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Who is Crom the Barbarian?

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Conan the Cimmeriam appears on the pages of comic books from the pulps in 1969, published by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor Smith in Marvel comics. The Barbarian, Crom, is a small speed bump in comic book history. Gardner F. Fox and John Guinta take direct inspiration from the Robert E. Howard, Conan pulps. They pen out their version of Conan and call him, Crom!

I believe that Robert E. Howard created the genre of Sword & Sorcery, at least as we know it today. After Howard died by his own hand in 1936, the mantle of Sword & Sorcery was taken up by Henry Kuttner, Fritz Leiber, Jr., and others. Unlike other pulp genres, Sword & Sorcery did not easily make the transition to comic books. The debut of Crom the Barbarian in the first issue of Out of This World, in June 1950, premiered the fantasy, sword and sorcery theme in comic books. Gardner F. Fox, an old hand at comic books and pulp fiction, wrote the script. John Giunta, with one foot in the pulps and one in comic books, was the artist. They also contributed to Weird Tales, the birthplace of Howard’s, Conan the Cimmerian. They were the perfect duo to revive Conan under the name of Conan’s god, Crom. Many other similarities, or “Swipes,” are revealed between Crom and Conan. I’m not sure that Crom’s yellow hair would have thrown anybody off.

Gardner F. Fox (1911-1986) wrote comics for decades. He invented Batman’s utility belt, as well as creating such long lasting characters as The Flash and Hawkman. He also introduced the concept of “multiverse” to DC storytelling. He would leave comics in 1968 to try his hand at actual S&S books, penning the Kothar the Barbarian series (1969-1970), the Kyrik series (1975-1976) and finally the Niall of the Far Travels for Dragon Magazine (1976-1981).

John Giunta (1920-1970) Aka Jay Gee was multidimensional as an Illustrator, Comic Book Artist, Science Fiction Fan, Author, Editor, Publisher, Art Director, and Reviewer. John Giunta is celebrated today, mostly for his collaboration with Frank Frazetta, on Frazetta’s first published comic book story, “Snowman,” from Tally Ho #1 (Dec. 1944).

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Hal Foster explored Fantasy with his newspaper comic strip called; Prince Valiant (1937). Prince Valiant was not a Sword & Sorcery themed story. The story was set in the times of old King Arthur. The prince would face the odd dinosaur and witch, coming close to the Sword & Sorcery genre, but really only inspiring others to do comic book stories like; The Golden Knight, The Silver Knight and of course, The Black Knight.

Crom’s publisher, Avon comics, released a pulp magazine called Out of this World Adventures with a comic insert in the center. In the cover-dated July 1950, Avon comics reprinted the stories from the Out of this World comic book, including “Crom the Barbarian.” Avon comics released the second issue of the Out of This World Adventures pulp, a month later. This issue contained a comic section, with reprinted material from Strange Worlds #1, including “The Spider God of Akka.” After this second issue, Out of This World Adventures was discontinued. Unfortunately, the pulp/comic combination idea was abandoned. The Strange Worlds comic series continued, however, and Crom made his third and final appearance in the second issue with “The Giant from Beyond”. After reading this story, “The Giant from Beyond” it doesn’t seem to be the final chapter. Fox may have intended to continue the adventures of Crom. For whatever reason it was not to be, and “The Giant from Beyond” would remain the last story of Crom the Barbarian.

Crom the Barbarian is simple in design. The story features the “heroic adventure”, a model of Some strapping young man, who will journey across a fantastic landscape and be guided by a wise wizard, confront dangerous creatures and seek to rescue a lusty damsel.

Being fearless is a great way to depict a hero’s story; but to have him so ignorant to an evil that will devour him, is barbaric. This is my true attraction to Crom the Barbarian. He is not meant to be a modern hero. He meant to be a simple barbarian, who has elaborate adventurers.

My intention with this book is to collect all three original stories of Crom the Barbarian and then launch my own new stories and illustrations for him. His next adventure will be entitled; “Crom and the Warlock of Sharrador”.

This foreword is a mash-up of three articles about Crom the Barbarian and his creators, from these respected authors; Jeffery Shanks, Roy Thomas & Terence E. Hanley.

Kurt Brugel

Contact Kurt with any questions or requests his email is kurtbrugel@gmail.com

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