CONAN RETURNS: Local comic book writer pens new series

The name alone conjures the mental image of a sword-wielding
human behemoth who has become a classic icon of American

Many associate California Gov. and former actor Arnold
Schwarzenegger as the embodiment of Conan the Barbarian. But it was
comic book industry veteran and Calhoun County resident Roy Thomas
who originally wrote the series for Marvel Comics.

Thomas has recently undertaken a new venture – a 12-issue comic
book series, “Conan: Road of Kings,” published by Dark Horse

The project marks the 40th anniversary of the first “Conan”
comic book. Thomas said although he is writing the character using
different standards than when he first began, he has been given
“carte blanche” with the project.

“After (Dark Horse) took (‘Conan’) over, the publisher suggested
a year of comics,” Thomas said. “It is an episodic story, with the
first six issues being one story, about 120 pages or so.

“Why should that come to an end after 12 issues?”

Thomas said Conan, created by Robert Howard in the 1930s, was a
pulp-fiction hero who became more popular when the stories were
published in paperback in 1965 and 1966.

“The artwork was done by the same artist who had done art for
(Tarzan creator) Edgar Rice Burroughs,” Thomas said. “I collected
them because of the covers.

“I was associated with (Marvel Comics publisher) Stan Lee at the
time. Our readers were writing us and asking, ‘Why don’t you get
the rights to that?’ We didn’t do it at first because we thought it
would be too expensive.

“I was able to talk them into it because they liked the idea of
exposing the Conan character to a new audience. It worked out

Thomas, a Missouri native, began his career as an assistant to
Mort Weisinger, editor of the “Superman” series at DC Comics, in
1965. His body of work included writing for classic comic book hero
series, such as the “Justice League of America” and the “X-Men”

“Jack Kirby created the ‘Fantastic Four’ in 1961 with Stan Lee.
It was followed by ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘X-Men’ right before I got
there,” Thomas said. “These new heroes were a new breed. They were
noble but still human. They looked and talked like us.”

Thomas is still most recognized for the “Conan” series. Its
popularity led to the first movie based on the character, released
in 1982.

Although his original screenplay wasn’t used, the director used
Thomas’s co-written story for “Conan the Destroyer,” the 1984
sequel. The movies made Conan a household name.

“I wasn’t that wild about either movie. They were much less
faithful to the original story,” Thomas said. “I tried to be
faithful to the original Howard character.”

A resident of South Carolina since 1991, Thomas was
editor-in-chief at Marvel for two years. In 1974, he realized he
was not as interested in the business end as the creative work.

“I recall one meeting with a woman who sold ads for our comics,”
Thomas said. “She wanted to sell ads on the right hand side of
every page.

“I told her, ‘Do it if you can, but I will fight you to the
death on this.’ I said, ‘Six months later, when there is nothing
but ads, we will lose readers.'”

Comic books are now a niche market rather than aimed at a
general audience. Thomas said the average age for comic books is no
longer kids but adults in their 20s.

“In the past, comic books were a mass market that thrived in
dime and drug stores,” Thomas said. “In the 1990s, it collapsed due
to a speculative market.

“In the old days, we would cancel a series if it only sold a
couple of hundred thousand copies. Now they send up rockets if a
comic book produces those kinds of numbers.”

Now 70, Thomas isn’t slowing down. He still assists Lee with the
“Spider-Man” newspaper comic strip, as he has for the last decade.
He is also working on a book about Lee and exploring the
possibility of doing his own World War II superhero comic book.

“I’ve written several of them in the past and would like to do
that again,” Thomas said. “It’s hard to get people to invest money
to put out a comic book. We will get someone to do it.

“It keeps me out of the pool hall.”

Contact the writer: [email protected] or



New SUPERMAN Writer Fills JMS’ Shoes But Walks Own Path

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While Superman fans may have been shocked by the news that star writer J. Michael Straczynski was leaving the character’s flagship title, nobody was more surprised than writer Chris Roberson.

Of course, that’s because he was asked to take over writing the series.

Roberson is jumping right into the big league of superheroes thanks to the unexpected departure of Straczynski, who announced a one-to-five year sabbatical from monthly comics. Straczynski, known as “JMS,” will leave his highly publicized runs on both Superman and Wonder Woman as he concentrates instead on writing the sequel to his hugely successful DC book, Superman: Earth One.


