Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Howard and Simonson's Grey God

Today's story: "The Grey God Passes" by Robert E. Howard. I came across this because Walter Simonson did the illustrations. Simonson is most famous for his run as writer and artist of the Thor comic in the 80s (issues 337 to 382). Howard is most famous for Conan, of course.


Simonson did black and white illustrations for this story back in 1975, and they appeared in a pamphlet-style printing. Howard's story recounts the 1014 Battle of Clontarf in Ireland, which he fashions into a fight between Christians and heathens. He's reworking history a bit with that one. It's the story of Conn, who escapes slavery in the Orkneys and returns to Ireland in time to aid his king in the battle. He's on the Christian side. The grey god of the title is Odin. The story originally appeared in a collection called Dark Mind, Dark Heart, edited by August Derleth, which contains stories by many other writers such as Ramsey Campbell and Lovecraft.

"Grey God" is a bit of a slog to read, which might explain why it wasn't published in Howard's lifetime. The names, more than anything else, weigh the story down. Just too many of them, with all the kings and jarls and whatnot. It's still a good story, though. It was also adapted as a comic back when Marvel was doing Conan stories (the splash page informs us that the story has been "freely adapted" from the original; Conan's in it).

I was hoping for a little more mythological content. Odin is more or less an observer, seen a couple of times. First by Conn, inciting him to return home for the battle. Then again toward the end. He doesn't do much. There are a few fantastical elements, but mostly it's the story of the build-up and the battle. Yeah, I really don't have much to say about it.

I do like the art, though.

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