Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ever wonder who would win in a fight: Arnold Schwarzenegger or Orlando Bloom?

What the hell kind of question is that? Oh, I brought it up? Well, we aren't even really close to that one, but we are going to look at Conan versus pirates!

Now, Conan actually spent a good chunk of time when he was younger as a pirate himself, eventually quitting the seagoing life (for the most part) when his love and pirate queen, Belit, was killed. Eventually, Conan became king of Aquilonia and took a wife, and that's where we come in.

I never need to hear about Iron Bone's leather bags again. Thanks. In a seafaring smash-and-grab, the dread pirate Iron Bones and his mottled crew kidnap said wife, Zenobia; planning to get a king's ransom for her. Or something. This is almost a good idea, except they're trying it on Conan, who at this point in his career, has killed more people than death. Really, it would've been common knowledge that Conan killed his way up the ladder to king, right? Maybe you wanna try the queen-napping next door in Ophir or something?
Sullen? Or goth? You make the call! Conan arrives back from another adventure ready to see his wife, only to find out she's seeing her folks off on a state trip. Upon getting the message of her kidnap, he leaves the country to his regents, again. Considering the state of long distance communications in the Hyborian Age is pretty much yelling, they probably ran the show most of the time anyway.

Conan stomps down to the nearest ship he can find, with a squad of cannon-fodder soldiers; and commandeers it. In fact, we don't really see the captain of the ship, he may have opted out of this little pleasure cruise.

Meanwhile, after several of the obligatory tankards of grog, Iron Bones decides to inspect his prize, toying with her until his first mate, the dreamy Nestor, stops him: Later, Nestor chats up the queen: turns out, they were both from Nemedia. The king at the time drove out Zenobia and her parents, while Nestor took to the sea. Zenobia's confident Conan's sailing to her rescue, giving Nestor the perfect shot for a great line: "He'd be a blind fool who wouldn't risk his all for a beauty like Zenobia." Unluckily for him, the tender moment is interrupted by Captain Bones throwing a cheating sailor over the side.

Meanwhile, the crew of the ship Conan's taken has come to the conclusion that he's pirated their craft, which is pretty accurate, honestly. They rise up, and Conan calls it a mutiny, but they're just defending themselves and their ship from the crazy barbarian who's taking them to fight pirates. In the fight that follows, Conan punches a guy off the crow's nest, then dives overboard to try and save one of his own men, which leads to a shark fight. Naturally. Again, King Conan's killed creatures great and small, and doesn't seem to bothered about it:

Conan and his men retake the ship, the surviving sailors put in irons. Shortly thereafter (well, "several days later," but it's on the same page) they find the pirate ship. Iron Bones wants Zenobia tied to the mast, planning on killing her if the deal goes south or the ransom's not in his color or just if he feels like it. Nestor protests, then challenges Bones for the ship.
Zenobia's already getting a little soft on Nestor, and is concerned for the three seconds it takes him to gut Bones. Nestor then unties her, but explains that she belongs to the ship, and her ransom to the crew, so he can't just turn her over to Conan. But fighting for her is OK. Which would also dick the crew out of their ransom, but all right.

Conan arms his crew, including the mutinous sailors, assuring their cooperation by scuttling their own boat: they'll take the pirates' ship, or die. The ships engage, Conan quickly hacking his way to Nestor, who is likewise doing a number on Conan's men.

Sullen? Sleepless? Or really goth? Mentioning you're after his wife, mid-duel, probably wasn't good form, but I guess too late now. Conan rescues his wife, and has the start of a good laugh at the idea that one of those scurvy pirates wanted to keep her for himself. Zenobia strides up to the deck to see:
From King Conan #19, "Bones and a Blade" Written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Mike Gustovich. I liked this issue, but the coloring isn't anywhere near as sharp as a more modern comic--but it's more nuanced then the usual four-color frenzy. I'm not a huge Silvestri fan either, since I'm only familiar with some of his X-Men and Cyberforce work and it always seemed to have more lines than it needed to. Still, this doesn't seem as rendered, but that may just mean the inks are overpowering it. Or maybe I'm overthinking very early work from Silvestri just because of the name attached. The art's very Marvel-Conan of its time.

Although Marvel's Conan the Barbarian has been collected at least in part, and Savage Sword of Conan is in the midst of being reprinted (although I'm not sure of the availability, and weren't a lot of those previously reprinted in Conan Saga?) I don't know if anyone's jumping up and down for King Conan/Conan the King to hit the shelves again. I bought the series regularly from #28 until cancellation, but a key factor there was that I distinctly remember it came out bimonthly, towards the start of the month, on a week that was a bit slow release-wise for me. In other words, when it hit the spinner rack, there wasn't anything else I was going to buy, and damned if I wasn't going to buy something.

Conan the King was bimonthly, but counter intuitively, it was more continuity-heavy than either Conan the Barbarian or Savage Sword. So every two months, it was a bit of a chore to try and recall which regent was Prospero and which one was Trocero and what countries were allied with Aquilonia and which against and so forth. And in the other Conan books, he was living free and easy, or rather, mowing down all who opposed him, drinking and wenching and having fun. As king, Conan had responsibilities, a wife, a kid (at least one); and seemed to feel tied down, stifled. The early issues especially, where he usually handed regency over to the aforementioned Prospero and Trocero (yes, Conan does the job of two older men) and ditched out to fight a wizard or stab some guys or whatever. I also think in the original Howard stories, as a king Conan had a beard, but Marvel probably figured nobody would want to read Grampa Conan.

I do wish I still had issue #28, which guest stars an somewhat improbably still-hot Red Sonja. I say "improbably" not because she would've been in at least her late forties (maybe fifties even) by this point in the series, but because she was in her late forties in an imaginary historical age where the average life expectancy was probably like twelve. At the first sight of her, the only "one that got away" in Conan's life, he's ready to ditch the crown, the wife, the whole magilla; to run around with "Son-ya" and play at being a thief again.

Best of my recollection, Sonja not only plays Conan for a sap in her scheme, she also pretty plainly lays out that Conan is not getting in her pants either. (She didn't wear pants, but that's neither here nor there.) It's a little embarrassing, to watch Conan get shot down, and have to swallow his pride and go back to his life. Sad, but it is one of two King Conan issues that I remember well, so there's that at least.

Oh, and the answer to the earlier question: Schwarzenegger wins, but then his wife resents him a little for it...


Anonymous said...

Good read!

I've taken an inordinate amount of interest in all things Hyborian since starting up Age of Conan. Man, I love that game...

SallyP said...

I used to read these! That's a very Buscema-ish Silvestri, I must say.

Yeah, a late fortyish Red Sonja is a bit improbable. She'd probably have lost all or most of her teeth by then. Of course Conan doesn't seem to age much either, his hair is colored dark grey instead of blue-black, but that's about it.