I love Robert E. Howard’s stories. I grew up reading Conan, following his violent and bloody adventures. He is probably the most famous of Howard’s creations. I remember how enamored I was with some of the book covers, most notably the ones created by Frank Frazetta.
To me, Frazetta was one of only two artists who could truly encapsulate the visceral rawness and power of Conan, and I would even say, how Howard must have imagined the character. Back then I didn’t know other writers also wrote Conan stories. I only discovered this later. More than 50 novels featuring Howard’s iconic character have been written by authors other than Howard. Authors like Poul Anderson; Leonard Carpenter; L. Sprague de Camp; Roland J. Green; Robert Jordan; Sean A. Moore; Björn; Andrew J. Offutt; Steve Perry; John Maddox Roberts; Harry Turtledove, and Karl Edward Wagner–all contributed to Howard’s legacy. You might even recognize some of these names if you read in the sci-fi/fantasy genres.
I’ve read all Howard’s original Conan stories, even have a few special editions in my own collection, and I’ve also read Conan stories from these other authors. Some were good, some not so much. Truth be told, It’s been so long, I don’t recall who stood out for me. A revisit might be in order. Might even be fun. For more on Frazetta’s art, visit this stunning Tumblr page: Frank Frazetta.
I loved Conan then, as I do now. His and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan kept my imagination busy as a kid, an imagination undoubtedly fueled by Frazetta’s stunning covers. See, what both these authors have in common is Frank Frazetta. Frazetta did a lot of covers for Conan books and a couple of Tarzan editions. I had to check Wikipedia for specifics–I didn’t know offhand–but it seems the Lancer paperback editions that ran from 1966 to 1977, featured the most Frazetta covers. What makes these editions so special is that not only did most of them have Frazetta covers, they were the first to combine Howard’s original stories with stories written by other authors.
I’m a Frazetta fan–obviously. I have been for a long time and over the years I’ve collected a few of his art books, even have his documentary, Painting With Fire. I tend to throw myself into something completely if I like it. Sadly, Frank Frazetta passed away in May 2010. His art, to me, was so powerful, so brutally beautiful, it gave legitimacy to my imagination. Frazetta’s style and Howard’s Conan were made for each other. If I see a Frazetta cover on a Conan book, that is my setting, that is the stage, the guideline my imagination uses to color the pictures, and thus the story inside is touched with that. It did not limit my imagination. It enhanced it.
Which brings me to the point of today’s post. I came across the cover above a few days ago. I recognized the style. It reminded me of Frank Frazetta. I recognised the image of Conan. He was potrayed the way Frazetta would paint him, only it wasn’t Frazetta. It was Brom.
To say Gerald Brom’s work is unique is as big an understatement as saying Hemingway was a fine writer. There is a stark realism to Brom’s work with its mixture of dark fantasy and horror elements. And the way he paints Conan, it reminds you of Frazetta, but at the same time, it’s so very different.
I got excited at seeing this book, and my adulation grew when I discovered that this specific edition contains a collection of not only Brom’s, but also Frazetta’s paintings and drawings, all neatly hewn together in one volume. That was not all. The Afterword was written by H.P. Lovecraft. This is significant. Howard and Lovecraft were friends back in the day. Howard was part of the Lovecraft Circle, a very intense writer’s group consisting of like-minded writers, all bonded by their love and adoration of pulp and Lovecraft.
And of course, Lovecraft is on my list of favorite authors. I even paid tribute to him in The Seals of Abgal. So, in this one book, you have an iconic character that I love. You have two artists whom I adore, and you have two original writers who were masters of their genre and whom I look to for inspiration. I think Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane had me this excited.
I’ve now made a promise to myself. When I finish The Morrigan, this book, “…and their memory was a bitter tree…” shall be my congratulatory gift to myself.