The Mystery of the Mexican Conan Comics by Jeffrey Shanks T he latest iteration of the ongoing monthly Conan series from Dark Horse (written by Brian Wood) has received a great deal of praise from critics and readers alike for its fresh take on the iconic 80-year old barbarian. However, the series has had mixed reviews from the hardcore Robert E. Howard fans to say the least, and has been the subject of much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth on various REH-related online communities. Wood's current adaptation of "Queen of the Black Coast" is certainly a different approach to the classic story than what most longtime Conan comics readers are used to. The classic adaptation by Roy Thomas and John Buscema was a legendary run in the 1970's, spanning over 40 issues in the main Marvel title and for many the image of Buscema's Bêlit with her fur mono-kini is iconic. But what few people realize is that nearly a quarter of a century before Marvel's "Queen of the Black Coast" and six decades before the current Dark Horse version, the classic story of Conan and his shepirate lover had already made their comic book debut in an obscure, unauthorized Mexican publication. The series "La Reina de la Costa Negra" appeared in several formats in the 1950s and 60s. While Howard's original story was adapted in a few issues, the writers of this version took considerable liberties with the characters and added dozens of issues of pastiche stories. The most unconventional features of these stories included the fact that Bêlit—not Conan—is the lead protagonist and Conan is depicted with blond hair rather than black. The Black Corsairs of Howard's story were also changed to Vikings and first mate N'yaga had his name changed to Yanga. For many years there was very little known about these curious Mexican bootlegs and today they have achieved something like urban myth status among Howard collectors. Supposedly, they first appeared on the radar of US fandom in 1966 when L. Sprague de Camp, then editing the Conan stories for the Lancer paperbacks, learned that the Mexican company Ediciones Joma was publishing a Conan comic book. De Camp contacted the company with the intention of trying to inquire about them, but they never replied and stopped publication (perhaps fearing a lawsuit) (Bacon 3). De Camp seems to have let the matter drop and the knowledge of this series was not circulated within American fandom. Then in 1968 collector Douglas Menville found a copy of La Reina de la Costa Negra #2 in a bookstore (dated October 8, 1958 and published by Ediciones Mexicanas Asocidas or E.M.A.). In 1970, when Marvel began publishing its Conan series, Menville contacted them to let them know about this earlier Conan comic from Mexico, but his letter was never printed or acknowledged. Then more issues began to appear: Roy Thomas acquired photocopies of #3 and #4 (dated October 15 and 22, 1958) and Menville f ?V?B6???b3bV&?6?V@?'?????BFFVBFV6V?&W"b??cR??V?f???P?S2??vR0???