Back in July of this year, we took a look at Wonder Woman #202 — an issue which, in addition to being the penultimate issue of that title’s four-year “Diana Prince” run (which had found the Amazing Amazon battling bad guys sans her traditional powers or costume), featured the comic-book debut of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, two heroes of sword-and-sorcery fiction who’d been appearing in the stories of Fritz Leiber since 1939. In the comic’s story, Diana and Catwoman journeyed to the the world of Nehwon (spell it backwards), where they tussled briefly with the two blade-wielding adventurers before teaming up against their common foes.
Immediately following the story’s conclusion, a half-page ad promised us readers of 1972 that this was by no means the last we’d see of Fafhrd and the Mouser:
“Watch for it!”, DC instructed us, and so we did… for a full five months, at the end of which Swords Against Sorcery finally made its debut — though now the title was Sword of Sorcery (which was perhaps a bit less unwieldy than the original, albeit all but nonsensical in this context). What accounted for the delay? Your humble blogger has no clue, frankly — though if pressed, I might speculate that working out the final details of licensing the rights not only to Fritz Leiber’s characters, but to several of his individual stories as well, took a little longer than Denny O’Neil — who’d served as both editor and writer on Wonder Woman #202 (and would, not so coincidentally, perform the same double duty for Sword of Sorcery) — had expected back when that issue went to press. But, again, that’s just a guess. Perhaps DC just wanted to take extra time to ensure that this foray into the sword-and-sorcery genre would be more successful than had their last, back in 1969.
That previous venture — three issues of Showcase featuring “Nightmaster” — hadn’t resulted in an ongoing title, despite its boasting such talents as the aforementioned O’Neil, Jerry Grandenetti, Joe Kubert, and a very young Bernie Wrightson. Perhaps it was just a year or two ahead of its time — or maybe its premise, which featured a young American rock singer being swept into a fantastic otherworld of, um, swords and sorcery, hadn’t quite cracked the nut of this specific genre. A couple of years later, DC might have observed the relative success of Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian (which, even it it wasn’t quite a sales juggernaut yet, was still doing pretty well) and figured that maybe the trick was to adapt an existing property — one that already had a built-in audience. And it probably wouldn’t hurt if that property came with a barbarian attached.
Looked at from that perspective, licensing Fritz Leiber’s two heroic rogues must have seemed an obvious move. While they’d been around almost as long as the sword-and-sorcery genre itself — the first Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story, “Two Sought Adventure”, had been published in the August, 1939 issue of the pulp fantasy magazine Unknown, just three years after the last Conan story by Robert E. Howard, “Red Nails”, had appeared in Unknown‘s competitor Weird Tales — they were still very much a going concern.* Beginning in 1968, in the wake of the recent success of Lancer Books’ Conan paperback series, Ace Books had been bringing out new editions of Leiber’s Fafhrd and Mouser stories; not only did these volumes (all of which were graced with terrific covers by Jeffrey Catherine Jones) place the tales in chronological sequence for the first time, but Leiber was also continuing to write new adventures that slotted in among the old ones. One the most recent such, “Ill Met in Lankhmar”, had recounted the previously untold tale of the two heroes’ first meeting; it had gone on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella of 1970. Finally, for the cherry on top, one member of the duo, Fafhrd, was even a barbarian. So to sum up: as far as sword-and-sorcery properties available for licensing by DC in 1972 were concerned, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser would have been hard to beat; and though this is purely speculative on my part, I suspect that DC didn’t even try.
As already stated, Sword of Sorcery would be edited as well as written by Denny O’Neil, who, though relatively new to the editorial chair, was at this time pretty much incontestably DC’s top writer (especially if one were to judge by awards won). The name of the title’s artist, on the other hand, was one considerably less familiar to most comic book reader in late 1972: Howard Chaykin.
Chaykin, who was twenty-two years of age at the time Sword of Sorcery #1 was released, had been working at the fringes of the comics industry for a couple of years — serving as an assistant to such well-established artists as Gil Kane, Wally Wood, Gray Morrow, and Neal Adams, and occasionally getting his own work published in fanzines. But as of December, 1972, his list of professional comic book credits was not only quite brief, but also only about seven months old. Most of his assignments to date had been for short pieces for DC’s romance and war books, with just about the only published work indicating an aptitude for fantasy being a single 6-page episode of an ongoing adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel Beyond the Farthest Star, which had appeared as a backup in Tarzan #216 (Jan., 1973) just a month prior to Sword of Sorcery #1 itself.
