The Conan the Barbarian franchise had no shortage of evil sorcerers, cruel tyrants, or bloodthirsty brutes. However, some have managed to stand out even among this bad lot as the most heinous villains possible.
In each group, entries are by publication/release date.
- Robert E. Howard's works:
- "The Scarlet Citadel": Tsotha-lanti, mage of Koth and true power behind the throne, is the keeper of the titular citadel within which he has wrought a legacy of eldritch horrors, with countless vanishing as fodder for his dark experiments and an entire library of books rumored to have been made with the skin of his flayed victims. Tsotha captures Conan and subjects him to the horror of the Scarlet Citadel while leaving Aquilonia in the hands of the corrupt Prince Arpello, first trying to feed him to his pale serpent Satha and taunting him that he'll flay the Cimmerian's maidens to make the parchment on which to write his triumphs. As Conan proceeds through the citadel, he finds Tsotha's own sorcerous rival Pelias whom Tsotha has bound to a magical, mind-draining plant in suffering idiocy for ten years, having already forced Pelias to watch as he fed his acolytes to Satha, and when Conan finally breaks out, Tsotha vows to sacrifice 500 maidens writhing in their blood as tribute to Set for the chance of victory.
- "The Tower of the Elephant": Yara is one of the earliest and one of the most sadistic evil sorcerers Conan ever fought. A bane upon the land for the torments he inflicts upon man and nation, once transforming a prince into a spider which he squashed underneath his foot, Yara secludes himself in the terrifying Tower of the Elephant to guard the tower's evil secret. The source of Yara's power and the tower's namesake is a benevolent Eldritch Abomination named Yag-Kosha who sought nothing but peace, whom Yara first apprenticed himself to in hopes of knowledge before enslaving Yag-Kosha and subjecting him to three straight centuries of unspeakable tortures. The evidence of all the manifold horrors Yara has inflicted upon Yag-Kosha is a sight enough to move even the Barbarian to deep sadness and pity.
- "A Witch Shall Be Born": Constantius The Falcon and his queen Salome. Constantius was selected for his "utter lack of characteristics men call good" by Salome the Witch to overthrow her good hearted twin sister Taramis, queen of Shem. After Salome frees Constantius from the dungeons, the two quickly replace Taramis, with Constantius raping and brutalizing the queen for his amusement. Salome's only response is to gleefully tell Constantius to "tame her as he will." Under the ruling hand of the duo, Taramis's kingdom becomes depraved and dissolute. Constantius's soldiers abuse and violate the people at will with any who resist facing death or slavery. When only Conan realizes that "Taramis" is an imposter, Constantius captures him and crucifies him in the desert, leaving him in agony and to be devoured by the vultures while still alive. Salome takes every chance to abuse her captive sister, presenting her with the head of her faithful friend and councilor, and allowing the guards to violate her multiple times. Salome also has a demonic being named Thaug that she uses as a guard dog that she and Constantius round up people as food for. At the end, they even try to feed Taramis to it before unleashing Thaug on the populace when all is lost.
- The Hour of the Dragon:
- Xaltotun of Python is an ancient sorcerer, one of the rulers of the dark empire of Acheron revived in a dark ritual to help a group of conspirators seize Conan's throne. Creating a plague that kills hundreds to sow unrest with Conan, Xaltotun assists in overthrowing the king and then sits back to let his allies enjoy the spoils. However, Xaltotun has his own agenda. Playing his allies to gain even more bloodshed, Xaltotun intends on reviving the lost empire of Acheron by instituting the greatest blood sacrifice the world has ever seen until the lands run with rivers of blood, all to revive a long-dead magocracy where innocents are regularly sacrificed to fuel his powers. When Conan and allies return to confront the ancient sorcerer, Xaltotun is in the process of sacrificing a woman to bring forth a spell that will annihilate Conan's armies.
- Valerius, upon taking the throne of Aquilonia from Conan thanks to Xaltotun, soon comes to the realization he is expendable to his allies. In a rage, Valerius decides to ruin Aquilonia beyond all hope of repair. Valerius taxes the people to starvation, beyond hope of paying and sells those who cannot meet the tax into slavery while allowing his soldiers to rape, brutalize and kill innocent civilians at will. Succumbing to debauchery, Valerius enacts purges of those he believes are disloyal to him, even sentencing the Countess of Albiona to death when she refuses to become his concubine.
