Bloodstar is possibly the first Graphic Novel to call itself a “graphic novel” in print (in its introduction and dust jacket). Based on a short story by Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, and illustrated by fantasy art master Richard Corben the book was published by Morning Star Press in a limited signed edition. The front flap of its dust jacket reads: "BLOODSTAR is a new, revolutionary concept- a graphic novel, which combines all the imagination and visual power of comic strip art with the richness of the traditional novel."
Two other books published the same year (1976) also called themselves graphic novels, but one is a reprint collection of a serialized underground comic (George Metzger's "Beyond Time and Again") and the other is really an illustrated novel (Jim Steranko’s "Chandler: Red Tide")
Unlike "Beyond Time and Again", Bloodstar is a long story that had not been previously published episodically. It was first printed as a luxury hardcover edition and subsequently reprinted in several trade paperback editions.
The story is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s original short story "The Valley of the Worm”, which appeared for the first time in Weird Tales (Feb. 1934 issue). This story had been previously adapted to comics by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Gil Kane and Ernie Chan in Supernatural Thrillers #3 (1973). This version gave the name "Helga" to the unanmed character of a "naked tousle-headed girl" described by Howard. In Bloodstar she became "Helva" and is the romantic interest of the protagonist. According to an interview with Corben in Heavy Metal magazine, Will Eisner got in touch with Corben and asked him if he wanted to work on the book. Gil Kane came up with name "Bloodstar" for the hero (It was "Niord" in the original tale) and the design for a star mark on his forehead. Kane edited the book with Armand Eisen. John Jakes expanded the story adding a lot of material to it and then Richard Corben revised, rewrote it and added further content. A latter edition (1979) was rewritten by John Pocsik.
Bloodstar is a post apocalyptic sword and sorcery tale of the life of a mythical hero and his heritage. It is illustrated in black and white in mixed media in startlingly three-dimensional looking images and features some ground breaking narrative sequences. Corben’s adaptation of the story adds humanity and romance to Howard’s brutal fights and action sequences. The artwork took about nine moths to complete, and according to Berni Wrightson, Corben painted the cover in less that 24 hours, while Wrightson and Bruce Jones were visiting him in Kansas City (quoted in the book Flights Into Fantasy).
Editions in English
- First edition: 1976. The Morning Star Press, Leawood, Kansas. Hardcover. Story by Robert E. Howard. Adaptation by Richard Corben and John Jakes. Art by Richard Corben. Edited by Armand Eisen and Gil Kane. Design by Richard Corben.
- Second edition: ISBN 0-671-25209-7 Sept. 1979. Ariel Books, New York. Paperback. Same credits as the first edition, except new lettering: James Warhola, associate editor:Joe Kelly and design: Bruce Jones. This edition is rewritten by John Pocsik.