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During the resurge in popularity Robert E. Howard's most popular character enjoyed back in The Seventies, Marvel Comics was quick to take notice of this, and got the license from Conan Productions. In October, 1970, the very first issue of Conan the Barbarian hit the shelves, quickly becoming one of Marvel's top-sellers. Spin Offs soon followed, each becoming popular in their own right, with The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian occasionally overtaking its sister title in sales.
However, what with certain cinematic failures i.e. Conan the Destroyer and the Red Sonja movie, Conan's popularity waned. With The Dark Age of Comic Books, Conan's main ongoing and Savage Sword were eventually cancelled after a combined 510 issues, to be replaced with other ongoings whose issue numbers barely lasted into double figures. Marvel soon gave up on giving Swords and Sorcery's greatest hero his own title, shunting him off into a few miniseries, the last of which was printed in 2000.
Dark Horse Comics then picked up the license in 2003, having previously made several miniseries based on lesser REH properties, such as Cormac Mac Art and Almuric. They took a slightly different approach to the character, putting out one ongoing, with the occasional miniseries on the side.
These comics have all included these examples:
- Adaptation Expansion: Pretty much every other Conan comic that wasn't a direct adaptation of an REH story or a pastiche. This became more out of necessity from The Eighties onwards for Marvel, as pretty much every good Conan story had already been adapted. Dark Horse do more or less the same thing.
- This was dialled Up to Eleven with the adaptation of Queen of the Black Coast; from the time when Conan joins Belit's crew to the death of everyone else in Belit's crew besides Conan , there were 41 issues detailing Conan and Belit's adventures.
- Bash Brothers: Zula, Pallantides, Trocero... the list goes on.
- Boring Invincible Hero: Conan occasionally slipped into this in a few issues.
- Canon Immigrant: Red Sonya was a musket-wielding 16th century Ukranian in the Howard story that introduced her, but was retconned into being a Hyborian Age swordswoman in the comic books decades later. Thulsa Doom was a villain in the Kull of Atlantis stories before he was adapted into the villain for The Movie - and even then, he had more in common with the Conan adversary Thoth-Amon (a priest of Set with a fancy for snakes) than he did with his namesake (a semi-immortal necromancer with a skeletal face.)
- Comic Book Adaptation: Not just or Howard's or Sprague de Camp's adventures, but occasionally of other sword & sorcery stories released around the same time as the original Conan stories, with Conan replacing the heroes in those stories.
- Darker and Edgier (Hotter and Sexier, Bloodier and Gorier): Marvel's black-and-white The Savage Sword of Conan and the later Dark Horse titles compared to Marvel's Comics Code-constrained Conan the Barbarian.
- Depending on the Artist: Conan's build may be leaner or bulkier, as shown by pre- and post-Frazetta covers. In the comics, shown by Marvel's Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema. Dark Horse usually go with a happy medium...
- Name's the Same: Both Marvel and Dark Horse put out a Conan ongoing called... Conan. Dark Horse's effort produced over 50 issues, with superb art. Marvel's... didn't.
These tropes happened specifically in the Marvel Comics run:
- Aborted Arc: Happened twice with Conan the King. In its first issue (after being retitled from King Conan) the writers decided to have everyone think Prince Conn was dead, and to have him Wandering the Earth in his own back-up. It was a very good story arc, showing Conan as a man who makes mistakes and having him deal with the consequences of those actions. However, Arc Fatigue and Cerebus Syndrome set in, so after eight issues Conn returned, and the story shifted to Conan dealing with several kingdoms uniting against him and killing his entire legion of Black Dragons, with many of the previous subplots being either killed off or Never Heard From Again. Then, with #50, all of those subplots were pushed aside so the last six issues could tie up all of the UnresolvedPlotThreads from the previous story arc. To add insult to injury, the ending of #55 was completely at odds with the end of the second story arc, which was about to deal with Conan fending off yet another tyrant bent on taking over his kingdom, effectively making the last four years worth of stories one big Shaggy Dog Story.
- Amazon Brigade: The Eighties team The Iron Damsels. Of course, as they're in Conan stories, All Amazons Want Hercules.
- Artificial Limbs: There was a story featuring three outlaws who'd run afoul of Conan, and had one Anatomy Arsenal each (well, two did. One just had a plate in his head).
- Ascended Fanboy: Most people assume Roy Thomas was this. Whilst he was instrumental in getting Conan his own comic, it was Gil Kane who was the big Robert E. Howard fanboy. He did a lot of the artwork for Conan in The Seventies, and he couldn't have been happier.
