March 14, 2023 · 10:22 pm
SWORD WOMAN – This was the first story about Robert E. Howard’s fiery woman warrior Agnes the Dark aka Agnes de Chastillon, a sword fighting, butt kicking woman in 1500s France. Previously, Balladeer’s Blog reviewed the one and only story that R.E. Howard wrote about Red Sonya (NOT Sonja) – Shadow of the Vulture, set in the late 1520s, not in Howard’s fictional Hyborian Age.
Unlike Shadow of the Vulture, none of the Dark Agnes tales were published during Robert E. Howard’s lifetime. Sword Woman, the character’s origin story, saw print posthumously in 1975, 39 years after Howard’s suicide. The author dedicated the short story “To Mary Read, Graine O’Malley, Jeanne Laisne, Liliard of Ancrum, Anne Bonney, and all other sword women, good or bad, bold or gay, who have swaggered down the centuries, this chronicle is respectfully dedicated.” Continue reading →
September 22, 2022 · 8:05 am
THE SHADOW OF THE VULTURE – This story by Robert E. Howard, the ONLY Howard story to actually feature Red Sonya, was first published in the January 1934 issue of Magic Carpet Magazine. As I’ve mentioned in many other reviews of old pulp characters, Howard’s REAL Red Sonya was indeed a warrior woman, but not one from his fictional Hyborian Age.
It was Marvel Comics who distorted Red Sonya into “Red Sonja” and placed her as a guest star in assorted Conan stories as well as her own series. That Red Sonja has more in common with female author C.L. Moore’s warrior woman Jirel of Joiry than she does with Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonya.
The Shadow of the Vulture is one of Howard’s historical adventures and it’s set during the 1520s, largely at the Siege of Vienna from September 27th to October 15th in 1529. Red Sonya of Rogatino is a Polish-Ukrainian woman who is more skilled than most men with swords and guns.
The storied red-haired woman has a personal grudge against Muslim Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who was besieging Vienna with over 100,000 soldiers against Vienna’s 21,000. Red Sonya was glad to serve against Suleiman’s armies whenever she could. Continue reading →
September 6, 2022 · 8:06 pm
Recently Balladeer’s Blog covered Robert E. Howard’s stories about his overlooked characters James Allison and Turlogh Dubh. This time around I’m taking a look at another neglected creation of Howard, best known for his Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane stories.
EL BORAK – This character’s real name was Francis Xavier Gordon, an old west gunfighter from El Paso, Texas, who wound up traveling much of the world outside of the United States. Gordon settled in Afghanistan where his prowess with swords and pistols made him a tolerated outsider and earned him the nickname El Borak.
That epithet means “The Swift” and was a reference to Muhammad’s mythical flying horse the Buraq. F.X. Gordon was renowned for his fast draw, swiftness with a scimitar and quick-wittedness. Robert E. Howard seems to have patterned El Borak along the lines of real-life figures like Lawrence of Arabia or Nicholson of India, but with the distinctly American touch of the character’s gunslinger past.
Let’s dive into these action-packed sword and pistol adventures.
THE DAUGHTER OF ERLIK KHAN – First published in the pulp magazine Top-Notch in December, 1934. El Borak was hired by a pair of scurvy Britishers to guide them to a nonexistent captive friend of theirs. They secretly plan to loot the treasure of Mount Erlik Khan in the city of Yolgan.
That city was avoided by even the most daring Afghani tribes because its pre-Islamic origins lay in outright devil worship and the Satanic priests were still the ruling caste of Yolgan. When the treacherous Brits lay a trap for El Borak after they no longer need him, then leave him for dead, he sets out for revenge.
The former wild west gunfighter infiltrates Yolgan and comes across a former lady love named Yasmeena. In the years since their last meeting, she had married a Kashmir prince, but when he proved abusive, she fled him. That prince has offered a fortune to any who will return Yasmeena to him so that he may torture her to death. Continue reading →
August 22, 2022 · 9:26 pm
Recently, Balladeer’s Blog examined Robert E. Howard’s trilogy of tales featuring one of his neglected characters, James Allison. This time around we’ll take a look at another overlooked creation of Howard – the Irish warrior Turlogh Dubh of Clan O’Brien.
THE GREY GOD PASSES – This was technically the first appearance of Turlogh Dubh but the story was not published until long after Robert E. Howard’s suicide in 1936. That publication came in 1962’s Dark Mind, Dark Heart. The other two Turlogh stories were published in 1931.
Turlogh is just one of many characters – both real and fictional – in this historical adventure about the real-life Battle of Clontarf on April 23rd, 1014 – Good Friday. The battle supposedly lasted from sunrise to sunset.
