In 1971, Marvel decided to venture into a more adult oriented market. They saw the success that Warren Magazines were having with Eerie, Creepy, Vampirella.This was a market that allowed some of the greatest sequential storytellers to let loose without the restrictions placed on the industry by the comics code.
Marvels’ first foray into this market was a title called Savage Tales. It featured a cover painting by Big John Buscema, blood drenched sword, beautiful women at his feet ,and the decapitated head of his foe in hand! Buscema hated this painting but it introduced a new sense of barbarism to the greatest barbarian hero of the Hyborean Age.
The lead off story was the beautiful black and white adaptation of Robert E Howard’s “The Frost Giants Daughter” penciled and inked by Barry Smith. This was later reprinted in Conan the Barbarian #16, but it never looked better than when it was in B&W. If you didn’t know that Barry Smith was something special after seeing this story, well, we will leave it at that.
That story was followed up by another titan of the industry, John Romita Sr! This was a Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. original story that, again, featured artwork specifically tailored to the black and white market. Beautiful wash tones helped convey the Matriarchal society this story takes place in. No one draws more beautiful women than Romita ( with the exception of perhaps Buscema, who was quoted as saying “I draw a pretty good looking dame”).
The next story was by one of the most underrated artists of the Gold and Silver Age. Gray Morrow. His wash tones are a thing of beauty and the Man Thing never looked better!
The fourth story tackled the topic of inter-racial bigotry, with the artistic challenge being handled by the one and only team that could have made this story work. Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. Tough subject matter that I wonder in this age of political correctness if it would have seen the light of day!
The last story was one of my favorite Ka-Zar tales! Stan Lee and Big John Buscema showcase probably the most savage story of the Jungle Lord that was written up to that time. Many fans of John Buscema find his best work is when he inks himself , and these beautiful pencils and inks pretty well make the case for that. A little bit of everything in this story: dinosaurs , tanks, ape men, a beautiful woman, and the seven deadly sins are highly evident.
The biggest problem with this issue was its lack of focus, as you can tell by the brief descriptions of the stories it contained. It would be about 2 years until issue two would hit the market place and it was a miracle that the bugs finally got ironed out and the B&W market expanded and flourished for many years. Especially Savage Tales offshoot, The Savage Sword of Conan, which ran for over 20 years and 235 issues. Pretty impressive overall!
This book guides at $103/$227 and $350 for the 8.0/9.0/9.2 split.
Grab yourself a copy and enjoy the beginning of a great time in the black and white magazine market!