Sunday, 22 September 2019

Kings Of The Night



Is this the first ever fantasy team-up story? I'm thinking it might be. Kings Of The Night originally appeared in Weird Tales in 1930 and is the only Robert E. Howard tale to star two of his major characters; King Kull of Valusia and Bran Mak Morn, the last king of the Picts.
Kull, of course, had a long history at Marvel, but It's a shame neither they or Howard ever did more with Brak, as he's a great character, and like Howard's best heroes, carries a sense of doom and foreboding, knowing that both he and his entire race are running out of time.
After all, his name means Raven, Son Of Morn. What better name could there be for the last king of a dying race?
Kings Of The Night cries out for the epic poetry of a Barry Smith or Tim Conrad, but David Wenzel does a solid job here, and his style fits nicely with a story set in ancient Britain, he just always seemed more of a Tolkien than an REH artist to me.
As well as the frisson of a Howard team-up, I think I like this story so much because, near Cambridge, there's an ancient woodland called Wandlebury Woods, that's supposedly haunted by the ghosts of a fallen Roman legion, and when I used to live near there and drove past it, I couldn't help but imagine Bran and his tribe, skulking behind the trees, weapons bared. Robert E. Howard makes you think like that.



































9 comments:

  1. I think that Robert E. Howard would be happy with the work Thomas did from his barbarian stories all across the 70s (specially Worms of the earth, more than an adaptation, an open window to the mind of the genius of Cross Plain and my fave Marvel comic ever) And David Wenzel is excellent! I just wish there were more Bran Mak Morn adaptations... or stories by Howard. This is a character I really like!!

    More or less at the time of this great Kings of the night, and a decade before The Hobbit, Wenzel did his first approach to Tolkien in "Middle Earth. The illustrated Tolkien". There he showed what I have known for years:That he didn't need a real boring adaptation by Chuck Dixon (well, that was not properly that, but a replacing of chunks of text from the novel) to shine.

    Manuel Ruiz

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  2. Agreed with bells on and a big neon sign around the word 'agreed', Manuel. Bran is one of the great missed opportunities of the Bronze Age, and Rascally could easily have made a star of him, with Wenzel, Conrad or Smith. There you go.

    Actually you might've just solved a mystery for me: Sometime in the late '70's / early '80's, I remember seeing a Wenzel Tolkein book, but I know it wasn't the really rather dull Chuck Dixon book. That must've been what I saw, thanks.

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  3. Thanks to you for posting gems like this. About Illustrated Tolkien, I though at first that it was a Lord of the rings portfolio, but nope:illustrations, yes, but from The Hobbit. Eventually, I'll buy it. Tolkien's prose bore me to tears, but if his stories are illustrated by great artists, specially Wenzel, Bermejo, Ploog or Ian Miller, then we are talking.

    That problem did not affect to Robert E. Howard. I love his wild, barbaric prose as well as his Thomas (or Hampton) adaptations.

    There is a Howard horror tale, I can't remember the title right now, that shows again the worms from earth in modern times and gave me a good, delicious nightmare. The plot was about a guy that faked his death and hided in a place, where he found some ancient tunnels, and...

    Manuel Ruiz

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  4. That sounds familiar but I can't place it. Interesting how people seem to be REH or Tolkein. I'm very much in the Howard camp. Anybody both?

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    1. I like REH & Tolkien as well as Lovecraft & Lord Dunsany, but there are other authors, such as Knut Hamsun and Isak Dinesen, who are much higher on my list.

      The story was solidly drawn, but familiar with this artist.

      Regards,
      Chris A.

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    2. But I am not familiar with this artist.

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    3. Apart of his Tolkien's works, Wenzel did a beauty for DC, the graphic novel Warlords in early 80s.

      And also he drew several great Solomon Kane/REH stories in black and white, like Wings in the night, as backup in Savage sword of Conan 53 and 54...

      A great talent, if you ask me. As anybody can see in this majestic Kings of the night.

      Manuel Ruiz

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  5. My problem with Tolkien is not his imagination, or his stories (Bakshi's LOTR is my favorite movie), but that personally I find his prose too flacid, lacking of any epic (even if depicts epic events) and full of boring detours.

    On the opposite side, Howard's prose may not have a depurate technique and could be primitive and rude in comparison. But the images he managed to convey with a few, urgent brushes, almost automatically done, throw into the page straight from his subconscious... boy... these burn in my mind forever. Like Proust's, Burguess', Ballard's or Burroughs', all of them idols of mine.

    Ah! The story is The dwellers under the tomb (in Spain Los moradores bajo la tumba). Don't know if Thomas adapted it as a Conan story.

    And Pete, more Bran,Kull and/or Solomon, please. These are so great and infrequently to see posted in the internet.

    Manuel Ruiz

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  6. You bet. Tolkein reads like what he was, a professor more I interested in linguistics lessons, and is deadly dull. Whereas REH reads like what he was: A madman. I know which one was the better writer. Howard wrote like he has to get the words out as fast as possible, Tolkein wrote like he was giving an English lesson.

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