Dark Horse's Philip Simon Looks Into Conan's Future

Conan and the Khojarans face their ultimate battle against the Stygian wizard Natohk this week in "Conan the Cimmerian" #13, the final chapter of the Dark Horse adaptation of Robert E. Howard's "Black Colossus." But in the aftermath of this issue, written by Timothy Truman with art by Tomás Giorello, the following two episodes will be standalone issues functioning as in-series specials.

"Conan" #14 is co-written by Truman and his son Ben, with the elder Truman also co-illustrating with Joe Kubert. "Conan the Cimmerian" #14 will feature a split narrative, with Kubert's portion revealing Conan's adventures immediately following "Black Colossus," the Robert E. Howard story adapted by Tim Truman, Tomás Giorello, and Jose Villarrubiain issues #8 to #13, while Truman will be exploring an episode from Conan's youth. After that, issue #15 finds Paul Lee coming aboard for a painted King Conan story.

"This issue #14 tale is in continuity with the issues in our regular 'Cimmerian' series," series editor Philip Simon told CBR News. "Tim's son Ben co-plotted this issue, which is called 'Home for the Hunt,' and Ben also co-plotted the 'Trophy' short story that Marian Churchland illustrated for MySpace Dark Horse Presents."

On the story itself, Simon said that it's a standalone issue, filling in some gaps in Howard's Conan chronology. "At the end of 'Black Colossus,' Conan's getting along very well with Princess Yasmela of Khoraja, as you can see in the original story by Howard, and he's basically shacked up with her in Khoraja's royal palace in the intervening weeks between Dark Horse's 'Black Colossus' adaptation and the next two shorter story arcs, which will be titled 'Free Companions' and then 'Kozaki,'" the editor explained. "This match -- or coupling -- isn't a good fit for either Conan or Yasmela, as we'll see, and Conan gets into some trouble on palace grounds. Joe's providing pages for the 'bookend' portions of 'Cimmerian' #14, which feature Conan, and he's overseeing lettering and coloring for the entire issue, spearheading the effort with his Tell-A-Graphics branch of the Kubert School. Joe's assistant at the Kubert School, Pete Carlsson, has been a great help. He's been indispensable, actually, in our production correspondences and weekly communications."

Simon continued, "Mr. Kubert's section of 'Cimmerian' #14 delivers a nice action sequence that harkens back to his best 'Tarzan' work from the 1970s -- some nice pages that show just how well Joe can illustrate the human form in motion, and he has a very exotic, sexy take on Yasmela that I love. Joe and I first worked together on Dark Horse's 'Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years' archival volumes, speaking of Tarzan. What's really special about that 'Tarzan' archival series is that Joe provided coloring notes to 'revamp' his own pages, and he shared some thumbnail and pencil pages to add to our last volume-things he rarely shares. I've talked Joe into sharing some pencil pages for the inevitable collection that will include this Conan story, and I hope to have a special thing or two to add to our 'Cimmerian' #14 one-shot issue's letters column."

Kubert became interested in working on "Conan" after working on a Robert E. Howard cover triptych for Dark Horse's launch of the current "Conan the Cimmerian" series, "Solomon Kane," and "Kull the Conquereror." "After working with Joe on an as-yet-unannounced project, he actually offered to do some sequential 'Conan' pages for our ongoing series. You can't imagine what a phone call that was for an editor to take!" Simon recalled. "Tim and I jumped at the chance to fit Joe into the series. Joe couldn't commit to a full issue, so Tim worked out a sequence with him in mind and decided to use it as a framing sequence, after corresponding with Joe. Tim will be drawing the central portion of this 'Cimmerian' #14 issue. Joe's bit takes place in Khoraja, with Conan feeling quite out of place in the middle of Yasmela's pampered pageantry, and Tim's section takes us back to Cimmeria, right after Conan wonders what his mother and his people are doing there in the wilds of the north.

