The Newcomer's Guide will also be less confrontational than the New Manifesto for a very specific reason: covering all bases. Some people will be convinced to reassert their beliefs through reevaluation in the face of righteous indignation, while others will simply write off the New Manifesto as the rantings of a sensitive fanboy. Therefore, I think it important to have two approaches. I don't disagree with Mark on any of his assertions, but that doesn't mean Mark, or any one man, can speak for all of REH Fandom, who have opinions, beliefs and interpretations as varied as any fandom could have. As the great Rusty Burke said, getting Howard fans to agree on something "is like herding cats. Big nasty saber-tooth cats."
Think of Mark Finn's New Manifesto as the bad cop, and Newcomer's Guide as the good cop.
Remember, this is still quite incomplete: I just want to give everyone an idea of what the finished article would be like. There are some glaring omissions I'm having trouble with (particularly the "hot topics" like racism, sexism, alleged Oedipus Complex, homoeroticism and whatnot) but most of the big stuff is there.
Robert E. Howard
Who's this "REH" I keep hearing about?
REH is the initials of Robert Ervin Howard. You'll often hear it used as shorthand among Robert E. Howard and Conan fandom.
So who's Robert E. Howard?
Robert E. Howard was the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, also known as Conan the Barbarian.
Is there a picture of him?
There are quite a few pictures of Howard, some of which have recently been newly scanned in higher definition and put online. Here are a few.
This is probably the most famous photograph of Howard, which he did as a favour to his girlfriend Novalyne Price.
Huh, he kinda looks like a tubby little nerd in an Al Capone hat.
Howard was erudite, incredibly knowledgeable and socially awkward in some respects, but make no mistake, Howard was far from the stereotypical nerd. From a young age, he began buidling his body up to defend himself against bullies, until he became a fine figure of a man. He practised boxing, and fought in bouts at a local ice-house. He enjoyed horseriding, practised sharpshooting with his pistol, walked all over the area to landmarks like Caddo Peak, and kept a high level of general fitness. If Howard's a nerd, he's a nerd who could kick your arse.
I heard he was a bit of a Mama's Boy who was overly attached to his mother, even suffering from an Oedipus Complex -- is that true?
There is absolutely no evidence for this. Howard's devotion to his mother has been cruelly misinterpreted over the years, beginning with some of the petty gossip of Cross Plains gossips. The most infamous proponent of this idea was L. Sprague de Camp, who has a very controversial place in Howard studies due to the conclusions he drew in his biographical pieces on Howard. In actuality, there's very little reason to suppose that Howard's devotion to his mother was anything outside the ordinary love a child has for their parent. (more to come)
I also heard that Howard boarded up his windows at night because he feared his "enemies" would come and get him, and that he actually believed the ghost of King Conan was coming to him at night, forcing him to write his adventures at axe-point or he'd kill him, leading to Howard writing all night and collapsing exhausted at the typewriter in the early morning. What's that all about?
Most of these misconceptions can be traced to "Conan Unchained," a documentary charting the making of Conan the Barbarian. It is not a great source for accurate information on Robert E. Howard. The first anecdote is completely made up. There is no evidence or suggestion for Howard doing anything of the sort among the letters or hearsay of the time, and there's certainly no physical evidence for it at the Howards' house. For one thing, his parents would be furious! The second anecdote is based on a misinterpretation of one of Howard's letters to his epistolary colleague Clark Ashton Smith, where he recounts the creation of Conan in his mind:
Did Howard ever leave his hometown?
Although it's sometimes asserted that Howard never left his home state - sometimes that he never even left his home town - there is substantial evidence that Howard traveled outside of Texas. Indeed, Howard left his home town of Peaster fairly early in life, spending time in Brownwood as a youth, before finally settling in Cross Plains. It is known that Howard visited San Antonio, Austin, Galveston, Fort Worth and Rio Grande in Texas, as well as New Orleans, Santa Fe and Carlsbad in New Mexico. Quite well-travelled for a Depression-era Texan.
Where can I learn more about Howard?
