One of my favorite books of the 1970's was Marvel's Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan magazine. Being a Pulp fiction fan I could not get enough of Howard's creation and eagerly bought whatever was produced in the genre. Titles Conan, Kull, Tarzan, Gullivar Jones, John Carter and even Skull the Slayer got my cash.
My entry this week for Ragnell and Kalinara's Cheesecake/Beefcake Week is from the adaptation of L. Spraugue DeCamp and Lin Carter's Conan the Buccaneer that ran in the magazine Savage Sword of Conan #40-43. What makes this story unique in Marvel's books of the time is the frontal nudity displayed by the curvy Princess Chabella in her appearances over the next several issues as SSoC was not specifically directed at the mature market.
Nearly every scene shows her bountifully exposed. In her first appearance in issue #40's splash page it is all "Hello, girls!" and it doesn't stop there as we ride the Marvel Express Train to Breastville. Chabella is soon kidnapped and sold into slavery, where she and Conan have adventures and Conan kills people.
While the story never became the full-on pornography that issue #34 was, there were plenty references to interracial sex, domination, violence and bondage. Particularly when Chabella was a slave-girl and Conan was the meat-puppet of a queen. At first, Chabella was humiliated by her exposure and took pains to cover herself against her loss of station and the unwanted attentions by those around her. Practical matters like running from demons, however, forced her to not worry about how she looked as she focused on staying alive.
Admittedly, I fully appreciated the art of John Buscema and Tony Dezuniga and the lack of strategic censorship on the story. But here is where Marvel got clever. I don't recall if this scene is in the novel since it has been years since I read it, but it was hilarious.
"Skin is only skin, after all." It was a direct statement about the art form in the book and the soft-core porn of most SF & Fantasy novels in the genre. It was also very nearly an editorial directed at twitchy fanboys. Where in issue #40 I was "Hey, breasts!" and told my comic-reading friends about their appearances in the book, by issue #42 I didn't even notice them until Roy Thomas once again called them to my attention. Unbelievably, Marvel Comics had desensitized me to breasts. It is interesting that in the first scene where Chabella is reminded she is inappropriately clothed is also the first panel where the practice of Editorial Swimwear is applied.
The next issue and conclusion of the story in #43 has Princess Chabella appearing in only a few panels early in the book. After all, now that she is fully clothed and has had the obligatory Thank You Sex with Conan the story has little use for her. The magazine is in the Sword and Sorcery genre after all, and it's time for the hacking and slashing with the pointy objects and the inflicting of the pain.
Tags: Marvel Comics Conan Cheesecake/Beefcake Week