Caleb Orecchio here with Barry (Windsor-)Smith, and other news.


“Red Nails” drawn by Barry Smith: Savage Tales version (1973)

“Red Nails” was the last Conan the Barbarian story Robert E. Howard ever wrote before he killed himself. It is almost undoubtedly, to my mind, his greatest story–which is also, appropriately, the best and most faithful Conan comic book adaption, drawn by Barry Smith in 1973. Obviously, Barry Smith was and is thee great Conan adapter despite the fact that John Buscema would eventually become synonymous with the character; but “Big” John never could match the intensity of Barry Smith–an intensity that eventually caused him to see ghosts and psychedelic phenomenon in his NYC apartment.

Smith’s adaption (according to the book’s credits, Roy Thomas “wrote” the adaption, but the comic is so faithful to the source that I regard Thomas’ role as merely editorial given what we know about the “Marvel Method”) is so electrifying to the eyes, that the original black and white version (first appearing in the magazine, Savage Tales #2 and #3 in two parts) nearly makes me cross-eyed. The amount of detail crammed into each panel is staggering and almost intimidating, yet the beauty of each image and prowess of the hands that made them is simply undeniable. Thus, the release of Marvel Treasury Edition: Conan the Barbarian #4 gave “Red Nails” the release it deserved, finding it newly colored by Smith and in an oversized deluxe format.

“Red Nails” drawn and colored by Barry Smith: Marvel Treasury version (1976)

I don’t want to show my hand just yet, but I felt it important today to point out the sheer blood, sweat and tears Barry Smith (later Barry Windsor-Smith) put into this work. Of course, this kind of  ambitious, detail-oriented work is not realistically feasible on a monthly deadline and would cause Smith to miss said deadlines, cause fatal distribution problems and as I mentioned before, see things. Still, the results speak for themselves. I want to share more of my thoughts on this work, but I have to wait until next week. See you then.

“Red Nails” drawn and colored by Barry Smith: later reprint version from the 1983; the colors were probably taken from Smith’s 1976 guides and then slightly modified in translation–often Smith made his colors specifically for the particular paper they’d print on. The Red Nails colors were meant for newsprint, so this version, being printed on nicer, heavier paper, is over saturated and lacks the subtlety of the Treasury Version.


if you don’t know, now you know


Suzy and Cecil – 2-19-2018 – by Sally Ingraham


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