Monday, January 24, 2011

Barbarian king, check; zombies, pirates, check; flying bull...OK, whatever.

Why Kull would want to do that, I have no idea.
I've mentioned this here before, but Conan stories are always more fun than Kull stories. Always. That's not to say that there aren't good Kull stories, far from it. It's just that Conan at least on occasion enjoyed himself, while Kull is a gloomy son of a gun. He probably has reason to be, though.

For one thing, Conan got all the chicks. In every Kull story I've read, his love interests are either killed, or betray him. Or get killed while betraying him, or some variation thereof. Conversely, Kull had better friends, since most of those stories feature Brule the Spear-slayer (who pretty much does what the name says; you don't call Brule when you need jars opened, you call him in when you need things stabbed a lot) and it was much rarer for Conan to keep a sidekick or ally for more than a few issues. Almost all of Kull's stories are of his time as king of Valusia: he became king younger than Conan would (however many years later, Conan and Kull weren't contemporaries...) but that mainly means Kull missed out on over a decade's worth of partying.

Moreover, while Conan's monarchy in Aquilonia seemed to be a benevolent dictatorship; for some reason Valusia had a king and a senate. A senate composed of the landholding rich white guys, who instead of being bought up by special interests, were the special interests. No middlemen here; but they also had no particular love or respect for their barbarian king, and most of them were either dragging their feet against his rule, or semi-secretly plotting against Kull at any given time.
It's no 'Row, Row, Row your boat' but it's catchy.
Which sets the stage for today's comic! From Kull #3, "Dead Men of the Deep." Written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by John Buscema, inks by Klaus Janson. (With a Michael Golden cover.) A fact-finding cruise of senators (really!) is captured by the pirate Roc, whom Kull remembers. Kull had been a galley slave for him for two years before escaping, and planned on killing the hell out of him before getting sidetracked with all this king business.

Aboard the pirated ship, Kull finds an old friend, Gorn; who had been a slave first in Roc's galley, then in Kull's own Valusian navy. While Kull is glad to see his friend, he's embarrassed to free him by accident, and again laments the official policy of slavery, since he can't get the senate to abolish it. As Kull takes to the sea after Roc, a senator and a priest of the bull-god Anu plot a little regicide. Shortly after setting off, Kull and his ship are attacked by a flying bull. Most people would find that weird, but Kull kills it and is only interested in getting back on track after Roc.
That's mildly terrifying, and not just because I just washed my car...
After a surprise attack on Roc's island stronghold, Kull and his crew discover Roc's main force, and his hostages, are in a secret ice cavern. In fairly short order, Kull plants an axe in Roc's guts, leaving him to sink into the icy waters.
Love the art in this one. Love it.
On the voyage home, the ship enters a strange fog. Zombie fog, courtesy of the priest of Anu again. Overrun, things look grim, until reinforcements arrive in the form of the king's chancellor Tu; who had been following his king at a safe distance the whole time. The plotting senator kills the priest for his failure; and upon his return, Kull again lobbies for the abolishment of slavery. The vote fails unanimously; Kull is disgruntled to realize even the senators he saved voted against him...

This feels like a busy issue, but to be honest, if I had John Buscema and Klaus Janson for art, I would be throwing different crap at them every couple of pages too, just to get them to draw it. This was the third volume of Kull from Marvel, and the letters page notes it's the last issue for 1983. It was on an irregular schedule for a while there, and I want to say some of the issues were double-sized, some standard. I think Marvel wanted to get Kull up to the level of sales of their Conan books, but he never made it, but not for lack of trying.


Spider42 said...

I love all Howard creations but always had a soft spot for Kull.

Marvel did make quite a few good tries, I guess Kulls type of adventures arent quite for everyone. Ah well, at least there were some excellent works produced along the way.

Taranaich said...

In every Kull story I've read, his love interests are either killed, or betray him. Or get killed while betraying him, or some variation thereof.

I always hate it when people try to give Kull a love interest. Part of what makes Kull particularly distinctive from Conan is the fact that not only does he get a bevy of girlfriends, he's actually completely uninterested in girls altogether! But, I guess people couldn't bear the idea of an asexual barbarian in their comics...