"I'm also thrilled to have Tim write and draw some sequential 'Conan' work, so he can really tap into his love for the character. He's collaborated before with his longtime pal Joe R. Lansdale, but I've been encouraging him to really go to town on this short story and on the next short arc we're doing in 'Conan the Cimmerian' #16 to #18, which we're titling 'Free Companions,'" Simon continued. "In 'Free Companions,' Tim will get to draw Conan and his mercenary pals out on a 'guerrilla mission' for the benefit of the kingdom of Khoraja. What Tim's turning in, both story-wise and art-wise will really please his longtime fans.

"Back to our special #14 issue, though. In-house at Dark Horse, we've been calling this issue a 'multi-generational collaboration,' with Ben Truman working with his father and Tim working with Joe, his former mentor, which is really true and which pleases me to no end -- and I hope pleases fans, too. That's the scoop on that issue."

Immediately following the Kubert issue, Paul Lee comes on to paint a King Conan story in issue #15. "Our 'Conan the Cimmerian' #15 story, as sharp-eyed readers will see, fits in with every other short story that Tim and Paul have done together -- in a subtle, winking way perhaps, but they all fit together," Simon told CBR.

The story, "The Sorrow of Akivasha," finds Conan entangled with a female vampire and revists the Prince and Wazir subplot from "Conan" #0, the Eisner Award-winning inaugural Dark Horse issue. "We finally see some progression in that 'Nemedian Chronicles' Prince's storyline. Fans have been wondering why we haven't seen the Prince and the Wazir characters for a while and when we'd be seeing them again, and we have a pretty fun ending for this issue lined up that will hopefully give fans something to chew on and give a little closure to Prince's predicament until we can spend time with him again," Simon said. "This won't be the last time we see the Prince or the Wazir characters, but their stories will certainly be spaced out much more than in the past, partially due to some storytelling decisions that I worked out with Tim. Following his instincts and mine, the Prince and Wazir subplot and framing sequences were set aside for a bit in order to build up Conan's world and present life situations in the new series that we launched. We wanted to focus on Conan, and we obviously had a new approach to the idea of framing sequences -- and parallel narratives -- in order to let folks like Richard Corben and Joe Kubert come on board in interesting ways."

The editor continued, "'Conan the Cimmerian' #15 also ties in and fleshes out a portion of Robert E. Howard's 'Hour of the Dragon' novel, which involved the centuries-old vampire, Akivasha, and which has always intrigued Tim in his readings and re-readings of Howard's prose. This issue revisits Tim and Paul's 'Conan' collaborations and also hopefully marks the end of non-continuity breaks in our ongoing series. Tim and I hope to have all future King Conan and non-continuity stories published as one-shots or miniseries. I'm going to be bringing some new artists in the fold to contribute in-continuity stories to the ongoing series, like the Trumans' and Mr. Kubert's issue, spacing those out to fall after long Tomás Giorello arcs, and I'm also planning some special one-shot and miniseries stories that aren't encumbered by the ongoing plot dynamics of our regular series. That's what I'm aiming for going into 2010."

With respect to Lee's "Conan" #15, Simon said, "Paul's really pouring himself into these pages, and the pencil work that he's laying down before his painting stage is amazing on its own. This being the first time I've worked with Paul, his painting/coloring tests have blown me away. Akivasha is a centuries-old vampire, and both our cover artist, Joseph Michael Linsner, and Paul have turned in very sexy illustrations of her. Paul came up with her design, and this will be somewhat of a departure to the usual tone of the series. My assistant editor, Patrick Thorpe, and I were really psyched by Tim's moody script for this issue and sexy follow-ups from Paul and Joe. This issue will be a little different from the norm, what we're used to in 'Conan the Cimmerian' and it's a perfect Conan Halloween issue."

Coming soon to CBR: Editor Philip Simon discusses the saga of Conan beyond issue #15, as well as Darick Robertson's "Conan: Weight of the Crown" one-shot announced at Comic-Con International.

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