An excellent place to start would be Rusty Burke's "A Short Biography of Robert E. Howard," available online at the Robert E. Howard United Press Association's site. CPI (Conan Properties International) has an Official Robert E. Howard site and forums, with plenty of information and discussion on the man and his works. The Wikipedia entry for Howard is a good deal better than it was in previous iterations, but the nature of a publically-editable database means that anyone can go in there and alter it, so it should be correlated with other sources wherever possible. Other excellent online resources can be found at The Robert E. Howard Directory, which include blogs from established Howard scholars: Damon Sasser's Robert E. Howard: Two Gun Raconteur blog, Dennis McHaney's McHaney's Robert E. Howard, Brian Murphy's The Silver Key, and the now defunct The Cimmerian blog. (more to come)
Beyond the internet, there is a wealth of great scholarly material about Howard, much of which can be found in the "about REH" section of Bill Thom's essential bibliographic site Howard Works. Mark Finn's Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard is an excellent biography, with a second, revised edition coming soon. Other excellent books on Howard's life include Glenn Lord's The Last Celt, Novalyne Price's One Who Walked Alone, Tevis Clyde Smith's Report on a Writing Man & Other Reminiscences of Robert E. Howard (more to come)
Was Howard gay?
Along with the Oedipal Complex - quite how a male could be homosexual and also be sexually fixated on their female parent seems rather contradictory, does it not? - the most common myth regarding Howard's sexuality is that he was homosexual. This is based on the fact that Howard only had one girlfriend in Novalyne Price, and his virginity cannot be confirmed nor denied. Certainly, this was enough to convince Robert Silverberg to write "Gilgamesh in the Outback," which features Howard with a serious man-crush on the Sumerian hero, whom he somehow mistakes for Conan. (more to come)
Robert E. Howard's Fiction
Cool, what Conan novels should I start with?
Howard only wrote one Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon. In addition, he wrote twenty short stories and novellas, though there are four incomplete fragments and synopses.
Alright wise guy, what Conan collections should I start off with?
In my opinion, the best Conan collections by a substantial margin are those published by Del Rey: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Bloody Crown of Conan, and The Conquering Sword of Conan. These three books are affordable, easy to find, and filled to the gunwales with extra material - drafts, synopses, fragments, and the fantastic "Hyborian Genesis" essay by noted Howard scholar Patrice Louinet, which charts the creation of the stories. As a bonus, there are some exquisite interior illustrations by Mark Schultz, Gary Gianni and Greg Manchess respectively. They are, simply put, the essential Conan collection. The format, text and illustrations used in the Del Reys were utilized in a series of lavish and extremely limited edition tomes: Wandering Star's Complete Conan of Cimmeria Volume 1, Complete Conan of Cimmeria Volume 2, and Book Palace Books' Complete Conan of Cimmeria Volume 3. Those who wish to enjoy Howard's work on audiotape need not fear, for Tantor Media have translated the Del Rey books to audiotape.
Alternatives to the Del Reys exist: in the UK, Gollancz's The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition collects all the completed stories and five fragments, synopses and drafts in one attractive, leather hardback with gold foil emboss, along with an excellent essay by veteran anthologist Stephen Jones. Like the Del Rey collections, this volume places the stories and fragments in the order Howard wrote them. Unfortunately, the Centenary Edition lacks some of the apocrypha found in the Del Rey volumes, such as early drafts and synopses of finished stories. In addition, in the case of stories which appeared in Weird Tales, Jones uses the typescripts and titles as they were published, not from Howard's original documents. In the case of the stories and fragments which did not appear in Weird Tales, versions edited by De Camp were used. All in all, I consider the Centenary Edition a good alternative to the Del Reys collections.
The stories, fragments and Stephen Jones essay were also collected in Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks dualogy The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle and The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon. The first volume was later re-released as The Conan Chronicles Volume 1. These are not to be confused with the similarly-titled The Conan Chronicles, which collects three Robert Jordan stories, or The Chronicles of Conan, which are trade paperback collections of the Marvel comics. However, it should be noted that these editions arrange the stories in a speculative chronological order, not in the order in which they were written: this leads to certain problems, such as an unfortunate sense of repetition in stories that would originally have been read months apart. An additional problem resulting from the chronological ordering is that the first volume has almost all of the mediocre Conan stories, several of them in a row at the end of the book, which might damage expectations of the second volume.