- Other Literature:
- Conan the Liberator, by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter:
- King Numedides, the mad king of Aquilonia whom Conan took the throne from, is a tyrant with a fetish for cruelty who lavishes at the expense of his citizens. Numedides spends countless amounts of his country's own gold into fashioning busts of himself, setting himself up as a god while having countless citizens tortured, savaged, and executed in his iron tower, with a fondness for raping and even killing his concubines himself for pleasure. Under the advice of his deranged sorcerer Thulandra Thuu, Numedides butchers young virgins to bathe in their blood to gain immortality, and, envious of Conan's popularity in his own city, has him imprisoned and a dancer he favors slaughtered with a scrap of her garment tossed into his cell to spite him. Numedides even attempts to stab Conan In the Back after Conan allows him the chance to walk away, and is dismissed even by the brutal Cimmerian as a "mad dog" he accordingly puts down as such.
- Thulandra Thuu himself fosters Numedides's descent into his worst excesses of delusion and tyranny while secretly coveting the throne himself. Convincing Numedides to bathe in the blood of virgins to try and find the secret to immortality himself, Thuu takes in other maidens for his own horrid rituals, mercilessly striking down a soldier whose daughter Thuu took to be slaughtered for Numedides. Having his rival to Numedides's favor, Amulius, killed for his own advantage, Thuu's manipulations nearly push Aquilonia into all-out war with its neighboring country as he tries to stop Conan's invasion of Aquilonia, gruesomely capturing and butchering satyrs in blood sacrifice and sending plagues and demons of his own design to wipe out thousands of Conan's own men. When finally cornered, Thuu vanishes rather than face Conan in extended combat, leaving Numedides and even his own faithful servant to die.
- Age of Conan: Ghost of the Wall, by Jeff Mariotte: Lupinius is the uncle of Alanya and the leader of a band of rangers. Despite an outwardly friendly exterior, Lupinius is ultimately a jealous and greedy man determined to do whatever it takes to gain his fortune. Hoping to gain a treasure horde supposedly owned by the Pictish Bear Clan, Lupinius uses his niece's innocent friendship with the Pict Kral as an excuse to shatter the truce with the Bear Clan, manipulating the weak-willed governor Sharzen into carrying out a massacre of the Bear Clan that leaves only three people out of the entire clan alive. During the massacre itself, Lupinius orders his men to be as brutal as possible and murders his own brother Invictus, both because Invictus was in his way and because he had wanted to do so for years. After stealing the Crown of the Ice Bear, Lupinius again strong-arms Sharzen into building a wall despite knowing that it's a waste of resources, and upon realizing that Kral survived the massacre and is after him, immediately abandons his niece and nephew to return to Tarantia. After strong-arming his brother's servants into staying on by having his men kill one of them, Lupinius begins to seek out a buyer for the crown. Despite dying before the end of the first book, Lupinius would ultimately be responsible for every tragedy in the Marauders trilogy through his selfishness, racism and greed.
- Conan the Liberator, by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter:
- Marvel Comics:
- Savage Sword of Conan:
- February 1979 issue: Oshmaan, the Executioner, is a Hyrkanian mercenary in the service of Turan. Betraying Turan and massacring their garrison, Oshmaan leads an attack on the city of Djebal, massacring everyone there except the young and attractive women who are taken to be used as breeding stock for Oshmaan's new empire, with Oshmaan personally claiming the former garrison commander's wife Alondra for himself. When she refuses to submit to him, Oshmaan attempts to beat and rape her before she is saved by Conan. When Conan leads his allies against Oshmaan, Oshmaan attempts to enrage Conan's forces into attacking him by bringing out his captive women and butchering them in open view of the army. Even after the battle is lost, Oshmaan attempts to murder Alondra out of spite and gloats to Conan that after he delivers the Turanian King his head, he can rejoin the nation he betrayed, abandoning his own followers without batting an eye, showing that for all his rhetoric, all he cares about is power.
