Oh woe is me! I cannot seem to remember exactly which issue of Savage Sword of Conan was my first. This important blog post will seek to correct this pivotal injustice. I shall dive deep and figure this shit out. You are invited to join, or welcomed to run away. Your choice.
There are a few distinct memories I have of acquiring and reading SSOC. I’m going to sketch out the main ones, then I’ll try to analyze them based on the release date of those specific issues and where I was at in my life at that time.
1. Joe’s Underboob (issue #104, Sept 1984)
As mentioned in this salacious post on my scantily-clad alternative blog, I was quite fixated on the cover art for this issue. In fact, this art adorns the wall to my left even as I type these words right now in 2023. To be honest, I don't even remember what was inside this one. To be even more honest, there's probably only one issue of SSOC that I do remember inside and out. The stories tended to blur together, didn't they? Conan would be cast into some situation with some thugs and damsels, cut a bunch of bastards in half, roll in the hay with a hottie, and maybe slay a demon. That's what we bought the book for.
But I do remember this cover. Joe Jusko was at the height of his powers with this one. And I'm not even a huge Jusko fanboy or anything. My connection to him is merely through his SSOC covers, with this one being the standout. In a lot of his paintings I just see Vallejo-style gym shorts dudes with oiled pecks.
2. The Mill (issue #105, Oct 1984)
I think this is a fucking great issue. It kicks off with an epic Michael Golden cover that actually depicts what is happening inside the comic. Now, I don't think this is necessary, mind you. I'm a fan of zines and comics with cover art that just does whatever the hell it wants. But in this case the cover really does tell you what the story is about.
I actually studied this cover art quite a bit. I eyeballed it in detail, looking at how Golden drew buckles and how he angled the weapons to avoid boring front-on shots. And his crazy colors!
Then we get the story The Mill, written by Don Krarr, pencilled by Gary Kwapisz, and inked by Bob Camp. Kwapisz had already contributed a number of pinups to the comic and would go on to do a lot more feature stories. He was at his peak when I was an avid SSOC reader.
The Mill is a very simple story. It features no sorcery, no magic, no kings, no monsters. It is about a group of cold, hungry soldiers who come upon a grain mill and crash it to feed their bellies and get warm. Conan, their leader, forces the owner of the mill to comply but promises no harm will come to him or his family. Naturally, Conan's men are too base and lecherous to keep that promise and so he has to kill them. ALL OF THEM. And it is glorious, bloody, epic storytelling with a gritty ending to boot.
See, this is the twist. I'm listing these issues in my memory order. But clearly my memory is fucked because this issue predates the other two. I distinctly remember picking up #104 and it felt like my first. But I 100% for certain also owned #102 because every single page of it hits my memory receptors like a tidal wave. Especially the letters page... which shows the phenomenal art from the cover of issue #98... which I NEVER OWNED. I remember bemoaning the fact that I got in after that issue.
Of course the cover pictured here is #98. The actual #102 cover is by Bill Sienkiewisz, which is cool... but it ain't no Jabba-slaying Conan.
4. For shits, let's look at #103 and maybe #101
So which of these was actually my first SSOC? Maybe it will help me narrow this down if I look at a few peripheral issues.
First up, #101. Hard nope. I have absolutely no memory of this one. If I dig out my Conan books, long isolated in my storage shed and probably suffering as a result, I will not find this one. It has a dope Michael Golden cover though, with some beefy warriors on a boat and a witch.
And HOLY FUCK it has an aboslutely SICK Armando Gil frontpiece! Check this out:
So what about #103? Nope. I don't recognize that Bob Larkin cover and I don't remember any tigers with stars on their heads. Also, and this might sound incredibly juvenile to you, but I would probably remember the naked woman on page one of the story. I was a teenager.
Umm... #106? For damn sure, no. I never even laid eyes on that Michael Golden cover.
|Rudy Nebres brings the heat.
#107 does get me back into familiar territory with its Earl Norem Viking cover and a villain who looks like Warduke. I had this issue for sure. I also had #108, #109... yeah. So it was with issue #107 that I fell into the lucky habit of picking up every issue every month.
5. What are we to make of this?
Ok. As far as I can recall, I didn't know anyone who collected or bought or read SSOC. I discovered it quite by accident at a convenience store. It must have been in in July, 1984, that I made the initial discovery. Two months later I found another, and followed up on it one month later. Then I missed a bit and finally settled into the routine of buying them monthly in December, 1984.
In the summer of 1984 I was 13 years old and I was in 7th grade. This was when my family finally stopped moving around all the time. We settled into a single location where we lived until I graduated from high school. This is why I was able to start picking up comics on a monthly basis. I was getting SSOC and Amazing Spider-Man.
Ok. I think my work here is done. I now have a Savage Sword timeline I can refer to next time I can't remember. This was fun.