Savage Tales #1 (1971) Homage Covers
Conan, the Barbarian, & the First Appearance of Marvel’s Man-Thing
Savage Tales is a black-and-white adventure/fantasy magazine which began publication in May 1971. The first issue features a memorable painted decapitation cover by John Buscema, a Marvel mainstay artist during the 1960s and 1970s. The cover features Conan the Barbarian grimly displaying the severed head of his enemy to all who might see (including readers). The cover is simultaneously gruesome and sexy. As Conan holds high the severed head, a barbarian woman, whom he has presumably rescued, clings to his naked, muscular leg.
Buscema is best known for his work on Marvel’s favorite titles such as The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Thor and The Silver Surfer, and for more than 200 stories featuring Conan, the Barbarian (created by Robert E. Howard). This latter distinction makes Buscema one of the most prolific artists for a single character in all of comics. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2002. John Buscema’s younger brother, Sal Buscema, is also a comic book artist.
Although Savage Tales #1 features Buscema’s Conan on the cover, Conan appears in only one story: “The Frost Giant’s Daughter,” penciled by noted artist Barry Windsor-Smith. Buscema pencils “The Night of the Looter,” the magazine’s final tale. Other stories in. the mag are pencilled by John Romita, Gray Morrow and Gene Colan.
In addition to Buscema’s memorable cover, Savage Tales #1 is known for the first appearance of Marvel’s Man-Thing, a large, slow-moving, empathic, humanoid swamp monster living in the Florida Everglades. Marvel’s Man-Thing (May 1971) and DC’s Swamp Thing (House of Secrets #92, July 1971) appeared only a couple of months apart and share many similarities. including their origin: both were scientists who as a result of chemical experimentation/catastrophe were reborn amidst the ecosystem of the swamps in Florida and Louisiana (respectively). Man-Thing has appeared across Marvel’s many titles, and has been featured in five volumes of his own magazine (as of July 2021).
John Buscema’s popular cover for Savage Tales #1 – for both its artistry and the first appearance of Man-Thing – has been a favorite to homage and parody over the years.
Other decapitation covers can be seen in our “Take the Head of Thine Enemy” Gallery.