- Captain Bor'Aqh Sharaq is a ruthless corsair who fishes Conan out of the sea and keelhauls him when Conan refuses to be interrogated. Later losing a duel to Conan who severs his arm, Sharaq forms a burning hatred of him and later murders an elderly couple who help nurse him back to health, having a blacksmith fashion him new weapons and a helmet only to murder the man as well. Becoming a constant scourge to Conan, Sharaq murders countless innocents in his path and, when stealing a horse, rapes the lover of one of his victims. Constantly returning from near-certain death, Sharaq becomes more and more depraved, even testing an aging magic on an innocent prostitute to age her into dust, later massacring an entire household before deciding to rape the mistress of the house and her daughter. Obsessed with killing Conan, Sharaq even burns his old crew alive in an inn alongside multiple innocents, constantly returning worse than before with no care of who he destroys as long as he gets another crack at the Cimmerian.
- Savage Sword of Conan:
- Dark Horse Comics:
- The Bone Woman is an ancient queen from races that existed before the dawn of humanity. Once known as Hek-La the Hate Witch, the Bone Woman wiped out the entire tribe of the Atlantean Kull and attempted to inspire him to destroy all of humanity as a tyrant. In Conan's time, the Bone Woman once recruited a girl named Janissa as an assassin by having her violated by demons night after night until she was strong enough to fight back. Later faking her own death at Janissa's hands, the Bone Woman manipulated her into massacring a group of monks so the Bone Woman could take control of a monstrous Great Old One to devastate the world. In her final appearance, the Bone Woman manipulates Conan into questing for the powerful Blood of the World so she can achieve greater power, plotting to rule the world as a living nightmare.
- Conan: Book of Thoth: While Thoth-Amon, High Priest of Set, is sometimes portrayed as a Noble Demon or given redeeming qualities, here he's portrayed as a selfish monster. Though his actions in Conan's time are sadistic enough, it is the events in his backstory that truly demonstrate his heartlessness. Starting as an ambitious street urchin, Thoth murders his friend Amon and takes his name to steal Amon's new place in the Ibis Temple. When Thoth's mentor discovers Thoth has been worshiping the Serpent God Set and murdering his fellow acolytes, Thoth overpowers him and frames him for the murders, resulting in the court magically lobotomizing him. After advancing up the Ibis hierarchy by murdering his superiors, Thoth has every member of the royal family in front of his chosen puppet killed to place him on the throne to facilitate the conversion of all of Stygia to Set's worship, turning the country into a hellhole in the process. Thoth proceeds to have his mentor's son crucified, lobotomizing his puppet when he tries to show mercy, with Kalanthes only surviving thanks to the intervention of allies. Even after Kalanthes tries to help him stop the forces of Acheron, he's so far gone that he considers having him crucified again. When he discovers that his sister died in a plague he himself unleashed, he expresses only annoyance and indifference and proceeds to set about making new plans, any conscience he once had long gone. In a series full of depraved warlords, sorcerers, and other monsters, Thoth stood out for his cruelty and selfishness.
- Conan and the Midnight God: Ra Sidh, despite seeming to be little more than a pompous Smug Snake, is soon revealed to be something far more evil. Years ago, Ra Sidh abandoned worship of Set in favor of the Midnight God, an entity so terrifying and evil that even hardened devotees of other dark gods were horrified by it. In order to facilitate his lord's rebirth, Ra Sidh gathers an army and commits mass genocide against his own people to stain the land with their blood, with the rumors of his actions appalling even the normally amoral Hyborian kings. Deciding to both use Conan as a host and "reawaken his inner Barbarian", Ra Sidh travels to Aquilonia and murders Conan's unborn child via sorcery to goad Conan into a confrontation. When Conan finally confronts Ra Sidh alongside a small boy he had come to befriend, Ra Sidh cruelly decides to use the boy as his god's host in order to twist the knife in further, mocking Conan all the while. A sorcerer so evil that even other dark sorcerers were disgusted with him, Ra Sidh intended to create a horrible tyranny where mankind would be all but crushed while he and his God reigned supreme.
