Savage Sword of Conan often consisted of reprint material. But in the early issues of this magazine (which had an amazing 20 year run) there was one particular 'reprint' that some might consider not to be a reprint at all. Gil Kane's Blackmark was a fairly ambitious experiment - the world's first graphic novel (as we know them today). Kane managed to convince paperback publisher Bantam to put out a trilogy of sword-and-sorcery books called 'Blackmark' that contained three novel length comic book stories of a future barbarian named Blackmark.
But the idea was too far ahead of its time. Though sales of the first book were good, they were deemed not good enough to warrant a continuation of the project, and Bantam moved on to more lucrative projects whilst Gil Kane's completed second and third volume sat in limbo.
Enter Marvel editor Roy Thomas, whose search for sword-and-sorcery material to buff up the magazine The Savage Sword of Conan, led to a reformat and republishing of that first Blackmark novel in serialized form in the first three issues of SSoC. With issue 4 of Savage Sword, though, the never before seen second installment, 'Blackmark Triumphant!' begins.
It's easy to dismiss Blackmark because there have been so many ideas here stolen and rehashed - and the concept itself wasn't wholly original to begin with, 'Conan in a post apocalyptic future where society has been reduced to primitive again' would pretty much sum up the concept - but really it was a twist on the barbarian hero trope that hadn't really been seen much if ever in the early 1970s. Since then even children's cartoons like Thundarr and He-Man would copy the science-meets-magic on what might be Earth of the future, but credit where credit is due - Kane if not the originator was at least way ahead of the curve on this one.
'Blackmark Triumphant!' really ups the sci-fi element. After winning in the gladiatorial arena, Blackmark pulls the proverbial sword from the stone by piloting a rocket to space and back, thus fulfilling the prophecy that he is to be king, and initiating a revolution that ends with Blackmark upon the throne, poised to conquer all of New Earth.
Look, it's pulpy fantasy escapism, there's no two bones about it - but if you like that kind of thing, you should check it out, Kane's artwork is really quite good.