Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We've checked out a couple issues of DC's Conan-style character Claw the Unconquered, but today we've got a Conan issue swiping Claw! From 1981's Conan the Barbarian #161, "House of Skulls!" Script by Michael Fleisher, art by John Buscema.

Coming back from a bar, Conan is nearly robbed and killed, except for the intervention of a large man in a cloak: his old friend Fafnir, last seen in Conan the Barbarian #20. (I wouldn't get to read that issue for another six years, until it was reprinted in Conan Saga #7.) Fafnir lost his left arm to an arrow and infection, at the siege of Makkalet; and was thrown overboard and left to die. Barely surviving, now Fafnir was on his way to get a new arm, at the House of Skulls. Fafnir's upset over losing his directions during the fight, but had them memorized, so no harm done.

Conan's been around at this point, and should probably know this is a bad, bad idea; but they get attacked by a barbarian-eating tree before he can say anything. The old witch of the House gets them down from there, scolding them for not feeding her tree a rabbit or an infant--it's poor tummy would be upset if it ate two full-grown men. The witch had been expecting Fafnir, and after discarding unsuitable options like a demon-bat wing or snow-falcon talon, hooks him up with a nice new demon arm. Twenty gold pieces, thank you, come again...except a couple thugs found the address and got to the witch first.

Coming through the marsh, Conan and Fafnir come across three slavers chasing two girls. They make short work of the slavers, but Fafnir's new arm chokes one to death without his control. Still, Conan points out the slaver had been going for a hidden dagger, so the arm did OK. They don't realize, the thugs and the witch have control over the arm; and later that night the arm attacks one of the girls, seemingly driving Fafnir insane with rage as well.

Fafnir, aghast with remorse, is about to cut the demon-arm off, but the witch turns him on Conan instead. Still, Conan is an even match, until the witch brings them to her, so she can focus her power on the arm. Now outmatched, Conan is on the verge of being crushed, but manages to destroy the witch's power-glass with a thrown rock. The witch, and the arm, collapse into ash; and the thugs try to get revenge themselves. As you'd expect, they fail miserably, but in a nice touch the surviving girl gets to avenge her friend. Fafnir sadly joins Conan and the girl, as they ride off.

Fafnir would hang out with Conan--after Dr. Who, I can't really call him a companion--for another five or so issues. He would tend to be overshadowed and outshined by Conan, though; so it's not surprising he didn't stick around. Aside: I had 'outshined' the first time I wrote that last sentence, and the spell check wanted 'outshone.' Which sounds, eh, not as good there, anyway...


Dale Bagwell said...

Just goes to show you that are no original ideas anymore, just different spins(possibly) on them.

That's funny about spell check. I have a lot of fun with incorrect spelling at times myself.

Mikeyboy said...

I noticed that similarity myself when the comic was first released...it was a cool run...I loved it.