So how did Chaykin land the SoS job? Here’s his own account, per a 2017 interview for Tripwire:
I got the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser stuff through demonstrating, maybe for the first time, my capacity to be a grind. Another artist had been assigned to the job, but O’Neill had his doubts about this guy’s ability to deliver on time. He sent us both home on a Friday, with a charge to come in with character designs. I busted my ass, he phoned it in, and I got the gig.
I have no idea who the artist Howard Chaykin beat out to land the Sword of Sorcery assignment may have been, and honestly, it probably wouldn’t have mattered to me even if I’d known back in 1972. I was already pre-sold on the title, simply based on its subject matter; if the art was good, that was going to be a bonus. Anyway, even if I didn’t yet know Chaykin’s name (if I did know it, it was by way of his single Marvel job to date, a 10-page Man-Thing story in Fear #10 which had come out in July), I’d liked what I’d seen so far of DC’s visualization of Leiber’s heroes and their world — which, in addition to the house ad shared earlier in this post (unsigned, but presumably drawn by Chaykin) also included Dick Giordano’s cover and interior artwork for Wonder Woman #202. That pretty much brings us up to Sword of Sorcery #1 itself, and its very attractive cover — a cover which I had until very recently assumed was by Chaykin, but which my research for this post indicates was in fact drawn by his fellow up-and-comer at DC Comics, Michael W. Kaluta. (You learn something new every day, y’know?)
In any event, my fifteen-year-old self’s expectations were fairly high, art-wise, when I was at last able to open the book to its first page…
Along with the name of Howard Chaykin, there’s another artistic moniker given in the credits box on this opening splash page, “the Crusty Bunkers” — a name which was even more obscure than Chaykin’s was at this point, having only appeared in a single other comic book (Weird Worlds #3) which had come out in October. Who were the Crusty Bunkers? Essentially, Neal Adams, and anyone who was working at his and Dick Giordano’s commercial art studio, Continuity Associates (or who may have just been hanging around the place on a given day). Approximately sixty different artists have been named as having worked under the “Crusty Bunker” pseudonym from 1972 to 1977; but according to the Grand Comics Database, the lion’s share of the inking in Sword and Sorcery #1 was done by just three individuals: Alan Weiss, Rick Bryant, and Neal Adams himself.
I’ve read a number of comments made by Chaykin over the years where he’s generally dismissive of his early ’70s artwork, particularly in comparison with what he produced in later decades; on at least one occasion, he’s implied that whatever appeal this material has is a result of the high quality of the inking he received from Adams, et al. Your humble blogger certainly appreciates where the artist is coming from in holding this opinion; nevertheless, I hope he won’t begrudge me the pleasure I found in his work back then, and continue to find in it to this day… pleasure that I don’t think is only due to the inking. Chaykin’s visual imagination, strong sense of effective page design, and storytelling skills were evident from the beginning.
One more thing to note before we leave the first page, and that’s that our story (not actually given a title in the comic) is an adaptation of Leiber’s “The Price of Pain Ease” — which, in 1972, was the most recent Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story to have seen print, though not the latest in the series’ internal chronology.
Speaking of Chaykin’s visual imagination, one area in which it’s always been particularly evident — at least when he’s dealing with fantastic or science-fictional subject matter — is in his approach to clothing. For the fashions favored by the denizens of Nehwon, the artist seems to have taken Renaissance European costume for his starting point, and then let his creativity take him where it would. Just check out the bell-bottoms on the eyepatch-wearing guy (the skull accessory on his left knee, visible on the splash page, is another nice touch).
Our heroes now find themselves outnumbered three-to-one, but they don’t seem especially concerned…
Soon afterwards, the Mouser and Fahfrd rendezvous in a crowded marketplace… which, for the former, is a little too crowded, considering how many foes they surely have searching the streets for them by now: “We require shelter — away from prying eyes!”
The two rogues flee to the nearest window, then leap from its balcony to the courtyard below. But they’re hardly home free, since, as the Mouser notes, “The walls are too high to be either lept [sic] or climbed… and there’s no gate!”
Actually, it’s two unicorns… although, oddly, O’Neil’s script only ever refers to a single mount:
Sheelba of the Eyeless Face and Ningauble of the Seven Eyes are recurring characters in Leiber’s Fafhrd & Moiser stories — although the first meeting between the heroes and wizards goes down a little differently in the original version, and occurs in a story other than “The Price of Pain-Ease”.
