Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian
"Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."
Robert E. Howard, The Phoenix on the Sword, 1932.
Illustration by Mark Schultz.

Conan the Barbarian (also known as Conan the Cimmerian, from the name of the character's homeland, Cimmeria) is a fictional hero,[1][2] a well known and iconic figure in American fantasy, and arguably the most famous barbarian in fiction.[3]

Conan is often associated with the fantasy subgenre of sword and sorcery and heroic fantasy. He was created by writer Robert E. Howard in 1932 via a series of fantasy stories sold to Weird Tales magazine. The character has since appeared in licensed books, comics, films, television programs, video games, roleplaying games, and even a board game, all of which contribute to the hero's long-standing popularity.

Conan the Barbarian is also the title of a Gnome Press collection of stories published in 1954, a comic published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1970, a film and its novelization in 1982, and another film and its novelization in 2011.


Publication history

Conan the Barbarian was created by Robert E. Howard and was the spiritual successor to an earlier character, Kull of Atlantis. For months, Howard had been in search of a new character to market to the burgeoning pulp outlets of the early 1930s. In October 1931, Howard submitted a short story titled "People of the Dark" to Clayton Publications' new magazine, Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror (June 1932). "People of the Dark" is a remembrance story of "past lives", and in its first-person narrative the protagonist describes one of his previous incarnations: Conan, a black-haired barbarian hero who swears by a deity called Crom. Some Howard scholars believe this Conan to be a forerunner of the more famous character.[4]

In February 1932, Howard vacationed at a border town on the lower Rio Grande to enjoy the local culture. During this trip, he further conceived the character of Conan and also wrote the poem "Cimmeria", much of which echoes specific passages in Plutarch's Lives. According to some scholars, there is a strong likelihood that Howard's conception of Conan and the Hyborian Age originated in Thomas Bulfinch's The Outline of Mythology (1913) which inspired Howard to "coalesce into a coherent whole his literary aspirations and the strong physical, autobiographical elements underlying the creation of Conan."[4]

Having digested these prior influences after he returned from his trip, Howard rewrote the rejected Kull story "By This Axe I Rule!" (May 1929) with his new hero in mind, re-titling it "The Phoenix on the Sword". Howard also wrote "The Frost-Giant's Daughter", inspired by the Greek myth of Daphne, and submitted both stories to Weird Tales magazine. Although "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" was rejected, the magazine accepted "The Phoenix on the Sword" after it received the requested polishing.[4]

"The Phoenix on the Sword" appeared in Weird Tales in December 1932, thus marking Conan's first appearance in print. Weird Tales would become famous for its unique stable of notable authors, including H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Tennessee Williams, Robert Bloch, Seabury Quinn and others. The acceptance of "The Phoenix on the Sword" by editor Farnsworth Wright prompted Howard to write an 8,000 word essay for personal use detailing "the Hyborian Age," the fictional setting for Conan. Using this essay as his guideline, Howard began plotting "The Tower of the Elephant", a new Conan story that would be the first to truly integrate his new conception of the Hyborian world, and thus to introduce the setting to the reader.[4]

The publication and success of "The Tower of the Elephant" would spur Howard to write many more Conan stories for Weird Tales. By the time of Howard's suicide in 1936, he had written twenty-one complete tales, seventeen of which had been published, as well as a number of unfinished fragments.[4]

Following Howard's death, the copyright of the Conan stories passed through several hands. Eventually, under the guidance of L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, the stories were expurgated, revised and sometimes rewritten. For roughly forty years, the original versions of Howard's Conan stories remained out of print. Only with the Berkley editions in 1977 was an attempt made to return to the earliest published (Weird Tales) form of the texts, but these failed to displace the edited versions. In the 1980s and 1990s, the copyright holders of the Conan franchise permitted Howard's stories to go out of print entirely, while continuing to sell Conan works by other authors.

In 2000, the British publisher Gollancz Science Fiction issued a two-volume, complete edition of Howard's Conan stories as part of their Fantasy Masterworks imprint, including several stories which had never seen print in their original form. The Gollancz edition mostly used the versions of the stories as published in Weird Tales.

