Tuesday, May 21, 2013


In movies and popular fiction, pirates are often portrayed as swashbuckling, charming, personable rogues. Well, pirate captains, anyway: the rank-and-file pirate crewman as often as not is an unwashed lout. Either way, don't believe the hype: pirates are jerks. Occasionally they're up against jerks of equal or greater jerkitude, but still jerks.

Being a big fan of Errol Flynn movies like Captain Blood and the Sea Hawk, this would be a hard lesson for Nightcrawler to learn. After getting thrown into another dimension with Lockheed the dragon, Kurt fell in with a crew of skyfaring pirates. It's all fun and games--until the pirates run across another ship, and attack it. Nightcrawler is forced to turn on them, almost scuttling their ship, then bailing out for the attacked one. (Scans from Nightcrawler #1, "How Much is that Boggie in the Window?" Story and art by Dave Cockrum; and I'm legitimately shocked I hadn't scanned anything from this issue already.)

Still, Nightcrawler hasn't seen the last of those pirates...

Another occasional pirate: Conan the barbarian. Whether you go by the strict Robert E. Howard timeline, or the more freewheeling Marvel adventures, Conan was up for a little piracy more than a few times over his lifetime. Especially in the Marvel comics, actually: there were long stretches of Conan the Barbarian or Savage Sword of Conan that were one-issue stories with little continuity: sometimes Conan would be in the desert, then the city, then a pirate, back to the city, and so forth. Honestly, that's how I prefer to read Conan...

In today's other book, 1984's Conan Annual #9, "Wrath of the Shambling God!" (Written by Michael Fleisher, art by Ernie Chan.) Conan is once again a pirate captain. That may be a misnomer, today Conan may be less a pirate captain, than "the guy on the ship who could murder the lot of you if you look at him funny." And while Conan's has often sailed with female pirates like Belit and Valeria, it's a sausage-fest today. Worst of all, the crew is a bunch of cutthroats, backstabbers, and incompetents. The latter especially, since after attacking a ship full of "warrior-priests" with no money, the ship sails into an iceberg.

Rescued by a band of Inuit-like sailors, Conan is grateful, but his crew plots to kill their captain and ransack their hosts. Drugged, Conan is attacked and falls out a window, and the pirates go nuts. Swept away by the current, Conan is forced to fight his way back through a woolly mammoth, and the idol-god Thogarh. Meanwhile, the pirates are torturing the natives and turning on each other, before they find a stash of black lotus. They think it's to, uh, "enhance their virility," but it drives them insane before long.

OK, that is kind of funny, but still, pirates are jerks.

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