While there’s a far greater likelihood that I’ll assume a Jabba-like stature before I’ll ever assume that of a mighty Klingon or a barbarian, I can still live vicariously through the fictional warriors of old. Yes, I’ve watched Hercules and Xena : Warrior Princess, and sometimes, I even stopped looking at the pretty girls and listened to some of the story. I’ve read the books of Gor, and I’ve played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I’m all about the thickly-built warriors, in the most heterosexual way possible.
Which is why I love Robert E. Howard’s Conan. He’s a barbarian, he’s a Cimmerian, he’s a conqueror and a king and an avenger and a… freebooter? Seriously? That sounds more like a jaunty endzone dance than anything a warrior would sensibly do, but whatever Conan does, I’m sure he totally owns it. To the max. And he’s also killing dragons and making out with chicks at the same time.
Conan has been around since the early 1930s, during the revolutionary days of Weird Tales and the emergence of the Lovecraftian and Cthulhu Mythos – a very strange a beautiful time in the evolution of fiction. In fact, the correspondence between Lovecraft and Howard actually precipitated into the intermingling of the Cthulhu mythos and Howard’s world of Cimmeria – essentially making Conan a tangential part of the Lovecraft story cycle, which thrills me to no end. Howard’s character is widely recognized as being ‘the most popular fictional barbarian‘, and he’s also spawned a large number of collectibles over the years, outside of the original series of books written about him and Weird Tales magazine – which are collectible themselves in their earlier editions, and fetch hundreds upon hundreds of dollars.
In 1975 (and again in 1979), the Mego company released their action figure version of Conan – the earliest articulated figural depiction of Conan, who would not appear again in a superhero-based line of toys until 2007′s Legendary Comic Book Heroes from Marvel Toys. That’s not to say that there weren’t a lot of Conan toys in the interim, but they existed in lines by themselves, including Hasbro’s 1992 efforts, and 2 whole lines of stunning Conan mini-statues released by McFarlane Toys in 2004 and 2005. McFarlane’s line was the very first collection to feature the all-important warrior princesses, monsters, and slave girls that made the Conan series so darned alluring. Dark Horse also released a small Conan statue to coincide with 2007′s Conan video game release, for XBox and PS3.
This Conan video game was the sixth video game to bear the mythos and name of Conan, being preceded by a handful of PC games, and two notoriously awful, but marginally rare, NES games. The popularity of Conan was only aided by the two movies of the same name, starring Arnold Schwartzenegger, both of which were wildly divergent from the original Robert E. Howard tales. A third Conan movie, unrelated to the previous two, is currently being developed, and follows the original storyline more accurately. Sure. the whole Conan franchise also lost a little bit of depth and credibility with the introduction of the questionable Mr. Schwartzenegger to the fray, but the legitimacy of the franchise is being slowly reclaimed.
Conan was also an award-winning Marvel Comics character for a while, beginning in 1970 and illustrated by the legendary Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema. The Conan series, as well as its eight spin-off comics, spawned over 600 issues to read and collect. In 2003, Dark Horse comics took over the character, and has been faithfully publishing (and re-publishing) Conan’s continuing comic book tales.
Add busts, high-end statues and trading cards to the array of available Conan items, and you have yourself a generous smattering of bare-chested, heaving paraphernalia. Let’s see Danielle Steel generate THAT.