Monday, May 3, 2021

The Conan Paradox


Hello fantasy and science fiction lovers! Today is a dive into the subject of Conan the Barbarian, by Robert E. Howard. I add the author's name because Conan has been the subject of many comics and other fantasy novels where others have written him, along with films and television. Many wonderful writers have written some Conan novels. I must emphasize this is about the true Robert E. Howard stories. I love the original Conan tales writtten by Robert E. Howard. Nothing against those other writers. It is simply because Robert E. Howard was the best. His sword and sandals hero is better in thos estories than how he has been portrayed in films and television. 

Don't get me wrong. I would LOVE to see some decent adaptations of Howard's Conan in a televised setting. Film is problematic because it always cheats with "revenge fantasy" theme which is so tiresome and was never part of the Conan world which Howard created. Conan's parents were never killed when he was a boy. He was never a slave (though a temporary prisoner of battle at times). This weakened the Arnold Conan film and even Jason Momoa's Conan (I prefer Jason. Go ahead and hate me.) Do not get me starte doin the old television series. It is not good.

The truth is, I prefer most of my science fiction and fantasy in a series/television where you can dive into characterization, storytelling, enrich the world. This is why The Witcher and  The Mandalorian are fantastic. Most science fiction and fantasy on film is framed with tight desperation, The must fight end of world monster/demon, save a princess, or stop someone from blowing up galaxy. It is fast paced and urgent. This format works in things like The Terminator. The original film is still a favorite. It has it place. But Conan deserves better. Robert E. Howard deserves better. These are stories which create a new world. Not a fast ninety minute blood fest. 

The original Conan tales, which begin with a fifteen year old Conan escaping from a prisoner of war camp, and builds to his fifties where he has become a king, are too wondrous not to bring to screen. With the streaming options now, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, for example, they could create fabulous adventures that show the true warrior Conan was. Not the depressed blood-soaked dour fighter seeking revenge. I still remember a scene in one of the stories where Conan visits his parents, who were getting older, and after a time he left to return to his advenurous life because he got bored. This warrior faced down gods, kings, and demons. He traveled the world. He could learn languages easily and was clever in war and battles. This is the warrior I want to see. I recently heard rumors Conan has been picked up for a series. Part of me is glad...part of me is sad because I fear I will be dissapointed. 

Bring me the  true Conan Howard wrote in the 1930s. Not another Arnold clone. Please note I do not hate Arnold. He was just never Conan to me.  Conan was strong yes, but even Frazetta tlaked about how his image of Conan (which graced many a paperback cover) were more of a symbolic metaphor, not how the character really would have looked.

Okay, I have had my rant. Stay well and feisty. Read some Conan the Barbarian! The real stuff-not just the comics. 

Verna McKinnon