In 2003, a British publisher named Wandering Star made an effort both to restore Howard's original manuscripts and to provide a more scholarly and historical view of the Conan stories. They published deluxe hardcover editions in England, which were republished in the United States by the Del Rey imprint of Ballantine Books. The first book, Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932–1933) (2003; published in the US as The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian) includes Howard's notes on his fictional setting, as well as letters and poems concerning the genesis of his ideas. This was followed by Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Two (1934) (2004) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Three (1935–1936)'' (2005); these were published in the US in 2005 as The Bloody Crown of Conan and The Conquering Sword of Conan. Among them, the three books include all of the original unedited Conan stories.


A map of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.

The various stories of Conan the Barbarian occur in the fictional "Hyborian Age", set after the destruction of Atlantis and before the rise of the known ancient civilizations. This is a specific epoch in a fictional timeline created by Howard for many of the low fantasy tales of his artificial legendary.[5]

The reasons behind the invention of the Hyborian Age were perhaps commercial: Howard had an intense love for history and historical dramas; however, at the same time, he recognized the difficulties and the time-consuming research work needed in maintaining historical accuracy. By conceiving a timeless setting — "a vanished age" — and by carefully choosing names that resembled human history, Howard shrewdly avoided the problem of historical anachronisms and the need for lengthy exposition.[4]

According to "The Phoenix on the Sword", the adventures of Conan take place "...Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas..."[6]

Personality and character

Conan is a Cimmerian (based on the ancient Indo-European nomads of the same name and, somewhat loosely, on the Celts), a barbarian of the far north. One of his grandfathers, however, came from a southern tribe. He was born on a battlefield and is the son of a village blacksmith. Conan matured quickly as a youth and, by age fifteen, he was already a respected warrior who had participated in the destruction of the Aquilonian outpost of Venarium. After its destruction, he was struck by wanderlust and began the adventures chronicled by Howard, encountering skulking monsters, evil wizards, tavern wenches, and beautiful princesses. He roamed throughout the Hyborian Age nations as a thief, outlaw, mercenary and pirate. As he grew older, he began commanding larger units of men and escalating his ambitions. In his forties, he seized the crown of the tyrannical king of Aquilonia, the most powerful kingdom of the Hyborian Age, having strangled the previous ruler on the steps of the throne. Conan's adventures often result in him performing heroic feats, though his motivation for doing so is largely for his own survival or for personal gain, implying that the character displays the characteristics of an antihero and could be described as the archetypal "amoral swordsman" of the Sword and Sorcery genre.[1][2]


Conan has "sullen" or "smoldering" blue eyes and a black "square-cut mane". Howard once describes him as having a hairy chest and, while comic book interpretations often portray Conan as wearing a loincloth or other minimalist clothing, Howard describes the character as wearing whatever garb is typical for the land and culture in which Conan finds himself. Howard never gave a strict height or weight for Conan in a story, only describing him in loose terms like "giant" and "massive".[7] In the tales no human is ever described as stronger than Conan, although several are mentioned as taller (such as the strangler Baal-pteor) or of larger bulk. In a letter to P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark in 1936 only three months before Howard's death, Conan is described as standing 6 feet (1.8 m) and weighing 180 pounds (82 kg) when he takes part in an attack on Venarium at only 15 years old, though being far from fully grown.[8] Although Conan is muscular, Howard frequently compares his agility and way of moving to that of a panther (see for instance "Jewels of Gwahlur", "Beyond the Black River" or "Rogues in the House"). His skin is frequently characterized as bronzed from constant exposure to the sun. In his younger years, he is often depicted wearing a light chain shirt and a horned helmet, though appearances vary with different artists.

During his reign as king of Aquilonia, Conan was "... a tall man, mightily shouldered and deep of chest, with a massive corded neck and heavily muscled limbs. He was clad in silk and velvet, with the royal lions of Aquilonia worked in gold upon his rich jupon, and the crown of Aquilonia shone on his square-cut black mane; but the great sword at his side seemed more natural to him than the regal accoutrements. His brow was low and broad, his eyes a volcanic blue that smoldered as if with some inner fire. His dark, scarred, almost sinister face was that of a fighting-man, and his velvet garments could not conceal the hard, dangerous lines of his limbs."[9]