Wait a minute, I've seen whole rows of Conan novels on bookshelves: who wrote them?
Other authors. After Howard's death, there were no new Conan stories for nearly two decades. In the 1950s, L. Sprague de Camp came upon an edition of the Gnome Press collections, and embarked upon the expansion and commercialization of Conan, resulting in the famous and iconic Lancer series. The first Conan stories by a subsequent author - referred to as pastiches in Conan fandom - were Howard fragments adapted and expanded into full short stories by de Camp and prolific author Lin Carter. When the half-dozen Conan fragments ran out, de Camp moved on to Howard's historical and horror stories, and converted them into Conan tales. Eventually, the Howard material ran out, and de Camp hired Björn Nyberg to write the first fully-fledged pastiche novel, Conan the Avenger.
Since then, the Conan franchise has expanded to include dozens upon dozens of novels by many famous and prolific authors: Poul Anderson, Karl Edward Wagner, Robert Jordan, John Maddox Roberts, Andrew J. Offut, Roland Green, Steve Perry and even Harry Turtledove among them. With the sheer volume of books out there, it's no wonder they run the gamut from good to abysmal, though few would say any of them matched or even approached Howard's original stories.
So Howard himself wrote only twenty stories and one novel?
Howard only wrote twenty Conan stories, and one novel: he wrote much more fiction than that. Howard wrote a staggering amount of literature over the course of a very short time. In addition to Conan, he created Solomon Kane, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, and Cormac Mac Art, who also have comics, films and works by other authors (referred to as pastiches) to their name.
Did Howard write anything other than Sword-and-Sorcery?
He certainly did. In addition to some of the finest Sword-and-Sorcery yarns ever put to paper, Howard wrote horror, historical fiction, boxing yarns, weird menace, spicies, detective stories, planetary romance, and even some science fiction. The most financially successful stories he wrote during his lifetime were, in fact, comedies. The very first book to be published with Howard's name on it was a comedy western - A Gent from Bear Creek, a collection of short stories featuring the loveable giant cowboy Breckenridge Elkins. This now extremely rare book can command upwards of $10,000 on auction. More of his comedy boxing yarns, usually starring Sailor Steve Costigan, were published in his lifetime than all his Sword-and-Sorcery stories combined.
Since he was writing in the 1920s and 1930s, wouldn't his stories be awfully racist to modern readers?
In some ways, Howard was a product of his time. The 1920s and 1930s were a very different age from the early 21st Century, and one simply must take this into account when approaching fiction and authors of the time period. (more to come)
What about the treatment of women, aren't his stories highly misogynistic and sexist?
In this regard, Howard was practically ahead of his time. (more to come)
You know, all those descriptions of "mighty thews" and "rippling muscles" makes me wonder: isn't Howard's literature a tad homoerotic?
It isn't any more homoerotic than other stories. (more to come)
Generally, if anyone comes to the conclusion that Howard's work was homoerotic simply for the description of male bodies, then in my opinion, it says more about the reader than it does about the work itself.
Did J.R.R. Tolkien really like the Conan stories, as L. Sprague de Camp claimed?
It's very possible. (more to come)
Howard and Cinema
Conan the Barbarian
Isn't Conan the Barbarian just cheesy, camp fun you don't have to think too much about?
Far from it. Conan the Barbarian is one of the few fantasy movies that attempts to be about more than just action and adventure. (more to come)
I'd like to read Howard's version of events: what story was Conan the Barbarian based on?
None of them.
Yes. Conan the Barbarian was almost entirely based on a story Oliver Stone thought up himself. (more to come)
Well, what Howard stories have Thulsa Doom, Valeria, Conan's family and Subotai?
Technically, none of them. (more to come)
Thulsa Doom's name was taken from that of another Howard character. (more to come)
Valeria's name and a few traits were taken from a character in the seminal Conan story "Red Nails." (more to come)
The details of Conan's family are vague. (more to come)
Subotai is a completely original creation, with no direct origins in the Conan stories at all. (more to come)
Aw, man. Well, where can I read the story of how Conan became a man?
