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Barry Windsor-Smith

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Subject: Rune (comics), Chamber of Darkness, Tower of Shadows, Elric of Melniboné, Conan the Barbarian
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Barry Windsor-Smith

Barry Windsor-Smith
Barry Windsor-Smith by Michael Netzer
Born 25 May 1949
Forest Gate, London
Nationality British
Area(s) Writer, Artist
Notable works
Red Sonja
Machine Man
Weapon X
Archer & Armstrong
Awards Shazam Award, 1974
Eisner Award 2008

Barry Windsor-Smith (born Barry Smith in Forest Gate, London, on 25 May 1949),[1][2] is a British comic book illustrator and painter whose best known work has been produced in the United States. He is best known for his work on Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian from 1970 to 1973.


  • Career 1
    • 1980s 1.1
    • 1990s 1.2
    • 2000s 1.3
  • Awards 2
  • Bibliography 3
    • DC Comics 3.1
    • Marvel Comics 3.2
    • Valiant Comics 3.3
    • Other publishers 3.4
    • Books and compilations 3.5
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Windsor-Smith produced his first published work in 1967 and 1968 – single page "Powerhouse Pinups" of Marvel Comics characters for Terrific and Fantastic comics, titles published by Odhams Press that included licensed Marvel Comics reprints for the UK market. Following this, he flew to the U.S. in summer 1968 with fellow artist Steve Parkhouse for meetings at Marvel in New York. "I sent material first, and based solely upon a pleasant return note from Stan [Lee]'s assistant Linda Fite, my pal and me were at Marvel's doorstep in the blink of an eye."[3] Largely due to his Jack Kirbyesque style,[4] Marvel Comics Editor Stan Lee gave him the job of drawing both the cover and story of X-Men No. 53 (cover-dated Feb. 1969), credited to Barry Smith as he was then known.[5] He drew Marvel's Daredevil #50–52 (March–May 1969), a Western short story, "Half Breed" (probably the story "Outcast" eventually published in Western Gunfighters No. 4, Feb. 1971),[6] and issue #12 of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (May 1968),[5] both scripted by Parkhouse. Windsor-Smith later called his early art "amateur and klutzy" and a "less than skillful" Kirby imitation, but Stan Lee liked it enough to give him more work.[3]

Despite this, Roy Thomas assigned him issues No. 66 and No. 67 of The Avengers (July–Aug. 1969) after he had returned to the UK. These stories introduced the fictitious indestructible metal alloy adamantium.[7] He continued to work at a distance for Marvel, providing the art for a number of stories in the horror anthology titles Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness.[5] Thomas, a long-time fan of Robert E. Howard's 1930 pulp-fiction character Conan the Barbarian, had Windsor-Smith provide art for a sword and sorcery story, "Starr the Slayer", in Chamber of Darkness No. 4 (April 1970). Soon afterwards, Thomas offered Windsor-Smith the job as penciller for Marvel's adaptation of Conan, starting with Conan the Barbarian No. 1 (Oct. 1970).[8] In 1971, Windsor-Smith moved to the United States, having been granted a work permit. Comics historian Les Daniels noted that Windsor-Smith's "initial efforts were slightly sketchy, but his technique progressed by leaps and bounds. Within a few months he had achieved a style never seen in comics before."[9]

During his run on Conan the Barbarian, Windsor-Smith was involved in the writing as well.[10] He and writer Roy Thomas adapted a number of R.E. Howard short stories, the aforementioned "The Frost-Giant's Daughter", "Tower of the Elephant", "Rogues in the House", and "Red Nails". As well as the art and story contributions, Windsor-Smith provided the covers for most issues. They worked on original adventures and characters based on R.E. Howard's characters – most notably the flame-haired warrior-woman, Red Sonja – loosely based on a character from one of Howard's non-Conan stories, who has now become a major comics character in her own right – in "The Song of Red Sonja" in Conan the Barbarian No. 24 (March 1973), Windsor-Smith's last issue of the title. By then he had worked on 21 of the first 24 issues of the series, missing only issues No. 17 and No. 18, and No. 22 (which was a reprint of issue #1), and both he and the title had won a number of awards. Windsor-Smith would later say that the reason he missed those issues was because he had quit the series a number of times as he was dissatisfied with the work and how the comics business worked, rather than the deadline problems Marvel quoted. In 2010, Comics Bulletin ranked Thomas and Windsor-Smith's work on Conan the Barbarian seventh on its list of the "Top 10 1970s Marvels".[11]

