Friday, October 12, 2012

More Solomon Kane

Following upon my previous post about finally getting to see the feature film Solomon Kane I want to delve a bit into the character himself.  Trust me, I will make this appropriate to Halloween somehow.
Monsters most likely.

The character of Solomon Kane is, nominally speaking, a puritan wanderer who lives a life of grim contemplation and action.  In this manner he is similar to the character of Conan of Cimmeria, the most famous of R.E. Howard's creations, who he preceded in creation and print by several years.  Looking at the work of R.E. Howard we see a number of iconoclastic heroes that all share a similar set of attitudes and values, most common being a grim attitude, a sense of personal freedom, a mistrust of the decadence of civilization and self-reliance.  Writers discussing Kane have noted that although he is a Christian and man of faith who should eschew violence, he is drawn to it and seems to put himself into situations that lead to the inevitable action for which we read the works in the first place.  Howard set his Kane stories on Earth in the late 16th and early 17th centuries he includes enough supernatural elements to qualify them as fantasy stories, though not the sword and sorcery that would mark his most famous creation Conan.  In a Solomon Kane tale one will often find sorcery and plenty of swords, but the magic is usually less fantastic.  One thing that you can count on is an air of the supernatural and often there are monsters or spirits.  Later writers taking up the task of creating new Kane works seem to enjoy the monster aspect very much and there is usually a good chance that any Solomon Kane story in comics that is not adapted from a Howard short story will have a strong supernatural element to it.  In this way Solomon Kane stories are not unlike horror stories, albeit horror stories with a strong hero to beat back the darkness.

Indeed I think it is the supernatural element that makes the character so interesting to me.  Well that and his setting in general.  I have a particular affinity for black powder weapons and swords, so how can I not enjoy such a character?  I also think that the puritan aspect, though only a minor detail, adds to the character immensely.  I'm not speaking of turkey shooting, native abusing, religious miscreants here, but rather a certain somber individual stand against the most powerful socio-political organization of his age.  You know, the stuff of heroes and all that.  Be that as it may, back to the monsters: Solomon Kane fights monsters both human and not human.  We live in an era where we expect certain visual cues in our heroes and we love a gimmick.  If we did not there would be no steampunk.  We often associate heroes with some signature weapon or item, but Kane's signature weapon is not guns or swords or even that stunning hat (I love the hat), rather it is his indomitable will.  In a good supernatural horror story the monster is often overwhelming in some way, immune to normal weapons or just plain impossible to overcome by mortal means.  Vulnerability is the key to horror and Kane is certainly a mortal man, but his will is such (or I could say his faith, but some writers have argued that it is less faith and more personal strength of character) that even if he does not come out victorious he comes through.  In his time he has faced necromancers, ghosts, vile men, werewolves and African vampires and in later expanded works all manner of demons and monsters.  If that doesn't make for good seasonal reading I don't know what does.

Keep your pumpkins lit.


  1. I read one story about Solomon Kane, his first written by Howard. I really enjoyed it. I loved the mix of history and supernatural and the fact that it was not set in a complete fantasy pseudo medieval/Dark Ages setting. As a child, I had plenty of make beliefs games, one set around Halloween, and I discovered that it was quite close to Solomon Kane's universe: set in 18th century, with a hero using gunpowder weapons, sword and daggers, but also holy objects, as he was fighting demons, witches and what have you. I blogged about it:

    1. I popped over and had a look. I agree with you, when I was young it was a time of make believe, not just a candy gathering run. Heck, it still is in my house.