- Conan the Cimmerian issues 19-22: The ruthless Shah Amurath is a Hyrkanian Shah in service to Turan. A sadistic slave trader, Amurath purchases a woman named Olivia and proceeds to rape, brutalize and degrade her to his heart's content. A great believer in torture, Amurath has one of Conan's close followers among the Kozaks tortured to near death and later ambushes the Kozaks in revenge for them humiliating him in battle. Refusing any quarter, Amurath has many Kozaks tortured to death and fed to the vultures, with only Conan as a survivor. When Olivia attempts to flee Amurath attempts to hunt her down and abduct her again, vowing he will not soon grow tired of violating her.
- Wonder Woman/Conan, written by Gail Simone:
- The Corvidae sisters, Lila and Anive, are ancient immortals bored with most of existence. Finding joy in gambling, the duo set up friends, brothers or even nations to war against one another while they enjoy the duels. Helping to manage slave pits where fights to the death happen frequently, the duo attempt to set Conan and Diana to a deathmatch. When they refuse, the two decide to annihilate the city of Shamar and kill every last man, woman and child, even trying to have the slaves murdered before the heroes as an act of sheer spite.
- The sadistic slaver Dellos is the chief minion of the Corvidae who forces slaves into duels to the death for the sake of bloodsport. A vicious murderer even outside the Corvidae's order, Dellos savagely abuses his slaves, forcing Conan and Wonder Woman to duel when he realizes Conan has mistaken Wonder Woman for his lost love. On the Corvidae's initiative, Dellos attempts to massacre every slave at the end, young and old.
- Conan Role-Playing Game (TSR, 1985),Conan the Buccaneer: Materhatrix is a fallen goddess known as the Mother of Hatred and a propagator of monsters. Seducing a king, murdering him and imprisoning his soul to take over his empire, Materhatrix demanded every child be sacrificed to her, having many others killed by her monsters and wolves. Eventually depopulating most of the kingdom, Materhatrix assumes a wolf form, and is so ravenous she will happily devour her own children and countless others.
- Conan: The Roleplaying Game (Mongoose Publishing, 2004):
- The Tower of the Elephant: Yara is as twisted as his story counterpart. Capturing the ancient being Yag-Kosha, Yara subjects him to violent torture for centuries—leaving him in agony for every instant—to gain his secrets, while experimenting on many others. An enthusiast of torture, Yara captures others to bring them to his labs, experimenting upon them and drawing out their pain for his own sick amusement.
- Trial of Blood:
- Amantherodi, the last survivor of the serpent people driven underground by the Atlanteans, pledged himself to unspeakable powers and became a demonlord in response. To free himself via an Atlantean prophecy, Amantherodi directs the actions of the wicked priestess Nefanari to find a woman capable of bearing a child with the Atlantean mark. Amantherodi guides mass rape, slaughter, sacrifice, and gleefully attempts to murder and possess one of the newborn infants of the women he's had violated, all in order to break free and annihilate the world of man, while possessing even his loyal servants should he not be able to kill the infant children.
- Nefanari is a priestess of Set born in Stygia who grows to worship Amantherodi, seeing him as the true personification of Set's evil will. To find a suitable host, Nefanari leads a cult with sacrifice and murder, even giving men to a female Naga to rape and devour. Finding women "marked" for greatness, Nefanari has her agents abduct and rape them to impregnate them, intending on giving the Atlantean heir to her master to possess before allowing the other children to die, even disposing of the midwives before intending on bringing forth the demon she serves so he may end the world.
- Wrath-Amon functions as the main villain for much of the show. Once a mere reptile transformed into a Serpent Man with a human form, Wrath-Amon overthrew his maker Ram-Amon and took his place as the High Priest and chief agent of the Serpent God Set. Gathering the mineral known as Star Metal to facilitate Set's arrival, Wrath-Amon turns Conan's parents into living stone when they resist him and spends much of the series conducting multiple atrocities. Regularly attempting to destroy populated cities, Wrath-Amon's right-hand-man Windfang is a man Wrath-Amon once tortured into becoming a lizard-like creature. When he discovers Windfang keeps mementos of his human life, Wrath-Amon spitefully destroys them, and even unleashes a demon known as the Stealer of Souls on the populace to kill Conan. In the finale, Wrath-Amon attempts to summon Set and a look into a Bad Future reveals that should they win, most of humanity will be annihilated with the survivors kept as food and slaves.
