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Howard's Conan Vs. Conan On Film


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#101 mario

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 06:30 PM

"and what not, telling me that scholars didn't agree with me and that they would rather say the movie was well made and a success in terms of being faithful to the source material.
But Taranaich doesn't think so, Crom neither, Leo Grin even less"- not to undermine you , you have your opinion on the flick and thats fine and sadly see the animosity ( it happens)but we here in ny have an age old question I'll modify here: " if the conan 'scholars' jumped off the brooklyn bridge,(because they said it was Howardian) would you?"
Scholar or not,( is there a diploma or something for this?;) ) there is still room to like this movie (as well as Milius's and any incarnation one sees reason to enjoy)and enjoy REH's writings ( and have a working knowledge of them knowing the difference)it does not make anyone stupid or ignorant; that is the root premise of my whole point.

#102 Crom

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 07:39 PM


The debate is over


Indeed it is.

Warning: Stay on topic and remain civil. Any further bantering will be not be tolerated.

All posts that did not follow Officer Aggro's warning have been removed. Any more bickering and the thread will be closed.

#103 amster

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:58 AM

It's pointless to throw in the air dozens of flimsy arguments to prove that Marique, Artus, Zym, Galongabunmba -oh crap that one wasn't in Conan 2011 was he? - were supposedly remotely "Howardian" in any sense.


Marique was a very Howardian character, very much in the spirit of characters such as Solome (notice I said "in the spirit of", not a carbon copy). What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that the goal was to do a pastiche, and to introduce characters, themes, and situations that Conan fans would find familiar but would still be different enough to not be a slavish imitation, and in my opinion the filmakers succeeded, and least to my satisfaction. The whole point in launching the frachise with an origin story rather than a straight up adaptation was to introduce audiences to the character by showing the various apects of him, sort of "Conan greatest hits" story. In the film we get Conan the Pict slayer, Conan the Pirate, Conan the monster slayer, and Conan the Thief, which covers a lot more ground than any individual story, with the exception of The Hour of the Dragon, which is chronologically the last in the series and therefore unfit to launch the franchise (HotD, btw, is written as a greatest hits novel because the intention was to intoduce the character to a brand new audience via a British book publisher). What you don't want to do when writing a pastiche film is introduce actual characters and situations from actual Howard stories, because that poisons the well against future adaptations. Both Conan 82 and The Destroyer liberally pulled enough bits and pieces from the original stories to make it problematic at best to ever adapt these as films of their own. Conan2011 for the most part avoided that pitfall while still delivering a story that was recognizably "Howardian" IMO.

Marique, like Solome (and Tsotha Lanti), is not entirely human and is "naturally gifted" at practicing black magic. Additionally, like both Solome and Tascela, she's beautiful (not accounting for individual taste), and she's more than a bit perverted. That's four points of definate similarity to actual Howard villians. And, like I said that's the whole point: making it familiar without being a slavish imitation.

Khalar Zym? Basically, he'a a ruthless, ambitious warlord. Can anyone actually argue that REH never created villians like this? And, like Strabonus, as well as the plotters in Hour of the Dragon, he's willing to use black sorcery (that he doesn't have full control over) to achieve his goal. And like many Howardian villians such as Zenghi from Lion of Tiberius and Timour from Lord of Samarcand, the fatal mistake that proves his undoing is in underestimating and trampling with inpunity upon those he considers to be beneath him. It's a theme that pops up in Howard's stories quite often.

There's plenty of Howardian material to be found in the supporting characters as well, especially when considering the theme of barbarism vs. civilization. Notice how Conan's confrontation with each of Zym's henchmen plays out differently depending on what side of the barbarism vs. civilization scale they happen to fall? Lucius and Remo, the civilized henchmen, reveal themselves to be snivelling cowards who are all too eager to sell out their associates in order to save their own skin. Ukafa and Akhun, barbarians themselves, must be beaten through brute physical force.

And the women in Conan life? The first we see is Conan's mother herself, a barbarian and a warrior, and she's the kind of woman Conan would have grown up with in his village, the kind of woman that Conan would admire and respect. Then we see the "civilized women", for the most part slaves and harlots, who are soft and weak and helpless, and it's clear that while he enjoys their company a great deal, Conan doesn't respect them. And why should he? That takes us to the most important relationship in the film, the one between Conan and Tamera, and here we have a plot progression that is quite similar to the one in People of the Black Circle. At the beginning of their relationship she's merely a tool to be used to further his own gains, because he sees her as just another soft and weak product of civilization, little better than the harlots and slave girls he takes to bed, but as the story progresses she earns his respect, and they payoff is when he tells her that she's dressed like a harlot and to wear the armor like a "Cimmerian woman".

There's plenty of other Howardian things in the film as well, little things that may have escaped peoples' attention. The Hyborian lanscape is littered throughout with ruins suggesting older civilizations that have long since collapsed, either by the great cataclysm or overrun with barbarians. The petrified forest scenes were quite effective in this regard.

