Growing up, if you had mentioned the named “Conan” to me, images of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bad haircut, glistening in an 80’s styled movie would have popped into my mind. Unfortunately that campy impression warded me off of the Robert E. Howard’s for many years. It wasn’t until a few years ago, in my pursuit of fantasy literature, did I discover the classic Sword and Sorcery hero.
The original stories of Conan have been collected into various volumes, all very easy to obtain. They even inspired many comic books series, some of the more recent featuring stunning artwork.
Although these tales revolve around a seemingly one-dimensional brutish, character, Howard’s work showcases a searing depth. It is dark and disturbing. I truly got the sense that he was tapping into some malevolent force as he created the villains against which Conan was pitted. Ancient, prime-evil creatures, with little motivation save to instill pure terror into their victims. Proud, indomitable demi-gods whose desires were nothing short of conquering entire nations. Such were the fiends Conan fought. Yet his feral-like strength and irrepressible tenacity always won out.
The stories of Conan are modern day mythos, striking cords with Odysseus, Heracles, and Thor. Howard’s vivid worlds and blunt, unwavering prose painted a brilliant picture in my mind. The fact that his stories are frequently retold through the comic arts today proves mine wasn’t the only mind impressed.