Since ending his exclusive contract with DC Comics and bringing his acclaimed creator-owned series “Northlanders” and “DMZ” to a close, Brian Wood has taken up a remarkable slate of new projects, from his next indie epic “The Massive” with Kristian Donaldson at Dark Horse to tackling the mutant adventures of Marvel’s “X-Men.”
As the writer was first revealing his plan to strike a balance between creator- and company-owned projects, fans were surprised to find Wood taking up the reins of “Conan the Barbarian” along with frequent artistic collaborator Becky Cloonan. With one arc completed and a second, now illustrated by “B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth–The Long Death” artist James Harren, what has emerged is a fresh and stylistic take on Robert E. Howard’s classic hero.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Wood about his thoughts on the series to date, the extreme fan reactions to “Conan,” both favorable and not, and the slate of artists coming on to the title after Harren’s arc is completed.
CBR News: With your first arc on “Conan the Barbarian” behind you, what can you tell us about your experiences with the book so far? Were there any aspects that surprised you, whether something in the book’s creation or fans’ reactions to the finished issues?
Becky’s take on Conan, while still a figure of strength, is quite a bit more trim and streamlined than other interpretations, and it looks like this will continue as James Harren and other artists take up the art for the series. Why depart from the traditional, ultra-muscle physique?
It’s in keeping with the source material, the “panther-like” physique Robert E Howard used to describe him. This was also something given to us at the start of the series, a mandate from on high to portray Conan this way. He’s young in this story, in his early twenties, and there’s no logical reason why he should look like a steroid case. He’s still big, though, tall and muscular. James Harren made him much more ripped and defined, which is more a result of his drawing style vs. Becky’s than anything else.
“The Argos Deception” began this month, where we see you teaming up with James Harren for an arc. What made him the right choice to step in for Becky?
James was not known to me before this, but Dark Horse had worked with him before so it was a suggestion that came from them. Why he’s a good choice is obvious –I don’t know how the hell he drew the city scenes like that — there’s no reference material that I know of, so all that just came out of his head. Amazing. He also has a flair for action and battle scenes, which we’ll see a lot of. It gives me goosebumps, some of those passages.
Coming up, we have Becky on art for #7, then Vasilis Lolos for #8-9 and Declan Shalvey for #10-12. This would seem to continue the indie sensibility you’re building with Becky and James in the first two arcs, yet these are still very much “Conan” comics. How does the art complement or more fully bring out the new yet familiar Conan of your stories?
I’m responding to the artists’ styles when I write these, in some cases asking the artists which of my story outlines they want to draw. In this middle section of the series (which runs through to issue 25), it’s very episodic, built from small arcs that are fairly self-contained. We’re working far enough in advance it allows me to customize the scripts to the artists. It’s actually very “Northlanders”-esque, these artists, with the exception of James. We have another “Northlanders” alum coming in for the #16-18 arc.
“Conan the Barbarian” #4, part one of the “Argos Deception” arc illustrated by James Harren, is in stores now.