Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Robert E Howard did not live long enough to get much pleasure out of Conan the Barbarian, whom he created in 1932 for Weird Tales, and about whom he completed 16 stories and one novel before his suicide in 1936. It was not until Gnome Press began to publish the Conan tales in book form – beginning with Conan the Conqueror (1935-1936 WT as "The Hour of the Dragon"; rev 1950; rev [following magazine text] vt The Hour of the Dragon 1977) – that he became a central Underlier figure for the sword-bearing, brawling, upwardly mobile barbarian Hero of Heroic Fantasy.

Sequels by Other Hands came from (in rough chronological order) L Sprague de Camp, Bjorn Nyberg, Lin Carter, Karl Edward Wagner, Poul Anderson, Andrew J Offutt, Robert Jordan, John Maddox Roberts, Steve Perry (1947-    ), Roland Green and Leonard Carpenter. Sequences using Conan as underlier include the Thongor books by Lin Carter, the Brak books by John Jakes and the Kyrik books by Gardner F Fox. [JC]

Further reading: The Conan Reader (coll 1968) by L Sprague de Camp, plus The Conan Swordbook (anth 1969) and The Conan Grimoire (anth 1972), both ed de Camp and George H Scithers, all 3 rev and updated as The Blade of Conan (anth 1979) and The Spell of Conan (anth 1980) ed de Camp alone.


Conan first appeared in comic-book form in Conan the Barbarian (1970-current), elegantly drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith and scripted by Marvel Comics's premiere writer, Roy Thomas; new tales and Robert E Howard adaptations were interspersed. During the period in which he worked on Conan (1970-1973), Windsor-Smith's art developed a sophistication and narrative skill which has rarely been surpassed (reaching a very special peak in Conan #24 "The Song of Red Sonja" 1973), and Thomas's writing gave the stories tremendous energy, although it was sometimes so enthusiastic that readers could be uncertain whether Conan's adversaries were in less danger from his Sword than from being talked to death. Windsor-Smith was replaced by John Buscema (1927-2002) and Ernie Chua (real name Ernie Chan; 1940-2012), and in their hands Conan became a more conventional Marvel Hero.

The continued popularity of the character has led to the publication of other long-running comic books, including the b/w title Savage Sword of Conan (1974-current), which has featured artwork by many leading artists in the field and some impressive full-colour covers; the standard has remained high through more than 200 issues. Among other series featuring Conan are King Conan (1980-1989; later vt Conan the King), Conan the Destroyer (1985) and The Conan Saga (1987-current). There have been two (reportedly dire) animated tv series based on the character: Conan the Adventurer (1992) and Conan and the Young Warriors (1995). [RT]

see also: Conan Movies.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.