Sailor Steve Costigan

Steve Costigan
First appearanceThe Pit of the Serpent (July 1929)
Created byRobert E. Howard
OccupationAble Seaman, Boxer
Family"Iron" Mike Costigan (Brother)

Sailor Steve Costigan is a fictional character created by Robert E. Howard. He is a merchant sailor on the Sea Girl and is also its champion boxer. His only true companion is a bulldog named Mike (after his brother and fellow boxer, "Iron" Mike Costigan).

Costigan, one of Howard's humorous boxing pulp heroes, roamed the Asiatic seas with fists of steel, a will of iron, and a head of wood. A striking contrast between Howard’s barbarians and swordsmen, Costigan was a modern-day character, written in a humorous, Texas tall tale style. The Sailor Steve Costigan stories were very popular in the pages of Fight Stories, Action Stories, and the short-lived Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine. In a career that was made up largely from writing short stories about recurring characters, Howard wrote more completed stories about Costigan and his pugilistic ilk than about any of his fantasy heroes except Conan the Barbarian.


Howard used understatement and misdirection to create humor. He established Costigan as a most unreliable narrator, a sailor who cannot admit when he has had a lot to drink, does not realize he is a terrible judge of character, and acts before he thinks. These character flaws are the heart of the boxing series and make Costigan as sympathetic as he is hilarious. Told in a jaunty first-person style and in the past tense, the Costigan stories are presented in a slang-riddled, colloquial fashion. Howard grew up in the storytelling tradition of the Southwest and the narrative structure of the Costigan stories mirrors this, especially in the endings, with their humorous stings, inappropriate life lessons, and outright punch lines.

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