My beard and I celebrated a birthday this week.
Which makes this a great time to talk about CONAN THE BARBARIAN #12, the issue you’ll find in comic book stores today. The final chapter of the big, year-long “Life and Death of Conan” arc that heralded the character’s return to Marvel Comics.
I’ve got a shelf packed with dog-eared Conan paperbacks that sits a few feet from the desk where I’m writing this. The desk where I make my living. I bought those paperbacks many years ago, searching madly for them in every dusty old bookstore and ramshackle flea market in my little corner of Alabama. I took them home like the precious, unearthed treasures they were and devoured the stories inside one after the other. The original Robert E. Howard stories were by far my favorites (though I quite liked the Robert Jordan novels as well), but no matter the author, I ravenously quested for and procured any sort of book I could find with Conan’s name on the blood-drenched cover. Or in truth, my mom bought them for me. Because I was just a kid.
A quiet kid who liked to read and make up stories and explore the woods behind his house, dreaming they were the hills of Cimmeria or the jeweled castles of Aquilonia.
Here’s that Conan shelf. And also something else that sits on my desk as we speak.
I found that lunchbox last year at a local antique mall, while shopping with my family. I hadn’t thought of it in years, but this was exactly how I carried my lunch to school as a kid. My mom remembered how mine had gotten lost in a move. So this one is mine now, to watch over me while I work.
In some ways, the older I get, the further I keep moving away from that kid in the piney southern woods. Which is okay, because there are some parts of that kid I’m still working to shed. But there are other parts I want to cling to forever.
I’d like to think if that kid could go to the comic shop today, Marvel lunchbox in hand, barbarian daydreams exploding through his brain, he’d picked up the latest issue of CONAN and smile.
I wrote this arc of CONAN for that kid. And in tribute to all the Robert E. Howard stories that so deeply mesmerized and inspired the kid way back when. I’m incredibly proud of how it all turned out. Thanks in large part to the staggering artistic talents of main series artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Matthew Wilson, along with sometime guest artist Gerardo Zaffino and cover artist Esad Ribic, who together had to bring to life all different corners of the Hyborian world and different eras of Conan’s epic life.
With today’s CONAN #12, that story ends. But that kid isn’t letting me be done with his favorite character just yet. So go pick up a copy of today’s issue for the grand, bloody finale of “The Life and Death of Conan,” along with a little tease of what comes next. And thanks as always for reading.
Did somebody say something about reading? Because holy damn, it’s not just the latest issue of CONAN I’ve got on the shelves today. In celebration of my birthday, there seems to have been an explosion of all things me at your local comic book establishment.
Also out today is AVENGERS #30, the conclusion of the “Starbrand Reborn” arc, featuring the War Widow, Brood Thor, Blade wearing a mini swamp creature as space armor and the full story of the all-new wielder of the cosmic super-weapon that is the Starbrand, all courtesy of the cosmically-powered art team of Ed McGuinness, Francesco Manna, Mark Morales and colorist Jason Keith.
There’s also this second printing of AVENGERS #26 in stores today, which was the origin issue for the prehistoric Starbrand that was drawn by the legendary Dale Keown. If you missed this one the first time around, holy flaming hell, do yourself a really big favor and go see how awesome Dale is at drawing super-powered dinosaurs and super-jacked, super-in-love cavemen. This one was a right proper blast.
I also have multiple new trades in stores today, including the first volume of SEA OF STARS, the wild new space-adventure series I’ve been doing with co-writer Dennis Hallum, artist Stephen Green, colorist Rico Renzi and designer/letterer Jared Fletcher. This one is a fun ride through the imaginative wilds of deep space, that’s ultimately the story of an estranged father and son and the two very different journeys they find themselves pulled into, involving talking space animals, murderous space plants and the mysterious power to swim through outer space like it’s an ocean. This series probably warrants some more in-depth discussion, in particular in terms of how the writing duties are divided up between Dennis and I, which I think is one of the more unusual and interesting aspects of the project. I think that’s something for us to dive into in an upcoming edition of your favorite beard-related newsletter.
You can also pick up the newest AVENGERS trade today, collecting the “Challenge of the Ghost Riders” arc, which was a chance for me to bring back some of the different Spirits of Vengeance I introduced during my run on GHOST RIDER several years ago. That was my first ongoing gig at Marvel. Knuckles O'Shaugnessy, you will always be close to my heart.
And then there’s the second volume of Marvel’s new trade paperback collection of my entire seven-year THOR run. This one features the end of the GOD OF THUNDER series and the debut of the mysterious new version of Thor that’s still making headlines, along with the SECRET WARS tie-in mini, THORS, which was like me doing “Homicide: Life on the Street” but with Beta Ray Bill and Frog Thor.
Wow, that’s a lot of new releases for one week, right? Look, I’m not saying you need to rush out and buy them all, but I mean, I did just have a birthday this week. So, you know, you should probably celebrate that however you’d like. In addition to comics, I’d also recommend a tiki drink and a Godzilla movie or two.
Since we last talked, the Marvel solicitations for April were released, including the first info on the upcoming “Age of Khonshu” arc of AVENGERS, where I get to write Moon Knight in a very big way for the first time. I wrote a bit more about that over at my blog. And I’ll be sharing more info here as I can, as I’m really super-excited about this one.
In addition to the work blog, I’ve added some more features to my website, including an FAQ, for all your frequently-asked needs.
And in just in case I don’t say this frequently enough myself, thank you for reading. The birthday boy thanks you. And so does his beard. And so does that quiet kid over there holding the lunchbox. You can see him too, right?
This has been Beard Missives, direct from the freshly-birthdayed face of Jason Aaron.
This week’s newsletter has been brought to you by Dragon Fruit Hi-Chews, birthday burnt ends, McLain’s bakery, chicken paprikash and the unending cinematic marvel that is Godzilla, King of the Monsters.
KC, January 2020
March 20-22 — Planet Comicon Kansas City
April 10-12 — WonderCon Anaheim