Though several later authors have referred to Conan as "Germanic-looking", Howard imagined the Cimmerians as a proto-Celtic people with mostly black hair and blue or grey eyes. Ethnically the Cimmerians to which Conan belongs are descendants of the Atlanteans, though they do not remember their ancestry. In his fictional historical essay "The Hyborian Age", Howard describes how the people of Atlantis — the land where his character King Kull originated — had to move east after a great cataclysm changed the face of the world and sank their island, settling where Ireland and Scotland would eventually be located, Thus they are (in Howard's work) the ancestors of the Irish and Scottish (the Celtic Gaels) and not the Picts, the other ancestor of modern Scots who also appear in Howard's work. In the same work, Howard also described how the Cimmerians eventually moved south and east after the age of Conan (presumably in the vicinity of the Black Sea, where the historical Cimmerians dwelt).


Despite his brutish appearance, Conan uses his brains as well as his brawn. The Cimmerian is a talented fighter, but his travels have given him vast experience in other trades, especially as a thief; he is also a talented commander, tactician and strategist, as well as a born leader. In addition, Conan speaks many languages, including advanced reading and writing abilities: in certain stories, he is able to recognize, or even decipher, certain ancient or secret signs and writings. He also has incredible stamina, enabling him to go without sleep for a few days.

Another noticeable trait is his sense of humor, largely absent in the comics and movies but very much a part of Howard's original vision of the character, particularly apparent in "Xuthal of the Dusk", also known as "The Slithering Shadow." He is a loyal friend to those true to him, with a barbaric code of conduct that often marks him as more honorable than the more sophisticated people he meets in his travels. Indeed, his straightforward nature and barbarism are constants in all the tales.

Conan is a formidable armed and unarmed combatant. With his back to the wall Conan is capable of engaging and killing opponents by the score. This is seen in several stories, such as "Queen of the Black Coast", "The Scarlet Citadel" and "A Witch Shall be Born". Conan is not superhuman, though; he did need the providential help of Zelata's wolf to defeat four Nemedian soldiers in the story The Hour of the Dragon. Some of his hardest victories have come from fighting single opponents of inhuman strength: one such as Thak, the ape man from "Rogues in the House", or the strangler Baal-Pteor in "Shadows in Zamboula". Conan is far from untouchable and has been captured and defeated several times (on one occasion knocking himself out drunkenly running into a wall).


Howard frequently corresponded with H. P. Lovecraft, and the two would sometimes insert references or elements of each others' settings in their works. Later editors reworked many of the original Conan stories by Howard, thus diluting this connection. Nevertheless, many of Howard's unedited Conan stories are arguably part of the Cthulhu Mythos.[10] Additionally, many of the Conan stories by Howard, de Camp and Carter used geographical place names from Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean Cycle.

Additionally, fans such as comic book artist Mark Schultz have concluded that Conan was an idealized alter ego for Howard. Unlike the modern, stereotypical view of a brainless barbarian, Howard originally created Conan as a thoughtful figure, although primarily a man of action rather than a man of deep thought or brooding. A closer alter ego for Howard, often depicted as a melancholic man who often battled with depression, much like Howard himself (the writer eventually committed suicide) is King Kull, Conan's original forebear (cf "By This Axe, I Rule" and "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune").

Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and I am content. — "Queen of the Black Coast", Robert E. Howard, Weird Tales, May 1934.

Original Robert E. Howard Conan stories

Cover of Weird Tales (May 1934) depicting Conan and Bêlit in Queen of the Black Coast, one of Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories.

