Friday, May 25, 2007

Quick one: Red Nails

Pulled out my ragged copy of Savage Tales #2 yesterday for some cool skull reference, and got caught up in looking at the classic marvel Black and White from the venerable 1970's.

The issue itself is an odd mixed bag of text pieces, comic stories from Barry Smith, Gray Morrow, Joe Maneely and Berni Wrightson, and Roy Thomas really digging into the bad repros from the original REH pulp stories.

Scanned here is a detail of a panel from Smith's greatly celebrated, and rightly so, two part adaption of "Red Nails". While this has been reprinted many times (I believe that I already own two or three other versions), it says something that the metal plates that were in use on the printing process at the time are actually able to capture and convey, in a first printing only, the beauty of Smith's line work.

And here is the odd thought: Red Nails really has celebrated and revered many times over as perhaps Smith's finest Conan work (compared against Song of Red Sonja for instance), and I almost have a little trepidation about labeling the work as such. you almost want to go against the tide and prove someone or something wrong concerning the work... and yet the critic in me looks at the story and just wants to nod its head and go, "yup, that really is amazing work". Sorry, you'll get no dispute from me on this one.

The rest of the book, however, is scary funny. This is 1973 after all, and we're treated to the odd paste up ad for Satana, the Devil's Daughter, an old John Romita stat surrounded by about 5 different fonts on five other stats. I can imagine the original art work being one that you had to be careful not to flex for fear of everything flying off the board.

The Berni Wrightson story is the worst thing in the book. Its Berni at his earliest and it shows. There really is nothing here to suggest the work that would come along in Swamp Thing. This smells of simple inventory burn off... I wonder how long it had been sitting in the drawer?

Rather interesting is the Joe Maneely story, an artist that i've become more familiar with over the years. This work, which I doubt was ever meant to be published in B & W, conveys a lot of the Don Heck to the faces, which makes me wonder if Heck followed him or if it was the other way round. While the style is not my favorite, and as a young man would have very quickly dismissed as hack, nowadays, in my ripe old age, I see the skill beneath the work, and it is considerable. Some excellent draghtmanship and storytelling.

My favorite part of the entire magazine? The little icon of Conan reading in the upper left corner of the cover. Heh heh.

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