Fans of groundbreaking fantasy and adventure author Robert E. Howard have seen numerous works of his translated into comic books, especially by Dark Horse, who've enjoyed enormous success with their ongoing "Conan the Barbarian" title. Dark Horse hopes that success continues later this year as they re-launch Conan and add two more Howard series to their monthly ranks.
"Conan the Cimmerian," by writer Tim Truman and artist Tomas Giorello, begins in June with a special #0 issue with, issue #1 set to follow in July. Next up in September is "Solomon Kane," coming from writer Scott Allie. Further expanding the Howard universe at Dark Horse, "Kull" lands a monthly slot in November.
With three major launches coming from Dark Horse, the publisher has chosen to debut each series in style, with covers provided by some of comics’ most eminent artists. Frank Cho will handle cover duties on the new "Conan the Cimmerian," Andy Brase will take on "Kull," and John Cassaday will bring his visual flair to "Solomon Kane."
There's another name to add to that list -- Joe Kubert. The legendary artist best known for his classic depictions of Hawkman and Sgt. Rock has been tasked with creating a triptych cover across all three titles, combining to make one grand image depicting Howard's famous characters.
CBR News spoke with Dark Horse editor Scott Allie to get the lowdown on “Kull,” Conan the Cimmerian” and “Solomon Kane,” and to learn how these esteemed artists became involved in the Howard project.
Lets start with the triptych cover by Joe Kubert -- what have we got here? Which issues will this illustration cover?
These are variant covers for the first issue of each series. So the regular cover artist will do a cover and then these covers by Joe will be available. The three first issues come out over the course of about six months, so folks have to wait to get the whole thing. This was something [editor] Philip Simon and Joe cooked up -- Joe's handling everything on the covers, art and colors and even design and layout, so it's really a Kubert production through and through.
How did you bring Kubert into this? Should we expect more work from him and Dark Horse in the future?
Hopefully more. I tried before, during Kurt Busiek's run on "Conan," but Joe was too busy. Philip's worked with him for a while on some of the reprint stuff we've done, and they have a good working relationship. So hopefully he'll bring Joe on board for more original work.
[Dark Horse Publisher] Mike Richardson and Joe are old pals, and Mike's always keen on the idea of getting Joe to work with us. Tim [Truman], the writer on the monthly "Conan," is an old Kubert School student, so I know he'd love to do something with his mentor.
“Liberty Meadows” creator and “Mighty Avengers” artist Frank Cho is creating the covers of “Conan the Cimmerian.” Tell us about this one.
Frank's another one we've talked to since the beginning of "Conan." At one point we were this close to lining up a miniseries for him, but he entered into his exclusive with Marvel before we could straighten it all out. But he's a big fan of the character. Matt Dryer had been my assistant when we started the series, and when we were first talking to Frank. When Matt took over the series as editor, he approached Frank for these covers. Timing was tight, as Frank couldn't commit or start until after his Marvel exclusive ran out. But then when Matt left and Philip took over as editor, he and Frank ironed all that out. I'm just glad we finally got him. He should be sticking around a while -- at least the first arc of the new series. Hopefully longer.
Then there’s "Kull," with covers by Andy Brase. Tell us a bit about him.
I'd been a fan of Andy Brase's work for a while. He doesn't do a lot of comics work -- mostly cards and that sort of thing. I don't follow that world at all, but Andy's stuff always stuck out to me. He's a fan of Hellboy, which might be partly how I got to know his work. But I was trying to entice him to do some interior work, but it was not to be. Not yet, anyway.
At the time I hired him to do the "Kull" covers, we didn't know [series artist] Cary [Nord] would be leaving "Conan." So my idea was to get someone who'd contrast dramatically with Cary on covers, so it'd be easy to tell the two characters apart on the stands -- let's face it, Conan and Kull come from exactly the same place, there are distinct similarities. We want to play up the fun parts of both characters, while emphasizing the differences. Kull's world struck me as more opulent than Conan's, so Andy's insanely detailed linework felt like a great contrast to the blunt stuff Cary was doing.
That leaves John Cassaday. What will you have him doing?
John's doing the "Solomon Kane" covers, rounding out the Howard trio of books. I was in New York with him recently, and I told him I was writing the book. We were at a bar with Michael Kaluta -- who we also want to get to do some more on these books. I told John I was writing "Kane" and he started talking about what the book should look like, the iconic approach the character needs. He asked who was doing covers, and I told him I didn't know yet. He told me what the first one should look like -- he kind of went into a lot of detail, was clearly just riffing off the top of his head with considerable clarity -- and I said, "You want to do the covers?" He sort of paused and looked me in the eye, said, "Yeah, maybe that'd be fun." As he'd been talking, I don't think he'd even thought of doing the covers himself. Or maybe he was being coy.
But he's perfect -- he can do weathered guys, he's amazing with atmosphere, with black shapes, iconic compositions ... hats. Don't underestimate the difficulty of drawing hats, at least in making them look good. And of course amazing figure work, which will help bring the character to real life.
What's behind these efforts, bringing these big names on to handle these Robert E. Howard covers?
Well, we love their work. They seem appropriate to the material, they're fans of the characters in most cases, and they're worth whatever you have to do to get them. There was a lull there when we weren't going after guys like this very much, but that ended a while ago. We're trying to think who'd be the best artist for a job, and then start there.