Monday, August 6, 2012

Comics' First Barbarian

Before Claw, Wulf, and Ironjaw--even before Conan--there was a barbarian Sword & Sorcery hero in comics. Though there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this particularly mighty-thewed sword-slinger, he’s got a famous name: Crom the Barbarian!


Crom was the creation of Gardner Fox and first appeared in Out of this World #1 (1950) from Avon. Fox tells us that Crom’s adventures come to us courtesy of “long-lost parchments recovered in an underwater upheaval, translated by a lingual expert,” but I suspect he made it all up.  He also took a lot of inspiration from Howard's Conan yarns.
Anyway, Crom’s a yellow-haired Aesir living in an age forgotten by history, and he’s got a problem. His sister Lalla have been kidnapped by ape-men called Cymri (which may or may not tell us how Fox felt about the Welsh). Crom makes short work of the ape-men, but he and Lalla wind up adrift.


They end up on an island. Good news: It’s full of lovely women. Bad news:


The wizard is named Dwelf, and he’s got a job for Crom. Dwelf wants him to bring back water from the fountain of youth which was built by “people from the stars’ and will one day be lost “under what men will call the Sahara desert.” Dwelf threatens Lalla if Crom doesn’t get the stuff for him--and then hypnotizes him to make double sure.

Crom sails to fabled Ophir. He sneaks into the city and while he’s casing the tower that houses the fountain, he meets a girl who doesn’t really get the concept of sword & sorcery tavern-dancing:


Crom takes the girl (Gwenna) dancing and formulates a plan to get into the tower by first being thrown in jail. It works, but once at the tower, he’s got to fight panthers and some guards. He dispatches them all with his sword “Skull-cracker.”

When he gets to the fountain he finds he guarded by a giant snake! He kills it, too, but is almost done in by the queen of Ophir, herself, Tanit. He takes her hostage so he can get out of the city:


By the time they’ve escaped though, Tanit has warmed to Crom and is asking him to come back and be her king! She and Crom deliver the water to Dwelf, who suffers the ironic fate of being turned into an infant.

Not really into childcare, apparently, Crom leaves the wizardling and decides he and Tanit should head back to that kingdom she’s promised him--with his sister Lalla, too, of course. They don’t make it back without adventure, but that ends this particular issue.

Crom goes on to have two more improbable adventures in the pages of Strange Worlds.

13 comments:

shortymonster said...

You say he was inspired by Howard? not sure I see it myself ;)

Black Vulmea said...

The smoke of herb fires?

They landed on Jamaica!

Trey said...

Heh. I wonder if this is the first time ol' Dwelf saw something in the smoke of the herb fires that actually happened.

Stephan Poag said...

I like how thw artist chose a surpisely ligh-hearted and fun-filled lettering style, such as might be employed in a comic like 'The Family Circus,' for the title rather than the more obvious and tired cliche of letters written in the blood of Crom's enemies of letters built from the bones of the dead.

Trey said...

That's true. The letterer was a genius--or either only knew how to to do one lettering style.

Stephan Poag said...

Well, we haven't yet discussed Crom's "Business in the front, barbarian in the back" hairstyle. Is that haircut called a "Hyborian Waterfall?" "Cimmerian Mudflap?" "Cthonian Comprimise?" That is one glorious golden ape drape! Any German soccer team would be proud to have him!

Trey said...

That's true. No "square-cut mane" for this fashion forward young barbarian. And I'd like to see an ape-man work a do like that!

Bard said...

Cool trip to the 50's!

Tim Shorts said...

What is it with barbarians and large snakes?

Trey said...

@Tim - Size envy.

Unknown said...

"Well, we haven't yet discussed Crom's "Business in the front, barbarian in the back" hairstyle....SNIP...German soccer team would be proud to have him!"

Hilarious.

David said...

Oh, and I think I fixed the "Unknown" moniker I've accidentally been sporting here.

Trey said...

You've revealed yourself! :)