Howard never wrote an origin story for Conan.
You're kidding, right?
Nope. The closest we get is a few morsels scattered throughout the stories, as Conan reminisces or remarks upon his youth in Cimmeria. There isn't any story set in Cimmeria at all.
Well, wait, if Howard never wrote an origin story for Conan, then what's the problem with the one in Conan the Barbarian?
There are a few reasons Howard fans are not pleased with the film's storyline. For one thing, Howard's stories are some of the most influential, brilliantly written, and downright enjoyable Sword-and-Sorcery stories ever written, and many of the tales could form the basis of a rip-roaring, action-packed adventure film. Many stories and novels have been written by other writers, but none have eclipsed the original author: indeed, almost all of the Conan stories written by other authors have been out of print for years, while the Howard tales are experiencing a renaissance. The original stories have been adapted into the medium of comics, some many times, with very little difficulty in translation from literary to visual media. Thus, it seems baffling that a studio would choose to create a new story when the originals are so good in the first place.
Secondly, the idea of giving Conan an origin story in the first place does not sit well with many Howard fans. Conan, to many, is like Indiana Jones, James Bond, or The Man With No Name: he appears fully-formed and characterized, with no introduction that tells the audience how he came to be. This adds a certain mystique to the character, one that would be diluted if young Conan was actually depicted on screen. Raiders of the Lost Ark didn't start with eight-year-old Indy scuffling with grave robbers; Dr. No didn't begin with twelve-year-old Bond dispatching school bullies while spouting pithy one-liners; A Fistful of Dollars didn't have a prologue with The Boy With No Name picking out his first poncho. Why should a Conan film start off with Conan's childhood?
Finally, the story contradicts every clue Howard left. Howard gives a detailed description of Conan's early life in a letter to a fan, P.S. Miller, in 1936:
He was born on a battle field, during a fight between his tribe and a horde of raiding Vanir. The country claimed by and roved over by his clan lay in the northwest of Cimmerian, but Conan was of mixed blood, although a pure-bred Cimmerian. His grandfather was a member of a southern tribe who had fled from his own people because of a blood-feud and after long wanderings, eventually taken refuge with the people of the north. He had taken part in many raids into the Hyborian nations in his youth, before his flight, and perhaps it was the tales he told of those softer countries which roused in Conan, as a child, a desire to see them. There are many things concerning Conan’s life of which I am not certain myself. I do not know, for instance, when he got his first sight of civilized people. It might have been at Vanarium, or he might have made a peaceable visit to some frontier town before that. At Vanarium he was already a formidable antagonist, though only fifteen. He stood six feet and weighed 180 pounds, though he lacked much of having his full growth.
There was the space of about a year between Vanarium and his entrance into the thief-city of Zamora. During this time he returned to the northern territories of his tribe, and made his first journey beyond the boundaries of Cimmeria. This, strange to say, was north instead of south. Why or how, I am not certain, but he spent some months among a tribe of the Aesir, fighting with the Vanir and the Hyperboreans, and developing a hate for the latter which lasted all his life and later affected his policies as king of Aquilonia. Captured by them, he escaped southward and came into Zamora in time to make his debut in print.There are Howard fans who would accept an origin story if it would result in a true adaptation down the line, but only if that origin story gives due respect to Howard's creation. Rusty Burke, one of the foremost Robert E. Howard scholars, wrote a "Purist Manifesto": it is important to note that Burke does not denounce pastiches in and of themselves. However, if a film is advertising itself as being faithful and respectful to the original Howard stories, then coming up with a story that is completely contradictory to them, is simply false advertising.
So is there anything in Conan the Barbarian that was taken from Howard?
There are a few scenes in Conan the Barbarian that echo similar ones in Howard stories, but most are substantially altered and put in very different contexts. (more to come)
Conan the Destroyer
What happened to Subotai?
Gerry Lopez did not return to his role. In his place, Malak was created, though this created more than a few continuity problems. (more to come)
I've heard a few people claim this is closer to Howard than Conan the Barbarian was - is there any truth to that?
Not really. (more to come)
Well, are there any Howardian elements in the story at all?
