I've been reading a lot of Gardner F. Fox lately.
I just finished the Showcase Presents: Adam Strange volume, which collects 500 pages of Fox's Adam Strange adventures from the old DC Comics title, Mystery In Space. It took a couple months, reading a few stories at a time so as not to burn out on the admittedly formulaic tales. Still, despite the sameness of plots – Earthman Adam Strange is transported to the planet Rann by "Zeta Beam," is met by his hot alien girlfriend Alanna just as some new alien menace attacks the planet, then, equipped with an often ineffectual raygun and a jet pack, he must defeat the threat by out thinking it/them – Fox demonstrated his vast imagination in the seemingly limitless variety of the menaces and Strange's elaborate (if frequently implausible) plans to defeat them.
I also recently re-read the first Crisis On Multiple Earths trade paperback collection of the first few Justice League/Justice Society team-ups from the Sixties. What a brilliant idea it was to have DC's Silver Age and Golden Age heroes meet and work together to combat threats too great for either team to handle alone. No wonder they made it an annual event for so many years!
Over the past couple of weeks, I've been going back and forth between both his Kothar and Kyrik sword & sorcery series. The Kothar novels, written in 1969 and 1970, during the first surge of Conan's popularity in paperback, are entertaining and imaginative, but Kothar himself is pretty much a cypher – a literary "action figure" to fight monsters, go on quests and be manipulated by sorcerers and sorceresses (namely, Red Lori). The stories are very pulpy and fun, fast reads.
The covers by Jeff Jones are quite lovely, too.
Kyrik, though, is a different breed of barbarian. Reminiscent in some ways of Karl Edward Wagner's Kane, Kyrik is a warlock as well as a warrior, and was once king of Tantagol. Betrayed and turned into a 6-inch bronze statue, Kyrik waits – immobile but aware – for a thousand years, until he is returned to human form by a young sorceress. Although he eventually wins back his throne, he turns his back on it, leaving it in the hands of appointed regents, to wander the world with his gypsy girlfriend – and make up for a millennium's lost living.
He's a more interesting and complex character (well, complex for this genre, anyway) than Kothar, and I think I like the Kyrik books better. (Of course, I've only read two of them so far).
Anyway, I'm finding myself quite impressed by Fox's creativity. He was a great storyteller, and I wish I had a fraction of his creative inventiveness. I also wish I could be as disciplined and prolific – he wrote thousands of comic book stories and over a hundred novels under his own name and various pseudonyms.