Conan the Adventurer (TV series)

Conan the Adventurer (TV series)
Conan: The Adventurer
Conan: The Adventurer opening titles from first season
Conan: The Adventurer title screen, featuring (left to right, back to front) the characters Zzeben, Conan, Karella, Bayu, and Otli
Format Action-Adventure
Sword and sorcery
Created by Max A. Keller
Robert E. Howard (characters)
Starring Ralf Möller
Danny Woodburn
Jeremy Kemp
Robert McRay
T. J. Storm
Aly Dunne
Country of origin USA
No. of episodes 22
Running time 42 min (per episode)
Production company(s) Balengica Productions
Keller Entertainment Group
Threshold Entertainment
Original channel USA Network / syndication
Original run September 22, 1997 – May 25, 1998

Conan: The Adventurer (originally broadcast as simply Conan) is a low-budget American television series produced from 1997 to 1998 and loosely based on the fantasy hero Conan the barbarian. The TV show premiered on September 22, 1997, and ran for 22 episodes. This live-action series starred Ralf Möller as Conan of Cimmeria and Danny Woodburn as his sidekick Otli. The storyline was quite different from the Conan lore created in the original Conan novels and short stories by Robert E. Howard, as well as that of the Conan later depicted in the various Conan comic book series by Marvel Comics. The TV character is based on the version in the 1980s films, but there is no continuity between the films and TV series. Unlike the animated series, which ran for 64 episodes and spanned multiple seasons, the live-action series was canceled after the first season.


Plot arc

In the series, Conan escapes from slavery and acquires a magic sword from ancient Atlantis and is informed by his god Crom that he is destined to be a king "by his own hand" (a theme borrowed from earlier renditions) when he slays the evil sorcerer Hissah Zuhl (unique to this rendition). Zuhl (played by Jeremy Kemp) has effectively enslaved Conan's homeland, Cimmeria, and (through magical arts, trickery and threats) controls many surrounding lands. Hissah Zuhl is the primary antagonist of the series, responsible for the death of Conan's parents, and recurrent as the always just barely thwarted mastermind enemy.

Overall, the series focuses on Conan's vendetta against Hissah Zuhl (who figures in almost every episode, with a sarcastic reanimated skull as a clairvoyant servant), constantly seeking to kill Conan, and Zuhl's apparently endless horde of warriors, as well as vassal wizards and princes under Zuhl's control.

Conan's troop (all of whom are entirely or effectively unique to this television show) most consistently is made up of Woodburn as the clever dwarf Otli, T. J. Storm as the animalistic capoeira warrior Bayu, and Robert McRay as the mute staff-wielder and wrestler Zzeben who communicates in sign language, but sometimes also includes others, particularly the recurring character Karella, "Queen of Thieves" played by Aly Dunne.

Contrasts and continuity with other versions of Conan

In this live-action adaptation, Conan is a kind, sympathetic and jovial person, rather than a moody loner looking out for himself, and is a contented member of a merry band of adventurers with a humanitarian quest. The tone of the series resembles its contemporaries Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The overall theme that Conan is a deeply honorable man – and is pushed to a comparative extreme.

The series further contrasts with the original stories in that it does not include the villain Thoth-Amon nor the evil god Set, and in that Hissah Zuhl is not based on Thoth-Amon but rather on the villain in the original "The Tower of the Elephant" Howard short story (the general plot basis for the first two episodes of the television series). The nature and scope of Conan's adventures are (perhaps ironically) sharply limited in the television series compared to the comics and original stories (in which Conan had many occupations all over the then-known world, and many sets of clothing), as the TV Conan has a single-minded purpose (defeating Hissah Zuhl and freeing the people enslaved by him), rarely strays far from Zuhl's territory, always wears little but a loincloth, and in virtually every episode he and his band are wandering in the wilderness until either attacked by Zuhl's minions and going to a small village afterward, or going to a small village initially, only to be set upon by Zuhl's minions.

On the spiritual level, Conan's Cimmerian deity Crom in this version is not a remote, unseen god as in previous storylines, but an accessible deity who at times provides Conan direct divine assistance, and Conan is outright devout in his worship of Crom (while in previous incarnations, Conan has little faith in gods, and believes that Crom simply observes as men struggle).