Does the interest of Duke Danius, whose palace they just escaped, in the very same object that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have just been charged to purloin seem like a very unlikely coincidence? For what it’s worth, it does in Leiber’s story as well. (Granted, Leiber at least gives Sheelba a line about the heroes’ previous encounter with the Duke being “not altogether by chance” — but since no further explanation is forthcoming, that doesn’t amount to much more than lampshading, in my opinion.)
Speaking of Duke Danius, the scene shifts to him at this point, as he collects an enchanted war axe from an old witch; and then, in lieu of the thousand silver pieces he’d promised her as payment, orders his henchmen to slay her. Immediately following this unpleasant business…
I’ll say it again: Howard Chaykin can rag on this artwork all he wants to; I think it’s terrific.
The Duke’s response to the Mouser’s query is polite, but direct: “I’ve come on a mission of murder! Since my quarry isn’t present, I shall practice — on you!”
Seeing as how the odds are two to one, the Gray Mouser opts to let Fafhrd handle this interruption on his own, and the Northman concurs. As he advances on the Duke, his sword at the ready, Fafhrd assures his friend that the matter will take only a second. “You’re confident, barbarian,” sneers Danius…
As he watches the Gray Mouser lay down his sword, Scalpel, Duke Danius expresses disappointment that his foe won’t at least put up a token defense before surrendering. “Did I mention surrender?” the Mouser asks rhetorically. “You misunderstand —”
While it’s probable that my fifteen-year-old sword-and-sorcery-loving self had read a Fafhrd & Mouser story or two by the time this comic came out, I know I hadn’t yet read “The Price of Pain-Ease” — and so, I was unaware of the substantial liberties taken by O’Neil in his adaptation. Examples of such include the inclusion of the opening tavern brawl scene, which has no equivalent in Leiber’s text; having Faf and the Mouser receive their charges from Sheelba and Ningauble together, rather than separately, as in the original; and giving over a whole page to the two friends’ duel, whereas in Leiber, Duke Danius interrupts them before either lands a blow..
Arguably, all of these changes (as well as some others I could mention), while significantly altering the story’s structure and pacing, leave its tone and themes pretty much intact. The same can’t be said, however, of another alteration, which involves the placement of the story in the internal chronology of Leiber’s series. As originally conceived, “The Price of Pain-Ease” is a direct sequel to the aforementioned “Ill Met in Lankhmar” — a story which not only tells how Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser first met each other, but also relates how, on that same night, they both tragically lost their first great loves, Vlana and Ivrian. In “The Price of Pain-Ease”, Fafhrd and the Mouser are haunted by the ghosts of these two murdered women; their primary motivation through most of the story is to relieve themselves of the torment caused by this situation, whether that’s by seeing their lovers fully restored to life, or, conversely, by having their memories of Vlana and Ivrian completely wiped from their minds. While Leiber’s story isn’t completely devoid of humor, to call it less of a romp than its comics adaptation would be a serious understatement; in the end, it may be just as well that Sword of Sorcery #1 leaves its version unnamed, since the original title makes virtually no sense in the context of the new version.
Granted, it would hardly have done for DC to begin their Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series with a story that would not only depend so much on another, earlier-set adventure for its full effect, but would be generally more downbeat than the average Faf & Mouser story, besides… which is what a faithful adaptation of “The Price of Pain-Ease” unquestionably would have been. But then, why adapt this particular story at all? Was Denny O’Neil simply not interested in exploring any darker tones or themes while writing his two protagonists, whose “distinctly light side” he writes approvingly of in this first issue’s text page? Or, rather, was he disinclined to tie himself too much to any kind of strict continuity in regards to Fafhrd and the Mouser’s lives and careers, preferring to write one-off stories that could be read in any order (kind of like the majority of superhero yarns he’d written for DC to date)? Either could be true, or both, or neither; at this point, we can only speculate.
But one thing that is clearly and incontrovertibly true is that the approach that Denny O’Neil — and by extension, DC — decided to take in adapting Fritz Leiber’s characters and their stories was just about the opposite one from how Marvel had chosen to approach adapting Robert E. Howard’s Conan, back in 1970. There, writer Roy Thomas had opted to follow the established outline of the hero’s prose fiction career in the comics version of same, having Conan age more-or-less in real time, and slotting in Howard’s stories where they properly fell in the barbarian’s “biography”.
