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Western Animation / Korgoth of Barbaria

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This is Korgoth...when he found out that [adult swim] had cancelled his show.

"The great cities have risen and fallen. Civilization's grip on Mankind has grown weak and arthritic. Dark forces seek to renew forgotten covenants. And primordial beasts reclaim the wilderness. Out of the frozen north, a man emerges! A man of a barbaric age, whose merciless savagery may be the only key to his survival! They call him...KORGOTH!!!"

A classic example of What Could Have Been, Korgoth of Barbaria is a pilot that falls somewhere between being a parody and deconstruction of the Barbarian Hero, (especially Conan the Barbarian) with a lot of Black Comedy thrown in. The result didn't just cross over the line, it continually played hopscotch going back and forth over it.

The story takes place long After the End, in a world where magic, demons, mutants and prehistoric animals are mixed with the remnants of technology and precious little civilization. Korgoth appears to be stereotypical dim, brutal and violent Dumb Muscle from the frozen north, (although there are hints that he's smarter than he looks, well, at least, sometimes) whose direct and ruthless fighting style and extensive world experience makes him a perfect survivor in this Crapsack World.

The show begins with a group of mooks looking for Korgoth, and having been informed that he will be visiting a certain tavern as he passes through town, they head there. They attempt to approach him, but a combination of misunderstanding and the leader of the group being a massive jerkass results in Korgoth killing most of them before they manage to convince him to hear their master's offer of employment. Their boss turns out to be Gogmagog, a criminal kingpin Korgoth has had a falling out with after their partnership went bad in the past. Gogmagog wants the Golden Goblin, an ancient figure of mystery, which has long been in keeping of a wizard called Specules. Specules seems to have abruptly vanished and left his tower unprotected, leaving Gogmagog to believe the wizard is dead and the Goblin is ripe for the taking, as long as Gogmagog can beat any other interested parties to it.

Korgoth (who doesn't trust Gogmagog and makes it a general rule to not mess with wizards) is about to refuse and leave when Gogmagog reveals Korgoth's portion of the food they just shared contained a deadly parasite and only Gogmagog can supply the antidote. Now Korgoth has no choice but to make the long, dangerous journey to the tower of Specules, during which he will have to face many strange and lethal dangers...and then there's the tower itself.

Although the pilot was heavily hyped by Cartoon Network as part of its [adult swim] lineup and received a positive response from the fans, the network played an extended Will They or Won't They? game about whether they were going to pick up the show, and eventually despite many rumors flying that the show was going to become a full time series, the project died a quiet death. On November 2, 2013, Korgoth of Barbaria was aired on [adult swim]'s revived Toonami block as Daylight Savings Time filler, along with King Star King and Kick-Heart.

The show was ultimately never fully aired due to the quality of its animation and the associated cost, one staffer predicting the show would ultimately cost around a third of the [adult swim]'s budget. Despite excitement both in [adult swim] and in its viewer base, the money was seen as better spent elsewhere, and the show was never aired outside of its pilot. It would take another decade before creator Aaron Springer would eventually get a series of his own picked up, the more child-friendly Disney cartoon Billy Dilley's Super Duper Subterranean Summer, which features a Korgoth Expy called Zartran.

If you've never seen it, here's a short scene to get you started. Just keep in mind that it's NSFW.

This pilot contains examples of:

