I’m a comic book writer and editor; in my life I’ve drawn comics, and colored, lettered, designed them…pretty much anything you could do, I’ve tried (and not always accomplished it well, mind you). But I’m also a fan, and that I’m pretty good at.
I love to dig into the things I love, to pick around and find out how they work and what makes them tick, or, more accurately, what makes me love the thing. Not to take away the magic of it—not that kind of poking-and-prodding—but I love to really see the magic at work.
So, decade-and-a-half or so ago, my friend (and fellow comic book editor) Scott Dunbier came up with an idea to publish a book with comic art shown at the original size it was drawn at. Usually comic books are drawn on 11”x17” “art board” (sturdy paper that takes ink without bleeding) and reduced to about 60% size for publication. 1930s printing necessities became a convention: the black lines of the art were always printed at full contrast—every line was either solid black or not there at all; no gray lines.
But the originals! If you got to see original art, you could see a new story being told—not just the story on the page, but the tale of the artist creating worlds from pure imagination and talent. You can see where the ink was a little more watery; where the artist used white-out to fix a mistake; where remaining pencil lines form the structure for the fully-rendered complete picture; where a razor blade scraped out a white-on-black effect; or where pre-printed tones were glued on to the board.
So the idea Scott had was to scan original comic book art in full color—even when the art was ostensibly black-and-white—at super-high resolution and print it at full size on great paper in a high-quality hardcover book. Since then, Scott’s made about 100 of these—and other folks have made a few dozen more.
Meanwhile…I wandered into a new publishing outfit called Pan-Universal Galactic Worldwide, founded by John Nee—former Publisher at Marvel and before that at Wildstorm/DC and the games company Cryptozoic. And here at PUG Worldwide, we were working with the CONAN people.
I’m a CONAN fan too. Being a CONAN fan and a comics fan is a pretty cool place to be, because CONAN has a huge tradition in comics. Let me rephrase that—CONAN comics are super-important to CONAN and to comics. And Publisher Nate Murray and I worked together to hammer out a plan for doing a book of CONAN original art, and we called it CONAN THE BARBARIAN: THE COLOSSAL EDITION.
Inside are more than 160 pages of CONAN art from the original run of CONAN comics. And these pages include some of the most important artists in the history of comics, not to mention some really beautiful art starring one of my all-time favorite characters.
We’ve got big sections featuring (what I’d consider) the three most key CONAN artists (no offense intended to the other greats!): JOHN BUSCEMA, GIL KANE, and of course BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH. We’re showing the original art in the super-high-quality I was just rambling on about, and we’re also presenting each artist’s work in chronological order so you can watch Winsdor-Smith or Buscema grow and evolve as they work, regardless if their next page was from Conan the Barbarian comics or the black-and-white Savage Sword of Conan or any other CONAN magazines.
We’ve got the entirety of “Devil-Wings Over Shadizar,” a key story in the evolution of Windsor-Smith as an artist (and a great story on its own!). We’ve got Buscema inked by a host of other talented artists, and you can see what each one brings to the table. We’ve got mind-blowing covers and interior pages from Kane. And, my friend, if you’ve never seen the original art from the cover of “Frost Giant’s Daughter” by Windsor-Smith, you’ve never seen the art…and trust me, you should see the art because it’s breathtaking.
Then we’ve got a huge selection of pages by a host of greats, from Neal Adams to Alex Toth; Howard Chaykin to Jim Lee; and everybody in between. The Sienkiewicz cover with the gun? Yep, it’s there, in full color.
Designer IAN CHALGREN is pulling out every stop to make this book a glorious presentation—and a wonderful object. We got CHRIS RYALL (a great writer/editor on his own, and the author of the upcoming Mighty Marvel Calendar Book from Abrams ComicArts) to put these pages in historical context. And ROY THOMAS himself—writer of so many of these classic stories, and the guy who got CONAN comics going in the first place—to compose an all-new introduction (and to sign a few copies to boot).
We’re offering this via our pals at Zoop—and we’re doing exactly one print run of this thing. When it’s gone, it’s gone…
I’m proud to get to play even a small part in bringing this to life, and to finally—finally!—get to be involved in CONAN as something other than a reader…but I have to admit, being a fan is still my favorite part!
-John Barber, Editor-in-Chief, PUG Worldwide