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DC readers may not be familiar with Roberson’s writing, but he’s a rising star in the Vertigo and indy worlds, breaking into comics after previously establishing himself as a science fiction novelist. Thanks to a friendship with Fables writer Bill Willingham, Roberson wrote the tie-in mini-series Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, which was so popular with fans that Vertigo gave him another comic for the character, next year’s Cinderella: Fables are Forever.

Then earlier this year, Vertigo launched Roberson’s series iZombie, and the sales figures have made it one of this year’s success stories. After landing a few projects at Boom! Studios and an upcoming two-issue Superman/Batman story, Roberson’s now jumping feet-first into the DCU as writer on Superman.

How did Roberson get the gig? And how will he approach writing Superman after JMS leaves? Newsarama asked.



Newsarama: Chris, I know we talked in detail about the story you did for Superman/Batman that’s coming out now. Did the opportunity to write Superman spin out of your work on Superman/Batman?

Chris Roberson: It did indeed. Matt Idelson and Wil Moss, the editors on the Superman titles, had offered me the chance to do a fill-in for Superman/Batman a couple of months ago, and I jumped at the opportunity. They apparently liked my first script enough that, when it came time to find a replacement for JMS, they gave me a call.

Nrama: How did you hear about the opportunity to work on Superman, and what did you think of it? And why were you attracted to it?

Roberson: It was October 22, 2010, a date I’ll remember for a long, long time. Matt and Wil gave me a call, and asked if I would be interested in taking over Superman from JMS with Issue #707. As a Superman fanatic since I was six years old, I didn’t have to think about it for a single second, but immediately took the job.

Nrama: This is quite a change from the Vertigo and Boom! titles where we’ve seen your work, and most Fables fans don’t think of you as a superhero guy. It sounds like you’re actually a closet Superman fan?

Roberson: Readers of my novels and of my work for Vertigo and Boom! Studios might not be able to figure out my leanings, but anyone who visits my blog or reads my Twitter feed or meets me in person will realize right away that I am a huge superhero fan, and a fanatic about Superman in particular. Superman has been my favorite character since I was six years old, and I have more comics featuring Superman than any other single character.

Nrama: Had you been reading Straczynski’s Superman? What did you think of it?

Roberson: I’d been following “Grounded” since the beginning, and right away I realized that it shared the same central idea as one of my favorite Superman stories of all time: Elliot S. Maggin’s “Must There Be A Superman.” The question of what Superman’s role in society should be has always been a crucial one, and is itself a reflection of a problem that religions have always struggled with: “If there is a merciful god, why is there suffering?” And it makes perfect sense that it is a question that Superman would be asking himself, in the wake of his father’s death and the destruction of New Krypton.

Nrama: What is it about your skill set that you think made DC want you for this project?



Roberson: I have no idea! You’d have to ask the “powers that be” at DC. I’m just glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to put my encyclopedic knowledge of the DCU to good use! I can finally justify the countless thousands of hours I’ve spent reading DC comics as “research.”

Nrama: Have you viewed notes from JMS yet? How do you plan to utilize that guidance? How restrictive is it?

Roberson: When I signed onto the book, Matt and Wil sent me JMS’ outline for the remainder of “Grounded.” It maps out the places that Superman will visit on his cross-country journey, and in terms of story, spells out a very definite end-point that he needs to reach. But along the way, there’s lots of room for side-trips and improvisation.

Nrama: How do you hope to approach Superman’s character?

Roberson: I hope to do the best job I can! Seriously, Superman is the archetype. He is the superhero. And I honestly view the job of writing the flagship Superman title as a sacred trust.

Nrama: What’s Superman’s status as you start your run? Where is he as a character and how has he grown — and what are his next steps as a character?



Roberson: At this point in the “Grounded” storyline, Superman has pretty much completely lost faith in the things he’s always stood for: Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Physically, he’s just as powerful as he’s always been, but after the death of his adoptive father and the destruction of New Krypton, he’s an emotional wreck.

The way I see it, what he’s really doing in this walk across America is revisiting the kinds of places where he had his earliest formative experiences, and trying to answer one crucial question: “Must there be a Superman?”

Nrama: Wil your run extend beyond the initial story arc planned by JMS?

Roberson: That’s for the “powers that be” at DC to decide. For the moment, I’m just delighted to be writing this story.

