Monday, 23 February 2009

The Savage Sword Of Conan


The british version of The Savage Sword of Conan was one of the few things from Marvel UK I regularly bought. ( Other than Hulk Comic, natch! ) When Marvel first started it's british reprint line with The Mighty World Of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly, we were pathetically grateful. Distribution in the late '60's /early '70's was so spotty, literally all there was were the occasional Superman or Batman comics.


But by the mid '70's, Marvel had sorted all that out, and you could get just about anything they published, and nearly every month! ( I still remember the double-sized Claremont/Byrne X-Men where Phoenix died, which no shop in our town bothered to stock. We'd only been waiting a year to read that denouement! ) Sure, we still bought the british Marvel, sometimes, but they weren't the real thing. Firstly, they were in black & white, and worse, to fit three serials in each issue, they split every story in half! Which usually meant you'd get some clumsily scrawled splash page inserted in next week's issue. ( Apparently, people like Jim Starlin & Marshall Rogers did some of them. Musta missed those ones. )
By this point Dez Skinn was in charge at Marvel UK, and trying to at least vaguely improve things. With that particular back-handed sense only comic fans have, we, of course, hated everything he did. And then still bought it.


The UK version of Savage Sword came out in '77. and we hated it. And then bought it. On the plus side, it was monthly, with more pages on slightly better paper, so we could at least pretend it was a real Marvel comic. And of course, it was Conan. The Conan from the US Savage Sword, with all those fantastic Buscema / Alcala tales, nudity & gore still intact. In our town, you might get a copy of Marvel Preview once in a while, but that was about it for the US Marvel black & white's. On the minus, the stories were still cut in half, usually at a point where there was no kind of cliffhanger at all. Each issue featured half a Conan story, half a Red Sonja ( taken from her colour book & scanned in b/w ), and either a Solomon Kane or a Kull.
And then there was the covers:


I mean, it's actually quite a good design, but, knowing how antsy Neal Adams is about his work being cut up and spoilt, I can't see him giving it the seal of approval. And, at the time, it annoyed the hell out of me, especially when you ( occasionally ) saw how good the american version looked. Still, in England, if you wanted to read Conan, this was pretty much the only way you were gonna do it. And you can't knock the material. SSOC always had great frontispieces and portfolio's too. Here's a few examples:


12 comments:

  1. As the American Savage Sword was hard to come by, I was quite happy with the British version. Of course, reading all the aforementioned nudity and gore was an added thrill for the adolescent me.

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  2. The redesign, with the "window" for the art was simply to hold would-be buyers attention with lots of clear text which didn't get muddled by background colours. Stan liked it so much he even changed the US Marvels to use the same design. Just thought you'd like to know. Dez

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  3. Dez? Dez?!! Forgive me, man! I LIKED the cover design!!

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  4. If anyone still has their UK SSC, I had a letter published in an issue with a mostly red cover. It would have been after #40, which was the first I bought and was under my real name, John Clarke. Any help finding the exact issue would be madly appreciated. Probably between #40 & #60. Help!

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  5. At least, I think it was #40. Whatever issue kicked off with 'A Dream of Blood,' the adaptation of Conan the Buccaneer.

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  6. Just checked my fairly incomplete run, John, and you're not in #40 to #45. Dunno if that helps!

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  7. Cheers, Pete! I'll track it down eventually. First time my name was in print, I was so thrilled. I even remember what the letter was about, asking if Mitra was any relation to Mithras. ( I was a peculiarly geeky child! )

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  8. Aha! In my memory the cover was 'mostly red,' so I'm thinking #70
    http://static5.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_small/8/85763/2287684-ssc70.jpg

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  9. Ah don't have that one, sorry. Feel your pain tho.

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  10. I'll grab it from ebay or somewhere. :)

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  11. Did I mention what a fantastic blog this is? One of my favourites. Full of treasures. Thanks for all of it!

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  12. Welcome, of course, and loads more to come!

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