Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Discuss: Elric of Melnibone

Karen: Perhaps 15 years ago, I picked up a collection of Elric of Melnibone stories by Michael Moorcock in a used book store and read the entire thing straight through. I enjoyed it well enough, but it didn't become a favorite of mine, and I haven't read any more Elric since, although lately the albino sorcerer has been on my mind. Our discussions of Adam Warlock brought him back to me -they both have a vampiric weapon that is both boon and bane. In Elric's case, it is his sword Stormbringer. 

Karen: The character first appeared in novellas published in Science Fantasy magazine in 1961, but it was through novels published in the 70s that Elric really took off in popularity. I recall seeing those paperbacks from Daw -they had some great covers, all by Michael Whelan I believe.

Karen: Comics is where I was actually introduced to Elric though -in the pages of Conan the Barbarian #14. Roy Thomas and Barry Smith brought Moorcock's brooding anti-hero into Conan's world for two issues -two issues you won't find reprinted in the Dark Horse TPBs, by the way (and most unfortunately). I thought Elric looked pretty weird with the funny headgear Smith put on him, but still, he seemed like a pretty cool cat and the comics did inspire me to get the books -even if it took 20 years or so! 

Karen: So who's a fan? Thoughts on the character and his journey? 


Anonymous said...

What, no takers!

I'm usually just a lurker, but I'll jump in if no one else wants to start.

I first read Elric in the early 80's in the Dreaming City graphic novel. Shortly thereafter I read the six paperbacks that were out at the time.

I was really enjoyed at the time, but now I find some of the stories unreadable, their just so over the top depressing.

Even when I first read the stories in the published sequence I couldn't quit figure out why he decided to destroy Imrryr (the Dreaming City) in Bk 3. In book 2 he seemed gun ho to get back, then all of a sudden he wants to raze it to the ground. Over the years it strikes me as more and more odd. Moorcock should have written some kind of bridge story to explain why this change happened to Elric.

Moorcock wrote some later Elric novels that I tried to read unsuccessfully. Maybe they didn't work for me because I was no longer a teenager. but they seemed to lack the energy and pacing of his earlier work.


Edo Bosnar said...

I'm also a bit surprised that this discussion hasn't taken off. Problem is, I can't substantially participate because apart from flipping through the Marvel graphic novel way back when (only half reading it - I hardly remember any of the story), I've never read any Elric to date. Even though I now have that graphic novel and one more, they're still in my "to read" pile.
Otherwise, I've sort of discovered Moorcock late in life: I only recently read a few of his SF novels, which I liked well enough, and I'll probably read the Hawkmoon/Count Brass cycle of novels at some point, since I found dirt-cheap used copies of the omnibus editions over the past year (again, in the "to read" pile). But I'm not sure I'll ever get around to the Elric material - there's so much of it, and I read somewhere that Moorcock actually did minor revisions to the texts of the various novels in subsequent editions.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I read the two-part crossover in Conan, but other than that I'm not familiar with the story (and from what I remember of the Elric/Conan story, I wasn't too impressed with the character). I've actually never read any Moorcock, although I love fantasy in general; maybe I should check it out, but from what I've heard, I think I'd probably prefer Jerry Cornelius to Elric.

Mike W.

Anonymous said...

as a teenager in the 80's I stumbled upon Elric. HEre in Germany there was a trade paperback collecting all six novels (correct me if I'm wrong). The Stories were cool, Elric being the reluctant owner of a vampiric sword. Not much later, when I discovered Warlock I found there were many parallels. The gem, master Order and Lord Chaos. I treid to read the oter stuff from moorcock, but it just wasn't as comelling as Elric.

Even a friend of mine whom I gave the TPB really liked it. Here was more into computer games and not books - but Elric was great.


Rip Jagger said...

Like many I was tuned into the albino Melnibonean by his guest-starring appearance in Conan the Barbarian. Later I was able to dig up those DAW paperbacks and read the saga through. Recently they've re-issued the Elric stuff in six new paperbacks alongside lots of informative background material and essays.

Rip Off

Matt Celis said...

Nothing to add...flipped through a paperback but wasn't intrigued by what I read. I guess the whole thing isn't my cup of tea. The visuals used for book and comic book covers never appealed to me the way Conan did.

Anonymous said...

I discovered Elric kind of backwards. I first stumbled upon his parody in David Sim's Cerebus, and then a friend pointed out to me the stats to the Melibonean characters in a D&D book (both of these events happened in high school).

I don't think I started the actual Elric saga until college - at least I did not finish it until then. I remember the ending being depressing and abrupt.

Didn't these books link up with other series (Hawkmoon?) by Moorcock?

Anyway, I don't remember much of them - except I found their pulpiness compelling - the anti-hero stuff was definitely mined for comics.

I got rid of the last two books of the series I still owned when I culled my book collection down to just a few hundred during my last move.

J.A. Morris said...

Like themiddlespaces, I learned of Elric through Dungeons & Dragons. I was very disappointed one Christmas when I received a copy of 'Deities & Demigods' and it didn't have the Melniboné characters inside. I later found out they were removed because they never bothered to get permission from Moorcock to include them.

