Monday, December 05, 2011

Savage Memories #8

Back before my buddy Cliff Biggers opened his comic book store Dr. No's, the closest comic shop to me was the original Book Nook on Claremont Road in Decatur. (It has since moved and I've never been to the new location.) Decatur is a suburb of Atlanta and it was a good 45 minute drive from my home in Canton when I was a teenager. Still, every couple of weeks I would jump into my beat up Mustang Mach One and trundle down to the Book Nook. They had a pretty complete selection of Marvel and DC comics and they carried independent comics too. This was important since I had become a rabid fan of Dave Sim's Cerebus and the Book Nook was the only place I could get it. (They were also a used bookstore and I bought literally hundreds of old paperbacks there.)
And they had a lot of boxes on the floor under the racks of new comics, which contained unbagged and unboarded comics, magazines, and fanzines. After discovering Cerebus, Elf Quest, Tandra, and other independent comics, I started actively buying old fanzines and earlier self published comics. Book Nook was a treasure trove of these, but you had to dig, and dig I did.
So one day, in maybe 1982 or 1983, I was digging through the boxes and came across a battered copy of Savage Sword of Conan issue #61. I flipped through it and found that it had been both penciled and inked by John Buscema. I've explained before that Buscema was and is my biggest influence as a cartoonist. My stuff probably looks more like his than anyone else's to this day. Anyway, I loved it when Buscema inked his own work. There was a lush and seductive quality to his brushwork and the finished art had a personality and energy to it that wasn't present when Buscema's art was inked by others. So of course I had to buy it. I dug around and found a few more issues with art I liked and left the Book Nook that day with half a dozen or so back issues of SSoC.
Now I'd like to say that this reignited my interest in Conan and the magazine, but it didn't. I was there purely for the art. So whenever I was at Book Nook after that, I would check for back issues with Buscema artwork. I found a couple more that he both penciled and inked, but the major portion of the magazines were inked by other hands.
Not long after this, Cliff opened Dr. No's (Or more precisely he bought the store from its previous owner, but Cliff's store was so different from the original incarnation that it might as well have been a new store.) and my life took a major change. Not only did I have a comics store a mere fifteen minutes away, but I soon became good friends with the owner and that would lead to meeting many of the other people who are still among my best friends these days.
But back to Conan. Since I was frequenting Cliff's comic shop, I still saw new issues of Savage Sword of Conan on the stands. Occasionally I would flip through them, but I seldom found the art to my liking. John Buscema had moved on and I didn't care for most of the artists who followed him. I also hadn't thought much of the writing in the back issues I'd read, so the magazine was pretty much a wash out as far as I was concerned.
The first new issue of SSoC I bought after abandoning the magazine in 1980 was issue #149 in 1988 and that was because, again, I liked the art. Penciler Tom Grindberg was in his Neal Adams period then and Bob McLeod, a favorite inker, did the inks. I really liked the final look of the combined talents of Grindberg and McLeod. The story, by a fellow named Chuck Dixon was pretty decent too. However this was during the period when I still had little interest in fantasy or sword & sorcery, so two more years passed before I bought another issue. This was issue #176, which had art by Timothy Truman and a couple of other guys I knew mostly from First Comics, (a now defunct comic book publisher) and another good story from this Dixon guy. I believe this was Truman's first work on Conan, long before he would become writer and occasional artist for the character at Dark Horse comics.
After that issue, four more years would pass before I'd pick up a new issue of Savage Sword.

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