Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Inventory and Appraisement Of The Estate Of Robert E Howard..."

Robert E Howard created Conan the Barbarian, but that didn’t stop him from dying, leaving an estate worth less than $3,000.  At the end of his life, none of his creations could save him, and even though his vision and work has endured for over 75 years, he never really reaped the benefits that others have enjoyed down the years.  As can be seen from these documents, the bulk of Howard’s estate was, surprisingly, money, with two bank accounts containing over $2,500 of the final sum.  Howard’s estate went to his next of kin, in this case his father, Issac Howard.  Issac Howard must surely have had the worst of weeks, first his son fatally shoots himself in the head and then his wife passes away shortly after, never waking from a coma, resulting in a double burial.  Such is the price of devotion to one’s mother, and Howard's actions have created conversation amongst his many admirers ever since.

Luckily, for the world at large, Howard had a vivid imagination and gave us several creations which are still in use today, chief amongst them Conan the Barbarian.  If he’d done nothing more than that he’d still be remembered, but he also gave the world Solomon Kane, Kull and many more, characters that writers, artists and film-makers still play with today.  He may never have published an actual book in his lifetime, but he lives on as one of the greats of the 20th century.  Howard’s work was so good that when writers of the comic strip ever became stuck, and this includes Roy Thomas, they merely went back to Howard's work and sought both ideas and inspiration, and Howard’s works have provided some of the best Conan stories that the world has seen, giving rise to the cliché, often imitated, never surpassed.  Conan may be owned by a corporation today, but he’s still there for all to enjoy.  The real shame is that Howard decided to leave the world at such a young age and so early in his career.  The ‘what if’s’ that remain are maddening as the potential was more than there and it would have been more than interesting to see what Howard could have done once released from the shackles of a pulp magazine and given the freedom of unlimited pages.  Still, some things are destined to remain unknown…and therein lies their appeal.

These documents might be old - hell, they date from 1936 - and I'm sure they exist somewhere else and others with far more knowledge about Howard than I'll ever have would be able to dissect and discuss them, but they're well worth another peek, for the curious at least.  And to think, Issac Howard had to file two of these in the same week, one for his wife and one for his son - so when you stop and think about the tragedy of Robert E Howard taking his life in a fit of depression, also spare a strong thought for his father, who remained behind and buried his family.















Possibly the best of all of the Conan adaptations, by the best of the adaptors

4 comments:

mr ed said...

Those IDW ARTIST'S EDITIONS are pretty expensive. An ARTIST'S EDITION of RED NAILS would have be scrambling for my check book.

Daniel Best said...

You wouldn't be alone there. I bought the recent Romita/Mooney Spider-Man, and I also feel that a Red nails edition would be the ultimate.

mr ed said...

Whatever it's shortcomings that book is pure passion. There is an expression in sport: "he left nothing on the field." That sums up the book.
Also happens to be one of Howard's best stories.

Mike P said...

Great article, Danny, very well-written (as usual).

Just an FYI, remember that was 1936. In 2010 money, that estate would have been just under $39,000. Not a million by any stretch, but frankly more than the average American has saved today, especially one as young as REH.

I'm just shocked that none of his books were published in his lifetime; they must've all been as chapters in pulp magazines? In that respect he's almost like Van Gogh. (Except better IMO.)

Thanks,
Mike Pascale