Comic Book: Conan the Barbarian
From out of the earth's dark, forgotten past-- thru the timeless terrors of the Hyborian Age-- stalks the mightiest hero of them all--!
— Original in-house advertisement for the Marvel series.
During the resurge in popularity Robert E. Howard
's most popular character enjoyed back in The Seventies
, Marvel Comics
was quick to take notice of this, and got the license from Conan Productions. In October, 1970
, the very first issue of Conan the Barbarian
hit the shelves, quickly becoming one of Marvel's top-sellers. Spin Offs
soon followed, each becoming popular in their own right, with The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian
occasionally overtaking its sister title in sales.
However, what with certain cinematic failures i.e. Conan the Destroyer
and the Red Sonja
movie, Conan's popularity waned. During The Dark Age of Comic Books
, Conan's main ongoing and Savage Sword
were eventually cancelled after a combined 510 issues, to be replaced with other ongoings whose issue numbers barely lasted into double figures
. Marvel soon gave up on giving Sword and Sorcery
's greatest hero his own title, shunting him off into a few miniseries, the last of which was printed in 2000
.Dark Horse Comics
then picked up the license in 2003, having previously made several miniseries based on lesser REH properties, such as Cormac Mac Art and Almuric. They took a slightly different approach to the character, putting out one ongoing, with the occasional miniseries on the side.
The Marvel franchise (not including reprints)
- Conan the Barbarian vol. 1 (1970-1993). 275 issues.
- Savage Tales vol. 1 (1971-1974). Anthology title, Conan was the main character for 5 issues.
- Conan Annual (1973-1987). 12 issues.
- The Savage Sword of Conan (1974-1995). 235 issues.
- Giant-Size Conan (1984-1975). 5 issues.
- King Conan (1980-1983), later renamed Conan the King (1984-1989). 55 issues.
- Conan the Barbarian Movie Special (1982). 2 issues.
- Graphic novels (1985-1992). 7 issues.
- The Witch Queen of Acheron (1985)
- Conan the Reaver (1987)
- Conan of the Isles (1988)
- Conan: The Skull of Set (1989)
- Conan the Barbarian: The Horn of Azoth (1990). Based on a rejected script for the film Conan the Destroyer.
- Conan the Rogue (1991)
- Conan: The Ravagers out of Time (1992). Crossover with Red Sonja and Kull. Involves Time Travel.
- The Handbook of the Conan Universe (1986). One-shot publication.
- Conan the Adventurer (1994-1995). 14 issues.
- Conan (1995-1996). 11 issues.
- Conan the Savage (1995-1996). 10 issues.
- Conan vs. Rune (1995). One-shot publication. Crossover with The Ultraverse,
- Conan the Barbarian vol. 2 (1997). 3 issues.
- Conan the Barbarian: The Usurper (1997-1998). 3 issues.
- Conan: The Lord of the Spiders (1998). 3 issues.
- Conan: River of Blood (1998). 3 issues.
- Conan Return of Styrm (1998). 3 issues.
- Conan Scarlet Sword (1998-1999). 3 issues.
- Conan: Death Covered in Gold (1999). 3 issues.
- Conan: Flame and the Fiend (2000). 3 issues.
The Dark Horse franchise (not including reprints)
- Conan #0: The Legend (2003). One-shot publication.
- Conan (2004-2008). 50 issues.
- Conan And the Daughters of Midora (2004). One-Shot publication.
- Conan And the Jewels of Gwahlur (2005). 3 issues.
- Conan And the Demons of Khitai (2005-2006). 4 issues.
- Conan: Book of Thoth (2006). 4 issues.
- Conan: Free Comic Book Day Edition (2006). One-shot publication.
- Conan And the Songs of the Dead (2006). 5 issues.
- Hyborian Adventures: SDCC Free Giveaway (2006). One-shot publication.
- Conan And the Midnight God (2007). 5 issues.
- Conan the Cimmerian (2008-2010). 26 issues.
- Conan: The Weight of the Crown (2010). One-shot publication.
- Conan: Road of Kings (2010-2012). 12 issues.
- King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel (2011). 4 issues.
- Conan: Island of No Return (2011). 2 issues.
- King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword (2012). 4 issues.
- Conan the Barbarian vol. 3 (2012-2014). 25 issues.
- Conan: The Phantoms of the Black Coast (2012-2013). 4 issues.
- King Conan: Hour of the Dragon (2013). 6 issues.
- Conan and the People of the Black Circle (2013-2014). 4 issues.
- King Conan: The Conquer (ongoing, started in 2014). 6 issues.
- Conan the Avenger (ongoing, started in 2014).
- Adapting The Shumballah Fragments/"The Snout in the Dark".
These comics have all included these examples:
- Adaptation Expansion: Pretty much every other Conan comic that wasn't a direct adaptation of an REH story or a pastiche. This became more out of necessity from The Eighties onwards for Marvel, as pretty much every good Conan story had already been adapted. Dark Horse do more or less the same thing.
- Bash Brothers: Zula, Pallantides, Trocero... the list goes on.
- Boring Invincible Hero: Conan occasionally slipped into this in a few issues.
- Canon Immigrant: Red Sonya was a musket-wielding 16th century Ukranian in the Howard story that introduced her, but was retconned into being a Hyborian Age swordswoman in the comic books decades later. Thulsa Doom was a villain in the Kull of Atlantis stories before he was adapted into the villain for The Movie - and even then, he had more in common with the Conan adversary Thoth-Amon (a priest of Set with a fancy for snakes) than he did with his namesake (a semi-immortal necromancer with a skeletal face.)
- Comic Book Adaptation: Not just or Howard's or Sprague de Camp's adventures, but occasionally of other sword & sorcery stories released around the same time as the original Conan stories, with Conan replacing the heroes in those stories.
