Monday, November 07, 2011

Savage Memories #4

I told you last time that I'd tell you how I risked eternal damnation by reading Savage Sword of Conan. This will require that I skip ahead to issue #13. I'm getting ahead of myself because my discussion of issue #11 requires a rereading of one of Robert E. Howard's original stories. No terrible hardship there, but I haven't had a chance to dig it out, so I'll backtrack there soon. Oh and I missed issue #12 at the newsstand. There were still occasional bumps on the road to collecting the magazine. (All of these missed issues would become a moot point a couple of years later when I attended my first comic book convention. Back issues anyone?)
So, issue #13. This lead story in this one was actually a reprint from the color Conan comic, though I didn't notice at the time. Roy Thomas and Gil Kane had done a two-part adaptation of Robert E. Howard's non-Conan tale The Gods of Bal-Sagoth in Conan the Barbarian issues #17&18. Thomas had Conan-nized this story, replacing the original hero Turlogh O'Brien with the Cimmerian (no great stretch) and Turlogh's sidekick Athelstane the Saxon with a Vanirman named Fafnir, who had originally been a one shot joke character meant to represent Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd in an earlier issue of Conan the Barbarian.
Gil Kane's black and white artwork had been toned with gray washes to make it look more like a standard issue of SSoC and since I'd yet to see the original color comics, this was a new story to me. Later, when I would read Robert E. Howard's prose story, I'd see how closely Thomas had stuck to the original. Thomas was a huge fan of REH and an often underrated authority on the writer's work. Read some of the text features in early issues of SSoC and Savage Tales and you can see just how much Thomas knew about Howard. As a result, his adaptations were usually very close (Save for what he called 'freely' adapted, which meant the story had to be heavily rewritten for whatever reasons, usually that the time period wasn't similar enough to the Hyborian age to work easily.) to the originals and his pastiches and Conan-nizations always struck me as far more authentic than the majority of the prose pastiches. Thomas's Conan was remarkably consistent even in the stories not based on the writings of REH.
Anyway, here's where the damnation part comes in. I mentioned in my last Savage Memories post that I had found an alternate source to Blair Food Town for the occasional issue of Savage Sword of Conan. That was Landers Drugstore in downtown Canton, a drugstore with a full fountain/lunch counter and a magazine rack that carried, among other things, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Vampirella, and the Marvel line of black & white magazines.
However, the problem with Landers was that it was too far from my house to walk to, and of course, I still wasn't old enough to drive. I could occasionally get around this though, because at the time my mother worked at a bank in downtown. The bank closed at 4:00 in the afternoon, so what I would do, was get a note from my mom telling the school bus driver that I could get off the bus in downtown. That way I could visit the drugstore or other stores in downtown and then ride home with mom. I did this a lot from ages 12 to 15.
On the occasion that I hopped off the bus and found Savage Sword of Conan issue #13 there was a problem. It rained. As I recall, I had picked up the magazine and left the drugstore and a little while later it began to rain. I suppose I had the mag in a paper bag, but I knew that wouldn't protect it. I had to duck in somewhere for cover and the closest place was The Methodist church. That was the church I attended growing up and in those simpler times it was never locked. So I ran up the stairs to the front of the church as the rain began in earnest.
I stopped in the foyer, not wanting to go into the sanctuary. The interior of the Methodist church had been made of dark wood and it was creepy in the sanctuary with no one else there. So I sat down in the floor to wait for the rain to stop. Gradually my gaze fell upon the paper bag containing my magazine. My SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN MAGAZINE THAT PROBABLY CONTAINED HALF-NAKED WOMEN AND BLOOD AND GORE and I had brought it into the church. The only worse thing I could do would be to read it right there in the foyer. I think I resisted for about 15 seconds. I figured God had forgiven me for worse things. With any luck he wouldn't send me to hell for reading Conan.

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