud Asrar and cover artist Esad Ribic.
Though Conan the Barbarian the character dates to the 1930s, and has appeared in multiple films and hundreds of comic-book adventures, the new series from Marvel aims to be a new jumping-on point for the character.
“If I've done my job right, it should be completely new reader friendly,” Aaron wrote on Twitter.
Marvel also is reintroducing fans to Marvel's original comics featuring the character, with a series of reprints in its “True Believers” line, including the original first issue by writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.
Marvel Comics introduced its version of Conan in 1970. Marvel Comics, headed up by editor Stan Lee, had plenty of success with superhero characters like Spider-Man in the late 1960s, but Thomas and others thought the company should tackle other genres, as well.
“I felt we needed to branch out and do other fields, and our readers wanted us to as well, and were telling us that in letters,” Thomas said in a 2011 telephone interview with this reporter. “Stan and I decided we should go after a sword and sorcery hero of the Conan variety, and luckily we ended up with Conan, which was the best thing that could have happened either to us, to me personally, to Marvel Comics, or for that matter, given how things have gone since then, to the Robert E. Howard estate and to Conan.”
Thomas and Windsor-Smith became a popular team, turning out a successful run of award-winning comics. Conan's fantasy world came to visual life via Windsor-Smith's art, with Thomas capably adapting Howard tales and creating new adventures. In 1971, the comic book won the Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards' Best Continuing Feature.
Conan continued at Marvel into the late 1990s, then went to Dark Horse Comics for a 15-year run. Now, it's back at Marvel, where writer Aaron couldn't be happier.
"I've literally been preparing for this job since I was 13 and discovered my first Robert E. Howard Conan paperback in a used bookstore in my little hometown of Jasper, Alabama," said Aaron at Marvel.com. "I devoured every Howard book I could find after that, and I've been making up Conan stories in my head ever since.”
Matthew Price is an award-winning journalist who has written about the comics industry for more than two decades. He is the co-owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman.