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.