This is the third post looking at the Marvel Bronze Age Sword and Sorcery comics that were based on Robert E. Howard’s Hyborean world. Kull, the king of Valusia, is the character I want to focus on in this installment.
These comics were wonderful adaptations of the Howard stories and, for an entire generation, stood for many readers as a first introduction to characters like Conan the Barbarian and Kull the Conqueror. Kull was the last fighting hero developed by Howard, even if his stories chronologically happen first. Personally, I always found the Marvel Kull comics, and especially the short lived original series, to be just as good as the original Conan the Barbarian series.
The difference between Kull and Conan was more than just in name. Kull’s stories were set before Conan’s. Kull lived in the Thurian Age, which saw the rise of the first civilized humans and unfolded on the Continents of Lemuria and Atlantis, both of which are destroyed by a cataclysm before the rise of the Hyborean kingdoms. Kull was a wild-maned Barbarian of the Sea Mountain tribe from Atlantis. In the comics, Conan’s tribe, the Cimmerians, were supposed to be descendants of the Atlanteans. Both Kull’s Atlantis and the lands of Hyborea were described by Howard as earlier versions of the geological territories that would later become our world. The fictional Continent of Hyborea never actually existed, instead it was created by Howard with an eye to certain select historical facts. As the fictional background for Howard’s fantasy stories however, Hyborea was, much like J.R.R Tolkein’s fantasy world (which was created around the same time), developed with great attention to detail and realism regarding the cultural and geographical details of the different territories. This gave Howard’s stories an added dimension of realism and, once again – like Tolkein’s Middle Earth, made it a place you could journey to in your imagination or even get lost in for hours. Hyborea was a place where magic was real and life was simple and less civilized.
It’s hard to underestimate the escapist appeal of the Hyborean tales of fantasy and adventure, but then again, the same is true of most other comic book genres. In that sense the ‘Sword and Sorcery’ comics described here are not very different from their Superhero cousins, or other Supernatural tales published in comic form by Marvel and DC.
The Kull story was one about a Barbarian who becomes a King and then loses his throne and has to fight to get it back. Conan, of course, also became a King in his later years, but Kull is more philosophical than Conan and lives in a more dangerous world. Creatures on the Loose #10 is the first comic book appearance of Kull where he stars in a seven page story written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Bernie Wrightson. Here we learn that the weight of kingship weighs heavy on Kull as he still seeks adventure and danger, but he also realizes that he has duties and obligations beyond his own desires. This comic is slowly appreciating in value but still very affordable, 9.4 usually sell for under $130.00, best ROI has been to 8.0 grades.
Roy Thomas takes the scripting duties and Ross Andru and Wally Wood handle the illustrations in this comic. This is another story of Kull the king. This time we see Kull performing his kingly duties and learn how he came to be king, after being enslaved by Lemurian pirates and becoming a soldier in the Lemurian army. A highly affordable key, especially if you don’t want to shell out the money for a high grade copy of Conan the Barbarian #1. A 9.8 copy of Kull the Conqueror #1 can currently be had for under $300.00. If a decent Kull movie is ever made by Marvel, there’s no telling how high the price on this issue may spike.
Searching for the Serpent Men in the Forbidden Swamp, Kull and his companions come face to face with a dragon monster and Kull eventually meets Thulsa Doom. In the Kull saga, Doom, or the skull faced one, is a pre-human Sorcerer who is a descendent of an elder race. In later Marvel comics, we will learn how Doom found the scrolls of Cthon, also known as the Darkhold, Doom used their evil magic to attain immense power. In this comic, we get the story of Kull’s first confrontation with Thulsa Doom. Eventually Doom will take on mortal from and steal the crown from Kull. This comic marks the first appearance of Thulsa Doom, who I’m pretty sure the Mattel toy line Masters of the Universe ripped off to create their Skeletor action figure. 9.8 graded copies are worth about $140.00 and prices have been gradually rising over the last 13 years.