G. W. Thomas
THE KINGS OF THE NIGHT
ARAK, SON OF THUNDER:
A NEGLECTED CLASSIC
ARAK, SON OF THUNDER has my vote for one of the all-time great original Sword & Sorcery comic book series. Some critics might scoff at the use of the word "original" for they dismissed the series early on as "Conan the Indian". But Arak was good S&S fun. It had all the elements: a brave hero, bad-ass villains, intelligent writing and occasionally, good artwork.
The DC series premiere in September 1981 with an issue written by co-creators Roy Thomas (recently split from Marvel) and Ernie Colon. Inker, Tony DeZungia, gave the series a nice feel. Tony would be gone by Issue #6 but he would return to do covers and eventually finish the series.
Things would improve in the art department when Alfred Alcala became inker with #10 and artist by #13. He did covers for those issues and up to #24. His distinct artwork, like DeZungia's, would fuel the "Conan the Indian" argument since both artists worked on The Savage Sword of Conan with Roy Thomas.
The series seemed to be in trouble by midway at #26. Ron Randall and Rick maygar did the art, but their work lacked the professional feel that Arak fans wanted. Roy Thomas began sharing the plots with his wife, Dann, and would eventually share a writing credit. Before the series ended, Thomas would only be plotting with R. J. M. Lofficer scripting.
The series finished its fifty issue run on November 1985. DC was glad to have fulfilled its committment and that was the end of Arak. No sequels. No graphic novels.
Despite all of this, ARAK, SON OF THUNDER remains a good saga of historic fantasy. Arak, an Indian lost in the Atlantic Ocean, finds his way to Europe where he is raised by Vikings. He joins a wizard and later a satyr and shield maiden in fighting a terrible witch, Angelica. Arak and his friends cross Europe and Asi to find Angelica in White Cathay and their final battle. Along the way they do battle with vampires, mermen, dinosaurs, etc., etc.
As for the "Conan the Indian"
criticism: yes, the writer and several of the artists have been associated
with marvel's comic Conan; yes, the plot was good, old-fashioned S&S
plotting; but to say it was Conan is erroneous. Arak, unlike the Cimmerian,
is a man of honor, not a self-serving Imperalist. Arak has friends who
are constant companions, not only in one or two issues. And fianlly, since
when was "Conan" an insult to a S&S series? You're in good company.
Long live the Son the Thunor!
COMING SOON: The Roy Thomas ARAK Interview