Excerpts, Part 2: Time Rise 2

I really didn't know who I was anymore.

Knee deep in denial, I believed I had no option but to keep these mysterious matters to myself. Despite my efforts, I was unable to fully disguise that my world had turned inside out. I could barely concentrate on my work for more than an hour or two at a sitting, and even then I had to fight to keep my thoughts from wandering. There was a deadline for the first chapter of Red Nails, but I had entirely forgotten about it. When Marvel's production chief phoned to complain that the first twenty-one pages were due, I buckled down to work and tried harder than ever to act like nothing had happened. But I could not catch up with the work, and for the first time in my six-year career I was defeated by a deadline. I handed over the work incomplete. Pages twenty and twenty-one were finished off in ink by another hand.

On occasion, I have been asked why my pen style in Red Nails changed so much over the course of the sixty-one-page story. Naturally, I have always lied. Or joked:

CBA*] "Red Nails" is, in my opinion, your best work from that era. How long did it take you to complete that incredibly detailed work? Were you satisfied with the final production?

BWS] Oh, God! "Red Nails!" How many times can I use the word "nightmare" in one interview? I should grab a thesaurus right now, right? How long did it take? Oh, only forever. Detail -? What detail? There was detail in that thing? Where's my pills? Somebody get me a doctor. No, I'm fine. It's okay, I just need to breathe. S'okay. What was the question?

CBA] The second chapter showed a departure in your inking style from the delicate, finely rendered line to a more spotted, bold approach. Was this experimentation or demands of the deadline?

BWS] Deadline - - ? There was a deadline? What do you mean "spotted?" Am I alright? Where's my medicine?

*From an interview in Comic Book Artist No.2, Summer 1998

The nearest I came to the truth was to concur that the work had suffered due to deadlines. But the fact is that deadlines were a walk in the park for one such as I, who created the Conan the Barbarian series, the most obsessively detailed monthly comic book the market had ever seen.


I continued to struggle through the rest of the Red Nails adaptation. But my discipline had been fractured and I had no sense of ordinary time anymore, quite let alone a contrivance such as a deadline.

My girlfriend Carol had no idea what I was going through, and I was desperate to confide in her. We had known each other only a few months, though, and I was not at all certain how she'd react to my strange story of encounters with. . . with. . . But the truth is, I think I feared my own reactions once I admitted aloud to such impossibilities. Better to keep it all secret, I told myself. Then it wouldn't be part of real life. It'd be a fantasy of mine, something weird that happened only in my head. Then I'd forget all about it like the rotten-horrible nightmare that it was.

No such luck.

During the following months I became an unwilling participant in a series of utterly astonishing experiences, some so subtly enfolded into the rhythmic secrets of Time that their consequences took years to materialize. In 1973, it seemed to me that common clock time was nothing but illusion. What little I understood of the standardized Newtonian/Cartesian overview of time and space seemed ludicrously misguided. Then, in the wake of my subsequent experiences, my understanding of Reality itself was shot to bits.