Windsor-Smith provided the art for a number of other Marvel Comics titles, including the Ka-Zar stories in Astonishing Tales #3–6 (December 1970 – June 1971) and No. 10 (February 1972),[12] three further issues of The Avengers (#98–100, April–June 1972)[13] – about which he would later remember the nightmare of drawing "all those bloody characters that I didn't give tuppence about",[3] Iron Man No. 42 (June 1972), and Marvel Premiere #3–4 (July–September 1972), which featured Doctor Strange,[14] both of which were apparently re-scripted by Stan Lee after being drawn to Lee's original scripts. Windsor-Smith was by now becoming disillusioned with the comics industry and the way in which in his opinion the writers and artists were being exploited: "I needed to be free of constraints and policies that were imposed by the dictates of creating entertainment for children"[3] Shortly thereafter, Windsor-Smith left comics for the first time, leaving only a couple of inventory items in the Marvel Comics vaults, both stories of R.E. Howard characters: Kull in "Exile of Atlantis" (Savage Sword of Conan No. 3, December 1974), and Bran Mak Morn in "Worms of the Earth" (Savage Sword of Conan No. 16, November 1975). Other than ten pages of inking of Jack Kirby pencil work for Captain America's Bicentennial Battles (1976),[15][16] a one-off oversize Marvel Treasury Edition, he produced no more comics work until 1983.

At this point he changed his professional surname to Windsor-Smith, adding his mother's surname to his own, and began to pursue a career in fine art. Granted residential status in the United States in 1974, Windsor-Smith, along with his partner Linda Lessman, set up Gorblimey Press, through which he released a small number of limited-edition prints of fantasy-based subjects that proved popular. In 1976 Windsor-Smith published The Gorblimey Press Catalogue, a high quality index to the work published by Gorblimey Press, with full-page reproductions of each piece. Prior to that, in 1975, together with Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Bernie Wrightson, he was one of four comic book artists-turned-fine-illustrator/painters who formed a small artist's loft commune in Manhattan known as The Studio, with the aim of pursuing creative products outside the constraints of comic book commercialism. By 1979 they had produced enough material to issue an art book under the name The Studio, which was published by Dragon's Dream (ISBN 9063325819).


Windsor-Smith returned to mainstream comics work for Marvel in 1983 with two pieces, a short mystical tale of love, "The Beguiling", and a dark, humorous two-page black-and-white story, "A Path of Stars", both in Epic Illustrated No. 16 (February 1983), which featured a page-and-a-half Windsor-Smith spread accompanying an Archie Goodwin text story called "The Horde" (which appears to be a drawing of Conan and Valeria in battle). Later the same year he produced a short piece in Dave Sim's Swords of Cerebus (#5, 1983), followed in 1984 by several Marvel superhero stories: an untitled story, though usually referred to as "that night...", and an April Fool’s story of The Thing in Marvel Fanfare No. 15 (July 1984), which he wrote and drew. He illustrated "Lifedeath" a double-sized Storm story in The Uncanny X-Men No. 186 (October 1984), and a 4-issue Machine Man limited series (October 1984 – January 1985),[17] for which Windsor-Smith was artist and colorist over Herb Trimpe layouts for the first three issues, and drew and coloured alone for the fourth. Although he would return to the X-Men once a year for the next three years, (Uncanny X-Men No. 198, #205 and #214), his mainstream comics output remained limited throughout the rest of the 1980s, amounting to just one issue each of Fantastic Four (#296, November 1986) and Daredevil (#236, November 1986), two issues of Iron Man (#232, July 1988 and No. 243, June 1989), two pages for DC Comics' Heroes Against Hunger benefit project, and two small pieces for the Harvey Award-winning comics anthology A1 published by Atomeka Press. In 1987 he returned to his first major success and provided new painted covers for nine issues of Marvel's Conan reprint title The Conan Saga, all issues which contained black-and-white reprints of his original 1970s stories.[5]


Together with the X-Men offshoot Excalibur (#27, September 1990), Windsor-Smith's last work for Marvel Comics came with the serialised Weapon X feature in Marvel Comics Presents #72–84 (1991),[18] his own original conception of the origin of the X-Men character Wolverine which he wrote, drew, inked, coloured, and co-lettered. In late 1991, he was approached by Valiant Comics, a new comics publisher founded by former Marvel Comics writer and editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, and asked to act as their creative director and lead artist. Valiant had obtained the licenses for a number of characters originally published in the 1960s and 1970s by Gold Key Comics: Magnus Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar and Turok Dinosaur Hunter, and added their own original titles to the roster, including Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Shadowman, Archer and Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, Bloodshot, Ninjak, and Rai.

