Kull tore the veil away with one motion and re-coiled with a gasp. Delcardes screamed and her knees gave way; the councilors pressed backwards, faces white, and the guards released their grasp and shrank away, horror-struck.
The face of the man was a bare white skull, in whose eye sockets flamed livid fire!
"Thulsa Doom! Aye, I guessed as much!" ex-claimed Ka-nu.
"Aye, Thulsa Doom, fools," the voice echoed cavernously. "The greatest of all wizards and your eternal foe, Kull of Atlantis. You have won this tilt, but beware, there shall be others."
And so we are introduced to Thulsa Doom: by way of Conan the Barbarian, the most famous - and misunderstood - of Robert E. Howard's villains.
Chances are, if someone has heard of Conan the Barbarian, they've heard of Thulsa Doom. Yet for all the subtleties and mastery of James Earl Jones's performance, the character who appears in the film shares little resemblance to the literary figure. Robert E. Howard fans will be aware of this, as will fans of the comic, but what do we really know about the skull-faced villain. Considering the impact Thulsa Doom has on popular perception of Howard, it's only right that we have a closer look at the original.
For instance, where does Doom come from? Is he a surviving Muvian; an "Imperial Atlantean" like Kathulos; even a Black Atlantean from the kingdoms alluded to in "Black Canaan" and the Am-ra stories? Or is he a member of the Elder Race of Men, even the "devil-race" who would give rise to Zamora, or the earliest ancestors of what would give rise to Acheron?
I've also come across some theories that Thulsa Doom and Kathulos of "Skull-Face" are one and the same: I'm not convinced, for while they share some physical similarities and are connected by the world Kathulos/Kuthulos, Kathulos doesn't seem to have the flair for the dramatic that Doom does. Doom is more like a certain other character with whom he shares a surname, and is more bombastic and theatrical than his skull-faced brother. Having said that, it's possible the two are connected by race. Perhaps down in the depths of the sea, there is a sarcophagus tied down by seaweed that contains the dormant husk of Doom, waiting for the current to sunder the fronds, and carry it to the shore, and a world ripe for domination...
And if you're wondering, I just couldn't resist putting Doom in dark red to echo his mighty, cavernous voice.