Conan stories published in Weird Tales

  1. "The Phoenix on the Sword" (novelette; WT 20 6, December 1932)
  2. "The Scarlet Citadel" (novelette; WT 21 1, January 1933)
  3. "The Tower of the Elephant" (novelette; WT 21 3, March 1933)
  4. "Black Colossus" (novelette; WT 21 6, June 1933)
  5. "Xuthal of the Dusk" (novelette; WT 22 3, September 1933, as "The Slithering Shadow")
  6. "The Pool of the Black One" (novelette; WT 22 4, October 1933)
  7. "Rogues in the House" (novelette; WT 23 1, January 1934)
  8. "Iron Shadows in the Moon" (novelette; WT 23 4, April 1934, as "Shadows in the Moonlight")
  9. "Queen of the Black Coast" (novelette; WT 23 5, May 1934)
  10. "The Devil in Iron" (novelette; WT 24 2, August 1934)
  11. "The People of the Black Circle" (novella; WT 24 3–5, September/October/November 1934)
  12. "A Witch Shall be Born" (novelette; WT 24 6, December 1934)
  13. "Jewels of Gwahlur" (novelette; WT 25 3, March 1935)
  14. "Beyond the Black River" (novella; WT 25 5–6, May/June 1935)
  15. "Man-Eaters of Zamboula" (novelette; WT 26 5, November 1935, as "Shadows in Zamboula")
  16. The Hour of the Dragon (novel; WT 26 6 & 25 1–4, December 35/January/February/March/April 1936)
  17. "Red Nails" (novella; WT 28 1–3, July/August–September/October 1936)

Conan stories not published in his lifetime

Unfinished Conan stories by Howard

NOTE: A number of untitled synopses for Conan stories also exist.

Other Conan-related material by Howard

  • "Wolves Beyond the Border" — A non-Conan story set in Conan's world. Fragment. Published in 1967 in Conan the Usurper
  • "The Hyborian Age" — An essay written in 1932. Published in 1938 in The Hyborian Age.
  • "Cimmeria" — A poem written in 1932. Published in 1965 in The Howard Collector.

Book editions

Cover of Conan the Usurper (1967). Art by Frank Frazetta.

The character of Conan has proven durably popular, resulting in Conan stories by later writers such as Poul Anderson, Leonard Carpenter, Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Roland J. Green, John C. Hocking, Robert Jordan, Sean A. Moore, Björn Nyberg, Andrew J. Offutt, Steve Perry, John Maddox Roberts, Harry Turtledove, and Karl Edward Wagner. Some of these writers have finished incomplete Conan manuscripts by Howard. Others were created by rewriting Howard stories which originally featured entirely different characters from entirely different milieus. Most, however, are completely original works. In total, more than fifty novels and dozens of short stories featuring the Conan character have been written by authors other than Howard.

Cover of Tales of Conan (Gnome Press, 1955). Art by Ed Emshwiller.

The Gnome Press edition (1950–1957) was the first hardcover collection of Howard's Conan stories, including all the original Howard material known to exist at the time, some left unpublished in his lifetime. The later volumes contain some stories rewritten by L. Sprague de Camp (like "The Treasure of Tranicos"), including several non-Conan Howard stories, mostly historical exotica situated in the Levant at the time of the crusades, which he turned into Conan yarns. The Gnome edition also issued the first Conan story written by an author other than Howard — the final volume published, which is by Björn Nyberg and revised by de Camp.

The Lancer/Ace editions (1966–1977), under the direction of de Camp and Lin Carter, were the first comprehensive paperbacks, compiling the material from the Gnome Press series together in chronological order with all the remaining original Howard material, including that left unpublished in his lifetime and fragments and outlines. These were completed by de Camp and Carter, and new stories written entirely by the two were added as well. Lancer Books went out of business before bringing out the entire series, the publication of which was completed by Ace Books. Its covers featured dynamic images by Frank Frazetta that, for many fans, presented the "definitive" impression of Conan and his world. For decades to come, most other portrayals of the Cimmerian and his imitators were heavily influenced by the cover paintings of this series.

Editions after the Lancer/Ace series have been of either the original Howard stories or Conan material by others, but not both. Notable later editions of the Howard stories include the Donald M. Grant editions (1974–1989); Berkley editions (1977); Gollancz editions (2000–2006), and Wandering Star/Del Rey editions (2003–2005). Later series of new Conan material include the Bantam editions (1978–1982), Ace Maroto editions (1978–1981), and Tor editions (1982–2004).

Several of the Lancer/Ace Conan versions are rewrites by de Camp and Carter of non Conan stories. For example, at least one El Borak in which the protagonist infiltrates the City of the assassins was rewritten with Conan replacing Francis Xavier Gordon and a supernatural element added.

Conan chronologies

In an attempt to provide a coherent timeline which fit the numerous adventures of Conan penned by Robert E. Howard and later writers, various "Conan chronologies" have been prepared by many people from the 1930s onward. Note that no consistent timeline has yet accommodated every single Conan story. The following are the principal theories that have been advanced over the years.

