First Word on Dark Agnes and Other Historical Adventures

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Del Rey: DARK AGNES AND OTHER HISTORICAL ADVENTURES By Robert E. Howard – Coming in  2011!
John Watkiss has officially been announced as the artist for the next volume of Robert E. Howard stories, titled DARK AGNES AND OTHER HISTORICAL ADVENTURES.


That’s the short blurb that just got posted over at Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions site. Reading it reminded me that Jay Zetterberg (of CPI/Paradox) had broken the news about this on the Official Robert E. Howard Forum way back on June 18, 2009. Here is what Zetterberg said at the time:

Robert E. Howard Properties and Del Rey are glad to announce the next planned book in the Howard library series: Dark Agnes and Other Historical Adventures, with planned release in spring 2011.

Following the historical footsteps of El Borak and Other Desert Adventures, which takes us to Arabia at the turn of the 20th century, Dark Agnes will take readers further back in time, from the time of the Crusades up to 16th century France.

We will follow Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, a half-Irish, half-Norman man of war who follows Richard the Lion-Hearted to 12th century Palestine – Outremer – under the banners of the Third Crusade. We will also meet Agnes de la Fere who when faced with an arranged marriage to a brutal husband in 16th century France cuts the ceremony short with a dagger-stroke and flees. Dark Agnes’ instinctive skill in combat wins her the name of Sword Woman. Her skill is tested on the coast of France where she foils a plot by Britain’s devious Cardinal Wolsey to undermine the French king, and again in the benighted alleys of Chartres, as she faces the vengeance of an executed sorcerer who will not die.

As with all books in the Del Rey Howard library series, Dark Agnes will be fully illustrated. Announcement of artist will come at a later stage. The book is presently planned for release in spring 2011.

I had always hoped for two separate volumes from Del Rey containing Howard’s “historical” yarns. The first would be roughly analogous to Lord of Samarcand from Bison Books. The second would contain “swashbucklers” like the Dark Agnes tales, as well as yarns like the version of “The Blue Flame of Vengeance” featuring Malachi Grim and “Isle of Pirates’ Doom.” It would seem that Del Rey (under the steady hand of series editor, Rusty Burke) is going to cherry-pick the best tales from both categories. The Agnes and Fitzgeoffrey stories are high-grade (on the whole), well able to carry any volume in which they are included. Neither Zetterberg nor Burke have given any clues as to the rest of the tales contained within Dark Agnes and Other Historical Adventures.

Exactly one month after the initial announcement, Zetterberg divulged the identity of the artist chosen for this volume:

With the signature on the contract barely having dried, I am glad to announce that the artist for the upcoming Dark Agnes book is John Watkiss.

Watkiss is no stranger to REH and has previously illustrated Conan in Savage Sword of Conan and Conan the Adventurer for Marvel. Other work in comics include Batman and Sandman for DC Comics. He also has a long history of doing film work, having worked on Disney’s Tarzan, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet, storyboarding the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and creating several paintings for a proposed trilogy of films based on Sandman.


Until that announcement, I had heard little to nothing regarding Mr. Watkiss. He seems capable enough, and has worked on numerous projects that fall within the general purview stalked and bestridden by Robert E. Howard. Samples of his work are shown above and below. None of them blow me away, but I’m hoping that Watkiss is inspired to new heights by the potential of this assignment.












Rumors abound that Howard Andrew Jones and Scott Oden may be contributing essays to this collection. Excellent choices, in my opinion, but I cannot help wondering what Steve Tompkins might have written.

It would seem that this volume is the last one contracted by Del Rey. We can always hope for a “Celtic” collection which gathers the tales of Cormac Mac Art and Turlogh Dubh O’Brien together in one place for the first time. Rusty Burke has expressed his desire for such a volume, and as REHupan J.D. Charles once noted, putting “Celtic” on the cover of a fantasy book is a license to print money. I’m not sure that this aphorism holds as true as when Big Jim first spouted it, but I still wouldn’t bet against the success of such a collection. Buy Dark Agnes and Other Historical Adventures and we will see.

*Art by Rafael Kayanan and John Watkiss.