Robert E. Howard’s approach in this tale could be likened to those big-budget, all-star war movies like The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Midway, etc. Like the other characters, the fictional Turlogh comes in and out of the narrative as we read the lead-up, the battle and a bit of the aftermath. He is, however, the main character of the next two tales in which he appears. Continue reading →
August 10, 2022 · 9:41 pm
JAMES ALLISON – American author Robert E. Howard is, of course, best known for his Big Three pulp heroes – Conan (debut year 1930), Kull (debut year 1929) and Solomon Kane (debut year 1928). Among his many overlooked creations was James Allison, whose trio of short stories serve as a perfect analogy for readers who long for adventures that the modern world denies them.
MARCHERS OF VALHALLA – Ironically, this tale which introduces James Allison was never published during Robert E. Howard’s lifetime, even though the two follow-up stories were. We meet James Allison, a man living in early 1930s Texas.
James feels profound disappointment over his mundane existence and the era in which he lives. Most of all, he feels inferior to his brothers, who were slain in the World War, and his father, who was wounded while charging up San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt.
Even if the drab, stifling modern era DID serve up an adventure, Allison feels he is in no condition to pursue it because he has lost one of his legs in a riding accident. One day James limps his way up a hill to take in the scenery when a beautiful (of course) woman approaches him. Continue reading →
July 23, 2022 · 12:01 am
Well, after last week’s Curse of the Conjurer some of you wanted more of the 1970s Marvel Comics adaptations of Conan stories and some of you REALLY didn’t. As a compromise I’ll do just one more before moving on to another topic next Saturday.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN Vol 1 #58 (January 1976)
Title: Queen of the Black Coast
Villains: The Black Corsairs
NOTE: Yes, with this issue Marvel finally got around to adapting one of Robert E. Howard’s greatest Conan stories. At last, Belit (bay-LEET), the pirate queen and the great love of Conan’s life, was introduced in this tale.
Marvel fairly faithfully adapted the opening of the story in this issue, then, rather than just refer to the years that Conan and Belit sailed the seas together, their writers did dozens of stories depicting their adventures together. All of that culminated with Conan the Barbarian issue #100 when Marvel adapted the tragic conclusion of Queen of the Black Coast, a small part of which was ripped off in the 1982 Conan movie.
This blog post will review the first meeting of Conan and Belit, then Marvel’s depiction of their first shared adventure (featuring an imaginative “fan theory” regarding why Conan was also called Amra) and finally, the sorrowful finale of the longest romance of our Cimmerian’s life.
Synopsis: Just like the original story Queen of the Black Coast from 1934, Marvel’s adaptation opens up with Conan being pursued by the authorities through the streets of the port city of Messantia, the capital of Argos. Conan’s latest clash with the law saw him kill a powerful man, leading to his current plight. Continue reading →
Filed under Pulp Heroes, Superheroes
Tagged as Amra, Balladeer's Blog, Belit, blogging, book reviews, Conan the Barbarian, glitternight.com, Marvel Comics, pulp heroes, Queen of the Black Coast, Robert E. Howard
July 16, 2022 · 12:01 am
The Marvel Comics run of stories based on Robert E. Howard’s Conan character from 1970-1993 helped maintain the character’s place in the public consciousness after the end of the Pulp Magazine era.
Here is a multi-part 1970s Marvel Conan story that was adapted from the Gardner Fox novel Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN Vol 1 #46 (January 1975)
Title: The Curse of the Conjurer
Villain: Shokkoth of the Many Stones
Synopsis: While riding through the Border Kingdoms, Conan meets a wizard named Merdoramon. This figure, knowing that a Cimmerian’s word is their bond, pays Conan a pouch of gold to deliver a mystic amulet to Themas Herklar, the Regent of the kingdom called Phalkar. The enchanted item is called the Amulet of Blue Fire.
Conan accepts the gold and gives his word to deliver the amulet to Themas Herklar. Putting the amulet around his own neck for the journey, the barbarian rides west toward Phalkar.
Before long he passes through the village of Sfanol, where he sees the inhabitants about to burn at the stake a beautiful young woman named Stefanya. She cries out to Conan for help, and he decides it is time for him to take action.
Our hero saves Stefanya from this fate and learns she was being burned for her service to the late sorcerer Zoqquanor now that he is no longer alive to protect her. The panicked woman tells Conan that they must retrieve Zoqquanor’s body from the ruins of his castle, which was leveled by the same superstitious villagers who tried to burn her alive.
Stefanya insists that a spell cast by the sorcerer when he was alive binds her fate to his, and if his body is destroyed so will she be. In the ruins of Zoqquanor’s castle, Conan and Stefanya find the premises now being guarded by Shokkoth of the Many Stones, a monstrous creation of the late wizard. Continue reading →