|"Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser"|
It's a land where two swordsmen known as "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" sought adventure with blades as sharp as their considerable wits, as they faced incredible challenges and terrible tragedy. For decades, they were the loveable rogues of sword-and-sorcery, jovial cousins to the brutality of Robert E. Howard's Conan or the sadness of Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné.
They enjoyed a flourishing literary career both during the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the 1940s, and a renaissance during the New Wave of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the novella "Ill Met in Lankhmar," the tale of their first (well, second) meeting became one of the few sword-and-sorcery stories to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards, usually given to science fiction.
Now, Dark Horse has not only bought author Fritz Leiber's famous series back into print, it's also republishing Epic Comics' 1991 adaptations of the stories, written by Howard Chaykin and illustrated by a pre-"Hellboy" Mike Mignola.
Chaykin, who's now the artist on "Blade" at Marvel, ranks the "Fafhrd" adaptations as among his favorite works. "I'm delighted to have that stuff in print again," Chaykin told CBR News. "Leiber was a huge influence on me. It remains my most favorite sword-and-sorcery material ever."
|"Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" page 8|
Chaykin had worked on the characters before during their short-lived run at DC in the 1970s in the five-issue series "Sword of Sorcery" (they also met Wonder Woman during this time, but that's another story). He wasn't completely satisfied with the results. "There was no real attempt to create the atmosphere of the books," Chaykin said of the "Sword of Sorcery" material.
When the chance arose at Epic to get a do-over on the Fafhrd material, Chaykin leaped at the chance. "Carl Potts, the editor of the book, asked me if I was interested in writing it, and of course I was," Chaykin says. Though he didn't work directly with Mignola, the two's collaboration went smoothly enough that they re-teamed for the DC graphic novel "Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution." "We had a great time and I was very in simpatico with him."
|"Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" page 9|
Chaykin said that he connected with Fafhrd and the Mouser because of the autobiographical subtext that Leiber subtly wove into the story. "I always liked the material because, underneath its sword-and-sorcery surface, it really is very much about New York in the 1930s," Chaykin said. "Leiber was Fafhrd, and Stanley G. Weinbaum, a science fiction writer and editor of the time, and a very dear friend of Leiber's, was the Mouser. These stories are really just thinly-disguised versions of these guys roaming the streets of Manhattan in the 1930s. It's all very encoded, it isn't as obvious as I'm making it sound, but it's very much there."
Why has Leiber's work proven so enduring over the decades? "It's smarter, it was more urbane, it had a definite kink to it that was an edge to the material, and it was funny!" Chaykin says. "None of the other sword-and-sorcery stories were funny, and Fafhrd had a definite wit to it that set it apart from the rest."
|Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" page 10|
Dark Horse has publicly stated that it hopes to develop the Lankhmar books as films, and while Chaykin doesn't know that he'd be involved, he does hope that one of the stories he never got a chance to adapt might make its way to the big screen. "I always thought that Leiber's one novel, 'The Swords of Lankhmar,' would make a great movie," Chaykin says.
Until then, readers still have the original books, along with Chaykin and Mignola's adaptations, if they want to experience the wonder and terror of the city of Lankhmar.
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