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The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian

by Lo Terry on June 18, 2024
  • Are you ready to embark upon a journey into a realm of high adventure, where swords clash, sorcery runs rampant, and a certain sullen-eyed Cimmerian reigns supreme?

    If the mere thought of such an odyssey stirs your blood and ignites your imagination, then you’ve come to the right place. For in the paragraphs that follow, we shall explore the myriad wonders of the Hyborian Age, that savage and unforgiving world birthed from the mind of Robert E. Howard nearly a century ago.

    But where to begin? With so many tales of the mighty Conan and his ilk, spread across books, comics, and films, the prospect of diving into this vast and varied canon may seem daunting to the uninitiated. Fear not, brave adventurer, for we have gathered here a veritable treasure trove of Conan lore, a starter kit of five items that will guide you on your way to becoming a true devotee of the Cimmerian and his world.

    So gird your loins, unsheathe your sword, and prepare to journey with us into a bygone age of swords and sorcery, an age undreamed of, where the fate of kingdoms rests on the rippling muscles and iron will of a lone barbarian.

    1. The New Conan Comics

    Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian

    For those yearning to plunge headfirst into the raw, primal world of Conan the Barbarian, there is no better entry point than the gripping new Trade Paperback by Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures. This collection heralds a new era of savage, sword-slashing action that would make Conan’s creator, Robert E. Howard, proud.

    Within these pages, prepare to be transported to the Hyborian Age, where a young Conan stands on the precipice of a life of adventure beyond the borders of his homeland, Cimmeria. Visions of future allies and unspeakable evils dance in his mind as he takes his first fateful steps in search of blood-soaked glory.

    Eisner-nominated writer Jim Zub weaves a spellbinding tale of dark sorcery and heroic battles that exudes the same energy that first catapulted Conan to fame 90 years ago in the pages of Weird Tales. Paired with the Buscema-inspired artwork of Roberto De La Torre, each panel is a feast for the eyes, pulsing with dynamic action and brooding atmosphere.

    Longtime fans will relish this fresh yet faithful take on the Conan mythos that never betrays the barbaric essence of Howard’s creation. In the words of one reviewer, “Conan is bloody. Conan is ruthless. Conan likes to… party. A lot of that was missing, until Titan Comics took things under their wing.” 

    But even for the uninitiated, this Trade Paperback proves the perfect introduction to the character acclaimed as the greatest warrior of all time. Another reviewer enthuses, “The story is set early in Conan’s adventure so no feeling like you’re missing anything for new readers.”

    And if you’re eager to get a taste of what this Trade Paperback has to offer, you can download the first adventure as a free PDF and immerse yourself in the world of Conan right away. 

    But this corpus of work is only the beginning of an epic journey. Once you’ve taken your first steps into Conan’s world, you’ll be compelled to follow the barbarian’s saga as it unfolds in bloody, sweeping glory across the Hyborian Age.

    2. The Classic Movie

    Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian

    In 1982, the world bore witness to a cinematic event that would forever change the landscape of popular culture. With a resounding barbaric cry, Conan the Barbarian burst onto the silver screen, launching the career of a bodybuilder-turned-actor named Arnold Schwarzenegger and cementing his place in the annals of Hollywood history.

    Directed by John Milius and co-written by Oliver Stone, Conan the Barbarian is a sweeping epic that embraces the sword-and-sorcery spirit of Howard’s original tales. The film follows Conan’s journey from a young Cimmerian boy, forged in the crucible of hardship and loss, to a man driven by an unquenchable thirst for vengeance against the warlord who slaughtered his people.

    At the heart of the film’s enduring appeal is Schwarzenegger’s commanding presence as Conan. With his chiseled physique and steely gaze, he embodies the ancient energy of Howard’s hero, a force of nature that cannot be tamed by the trappings of civilization. When asked by a Mongol general what is best in life, Conan’s reply is a mantra for the ages: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”

    • Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian
    • Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian
    • Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian

    But Schwarzenegger’s star turn is matched by an equally mesmerizing performance from James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, the serpent-worshiping sorcerer whose malevolent charisma threatens to ensnare all who cross his path. With his deep, resonant voice and piercing eyes, Jones imbues Doom with a hypnotic allure, a seductive power that stands in stark contrast to Conan’s primal fury.