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Alexis E. Fajardo talks of ‘Kid Beowulf’ stories

Like many of his own boyhood comic book heroes – Superman and Batman, for example – Alexis E. Fajardo leads two very different lives.

During the day, as a mild-mannered employee at the Charles Schulz Studio in Santa Rosa, he oversees the production of the ever-popular Peanuts comic books. At night, ensconced in his own cave-like work space, he hunkers down and follows his own creative spirit, turning out graphic novels about the Anglo-Saxon epic hero Beowulf, who battles hideous monsters, including his own twin brother.

“These days, I don’t have much time for a social life,” he says, shrugging. “But when inspiration arrives, you’ve got to follow along. It helps that I live across the street from the Schulz Studio so I don’t have to travel far to go from one identity to another.”

Two books in the saga – “Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath,” and “Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland” – have already been published by Bowler Hat Comics in Portland, Ore., and they’ve found a cult following among college students and post-grads too. Now, late at night, Fajardo is at work on the third in his bloody, gutsy series: “Kid Beowulf vs. El Cid.”

Ten more books are up his imaginative sleeve; they’ll take his hero around the world and into the ancient legends of Russia, Persia, India and Japan. Brave, battle-weary Beowulf has never found himself in so many different cultures, and so timely too. Indeed, he’s a sword-wielding hero for today’s text-messaging kids and laptop adults eager for adventure.

‘Kids of all ages’

Bo Johnson, Fajardo’s publisher at Bowler Hat, says that the books “appeal to kids of all ages” and that many dads explain that they wish the Beowulf series had been around when they were young.

“I don’t mean to leave out girls,” Johnson adds. “They identify with the female characters – Gertrude and Yrs in the first book and Bradamont, Belisande and Brammimond in the second. The books are not just boy-centric, which is a feat in itself, given the fact that the old myths are so male.”

A long journey

Fajardo’s own epic journey began in 1976 in New Hampshire, where he was born and raised on comics and cartoons: “Looney Tunes” on Saturday-morning TV, and during the week Pogo, and Calvin and Hobbes in the daily newspaper that was delivered to the front door. In his advance-placement English class in high school, he read “Beowulf,” and it’s fair to say that he hasn’t been the same person since.

“I think I was the only student who actually enjoyed reading ‘Beowulf’ as a poem in the translation by Burton Raffel,” he says. ” ‘Beowulf’ lit my brain on fire.”

As a classics major at Earlham College in Indiana, he read “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad” and was inspired by Homer’s warriors and wanderers.

“Right from the start, I could see how visual those two epics were, and how striking the language was,” he says.

When teachers asked him to translate ancient Greek into modern English, there was no holding him back. Had he been born in another era, he’d probably have gone on to write a doctoral thesis about Homer and then to teach the classics at a college.

“I loved all that Greek stuff,” he says. “I couldn’t get enough of it.”

But the comics hit him so hard there was just no way to resist their call. While he was an undergraduate at Earlham, he created his own weekly strip, Plato’s Republic, that was inspired by Doonesbury and that ran in the college paper, the Word. The four-panel strip featured a platypus named Plato, of course, along with friends both human and animal, and it became an instant classic on campus.

Fajardo didn’t know it at the time, but he had already found his talent for taking something old and turning it into something new. While he has always been enamored of the classics, he has never allowed himself to become a prisoner of them; he can even laugh at the ancient Greeks, including Plato, and at the ancient Anglo-Saxons, along with iconic Beowulf and his evil foe, Grendel.

Daily comic strip


Copyright Comics: The swindling of Siegel and Shuster

I like that they can recognize that downloading copies of an artist’s work is far from a victimless crime while also recognizing that copyright itself has become a tool for corporations to use at the expense of authors, artists, and the general public. A very well rounded assessment of the situation.


Geek Gifts 2010: Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics

When I was watching the Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics DVD, I felt a sense of intense happiness — just thinking about the documentary makes me all misty eyed. What really surprised me is that I expected a propaganda film about how great DC Comics is, but this movie is definitely not propaganda.

The documentary covers the ups and downs of DC Comics; it starts with DC’s origins as a publisher of pulp magazines and goes through the Golden Age of Comics to the present day. You get to hear fascinating stories and interviews with DC Comics writers and artists. (DVD image credit: Amazon.)