  • An Arm and a Leg: Several of the mooks who attack Korgoth in the bar suffer this fate. One gets his arm pulled out of his socket and then beaten with it, another gets half his leg cut off with a huge ax.
  • Bad Boss: Gogmagog. As he says "You may bring 12 of my strongest well as one or two of the weaker ones, just for fun."
  • Bait-and-Switch: There's a cover charge to get a new bar sign and fix the spelling error on it. When asked what the error is, we look at the sign for "The Whore's Nipple Bar & Grille". Turns out the name of the bar is supposed to be "The Dragon's Kneecap".
  • Bar Brawl: The most famous part of the episode is a brawl that results between Korgoth and Gogmagog's mooks when the mooks irritate Korgoth into violence.
  • Barbarian Hero: Korgoth is one, although he's pretty light on the "hero" part. It could even be argued that it's something of a deconstruction, as Korgoth shows what such a figure would be like, including that he's almost completely lacking in anything approaching social graces or scruples.
  • Berserk Button: Korgoth only gets truly angry twice in the short: when Hargon ("hook hand guy") knocks his drink to the floor in the beginning, and when Specules accidentally kills Orala.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Korgoth doesn't waste words, and since getting him in a fight results in him turning into a walking tide of death and destruction, you should definitely be afraid of him.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: The first thing Specules does after getting back to his tower after his vacation is to pick up the letters off the floor: "What's this now? Bills, bills..."
  • Bloody Hilarious: Lots of gore-filled gags, such as a severed arm hitting the exact right button on the jukebox to queue up some Heavy Metal, then the adjacent bar patron giving a thumbs-up.
  • Body Surf: Specules manages to escape Korgoth by magically transferring his head onto Orala's body after having accidentally exploded her head when she interrupted his fight with Korgoth.
  • Butt-Monkey: Stink. He is constantly shouted at by Hargon the Mook Lieutenant, and when the mooks roll dice to see who has to do an unpleasant task, the paper shows that the only possible results are "Stink" or "roll again".
  • Chaste Hero: Very averted. When the girl he saves starts flirting with him, Korgoth promptly takes her into the bushes and starts having sex there only a few feet away from Gogmagog's mooks.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Korgoth, ostensibly a normal human, takes on monsters and a ton of Mooks and wins every time.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Specules has one in mind for Korgoth: being eaten alive by a monster made entirely of (used) chewing gum. However, Korgoth is too badass for it to work.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon:
    • A Giant Mook tries to do this threat to Korgoth. Korgoth is less than impressed.
      "YOU! You will regret what you have done this day! I will make you regret ever being born! You're going to regret you ever left you mother's womb, where it was warm, and safe, and wet! I'm going to show you pain you never knew existed, you're going to see a whole new spectrum of pain! Like a RAINBOW! But! THIS rainbow is not just like any other rainbow, it's—"
    • Ironically enough, the reciter of this threat promptly suffers a Cruel and Unusual Death by getting half the skin of his body torn off, alcohol thrown into the open wound, and then set on fire.
  • Damsel in Distress: Orala, chained to a tree (monster).
  • Depraved Bisexual: Gogmagog's semi-flirtatious interactions with Korgoth.
  • Dirty Old Man: Specules seems to take inordinate pleasure in watching his gum monster forcibly French-kiss Korgoth.
  • Disposable Woman: Orala gets her head blown off by Specules' Eye Beams, which gets Korgoth incredibly pissed.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Specules, though everything he does in the show is a reaction to having his home invaded by a bunch of thugs covered in bird shit.
  • Eye Beams: How Specules manifests some of his magical powers, such as Mind Control.
  • Eye Scream: Korgoth shoves a lit candelabra into Specules' eyes.
  • Fanservice: The few women characters who appear are attractive and skimpily dressed. Aside from when Specules' gum monster takes on a female form, that is...
  • Faux Affably Evil: Korgoth's "employer" Gogmagog. Imagine a smarmy used car salesman or lawyer going on a charm offensive, and you have Gogmagog's dinner with Korgoth (well, until the poisoning anyway) in a nutshell.
  • Fetch Quest: The job that Gogmagog has for Korgoth is to fetch a supposed "rare artifact" (actually a cheap novelty) for him.
