NYCC Exclusive: Dark Horse Runs Wild with "Solomon Kane"

Solomon Kane, created by legendary pulp writer Robert E. Howard, made his debut in the short story 'Red Shadows' in the August, 1928 edition of "Weird Tales." Dark Horse's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8" editor Scott Allie will be writing the character's new adventures for the publisher.

Kane is a 16th Century puritan, who travels from Europe to Africa, righting the wrongs of evil-doers after leaving the British military - a sombre, lone avenger, who dons a wide-brimmed, black hat that would look good on the WWE's Undertaker.

"The way that I read him, Kane became disillusioned with the military and felt that he needed to find a way to contribute to the world in some positive way outside of that, so he became a wanderer on the Earth, and in so doing he started running into various supernatural threats," Allie told CBR News at New York Comic Con.

"Without setting out to do it, he became this occult adventurer, a great paranormal detective-type. He has adventures along the lines of Conan or Hellboy, but it's set in this very particular time."

"Solomon Kane" is scheduled to debut as a five-issue miniseries this fall with pencils by Mario Guevera ("Lone Ranger and Tonto"), inks by Dave Stewart ("Hellboy" and "Conan") and covers by John Cassaday ("Astonishing X-Men" and "Lone Ranger").

Allie called Howard, who also created Conan the Cimmerian and Kull the Conqueror, an inspiration for storytellers for more than 70 years.

"Howard is a visionary. He took a lot of traditional stories that came before him, and fantasy adventure that existed before, and he did something really new with it in way that I find very American, even though Conan is maybe even more popular in some European countries," explained Allie. "This rugged individualism that is embodied so much in his heroes. He drew on those great European traditions. He created, especially with Conan, this archetype of a particular kind of hero. And it was always there. It was there with Beowulf and with Jason and the Argonauts but with Conan he boiled it down to this essence that will always be significant.

"And it will mean different things at different times. But it will always be significant. And Conan is the epitome of that. He's the best. But for me personally, I like Solomon Kane better. Guys like [Mike] Mignola and Zach Snyder will always be looking back to what Howard did, because it was so good."

With "Conan" already standing as one of Dark Horse's strongest ongoing titles and plans for a "Kull" miniseries as well, CBR News asked Allie why Dark Horse is so heavy with pulp icons instead of traditional superheroes.

"We are not in a world of capes and tights, that's one of things with us [Dark Horse], capes and tights have never been the point," said Allie. "Even when we do them, it's not really the point. 'Umbrella Academy,' another one of my books, the writer [Gerard Way] and I were talking the other day. We don't really think of them as superheroes. We don't throw that word around too much. They kind of wear costumes but they also just dress a certain way. They have a certain look.

"So, do Conan, Kane, Kull have a place in comics? If you look even one inch past capes and tights, the idea of an iconic singular adventure character, Superman, Batman, if you look past the capes and tights, they are just Conan, Tarzan, Kane, Kull. Artists always look back. You always end up looking back at the roots. And these are the roots.

"You get really, really into the Rolling Stones and then you start listening to Chuck Berry and then you listen to what Chuck Berry grew up on. So I think for that reason pulp characters will always have a place in comics because without 'Weird Tales,' there would be no 'Action Comics.'"

Kane appeared in nine short stories, four fragments and three poems before Howard died prematurely at the age of 30 in 1936.

Allie said the first Kane miniseries - the writer admitted he could envision as many as 26 series for the character - is based on a Howard fragment called "Castle of the Devil."

"My understanding, my read on Kane's history is his occult adventures started there in the Black Forest of Germany. What the fragment was going to be about is anybody's guess. It's a three to five page fragment that barely sets up the story. But the pieces are there," said Allie.

"Our rationale with both Conan and Kane is, here's the work that Howard gave us, this is an incomplete life for this character, we will figure out a sequence and we will figure out how to get from Point A to Point D when Howard left these big blanks.

"Not that I think that Howard at any point was going to put these stories in a chronology and fill in all the blanks and tell the history from beginning to end.

"He didn't think like that but comic book guys think like that. I am psyched. This is not [necessarily] what Howard would have done, but if he would have, my hope is I am doing it the way he might have."

Allie said Kane's look is tough but with the dream art team assembled for the book, he said it's going to be astonishing.

"John [Cassaday] has such a great feel for this type of character. Look at the cover. He doesn't have a hat on him on the cover, but John can do hats and make them look cool, which is a challenge. Drawn hats often look really dumb, and John can nail that," laughed Allie.

"But seriously, he has an incredible sense of drama. And Kane's figure is so important. He has a different type of physique. He doesn't have Conan's physique. John is one of the best figure artists in comics.

"All things that I would want to convey on a Kane cover, he will be able to nail."

As for artist Guevera, Allie said he his work will amplify the look and feel of the 16th Century puritan.

"The clothes are tough because if you look at the reference for Puritans, there is some stuff that doesn't work aesthetically, so we are taking some liberties," he explained. "The idea is that it is a fantasy book but it is set in a historical time so we want to get the historical period right, but not slavishly right. We want to stylize it. We want Mario to let his style render the world in a certain way. We want to get the weapons right, but maybe amplified a little bit."

Adding punch to Kane's interior pages is colorist Dave Stewart.

"What we wanted, not that we are trying to repeat what we did exactly, but in one way we are trying to repeat, what we did with 'Conan' and that's where we found an artist and let Dave create a totally unique coloring approach to that artist that would be perfectly suited to the book. This is a new, fully-painted Dave Stewart project."

Allie said the debut of Kane interior art is going to be the June issue of DHP on MySpace.

"We will have an eight-pager that Mario has drawn. I am really excited. Mario's art is very stylized, very interesting and real expressive in a very weird way," said Allie.

"I believe, it's not going to look like any other comic out there. And Dave is bringing a lot to it. He adds incredible volume, and creates an incredible atmosphere. He takes pencil drawings and turns them into these deep, deep oil paintings, basically. It's created on the computer but it looks in many, many ways like an oil painting. And nobody else is doing that."

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