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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 14: Conan #5

by  in Comic News Comment

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Conan #5, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated June 2004. Enjoy!


So, Kurt Busiek wrote this. Dave Stewart colored it. Richard Starkings and his minions at Comicraft lettered it. But who drew it? According to the credits, Thomas Yeates did layouts and backgrounds on this issue, while Cary Nord “pencilled” it. Does that mean that Yeates put in the sandstone bricks, did a sketch of Conan and the lions, and then Nord finished the figures before Yeates inked them (Yeates is listed as inker). Kurt Busiek might know. Maybe he’ll stop by to tell us!

Anyway, this is a nice, dramatic first page. The font of the title is standard “sword-and-sorcery” lettering (I don’t know if Starkings invented it, but it’s fairly common in comics), and the green coloring is an interesting touch. Conan stands in the foreground, all coiled and tense, ready to strike. His sword pulls our eyes back to the lions, who advance on him menacingly. The nice thing about the page is that it’s all potential energy – even the lions seem frozen (they’re “moving,” of course, and of course comics show static images, but I hope you know what I mean), as if they’re all waiting for a cue. They get the cue on the next page, but a page that is wound like a spring is a nice way to begin an issue. And check out Conan’s left hand – it’s huge! What the hell?

One of the fascinating things about the narration is the way Starkings (or his minions) letter it. I don’t know if this was Busiek’s suggestion or Starkings’ innovation, but it’s like this throughout the issue (and the series, as a matter of fact): it appears in typeface. The lettering is incongruous in Conan’s world, of course, but it hearkens back to Conan’s pulp roots in Robert Howard’s typewriter. It’s a nice trick that isn’t obvious but still noticeable. Busiek’s script is interesting, too – Conan doesn’t know lions, but he describes them as someone might describe Conan himself – “swift and strong, with wild manes of hair around their heads.” Small details like this are what make comics fun to read.

So that’s the first page of a comic that features Conan fighting lions, torture, more fighting, suicides, and a slave revolt. What more could you ask for?

Next: It started as a webcomic, but I’m using it anyway! Webcomics have first pages, right?