Anonymous said...

Blue Oyster Cult turned me onto Elric. That synthesizer is just plain evil. I think pop the headphones on and give it a listen right now.

Karen said...

Oh yeah, the old Deities and Demigods manual. It also had the Cthulhu deities in it too. Luckily I had the first edition!

I think Alan hit on something when he mentioned that it didn't work for him because he was no longer a teenager. I had a similar feeling -perhaps all that dark, brooding stuff really strikes a chord when one is going through teenage angst? I often think that's why Warlock had such an effect on me -I came across it at just the right time in my life, like so many things we discover and go on to treasure. It wouldn't be the same reading it for the first time now.

Lapis said...

Long time lurker as well...

Discovered Moorcock via the DAW paperback of The Mad God's Amulet (Hawkmoon, with his brain eating jewel in the skull - it was interesting to encounter Warlock a few years later, or Dreadstar for that matter) from my local public library. Since much of Moorcock's books were out of print I ended up reading random books from his seemingly endless series (usually out of order - and discovering that they were pretty much all tied together! Which was similar to the way I read comics at that time (mid/late 70's) - going through random issues from the collection of friend's older siblings, spinner racks or barbershops).

Finally got to read Elric a year or two later - his melancholy and sardonic humor seemed pretty impressive (to a 9 year old! I won't even get into what reading the Jerry Cornelius books at the same age did to me). I picked up the Conan issues at some point, but as others have noted that goofy conical cap is pretty distracting - I think BWS got that from the covers Jack Gaughan did for the Lancer editions (I think Moorcock has said, in no uncertain terms, that he was not a fan of the hat). The first Elric comic I remember getting was the Pacific Comics adaption by P Craig Russell (early 80's I think). That moved over to First, who also did Hawkmoon and Corum (with some nice Mignola art). The art tended to be variable and I think the series petered out (or First did).

Mirko: I believe I also have that German 6 book volume - with great black and white drawings by J. Cawthorn (who also did a huge, oversize graphic novel of Stormbringer for Savoy).

There have been a bunch of other good Elric comics (Gould in Star Reach springs to mind), and Wendy Pini published a book of iilus. originally meant to be an animated film. Though I'm not as much of a fan of the recent series put out by Boom Studios (my problems with it stem more from the modern illustration-driven/minimal text style which I end up finishing in 7 minutes, but that's another subject).

Ok, feel like I've rambled (more than) enough for a first post (and greetings to all and sundry!).


Fred W. Hill said...

I recall reading several references to Elric in various letters pages, including Conan & Warlock, in the mid-70s. In the early '80s I got the graphic novels, from both Marvel &, later, Pacific, as well as a few of the actual novels. My younger brother (by 10 months) was much into the Conan novels, as well as the mildly pornographic Gor chronicles, when we were in high school. I read a few but they didn't do much for me, but I did enjoy the Elric novels -- maybe because Elric just seemed a far more interesting character to me than Conan and other sword & sorcery characters. Or maybe I just liked Michael Moorcock's writing more.
Oh, and I absolutely loved Dave Sim's parody, Elrod, in Cerebus. "Mind your manners, son! I've got a tall pointy hat! Status, boy! You can argue with me, but you can't argue with status!"

Doug said...

Alan, Mirko, and Lapis:



Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, not sure I agree with you about the Warlock saga - I only read it all the way through well into adulthood (with my angsty teen years far, far in the past), and thoroughly enjoyed it.

bmcmolo said...

I first came across Elric via the old Deities and Demigods, as well. My older brother was a big fan. I only first read the books a few years back. Someone told me to read Stormbringer first to see if I liked it. I actually recommend this method to the new reader, though it may seem a counter-intuitive way to go about it. But it worked for me.

I picked up some of the comics adaptations after I'd made my way through the rest of the series. Many take issue with P. Craig Russell's depictions of the characters and settings, but I think they're absolutely gorgeous.

Last year when I made my way through the Dark Tower, I thought of Elric more than once. Definitely some Elric overtones in the Dark Tower saga! Though I've never heard King say as much.

Anonymous said...


My first Elric novel was also Stormbringer. I agree that it is actually a good place to start reading Elric. Moorcock wrote a version of Stormbringer as the third story or thereabouts. All the rest were written later.

For those trying to catch all Moorcock's cross references, there is a Moorcock wiki:


J.V. said...

I got into Elric thru the RPG in the early 80s. A bunch of friends were into D&D and I too owned the Deities & Demigods book with both Cthulu & Elric mythos in it! Chaosium released their version of Stormbringer around 1981. The only things that mattered back then were baseball, D&D, comics and atari 2600. Good times.

The DAW cover of Stormbringer is a classic. I owned one back then (sadly now gone) and it drew me in with that green apocalyptic sky. I knew no other truly flawed heroes before then. The concept of someone with access to great power & influence but at the same time was so physically weak was still new to me. There are numerous other stories similar but I also seen its influence on other fiction/fantasy stories and comics of the time (Frank Miller's Ronin, the Dark Phoenix saga). Great site , BTW. I'm always the late night Chicago lurker.

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