Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Barry Smith's King-Size Conan Annual Cover

I never thought I would ever read a comic about a barbarian in a million years.  I saw Conan on the newsstands and passed it by every time…until one day in 1973, I saw this incredible cover to King-Size Conan Annual #1.

Barry Smith King Size Conan Annual 1

Now that’s a cover that makes a barbarian look super mofo cool.  Conan’s glaring at the reader as if they were his enemy, daring them to take him on.  He’s got gobs of tiny nicks and cuts over his body, beads of sweat, and he is carrying an axe and a bloodied sword as well!  The detailed line work is amazing.  I love the swirling (fog or magic?) around his ankles, the cobblestone streets.  And that signature by Barry Smith!  I had never seen any artist sign his work so creatively.

Here’s another look at the cover with a different color scheme:

Barry Smith Conan Annual cover sans copy

I still prefer the original King-Size cover.  It got me to buy that annual and run home to read the stories: Lair of the Beast-Men and Tower of the Elephant!  The latter tale had a shattering ending that left me completely hooked into Conan.  I bought everything from that point on: Conan’s regular title, Savage Tales, Savage Sword of Conan, and, of course, Giant-Size Conan.

But what was this “Academy Award” that Conan had won?  Rascally Roy explains it all in The Hyborian Page!

Conan Annual 1 Hyborian Page

The Academy of Comic Book Arts existed in the early 1970s.  They did many things for the good of comic book professionals, but they also handed out awards, which Conan won, in 1970 and 1971.  What I really dig about this editorial page is Roy Thomas’ style of explaining all these things to the reader, a bit less egotistical than Stan Lee used to, but it really got me excited.  The map down below definitely peaked my interest in Conan’s world, and that red-head in the panels (Red Sonja) definitely made me want to buy more Conan comics.

Bravo, Barry Smith and Roy Thomas!  Nuff said.


  1. Just to get it out of the way...OUTSTANDING blog, sir. I'm a lifelong, 44-year-old collector, and I spend a lot of time, and A LOT of dollars, collecting Bronze Age books. I'm also a fan that just can't turn down buying the '70's Giant-Size books (and the Annuals!).
    This is, hands DOWN my favorite comic cover...EVER! Barry Windsor-Smith is far from an underrated comic artist, but I still don't think he get his due credit. Bob Layton, a 'student' of Smith during the Valiant years, has done some beautiful Smith recreations that have been posted on Layton's website, including this cover. I'll say 'thanks' for posting this one, but it's really a 'no-brainer', isn't it!

    1. Thank you, Brian--you have impeccable taste in both comic books and blogs! :-)

  2. Great blog. I just found it and am looking through a bunch of posts. great stuff. Just wanted to point out one thing here, though...

    "I love the swirling (fog or magic?) around his ankles, the cobblestone streets...”

    Pretty sure that’s water. Conan is standing in a stream (an oddly crystal-clear stream). The bodies of the dead are all partially submerged. It’s easier to see in that second version. The knife in the foreground is submerged, the dead guy’s thigh is sticking out above the waterline, and the other dead guy’s face is half submerged.

  3. My very first experience with Conan-though my copy was coverless.Still,you could go wronge with Lair of the Beast Men and me,and Roy Thomases,and hopefully everyone else Tower of the Elephant.