Throwback Thursday: A look back at Conan’s debut at Dark Horse Comics

Conan: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and other stories (Vol. 1) Review

In 2003 Dark Horse Comics took over the creative rights from Marvel of the Hyborian warrior from Cimmeria known as Conan. The first trade collects the first 6 issues and half of issue #7 and gives a fresh interpretation, incorporating both new material and adaptations of stories by Robert E. Howard of the barbarian hero with no connection to any previous material.

Dark Horse came out strong with their first attempt with the iconic character and even brought in a heavy hitter with writer Kurt Busiek, who up until this point spent about a decade over at Marvel writing characters like the Avengers and Spider-Man. After his 32 issue run on Conan, Busiek went over to DC Comics and work with Superman and Aquaman.

Busiek, begins Conan news run with an ongoing dialogue between the Prince and the Wazir, living in an age centuries in Conan’s future where they discover a ruin full of gold and fallen statue of Conan that peaks the interest of the Prince, who wants to know more about this ruler. Then, as a nice touch, Howard’s poem, “Cimmeria” is beautifully told and illustrated before being led to the tale Wazir uncovered that  follows a young Conan and his quest for adventure where he meets and joins a village in need of a strong warrior to aid them in their revenge against a group of raiders.

conan 3The first 6 and a half issues, adapt a Howard’s classic story, “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” and cleverly merges it into Busiek’s own story, creating an exciting first attempt at a classic character, that stays true to the original source. The overall story collected in the first trade flowed very well and this new approach gave Conan a very different feel than what we have seen before. The story was solid throughout, but sometimes the writing came off a bit too wordy in parts. A young reader, might find some of the word choices to be a bit confusing.

Dark Horse spares no expense as it brought in two the industries best artist to bring life to Busiek’s writing. The art really stands out as the first volume of Conan by Dark Horse is set apart from the previous Marvel run. The team of Cary Nord on pencils and colors by Dave Stewart matched well and the lack of inking that gave the art a watercolor look. This worked very well with the style and tone of the writing that Busiek set. Nord, also coming from Marvel, worked on characters just has Daredevil and a few X-Men titles. He later went on to work for Valiant onconan 2 the relaunch of X-O Manowar. Stewart is also an artist many comic fans would know as he too has worked at both Marvel and DC over the years and his coloring can also be seen in NBC’s Heroes, where he colored Tim Sale’s art for the Television show.

Overall the first volume of Dark Horse Comic’s first take on a the classic character of Conan started off strong. Busiek’s had a hard task of taking a beloved and known character and giving him a fresh take, while also keeping to the standards that Robert E. Howard and Marvel had set. The art team of Nord and Stewart was a great addition to team as their art style was not only beautiful, but fit very well into the style to lay the groundwork for the Conan series to come.