  • Miller/Clark chronologyA Probable Outline of Conan's Career (1936) was the first effort to put the tales in chronological order. Completed by P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark, the chronology was later revised by Clark and L. Sprague de Camp in An Informal Biography of Conan the Cimmerian (1952).
  • Robert Jordan chronologyA Conan Chronology by Robert Jordan (1987) was a new chronology written by Conan writer Robert Jordan that included all written Conan material up to that point. It was heavily influenced by the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronologies, though it departed from them in a number of idiosyncratic instances.
  • William Galen Gray chronologyTimeline of Conan's Journeys (1997, rev. 2004), was fan William Galen Gray's attempt to create "a chronology of all the stories, both Howard and pastiche." Drawing on the earlier Miller/Clark and Jordan chronologies, it represents the ultimate expression of their tradition to date.
  • Joe Marek chronology — Joe Marek's chronology is limited to stories written (or devised) by Howard, though within that context it is essentially a revision of the Miller/Clark tradition to better reflect the internal evidence of the stories and avoid forcing Conan into what he perceives as a "mad dash" around the Hyborian world within timeframes too rapid to be credible.
  • Dale Rippke chronologyThe Darkstorm Conan Chronology (2003) was a completely revised and heavily researched chronology, radically repositioning a number of stories and including only those stories written or devised by Howard. The Dark Horse comic series follows this chronology.



Arnold Schwarzenegger films

Conan the Barbarian (1982) poster.

The very first Conan cinematic project was planned by Edward Summer. Summer envisioned a series of Conan movies, much like the James Bond franchise. He outlined six stories for this film series, but none were ever made. An original screenplay by Summer and Roy Thomas was written, but their lore-authentic screen story was never filmed. However, the resulting film, Conan the Barbarian (1982), was a creative mixture of screenwriters' Oliver Stone and John Milius ideas as well as plots from Conan stories (written also by Howard's successors, notably Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp). The addition of Nietzschean motto and Conan's life philosophy were crucial for bringing the spirit of Howard's literature to the screen.

The plot of Conan the Barbarian (1982) begins with Conan being enslaved by the Vanir raiders of Thulsa Doom, a malevolent warlord who is responsible for the slaying of Conan's parents and the genocide of his people. Later, Thulsa Doom becomes a cult leader of a shamanist religion that worships Set, a Snake God. The vengeful Conan, the archer Subotai and the thief Valeria set out on a quest to rescue a princess held captive by Thulsa Doom. The film was directed by John Milius and produced by Dino De Laurentiis. The character of Conan was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and was his break-through role as an actor.[11]

This film was followed by a less popular sequel, Conan the Destroyer in 1984.[12] This sequel was a more typical fantasy-genre film and was even less faithful to Howard's Conan stories.

Conan the Conqueror (Cancelled)

The third film in the Conan trilogy was planned for 1987 to be titled Conan the Conqueror. The director was to be either Guy Hamilton or John Guillermin. However Arnold Schwarzenegger was committed to the film Predator and De Laurentiis's contract with the star had expired after his obligation to Red Sonja and Raw Deal and he wasn't keen to negotiate a new one, thus the third Conan movie sank into development hell. The script was eventually turned into Kull the Conqueror.

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

There were rumours in the late 1990s of another second Conan sequel, a story about an older Conan titled King Conan: Crown of Iron, but Schwarzenegger's election in 2003 as governor of California ended this project.[13] Warner Bros. spent seven years trying to get the project off the ground, with development attempts made by Larry and Andy Wachowski, John Milius, and Robert Rodriguez who was closest to completing development but left the project for Grindhouse. Boaz Yakin was hired in 2006 to start again. However, in June 2007 the rights reverted to Paradox Entertainment, though all drafts made under Warner remained with them. Paradox's CEO, Fredrik Malmberg, told Variety "we have great respect for Warner Bros., but after seven years, we came to the point where we needed to see progress to production." Paradox were auctioning the rights after and various groups took interest in producing, including New Line Cinema, Hollywod Gang, and Millenium Films.[14]

