Public Domain Super Heroes
Crom the Barbarian

Real Name


First Appearance

Out of This World #1 (June 1950)

Original Publisher


Created by

Gardner Fox and John Giunta

Historical Background

Comic strips were the only game in town in the 1930s but these strips were eventually collected into omnibuses that lead to the standard comic book. Heroic Fantasy was slow to appear in the “four-color format” but tales of the glorious past were not.

In 1937, Hal Foster exploded in the newspapers with Prince Valiant, a comic strip so influential it would have an effect on Fantasy comics to the present day. Valiant itself was not a Fantasy strip per se, though set in King Arthur’s time it did feature the odd dinosaur or witch, coming close to the Sword & Sorcery genre.

Valiant, obviously, inspired many imitators including The Golden Knight, The Silver Knight and of course, The Black Knight. Also at this time were Slave Girl Comics and Robin Hood. All were found by Fantasy comic fans, but none was the actual article, a Sword & Sorcery comic.

The first of these appeared in June 1950 in Avon’s Out of This World Comics #1 in the form of “Crom the Barbarian” by Gardner F. Fox and John Giunta (who signed his name Jay Gee) probably best known today as the mentor of the young Frank Frazetta. It is not hard to see what inspired Gardner F. Fox. Especially the use of terms such as “Crom”, “Ophir” and “Aesir” in the stories are fairly obvious Robert E. Howardisms, the wandering Aesir taken from his James Allison stories.


Crom was a member of the Aesir (not to be confused with the Aesir from Norse Myth), a tribe of gold haired men who migrated into Europe from Asia. He lived in prehistoric times, but had a sword made of iron called Skull-cracker (which Crom often tells to “drink its fill”). He protected his people and his sister Lalla from all enemies, including monsters and magicians. The siblings ended up on an island owned by the wizard Dwelf who sent Crom to Ophir to steal water from a fountain of youth inside the Black Tower.

In the tower, Crom fought and slew a giant snake. He comes away with the water and a new girl, Queen Tanit of Ophir. When the treacherous Dwelf drank the water he became younger, then a baby before sinking into pre-birth non-existence. After rescuing Queen Tanit, he went with her to rule the kingdom of Ophir.

In his next adventures “The Spider God of Akka” and “The Giant From Beyond” featured Crom facing the Spider God Spraa and his ape-men worshipers and the giant Balthar and his cave-dwelling disciples.

Crom was very athletic and a cunning warrior. He carried a sword and other primitive weapons.

Public Domain Appearances

  • Out of This World #1-2
  • Strange Worlds #1-2


  • Crom appears to be heavily inspired by Conan the Barbarian. Whether or not "Crom" is really the first sword & sorcery story in comics is probably debatable. There are certainly some earlier fantasy strips but mostly they are Arthurian in nature like Prince Valiant or mythological characters acting like superheroes (Hercules, Samson, etc.) It does seem likely though that "Crom the Barbarian" is the first true Howardian sword & sorcery story in comics.
  • Fox wrote comics for decades, but in 1968 he left comics to try his hand at actual sword & sorcery books, penning the Kothar the Barbarian series (1969-1970), the Kyrik series (1975-1976) and finally Niall of the Far Travels for Dragon Magazine (1976-1981).

See Also