- Set himself, the true Big Bad of the series, is a monstrous serpent god who seeks to escape the Abyss and dominate all that lives. Regularly empowering Wrath-Amon to conduct his more brutal actions and the razing of entire cities, Set arrives on earth in the finale and seeks to create his new regime on earth to reduce humanity to slaves or food. When Conan and friends resist, Set orders them bound so he may slowly devour them as a message to what happens to those who defy him.
- "Conan the Gladiator": Baron Shato is the ruler of a kingdom of cannibals. Known and feared for his knack of using captured prisoners as food for himself and his soldiers, the streets of Shato's city are littered with countless bones of victims over the years, while his kitchens are filled with dozens of skulls. Once he captures Conan and his friends, Zula and Jezmine, Shato forces them to fight in his Gladiator Games against starved animals and mechanical monstrosities, after which he forces them all to fight each other. Once Jezmine wins the duel, Shato claims to return Conan and Zula to their quarters, when in reality, he plans to boil them alive and then devour them, all while planning to make Jezmine his consort and become a high-ranking member of Wrath-Amon's power base.
- "In Days of Old": The Master of the Black Circle is a youth-obsessed sociopath who uses Black Magic to lure in unsuspecting travelers, then drain them of their youth, inevitably leading to their deaths. Storing their youth in bottles, with him possessing dozens of such bottles and victims, the Master performs the same on Conan's companion Greywolf when he comes seeking the Master's assistance, and after capturing Jezmine, the Master attempts to force her to be his love before trying to murder Conan and Greywolf one last time.
Other Media, by release date
- 1982 film: Thulsa Doom starts by slaughtering Conan's village, decapitating Conan's mother while he stands next to her and selling the children as slaves just so that he can obtain weapons of fine steel from the barbarians. Later in the film, he orders a young woman to jump to her death to illustrate how much control he has over his followers before ordering Conan to be crucified. Shortly after that, we find out that he and his followers practice cannibalism. He proceeds to kill Valeria, probably Conan's greatest love in the movie-verse, with a snake arrow. After Rexor and his army's defeat in the Battle of the Mounds, Thulsa coldly tries to do the same thing to the Princess after deeming her no longer useful to him.
- Conan the Adventurer: Hissah Zul is a Sorcerous Overlord who conquered most of the known lands in a bloody campaign that claimed the lives of Conan's parents, among countless others. Those who Zul does not enslave or wipe out are made to pay him heavy tributes, and live in fear of him as a God-like being who decides "when we live, and when we die". Upon learning that Conan is destined to slay him, Zul gives his soldiers free reign to raze towns in search of him, which results in the death of Conan's love, Tamira. Zul goes on to have an Amazon who is pregnant with Conan's child assassinated, and engenders hatred of the barbarian among the people by having mercenaries massacre villages with the aid of evil knockoffs of Conan. Not even Zul's own kin and men are safe from his cruelty; he blinded his own brother before murdering him and trapping his soul in a swamp; expresses no regret after discovering that a subordinate that he had poisoned was his own illegitimate son; and executes his own servants at the slightest provocation, at one point snarling "Who cares about that?" when it is pointed out that one of his strategies could result in the deaths of many of them. Through it all, Zul repeatedly expresses jealousy over Conan's successes and triumphs, seeing himself as a great man who should be divinely ordained to possess all that the world has to offer.
- 2007 video game: Graven was unwittingly released from imprisonment by Conan. Having trapped ancient gods within himself for power, Graven sought to further his strength by sacrificing his own children, with only his daughter A'Kanna escaping him. Graven crafted a Hate Plague called the Black Death, the application of which drives men into murderous frenzies, allowing Graven to harvest their souls upon their deaths. Revealing his intent to murder A'Kanna and complete the ritual he began long ago, Graven then plans to reshape the world as he sees fit, wanting to elevate himself above men and gods alike.