Re-Commendation: Conan the Adventurer

CanCon(an) the Barbarian.

Once again, I’ve got a previous recommendation to do better this time around.

Let me tell you of the days of High Adventure! 90s animated Fantasy show Conan the Adventurer.

Or better yet, let me let Conan the Adventurer tell you about Conan the Adventurer.

More information here, here, and here. Viewable online legally here.

He’s got a magic sword in the cartoon,
but he uses an axe a lot in the stories, I swear.
Photo by Andrei on Pexels.com

Robert E.Howard is one of my literary idols and his Conan stories are one of my absolute favourite Fantasy series — though even among Howard’s own characters, I prefer Solomon Kane.

Howard’s stories don’t usually pull any punches when it comes to content and subject matter, and the Conan stories have a propensity for being particularly lurid.

Which is precisely why I haven’t talked about him much on this blog.

Like I said in my last recommendation, I try to keep most of the stuff I talk about — be it books, or games, or animes — at a similar level of family-friendliness as Realmgard.

Which, Conan definitely, uh, isn’t.

That being said, given that Howard is an idol of mine second only to Tolkien, it’s inescapable that I’m going to bring him up at least in passing.

Similarly, the fact that the original stories are so lurid is precisely why Conan the Adventurer is so fascinating to me.

Even in a cartoon, they found a way to have him stand on top of a big ol’ pile of skulls. For reference, that way was “beating up a bunch of skeletons.”
Conan the Adventurer: Hasbro Studios.

It’s a 90s children’s cartoon show, based on one of the least kid-friendly Fantasy heroes there is.

It’s CanCon, despite there being no obvious Canadian connection to Conan.

It got 2 seasons and a total of 65 episodes. For compaison: beloved early 2000s cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender (which I’ve never actually watched, but that’s neither here nor there) got 61 and fellow 90s CanCon cartoon Reboot got 48.

And most bizarrely of all, it’s a shockingly faithful adaptation of the source material — probably more so than any other adaptation of Conan we’ve got.

That’s the weirdest part to me.

Kids really, really shouldn’t have enough familiarity with Conan to be able to recognise that; adults familiar with the Conan stories probably wouldn’t want to watch those stories adapted into a cheesy cartoon.

And yet, here we are.

Conan and his multi-ethnic group of companions.
Conan the Adventurer: Hasbro Studios. Image via tubi.tv.

Conan the Adventurer necessarily has to change a lot of things for the sake of its audience — the violence and the, uh, shall we say, “mature” subject matter are toned way down.

But the world — the cultures, the cities, the places, certain characters — was clearly being written by someone who did their homework.

Conan is still a Cimmerian who swears by Crom, he’s not Austrian, he’s still bewildered by the ways of civilised Men, he’s still not book-smart but immensely shrewd and clever, Set is still an evil snake god, wizards are still usually evil, the ghost of the sage Epemitreus still shows up to help Conan.

Some the episodes borrow their plotlines from the stories — though, again, delivered in such a way as to be appropriate for children and playing fast and loose with the specific details.

Even the fact that Conan isn’t actually killing any of the Serpent-Men bad guys, just using his magic sword to send them back to another dimension dimension (as explained in the theme song) isn’t entirely out of line with the original stories. Serpent-Men and evil (and occasionally good) things from other dimensions show up in a lot of Howard’s stories (not exclusively the Conan ones) and Conan has used a magic sword more than once.

Though, of course, it wouldn’t be a 90s cartoon if the hero didn’t have a goofy sidekick. In this case, a scatterbrained magic phoenix who lives in Conan’s shield. The bad guy has a goofy sidekick of his own, a bumbling snake-lizard-person … thing.

Now, there are snake-monsters sort of like him in the stories,
but they’re not usually comic relief.
Conan the Adventurer: Hasbro Studios.

Yeah. That’s definitely a thing inescapable in the extent to which it happened…

Conan the Adventurer is ridiculous in every possible way.

But, also, it’s glorious.

It’s one of those things that I can’t quite tell if I enjoy sincerely or ironically.

And as CanCon myself, I can’t describe how much joy it brings me that this sublimely, indescribably ludicrous,  beautiful piece of work is also CanCon.

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