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End of Summer
 

Classics Revisited

Swords of Sorcery

 Sword Of Sorcery began with much fanfare, expectation, and anticipation. With an incredible talent base and a large public wave of interest in this genre, DC Comics looked to cash in. Marvel Comics had proven viability with Robert E. Howard's Conan The Barbarian, a very successful comic book. DC chose to adapt Fritz Leiber's stories of Fafhrd The Barbarian and The Gray Mouser. After a back-door introduction in Wonder Woman 202, the first official issue of Sword Of Sorcery debuted in early 1973. But, after a fantastic beginning in issues 1 through 3, and a promise of real development in issues 4 and 5, Sword Of Sorcery was abruptly canceled. However, these are five comics that I thoroughly enjoy and that I feel everyone should read. What I will try to do in this review is to give you a basic overview of the five with most of their pertinent information.

Sword Of Sorcery #1 gives us an adaptation of Leiber's "The Price Of Pain Ease." This exciting story introduces us to our two main characters, Fafhrd The Barbarian & The Gray Mouser, and involves them in taking refuge from a brawl in a seemingly vacated luxurious palace. Needless to say, the unexpected residents confront them and a battle erupts. However, a magical unicorn comes to their aide and transports them to a very strange place. While Fafhrd & The Mouser try to find their way out, they have to deal with an evil sorcerer who is trying to "do them in." The story adaptation is by Denny O'Neil and Howard Chaykin handles the art chores. The inks are by "The Crusty Bunkers," (a.k.a. Neil Adams).

Issue #2 tells us Leiber's tale of "Thieves House" by the same creative team of O'Neil and Chaykin. Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser are drugged by another thief and awake in a strange house. While it appears there are valuable items to be stolen, including a jeweled skull, all is not what it seems. Other thieves soon capture Fafhrd, after seeing ghosts, and The Gray Mouse has to deal with beautiful, but deceptive women.

Sword Of Sorcery #3 is titled "Betrayal." No credits are given, but we learn in a later issue it's O'Neil & Chaykin again. This is another excellent book-length adventure that concerns our two heroes, now sea-bound, and a bird-woman named Lissa and how her story affects their lives. Chaykin's art is his best yet. Visually, this is a "tour de force" and the story is thrilling, adventurous, and very touching.

Issue #4 is the first with two stories. Story #1 is "The Cloud Of Hate" and is based on another Leiber story, and the art is again by Howard Chaykin. Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser are involved in an exciting sword fight, but soon a mysterious, deadly fog sets in and people start dying. Story #2 is "The Prophecy" an original story by Denny O'Neil with art by Walt Simonson. This story deals with the early life of a young Fafhrd before he meets The Mouse.

Sword Of Sorcery #5 credits Denny O'Neil and Fritz Leiber for the first story "The Sunken Land." The truly inspired art is by Walt Simonson and Al Milgron. Our duo is again at sea, this time in a small boat, struggling with a sea creature and a violent storm. After capsizing, Fafhrd is picked up by an evil ship and held prisoner as the ship heads for a land of great treasure, leaving the Mouse out to sea. Story #2, "The Mouse Alone," is by a new writer, George Effigin, with excellent art by Jim Starlin & Al Milgron. As in the previous issue, this story is set in the time before The Gray Mouser and Fafhrd meet, this time spotlighting The Mouse.

Well, there you have it, just as things are really starting to get good … no more; only five issues. However, these are five exceptional issues. This was a truly inspired project that was never fully realized and canceled prematurely. And what did I tell you about that talent base? If you can find 'em, get them. You won't be disappointed.

 
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This piece is © 2001 by David Luhn.
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