Tag Archives: sword & sorcery

CONAN THE BARBARIAN: CURSE OF THE CONJURER

conan jason momoaThe 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 46CONAN 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.

conan meets stefanyaBefore 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. 

shokkothOur 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

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JIREL OF JOIRY: CHAPTER LINKS

Jirel of JoiryAn alert reader reminded me that I did not remember to put up a blog post with links to all my reviews of female author C.L. Moore’s six Jirel of Joiry pulp stories from the 1930s. Here is that collection of links in one convenient blog post.

BLACK GOD’S KISS (1934) – The first story featuring Jirel of Joiry, a sword-wielding woman warrior from late Medieval France. From Castle Joiry she leads her army in frequent raids on rival domains while often battling mind-boggling supernatural menaces. Jirel really was the kind of red-haired action heroine that people think of Red Sonja as being, but Robert E Howard’s character Red Sonya (not Sonja) was from the 1520s, not the Hyborean Age, and used guns as well as swords.  

This debut tale introduces Jirel, Father Gervase and the Jason Momoa-esque Guillaume the Conqueror. Our heroine enters a vile netherworld to secure a supernatural weapon. Click HERE. Continue reading

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JIREL OF JOIRY: STORY SIX

Balladeer’s Blog concludes its examination of the stories of pulp heroine Jirel of Joiry, the Medieval French woman-warrior created by female author C.L. Moore in 1934. For the first story click HERE.

jirel in armorHELLSGARDE (1939) – Sadly, this is the last of C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry adventures, but the character gets to go out on a high note. The handsome but treacherous Guy of Garlot ambushes twenty of Jirel’s soldiers and imprisons them in the dungeons of Castle Garlot.

Guy demands ransom, so Jirel meets with him to negotiate since Castle Garlot is impregnable to assault and sieges as it sits atop a high, steep mountain with underground springs supplying it with endless water. The only payment Guy will accept to free Jirel’s men unharmed is the treasure from the remote and damned castle of Hellsgarde. Continue reading

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JIREL OF JOIRY: STORY FOUR

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the stories of pulp heroine Jirel of Joiry, the Medieval French woman-warrior created by female author C.L. Moore in 1934. For the first story click HERE.

jirel of joiry on horsebackTHE DARK LAND (1936) – In her tower bedroom at Castle Joiry, Jirel lies in bed, mortally wounded while leading her men at the Battlefield of Sorrow. A pike wound in her side has grown infected and the weak, delirious warrior woman is surrounded by her chambermaids, all of them weeping over their lady’s condition.

Father Gervase, whom we met back in the first Joiry story, arrives to cleanse Jirel of her sins as part of her Last Rites. He and the chambermaids are shocked to see that Jirel of Joiry’s body has disappeared from her death bed.

The priest and the maids are overcome with fear that the mistress of Castle Joiry may have been taken away body and soul by Satan. Father Gervase whispers his suspicion that Jirel had too often dabbled in forbidden things and defied too many unearthly powers during her lifetime and had finally paid the price. Continue reading

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JIREL OF JOIRY: STORY THREE

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the stories of pulp heroine Jirel of Joiry, the Medieval French woman-warrior created by female author C.L. Moore in 1934. For the first story click HERE.

jirel meets magicJIREL MEETS MAGIC (1935) – First off, let me say that is a bizarrely bland and unfitting title for this wildly imaginative tale. It also ignores the supernatural elements of Jirel’s first two adventures by implying this is the first time she “meets” magic.

The story opens up with Jirel on horseback leading her army in a bloody assault on Castle Guischard, the stronghold of the sorcerer Giraud. When our heroine leads the way into the castle itself, even her bravest men are a bit intimidated by the dark history of the place, but charge in along with her.

jirel on hillWhen the last of Giraud’s men are slain and all secret passageways from Castle Guischard are covered, Jirel and her men scour the entire castle for any sign of the sorcerer, whom she has sworn to kill over his double-dealing with her.

At last, in a high tower of the castle, Jirel finds what must have been Giraud’s hiding place and sees how he apparently fled.

Behind plush curtains is a window with impossibly large ivory shutters. Once opened, those shutters reveal that the window leads not to the outside, but to another dimension in which Giraud has sought shelter.
Continue reading

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JIREL OF JOIRY: STORY TWO

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the stories of pulp heroine Jirel of Joiry, the Medieval French woman-warrior created by female author C.L. Moore in 1934. For the first story click HERE.

black god's shadowBLACK GOD’S SHADOW (1934) – This was Moore’s sequel to Jirel’s debut story Black God’s Kiss. We pick up an unknown amount of time after the conclusion of the previous tale. Jirel has been having recurring nightmares and visions ever since she killed Guillaume the Conqueror, the man she belatedly realized that she loved.

Of late the nightmares and visions have been intensifying to the point where our heroine is becoming convinced that Guillaume’s soul must be trapped in the hellish netherworld where she herself acquired the weapon she used to kill him. Castle Joiry was immediately evacuated by Guillaume’s troops in their panicked, superstitious reaction to the supernatural death of their leader.

jirel of joiryOrder had since been restored in the castle but Jirel’s sleep has not been the same. As she lies tossing and turning, she ponders the various lovers she had taken over the years, none of whom took the hold over her heart and thoughts that Guillaume did.

Determined, she armors up, takes a sword and knife with her and sets out to somehow free Guillaume’s soul by daring to reenter the hellish domain that lies far beneath Castle Joiry. Continue reading

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STALKER (1975-1976): FORGOTTEN SWORD & SORCERY SERIES

Stalker 1STALKER – With the WITCHER series such a sensation right now, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the forgotten 1970s sword, sorcery and fantasy series called Stalker.

The art was by the legendary Steve Ditko and the story by Paul Levitz. In a time when comic book companies keep rebooting the same unpromising characters over and over I am amazed that DC Comics never gave this intriguing series a second chance.

First off, a lame joke – Who DOESN’T love a sword they could pole-vault with? That baby is ridiculously out-of-proportion yet awesome at the same time.

Sometimes I wish Stalker’s sword really HAD been that big in the actual stories, but he’d have needed to carry it in a sheath slung across his back. If he kept it in a sheath attached to a belt around his waist it would be dragging on the ground behind him everywhere he walked. Anyway, on to the story – ALL FOUR PARTS ARE COVERED BELOW.

The Premise: In a fictional world as filled with fantastic beings and mind-bending geography as anything from Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones a nameless warrior called Stalker tries to recover his stolen soul from the demonic warrior-god Dgrth. The narration tells us this is “a war that will rend a world from its gods,” really drawing us in.   

Stalker 1STALKER #1 (July 1975)

Title: QUEST FOR A STOLEN SOUL

Synopsis: The story opens at Castle Loranth as Stalker uses all the preternatural skills that the god Dgrth has granted him to get past the walls and kill the guards. Our red-eyed hero penetrates to the hall where Baroness Loranth is holding a grand feast and hurls a knife at her chair. Attached to the knife is a note telling her that one year and one day hence Stalker will kill her as revenge for the wrongs she did to him in the past. Continue reading

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