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Barry Windsor-Smith Conan Archives Volume 1 Hardcover – January 26, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fan favorite Windsor-Smith has been drawing comics and Pre-Raphaelite-influenced fantasy illustrations for more than four decades but remains most closely associated with his first major work, Marvel Comics’ adaptation of the pulp-magazine hero Conan the Barbarian. Windsor-Smith illustrated the character for only the first three years of its long comic-book run, yet it’s widely felt that none of the artists who followed equaled his seminal rendition. These early stories, which established sword-and-sorcery as a popular comics genre, possess a freshness that vanished once the genre’s limitations became evident. Thomas’ scripts, many adapted from Robert E. Howard’s original stories, supply the requisite blood and thunder, but it was Windsor-Smith’s ornate, meticulous art that turned the barbarian into a property whose popularity rivaled that of Marvel’s most popular superheroes. The 11 issues in this first of two volumes reprinting Windsor-Smith’s too-brief run aren’t his strongest work—the earliest stories, in particular, are a bit stiff and tentative—but they already demonstrate the melding of elegance and power that made him one of comics’ most popular creators. --Gordon Flagg
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Product Details

  • Series: Barry Windsor-Smith Conan Archives
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books; Reprint edition (January 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595824413
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595824417
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard A. Tucker VINE VOICE on January 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A little history:
Way back in 1970 Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor Smith (back before the Windsor middle name was used) started working together to really change the face of mainstream comics. Conan the Barbarian was the first of it's kind. Barry gave us art that evolved from one issue to the next and he delivered on visualizing Robert Howard's Age Undreamed of in spades. Roy wrote the tale of a thief, a reaver, a slayer, a man who would become a king by his own hand. If this sounds cliche' it wasn't in 1970. Conan is often described as heroic. Well, he definitely of heroic proportion and effort but he was really just a man and not a superhero in tights. He was a resilient, tough, smart, cunning and determined man. As a barbarian from the untamed north he was a large man among other, smaller men in both size and aspiration. Barry and Roy delivered in a way that's hard to describe, but it's hard to argue that Conan the Barbarian wasn't something new to the mainstream heroic comic genre.

When this book collecting those comic formatted stories was first announced a lot of people were encouraged by the proposal that stated that the original color guides would be used for this volume. Newer readers who discovered Barry Windsor Smith's art for the first time in this contemporary period had mixed but mostly favorable reactions to Dark Horse Comics reprints of the Conan the Barbarian series now collected in trade paperbacks called The Chronicles of Conan. However, for many of us who read the original comics off of the old spin racks the Chronicles were a mixed bag. One annoying reason was due to the lack of the covers being reprinted to go with the tales, but the biggest reservations were for the revised coloring. It ran the gamut from decent to very annoying.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow. I just got this in the mail, and I had to leaf through it immediately. What a package!

First of all, the cover is done in a beautiful faux-leather, with an inset full color image of Conan. It simply feels wonderful to just hold.

The artwork, in the bold colors described in the previous review, is vividly reproduced on heavy stock. There's a ribbon bookmark sewn in.

If you're a fan, you know and love these stories, and probably have them in several iterations.

This is the keeper. (Besides, you know, the actual comics themselves...)

I own hundreds upon hundreds of hardcover comic collections...and this has instantly joined the short list of the nicest ones I own...
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Format: Hardcover
I have a confession to make. For the longest time, I thought Barry Smith, who did some random Marvel work along with the amazing Conan comics from the 70s, and Barry Windsor-Smith, whose elegant and stylish artwork appeared on so many series throughout the 80s and 90s, were two separate people.

In fact, I always assumed they had a father/son John Adams/John Quincy Adams-type of thing going, where "W" used his middle name to separate himself from his famous father who was in the same profession. Of course, I was wrong. Fortunately, Dark Horse Comics has cleared up any such misconceptions with their release of "The Barry Windsor-Smith Conan Archives volume one."

Reprinting the first half of his legendary run on Marvel's Conan from 1970-73, this beautiful hardback puts Windsor-Smith's name proudly on the cover, corrects the coloring issues seen in previous reproductions, and delivers a fitting tribute to a ground-breaking comic. Almost like a smaller version of the Dark Horse Hellboy Library Editions rather than the existing Archive Editions, "The Barry Windsor-Smith Conan Archives" comes complete with a faux-leather hardbound cover, the reproductions of all of the Windsor-Smith Conan covers, and a lengthy introduction by writer Roy Thomas.

Windsor-Smith's run on the original series truly shows the development of an artist and the evolving format of the American comic book. With the first few issues, Windsor-Smith is little more than a skilled Kirby-imitator, and writer Roy Thomas is just laying down chunky plots as if he were writing a standard 70s-era Marvel superhero comic. However, along the way something magical happened.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was pretty high on purchasing the Conan archives. I remember reading Conan as a child (though quite a time after the publication of these particular issues), and have always liked Conan in general. But I have to admit - I come away disappointed at this product.

First, the physicals: the book itself is quite nice. It opens flat for the most part. I'm not a fan of the glossy paper - I wish they had used something closer to the paper found in the DC Archives, but it's hardly offensive. The images are clear and the colors are bright. I realize that a lot of people complain about the coloring, and that is their right. However, as I never read the original issues, I don't really care that much.

Now, onto the material. These stories are...boring. I'm just not interested in this Conan. Maybe the writer was finding his way (I know he wrote for a long, LONG time on this series), but I just don't feel it. Conan is some dude in a loin cloth swinging a sword. That's about it. Sure, he'll wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow...someday. But today? He's losing battles when it's convenient, and winning the rest of the time. Most stories feel like a single, repeated plot coupon to get Conan into trouble, and then get him out of it. It's just not interesting.

The main draw of this (and its subsequent) volume is the art of Barry Windsor Smith. Well, for this comic, the art starts off pretty rough. It gets a LOT better by the end, I'll grant - I really enjoyed the images of the later issues here. But in any case, it never saved the perfunctory sword-and-sorcery storylines that just got more and more tired as the proceedings progressed.

Had I purchased this for fifty bucks, I would have been grievously disappointed. I didn't, so I'm not. But caveat emptor. Maybe this is good if you're a fan of the artist, but reading some of the other reviews lambasting the coloring, I think everyone should be on watch.
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