Among the most high profile new releases for 2012 is Dark Horse's new Conan the Barbarian series, based on the work of Robert E. Howard. Launching in February, the book is written by Brian Wood and drawn by Becky Cloonan, whose work together on such titles as Demo, Channel Zero: Jennie One and Northlanders has me particularly excited for this new Conan comic.

Our exclusive preview of Conan the Barbarian #1 showed off Cloonan's lovely interior artwork, but lest we forget the similarly excellent cover art by fellow Northlanders alum Massimo Carnevale, Dark Horse has provided us with an exclusive first look at his cover for Conan #3 as well as the variant edition by another great talent, John Paul Leon.

Brian Wood discussed the upcoming Conan in a recent interview with ComicsAlliance:

BW: It's an adaptation of an old Conan short story from 1934 called "The Queen Of The Black Coast." And its absolutely new reader-friendly. All that is required of you is to: a) know that Conan is a barbarian, and b) forget everything you know from the movies. And since the title of the book is "Conan The Barbarian," you're already halfway there!

So, yes, adaptation. But I have 25 issues worth of comic to fill and the original story is quite short, so for a decent size chunk of the run I'll be creating new stories to fill the passage of time. The original story is basically missing its second act, a sort of "years pass" thing, so I get to create all that from scratch.

CA: Conan doesn't seem like a hard sell given your work in Northlanders, which, among other, more sophisticated things, is also about really brutish people of the ancient world killing each other in really violent ways. Is Conan any kind of thematic continuation of Northlanders or is that just a superficial similarity?

BW: If you are at least a casual fan of my Northlanders stories, you'll find a lot to like in my Conan. One of the reasons I was hired was to do what I did in Northlanders, which is to take something that can come off very genre and find the heart and humanity in it. Some of the most successful Northlanders stories were the ones that were not so tied to the historical stuff, but rather dealt with universal ideas and feelings and conflicts. I think its the same way with Conan. I mean, it's Conan so there's a lot of things that, as the writer, I need to make sure are in every script, but he is not a mindless brute. And since this story I'm adapting is that of Conan's first love, there's a lot of emotional depth to mine. It's one of the most beloved Conan stories ever, the original.

Conan the Barbarian #1 goes on sale in February from Dark Horse Comics.

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