Saturday, November 28, 2009

On a Conan Kick...

I've been on a Conan kick as of late, with three different mediums under my belt; novels, movies, and graphic novels. You know what, after mixing all three together, the blend that came out was just some good ole fashioned, unabashed, sword and sorcery. Other than a brief read here and there in high school, I never dedicated much time to the Robert E. Howard novels, or the related pastiches. Being a comic fan, I've thumbed a few dozen issues of the old Marvel run, but nothing great. Then of course you've got the movies.

You can pick apart facets of this storied franchise and whittle it down to nothing, but why do that? Conan's pushing eighty years old now and it all keeps getting better and better. Reading graphic novels and books, with some movies (and even an Xbox demo of the same name) mixed in, a certain indelible image lingers in your mind and a certain ambiance permeates throughout, and the world of Hyboria is a rich one indeed.

There were the Marvel comics of old, those are the ones I had, then Dark Horse Comics got a hold of the licensing fairly recently. What they've done with the name is glorify in all the right ways. Industry greats all grace the pages of Conan's four-color history, and not only has Dark Horse put together some amazing trade paperbacks of new material, they've also collected all the old appearances of Conan in easy to read formats.

The three trade paperbacks I read weren't in chronological order, but for a pulp adventure tale such as Conan, you don't need to "stay tuned" for every episode to get the gist of his adventures. The quality of these comics far surpasses anything I've seen lately, and the artwork and writing go hand in hand to make some memorable tales.

Sure, you see Arnold all oiled up and holding a bastard sword and it's hard to stifle a groan. Frankly however, the first Conan movie is pretty freaking cool. I highly recommend to anyone who doesn't own it (or maybe those who do) the director's cut, it makes a good movie even better (and it's just ten bucks!). After reading a couple of the novels I popped this in one day, and although it's greatly condensed, John Milius captured the mythos of Conan as good as anyone could have at the time then, or now.

So I'm nearing the end of my Conan run, I've got six novels (the old Ace Paperback series), two movies, and a trio of graphic novels under my belt. I gotta tell you, I am a very happy camper overall. I had no idea of the depth, scope, and sheer kick assedness of Conan and the lands of Hyboria truly were. I had no idea Howard and Lovecraft corresponded frequently and it shows in Howard's writing as many of Conan's foes touched upon the Lovecraftian mythos itself. Hyboria is just too good to pass up, so ye this, it is more than a governor's former film career, it is an amazing realm of high adventure. I'm tempted to break out the ole notebook and do some outlines for a possible campaign set in Hyboria...


  1. I have maybe 4 books of Howard's stuff but nothing focusing on Conan. Mainly Weird Stories.

  2. Wasn't aware of Dark Horse's trades. Thanks for posting this here.

    Does anybody know if the work from "Savage Sword of Conan" has ever been collected anywhere?


  3. Good Stuff!
    Eli I don't know is SSoC has been compiled or not.

  4. @Brad: If you can get a hold of a copy or two, check out the pulpy Conan stuff. It's dated with its social themes, obviously, but they're still a pretty good read. You can probably pick up the Ace paperbacks at a used book store for a buck a pop.

    @Eli: Dark Horse is collecting all of Conan's "comic" appearances into TPBs, including Marvel's run, so SSoC might be in the works. The old Barry Windsor-Smith stuff is just excellent...

  5. That is good to hear. I always found that the SSoC comics were a bit grittier and more "grown up" than the color comics from Marvel's main line.