July 31, 2015
July 25, 2015
|Back of the box.|
Sunbow Productions, Jetlag Productions, Graz Entertainment (season 1), Créativité et Développement, AB Productions (season 2)
Michael Beattie – Needle
Scott McNeil – Zula, Greywolf, Misha, Wrath-Amon, Ram-Amon, Yang Doo, Erik the Flame-Lord
Janyse Jaud – Jezmine
Kathleen Barr – Sasha, Mesmira
Garry Chalk – Snagg, Gora, Conan’s father, Torrinon
Alec Willows – Falkenar
Doug Parker – Dregs, Skulkur, Windfang, Kari Dragon, Zogar Sag, Jhebbal-Sag (corrupted)
Richard Newman – Set, Conan’s grandfather, Dong Hee, Jhebbal-Sag
After a trip to the Rio Grande in 1932, Robert E. Howard fully conceived of his latest character: Conan the Barbarian. Upon his return, he rewrote his rejected story “By This Axe I Rule!” and replaced the star character, Kull, with Conan to call it “The Phoenix on the Sword”, as well as wrote an original story called “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter.” He submitted both to Weird Tales magazine, and after some editing “The Phoenix on the Sword” appeared in the December 1932 issue.
|The first appearance of Conan.|
Series editor Farnsworth Wright had Howard write a personal essay detailing the world of Conan for his own personal use and future reference. Conan is a Cimmerian, a tribe descended from the ancient Atlanteans based on the Celts or Gaels. He was born the son of a blacksmith and became an adept fighter by the age of 15. Living in the fictional Hyborian Age (which was the title of Howard’s essay), Conan began wandering the lands and spent time as a thief, outlaw, mercenary and pirate until he eventually sized his own kingdom in his later years. While often depicted as an incredibly strong, muscular man, Conan has intelligence to back up his skill making him an excellent commander as well as a skilled warrior. Originally, Conan was depicted as having a keen sense of humor, although in future adaptations of Howard’s work that was largely downplayed or removed.
|The beginning of Marvel's 30-year relationship with Conan.|
Howard published 17 out of 21 completed stories, with numerous others left in unfinished fragments before his suicide in 1936. Since then, other writers have taken up the Cimmerian’s adventures in pulp and book form. In 1952, Conan made the leap to comics in the Mexican anthology series Cuentos de Abuelito from #8 through #61, featuring adaptations of Howard stories as well as original works (and Conan as a blonde, rather than a brunette as Howard intended). In 1970, Marvel Comics acquired the license to the character and consistently published him in various titles, primarily written by Roy Thomas, and crossed over with their other characters until 2000. Some of the comics were also adapted into daily newspaper comic strips.
In 1982, Conan made the transition to film with Conan the Barbarian. Directed by John Millus and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film featured Conan escaping enslavement by Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and seeking revenge against him for the death of his family and people. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a box office success and led to the 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer. Directed by Richard Fleischer, the film had a less positive reception than the first but was still a box office success. A third film, Conan the Conqueror, was planned, but with Schwarzenegger committed to Predator and unwilling to negotiate a new contract with producer Dino De Laurentis, the film fell into development hell. In a bit of history repeating itself, the script was repurposed for Howard’s other character Kull in 1997’s Kull the Conqueror starring Kevin Sorbo.
|Conan and his horse, Thunder.|
In 1992, Conan entered the world of animation in an American-French-Canadian adaptation. Developed by Christy Marx, who also served as sole story editor, the series focused on the discovery of star metal made from meteors that fell from the sky. Conan’s father (Garry Chalk) would forge the metal into tools and weapons that would never dull, break or rust; including a sword for Conan (Michael Donavan) that he placed in a sealed crypt for Conan to claim when he was strong enough to open it. The evil wizard Wrath-Amon (Scott McNeil) learned about the metal and laid siege to Conan’s village to get it, turning his parents into stone. Conan began a quest across Hybornia to find a cure for his family’s condition and prevent Wrath-Amon from building pyramids needed to unleash his Serpent-god Set (Richard Newman) upon the world.
|Snagg, Zula, Conan, Jezmine and Greywolf.|
Conan was joined on his quest by several allies; Thunder, Conan’s willful and loyal horse with star metal horseshoes who often tossed Conan from his back rather than enter a city; Needle (Michael Beattie), a phoenix who resided on his shield, spoke in the third person, and was often required to disguise himself as a parrot (which he resented); Zula (McNeil), Prince of the Wasai who wielded star metal bolas that the later reforged into a more useful boomerang; Jezmine (Janyse Jaud), a circus performer and thief who wielded star metal throwing stars and had strong feelings for Conan; Greywolf (McNeil), a wizard from Xanthus whose staff was eventually given the star metal Claw of Heaven topper that increased his power; Snagg (Chalk), a Viking-like barbarian with a sense of humor who wields a star metal axe and grapnel and is often at odds with Conan because of their opposing cultures; and Falkenar (Alec Willows), champion of the kingdom of Kusan armed with a star metal whip who is able to fly using the Mantle of Wind. Sometimes joining them were Greywolf’s older brother and sister Sasha (Kathleen Barr) and Misha (McNeil), who had become transformed into wolves by Mesmira (Barr).
