Episode 12 – A Jock’s Wet Dream

2595372-savage_sword_of_conan_047_01fcTravel back, O Listener, to an age undreamed of!

Hither came Mike and Casey, swords in hand, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under sandaled feet with Greg Hatcher of Comics Should Be Good! and our friend Pól Rua of Mike and Pól Save the Universe!

That’s right. This month, the panel is talking about Robert E. Howard’s legendary fantasy anti-hero, Conan the Barbarian! From his pulp magazine beginnings in 1932 to the character’s explosion into comic books, newspaper strips, cartoons, and feature films. Conan’s impact on modern fantasy fiction — and popular culture itself — is deep and often unsung. Join us in a discussion of jocks versus nerds, power fantasies and the infectious “fuck yeah!” moment.

So heft your weeping red broadsword, and whisper a prayer to Crom, because we’re telling you of the days of high adventure!

[CORRECTION: Greg writes new pulp adventures for Airship 27. My apologies.]

Music: 
The Battle of the Mounds from Conan the Barbarian” by Basil Poledouris

12 thoughts on “Episode 12 – A Jock’s Wet Dream

  1. Speaking of corrections, I mixed up Dave Campiti with Dave CAMPBELL. Mr. Campbell is the blogger from Dave’s Long Box– David Campiti is a comics creator. Brain fart. My apologies to both Daves.

    Also , the Howard small-press hardcovers from the 1970s I mentioned were from Donald M. Grant, not Viking.

    …but apart from that I think it’s all accurate, he added defensively.

  2. K, I must agree the movies are a low point, even though the Arnie movie was my first introduction to Conan. It was also a point of connection with my dad, and a small rebellious win as a child when I got to stay up late to watch it with my dad on TV. As bad as it was, I will still watch it because it has so many emotional connections for me. It possibly is the reason I love those so-bad-they’re-good sword and sorcery movies of the 80s.

    • I actually have tremendous affection for THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, which is kind of a hot mess of a Howard pastiche. You literally can see the bits Albert Pyun and company lifted bag and baggage from the Conan stories, but then massively screwed up (my favorite being where Talon is crucified, much as Conan was in “A Witch Shall Be Born,” only to rip his hands free and then engage in THREE different climactic battles with his twenty-pound three-bladed sword, all with gaping holes in both hands that have somehow miraculously healed over by the end of the last fight with Cromwell.) Nevertheless it captures the spirit of Conan more than the actual Conan movies ever did.

      Likewise I rather like KULL with Kevin Sorbo– it’s nothing at all to do with Kull but looks more like a half-baked adaptation of THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON. Which I gather it actually started as. L. Sprague DeCamp consulted on it, which is why details like “by Valka” and “By this axe I rule!” made it in there, but again, it’s much more of a King Conan pastiche than an actual Kull movie. Sorbo is horribly miscast and basically plays it as Hercules redux, but it’s still a good time.

  3. I have a lot of affection for the 1982 “Conan the Barbarian” movie, myself. I love it as Arnie-driven sword and sorcery schlockiness. And James Earl Jones is legitimately awesome as Thulsa Doom. It’s a high point for the “shirtless muscled badass” genre of 1980s fantasy movies…

    …but it’s terrible as an adaptation of the source material and the character.

    I probably wouldn’t think of it as fondly as I do if I had been familiar with Conan before seeing it.

    I think that People of the Black Circle would make a great movie, if they adapted it. But I really think the character would work best with a format like BBC’s Sherlock. Three or four movie-length episodes a season, with a mix of adaptations of Howard stories and original stories by people who get the character. I’d love to see Jason Mamoa back in the role, too.

    But I share Greg’s appraisal of the likelihood of this happening. If they did it, and did it well, I’m confident that it would be a hit.

  4. I remember reading a Conan comic in a comic store one time that, for the life of me, I can’t track down. As I recall, which after googling seems to have been incorrect, it had ‘Hyperborean’ in the title and the plot that impressed me dealt with mythical hyperboreans that Conan journeyed. They were not extinct as Conan thought, but were a race of gray giants that had mastered magic in all of its forms and were functionally bored immortals; Conan is enslaved to amuse them in the arena, but they regularly succumb to ennui and walk off of a cliff to commit suicide, taking all of their slaves with them. Needless to say that Conan escapes, but does anyone know where this comic is collected and who the publisher is?

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  6. Finally found the time to listen to your show today – great job, everybody! This may be my favorite yet.
    First, I wanted to thank Mike so much for giving a shout-out to Roy Thomas. I agree that his role in the re-popularization of Conan in the 1970s cannot be emphasized enough. Personally, I often wonder if – as good as Howard’s original stories are – we would have had the entire Conan phenomenon/industry we do today if it had not been for Thomas pushing for Marvel to get the comics license, and then working so hard on writing/editing both the color and b&w comic series for all those years.
    Second, on the subject of the movies, I agree that the two from the early ’80s are complete disappointments (and in the second one, Grace Jones basically outdid Arnie – SHE should have been the main character). I haven’t seen the most recent one, so I can’t comment, but as I understand it, it suffered from some of the same problems. I think what should be done, as noted above here in the comments (and I think the topic came up in the last year or two in Greg’s column at CSBG), is to simply adapt any one of Howard’s original stories. And any of the comics from the ’70s (especially from Savage Sword) can serve as storyboards.

    Also, I just have to say I loved the observation that the West Wing is total power fantasy/wish fulfillment for libs and progressives – I always thought that whenever I watched the show.

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