Due to development-time frustrations felt when the rights were with Warner, Malmberg made deal terms where he was asking for $1 million for a one-year option, with another $1 million for each year's renewal. In August 2007, it was announced that Millennium had acquired the right to the project in an unrevealed seven-figure deal, with Malmberg and Millennium's Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson, Joe Gatta, and George Furla set to produce. The deal was brokered by Gatta, who originally made the deal between Paradox and Warner in 2002. Production was aimed for a Spring 2006 start, with the intention of having stories more faithful to the Robert E. Howard creation.[15]

In November 2008, Brett Ratner was prematurely announced to be the director of Conan to The Hollywood Reporter by Lerner, something which displeased him as he pointed out: "I am not doing Conan now."[16][17] June 2009 revealed Marcus Nispel would take the reins of director to the film.[18] In January 2010, Jason Momoa was selected for the role of Conan.[19] In February 2010, on the eve of production, Sean Hood was brought in to retool the screenplay.[20]

Animated film

An animated feature, Conan: Red Nails, based upon the novella of the same name, was partially completed but appears to have stalled.[21]


There have been three television series related to Conan: A live-action TV series and animated cartoon series — both entitled Conan the Adventurer, as well as a second animated series entitled Conan and the Young Warriors.

  • Conan The Adventurer was the name of a popular animated television series. Produced by Jetlag Productions and Sunbow Productions, the series debuted on October 1, 1992, ran for 64 episodes and concluded exactly two years later, on October 1, 1994. The series involved Conan chasing Serpent Men across the world in an attempt to release his parents from eternal imprisonment as living statues.
  • Conan and the Young Warriors was an animated television series which premiered in 1994 and ran for 13 episodes. DiC Entertainment produced the show and CBS aired this series as a spin-off to the previous Conan the Adventurer animated series. This cartoon took place after the finale of Conan the Adventurer with Wrath-Amon vanquished and Conan's family returned to life from living stone. Conan soon finds that the family of one of his friends are being turned into wolves by an evil sorceress and he must train three warriors in order to aid him in rescuing them.
  • Conan: The Adventurer was a television series loosely based on Conan. The TV show premiered on September 22, 1997, and ran for 22 episodes. This live-action series starred German bodybuilder Ralf Möller as Conan and Danny Woodburn as his sidekick Otli. The storyline was quite different from the Conan lore of Robert E. Howard. In this adaptation, Conan is a pleasant and jovial person. Also in this version, Conan is not a loner but one member in a merry band of adventurers.


Conan the Barbarian has appeared in comics nearly non-stop since 1970. The comics are arguably, apart from the books, the vehicle that had the greatest influence on the longevity and popularity of the character. Aside from an earlier and unofficial Conan comic published in Mexico,[22] the two main publishers of Conan comics have been Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics. Marvel Comics launched Conan the Barbarian (1970–1993) and the classic Savage Sword of Conan (1974–1995). Dark Horse launched their Conan series in 2003. Dark Horse Comics is currently publishing compilations of the 1970s Marvel Comics series in trade paperback format.

The current president of the United States, Barack Obama, is a collector of Conan the Barbarian comic books and a big fan of the character[23] and appeared as a character in a comic book called Barack the Barbarian from Devil's Due.[24][25][26]

Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics introduced a relatively lore-faithful version of Conan the Barbarian in 1970 with Conan the Barbarian, written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith. Smith was succeeded by penciller John Buscema, while Thomas continued to write for many years. Later writers included J.M. DeMatteis, Bruce Jones, Michael Fleisher, Doug Moench, Jim Owsley, Alan Zelenetz, Chuck Dixon, and Don Kraar. The highly successful Conan the Barbarian series spawned the more adult, black-and-white Savage Sword of Conan in 1974. Written by Roy Thomas and most art by John Buscema or Alfredo Alcala, the Savage Sword of Conan soon became one of the most popular comic series in the 1970s and is now-considered a cult classic. Marvel also published several graphic novels starring the character.

The Marvel Conan stories were also adapted as a newspaper comic strip which appeared daily and Sunday from 4 September 1978 to 12 April 1981. Originally written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by John Buscema, the strip was continued by several different Marvel artists and writers.

