by MATTHEW PRICE
From Friday, January 20, 2023, editions of The Oklahoman
One of comics’ best-selling barbarians will return to comic shelves in May as part of the Free Comic Book Day annual event.
Conan the Barbarian, created by Robert E. Howard in 1932, has starred in comics from Marvel and Dark Horse, and will now be co-published by Heroic Signatures and Titan Comics.
Howard, the author and creator of “Conan,” launched the character in the 1932 issue of the pulp magazine “Weird Tales.” Howard was born in Peaster, Texas, in 1906 and lived in Texas and western Oklahoma as a youth before settling in Cross Plains, Texas, in 1919.
The writer for the upcoming “Conan” series is Jim Zub, who is joined by artists Rob De La Torre and José Villarrubia. They are also the creative team for the Free Comic Book Day primer featuring Conan, set to be released in comic shops on May 6.
Marvel Comics introduced its version of Conan in 1970. Marvel Comics, headed up by editor Stan Lee, had plenty of success with superhero characters like Spider-Man in the late 1960s, but Thomas and others thought the company should tackle other genres as well.
“I felt we needed to branch out and do other fields, and our readers wanted us to as well, and were telling us that in letters,” Thomas said in a 2011 telephone interview with this reporter. “Stan and I decided we should go after a sword and sorcery hero of the Conan variety, and luckily we ended up with Conan, which was the best thing that could have happened either to us, to me personally, to Marvel Comics, or for that matter, given how things have gone since then, to the Robert E. Howard estate and to Conan.”
In 1971, the comic book won the Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards’ Best Continuing Feature. In 1982 the property was adapted to film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I think Conan probably made as much money, in terms of just selling comic-books, as any other character for about a decade in there,” Thomas said.
Conan continued at Marvel into the late 1990s, then went to Dark Horse Comics for a 15-year run. From 2019-2022, the character returned to Marvel in his own titles and co-starring in “Savage Avengers” from the publisher.
On Free Comic Book Day readers and retailers will get a first look at a young Conan as he decides to set forth into the wider world.
“My life was shaped by sword & sorcery stories, especially the work of Robert E. Howard,” said writer Jim Zub in a release. “Every chance I’ve had to contribute to the Hyborian Age has been a gift and this one, relaunching Conan the Barbarian with Heroic Signatures and Titan Comics with modern masters Rob De La Torre and José Villarrubia collaborating on epic artwork, is the biggest and best present I could imagine.”
The Free Comic Book Day special will be followed by a new series from Heroic Signatures and Titan in summer 2023.
Titan and Heroic also plan to continue the reprints of the “Savage Sword of Conan” magazine and other classic stories originally printed by Marvel.
Matthew Price, matthew@matthewLprice.com, has written about the comics industry for more than two decades. He is the co-owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman.