the portable city

by definition, not static

status: archives being slowly restored, comics being relocated, new artwork and writing in the queue

By Crom! – Life Advice from Conan the Barbarian

By Crom! is a joke-a-panel autobio webcomic featuring life advice from the ever-practical, mighty-thewed Conan the Barbarian.

It ran online from 2012-2014 and was collected into a book in 2016 thanks to amazing support on Kickstarter! As it ran, the art style changed significantly. Below you can read the original run of the webcomic for free, broken into the three zines I first published before creating the all-in-one collected book.

By Crom! was collected in a print run of 1000 copies in 2016. While it is credited to Rachel, you’ll only get an email reply from Shel Kahn these days.

Further archival information is recorded below the comics themselves:

this zine was printed in 2012, 25 pages + paper doll in the back, and launched at Toronto’s Canzine festival!
so, once the comic wrapped up, I did actually catch on to the fact that spirit guides are not a thing white people should be making jokes about, and dropped this language everywhere, but I did print a pile of books with this ignorant tagline, so I show it here now in the interest of an honest archive; drop me a line if you’d suggest otherwise
this full colour collection from 2014 included an array of guest comics from wonderfully talented friends, and a follow-up paper dog of my steadfast canine companion, Sam

By Crom! is an autobiographical comic by Shel Kahn, featuring life advice from their favourite fictional Barbarian.

Growing out of a love of swords, sorcery and sandaled barbarians as well as a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression, By Crom! is a tribute not just to Robert E. Howard’s hero, but to everyone who could use a brave, practical and stoic inner voice to guide them through life’s rough spots.

In By Crom!, the barbarian adviser comes along for dog walks, doctor’s visits, school days and self-pity days, armed with his sword and his anachronistic perspective on modern life and modern problems.

By Crom! is a joke-a-panel webcomic, and it was published approximately weekly on Tuesdays from January, 2012 until May 2014. It began its life on

By Crom! was initially printed in two small-run volumes, both of which are now sold out in print. You can buy the new all-in-one volume from Shel Kahn in their store.

The book is now available for order in their online store, and you can grab yourself a copy right here! If you would like an ebook of By Crom!, you can get a pdf from Gumroad here.

By Crom! had a very successful kickstarter to fund a new print book, you can see the campaign here!

The Collected By Crom! is out of print. It presented all the black and white comics, as well as a paper doll, five behind the scenes pinups, two fan pinups (by cartoonist Adam Gorham), an eight-page longform comic and an eloquent foreword by Diana Poulsen, it’s got a lot of barbarian-themed advice. It was printed in July 2013, in Ontario, Canada, and reprinted in April 2014 in Quebec, Canada.

Full Colour Cromulence is also out of print. It presented all the colour comics, nine comics featuring guest guidance from artists including Gillian Blekkenhorst, Trevor Henderson, Matt Rapati, Kris Sayer, Jen Schollen, Matt Smith, Mary Verhoeven, and Jenn Woodall; another paper doll, and an eloquent foreword by the talented Natalie Walschots. It was printed in April 2014, in Quebec, Canada.

Reception for By Crom! has been really positive.

By Crom! was nominated for the REH Foundation Black River Award!

Ginnis Tonik reviewed By Crom! on Women Write About Comics:

“Throughout the series, Comic Rachel deals with mental illness, the death of her beloved dog (it’s beautiful, and I cried), identity crises, careers, and bra shopping. It sounds intense, and it is, but with the stoic barbarianism of Crom, there’s a hilarity in the refreshing lack of sentimentality. This same lack of sentimentality only gets better when later in the collection, Crom shows up awash in watercolors.”

Ginnis Tonik reviewed By Crom! on Women Write About Comics

“Although some of Kahn’s By Crom! comics juxtapose the fictional Hyborian Age that Conan comes from with the modern era and its coffee shops, public transit, and clothing that didn’t come from an animal you killed yourself … for the most part, it is about Conan as spirit guide; his warrior values are a chasm apart from Kahn’s artist lifestyle, but she imagines a wisdom in his droll (and occasionally head-knocking) advice.”

what Lauren Davis at had to say about the tumblr

“By wrenching him from his context, Kahn reveals Conan’s personality: all about raw personal authenticity, the kind you achieve by acting rather than angsting… making, rather than purchasing… travelling to, rather than importing from. This is a Conan who is still relevant today and perhaps explains why we keep coming back to the originals.”

M. Harold Page writes about By Crom! on Black Gate

“This is a kinder, gentler Conan: less barbarian, more Spirit Guide-Psychiastrist; a trusted confidant, like a nonthreatening sensitive male Sex in the City-style friend (for instance, Kahn and Conan have the same taste in gladiator sandals). … Ultimately By Crom! is an interesting subversion of so-called “traditional” gender roles. “

A. G. Pasquella writes about the first By Crom! zine in Broken Pencil

“Whether it be laughter in the face of existential crisis or an armed assault on the depths of the dryer in search of that last sock, Conan always has a laconic wisdom to add to the situation. … And sometimes he just helps you walk the dog and eats all your strawberries. Barbarians are like that.”

Scott Wachter delights in Full Colour Cromulence on I Thought They Smelled Bad on the Outside

“The art in these comics and beautiful and so expressive. There’s just so much honesty… This second installment of By Crom! is worth every penny, and it’s worth supporting. “

Sam Marchello explains her love of Full Colour Cromulence on Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup:

You can also hear the By Crom! origin story (and much more nerdiness) on the Guys with Pencils podcast, episode 118.

If you would like to review By Crom!, please just drop me an email! I would be delighted to send you a pdf and answer any questions.

By Crom! would not be in print today without the support of 411 kickstarter backers. A huge thanks to them all:


Morgan Hazel


Dr. Catfish, Jeremy Strandberg


Jeffrey Shanks, Jason Sickmeier, C. W. Marshall, Winston Kou


Espionage Cosmetics & The Geek Boutique, Tyche’s Games


Catherine T., The Hoffmans, Paul Herman, Epidiah Ravachol, John Bullard, K. Sikorski, Liam DiNapoli, Tex Albritton, Lissa Guillet, Dan paul, Simone Cooper, Tess M, Tim Sullivan, William Jahncke


Aaron Sapp, Debra Kay more, A Bucket, Mary, Mark, Nathan & Hannah Watson, Janna Hochberg, Aknawt, Jeff Butler, Danielle Ellison, Marty Chodorek, Mark Finn, Gunnar Gissel, Natalie Simpson, Rachel “Nausicaa” Tougas, Larry Wooten, Peter Fong, Roisin McCormac, Sean Gilliland, Tim Brandis, Nicola Urbinati


Bobby Derie, Chris Eadie, Cooper Braun-Enos, Fernando Fino, GaryJSailor, Garrett Fitzgerald, Hall, Katherine Fackrell, Donald L. Engstrom-Reese, Sharaya Copas, Jack Graham, Jillyjally, Jon Bolding, Ken Sturgis, Wayne R, Josh McGraw, Melissa McGee, Diana Poulsen, Nathan D. Paoletta, OTTO66, PJ Foxhoven, Amaya, Joven Tolentino, Alex Martin,, Corwin, Tineke Bolleman


Amanda, Carl Rigney, Kevin Hutchison, Roland Cooper, Dave Turner, Doug Kovacs, Paul Madavi, Rachel E.S. Walton, Eric N Samuels, Fin T, Freddy Martinez, Eric Franklin, Gray Richardson, Pete Tracy, Henning, James Lee Griffin, Jim Cox, Joe Greathead, Jess Pestlin, Jonas Richter, Kai Sterker, Kate Hillier, Kristin Linder, Vincent Baker, Marcelle ‘MNat’ Natisin, Maaike B-W, Naomi Macleod, Melissa Bernard, Jon A. Freeman, Peter S, Philip Gelatt, Paul Popernack, Stephen Perkins, SK Gaski, Stephen, Seth, Terri Connor, Tim McLennan, Timothy Carroll, Tristan


