their CONAN The BARBARIAN four-colour comicbook back in 1970,
Big JOHN BUSCEMA was first choice as artist to illustrate the swarthy
Cimmerian's action-packed adventures. Only one problem with that how-
ever - too expensive. There was a severely limited budget for the comic and
writer ROY THOMAS was already paying more than Marvel's publisher
MARTIN GOODMAN had authorised for the rights to use ROBERT
E. HOWARD's sword and sorcery swashbuckler.
WINDSOR-Smith) was assigned the task of bringing Conan's comic-
book career to life, which he did with verve and vitality as befitting the bold
barbarian's bombastic and bloodthirsty battles. As we're well aware, John
Buscema eventually did become the series' regular artist (drawing more
issues than anyone else), but what might that first adventure have looked
like had he pencilled the premiere issue as originally planned?
of speculation as, in 1994 - nearly half a century after Conan's debut
issue - Big John finally brought his artistic magic to that '70s tale from
Conan The Barbarian #1. Personally speaking, I'd have preferred to
see the story drawn with a more traditional grid-layout without the page-
bleeds, and in colour as opposed to black and white. The last panel in par-
ticular cries out for colour - or even some kind of shading to indicate the
moon against the night sky, as described in one of the captions. As it
is, it's short on some sorely-needed atmosphere and lacks the
impact of Smith's earlier version.
'like-with-like' in the strictest sense, it's fascinating to see Buscema's
take on Thomas's titanic tale, although it would have been even better
had JOE SINNOTT or TOM PALMER performed the inking chores.
Perhaps one day they'll reprint it in colour and give readers a better idea
of what could have been had "the Michelangelo of comics" (as
Smilin' STAN LEE dubbed him) drawn the Hyborian hero's
dynamic debut all those years ago.
'94 issue of The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #222.
Take a look at Conan's first appearance here - then come back and
say which visual version of the tale you prefer - and why.