Windsor-Smith became the chief designer of the Unity crossover for Valiant Comics, and writer and artist for most of the first dozen issues of the title Archer and Armstrong. By focusing on storytelling and innovative marketing practices such as a tightly knit continuity, crossovers and send away issues Valiant quickly became a considerable success story,[19] selling nearly two million copies of premiere issues and rapidly becoming the third largest comics publisher in the US, behind the long-time industry leaders Marvel and DC Comics. However, in 1993 Windsor-Smith once again found himself in opposition to company employment policies when Valiant decided to adopt the same work for hire practices that he had disliked in Marvel Comics, and became dissatisfied with his position in the company: "They needed me as a figurehead just as much as a creator."[20] He left Valiant soon after Jim Shooter's departure from the company. Smith has called work-for-hire contracts "a legal but unethical instrument designed to rape and plunder young talents of every possible prerogative they would otherwise possess if they had the fortune to work for more scrupulous, morally invested, publishers."[21]

Of his work for Valiant, and the problems he encountered there over legal ownership of titles and characters, Windsor-Smith said in 2008, "In the 1970s I was constantly asked when I would 'do Conan again'. In these latter years I receive e-mails imploring me to return to Archer and Armstrong. My short reply is, 'When pigs fly to the Moon and return home safely.'"[21]

Since leaving Valiant, Windsor-Smith has worked for a number of companies. For Malibu's Ultraverse line he co-created Rune with Chris Ulm, including a crossover one-shot comic titled Conan vs. Rune published by Marvel Comics in 1994 after they took over Malibu. As a result he once again came up against legal ownership problems, and the Rune stories have remained un-reprinted as a result. For Image Comics he worked on the crossover storyline "Wildstorm Rising", drawing and colouring Wildstorm Rising No. 1 (May 1995), and all eleven of the covers for the interlinked series. Windsor-Smith later said that he was talked into illustrating Wildstorm Rising, and regretted participating in it, stating that in reading the story and illustrating it, he could not understand the motivations of any of the characters, even when he read earlier Wildstorm books featuring the characters. He says he altered the plot in an attempt to improve it and his enthusiasm for it, later learning that writer James Robinson was not pleased with his doing so.[22]

In 1995 Windsor-Smith created an oversized anthology series, Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller for Dark Horse Comics that contained three ongoing features: "The Paradoxman", a dark science-fiction tale, "Young GODS", a homage to Jack Kirby's Thor and New Gods series, and "The Freebooters", a lighthearted action series about an ageing Conan-like character grown older and heavier and now running a tavern. He cancelled Storyteller after nine issues, even though a tenth issue had been completed; since then Fantagraphics Books has issued hardcover collections of "Young GODS" and "The Freebooters". Each of these hardcover volumes includes supplemental features, essays and previously unseen art. Fantagraphics has published Windsor-Smith's Adastra in Africa, a hardcover starring a character from "Young GODS" in a story originally intended to be published as "Lifedeath III" for Marvel's X-Men, with the character Storm. In 1999 Fantagraphics published two volumes of BWS – Opus, a hardcover art books featuring Windsor-Smith's work from throughout his career, including an autobiographical story, "Time Rise", which features details of his experiences with seemingly paranormal phenomena.


Windsor-Smith's last published work was "UFO POV" an 11-page story in Streetwise (July 2000), a trade paperback anthology published by TwoMorrows Publishing. In January 2006, Windsor-Smith announced on the website Comic Book Galaxy that he was in negotiations to publish a graphic novel for Marvel Comics starring The Thing.[23] He has been quoted as having been working since at least 1998 on a 300-page graphic novel Monsters, which "explores the life and times of two disparate American families fatefully connected by an abandoned Nazi project in genetic engineering that has been covertly revived by the US government".[24] and completed a Superman story in 1999 that has not yet seen print.[25][26] He has produced no further work in mainstream comics since that announcement, and nothing has been produced by Gorblimey Press since the print "Liberomano" in 1993.


  • 1970 – Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story ("Lair of the Beast Men," by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #2) (nominated)
  • 1971 – Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Continuing Feature (Conan the Barbarian) (winner)
  • 1971 – Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story ("Devil Wings over Shadizar," by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian No. 6 and "Tower of the Elephant," by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #4) (nominated)
  • 1972 – Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story Dramatic ("The Black Hound of Vengeance," by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #20) (nominated)
  • 1973 – Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Continuing Feature (Conan the Barbarian) (nominated)
  • 1973 – Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story Dramatic ("Song of Red Sonja," by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #24) (winner)
  • 1973 – British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (Conan the Barbarian) (winner)
  • 1974 – Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards Best Individual Story Dramatic ("Red Nails," by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith, from Savage Tales #1–3) (nominated)
  • 1974 – Shazam Award for Superior Achievement by an Individual (nominated)
  • 1974 – British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (Conan the Barbarian) (winner)
  • 1975 – Inkpot Award (winner)[27]
  • 1975 – British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (The Savage Sword of Conan) (winner)
  • 1976 – British Fantasy Society Awards Best Comic (The Savage Sword of Conan) (winner)
  • 1977 – Eagle Awards Favourite Comicbook Artist (nominated)
  • 1985 – Haxtur Awards Best Long Story (Machine Man) (nominated)
  • 1985 – Haxtur Awards Best Drawing (Machine Man) (nominated)
  • 1990 – Gem Award for Outstanding Service and Product Best Comic under $3 (Deathmate Prologue) (nominated)
  • 1993 – UK Comic Art Awards Best New Feature (Archer & Armstrong)[28]
  • 1997 – Comics' Buyer's Guide Favorite Colorist (nominated)
  • 1997 – Harvey Award Best New Series (Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller) (nominated)
  • 1998 – Comics' Buyer's Guide Favorite Colorist (nominated)
  • 2008 – Eisner Awards Hall of Fame (winner)