Ann-Kathrin N, anon, Kelly Williams, Andrew Fitzgibbons, andrew marturano, Anne Price, Anne V, Ariel Koh, Jesse Bullington, Brennan Taylor, B. A. Parcells, Tony Becerra, Seth Bender, wadledo, Brad Ellison, Brian A. Berkey, H Richards, Juliana Bright, Brandi Weber, Cariston Fawcett, Catherine Little, Charlie Elmer, Chris McLaren, Clara Nigh, clarkytehcruel73, Chris Sullens, Cat Tobin, Kaylee Lowe, Ben Cordes, Christopher Winzenburg, Dan Eyer, Daniel Loyd + Fiona Ferguson-Loyd, Danica King, Daniel Caruso, David Falck, David Cantrell, David Schwartz, Cori May, Pink Pitcher, Dethe Elza, Michael Robins, David Lars Chamberlain, Jeronimo, Sophie Bodington, Rini B, Eriq Nelson, Evelyn A, Evil Hat Productions, Gopal Bhatnagar, Flavio “Grumpybear” Mortarino, Menachem Cohen, Fritz, Laundry Bear Games, Ross Hathaway, Gavin Bennet, Geoffrey Davis, Richie Cyngler, Alex Blue, Dara Gold, Gregory Grimes, Ahm, Kelley Vanda, Henry Clark, Hannah Orlove, Ilan Muskat, Ruth Boyack, Kevin Gentilcore, Andrea G Redman, Jackie Tam, Jacob Kesinger, Janne, Jason Knepper, Jason Palumbo, Jim DelRosso, Jeb Boyt, Jacob Randolph, Jason Lutes, Joaquín Cogollos, Joe Beason, John Corey, Jonathan Helland, Joshua Bearden, Jim Peterson, Joseph Riesen, Judd Karlman, James F. Wright, Catherine Benvenuti, Kenneth Mark Dsouza, Anonymous, Kathryn Hoover, Kevin J. “Womzilla” Maroney, John Kuo, Kevin Pointer, Kyla Lee Ward, Larry Lade, Lauren Neuman, Liz Courts, Diego Valdez, Leah Watts, Jason Pitre, Luc Teunen, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Lydia, David Dierks, Marcu, Marla Desat, Matt Machell, Matt Sullivan, Moe Lane, Megan Crewe, Meghan Dornbrock, Matt Cramsie, Eric Mersmann, Michael Sherwood, Michael Lell, Michael Jones, Mike Babish, Maggie McLean, Randall Nichols, Jesse Morgan, Michael Pureka, Vashti Rennacker, Michael Raichelson, Heather Salmon, Nikolai, Eirik G. Kunz, Owen Craig, Patrick Rennie, Paul Phillips, Pierre ‘Le Dude’ Gravelat, Paul, pookie, James D., Matthew Hendrickson, Nicholas Qualls, Scott & Lara, Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, Raymond J. Bull, Zim Dubois, Richard L. Skinner III, Richard Neary, Ricky Lima, Rob P., Rob Deobald, Rick Tillman, Rudy “Chainsaw” Basso, Sam Gazey, Nick S., Spenser Isdahl, Darbs, Shepard Lowell, Shervyn, Robert Rees, Mel Fox, Silas James, Simon Stroud, David J. Schwartz, Sean Smith, Stan MacDonald, Stephen Lea Sheppard, Steven S. Long, Julia B. Ellingboe, Paul F, Kelvin Green, Jacob Thompson, Hollow Mask, Rocket 5, Tim Koppang, Timo, Travis Johnson, Tyler Ste Marie, Tyson Vanoverhill, Dustin Bacon, Vicky Metner, Vince, Vince Bayless, V McMican, Andrija Popovic, Tanya kan, Adam Day, Zane Dempsey, Debora Wu


Stasia Archibald, Adam, Alexander Huls, Priscilla Kim, Brent P. Newhall, Bryant Johnson, Daniel Eliot Boese, Doug Red, Jason Anarchy, Scott Wachter, Emily Madly, Jack Gulick, John B., Keith Stetson, Kris Sayer, Mark Delaney, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Adam Drew, Ruth Tillman, Sean Gomes, Martin Hopkins, Meera “The Fierce” Barry, Wally Hastings, Alexx, Zack Davisson


Aaron Cattle, Amanda Makepeace, Andrea Mognon, Andrew A, The Rev. Andrew Karlson, Anonymous, Anthony Franchini, Bill Martin, Brad Fonseca, Bruke, Caitlin Jane Hughes, Charlotte Hillery, Chris Cummings, Chris Miles, Chris Mitchell, Chris Stewart, Christopher Northern, Christopher Smith Adair, Conan10, Cory Tharp, Deevon, Dominic Quach, Don, Beth & Meghan Ferris, Dr Vector, Drew Clowery, Eric Boyd, Frank Romero, huang, Igor Toscano, Ivan Donati, J. Walton, James Edward Reed, Jason O’Neal, Jeff Tidball, Joe Banner, John Hergenroeder, Josh Brumley, JP Sauers III, K-Slacker, Katie Shanahan, Kayla Valderas, Leah Webber, Lester Ward, Luke-Wayland, Mat, Matt McConnell, Matt Sanders, Michael Van Vleet, Patty Kirsch, Pauline Martyn, Pete Smith, Phil Adler, Philippe “Sildoenfein” D., Role Playing Public Radio, Ryan Macklin, S. Hood, Samwise Crider, Sarah Doombringer, Scott, Scott E. Robinson, Scott W., Shannon Pitts, Sho Ikeda, Spikeball, Sure, Taneka Stotts & Christina McKenzie, thatraja, Tim Eagon, Tubamaster, William Mawdsley, Yuu Yoshikawa, Zache


Hannah Shaffer, Jeff Leeds, Patrick Rainville, Steve Dempsey