    It is in the clash between these two titans that Conan the Barbarian reaches its mythic heights. Who can forget the iconic moment when Doom, his hand outstretched, commands his acolyte to leap to her death, only to be met with Conan’s defiant retort: “You. You there. Come to me, or I’ll jump in after her.” 

    For many fans, moments like these are seared into memory, as vivid now as they were four decades ago. As one retrospective review puts it, “Watching this again tonight and thinking that if I ever could teach a class on late 20th century American society, I would start with this movie, and view it through the lens of the counterculture movement, Nietzsche, and Oliver Stone.”

    Yet for all its philosophical underpinnings, the 1982 film never loses sight of the original allure of this character. It is, at its heart, a rousing adventure that celebrates the indomitable human spirit in all its grunting, sweating, sword-swinging glory. As another reviewer enthuses, “This movie can be enjoyed without any awareness of its depth, but I urge you to rewatch it and contemplate how the world it imagines is still the world we live in, four decades later.”

    3. The Original Conan Tales

    Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian

    In the realm of fantasy literature, there is one name that towers above all others, one creator whose imagination birthed a genre and whose words continue to echo through the ages. That name is Robert E. Howard, and his greatest creation, Conan the Cimmerian, stands as the ultimate embodiment of sword and sorcery.

    The collection of Conan stories, titled The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, is a portal to the primal, unfiltered vision of Howard himself. Within these pages, you’ll discover Conan as his creator intended – raw, brutal, and unapologetically barbaric. Howard’s prose crackles with a vitality that has rarely been matched, his descriptions so vivid you can almost feel the heat of the sun on your face and taste the coppery tang of blood on your tongue.

    What sets this volume apart is its commitment to presenting Howard’s work as he originally wrote it, unencumbered by editorial meddling or posthumous revisions. For the first time, you can experience the Conan stories in the order Howard penned them, watching as his mastery of the craft evolves and the character of Conan takes shape before your very eyes. 

    From the harrowing sorcery of “The Tower of the Elephant” to the swashbuckling adventure of “Queen of the Black Coast,” these stories represent sword and sorcery at its finest. Howard’s Conan is a force of nature, a man who lives life to the hilt and refuses to bend his knee to any man or god. As Steven King puts it, “Howard’s writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks.”

    But The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian offers more than just thrilling tales of adventure. In Howard’s muscular yet poetic prose, you’ll find a depth of philosophy and a grim worldview that elevates these stories beyond simple escapism. Here is a writer grappling with the fundamental questions of civilization and barbarism, of the tension between the wild and the tame that exists within the human heart.

    To read these stories is to come face to face with the unvarnished human condition, in all its sorrow and savagery and glory. It’s no wonder that Howard’s creations have endured for nearly a century, inspiring generations of writers and artists. 

    4. The Classic Conan Marvel Comics

    Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian

    Few comic book series have left as indelible a mark on the medium as Marvel’s original Conan the Barbarian run. Spanning a staggering 275 issues from 1970 to 1993, this era-defining title stood as a towering testament to the enduring appeal of Robert E. Howard’s iconic hero, as well as the unparalleled storytelling prowess of the creative titans who brought his adventures to vivid, four-color life.

    At the vanguard of this sword-and-sorcery renaissance stood the legendary Roy Thomas, a writer whose name has become synonymous with Conan the Barbarian. With a deft touch and an unmatched fidelity to Howard’s original vision, Thomas crafted tales of pulse-pounding action and brooding atmosphere that perfectly captured the essence of the Cimmerian’s world. Alongside him were such luminaries as Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, and Gil Kane, artists whose lush, dynamic visuals breathed fire into every panel, forging a visual language that would define Conan for generations to come.

