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Tuesday, September 22, 2020 

Roy Thomas returns to write a Conan prequel for Marvel

Games Radar/Newsarama announced veteran Thomas, the guy who launched Robert E. Howard's pulp adventures into the realms of comicdom, was hired by Marvel, now that they're in possession of the license again, to write a prequel to Conan as first envisioned by Thomas in 1970. Though he's going to be writing his entry alongside a few other writers of varying reputations:
Conan the Barbarian has been in comics for 50 years. Roy Thomas has been alongside him pretty much the entire time.

Thomas is part of King-Size Conan #1, a 50th-anniversary special shipping from Marvel in December. Thomas writes and Steve McNiven draws one of five tales in the oversized issue. Kurt Busiek and Pete Woods, Chris Claremont and Roberto de la Torre, Daredevil writer/director/showrunner Steven S. DeKnight (writing his first Marvel story) and Jesús Saiz, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman (also writing and drawing his first Marvel story!) comprise the other creative teams. The cover is by Andrew C. Robinson.

Thomas was the writer on Marvel's Conan The Barbarian #1 back in 1970 and hung around to write the title for a staggering 115 consecutive issues. His tale in King-Size Conan takes Conan all the way back and then some.

[...] The December oversized King-Size Conan #1 special features an all-new prelude to the original Marvel Conan story from 1970 by Thomas and McNiven; a tale of revenge by Eastman; a turning point in Conan’s career as a mercenary by Claremont and de la Torre; an early brush with sorcerous forces that will shape Conan’s destiny by Busiek and Woods; and Conan and Bêlit sail together again for the first time since the 2019 Marvel relaunch in a story by DeKnight and Saiz.
Claremont and Eastman may be decent choices for contributing writers here, but Kurt Busiek is simply not encouraging at this point, based on his political commentary record. Nor is the announcement a TV showrunner will be involved either, because we've seen how well those kind of ventures turn out (J. Michael Straczynski, anyone?) With all due respect to Thomas, whose reputation is far better, mainly because he usually avoids being overtly political (and isn't active on social media), I would like to appreciate that he's taken this job in his advanced age, but at a time when Marvel's now run by lowly people, I think it's just not a good venture anymore.

And it's not quite so that Thomas was there the "entire" time to work on Conan, since after 1980, he left to work at DC for several years on All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. (also on Arak, Son of Thunder, which was vaguely similar to Conan's adventures) before returning to Marvel at the end of the 80s, and during that time, writers like Bruce Jones and Christopher Priest did the scripting. Thomas came back afterwards, and wrote more of Conan until the cancellation of the Savage Sword spinoff in 1995.

I think I'd be more encouraged by this venture if Conan's license were still held by Dark Horse, since then, it may not be held to as much political correctness as Marvel's since undergone, Conan's own new adventures included (though I realize Dark Horse too is not immune). But as it stands now, it's not easy to feel excited by this news, even if Conan's not part of the MCU proper, which has fared far worse.

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Thomas also wrote a series of stories for dark horse. So it is fair for them to say he has been there, as they put it, "pretty much" the whole time.

Marvel is doing a good job of getting old fan faves back to writing and drawing; Not just Roy Thomas, but also Neal Adams on the Fantastic Four, Alan Brennart doing a Namor story. Although their stories overall are becoming more bland and conservative, there is still signs of life.

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