  • Number of DVD discs: One
  • Run time: 90 minutes
  • Narrator: Actor Ryan Reynolds
  • Price: $24.98 list ($18.99 on
  • Where to buy:

What I like

  • It’s about comics.
  • It’s about television.
  • It’s about movies.
  • It includes interviews with DC Comics writers and artists.
  • A geek doesn’t need to be a fan of Superman or Batman to enjoy this video, because it also covers the Watchmen, Sandman, and Green Lantern.

What I don’t like

  • I can’t watch it again for the first time.

Geek bottom line

This documentary is an instant geek classic. I think that even a diehard DC Comics fan will be surprised by what they learn while watching this movie. For example, I never realized how much Neil Gaiman resembles Sandman. It’s also interesting to see how much DC has influenced today’s culture overall — just try saying the words “super man” or “dark knight” without picturing Superman or Batman — it’s impossible.

Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics is one gift that will bring a smile to the face of any geek. Below is a two-minute trailer of the film.

Geek gift rating (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: *****
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: *****
  • Overall: *****

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic’s Geek Gift Guide 2010.

Get IT tips, news, and reviews delivered directly to your inbox by subscribing to TechRepublic’s free newsletters.

Edmond Woychowsky is a Network Administrator in the Healthcare industry. He is also interested in many geeky things, including science fiction, gaming, and technology. Read his full bio and profile.


November 30, 2010: Superman Comics Shipping This Week

Diamond Comics has released the list of comic books and other items shipping this week. Here are the Superman related items in that list…

Shipping This Week: December 1, 2010.

The following products are expected to ship to comic book specialty stores this week. Note that this list is tentative and subject to change. Please check with your retailer for availability.

Click on the magnifying glass icon () next to a comic’s title to view a sneak peek at the pages within.



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    Batman Superman dominate in 4 8 Million Heritage Comics Comic Art Auction – News

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    */–> – Dec 02,2010 – DALLAS, TX – Call it the investment of a lifetime, literally: A 7.0 CGC graded copy of Detective #27, the first appearance of “The Batman,” bought off the newsstand for a dime by Sacramento-native Robert Irwin when he was 13 years old, and subsequently put away and forgotten until the early 1990s, made its hobby debut and sold for $492,938 on Nov. 18 to lead Heritage Auctions’ $4.8 Million Vintage Comics Comic Art Auction, becoming the third-highest grossing comic ever sold by the company.

    “It’s absolutely amazing that Mr. Irwin, now in his 80s, would have had the foresight, and the luck, to have stashed this comic away right after he bought it more than 70 years ago,” said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President at Heritage Auctions. “Added to that miraculous survival is the superb condition it was preserved in over these decades.”

    “I’m only sorry I didn’t buy two of them,” joked Irwin on the auction floor after the sale of the comic.

    A record price was also set for a restored comic book when the famous “court copy” of Action Comics #1, the first Superman comic and arguably one of, if not the most important piece of pop culture of the last 100 years, sold for $143,400.

    “This isn’t only the most ever paid for a restored copy of Action #1,” said Jaster, “it’s the most ever paid for any restored comic book, period. “It bested the previous mark, also set by Heritage, by more than $25,000.”

    The Kerby Confer Collection of original Disney Art continued to post spectacular results for the Maryland radio executive, with the second part of his collection realizing a solid $711,909, as collectors snapped up his rare and highly-sought after original Carl Barks Scrooge McDuck paintings, with his glowing, frenetic 1974 painting A Binful of Fun leading the way at $143,400.

    “The top collectors continue to put a premium on original Barks art,” said Barry Sandoval, Director of Operations of the Comics Division at Heritage, “and on the superb examples that Confer has had in his collection for decades. A Binful of Fun was one of four Barks paintings in this particular auction that sold for more than $100,000.”

    Prices for original Frank Miller art continued to command top prices from collectors, continuing a rising trend over the last several years, as Miller’s original art for Wolverine #3, one of the most beloved issues of the famed X-Men spin-off, featuring a somber, dramatic and penitent Wolvie, brought $47,800.”