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics began their comic adaptation of the Conan saga in 2003. Entitled simply Conan, the series was first written by Kurt Busiek and pencilled by Cary Nord. Tim Truman replaced Busiek when Busiek signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics; however, Busiek issues were sometimes used for filler. This series is an interpretation of the original Conan material by Robert E. Howard with no connection whatsoever to the earlier Marvel comics or any Conan story not written or envisioned by Howard supplemented by wholly original material.

They released a second series, Conan the Cimmerian in 2008.

Dark Horses third series(Conan Road of Kings) began in December 2010.


Age of Conan, a MMORPG, released in May 2008.

Video games

Seven video games have been released based on the Conan mythos.

Collectible card games

Board games

  • In 2009, Fantasy Flight Games released the Age of Conan strategy board game, depicting warfare between the Hyborian nations in which Conan adventures.

Role-playing games

TSR signed a license agreement in 1984 to publish the Conan game.[27]

Play-by-mail games

  • Hyborian War, hosted by Reality Simulations Inc., is a play-by-mail game set in the Hyborian Age.


The following characters have prominent roles in Conan prose fiction:

The following characters have prominent roles only in Conan comic-book fiction:

  • Red Sonja — An Hyrkanian warrior created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith for the Conan comics. She was based on the Howard character, Red Sonya of Rogatino, who appeared in The Shadow of the Vulture tale set in the 16th century.
  • Jenna - (Marvel comics character). A dancing girl from the city of Shadizar. She becomes Conan's girlfriend after he saves her from a monstrous bat, but later betrays him to the authorities. Conan gets his revenge by throwing her into a pool of sewage. Based on an unnamed character in the prose story Rogues in the House.
  • Mikhal "the Vulture" Oglu - In Marvel comics' Conan the barbarian #23, Mikhal Oglu is Yezdigerd's enforcer and the greatest swordsman in Turan. He challenges Conan but is defeated and beheaded. He was inspired by a character in a non-Conan story by Robert E. Howard (The Shadow of the Vulture)
  • Zukala - A character from the Conan comics published by Marvel, inspired by a poem by Robert E. Howard. Zukala is an evil sorceror who gains his powers from his mask. His daughter Zephra falls in love with Conan
  • Yezdigerd - Ruler of Turan, a Turkish empire-based civilisation. He employs Conan as a mercenary but betrays him after he outlived his usefulness
  • Fafnir - A mighty red-bearded Vanir warrior and pirate captain. At first he and Conan are enemies but they soon become allies after being shipwrecked

The following characters have prominent roles only in Conan movies:

  • Thulsa Doom — A skull-faced necromancer in a King Kull story, a recurring villain in the Kull comics, and the antagonist in the 1982 film, played by James Earl Jones.
  • Rexor - In the 1982 movie, chief priest of Thulsa Doom's snake cult. Stole the sword of Conan's father
  • Thorgrim - Hammer-wielding minion of Thulsa Doom in the 1982 film. Played by Sven-Ole Thorsen
  • Subotai - Hyrkanian thief and archer. He is Conan's companion in the 1982 film. Played by Gerry Lopez.
  • Akiro - A character from the two Schwarzenegger Conan movies. He is a powerful wizard who befriends Conan and Subotai. He is played by Japanese actor Mako Iwamatsu.

Copyright and trademark dispute

The name Conan and the names of Robert E. Howard's other principal characters are claimed as trademarked by Paradox Entertainment of Stockholm, Sweden, through its US subsidiary Paradox Entertainment Inc. Paradox copyrights stories written by other authors under license from Conan Properties Inc.

However, since Robert E. Howard published his Conan stories at a time when the date of publication was the marker (1932 through 1963), and any new owners failed to renew them to maintain the copyrights,[28] the exact copyright status of all of Howard's Conan works are in question.[29] In practice, most of the Conan stories exist in at least two versions subject to different copyright standards: The original Weird Tales publications before or shortly after Howard's death, which have been understood to be "public domain", and "restored" versions based on manuscripts that were unpublished in Howard's lifetime, for which current copyrights are easily defended.

The Australian site of Project Gutenberg has many Robert E. Howard stories, including several Conan stories.[30] This indicates that, in their opinion, the stories are free from copyright and may be used by anyone, at least under Australian law, which was 50 years from author's death until 2005. Subsequent stories written by other authors are subject to the copyright laws of the relevant time.