Would such an approach, which engendered greater reader investment in the hero’s life and fortunes for at least some readers (such as your humble blogger), have helped Sword of Sorcery attain a longevity even marginally closer to Conan the Barbarian’s 275-issue run than the brief stand of five issues that ultimately saw release before the title, its many excellent qualities notwithstanding, succumbed to cancellation? Again, one can only speculate… but it’s an interesting idea to consider, at least.
This is the final installment of Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books for the year, and so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank any and all who’ve sampled our offerings in 2022. Whether this is the first post you’ve read in the past twelvemonth, or the 67th, or somewhere in-between, your time and attention is greatly appreciated. Happy New Year, and I’ll see you all in 1973.
*Of course, Conan himself was still a going concern in prose fiction as well as in comics, as new writers licensed by the late Howard’s estate continued to add fresh adventures to his literary canon. But somehow, the stories by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter never felt entirely authentic; or, at least, not any more authentic than the new stories that Roy Thomas and company were simultaneously crafting for Marvel’s Conan comics. (Or so at least it seemed to my younger self, all those years ago.)
Happy New Year, Alan! Another very fine write-up. I’m not all that familiar with Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser, although I recall reading references to them in comics letters columns back in the ’70s and I’d read Bill Willingham’s adaptation of them in his Fables series, in which they come to a rather terrible end. I’ve never much gotten into reading sword & sorcery novels but might yet check out Lieber’s entries in the genre.
As to this issue, it certainly sets a very different tone from Conan the Barbarian, which while not entirely bereft of humor, was overall far more heavily dramatic. I’d also guess that telling Conan’s story in more or less chronological order helped keep readers wanting to come back to see what would happen next, more so than seemingly disconnected stories. I know part of the appeal of Marvel for me in my pre-teen years was its overall feeling of connectedness, that each issue was part of a broader picture and even if I had only a few pieces of the puzzle I was enchanted enough to want to obtain more pieces, to fill in as much of the puzzle as I could even if I knew I’d never have a complete picture. Dennie O’Neill certainly made his contributions to Marvel in later years as well as to bringing such aspects of the Marvel mythos to DC, but he also wrote plenty of disconnected stories, including some of his classic Batman tales, such as The Joker’s Five Way Revenge, a great comic but as far as my limited knowledge of Batman comics goes seems entirely out of any ongoing continuity, aside from reconfiguring the Joker as a homicidal maniac with a sick sense of humor. Still, the overall set up of this first issue of Sword of Sorcery seems good, but I get the sense that O’Neill’s characterization of Fafhrd and Grey Mouser didn’t provide enough substance for the readers to identify with them, to understand the tragedy they’d previously been through and why they bonded and looked at the world so cynically. Whether an attempt to have done so would have made a difference in the comics marketplace for the series in 1973 we’ll never know. Just idle speculation.
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Although I had read many of Leiber’s stories about the duo, I never knew of any major love loss. It always seemed to me like they were free-wheeling bachelors bent on fun and adventure, like the Three Musketeers minus one.
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Absolutely loved this 5 issue series, and own them all. Berni Wrightson was one of the Crusty Bunkers on these, and I see his hand in #1, besides his signature on the cover of #2, and he worked on interior inks with the CB in #2 and 3, besides an issue Weird Worlds.
Jeff Jones did the original cover for #1 which was unused, and may have been the other artist Chaykin alluded to.
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P.S. I never understood why Chaykin jumped ship, but by #4 there was a Walt Simonson backup story, and by #5 it was Walt’s comic, with Starlin and Milgrom in support. Chaykin, meanwhile, had gone over to Weird Worlds, then Killraven over at Marvel. He also drew a very Fafhrd-like version of Cody Starbuck in 1974 for the cover of Star Reach #4 (printed in 1976).
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P.P.S. Fritz Leiber was Jr.
Sr. was a character actor in many famous Hollywood films, like “A Tale of Two Cities” (1935) and “The Sea Hawk (1940) in which he portrayed a judge condemning pirate Errol Flynn to a life chained to an oar in a galleon.
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Interesting. Jeff Jones did the covers for the two issues of Wonder Woman prior to the story that introduced Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.
