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  • Greg O'Driscoll

There's a Conan on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad

Cover for Conan the Barbarian #73 from Marvel Comics. Art by Gil Kane and Ernie Chan.

Great cover featuring both a huge pagan idol and a giant red monster. Another great Kane composition with Chan finishes that really give it texture and make it pop. The issue opens with the treacherous Kawaku really going for broke this time. The guy is practically the Starscream of the Black Corsairs, a treacherous backstabber that somehow the leaders still keep around.

Getting the drop on Conan and Belit, Kawaku demands the location of Belit's hidden loot. The she-pirate would rather die than tell, but Conan says he will lead them to it if they spare his lover's life. Belit is pissed, but Conan, Kawaku, and several of the mutinous crew travel to a small uncharted island and the Temple of the Toad. Conan and Belit depended on the superstitions of the locals to keep snoopers at bay.

Heading on inside, Conan easily tricks his captor into rappelling down into the Well of Skelos where they supposedly tossed the treasure. Howard fans will recognize the name Skelos as that of the pre-cataclysmic sorcerer who wrote the Book of Skelos, a Hyborian Era Abdul Alhazred and Necronomicon respectively. Just as you wonder if Kawaku is really that stupid, the reader is treated to my favorite exchange of dialogue this issue: " 'Til we meet again, Amra." "Goodbye, Kawaku."

Conan sends the treacherous Kawaku to his doom. Interior art from CTB #73 by John Buscema and Ernie Chan.

All hell breaks loose when the mutinous crewmen pull back up not Kawaku, but an evil red, yeti-sized toad-thing. The monster comes after Conan as the Cimmerian moves to escape amid the confusion. Conan manages to wrestle the beast back into the pit but almost goes in with it. As Conan struggles to pull himself back up, Belit and the loyal crewmen, who have all escaped and retaken the ship, appear to lend a hand.

"Take my hand... take my whole life too..."

Wonderfully solid, neatly sewn up little adventure with great art from Buscema and Chan. "Freely adapted from a plot by Robert E. Howard" and no more information than that about the seed from which this issue one sprouted. Pound for pound one of my favorite, lesser-known pre-100 tales.

Toad monster that lives in the Well of Skelos. Art by John Buscema and Ernie Chan.

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