I love Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories. Set in the world of Nehwon, these stories follow Fafhrd, a barbarian, and the Gray Mouser, a failed wizard, as they adventure from one side of the world to the other, getting into weird scrapes in their quests for coin, cleavage, and alcohol. When asked what is my favorite short story ever, I’ll reply, “Lean Times in Lankhmar,” an insanely comic tale about how Fafhrd becomes an acolyte of the minor diety Issek the Jug, while the Gray Mouser becomes a thug for a local extortion racket. Just thinking about it now I can’t help but laugh. Quite good stuff.
Unfortunately, these stories aren’t as well known as they should be, and that’s probably due to inconsistent publication over the years. White Wolf released a nice set of four hardcover books in the mid-90s. iBooks planned to release all seven of the Lankhmar books in paperback in 2002 and 2003, but after publishing the second book the series died out.
Now Dark Horse Comics, through their DH Press imprint, is releasing the books in trade paperback. More than that, in March Dark Horse will be issuing a trade paperback of the Howard Chaykin/Mike Mignola comic adaptation published by Epic Comics in 1989. Says Dark Horse editor Scott Allie: “I don’t think you can do better than this book. It’s a perfect synthesis of [Mignola’s] storytelling and Howard Chaykin’s. The fact that it was never collected is a crime I’m happy to vindicate.” I have three of the four issues of this series, and it is absolutely worth having for anyone who likes Mike Mignola’s artwork, fantasy literature, and just plain good writing.
More, Dark Horse is planning a new comic series for Fafhrd and the Mouser. According to Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson:
[We’ll probably be] using the same format and marketing plan that we used for [our] Conan [series]. In other words, launching it with a 25-cent comic, and then going into a regular series. [With Conan,] we stripped everything back to Robert E. Howard’s [original work]. We started the [comic] book at the beginning of his life, and then we basically go through his life, and at each point where one of the [original] stories [occurs], [we] incorporated [that] into the comic-book canon of his life. We’ll be doing the same thing with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, where the stories in the novels and short stories will end up appearing in the comics, but we will [also] be fleshing out their entire lives and their entire story.
And Dark Horse is developing a Lankhmar film as well.
Will this activity bring Fafhrd and the Mouser to the attention of a new generation? One can only hope. These stories deserve to be known to a wider audience. People who realized that fantasy could be “cool” with the Lord of the Rings films will discover that, in Fafhrd and the Mouser, fantasy can be human, too. And that’s no bad thing.