In the United Kingdom, 70 years after the death of an author his works fall into the public domain and as such the works of Robert E. Howard have now fallen into the public domain there.



Blosser, Fred (1997). "The Star Rover and "The People of the Night". The Dark Man #4: 16–18. 

Herron, Don, editor. (2004). The Barbaric Triumph. Wildside Press. ISBN 0-8095-1566-0. 

Herron, Don, editor. (1984). The Dark Barbarian. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-23281-4. 

Louinet, Patrice, editor. (2003). The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. Del Rey. ISBN 0-345-46151-7. 

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b The Robert E. Howard United Press Association, David McAllister; selections from One More Barbarian #37.
  3. ^ Herron (1984). p. 149: "Robert E. Howard of Cross Plains, Texas, created one of the great mythic figures in modern popular culture, the Dark Barbarian… [which] put Howard in the select ranks of the literary legend-makers"
  4. ^ a b c d e f Patrice Louinet. Hyborian Genesis: Part 1, pages 429 to 453, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian; 2003, Del Rey.
  5. ^ Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age essay adapted by Roy Thomas and Walt Simonson.
  6. ^ Howard, Robert E., "The Phoenix on the Sword", The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (2003).
  7. ^ Robert E. Howard. "A Witch Shall Be Born": "the man was almost a giant in stature"; "Knots and bunches of muscle started out of the massive arms".
  8. ^ Robert E. Howard (November 29, 2005). The Conquering Sword of Conan. Del Rey. p. 360. ISBN 0345461533. 
  9. ^ Robert E. Howard. The Hour of the Dragon, pages 89 and 90, The Bloody Crown of Conan; 2005, Del Rey.
  10. ^ Patrice Louinet. Hyborian Genesis: Part 1, page 436, "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian"; 2003, Del Rey.
  11. ^ Katz, Ephraim (2006). Film Encyclopedia. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060742143. 
  12. ^ Collis, Clark. "Empire Essay: The Terminator". Empire magazine. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  13. ^ Brian Linder (October 8, 2003). "Goodbye Hollywood, Hello Sacramento". IGN Entertainment, Inc.. Retrieved March 7, 2010. 
  14. ^ Michael Fleming (June 27, 2007). "'Barbarian's' at the gate for New Line". Variety. Reed Elsevier Inc.. Retrieved March 9, 2010. 
  15. ^ Michael Fleming (August 12, 2007). "Millennium wins rights to 'Conan'". Variety. Reed Elsevier Inc.. Retrieved March 9, 2010. 
  16. ^ Jay A. Fernandez, Borys Kit (November 8, 2008). "Brett Ratner circles 'Conan'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 9, 2010. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Ratner Says Conan Announcement Was Premature". Superhero Hype!. CraveOnline Media, LLC.. November 12, 2008. Retrieved March 9, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Marcus Nispel to Direct Conan". Superhero Hype!. CraveOnline Media, LLC.. June 11, 2009. Retrieved March 9, 2010. 
  19. ^ David McNary (January 21, 2010). "Momoa set for 'Conan'". Variety. Reed Elsevier Inc.. Retrieved March 9, 2010. 
  20. ^ Peter Sciretta (February 24, 2010). "Sean Hood Rewriting The Script". Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  21. ^ Conan: Red Nails – Official film website
  22. ^
  23. ^ Swaine, Jon (November 7, 2008). "Barack Obama: The 50 facts you might not know". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved November 11, 2008. 
  24. ^ Mail Foreign Service (April 7, 2009). "Meet Barack the Barbarian taking on scantily clad nemesis Sarah Palin in new comic superhero role". Daily Mail. Retrieved August 7, 2009. 
  25. ^ Spillius, Alex (April 7, 2009). "Barack Obama and Sarah Palin appear in comic series". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved November 26, 2009. 
  26. ^ Flood, Alison (April 8, 2009). "Obama battles Red Sarah in comic clash". The Guardian. Retrieved November 26, 2009. 
  27. ^ "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2005-08-20. 
  28. ^ Paul Herman's research on the copyright status of Robert Howard's works
  29. ^ Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States at Cornell University
  30. ^ Robert E. Howard's stories on Project Gutenberg

External links

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