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With the fantasy worlds of both Conan and Elric out of DC’s reach at this point, I suppose adapting the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser seemed like a “best choice at the time,” but if this story is any indication, robbing the two adventurers of their tragic backstory (ie: the loss of their loves, etc.) and ignoring the chronology of their adventures as already laid out by Leiber, doesn’t really seem to give us as readers much to hold on to or connect with in terms of relatability and character development. This entire story, enjoyable as it is, feels very shallow and it’s characters very undefined, as if O’Neill rushed too quickly into using established villains and situations for the characters without explanation of who they were or how they got there. I know it’s just comics, but when you’re adapting a series that has that much lore and subtext, you do the readers a real disservice not to explore it.
Also, a silly question. I know the Mouser is supposed to be much shorter than Fafhrd. EVERYONE is shorter than the freakishly tall barbarian, but is he supposed to be shorter than everyone? In the opening splash page everyone, including the tavern wenches, are at least as tall as Mouser and in the half page splash on pg 2, he only comes up to Fafhrd’s belt buckle and barely to the other thug’s chests! It just looks…off…somehow and despite Fafhrd’s constant use of “my tiny friend,” it throws me out of the story. Otherwise, Chaykin’s work here is top-notch and, given the time for his ability to grow along with the title’s popularity, Swords Against Sorcery could have done for him what Conan did for BWS. I guess we’ll never know.
I’m not familiar with this comic adaptation at all, but I did recently read the first collection of stories, Swords and Deviltry, and while enjoyable, it’s very definitely written in the style of the thirties and forties. I’ve gone back recently and read a number of classic fantasy titles; the Leiber, the first Conan omnibus and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword and they were all written in styles I personally find (as Alan likes to say, “you’re mileage may vary”) hard to read for any extended period of time. I don’t know if O’Neill was trying to copy the same dialogue or style of speaking in the original stories, but I find his dialogue here very stiff and stilted and most unnatural. You don’t want fantasy characters to talk like your next door neighbor, but O’Neill’s dialogue here doesn’t feel authentic to me and that hurts the story.
That said, its nice to be able to go back appreciate both the plusses and the minuses of these old stories from the perch of “fifty years later.” Thanks for the analysis, Alan and Happy New Year to us all!
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I haven’t read any of Leiber’s stories in almost 40 years, but I recall that he did not keep a consistent ‘canon’ of events. For example, in “The Sadness of the Executioner” both Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are killed by Death. Yet in another story Fafhrd loses a limb and lives to a ripe old age.
In Sword of Sorcery #4 and 5 we are given solo prequel stories, one with a young Fafhrd and another with Mouse (before he became the Grey Mouser).
I’ve heard that claim about “Sadness of the Execution” before — it came up in one of Sword of Sorcery’s letter columns — but you’re wrong. Death decides to collect them — he needs two heroes for his quota — but when they survive his traps, he’s impressed enough, and fond enough of them (they help him meet his goals) that he spares them and has two Galahad-types keel over dead instead.
I read that story in a paperback collection over 40 years ago, but don’t recall that finale. I owned Swords Against Deviltry (with the Jeff Jones cover Alan uploaded) and read a hardcover anthology called Two Sought Adventure in my teens. But it was in another Leiber anthology that I read the story in question.
Anyway, I loved the comics and enjoyed Leiber’s original work as well. These bring a lot of nostalgia to me.
I think that, at the time, DC was adrift, editorially, and had little or no confidence in new properties
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DC’s policy in the early 1970s was to cancel any title which sold under 250,000 copies per issue. I guess by issue five the sales figures did not meet that standard, so the plug was pulled. I did notice, even years ago, that there was no “next issue on sale the third week of August” or similar blurb which was usually placed at the bottom of the last story panel.
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The lack of continuity was what sunk the book for me. It doesn’t matter so much in Batman or Flash because we know between adventures Bruce and Barry were living a life much like ours. But Fafhrd and the Mouser clearly did not come home from a day at work to watch whatever was on TV. I bought all five issues but the randomness of bouncing from one story to another frustrated me no end.
The original description of the Grey Mouser, written by a friend of Leiber’s, was that he “walks with a swagger ‘midst the bravos, though he’s but the span of a child” so yes, I think he’s pretty tiny.
IIRC, Chaykin’s dismissive of his art — which I agree looks good — because he hadn’t read Leiber and made up what everything looked like. After he read and loved the books, he regretted that.
I don’t know if the failure of this book made a difference but where Marvel focused on adapting print S&S (Thongor, Kull, Brak) while DC spent the Bronze Age with Claw, Stalker and the Warlord. Plus Beowulf, though calling a book where Beowulf battles Dracula an adaptation seems … generous (https://atomicjunkshop.com/beowulf-met-dracula-that-would-have-made-english-class-much-cooler/)
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Any regret Chaykin had over mishandling Leiber’s characters and settings was quickly overshadowed by the poorly-referenced rush job he did on the 1977 Star Wars #1 comic book. He simply had no idea how monumental that film would be to motion picture history and the culture in general.
