ConanSavSword27The latest CROMCAST is a discussion of Robert E. Howard’s “Beyond the Black River,” a classic Conan tale, and a favorite of fans and critics alike.

The story was first published by WEIRD TALES in 1935, and by this time Conan the Cimmerian stood among the magazine’s most popular of recurring characters. Howard channels LAST OF THE MOHICANS here, placing Conan as a mercenary scout on the wild western border of Aquilonia. Thousands of primitive and bloodthirsty Picts, hereditary enemies of Conan’s northern folk, band together in the name of sorcerer Zogar Sag to assault a frontier fort along the Black River.

This swashbuckling story takes place later in Conan’s adventuring career, after he’s sailed two different oceans, traveled among the lost jungle realms of the distant south, and come back to the heart of Hyboria to sell his sword to the Aquilonians. He is a force to be reckoned with, and nobody captures that feral vitality quite like Howard himself did. Except maybe Frank Frazetta, decades later when his famous run of Conan paperback covers sold millions of copies.

SSC26In the 70s Marvel Comics adapted the story in a two-part SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN story. Jim Starlin did the grimly effective cover painting for SSC #26, and Bob Larkin knocked it out of the park with his cover for SSC #27.

Reading classic Robert E. Howard tales is twice the fun when you can listen to the CROMCAST gang talk about the stories as you go. I’m guessing that when they finish all of Howard’s Conan stories they’ll be moving on to other Howard work. Personally, I’d recommend the KULL tales, which are more Shakespearean in ideal and execution than the later Conan tales. But then again my all-time favorite REH tale is “Valley of the Worm”…

Weird_Tales_1935-11_-_Shadows_in_ZamboulaWherever the CROMCAST crew decides to go, it’s sure to involve some fascinating discussions. Next up, it’s “Shadows in Zamboula” from WEIRD TALES November 1935, where it was published under the more hardcore title of “The Man-Eaters of Zamboula”.

See you in Zamboula…