DC Comics

Marvel Comics

Valiant Comics

Other publishers

  • Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller #1–9 (Dark Horse, 1996–97)
  • Rune No. 0, 1–6, Giant-Size No. 1 (Malibu, 1994–95)
  • Wildstorm Rising No. 1 (Image, 1995)

Books and compilations

  • Weapon X. New York: Marvel, 1994. ISBN 0-7851-0033-4. Republished as Wolverine: Weapon X. New York: Marvel, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7851-3726-9 With Jim Novak.
  • Barry Windsor-Smith's The Freebooters, Young Gods, The ParadoX-Man. Kingston, New York: Windsor-Smith Studio, 1995(?). OCLC 36362038
  • Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller volume 1, number 1. Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse, 1996. OCLC 63079005
  • Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller volume 1, number 2. Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse, 1996. OCLC 63079007
  • Adastra in Africa. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 1999. ISBN 1-56097-357-9
  • Opus volume 1. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 1999. ISBN 1-56097-367-6
  • Opus volume 2. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2000. ISBN 1-56097-393-5
  • Young Gods. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2003. ISBN 1-56097-491-5
  • Young Gods & Friends. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2003. ISBN 1-56097-491-5
  • with Diana Schutz. The Freebooters Collection. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2005. ISBN 1-56097-662-4
  • with Kerry Gammill et al.. Untitled. New York: Marvel, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7851-4186-0


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ Windsor-Smith in Cooke (1998): "Stan loved my stuff because although it was pretty amateur and klutzy, it had the essence of Jack Kirby about it, and that was what sold Marvel comics in those days."
  5. ^ a b c d Barry Smith at the Grand Comics Database and Barry Windsor-Smith at the Grand Comics Database
  6. ^ #4 (Feb. 1971)Western Gunfighters at the Grand Comics Database: Special note at the end states "This strip was conceived by Roy Thomas and executed by Smith and Parkhouse nearly Two Years ago!"
  7. ^
  8. ^ Sanderson, Peter "1970s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 146: "Writer Roy Thomas and British artist Barry Smith (later known as Barry Windsor-Smith) launched Marvel's sword-and-sorcery comics with Conan the Barbarian, in a series that ran for 275 issues."
  9. ^
  10. ^ Windsor-Smith in Cooke (1998): "I was always plotting my own stories right from the beginning...To give the scripter some clue as to what was going on, I would write my own dialogue on the edge of the pages. Some scripters would use my dialogue, others would wilfully ignore it. In either case I was never paid or credited for the work. Some of the more amusing dialogue in Conan came from me, Jenna telling Conan he looks like a yak with that dumb helmet he used to wear; the slow-dawn on Conan's face as he realizes he gotten involved with a wizard again. 'Sorcery? No one said aught of sorcery [when I signed on for this war]!' Roy was good at picking up the better stuff and letting others go."
  11. ^
  12. ^ Sanderson "1970s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 147
  13. ^
  14. ^ Sanderson "1970s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 156: "Dr. Strange began a new series of solo adventures. He got off to an impressive start with this story scripted by Stan Lee and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith."
  15. ^
  16. ^ #1Marvel Treasury Special Featuring Captain America's Bicentennial Battles at the Grand Comics Database
  17. ^ DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 219: "Machine Man was a living robot who was relaunched in 1984 by Tom DeFalco, Herb Trimpe, and Barry Windsor-Smith."
  18. ^ Manning, Matthew K. "1990s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 252: "It was not until Barry Windsor-Smith wrote and illustrated the thirteen-chapter Weapon X serial that fans really sat up and paid attention [to the Marvel Comics Presents series]."
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^

External links

  • Official website
  • Barry Windsor-Smith Checklist The complete incomplete Barry Windsor-Smith Checklis
  • Barry Windsor-Smith at the Comic Book DB
  • Barry Windsor-Smith at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
  • Barry Windsor-Smith at the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators
Preceded by
Conan the Barbarian artist
Succeeded by
John Buscema
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