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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Beowulf 1 - Beowulf debuts

Marvel had struck the gold mine with Conan the Barbarian, so it was inevitable that DC would try to find a notch in the same market. Beowulf was the first of seven variations on the Conan theme that would be launched in 1975. One has to give DC credit, each of the seven is quite different in concept and execution.

Beowulf debuted with the April/May 1975 issue, and a story by Michael Uslan and Ricardo Villamonte. Editor Denny O'Neil has a text page, talking about how there had been previous adaptations of Beowulf, but none were very good, and this time they were going to do it right! O'Neil goes on to explain how the series is going to expand on implications and references in the original story, to expand the tale for an ongoing series, but that readers would find it hard to tell what was in Beowulf, and what was created for the comic. 

The first issue seems to justify this. Certainly the language and vocabulary is more suited to an ancient text than a modern comic. Almost to the point of being annoying. Prince Beowulf learns of a threat by Grendel against an old ally of his father's, the leader of the Spear-Dane tribe, and sets out for Castle Hothgar to aid him.

Villamonte's art is excellent, and no matter how irritating some of the dialogue is, visually the story is captivating.

Grendel arrives at Castle Hothgar and begins killing off the members of the Spear-Dane tribe.

Beowulf has some other monsters to deal with along the way, including a woman, the one pictured on the cover, who has been possessed by Satan. When Beowulf kills the monster in the cave she is defending this frees her from the spell, and she winds up joining Beowulf on his journey. His men are shocked at how Beowulf treats her as an equal, despite being a woman. This is an easy change to spot.

As the first issue ends, Beowulf and the woman, Nan-Zee, confront a swamp monster.

The story continues in the next issue.

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