Conan returns to Marvel in January. Not only is this a big homecoming to Marvel, but it’s probably the first time the mighty Cimmerian has been in front of a large audience for the better part of a couple of decades. Dark Horse did right by Conan, sticking closely with Robert E. Howard’s vision of the character throughout it’s stewardship of the title. Conan was well served by the steady hand of Dark Horse editorial staff.
However, Conan never really brought home a ton of sales. Recognizing that is inherently unfair to compare the sales profiles of Dark Horse and Marvel, the last Conan series for Dark Horse wasn’t exactly enjoying widespread appeal. Conan the Slayer only pulled in sales of around 7,500 by the twelfth, and final, issue. Looking at the last couple of omnibus volumes also shows an equally depressing figure, with the last volume pulling in under 1,000 total sales. Conan’s crossover with Wonder Woman did significantly better, with an average of 20,000 units sold for the six issue miniseries. One could probably assume that the spike in sales was due in part to Wonder Woman’s increased profile.
Conan is returning to a much larger stage with Marvel. With buzz surrounding the phenomenal creative team for their first series, Marvel is sure to give Conan a much higher profile. Just looking at the numbers from Dark Horse, it’s easy to predict that there are going to be many more folks checking out Conan from Marvel than there had been from Dark Horse.
But one does not simply walk into a Conan comic book. Its four-colored pages are guarded by more than polypropylene bags and acid free boards. Reading a Conan comic book must be treated with all due deference and respect. Any wrong move or ill thought could sully the experience and bring forth the wrath of the gods. Luckily, as a longtime Conan reader, I’m here to offer new readers seven pieces of advice on how to appropriately approach reading a Conan comic book.
1 Appropriate Attire
So you arrived to a Conan comic book wearing your everyday street clothes? Bah! Fool, do you think a Conan comic book is some jaunty affair featuring superpowered fisticuffs and spandex-festooned shenanigans? This is Conan the Barbarian, not some weak willed comic pablum that’s gushed out to coddle Batman fans. THIS IS CONAN!!!
Gentlemen, procure yourselves a loincloth from your closet. If you do not already own a loincloth, washrags and/or hand towels make acceptable alternatives. Notice how I didn’t mention a shirt? That’s because you’re not wearing one. I don’t care if it is almost winter. Toughen up, you mangy cur. Find some boots or sandals to complete the look.
Ladies, surely you own a metal bikini. If not… smith one posthaste. This comic book isn’t going to wait for you to decide what is fashionable or practical! Hop to it. A stylish cape or animal hide can act as acceptable fashion accessory.
2 Appropriate Drink
Hipster millennials will try to convince you that drinking carbonated, locally sourced, gluten free, flavored water is the way to go. This is unwise counsel. Might as well throw yourself to the mercies of a Shemite hoard! Don’t poison yourself with such “healthy” drink. You only live once, and Crom doesn’t care if you spent your life drinking something because you were foolishly thinking it would somehow save the earth!
No, what you need, newfound Conan reader, is something more lively. Something more appropriate. What you need is mead! Chaucer’s makes a great brand of honey mead that will warm your belly without leaving you completely out of your gourd. It can be purchased from Chaucer’s online store, and is offered in a variety of flavors if one needs to feel especially fancy or prosperous.
3 Appropriate Street Cred
Now that you have dressed the part and maybe have a good buzz going too, it’s time to think about how your peers and neighbors perceive you. Do they wave at you as you place your recyclables at the curb or do they run in fear, shouting lamentations as you lumber to the end of your clan’s dwelling? I suspect it’s more the former than the latter.
Never fear! It’s not too late to show everyone what kind of of a barbarian you really are. Proudly open wide the doors of your domicile. Find that recycle bin on the curb and kick it into the street. Yes, there will be noise. Yes, there may be jeers. Yes, the cops may be called. But you will have shown everyone just how fearless you are now that you have Conan in your life. Bonus points will be awarded to anyone scowling at unruly teenagers or growling at old women having the temerity to walk labradoodles down your street..
4 Appropriate Language
With your reputation and street cred established, you are free to read. But wait? What’s this? You live with others? Ugh, domesticity. The inconvenience of clan life means constantly being interrupted. You demand peace and quiet, but your clanmates seldom give it to you, do they? Robert E. Howard said it best when he said that civilized men are often more discourteous than savages.
But fear not! Conan knew that a sharp tongue can be just as valuable as a sharp sword., Don’t tell your loved ones that you’re reading. They may not take that seriously. Spit and proclaim, “Now is the feasting of swords!” This will let them know that you are to not to be disturbed. If anyone tries to give you guff, perhaps ask “Who dies first?” Remind them that, “It is not pleasant to come upon Death in a lonely place at midnight.” Or try, “I’ll pile the heads of your kinsmen at your feet!” These small, but effective phrases should win you all the precious time you need to read your Conan comic books in peace.
5 Appropriate Setting
Now that any distractions have been taken care of, it is time to prepare a place of reading. Why are you grabbing for quilted blankets crocheted by your grandmother? Have you not any animal furs lying about from your recent hunts? This is most disappointing. We shall tell no one of this. Grab your soft blankets, if you must, and make your way to a couch or recliner.
Ah, but before you lay amongst your urban faux-furs, make sure you have handled the light situation. If at all possible, light a fire at the mantle or bring an oil lamp to a table close by. Your electric light bursting from the ceiling fan will do you no good here. You have already made too many compromises by having no animal furs from glorious hunts. Do you even hunt? Bah, never mind. Only by reading Conan through firelight will you ever reach full understanding of what it means to be a Cimmerian. Though, I should mention once more, how disappointing it is that you have no animal furs at hand.
6 Appropriate Soundtrack
You are almost ready to embark on your journey into the Hyborian Age. But before you can venture into those forgotten lands, there is one last thing that you must do to set the mood for the occasion. Conan’s deeds were written by scholars, enemies, and comrades at arms, this much is true. However, there were songs! As hard a life as Conan had, he found time for mirth and merry. His sorrows could only be matched by his exultations. Music, you need music.
No, no, no. Don’t reach for that Ed Sheeran album! What are you thinking? That is wrong on many levels. If you did start a fire, throw your phone or LP or CD in the fire. Conan would mock you openly for listening to Ed Sheeran! The only appropriate soundtrack for your evening reading is the soundtrack for the original Conan the Barbarian film, composed by Basil Poledouris. It is free to listen to for Amazon Prime subscribers and can also be found on YouTube. Let the anvil of Crom guide your reading experience!
7 Appropriate Post-Reading Behavior
Once you have finished your glorious reading of the evening, there are many ways you can react. Surely you have learned by now that Conan’s story is one of both triumph and sorrow. His actions have given you pause. His fighting skills have inspired you. His many lusts filled your bosom with pride. Yes, Conan has given you much to ponder at this late hour.
But what is the appropriate way to respond? Should you pensively stare off into the distance, reflecting on his fortunes and his melancholy? Should you wake everyone in the house with excited revelry and song? Or is it the time for somber reflection, dwelling on the remorse of Conan’s loses in life? The good news is that all of these are appropriate responses. You may even consider returning to the street to kick over more trash cans while bellowing out mournful tunes of yesteryear’s losses. No matter the reaction, you have done it. You have read a Conan comic!
The truth of the matter is that really is no wrong way to read a Conan comic book. There’s a right way (to just do it) and a really awesome, totally spectacular way (see above) to read a Conan comic. No matter how you read it, pick up your copy in shops on January 2nd.