I’m going to continue to stick to my guns here regarding the 21st Century as being the very best time ever to be a fan of Robert E. Howard. The soon-to-be-done year of 2008 was yet another productive one in furthering the Legacy of REH. Here’s a bit of an opinionatedÂ re-hash of how the year went for Ol’ Two-Gun, and no doubt I’ll be missing something, so let me know and I’ll revise.
First, in light of the forum I am presently using, the two main REH internet blogs continued on, here and over at The Cimmerian. Lots of meat and interesting posts, and I’m givingÂ shout-outs toÂ the main posters, Morgan Holmes and Steve Tompkins. Both just educated and entertained the hell out of me. The paper versions of both REHupa and The Cimmerian steamed ahead; Leo’s been going great guns for five years now, and REHupa‘s just started their 37th year of continuous production.
Damon Sasser continued his postings over at the REH:Two-Gun Raconteur site, and a couple of times scooped all of us. Bill Thom maintains the info-packed site over at HowardWorks, the Conan.com forums continue to have lots of posts, and even rehinnercircle remained strong until just this month. The Robert E. Howard Foundation website recently got a kick-ass new look, thanks to Leo Grin and Rob Roehm. And Frank Coffman is reviving his electronic journal apa REHEAPA as well.
Howard Publishing carried on in fine form. With the addition of the ninth volume, The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard to Del Rey’s ever-growing REH library, REH is now easily found in major bookstores. This has always been a major sticking point with me, and to look in any brick and mortar bookstore now, anyone can see at least a half a row of majestic Robert E. Howard BOOKS. Fan-freakin’-tastic!Â Â (One book scheduled for 2009 is The Desert Adventures – all right!) AndÂ found next to the Del Reys are the real paperback-sized Cosmos Publishing editions, in a five book series of Howard storiesÂ selected from the ten book Wildside series of PD Howard from Weird Tales. Howard books for eight bucks! Woo hoo! And, the Wildside series still shows up in some bookstores, as do the Bison editions.
The other major Howard publishing is coming from the REH Foundation Press: Vol. Three of The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard is now out, completing this massive project. Howard scholarship is at new heights, thanks in large part to making his letters available. If you want to know Howard, read his letters. Look for the Complete Poetry in 2009.Â Subterranean Press stepped up to carry on in the tradition of Wandering Star by offering deluxe editions of Howard books. Legal stuff prevented them from doing the third CONAN volume, so they did a bang-up job with KULL. Paul Herman updated THE NEVERENDING HUNT in what will be a neverending project, Crom willing!
Semi-pro publishing slowed up a bit in 2008. The Cimmerian kept up its bi-monthly schedule and continued to be the premiere REH journal around. But unfortunately, the wonderfulÂ REH:Two-Gun Raconteur only appeared once (due in part to Hurricane Ike smashing Damon Sasser’s house!) Jim Van Hise got back on track with Swords & Fantasy, but it’s got to be difficult doing labors of love in these trying economic times. Sigh. The Dark Man was sadly again too dark, and one can only hope we’ll see this fine scholarly Howard journal again.
Craziness seemed to take over some of Howard publishing this year. A self-proclaimed Howard scholar named Francis DiPietro brought out a POD Howard biography called The Supreme Moment. This was a hodge-podge collection of words cobbled together from various already-written Howard biographies and on-line musings about Ol’ Two-Gun, typed outÂ slap-dash -Â along with a complete reprint of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Silver Eel (huh?) – with wild-ass Howard-was-a-homo theories thrown in for good measure. America – land of free speech – love it or don’t read it! Yikes! Mr. DiPietro also tried his hand at Howard publishing, bringing out twoÂ collections of Howard stories that he just rewrote a wee bit to string them together. If you blinked you missed ’em, because Paradox Entertainment thankfully put the ki-bosh on that nonsense! Dodo Press, some goofy UK POD place, decided to cash in on the Howard boom for a bit, providing 50+ REH “books”, available through Amazon, consisting of two or three Howard stories slapped between covers of the most ridiculous art ever stolen, for the ridiculous price of $10! That shit “mysteriously” vanished as well. Mercenary bastards!
The book that had most of the hard-core up in arms this year actually had pure Robert E. Howard Conan stories in it. It was the introduction to this book that had a number of us ready to tar & feather ol’ Arnie Fenner, he of the 1970’s Howard fanzine boom infamy. “and their memory was a bitter tree”- Queen of the Black Coast and Others is an oddly-titledÂ collection of eight Conan stories (public domain of course) placed in a book with some of the Frank Frazetta paintings and a new cover by Brom. Ok, while we really didn’t need a new Conan book – the stories are all out there – why did Fenner have to sound like such a putz in his introduction, demeaning the very writer of the book he’s trying to sell you? Plus, the reproduction on the Frazetta paintings was horrible, and this from a guy who does those nice Spectrum art books. We’re all still scratching our heads and grousing about this one…
On the other publishing front, Dark Horse Comics is continuing full-tilt on their Howard library of titles. They halted their Conan comic at issue #50(?) then started it up again at #1 as Conan the Cimmerian. 2008 proved to be a good year for REH volume in the comics, as DH also brought out SOLOMON KANE and KULL in an ongoingÂ limited series. Horror writer Joe Lansdale wrote a sequel (huh?) to Howard’s magnificent Pigeons from Hell and brought that out in comic form, forgetting to tell me that it wasn’t an adaptation of Howard’s story, but that it was his take on how the story should be updated. WHATever…!!!!!! I was going to say that’s what I get for reading comic books (and I should mention that all of these comics are very boringly written…), but I’ll tell you the real reason I buy the Dark Horse REH comics:
THE ADVENTURES OF TWO-GUN BOB by Jim & Ruth Keegan. With the exception of the actual stories written by Robert E. Howard, The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob is the most important bit of REH in Pop Culture ever printed. Jim And Ruth have their marvelousÂ continuing comicÂ strip printed in every edition of a Howard-based comic from Dark Horse, and there is nothing else available in print that reaches more people and preaches the gospel of REH better, andÂ nothing that humanizes him better to hundreds of thousands ofÂ people who might not take the opportunity to learn about REH. It is absolutely brilliant.
Movies based on Robert E. Howard characters are becoming a reality. The Solomon Kane movie is in post-production, but I just read recently it might get pushed back to Labor Day for a release. The Conan movie is also underway with a complete script, and Fred Malmberg of Paradox Entertainment has said a director may be named in January, with production set to begin in June. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Funcom’s AGE OF CONAN MMOG computer/X-Box/etc. game continues, but I know zero about it. It professes to portray Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age in great detail, but I’ve always found the greatest Howard details are the ones in my ever-greying noggin. There are also a pile of REH audio CD’s available on Ebay of which I know nothing – again, I’ve got my own versions rattling around upstairs here.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the up close and personal Robert E. Howard events that took place in 2008. We had a Birthday Bash at his House back in January, and Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains in June was another resounding success. As they’ll both be repeated in ’09, y’all come! The fine folks of Cross Plains honored Joan McCowen earlier this month, the fine lady who was instrumental in getting Howard Days (and lot of what we’re doing here) going back in 1986. We can never thank her enough.
But, as this is MY blog, I CAN thank all of you for helping to keep theÂ lamp lit for the one and only Robert E. Howard, a feller in Texas who wrote some pretty damn good stories a few years ago, and left them for you and me to read and talk about and have some fine fellowship over. Shall we?
Happy 2009, y’all.