Conan and Solomon Kane may be the marquee characters of Robert E. Howard’s pulp adventures, but the writer created a whole host of fascinating heroes and heroines in his too-brief life. Among the classic REH characters being revitalized in Dark Horse’s “Savage Sword” anthology is Dark Agnes, or Agnes de Chastillon, a woman who fights back against her expected submissive role in society in 16th century France - with a sword.
And thus, I let my gruff masculine facade slip as I squeal like a little girl.
A little girl, I say.
You know, I'm just going to come out and say that Dark Agnes is my favourite Howard character. Sure, I love me some Conan, Solomon Kane, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, as well as personal favourites Cormac Fitzgeoffrey and Black John O'Donnell, but Aggie isn't just an awesome character, she's an icon. She's a contradiction, she's conflicted, she's complex, she's a whole bunch of things. Of all the Howard characters who deserved an audience, she's the one most trailblazing, ahead of her time.
So knowing that Savage Sword was going to bring Agnes to the world, well, I'm definitely looking forward to it with a mixture of glee and trepidation. Gleepidation?
“I've been a Robert E. Howard fan since I was a kid, so to get to work on one of his characters, especially one who most people aren't familiar with, has been a blast,” Andreyko said. “Howard wrote her as a pre-feminist-movement feminist, which played on my attraction to writing strong women in comics.”
God bless you, Marc.
Agnes de Chastillon only appeared in three stories, which gives Andreyko some room to establish his own take on the character. “She is waaay ahead of her time. She's a woman who, when faced with abuse and adversity, stands up to it and kicks its ass! REH wrote just enough to make her fascinating, but not so much that I'm beholden to a ton of existing continuity,” the writer said. “I'm not retconning her, I'm just playing in the sandbox that REH so beautifully created.”
Agnes is a lot easier to create new takes on, certainly more than the likes of Conan or Solomon Kane: with only three (well, two and a quarter) stories to keep track of, one can really take her in any direction one pleases. I still wanted to see a team up between her and Red Sonya, but given Dynamite's dominion over Red-with-a-J it's probably extremely unlikely, barring having her appear under a pseudonym. That would be a depressing state of affairs, frankly. There's also the possibility of having her meet up with other Howard characters of the time period - or, depending on whether they're going to carry on the supernatural bent of the stories Howard seemed to suggest in "Mistress of Death," heroes and heroines of other time periods too.
While many of Dark Horse’s Howard titles adapt the original author’s stories to some degree or another, Andreyko’s will be an entirely new tale that nevertheless sets up the character firmly within Howard’s established world. “Since so few people know ‘Agnes,’ my story introduces the reader to her in the context of her legend in her time period. And there's sword-fighting, too,” Andreyko told CBR.
Andreyko’s “Agnes” adventure, which will mark the character's comic book debut, will also acclimate readers to the particular setting of the heroine’s life. “The setting is as much of a character as Agnes. When Dark Horse first pitched me ‘Agnes,’ it was the time period that made me most intrigued,” Andreyko said. “I actually love research. Since my knowledge of 16th century France was, ahem, small, I've learned a lot about that era and hope I get to tell more stories in it.”
Good to know. I'm disappointed it isn't going to be an adaptation of "Sword Woman" or "Blades for France," but a mythic introduction to the character could be just the ticket. Hopefully it won't spoil either story, though.
Marc Andreyko, I wish you the absolute best of luck. I really, really want you to succeed with Dark Agnes. I'm used to disappointments with Conan, Solomon Kane and Kull. But Agnes is different. She doesn't have a Conan the Destroyer, or a Kull the Conqueror. She hasn't had her origin story run through the wringer, or had her costume changed into a mail bikini, or made into a cheesy TV star vehicle. The odd dodgy illustration and Gerald Page's good intentions aside, Agnes hasn't suffered anywhere near the ignominy of Howard's other heroes: I would be heartbroken for such a thing to happen now, in this age of Howard and his heroes being treated with respect.
So... no pressure?