  • Flaying Alive: What Korgoth does to interrupt the Giant Mook's Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon spiel.
  • Freudian Slip: The Wizard Specules lets one out when he finds surprise in Korgoth's seemingly absent-minded theft of his Golden Statue..
    "Congratulations. Of all the imbeciles I have ever been forced to come in contact with, you, a dung-coated vagabond, have managed to arouse me—I mean, arouse my ire, far more than any other!"
  • Funbag Airbag: One of the guys attacking Korgoth gets flung across the room, lands right in the barmaid's cleavage, and doesn't move for the rest of the fight. Unless one counts what sure looks like vigorous motorboating in the process of screaming sympathetically for the Giant Mook Skrotus. To top it all off, aside from clear initial surprise upon his 'landing', she just sort of stands there leaning against the counter in mild bemusement, even as he screams/motorboats.
  • Funny Background Event: A portrait of a man with what appears to be an enormous member can briefly be seen in the tavern.
  • Giant Flyer: Monstrous pigeons, which Korgoth and Gogmagog's henchmen use to reach Specules' lair.
  • Giant Mook: The mook who made the ill-fated Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon was one. He was considerably taller than even Korgoth, and had more muscles than the rest of the mooks put together. Not that it helped him at all.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Gogmagog is a fan of it. He keeps a bikini-clad chick in a cage.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Specules' portrayal is part this, part Evil Sorceror, and part Dirty Old Man. His entrance in the short is him shuffling in through the door of his tower, barely able to carry his two small suitcases, an annoyed grimace on his face, muttering to himself, "God-darned arthritis!..." Then of course he sees all the intruders and makes with the Mind Control Eye Beams.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: One of Gogmagog's men gets bitten in half by a giant bird, (see Too Dumb to Live) and another gets sliced in half from head to stomach thanks to Korgoth and a giant ax.
  • Head Crushing: After brutally defeating and killing most of the mooks in the Bar Brawl, Korgoth begins to squash the head of Hargon, the hook handed leader, against the bar counter. Only Hargon producing a bag of gold gets Korgoth to relent from killing him and become willing to meet with their employer Gogmagog.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Korgoth has no compunctions about reducing anyone who wrongs him in any manner to a bloody pulp.
  • Heroic Willpower: Korgoth is able to resist Specules' Mind Control Eye Beams.
  • High Collar of Doom: Worn by Specules. In fact, it's practically the only thing he's wearing.
  • Hook Hand: In place of the Mook Lieutenant's left hand.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Played for laughs, as it's the fat and wimpy Gogmagog doing it, and he's even more naked than the girl he's menacing.
  • Karma Houdini: Gogmagog wisely makes sure to escape just as he is finally giving Korgoth the cure from his Poison and Cure Gambit, preventing Korgoth from pursuing him and ensuring that he never suffers any comeuppance. At least he did keep his word about giving Korgoth the cure.
  • MacGuffin: The Golden Goblin of the Fourth Age. Turns out it's some sort of figurine that plays tinny music and dances, like a cheap gift one would buy from a low-end retail store, making it a MockGuffin as well.
  • Made of Plasticine: Anyone and anything that tries to fight Korgoth.
  • Magic Antidote: Parodied and subverted when Gogmagog gives Korgoth the cure he promised to give him for completing his mission. Korgoth complains that he doesn't feel anything, and Gogmagog explains that he'll have to take the cure for months, but he prepared a huge pile for Korgoth free of charge.
  • Male Gaze: Used as a gag when Hargon, a.k.a Hook Hand Guy, arrives at the inn with the rest of the mooks. The camera scans the room from his point of view, passing by a serving wench, then immediately pans back to focus on her ass.
  • Manly Tears: Korgoth briefly gets these when Orala is killed near the end of the episode, complete with leather crinkling sound.
  • Meaningful Name: Many names are puns or references. A few examples:
    • The ancient wizard who wears enormous eyeglasses (or spectacles) is known as Specules.
    • Korgoth's name harkens to Conan, plus the word goth to give the sense of a barbarian background.
