As I continue to discuss early influences in my career, I have to bring up the name of Barry Windsor-Smith. Like Swamp Thing and Berni Wrightson, I discovered Smith’s Conan after it had already run its course. Smith along with Wrightson were already doing their studio thing before I discovered their comic work. As an ambitious 5th grader I started my own comic company with a kid across the street (although I did almost all of the work). The first comic I actually drew pages for was called The Swamp Ghoul (gee, I wonder what inspired that?), the other was the barbarian tale of Valon the Destroyer. Valon looked surprisingly like Barry Smith’s Conan. It is interesting how I aped Wrightson when doing a monster story but then tried to ape Smith when doing a barbarian story.
I loved Windsor-Smith’s eye for detail and thought his work in Conan #24 (which he inked himself) was his crowning achievement in comics. He must have thought so too because he jumped ship right after. But as cool as I thought his work on Conan was, my favorite barbarian book has always been the first 10 issues of Kull the Conquerer. As appealing as the art in the first issue was (Ross Andru inked by Wally Wood), it was the work of John Severin over Marie Severin that really caught my attention. While Windsor-Smith’s Conan was highly detailed with a palpable renaissance feel, his odd facial anatomy sometimes left me cold. That is where the Severin’s work delivered; detailed and yet anatomically correct, it was something that connected much better with my 11 year old sensibilities. This is not to say that I don’t love and respect Barry Windsor-Smith’s work because I do, I just enjoy Severin’s Kull more than Conan. And yes, I aped his style for a short period as well.
Aside from the art, the reason I liked Kull better than Conan was the character. I found the barbarian king with a heart of gold more interesting than the barbarian thief with an occasional moral conscience. That, however, is another topic for another time.
Neither Windsor-Smith nor Severin ever made a noticeable impact on my style of drawing long term but they both helped me in my developmental stage and I still look at their work from time to time for inspiration.