Sword of Sorcery #1 (1973)

This comic has one of those titles that just bug me. The genre isn’t Sword of Sorcery, it’s Sword and Sorcery. As in, the swords and the sorcery are in opposition to each other. Barbarians fighting evil wizards. Swords against sorcery. Not swords working with sorcery. I know this comic had a different working title because I saw it in one of my many ancient and aging issues of The Comic Reader and now I can’t find it. Damn.
Anyway, this is an awfully cool comic book. Each issue of this comic’s five-issue run adapted a story of Fafhrd and his pal the Grey Mouser, originally written by Fritz Leiber. Leiber’s stories are justifiably popular – they are swashbuckling tales of action and excitement, full of witty repartee, beautiful women and evil villains. At the same time, the stories are in direct opposition with Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Instead of stolid, brooding Conan, Leiber gives readers the fun-loving Fafhrd and Mouser, who want as much to have a good time as they want to steal gold or fight some evil being.
Which is not to say that they’re adverse to stealing, lying or fighting. No, far from it. Fafhrd and Mauser are men of action in a world of constant battles. They just handle the load a little less heavily than Conan or King Kull do.
Denny O’Neil adapts the stories. O’Neil was one of DC’s best writers in the early ’70s, writing some classic Batman and Shadow scripts. (I like his work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow much less – see the archive for a couple of entries on that vastly overrated series) This comic features a typically wordy ’70s script, but the writing has a lightness and energy that sets it apart from most books of its time.
The art is by Howard Chaykin, who tended towards sketchiness in his early work but who shines in this first issue. He’s inked by the "Crusty Bunkers", a pseudonym for Neal Adams’s Continuity Studios. With the help of folks like Adams, Dick Giordano and Alan Weiss, among others, Chaykin delivers slick and professional art that is ideally suited to the story.
All five issues of this series are wonderful. This issue takes an unexpected and odd turn about halfway through, but everything stays fun and light and exciting. This is well worth seeking out.

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