This has been a good year for Solomon Kane fans: the excellent new Castle of the Devil series from Dark Horse, followed by a collection of all of the Kane tales from the old Conan series and another collection coming up, full of the 80s Marvel comic. Good times abound.
Back to Castle of the Devil. As I've already confessed, I straight up bought this series twice - I am a sucker for nice looking trades with extra material. I knew that the series was based on a five paragraph story fragment from right about the time that Robert E. Howard got really into writing about Conan and (oh, woe!) pretty much abandoned Solomon Kane. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal for adapters, actually: Howard sets things up and you can finish the story how you wish without excessive nit-picking.
Anyway, given how much I liked Castle of the Devil, I was very interested to see that there was another adaptation of/expansion on it in the Saga of Solomon Kane trade that I picked up a couple of weeks ago. I've never actually been able to track down a copy of the fragment (especially weird given that Howard's work is kinda sorta tenuously in the public domain) but I think that we can piece together just what the authors of these diverse stories had to work with with a little of the old compare and contrast (with a little help from the Wikipedia summary of the fragment, of course).
Okay, so both tales feature Solomon Kane, of course. The Sword Against Sorcery, the meanest Puritan since Cromwell or that one guy from the Baroque Trilogy. Also featured is John Silent, a decidedly non-Puritan Englishman and rogue whose favourite expression is "Name of the devil!":
I like the second a bit better. "Foppish rogue" just isn't as fun as regular rogue.
The story begins with Solomon Kane finding a young boy hanging from a gibbet. Don't worry, though, as he gets there in time to cut the lad down and save his life. Here's the Dark Horse hanging:
And here's Marvel's offering:
You know, I'm going to venture a guess: I'll bet that the Howard text just says "a youth". Either that or this issue of Savage Sword of Conan hadn't yet reached its Naked Lady Quota and they were scrambling to fit just one more page worth in.
So, having rescued the... youth, Kane strikes out for the titular Castle of the Devil to have a few words with the local Baron about his practices. he meets up with John Silent along the way and takes the opportunity to engage in a bit of tough talk and show off just how badass he is:
Okay, now this is where I think that things start getting speculative. I reckon that Howard mentioned that the Baron had some sort of crazy idol that he had an unhealthy relationship with. Marvel went with a standard giant devil guy:
It's pretty evil - I definitely wouldn't trust a guy who worshipped anything with that many spikes adorning its head - but it doesn't even compare to the super-creepy Guy Davis creation that Dark Horse offered up:
There might have been a little note, something along the lines of "Boy, it would be kind of cool if the Baron turned into a monster at some point, huh?"
And I reckon that Robert E. must have made it plenty clear that John Silent likes the ladies:
Like to a wildly inappropriate degree. Finish rescuing her first, John! You need to concentrate! On something that isn't boobs!
What I will guarantee you, though, is that there is absolutely no physical description of the Baron himself in the fragment. Like, nothing. I know this because, well look for yourself:
On the one hand, an elderly, robed figure with a Persian wife and an air of learning.
And on the other hand, a Sergent Rock-style Nazi with goat feet.
Goat feet! Monocle! Crew cut!
I don't know what else to say!
Anyway, I have finished. I think that we have managed to ferret out the truth, you and I. And I got to use that picture of Baron Nazi Goatfoot, which was my whole goal.