    One of the more interesting facets of the auction came in the prices realized for original art for daily comic strips, with the original artwork for Milton Caniff’s first Introducing Terry and the Pirates daily comic strip bringing $38,837 – one of the highest prices Heritage has ever realized for original daily comic strip art – while Charles Schulz’ original Oct. 27, 1961 Peanuts daily strip art, a classic Great Pumpkin entry, brought $32,265, an impressive price for an artist and title that routinely

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    Comics: ‘Superman vs. Muhammad Ali’ still the greatest

    Let’s address this right away: An oversized comic book titled “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali” sounds like the dumbest idea ever. Amazingly, it turned out to be a great idea 32 years ago, and has only improved with time.

    DC Comics published “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali” in 1978 as “All-New Collector’s Edition, Vol. 7, No. C-58” — part of a series of oversized books that measured roughly 10 inches by 13 inches, usually called “Treasuries.” The Ali Treasury was one of the few original ones ever printed by DC, as most were reprints.

    It was the right decision, given the eye-popping art by superstar artist (and co-writer) Neal Adams. Most Treasuries just expanded regular-sized comics, and often looked cheesy. But the format was perfect for Adams’ larger-than-life, photorealism style, which makes you feel like you can walk into the panel. You need no further evidence than the incredibly detailed cover, which boasts 172 real people, from then-President Jimmy Carter to then-“Tonight” show host Johnny Carson to then-DC Publisher Jenette Kahn. (Fortunately, there’s a key.)

    DC says the size made the book too difficult to reprint for years, although it seems more likely that celebrity images in the book held things up until recent changes in copyright law. What matters is that the book is finally back in print, at its original size in a “facsimile” hardback ($39.99) and a “deluxe” hardback at regular comic-book size (with some additional sketches and background, $19.99).

    Of course, the premise still sounds stupid. But it isn’t, honest. The story is about an alien race called the Scrubb that will wipe out Earth unless our champion faces their champion, the superstrong Hun’Ya. Both Superman and Ali volunteer, but since the fight will be under a red sun — where Superman has no superpowers — they fight a preliminary, no-powers boxing match for the right to represent Earth. Naturally, Ali proves the superior boxer, and must face Hun’Ya. Meanwhile, Superman takes on the Scrubb armada.

    OK, no points for guessing who wins. But so what if the story is predictable? The joy is in the art, and in Ali’s one-of-a-kind persona. Sure, some of that is the nostalgia factor for us cranky oldsters, but you dang kids who won’t get off my lawn will love it, too. There’s a reason that Muhammad Ali joins Superman on the Top 10 list of Most Recognized People on Earth, and he doesn’t even enjoy the Man of Steel’s advantage of being fictional (and therefore immortal). Ali was not only one of the biggest celebrities of his generation, not only the most dominating boxer, not only beloved worldwide for his civil-rights work, but also just a lot of fun. He really was “The Greatest,” and so is this book.


    — In the mid-1960s, virtually all comics publishers jumped on the superhero bandwagon, thinking it a fad. That includes Archie Comics, which for a couple of years ran occasional stories starring a superheroic Archie (Pureheart), Jughead (Captain Hero), Betty (Superteen), Reggie (Evilheart), Veronica (Miss Vanity) and Moose (Mighty Moose). A number of these have been collected by IDW in “Archie: Pureheart the Powerful” ($19.99).

    I read most of these stories when they came out the first time, and have remembered them fondly. To my amazement, they still hold up 45 years later. These stories are typically wacky Archie stories of the time, silly fun with subtle commentary on current events. (For example, during a time of rising recreational drug use, Archie learns how to be Pureheart by reading “Happy Hallucinations and How They Happen.”)

    Interestingly, these stories anticipate the “Batman” TV show by a couple years, being camp before camp was cool. And they’re still cool now.

    — The second volume of “Sweet Tooth” has arrived ($12.99), collecting issues 6-11 of the ongoing DC/Vertigo post-apocalyptic series. The story picks up steam here as hints about the lethal global pandemic are revealed, and Sweet Tooth — a human-animal hybrid — may prove to be the key. Also, there’s a lot of background and character development for Jessup, the former hockey player whose conscience died with his wife — but is showing signs of resurrection.

    This story drops hints and moves forward at just the right pace to keep the reader turning pages. I’m still no fan of writer/artist Jeff Lemire’s sketchy art style, but that’s just a matter of taste.

    (Contact Andrew A. Smith of The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal at capncomics(AT) or on his Web site,




    Call Now: 877-239-1878