Minor points of continuity between the original stories and the television series occur, especially placenames, such as Cimmeria, Conan's birthplace, and Shadizar, "the City of Wickedness" (however, most other placenames, and almost all character names, were simply invented for the TV show). The Serpent Men of Thoth-Amon in the original stories appear, but later, as minor, one-off enemies, and as servants of Hissah Zuhl, in the episode "The Taming". The quasi-Howardian Red Sonja character has a prominent but one-time role in an eponymous episode.

In appearance and style, the TV show Conan is most like that of the films, including brown (rather than black) hair, a Germanic accent, costuming and a sword nearly identical to the filmic versions, signature sword moves from the films, jewelry in the form of an eight-spoked wheel, and other cues from the Schwarzenegger portrayal of the character, as well as an opening credits logo based on that of the films.

Another point of partial continuity with the comics is Conan's frequent spoken comment that he does not like magic; this was often expressed aloud in the comics but was usually unspoken in the Howard books.

The she-bandit character Karella is based on the "Queen of Pirates" Bêlit of the original Conan stories, and the thief Valeria of the Conan films, herself based largely on both Bêlit and the Red Sonja character of the Conan comics (yet further based on another Howard character, Red Sonya, unconnected to the original Conan stories). The show's Karella and Red Sonja characters are sufficiently different to avoid viewer confusion or boredom, as the brigand nature of Karella (inherited from the Bêlit character) is juxtaposed with the TV Sonja's duty as a holy warrior for a sect known as the Truth Keepers, and Karella like Bêlit is a brunette while Red Sonja is (obviously) a redhead. Karella also appears in several of Robert Jordan's Conan Chronicles, nicknamed "The Red Hawk".

As with Subotai and The Wizard in the 1982 film, the other characters in the series are basically whole-cloth inventions for the production at hand and bear little resemblance to characters from early Conan media. Otli the dwarf in particular is entirely out-of-character for Conan as a companion (though is refreshingly the provider of comic relief at the expense of other characters, especially)

As in all previous variants of the Conan franchise, beautiful women – as strong, Amazon-like warrior women in impractically skimpy outfits, damsels in distress, or scheming femmes fatales figure in the plot in every episode.

Points of moral and ethical message similarity between this depiction of Conan and his fictive world and the other depictions (as well as many other works of fantastical fiction and mythology in the West) include consistent themes of the value of human freedom, the importance of honor and loyalty, justice through victory, the use of (righteous, not wanton) violence as a means to justice and freedom, the value of friendship and trust, the idea that bad things come to those who dabble in evil, and the possibility of redemption for past wrongs for which reparations are made.

Episode list

Year Episode Title Aired
1997 1. "The Heart of the Elephant" September 22, 1997[clarification needed]
1997 2. "The Heart of the Elephant" (Part 2) September 22, 1997
1997 3. "Lair of the Beastmen" October 6, 1997
1997 4. "The Siege of Ahl Sohn-Bar" October 13, 1997
1997 5. "A Friend in Need" October 20, 1997
1997 6. "The Ruby Fruit Forest" October 27, 1997
1997 7. "The Three Virgins" November 7, 1997
1997 8. "Ransom" November 14, 1997
1997 9. "The Curse of Afka" November 21, 1997
1997 10. "Impostor" November 28, 1997
1997 11. "Amazon Woman" December 7, 1997
1997 12. "Homecoming" January 25, 1998
1997 13. "The Taming" February 1, 1998
1998 14. "Red Sonja" February 8, 1998
1998 15. "Shadows of Death" February 15, 1998
1998 16. "The Child" February 22, 1998
1998 17. "The Crystal Arrow" March 1, 1998
1998 18. "The Labyrinth" April 26, 1998
1998 19. "The Cavern" May 3, 1998
1998 20. "Antidote" May 10, 1998
1998 21. "Lethal Wizards" May 17, 1998
1998 22. "Heir Apparent" May 24, 1998


The live-action series was mixed to poorly received by the fans of Robert E. Howard novels and the two feature films. the series was criticized for its poor quality, the bad acting, cheap action choreography, confusing story and trying to cash-in on the success of the movies rather than following the novels by Robert E. Howard, some calling it more or less "a low-budget Hercules & Xena".

DVD release

On September 21, 2004, Image Entertainment released Conan the Adventurer: Complete series on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.[1] As of November 2010 it is available for instant viewing on Netflix.

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


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External links

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