‘Old’ Books

The Dark Man and Other Stories by Robert E. Howard, edited by August Derleth (1963): Eclectic collection of non-Conan stories from Robert E. Howard, originally published in hardcover by Arkham House. Magazines of the 1920’s and 1930’s originally published everything included here, including the wonderfully named Oriental Tales. Boy, those were the days. Was Edward Said the editor?

Basically, one gets some contemporary horror stories, of which “Pigeons from Hell” is the marvelously titled best, and at worst Howard’s second-best pure horror story. Howard’s ancient Pict leader Bran Mak Morn shows up a few times, even after he’s dead. Some Lovecraftian horrors show up, as do a few ghosts and demons and one malevolent magic snake.

Roaming freebooters of the Middle Ages, Turlogh O’Brien and Athelstane, have a couple of adventures involving lost civilizations and massive bloodshed. And a couple of (then) modern-day Americans suddenly flash back to past lives of adventure, as happens a lot in Howard’s stories. Viva reincarnation! Recommended.

Cinder and Ashe: written by Gerry Conway; illustrated by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Joe Orlando (1988): Solidly written thriller from Gerry Conway, Cinder and Ashe follows private detectives Jacob Ashe and Cinder DuBois as an enemy from their shared past in Viet Nam long thought dead suddenly turns up in a case they’re working in 1988.

This miniseries, from that long-lost era when DC Comics regularly released non-superhero work under the main DC banner (as opposed to under the Vertigo banner) has never been collected into book form so far as I know, so you’ll have to check out the back-issue bins.

Conway’s writing does the job — you can see how he would seamlessly transition from writing for comics to working for the Law and Order franchise in the years to come .

And the art, by longtime DC mainstay Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, is fantastic — beautifully detailed and fluid. Because Garcia-Lopez works here on normal people and not super-heroes, his artistic similarity to the great Milton Caniff and other comic-strip giants really shines through. Not only does the art alone make a case for permanent collection, it makes a case for oversized permanent collection so that the often exquisite linework becomes fully visible. Recommended.

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