- Continuity Snarl: Inevitable with Conan canon, but an interesting little hiccup occurred in Savage Sword; Recurring villain Ogerd Vadislav was reintroduced in an issue, despite having been swallowed up by an Eldritch Abomination. There was an L Sprague De Camp story explaining how this happened, and in a later issue of Savage Sword explained this too... in a completely different way to the pastiche, as Marvel didn't have permission to run that story, so they just winged it. Later, they did get permission to adapt the short story, so they ran it, and attempted to explain how Ogerd survived another attack. It worked... kind of.
- Crossover: Happened a few times with the Marvel Universe back when the Conan comic rights were owned by Marvel. In fact, the Conanverse version of the god Set became a major part of the MU's Backstory.
- Regrettably, despite Marvel owning the comic rights to both at the same time, there was never a Transformers vs Conan crossover.
- But there was a Conan/Elric crossover. No, really.
- Shallow Parody Thrud once encountered "Eric of Boneymaloney," a "Melancholy Crimson-Eyed Wimp".
- Conan managed to have a few team-ups with Kull, and a nice two-part team-up with Solomon Kane.
- Of course, all these team-ups began in the Mighty Marvel Manner.
- Dork Age: As well as the above example in the Aborted Arc section, there was the "Young Conan Saga" in The Nineties. It wasn't bad, as much as it was really at odds with established canon and characterisation. The fans hated it so much, the story had to be wrapped up with an Author's Saving Throw that hinted the whole thing was an older Conan telling a Shaggy Dog Story.
- The Fool: Rufio, in King Conan.
- Gotta Catch Em All: Conan the Adventurer became a Crucial Type A and Type B. A talisman of a long-sleeping god was scattered into 6 pieces, and 7 wandering adventurers were promised riches if they found all 6 pieces. Turns out it was the god tricking them so he could initiate a Class 5.
- Joker Immunity: Ogerd, Wraarl, Boraq d'Sharaq
- It got pretty stupid with d'Sharaq; pretty much any encounter that even Conan would've had trouble with, Boraq just sorta shrugged it off to plague Conan some more, to the point where even the writers seemed to be getting sick of him. His last appearance to date had him as a Human Popsicle, where a female character hinted to Conan that he could totally just shatter Boraq into pieces. Conan didn't, but at least Boraq's only shown up in reprints... so far...
- The Red Sonja: Take an educated guess...
- Shout-Out: Quite a few, over the years...
- The Unfavorite: Taurus, mainly due to his siblings being so much cooler/nicer although it turns out he was a changeling Switched At Birth for the real Taurus... who later made a Heroic Sacrifice for his parents. At least, that's how it was until #50, when the aforementioned Aborted Arc was brought back
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In Conan the Barbarian #3, the main focus of the story was The Battle of Clontarf... and how it heralded the death of a god.
- What Could Have Been:
- Marvel Comics were getting a lot of requests for literature to be given a Comic Book Adaptation. Properties considered were Lord of the Rings and Thongor, a Sword and Sorcery hero created by Lin Carter, one of the most prolific writers of Conan pastiches. Both were turned by down the respective holders of those estates. Then Roy Thomas noticed the address of the copyright holders to Conan on a Conan book... and now you know the rest of the story!
- Roy originally planned an adaptation of Conan of the Isles, the "last" Conan story, to be told over three issues of Conan the Barbarian Annual. However, his departure from Marvel meant that the story wouldn't be fully told in comic form until it was published as Marvel Graphic Novel #42.
- A similar situation happened with the Comic Book Adaptation of Hour of the Dragon, the only full Conan novel by Robert E. Howard. It was originally going to be posted in all 5 issues of Giant-Size Conan, but the slipping sales on that title meant the novel's adaptation was completed in Savage Sword. Giant-Size Conan #5 was a reprint of the Conan/Elric crossover, with a new cover by Jack Kirby.
- Speaking of MGN, Roy had plans for a new story about Belit to be published in the title in 1993. The title only had one issue that year (a Punisher/ComicBook/BlackWidow crossover), and was cancelled that year. The story was eventually published in parts in Conan the Savage, a Spiritual Successor to Savage Sword of Conan.
- What Have I Done: Pubilus says this in Conan the King #46, after Zenobia's fourth child dies in childbirth when he refused to let the Asurans protect both mother and child.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In King Conan #4, Conn was given a sword inscribed with magic runes by a friendly magic user. It never showed up again.