He was hardly alone in that. From what I’ve read, Roy Thomas really had to kick and scream to convince Marvel adapting the movie would pay off.
However, in the Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction special edition from 1976 (essentially #7 after the Marvel magazine was discontinued at #6 a few months previously) there is an editorial in which Roy Thomas mentions that he was moving out to the West coast to work on the comics adaptation of “Star Wars” (remember, the film wasn’t released until May or June, 1977), George Lucas and his team were in post-production at that point. I don’t know when Howard Chaykin became attached to the project, but he apparently came on pretty late. Roy Thomas spoke of it in the editorial as an explanation that there would be no more Unknown Worlds mags, for a while at least.
I’ve never had much use for Denny O’Neil’s writing — to me he did some amazing stuff on Batman (and benefit from having Neal Adams drawing it) and everything else he’s written is mediocre at best.
I liked Denny on GL/GA and he wrote Ditko’s final Dr. Strange story, “The End at Last,” in which Dormammu clashes with Eternity. While it’s not Tolstoy, it was certainly enjoyable to many a young reader. Harlan Ellison spoke well of Denny’s first SF novel in the early ’70s, but I never read it.
GL/GA is a mixed bag for me but yes, i should have mentioned it. O’Neil was definitely at his best with Adams.
Chris and fraser — either of you guys ever read O’Neil’s early ’80s run on The Question? Just wondering. 🙂
I did. Despite the rave reviews it got, it felt to me like O’Neil being self-indulgently “deep.”
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No, I really disliked the poor “flexographic” printing of many late ’70s/early ’80s comics, so I tended to read the magazines (Warren, Heavy Metal, Epic Illustrated, etc.) at that point. I did see Denny’s work on Daredevil with Miller, and even own the entire run Bill Sienkiewicz did on New Mutants, but the printing did not do much for his work. A lot of mainstream US comics had really garish colour choices at that time, too. Notable exceptions would be Joe Chiodo’s hues at Pacific Comics (Alien Worlds). Somehow – despite all that – Howard Chaykin made American Flagg his career best work.
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I didn’t start buying and collecting comics until 1978, but as a fan of Conan and sword and sorcery in general, I definitely picked up these issues as back issues. If I had picked these up at the comics rack when they first came out, I *think* I would have kept buying them for as long as they came out. But at the same time, these stories did seem lighter and thus, less important, than the Conan comic, in spite of the great artwork. But then, even Marvel’s Kull comic seemed to not recapture the magic of the Conan comic and magazine. I did like the early run of Mike Grell’s Warlord, but as the series continued, it failed to really keep my attention. Other S&S attempts like Claw or Stalker were again slightly before my time and were thus only picked up as back issues to be enjoyed and to wonder what might have happened if they had continued.
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I liked this book a great deal at the time. The look was great, Chaykin and the Crusty Bunkers did striking work with interesting designs and Walt Simonson and Al Milgrom and Starlin & Milgrom kept it up in the last issue.
This Intellectual Property was harder to adopt chronologicly than Conan, since you had Schyler Miller’s 1930s essay, A probable Outline of Conan’s Career to work out the steps, Additionally, Leiber was still writing these stories at the time.
The paperbacks would give something of a chronology, but it got fairly complex, with a novel set on Earth at the time of Alexander the Great.
I think these issues gave a better flavor of Leiber’s work than either Marvel’s Conan or DC’s contemporaneous ERB books (other than Kubert’s adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes) did of Howard or Burroughs.
I did find the first two issues a bit repetitive, but if there is something of a formula to them, there is also a formula to Lieber’s stories (and to things like Weterlake’s Stark/Parker novels). A lot of the Lieber stories are essentially “caper” stories set in a high fantasy setting.
I think O’Neil had a good insight into these characters in his Editorial, Bob Dylan’s line, “To live outside the law/you must be honest.” If it had run longer, that insight might have proven useful.
I also wonder if Infantino might have decided that, rather than paying a licensing fee to Lieber and his agents, DC might be better served to put the marbles on Ironwolf, an O’Neil/Chaykin co-creation, done in a somewhat similar visual style (that was also subsequently discontinued).
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