|The demon Set.|
The primary villains of the series were the Snake Cult that worshipped Set. The Snake Cult was comprised of Serpent-Men who could take the shape of ordinary humans, hiding amongst the populace. Only unprotected exposure to star metal could reveal their true identities or cause them to be banished to an alternate dimensional limbo known as the Abyss (a way of sanitizing enemies being killed for the benefit of the cartoon-viewing audience). Wrath-Amon was the leader of the Cult. Originally a gila monster transformed into a man-like creature, Wrath-Amon overthrew his master, Ram-Amon (also McNeil), to become the high priest of the Cult. His Black Ring protected him from the more harmful effects of star metal.
Serving Wrath-Amon was his assistant, Dregs (Doug Parker), a sneaky Naga who was essentially Needle’s opposite and nemesis; Skulkur (also Parker), an undead warrior empowered by the Black Ring that could animate skeletons to fight for him; Windfang (Parker again), an enslaved four-armed winged dragon man that could breathe fire and sought his freedom from Wrath-Amon; Mesmira, the evil queen of Stygia and a powerful sorceress; and Gora (Chalk), Zula’s cousin, a Prince of Wasai and a sorcerer who worked as a spy for Wrath-Amon and sought to eliminate Zula in order to inherit his throne. Yang Doo (McNeil) was an exiled warlord who frequently joined Windfang on his own independent schemes.
|Ready for sacrifice?|
Produced by Jetlag Productions and Sunbow Entertainment, Conan the Adventurer premiered in syndication on September 12, 1992. Although it was criticized for the taming of the Conan character and the world in which he lived, the series proved popular with fans of the character and general audiences. It was also highly praised for staying close to Howard’s original material. The series ran for two seasons, written by Marx, Buzz Dixon, Roy Thomas, Carla Conway, Roger Slifer, Lloyd Goldfine, Katherine Lawrence, Larry DiTillio, Bridget McKenna, Doug Booth, Jean Chalopin, George Bloom, Richard Mueller, Marv Wolfman and Richard Merwin. The first season ran on Saturday mornings produced by Graz Entertainment, while the second season ran daily and was produced by AB Productions and Créativité et Développement. Animation Korea Movie (AKOM) Productions handled the animation duties throughout. The series’ music was composed by Chase/Rucker Productions.
In 1992, Hasbro produced a line of action figures based on the series. Included was Conan in four different outfits, Greywolf, Skulkur, Wrath-Amon, Zula, Thunder and a horse for Wrath-Amon. Each figure came with a pull-cord battle action. In the United Kingdom, Maximum Entertainment released several episodes in 2004 and the complete first season in 2008 on DVD. Maximum also released episodes as part of a three pack in Action Man/RoboCop/Conan the Adventurer. Force Entertainment released the complete series in Australia in 16 single-disc volumes of four episodes per disc. From 2011 to 2012, Shout! Factory released the complete first season followed by second season across two volumes.
|Taki, Miyagi and Daniel.|
|The shrine in sinister hands.|
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.
July 20, 2015
July 18, 2015
In 1900, the George M. Hill Company published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, with illustrations by W.W. Denslow, which inspired by Baum’s desire to capture the wonder of the stories of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen without all the horror. Publisher George Hill didn’t have much faith in the book and had given a skeptical prediction of selling around 250,000 copies. He only agreed to publish it after Fred R. Hamlin, manager of the Chicago Grand Opera House, agreed to turn the book into a musical stage play for publicity. The book ended up becoming a phenomenon, selling out of every printing. And the musical, which opened in 1902, did just as well.
|The cover to the first edition of the book.|
The book was about young Kansas girl named Dorothy Gale who is swept away with her dog Toto to the magical Land of Oz by a cyclone. Her house landed on and killed the evil Wicked Witch of the East, freeing the Munchkin people from her rule. The Good Witch of the North gave Dorothy the Wicked Witch’s Silver Shoes and sent her to the Emerald City so that the powerful Wizard of Oz could send her home. Along the way on the Yellow Brick Road, she met, befriended and was joined on her journey by the Scarecrow, who wants a brain, Tin Woodman, who wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, who wants courage. The Wizard agreed to give them what they wanted in exchange for freeing the Winkies from the rule of the Wicked Witch of the West. After doing so, they learn the Wizard was actually an ordinary man from Nebraska who was stranded in Oz when his hot air balloon was blown off course. The Wizard grants their wishes, but Dorothy ended up stranded once more and enlisted the aid of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South who revealed the Silver Shoes had the power to send Dorothy home. So, Dorothy returned home, the Woodman became king of the Winkies, the Lion king of a forest he rescued from a giant spider, and Scarecrow ruler of the Emerald City.
