(I wrote this originally for the Dark Horse blog, meant to air before the comic was released, which is why it’s only a partial-issue commentary)
THE COMMENTARY TRACK: BRIAN WOOD’S “CONAN THE BARBARIAN” #1
This is primarily about the process of adapting, what to leave in, what to exclude, how to re-work things moving from one medium to another. In the case of The Queen Of The Black Coast, what I have here is a short story, the original Robert E Howard story, that stands at 27 pages of almost entirely prose, very little dialog. And comics, obviously, are nothing if not almost entirely dialog. That was the first, and probably the biggest, challenge. The first arc of this comic, 66 pages worth of comics, will be adapted from about 9 or 10 pages of the original.
Here’s an excerpt, more in the link:
The section of the original that matches up to this page here is utterly devoid of dialogue, so all of what you see here is gleaned from descriptions. Tito, the bearded fellow, is describing to Conan what Robert E. Howard wrote to his readers, like so:
"Nor did master Tito pull into the broad bay where the Styx river emptied its gigantic flood into the ocean, and the massive black castles of Khemi loomed over the blue waters. Ships did not put unasked into this port, where dusky sorcerers wove awful spells in the murk of sacrificial smoke mounting eternally from blood-stained altars where naked women screamed, and where Set, the Old Serpent, arch-demon of the Hyborians but god of the Stygians, was said to writhe his shining coils among his worshippers."
You can see how I used it, and also how I didn’t. Early on I was faced with the decision on how to adapt this, and there is an argument to be made (I know because lots of fans made it to me) that the best way is to literally adapt, use no words that aren’t Howard’s, to cut and paste from the original. But the parameters of the job, common sense, and the need to actually put dialogue on these pages made this impossible. It was necessary to take the prose, and rework and reframe it into scenes and conversations.