As with Conan the Barbarian, there are a few elements taken from Howard stories and put into the film. Unlike Barbarian, however, the elements in Destroyer are essentially picked at random, with little real attempt to rhyme or reason. (more to come)
In the comics, Zula was a man, but in Conan the Destroyer Zula's a woman. Why did they give Zula a gender reassignment?
Mostly because the logic went "Zula sounds like a girl's name." Grace Jones was a hot property back in the early 80s. (more to come)
Is Andre the Giant in this?
Yes, the famous wrestler and professional huge person of The Princess Bride fame portrayed Dagoth.
Wasn't Olivia D'Abo underage when she made this?
Olivia D'Abo was fifteen. Not that this would be a problem in a pre-industrial society, but in today's climate it's understandably dodgy.
Isn't it hilarious that they got Wilt Chamberlain to defend a girl's virginity?
Yes, it was hilarious when it was first pointed out back in 1984.
Red SonjaDid Robert E. Howard create Red Sonja?
Technically, Roy Thomas is the creator of Red Sonja. (more to come)
How does Red Sonja relate to Conan?
Ostensibly, Red Sonja and Conan are contemporaries, both sharing the Hyborian Age setting. (more to come)
Isn't Kalidor just Conan? Why didn't they call him Conan anyway?
By the time Red Sonja was made into a film, the character trademark was owned by a new company, Red Sonja LLC. (more to come)
Does Sonja really call Queen Gedren a man?
Nope, she says "You are mad." Chalk it up to Bridgette Nielson's accent.
Are they ever going to make King Conan: Crown of Iron?
Not any time soon. (more to come)
Does anyone know what Crown of Iron was about?
There have been several script reviews of Crown of Iron since the early 2000s. (more to come)
Conan: Red Nails
Wasn't there an animated Conan movie?
Yes, Conan: Red Nails was announced. (more to come)
So what's taking so long?
I dunno. (more to come)
Who's voicing Conan?
Ron Perlman. (more to come)
Hey, didn't Ron Perlman do Conan in the video game?
Yes, he did. (more to come)
Awesome! So who's voicing the other characters?
Conan: Red Nails boasts a fairly star-studded cast: Mark Hamill as Tolkemec, Clancy Brown as Olmec, James Marsden as Techotl, Marg Helgenberger as Tascela, and Cree Summer as Valeria.
... Didn't she die in Conan the Barbarian?
You're thinking of a different Valeria. (more to come)
Is Solomon Kane any good?
Critical reaction to Solomon Kane has been pretty positive. (more to come)
How accurate is it to the stories?
Like Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane makes many divergences from the source material. (more to come)
If Howard never wrote an origin story for Kane, why are Howard fans up in arms about it?
As with Conan, though Howard never described Kane's early life in detail, there are enough clues and suggestions in the stories to build a fair idea of his youth. (more to come)
When's Solomon Kane coming to North America?
(more to come)
Wikipedia says that Conan was 6'2" and 210lbs, just like Cormac Fitzgeoffrey. Is that true?
This is a very pervasive myth, usually citing Conan and Cormac as “physical doubles at 6’2″ and 210 lb.” However, despite being mentioned on wikipedia, not only are there no references to such a comparison among Howard’s letters that I am aware of, but the very numbers are inaccurate. In “Hawks of Outremer,” Cormac FitzGeoffrey’s dimensioned were defined quite specifically: “a fraction of an inch above six feet” and was “two hundred pounds of iron muscle.” The other tales are more abstract in description: in “The Blood of Belshazzar” his height is given as “above six feet” and in “The Slave Princess,” “over six feet in height.” I have no clue to the source of this misconception, though I’d be very interested in tracking down the origin of this “factoid.”
Howard sometimes describes Conan's eyes as "volcanic blue." But... volcanoes are red, surely? The lava, I mean. Why would Howard describe them as blue?
"Volcanic blue" is a reference to Larimar, a variety of pectolite which is noted for its deep blue colour. (more to come)
What was Conan's favourite sword?
Conan didn't really have a favoured weapon. (more to come)
Doesn't it get repetitive when Conan always gets the girl, kills the bad guy, and bags the treasure?