|The final Thompson book.|
Baum had never planned beyond the first book. By popular demand, he ended up writing 13 sequels to the story; almost annually until his death in 1919. Ruth Plumly Thompson was named Baum’s successor by the publisher and she wrote 21 more sequels that were released every Christmas until 1939 before she left and others came in. As the books remained popular, they were translated into many other forms of media from radio plays to films, both live and animated. The most famous adaptation of Baum’s work came with 1939’s The Wizard of Oz by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
The musical film was directed by Victor Fleming with music written by Yip Harburg and composed by Harold Arlen. It starred Judy Garland as Dorothy, Billie Burke as Glinda, Ray Bolger as Scarecrow, Jack Haley as Tin Man, Bert Lahr as the Lion, Frank Morgan as the Wizard, and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West. While the most faithful adaptation at that point, the film strayed from the original book by combining, condensing or omitting several elements. Glinda’s character was merged with the Good Witch of the North and the Queen of the Field Mice. Many of Dorothy’s side adventures were eliminated, with the focus placed on her meeting her friends and journeying to the Emerald City. The Wicked Witch’s role was enlarged to become a looming threat whereas she only appeared in one chapter of the book. Dorothy’s Silver Shoes were changed to Ruby Slippers in order to take full advantage of the Technicolor process used during all the Oz scenes of the film (the Kansas scenes were shot in a sepia tone, later made pure black and white). Dorothy herself was also older than the book depicted.
|1949 re-release poster.|
The film, while critically acclaimed, was actually a financial loss for MGM in relation to its budget until its re-release in 1949, where it made an additional $1.5 million. It went on to become one of the first movies MGM/CBS Home Video released on VHS and Betamax in 1980, as well as the basis for several other Oz adaptations. One of those, to commemorate the film’s 50th anniversary, was an animated series adapted by Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser and produced by DiC Entertainment and Turner Entertainment.
|Scarecrow, Lion, Dorothy, Toto and Tin Man.|
The series depicted Dorothy (Liz Georges) and Toto (Frank Welker) returning to Oz by using the Ruby Slippers that appeared on her doorstep. They were sent by Glinda (B.J. Ward) to recruit Dorothy in helping Oz rid itself of the Wicked Witch of the West (Tress MacNeille), who was revived by the evil winged monkeys. The Wizard (Alan Oppenheimer) was trapped on his balloon that was constantly blown around by a magical wind. Reunited with the Scarecrow (David Lodge), Tin Man (Hal Rayle) and the Lion (Charlie Adler), Dorothy and her friends set out to find a way to free Oz from the Wicked Witch once and for all and rescue the Wizard.
|Hyena captures the friends.|
The Wizard of Oz debuted on September 8, 1990 on ABC and ran for a single season before it was cancelled. The introduction depicted the backstory on Dorothy’s return to Oz and was produced in the same way as the movie; with the Kansas scenes in black and white except for the Ruby Slippers. The series was adapted by Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser and written by Pat Allee, Gordon Bressack, Bob Carrau, Jules Dennis, Ben Hurst, Lisa Maliani, Michael Maroney, Michael Maurer, Richard Merwin, Doug Molitor, Michael O’Mahony, Laurie Sutton, Chris Weber and Karen Willson, with Molitor serving as story editor. Animation was handled by Pacific Rim Productions, Inc.
|Dorothy and Glinda.|
Despite the visual similarities to the 1939 film and the use of several of its songs (with additional music by Tom Worral), a few things were changed for the show. For starters, the entire premise was closer to the books in that Oz was a real and vast place and not the trauma-induced delusion it was suggested as being at the end of the film. In order to keep the Ruby Slippers from being the dues ex machina of every story, their magic was shown to be unreliable because Dorothy didn’t know how to use them properly. The Slippers shouldn’t have been able to be removed from Dorothy’s feet until her death, even though they were several times. The Witch’s crystal ball was also limited, only able to work once a day due to its creator sabotaging it when she first stole it. The Witch’s demise was changed to her becoming a statue, rather than having been melted when Dorothy doused her with water; which was how her monkey minions managed to revive her.
|DVD cover art.|
Shortly after its conclusion, Turner Home Entertainment released 11 episodes on VHS between 1991 and 1995. Lions Gate/Trimark Home Entertainment brought three episodes to DVD as The Rescue of the Emerald City in 2002. In 2003, United American Video released The Continuing Story as part of the “Animation Station” line. Although it had the same cover art as the previous volume, it featured four different episodes. They next released four more episodes on We’re Off to Save the Wizard in 2005 under their new name of Sterling Entertainment Group. The only episode not released on DVD was “The Marvelous Milkmaid of Mechanica,” which did see release on VHS.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2019.
|RoboCop doing his trademarked gun spin.|
|Lewis and RoboCop.|
|Boddicker, alive and well.|
|Drs. Taylor and Roosevelt giving Murphy a check-up.|