    Now, the early days of this groundbreaking run have been collected in a single, must-have volume: The Original Marvel Years paperback collection . Painstakingly restored and presented in its original, unaltered coloring, this tome is a treasure trove for diehard fans and curious newcomers alike, offering a portal back to a time when Conan reigned supreme on the comic shop racks.

    Within these pages, you’ll enjoy a collection of classic tales and discover a wealth of bonus content and behind-the-scenes material. From the first breakthrough issue to the innovative “Starr the Slayer” story that paved the way for Conan’s conquest of the comics medium, this Omnibus is a guided tour through the untamed landscapes of Howard’s imagination, as filtered through the singular lens of Marvel’s finest storytellers.

    But don’t just take our word for it. Heed the clarion call of the fans who have already been transported back to the Hyborian Age. As one awestruck reader put it, “This is it, the real deal… the 1st and the best of the Conan series, nothing compares to the splendor of these original works of art.” Another marvels at the sheer scope of the restoration work, declaring, “Marvel have done an excellent job reproducing these issues as close to the original coloring as possible and I applaud their efforts.”

    So go ahead, take the plunge. Immerse yourself in the sweeping vistas of the Hyborian Age, and lose yourself in the untamed majesty of Conan’s adventures. But be warned: once you’ve tasted the raw, primal energy of Marvel’s original Conan run, you may find it hard to return to the pallid imitations and half-hearted pastiches that followed in its wake.

    5. The eBook Short Stories 

    Conan The Barbarian The Five: Where to Start with Conan the Barbarian

    For those intrepid adventurers who crave a quick fix of pulse-pounding action and brooding atmosphere between their epic quests, Heroic Signatures has just the thing: a series of exclusive eBook short stories set in the untamed worlds of Robert E. Howard’s imagination.

    Penned by some of today’s most electrifying voices in fantasy and sword-and-sorcery fiction, these tales capture the lightning-in-a-bottle energy that first catapulted Howard to the pinnacle of pulp greatness. 

    Take “Conan: Lord of the Mount,” for example, a breakneck yarn of blood and fury from the fevered pen of Stephen Graham Jones, the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of “The Only Good Indians.” In this story, a blood-soaked Conan, sole survivor of a doomed raiding party, must hack and slash his way through the ruins of a haunted village, pitting his barbaric might against a hideous creature of nightmare.

    Jones is hardly a stranger to Howard’s world, having proclaimed his own fealty to the Cimmerian. “Those of us who believed in Conan at the right moment in our lives never stop believing,” he avows. “We might not grow up to become him, but we never grow out of him, either.” And with a host of other acclaimed wordsmiths lending their talents to the Titan Publishing Heroic Signatures eBook line, including John C. Hocking, Jonathan Maberry, and Scott Oden, you can be sure that the spirit of Howard is alive and well.

    So what are you waiting for? If you’re hungry for more of the primal storytelling perfection that only Robert E. Howard and his spiritual successors can provide, look no further than Heroic Signatures’ eBook line. With a host of thrilling tales available at the click of a button, there’s never been a better time to plunge headfirst into the worlds of Howard’s creation.

    And there you have it, friends. Five indispensable items, each one a key to unlocking the savage, uncompromising world of Conan the Barbarian. Whether you’re a wide-eyed newcomer, standing at the border of the Hyborian Age and preparing to take your first tentative steps into that realm of blood and thunder, or a grizzled veteran, eager to relive the thrills and glories of your youth, these five selections are your perfect companion on the road to high adventure.

    The road to adventure stretches out before you, a winding path paved with the gleaming treasures and blood-soaked wonders of a bygone age. The only question that remains is, will you take that first fateful step? Will you heed the call of your inner barbarian, and plunge into a world of danger, daring, and high adventure?

    The Hyborian Age awaits. Let the adventure begin!

  • Lo Terry

    In his effort to help Heroic Signatures tell legendary stories, Lo Terry does a lot. Sometimes, that means spearheading an innovative, AI-driven tavern adventure. In others it means writing words in the voice of a mischievous merchant for people to chuckle at. It's a fun time.

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