(more to come)
The Conan Franchise
Are any of the Conan books by other authors any good?
That depends. If you're a fan of the writing in the stories, then seeking out more Robert E. Howard should be your first choice. If, however, you just love the character of Conan and the world he inhabits, then by all means try out the pastiches. (more to come)
How about the comics, should I check them out?
You definitely should. Some of the Conan comics are near word-for-word adaptations of the original stories, and authors like Roy Thomas have done a good job adhering to Howard's tone, style and canon. The modern comics from Dark Horse by Kurt Busiek and Timothy Truman are also of excellent quality. (more to come)
Do you have any particular recommendations?
The Conan Chronicles, Volumes 1 - . The original trailblazing saga by Roy Thomas, these were the first comics to show that Howard's prose could be translated to a visual medium and retain their power and eloquence.
The Savage Sword of Conan, Volumes 1 - 5. Much less constrained by the draconian measures of the Comics Code Authority, The Savage Sword of Conan could afford to show much more violence, nudity and moral ambiguity than the earlier Conan the Barbarian. Some of the Howard adaptations in Savage Sword are among the finest ever.
Conan and Conan the Cimmerian (Dark Horse). While I and others have some misgivings about Busiek and Trumans' interpretation of the original stories and world, there's no doubting that their intentions are true, and many diehard Howard fans are completely satisfied with their work.
Conan the Adventurer
Wasn't there a cartoon in the '80s? Conan the Adventurer, I think?
There was a cartoon called Conan the Adventurer, but it was made in 1990.
(more to come)
Conan: the Live Action Series
Come to think of it, wasn't there a '90s tv show too?
Yes, there was. (more to come)
The Upcoming 2011 Conan Movie
Is this the King Conan movie I've been hearing about?
No. King Conan: Crown of Iron was written by John Milius, and intended to continue where Conan the Barbarian left off (ignoring Conan the Destroyer). It was to be the second film of a projected trilogy, preceded by Conan the Barbarian and followed by King Conan: Beneath My Sandalled Feet. Crown of Iron has been in development for twenty years, and came close to being produced a number of times: however, various obstacles transpired to keep the film in development hell. After a deal with the Wachowski Brothers and Warner Brothers fell through, the project was abandoned. Another project intended to be the third Conan film eventually became Kull the Conqueror.
Right, so what's this film then? Is it a sequel to Conan the Barbarian?
No. This film is entirely unconnected to the previous films, and is intended as a franchise reboot akin to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, complete with a new origin story by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer.
Is it a remake of Conan the Barbarian?
No. A remake implies a film is based on an earlier film: this is intended to be a new adaptation of the Conan character, who first appeared in the pages of Weird Tales in1932. The story written by Oliver Stone and John Milius is entirely original, and outside of a few scenes extracted from two or three Howard stories and adoption of some names and elements, it bears very little in common with Howard's creation.
But if it isn't a remake, why does the plot sound just like Conan the Barbarian?
It is true that the storyline bears a number of similarities to Conan the Barbarian: the young barbarian whose village is massacred, his parent murdered by an evil warlord with sorcerous power, and a quest for vengeance across the Hyborian lands all figure in what is known in the upcoming film. However, there are significant divergences too: Conan is never a slave or pit fighter in this version, there is no Wheel of Pain, no Atlantean Sword, no Tree of Woe, among other things.
But if Howard didn't write an origin story for Conan, why are Howard fans so bothered by it?
(more to come)
So how faithful is the film to Robert E. Howard's original stories?
Thus far, the information on the script and characters indicates that, in addition to being an original story not based on any work by Howard, the film makes significant departures from the canon. It has few of the hints Howard left in the stories and the Miller letter, as well as creating contradictions of its own. It is more faithful than Conan the Barbarian in some respects, while being less faithful in others.
Couldn't they have just waited for Schwarzenegger to leave office and make Crown of Iron with John Milius?
A lot has changed with the Conan property holders in the past ten years. When Conan the Barbarian was released, it affected not only the popular conception of Conan, but CPI's own approach. Many of the elements introduced in the film were repeated in games, comics and tv series: the Conan franchise became less about Robert E. Howard's creation, and more about Milius' interpretation. By the 1990s, the Conan franchise was in a rut: no less than three failed comic relaunches, a cancelled video game, a critically panned tv series, and two incredibly watered-down Saturday morning cartoons.
