Nerd School: What is Best in Life? A Conan Primer!

by Joe on August 18, 2011

Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!

…cue the rumble of Basil Poledouris’ epic 1982 soundtrack and you have one of the greatest literary heroes of the 20th century. However, aside from the classic 1982 movie starring Ah-nold, most people don’t know much about your friendly neighborhood barbarian. So as his new movie debuts this Friday, let me Nerd School you in Conan: The BarbarianConan did not start off on the silver screen, in fact he was created way back in 1932 by Robert E. Howard.

not pictured: Tommy Gun and Al Capone

You see in the 1930’s people were craving cheap adventure stories often known as “pulps”. Howard had a little success with a character called Kull of Atlantis (who we better know as Kevin Sorbo). But Carter needed a new Character, and he created Kull’s distant ancestor Conan.

Conan is described as having “blue eyes” and a black “square-cut mane”. The way he is drawn in the comics probably best fits his description. He is the typical Barbarian as we have collectively imagined them over the years. Though he is sometimes shown with a loincloth, it’s important to remember the word Barbarian comes from the Roman word meaning “Those who wear pants”.

Bah! Conan needs no pants!

Conan is also a follower of the God: Crom! Which he says often and with Gusto.

Carter actually only wrote 21 full Conan stories before he killed himself in 1936. However before he died Carter left a huge world for authors to play in ever since.

What is that world? Why it’s Hyboria!


Hyboria is actually our world, but thousands of years in the past/ You see Carter never knew about PLate Techtonics, and this is how he saw the world with the ocean level down much furthur.

Conan comes from his native land of Cimmeria, but his stories have taken him across all of Hyboria eventually having him take the crown of Aquilonia.

Probably the most important aspect to the Conan back story is that the harcater has been picked up by multiple authors and as such has become a rich fantasy world were we can all play.

Though there have been close to 100 Conan books published, probably the best known adaptation of Conan is Dino De Laurentiis’ 1982 masterpiece “Conan: The Barabarian”  which gave us one of cinema’s greatest lines:

However the 1982 movie really had little to do with Carter’s original. Conan’s parents weren’t killed in the original stories and  James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom was originally a Kull villain. Oliver Stone, who wrote the screenplay can’t be blamed, as he was probably doing a lot of blow at the time (true fact)

Fun Fact: Dino originally wanted to give the movie a pop soundtrack, like:

The success of “Conan the Barbarian” gave way to “Conan the Destroyer”. All I have to say is that it is rated PG and has Grace Jones in it.

What the Fuck was wrong with you 80's America? This was sexy? Why was she in a View to Kill? Goddamn it!!!

There was a third Conan Movie planned in 1987, but De Laurentiis and Ah-nold’s movie contract was fulfilled when Ah-nold played the as close to Conan character as they could legally allow in “Red Sonja”.

Crom, This is Bad!!!

Red Sonja takes place in the same time period as Conan “The Hybornian Age”, but Red Sonja never appeared in any of Carter’s original works, she was a by product of what I think is the best adaptation of Conan:

Yes, one of Obama’s favorite comics, and  running continuously sine 1970 Conan the Barbarian the comic (from here on just called Conan the comic) is one of the best

not that one!!!

adaptations of the Barbarian out there. Going from Marvel to Dark Horse in 2003, both companies have adapted the stories of Carter into mind bendingly good reads. What is even better is that most of the Marvel issues are available in Trade paper back format. The Dark Horse books orginially started out as retreads on the original stories with updated art, but have morphed into a cool universe in it’s own right.

One thing that I would be remiss to answer is the 1992 cartoon: Conan the Adventurer. Though it had little to do with the actual Conan, it had a kick ass theme song.

To quote the top comment on YouTube: “This is what He-Man would be like if he were heterosexual.”

BTW : speaking of He-Man, there was a rumor that He-Man was originally a toy line for Conan the Barbarian until Mattel saw all the violence and Boobs. Wikipedia does a damn fine job sorting the rumor out.

So that brings us to 2011’s Conan the Barbarian. Will it be any good? Well it does have Khal Drogo playing Conan fighting the bad guy from Avatar. However it is being directed by the guy who did Pathfinder.



I for one have high hopes, as I love the Conan series. However I hope we don’t have another Kull the Conquerer.

Conan the Barbarian comes out tomorrow August 19th

Read Joe’s other articles: GOT COK: Casting Roundup, Trek in your Queue 1 and 2, Game of Thrones Primer II,  Obama Trek Mutant Fatigue Sci-Fi A-Team Star Trek: A Different Generation, An Alternate History of the Doctor, Inn at the Crossroads interview, A Love Letter to Natalie Portman, Failed Star Trek Spinoffs, Thor Primer, Doctor Who Season 6 primer, A Game of Thrones Primer, More

Check Out Joe’s weekly reviews:

Game of Thrones S1E1, S1E2, S1E3, S1E4,S1E5, S1E6, S1E7, S1E8, S1E9, S1E10

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick November 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Ahhh – but remember, Kull was supposed to be the 3rd Conan…


Joe November 26, 2012 at 9:37 am

remember? I actively try to forget!


billy April 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Who is “Carter”?


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