C2E2: Truman Hails "King Conan"

Announced Saturday at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), Dark Horse's ongoing "Conan the Cimmerian" series written by Tim Truman and illustrated by Tomas Giorello will end with #25 to make way for Roy Thomas's "Conan: Road of Kings," which debuts in December. Truman and Giorello, though, will be tackling Robert E. Howard's savage hero's latter-day exploits in "King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel," a four-issue miniseries shipping later this year. CBR News spoke with Truman about the final chapter of "Cimmerian," inaugurating the reign of "King Conan," and discovering new ways to adapt Howard's classic stories.

"My final arc is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's 'Iron Shadows In the Moon'-- an REH classic, and certainly one of my favorite Conan tales," Truman told CBR. "Roy Thomas's story takes up right where 'Iron Shadows' leaves off. Anyone familiar with the original story will tell you that REH gives an indication where things are to go, Roy Thomas will expand on things and get Conan there. While he's doing that, Tomas and I get to ride ahead several years in the Conan chronology and tell a King Conan tale, Howard's 'Scarlet Citadel.'"

Truman told CBR that the decision to move him and artist Tomas Giorello off the ongoing "Conan" series was made at the editorial level based on input from the licensor. "However, Dark Horse told Tomas and I that Conan Properties is really, really pleased with the stories that Tomas and I have been doing and wanted to be sure that we remained connected to and involved in the franchise," the writer added. "They decided that the way to do this would be to add a Conan miniseries to the line, and to assign the miniseries to Tomas and me.

"I'm quite cool with the decision-- excited about it, really," Truman continued. "I've been writing the ongoing title for four years.  That's longer than I've ever been involved with any single title book in my entire career. So it gives me a chance to take a couple of months off, do some research and recharge my batteries. With 'Scarlet Citadel,' Tomas and I will bring a whole new level of craftsmanship and concentration to the title. I can't wait to see what Tomas cooks up-- he'll be able to lavish even more detail onto each page. I think 'Scarlet Citadel' will be a monumental thing, visually.

"Plus I can't wait to see what Roy Thomas does with the ongoing title. I'm a big fan."

As to how he feels about skipping ahead in the Cimmerian hero's epic, Truman is similarly optimistic. "To be honest, I'm probably more fond of Conan's 'late career' period than his 'early adventures,'" Truman told CBR. "My two favorite favorite Conan stories of all time are REH's King Conan story 'Hour of the Dragon' (also known as 'Conan the Conqueror') and 'Beyond the Black River,' which is generally recognized as one of Conan's last adventures before he became king of Aquilonia. Though Howard actually wrote the stories out-of-sequence, chronologically, his 'older' Conan reads quite differently than his 'younger' Conan. His younger Conan is rough and tumble; his older Conan is tough, hard. His younger Conan is cocky, but his older Conan is confident. His younger Conan is a global adventurer, but his older Conan is a world-beater."

The Conan of "Scarlet Citadel" is a more grim, mature figure than that seen in the "Cimmerian" ongoing, Truman told CBR. "To say the least, he's got more miles under his belt. The thread that runs through most of my Conan stories-- depicting, as they do, his more  youthful adventures-- is one of betrayal. Each betrayal has not brought not just scars, but lessons. Those scars and lessons have made him tough.

"Despite that, REH makes it clear that Conan yearns for the freedom of his younger days. The crown chafes him... restricts him."

"The Scarlet Citadel," based on the short story of the same name first published in 1933, will a hold a perspective distinct from what had been seen in the ongoing as Truman experiments with a new trick to bring him closer to Howard's original. "As with all my REH adaptations, I want to stay as true to Howard's plot as possible," the writer said. "Bringing those stories to the visual medium can sometimes be challenging, however. Frankly, one of the most painful things about adapting Howard is the fact that I'm so enamored of his descriptive prose. In many ways, it's the heart of Howard. In my final 'Conan the Cimmerian' arc, 'Iron Shadows In the Moon,' I came up with a surprising device that allowed me to retain more of Howard's descriptions: I gave Olivia, the heroine of the tale, the role of narrator. It worked out great. It had the added benefit of adding a new layer of depth to the tale. Olivia, after all, is a pretty tragic character: sold by her father, the king of Ophir; taken thousands of miles from her home; given as a present to a Shah of Hyrkanian Turan; then abused and raped by the Shah. A tough life.

"I'm looking for that sort of thing in 'Scarlet Shadows'-- something which is very faithful to the original story but, at the same time, amplifies its core," Truman continued. "Though it might seem like a strange analogy, I call it the 'Masterpiece Theater' approach: take classic Howard, adapt it in a way that will hopefully please even the toughest Howard fans, but do it in a way that brings out the best strengths within the tale or exposes something that Robert hid in there somewhere. That's the plan, anyway."

Following "Scarlet Citadel," Truman said there may be further "King Conan" miniseries to follow. "By all means. Fetch them hence."

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