  • Mooks: Gogmagog has a lot of these guys working for him and he sends them to fetch Korgoth for a job, but Korgoth far outclasses even the strongest.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Hargon (the hook-handed guy) leads the Mooks in their search for Korgoth in the opening scene, gets the most characterization, and is implied to be the strongest one of the bunch. He's still leagues below Korgoth.
  • Neck Lift: Korgoth to Gogmagog, when he finds out Gogmagog tricked him into eating poisoned food.
  • No Name Given: Both the hook hand guy (Hargon) and the girl tied to a tree (Orala) are never named in the show. Also, only two of Gogmagog's men are called by name: Stink, and Skrotus.
  • No-Sell: Korgoth has this reaction to someone putting an axe through his shoulder. He just rips it out and uses it against its previous wielder.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: The dark wizard Specules is annoyed when he finds a bunch of thieves in his castle looting the place on the assumption that he was dead. Turns out, he was just taking a cruise holiday.
  • Really Gets Around: Based on her offer of sex with Korgoth as a reward for the rescue and intentions of having intercourse in the kitchen despite witnessing a death battle between Korgoth and Specules, Orala seems to have an active sex drive.
  • Rescue Sex: Orala rewards Korgoth with sex after he saves her from a man-eating tree-monster. Hargon tries to boast of his own "bravery" to get a similar reward, but they ignore him.
  • Reveal Shot: When Korgoth and Gogmagog's mooks climb down to the pigeons, it's only obvious that the birds are giant-sized (they looked small from a higher vantage point) with a sudden camera reveal.
  • Shout-Out: The intro shows Korgoth's lover turning into a monster mid-session, referencing Conan the Barbarian. Also The Golden Goblin from before is actually an obscure reference to one of Robert E. Howard's works, "The Black Stone" (1931) which had a single line mentioning a "Golden Goblin Press"
  • The Stoic: Korgoth is normally pretty calm despite how violent he can be. Just don't mess with his alcohol or his Girl of the Week.
  • Talk to the Fist: A classic and hysterically funny (in a very dark way) case happens when Korgoth decides he's heard enough of the Giant Mook trying to threaten him. He doesn't let Skrotus finish before he starts giving poor Skrotus a horrifying death.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Korgoth tends to do this. See what he does to interrupt the Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon speech above.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: If it were a little less over the top it would have been right at home as part of Heavy Metal.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Korgoth's Lizard Mount eats a strange, apple-like fruit and promptly explodes. Korgoth and the Mooks traveling with him promptly drop the exploding fruit, but one shrugs and eats it anyway. Guess what happens?
    • One of the Mooks claims to know how to get the giant pigeons to give them a lift:
      Mook: HEY, you big dumb bird! Look at me! I-*is bitten in half* AAHHHHHHH!
    • Orala. She interrupts Korgoth and Specules in the middle of their death battle wondering if Korgoth ever had sex in someone else's kitchen. This results in her getting her head blasted off.
  • We Are "Team Cannon Fodder": Pretty much everyone who's not Korgoth will will die horribly, with few exceptions. Granted, he's Korgoth of Barbaria and they're Gogmagog's random mooks.
  • We Have Reserves: Gogmagog specifically tells Korgoth he'll send his best men with him... and some of the less strong ones, for the sake of amusement.
  • When Trees Attack: ...they get turned into firewood by Korgoth.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Korgoth doesn't like magic or magicians, and wanted nothing to do with Gogmagog's quest as soon as he heard that it involved stealing from a wizard. He even actively tries to flee in terror when Specules catches him in his room.
    Korgoth: I despise all weavers of the black arts. Speaking of which, could you pass the gravy?
  • World of Buxom: All of the damsels who appear in the show are quite busty.
  • Wretched Hive: The town where the story begins. Just about every effort to make it and the people living there seem wretched, shady, and unsavory is made.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: Gogmagog's mooks go to a specific inn, as they hope to recruit Korgoth and have heard that he will be drinking there... and then most of them promptly die in said inn.
  • Your Head Asplode: Happens to Orala when she walks in on Specules using his Mind Control Eye Beams on Korgoth, who was resisting with Heroic Willpower.