Thursday, December 01, 2011

Savage Memories #7

1980 was a big year for me. It was the year I finally managed to read the Lord of the Rings all the way through. It was the year I discovered crime fiction. And it was the year I stopped reading Savage Sword of Conan.
There were a couple of contributing factors for my abandoning the magazine. The first was the aforementioned discovery of the wild world of hardboiled fiction. I read a book called A Tan and Sandy Silence by John D. MacDonald and it changed my world. Reading MacDonald led to reading Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett which led to reading Robert B. Parker and Max Allan Collins and so on, and that pretty much ended my reading of fantasy and science fiction for a couple of decades. I've told that story here before, so I'll just reiterate that I have an obsessive personality and when I leap into something, I tend to do it whole hog. I was worse when I was a kid, so basically guns were in and swords were out.
Then there was what I considered the declining quality of the stories in the magazine. Most of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories had been adapted by 1980 and SSoC was featuring various Conan-nizations of non Conan REH and also adaptations of some of the Conan pastiches by other authors. I got through the adaptation of L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter's Conan the Buccaneer mostly on the strength of John Buscema's art, but by the time SSoC got around to adapting de Camp/Carter's Conan the Liberator, I was losing interest fast. I can actually remember the panel in issue #51 that pushed me over the edge. I have reproduced it here. Something about all those sawed off satyrs just irritated the heck out of me. This was not what Conan was supposed to be about, and even with the Buscema art and the great Earl Norem cover, I just couldn't get worked up over Conan fighting a bunch of Mr. Tumnus's cousins.
And that was pretty much it for me and Savage Sword of Conan. There wasn't any conscious decision to stop buying the magazine really. I just didn't pick it up with the next issue and soon SSoC, and the color Conan the Barbarian comic book had dropped from my radar. As it turned out, I'd picked a good point to jump off. Writer Roy Thomas left Marvel for DC soon after I'd departed and the quality of the writing plummeted. (As I learned when I started recollecting the magazine years later.) It would be quite some time before I returned to Savage Sword, and that would be too little and too late. More on that next time.


Brian Murphy said...

I have many fond memories of Savage Sword of Conan and am enjoying this series very much.

I came to SSOC late in the game (well into the pastiches) but was fortunate enough to find a treasure-trove of back issues at a reasonable price in an old bookstore. Full story here at The Cimmerian if you're interested:

Keep it up Charles!

Cromsblood said...

"Savage Memories" has been an interesting read indeed, thanks Charles!

Arion said...

I've only read a few issues of Savage Sword, but I plan on getting some of the trade paperbacks that Dark Horse is putting out. Think that'll be enough to start?

There should be a new Conan related update on my blog this Saturday. Hope to see you there.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Brian, I was VERY interested and hurried right over to read your article on SSoC. Great memoir, and I know just what you mean. My first 60 or so issues of SSoC are the very ones I bought at grocery and drug stores. Though I trimmed my collections down quite a bit when I moved a few years ago, those didn't go. (Though some of the later issues did. More on that later.) Back issues, in just the sort of stand up box and condition you mention will figure very prominently in the next Savage Memories section. Glad you're enjoying my stroll down memory lane.

Cromsblood. Thanks, man. I'm having fun writing the series.

Arion, yes if you get the first three trades you'll find all the really great early Thomas & Buscema stuff. I'll definitely swing by your blog for more Conan Comics reviews.