- Convenient Miscarriage: Zenobia had two; one in Conan The King, another in Dark Horse miniseries Conan & The Midnight God.
- Darker and Edgier (Hotter and Sexier, Bloodier and Gorier): Marvel's black-and-white The Savage Sword of Conan and the later Dark Horse titles compared to Marvel's Comics Code-constrained Conan the Barbarian.
- Depending on the Artist: Conan's build may be leaner or bulkier, as shown by pre- and post-Frazetta covers. In the comics, shown by Marvel's Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema. Dark Horse usually go with a happy medium...
- Name's the Same: Both Marvel and Dark Horse put out a Conan ongoing called... Conan. Dark Horse's effort produced over 50 issues, with superb art. Marvel's... didn't.
These tropes happened specifically in the Marvel Comics run:
- Aborted Arc: Happened twice with Conan the King. In its first issue (after being retitled from King Conan) the writers decided to have everyone think Prince Conn was dead, and to have him Wandering the Earth in his own back-up. It was a very good story arc, showing Conan as a man who makes mistakes and having him deal with the consequences of those actions. However, Arc Fatigue and Cerebus Syndrome set in, so after eight issues Conn returned, and the story shifted to Conan dealing with several kingdoms uniting against him and killing his entire legion of Black Dragons, with many of the previous subplots being either killed off or Never Heard From Again. Then, with #50, all of those subplots were pushed aside so the last six issues could tie up all of the Unresolved Plot Threads from the previous story arc. To add insult to injury, the ending of #55 was completely at odds with the end of the second story arc, which was about to deal with Conan fending off yet another tyrant bent on taking over his kingdom, effectively making the last four years worth of stories one big Shaggy Dog Story.
- Amazon Brigade: The Eighties team The Iron Damsels. Of course, as they're in Conan stories, All Amazons Want Hercules.
- Artificial Limbs: There was a story featuring three outlaws who'd run afoul of Conan, and had one Anatomy Arsenal each (well, two did. One just had a plate in his head).
- Ascended Fanboy: Most people assume Roy Thomas was this. Whilst he was instrumental in getting Conan his own comic, it was Gil Kane who was the big Robert E. Howard fanboy. He did a lot of the artwork for Conan in The Seventies, and he couldn't have been happier.
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting: In the early issues of King Conan the titular character bears a strong resemblance to Charles Bronson.
- Continuity Snarl: Inevitable with Conan canon, but an interesting little hiccup occurred in Savage Sword; Recurring villain Ogerd Vadislav was reintroduced in an issue, despite having been swallowed up by an Eldritch Abomination. There was an L. Sprague de Camp story explaining how this happened, and in a later issue of Savage Sword explained this too... in a completely different way to the pastiche, as Marvel didn't have permission to run that story, so they just winged it. Later, they did get permission to adapt the short story, so they ran it, and attempted to explain how Ogerd survived another attack. It worked... kind of.
- Cross Over: Happened a few times with the Marvel Universe back when the Conan comic rights were owned by Marvel. In fact, the Conanverse version of the god Set became a major part of the MU's Back Story.
- Regrettably, despite Marvel owning the comic rights to both at the same time, there was never a Transformers vs Conan crossover.
- But there was a Conan/Elric crossover. No, really.
- Shallow Parody Thrud once encountered "Eric of Boneymaloney," a "Melancholy Crimson-Eyed Wimp".
- Conan managed to have a few team-ups with Kull, and a nice two-part team-up with Solomon Kane.
- What If? Vol. 2 No. 16 features an alternate take on an event in Uncanny X-Men #137, showing Wolverine getting lost in the Watcher's realities and ending up in the Hyborian Age.
- Easter Egg: During the eighth issue, there are piles of coins in one scene. One panel features a hidden message among the coins: "I must be mad to sit here drawing all these coins".
- Fight Dracula: In a one issue of The Savage Sword of Conan, Solomon Kane slays Dracula in a continuation to a story from Dracula Lives.
- The Fool: Rufio, in King Conan.
- Gotta Catch 'Em All: Conan the Adventurer became a Crucial Type A and Type B. A talisman of a long-sleeping god was scattered into 6 pieces, and 7 wandering adventurers were promised riches if they found all 6 pieces. Turns out it was the god tricking them so he could initiate a Class 5.
- Joker Immunity: Ogerd, Wraarl, Boraq d'Sharaq
- Just Friends: Conan and Red Sonja. During the times they've adventured together it's become clear that Conan is attracted to Red Sonja. Red Sonja, on the other hand, does not feel the same way about Conan.
- Lighter and Softer: The Comics Code-constrained series compared to the original stories. Averted with The Savage Sword of Conan.
- Outlaw Town: The Abode of the Damned, in the story of the same name, in The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #11 (loosely adapted from the Robert E. Howard story "The Country of the Knife").
- Shout-Out: Quite a few, over the years...
- The Unfavorite: Taurus, mainly due to his siblings being so much cooler/nicer although it turns out he was a changeling Switched at Birth for the real Taurus... who later made a Heroic Sacrifice for his parents. At least, that's how it was until #50, when the aforementioned Aborted Arc was brought back
- Vengeance Feels Empty: Though the main character frequently takes pleasure in brutal revenge, this trope pops up when Conan's ally Zula slays his former master. After Conan asks him how it felt, Zula responds that it simply felt hollow. Interestingly, Red Sonja also mentions this trope during this conversation when she says she was unable to slay the man who ravished her after he had been badly tortured.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In Conan the Barbarian #3, the main focus of the story was The Battle of Clontarf... and how it heralded the death of a god.
- What Have I Done: Pubilus says this in Conan the King #46, after Zenobia's fourth child dies in childbirth when he refused to let the Asurans protect both mother and child.