Monday, June 17, 2013

To Conan or Not to Conan?

Although the hardcover edition of Conan, Vol. 13: Queen of the Black Coast was released in January, 2013, the trade paperback is on the docket for release this week, according to the release schedule at Collected Comics Library.

Since I have lately become a fan of writer Brian Wood, and have always admired the artwork of Becky Cloonan (although she's not the only artist contributing here), picking up the trade paperback this week seems like a no-brainer.

Or does it?

Just take a look at some of the online reviews of this volume. Some love it, some hate it. And some of those who hate it passionately hate it. You'll probably find that most of those railing against it as a blasphemous entry in the Conan canon are doing so because it apparently departs quite jarringly from the original Robert E. Howard stories. (There's also an interesting discussion of this on the podcast Double Page Spread, Episode 50, dated June 6, 2013.)

Once again, we have the timeless "Sticking with Tradition" vs. "Let's Explore the Possibilities" argument. We see this all the time, recently with the Marvel and DC comics reboots and even more recently with the new Superman movie Man of Steel (which I haven't seen yet, so I can't really comment on it). How much tradition do you keep? How much can you reasonably tinker with tradition and still please your audience?

Most of the controversy from the new Conan collection seems to stem from the role of women in these stories. (Just read a few reviews; you'll see what I mean.) I've only read a few of the original Robert E. Howard stories, and they didn't really stick with me. I had a good time reading them, but felt no need to read his whole Conan output. I saw the first movie back in the 80s, enjoyed it, but again felt no need to continue. So maybe Wood's taking Conan in a new direction from Howard is a good thing? After all, the original stories appeared in the 1930s...

New directions can be a good thing. So also the evolution of a character. (Remember, Superman couldn't even fly for his first two years.) I'm certainly willing to give Wood and company a chance with Conan, yet I understand I'm not bringing much Conan baggage to the table, so the risk for me is low.

So, Conan fans.... What do you say? Will you give this volume a chance? Why or why not?

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