The Savage Formula of Conan

One of my earliest comics was most certainly a Conan magazine. There was “Conan the Barbarian,” “King Conan” and “Savage Sword of Conan.” I’m not sure which it was, probably “Barbarian,” but it was easy to enjoy.
Basically every Conan story is the same, kind of like a pick-a-path adventure.

 We start our adventure as Conan:
(a) sits in a bar
(b) sits in a camp
(c)  rides along on a trail
(d)  lays in bed with a beautiful woman

Suddenly, Conan gets:
(a) wind of some fantastic treasure and decides it should be his
(b) the hots for some chick and needs to go rescue her
(c) gets pissed off and tries to exact his revenge
(d) gets tricked to go on someone else’s quest
From there, he:
(a) runs into an evil black-magic sorcerer
(b) encounters a vile monster 
(c) slogs through a difficult environment
(d) gets trapped and faces certain doom

Next, we have some character development, where Conan:
(a) grumbles a lot
(b) realizes what he’s fighting for isn’t really worth it
(c) makes friends with the guy or creature he’s supposed to kill
(d) vows to never let himself get in this situation again.

Finally, the story reaches it’s climax, and Conan:
(a) trounces the evil-doer and claims his prize!
(b) fights the villain, only to realize it’s he, Conan, that’s the bad guy in the situation!
(c) battles the badguy right up to the last second, only to see victory slip from his grasp!
(d) destroys his opponent and finds that he’s released an even greater evil (which he then must destroy too)!

So, yes, tales of Conan are awfully formulaic, but you know what? They’re still fun. They’re viseral. They’re blood and guts, and they are everything that superheroes often are not (or at least not until recently).

You see, in Conan comics, no one but Conan is safe. Everyone else is cannon fodder. It’s like going to a horror movie,and waiting for everyone but the main character to die. Sure, you know most of Conan’s friends and lovers are going to die, and the excitement isn’t how they die. No, it’s seeing how pissed off Conan gets.

Somehow, the redundancy of Conan stories worked, back when Marvel Comics had the rights to the Cimmerian and in his current incarnation at Dark Horse. In fact, any time I see a stack of Conan comics for sale at a yard sale or flea market, I snatch them up.

You can never go wrong with a Conan comic.


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