In recent years, Paradox Entertainment has gained control of the Conan trademark from the previous holders. Paradox has completely reinvigorated Conan, bringing out new comics under Dark Horse, new video games (2004's Conan: The Dark Axe was the first Conan game released since 1991's Conan the Cimmerian), and a host of other media and merchandise.
In nearly all the new media, Conan has been re-imagined without using Arnold Schwarzenegger's likeness, going back to the original stories and starting from scratch in establishing the visual style of Conan. The Cimmerians of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures and the two Conan games from Cauldron and Nihilistic software do not have an Austrian accent, nor brown hair, nor any of the elements that instinctively tie the character to Conan the Barbarian. Paradox & CPI are looking to bring Conan into the new millennium by going back to the character's literary roots, rather than continuing the precedent set by Conan the Barbarian, which had run the character into the rut it was in during the '90s.
So who's playing Conan?
Jason Momoa. Even now, a number of websites erroneously claim Kellan Lutz or Roland Kickinger is the "front runner" for the role, and some even claim them to have won it, despite the fact that principal photography for Conan ended in May.
Isn't Jason Momoa black?
No. Jason Momoa is of mixed ancestry: his father is Native Hawaiian, while his mother is German/Irish/Native American. Don't let the dreadlocks and goatee on Stargate Atlantis fool you: production photos reveal a barbarian not unlike Howard's own descriptions.
Well, if they couldn't get Arnold, why didn't they cast Roland Kickinger, The Rock, Triple H, or another bodybuilder or wrestler?
The role of Howard's Conan is a good deal more complex than the popular conception of the "big dumb barbarian" stereotype. Conan is cunning, intelligent, knowledgeable and emotive. Arnold, while underrated as an actor (he won a Golden Globe for his first major acting role in Stay Hungry) was still inexperienced and raw: combined with Milius and Stone's hugely divergent character rewrite, the Conan of Conan the Barbarian was very different from the character Howard created.
Conan in Conan the Barbarian was many things, but he was at least crafty, resourceful and given to moments of refreshing insight. By the time of Conan the Destroyer, however, he was reduced to an insulting caricature, a stupid barbarian who cannot count to six or make decisions without a full five seconds to consider it.
Will Arnold at least make a cameo in the film?
Unlikely. Schwarzenegger's last cameo was a one-day appearance on the set of The Expendables, where he only had to wear a suit. An appearance in Conan would need costume fittings, hair styling, makeup and more. That said, there is a possibility he could be involved in some other manner, either providing a voiceover narration, or even lending his likeness to a digital cameo as in Terminator Salvation.
Who's playing Thulsa Doom/Valeria/Subotai?
Aside from Conan himself, none of the characters from Conan the Barbarian will be appearing: those roles were the creations of John Milius, in some cases using the names of other Howard characters. More information on the characters can be found at the cast page.
Will they use Basil Poledouris' theme for this new film?
No. (more to come)
So who's directing the film?
Marcus Nispel. (more to come)
I thought it was Brett Ratner?
Brett Ratner was never officially tied to the Conan film, but was apparently in talks with the producers.
What production studio is making the film?
Four production companies are involved in financing and producing Conan. (more to come)
When is it coming out?
If you hate the film so much, how come you're running a blog about it?
It isn't a matter of hating the film, so much that I feel the need to offer as much information on Conan as possible. When any film based on established literature comes out, there's likely to be an influx of interest on the source material. I therefore think it's very important that people know the film's relationship to the literature, its similarities and differences, what to expect, what not to expect, and to inform those unfamiliar with the Conan character and world of just how vast the franchise has become since it started back in 1932.
The blog's primary aim, however, is to report on news and rumours from a Robert E. Howard fan's perspective. A general news site isn't going to offer their views on Howard, or speculate on how the film will relate to the original stories. Since I'm a fan of Robert E. Howard, I want to introduce his work to anyone who might be interested in, as well as reminding everyone where the Conan franchise came from.