The Illustrated Solomon Kane
While most of us are familiar with the black and white Conan comic Savage Sword of Conan, perhaps not all are aware that the magazine also included Solomon Kane stories. A role call of great illustrators penciled and inked the Conan stories: John Buscema, Gil Kane, Barry Windsor Smith, Alfredo Alcala, Ernie Chan, etc. Terrific stuff.
The undeniable reality is that Solomon Kane was served by the B-Team. Not that the art was bad, but for the most part it doesn’t compare favorably with the Conan work. Still, it is worth checking out. Let’s take a look, shall we.
Consider first Ralph Reese, illustrating Skulls in the Stars. It isn’t bad. There is just something broad and big foot about it. Serviceable, but not up to the standards set by the Conan artists.
The team of artists in the Kane meets Dracula story does, I think you’ll agree, a better job. Alan Weiss, without the backup team, tackles The Hills of the Dead. His lean-limbed Kane and the solid inking work providing depth and shadow does more credit to Kane. Pablo Marco’s inking of Weiss in Into the Silent City is, I think, a step back.
Steve Gan takes over for The Right Hand of Doom. Good work, though there is almost a touch of Mad Magazine about it. Still, hard to complain.
Mike Zeck draws The Silver Beast Beyond Torkertown. It is somewhat crude compared to the previous entries.
Howard Chaykin takes the art duties for Rattle of Bones, and we are treated to a step up from the B-team.
The positive trend continues with Castle of the Devil, by the duo of Alan Kupperberg and Sonny Trinidad. It is just sub-Conan, I think, but it’s a close call.
Next we get the first of two adaptations of Solomon Kane’s Homecoming. This one with art by Virgilio Redondo and Rudy Nebres. Nicely illustrative, I think, but there is something about the inking that is lacking.
Sonny Trinidad handles the art solo for The Dragon at Castle Frankenstein. (I don’t know about this Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman vibe they were going for. But that’s not what I’m considering in this post.) I think this is excellent work, on par with his collaboration with Kupperberg.
Steve Gan returns, inked by Dino Castrillo for The Cold Hands of Death. I don’t think the inking does Gan justice. Some panels are fine, others seem to lack depth.
We get a treat for the next several stories. David Wenzel, illustrator of The Hobbit comic adaptation, pencils. And he’s not bad. I think this is early work, and he definitely had room to improve. The inker shifted from story to story and you can see the difference in each. (The best is, I think, when Wenzel inked his own pencils.) Wenzel’s isn’t of the quality of Chaykin or Trinidad. But it is kinetic and suits Kane pretty well.
Steve Gan is back, inking Will Meugniot on The Footfalls Within. It hits the Savage Sword style pretty well and is consolation for Wenzel moving on. But don’t fear, Wenzel returns for the next three issues. And, on the whole, I think I preferred Meugniot and Gan. Though Wenzel’s Work on The One Black Stain is outstanding.
On Red Seas we have Danny Bulandi, an artist who I think would be better suited to color work rather than black and white. But it is decent.
Next we have Steve Carr, inked by the great Al Williamson, providing another adaptation of Solomon Kane’s Homecoming. A direct comparison is interesting. Both are worthwhile. I think I prefer the latter, drawn out, picture heavy version. Carr and Williamson return for the next couple of stories. Perhaps providing the best of Solomon Kane art: a hint of what the A-team might have brought to Solomon Kane.
Colin MacNeil brings us to a conclusion, drawing a two part Conan/Solomon Kane crossover. The faces take some getting used to. The style isn’t classic Savage Sword. But it’s pretty good.
If you are, like me, an aficionado of the dour puritan, check out some of his illustrated adventures. Hit and miss, but overall worth your time.
And, if you are still taking my advice, here’s something else worth your time: Blood and Jade, book one of Semi-Autos and Sorcery, is still available for a ridiculously low price (digitally — print is more, of course.) And book two, Santa Anna’s Sword, is scheduled for publication in mere days following the writing of this post.