Conan and Solomon Kane may be the marquee characters of Robert E. Howard’s pulp adventures, but the writer created a whole host of fascinating heroes and heroines in his too-brief life. Among the classic REH characters being revitalized in Dark Horse’s “Savage Sword” anthology is Dark Agnes, or Agnes de Chastillon, a woman who fights back against her expected submissive role in society in 16th century France – with a sword. Her story, told in two 8-page installments in the first two issues, is written by “Manhunter” and “Let Me In: Crossroads” scribe Marc Andreyko with art by “G.I. Joe’s” Robert Atkins. December’s debut issue also features a lead Conan story by Paul Tobin and Wellinton Alves, a new story by Tim Bradstreet and Mark Finn as well as Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith and Tim Conrad’s “Worms of the Earth” Conan epic reprinted in full. CBR News caught up with Andreyko to discuss his contribution.
“I’ve been a Robert E. Howard fan since I was a kid, so to get to work on one of his characters, especially one who most people aren’t familiar with, has been a blast,” Andreyko said. “Howard wrote her as a pre-feminist-movement feminist, which played on my attraction to writing strong women in comics.”
Agnes de Chastillon only appeared in three stories, which gives Andreyko some room to establish his own take on the character. “She is waaay ahead of her time. She’s a woman who, when faced with abuse and adversity, stands up to it and kicks its ass! REH wrote just enough to make her fascinating, but not so much that I’m beholden to a ton of existing continuity,” the writer said. “I’m not retconning her, I’m just playing in the sandbox that REH so beautifully created.”
While many of Dark Horse’s Howard titles adapt the original author’s stories to some degree or another, Andreyko’s will be an entirely new tale that nevertheless sets up the character firmly within Howard’s established world. “Since so few people know ‘Agnes,’ my story introduces the reader to her in the context of her legend in her time period. And there’s sword-fighting, too,” Andreyko told CBR.
Andreyko’s “Agnes” adventure, which will mark the character’s comic book debut, will also acclimate readers to the particular setting of the heroine’s life. “The setting is as much of a character as Agnes. When Dark Horse first pitched me ‘Agnes,’ it was the time period that made me most intrigued,” Andreyko said. “I actually love research. Since my knowledge of 16th century France was, ahem, small, I’ve learned a lot about that era and hope I get to tell more stories in it.”
Praising his artist for the story, Robert Atkins, Andreyko said, “He’s gonna be a big star soon (and probably won’t return my calls!). [Laughs] His stuff is detailed, vibrant and gorgeous. I continue to be a lucky guy and get artists that make me look good.”
Andreyko’s other December-debuting project is the much-anticipated “Let Me In: Crossroads” miniseries, a considerably different comic from what readers will see in “Savage Sword.” The writer has chosen an intriguing array of projects over the last few years, a slate that has included a stint on “G.I. Joe Origins” and the mythology-inspired “Pantheon” for IDW and a “Predators” movie tie-in for Dark Horse, among others. “I love hopping around genre-wise on projects. It keeps me on my toes and makes me stretch as a writer,” Andreyko said. “I can’t imagine writing one genre exclusively for my whole career. I get bored very easily, so having multiple projects in different genres is my ideal situation. My only requirement for taking on a new project is ‘Do I want to see this story? Would I pay to see this story?’ Genre is secondary to interest in the characters.”
This is not to say, though, that the writer does not or will not return to genres and characters he enjoys. Andreyko said that he would welcome the chance to tell more “Dark Agnes” stories beyond the initial two-issue run. “Hopefully, people will dig ’em enough to want to see more! I already have a great idea for an ‘Agnes’ mini-series! Hint. Hint.”
He also indicated a willingness – rather, an eagerness – to contribute further stories to the “Savage Sword” series. “As I mentioned, I have many more ideas for Agnes’ further adventures, so fingers are crossed. And I would love to do, in no particular order, King Conan, Solomon Kane, and Kull.”