It's all a big diversion to stray from the subject anyways, and I cited two precise sequences in the movie (the battle in Doom's orgy palace and Osric's speech ) which had an extremly strong Howardian feel to them, much more than in the Destoryer and the 2011 reboot to be honest.


To be honest, I stuggle to find what was "Howardian" about the orgy scene other than the slaying and killing. I can't recall a single Howard story that features an "orgy chamber", nor do I rememeber a Howard story where the villian and his minions engage in canabalism. Giant snakes are a staple of Howard stories, and there is an occasional sorceror or his minion who morphs into animals, but I can't recall a sorceror who morphs into a giant snake. I suppose one could argue that Thulsa Doom is one of the serpent men on Valusia, and that a snake is his true form and the human is the illusion, but this argument really doesn't work either, since he slithered off out of danger after morphing. Either he was a coward or, being a giant snake, he was comppletely "out of it".

As for Osrics speech, it's not surpising that it sounds Howardian. The last part is lifted from The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune:

There comes, even to kings, the time of great weariness. Then the gold of the throne is brass, the silk of the palace becomes drab. The gems in the diadem sparkle drearily like the ice of the white seas; the speech of men is as the empty rattle of a jester's bell and the feel comes of things unreal; even the sun is copper in the sky, and the breath of the green ocean is no longer fresh.
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Money and muscle, that's what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won't do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won't enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#104 monk

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:45 AM

Giant snakes are a staple of Howard stories, and there is an occasional sorceror or his minion who morphs into animals, but I can't recall a sorceror who morphs into a giant snake....


master of yimsha, the fight seems to have inspired a few of the moves in CtB, pinning the jaws closed and such....

Now he had reached the head of the stairs, and the Master's face floated in the steely haze before him, and a strange fear shadowed the inscrutable eyes. Conan waded through the mist as through a surf, and his knife lunged upward like a live thing. The keen point ripped the Master's robe as he sprang back with a low cry. Then before Conan's gaze, the wizard vanished--simply disappeared like a burst bubble, and something long and undulating darted up one of the smaller stairs that led up to left and right from the landing.
Conan charged after it, up the left-hand stair, uncertain as to just what he had seen whip up those steps, but in a berserk mood that drowned the nausea and horror whispering at the back of his consciousness.
He plunged out into a broad corridor whose uncarpeted floor and untapestried walls were of polished jade, and something long and swift whisked down the corridor ahead of him, and into a curtained door. From within the chamber rose a scream of urgent terror. The sound lent wings to Conan's flying feet and he hurtled through the curtains and headlong into the chamber within.
A frightful scene met his glare. Yasmina cowered on the farther edge of a velvet-covered dais, screaming her loathing and horror, an arm lifted as if to ward off attack, while before her swayed the hideous head of a giant serpent, shining neck arching up from dark-gleaming coils. With a choked cry Conan threw his knife.
Instantly the monster whirled and was upon him like the rush of wind through tall grass. The long knife quivered in its neck, point and a foot of blade showing on one side, and the hilt and a hand's-breadth of steel on the other, but it only seemed to madden the giant reptile. The great head towered above the man who faced it, and then darted down, the venom-dripping jaws gaping wide. But Conan had plucked a dagger from his girdle and he stabbed upward as the head dipped down. The point tore through the lower jaw and transfixed the upper, pinning them together. The next instant the great trunk had looped itself about the Cimmerian as the snake, unable to use its fangs, employed its remaining form of attack.
Conan's left arm was pinioned among the bone-crushing folds, but his right was free. Bracing his feet to keep upright, he stretched forth his hand, gripped the hilt of the long knife jutting from the serpent's neck, and tore it free in a shower of blood. As if divining his purpose with more than bestial intelligence, the snake writhed and knotted, seeking to cast its loops about his right arm. But with the speed of light the long knife rose and fell, shearing halfway through the reptile's giant trunk.
Before he could strike again, the great pliant loops fell from him and the monster dragged itself across the floor, gushing blood from its ghastly wounds. Conan sprang after it, knife lifted, but his vicious swipe cut empty air as the serpent writhed away from him and struck its blunt nose against a paneled screen of sandalwood. One of the panels gave inward and the long, bleeding barrel whipped through it and was gone.
Conan instantly attacked the screen. A few blows rent it apart and he glared into the dim alcove beyond. No horrific shape coiled there; there was blood on the marble floor, and bloody tracks led to a cryptic arched door. Those tracks were of a man's bare feet . . .


"I live, I BURN WITH LIFE, I love, I slay, and am content."
"Here's to brother Painbrush, we drink to his Shade..."
"All Art Is Martial"- RZA

"Our basic purist premise:
ROBERT E. HOWARD, ENTIRELY ALONE, WITHOUT ASSISTANCE FROM ANY OTHER PERSON, CREATED THE CHARACTER CONAN OF CIMMERIA. NO OTHER PERSON OR PERSONS SHOULD BE INTRUDING THEIR WORK INTO THE VOLUMES OF HOWARD'S CONAN STORIES.
In essence, we believe that the work of any creative artist -- writer, painter, illustrator, musician, what-have-you -- is a unique expression of an artistic point of view. It should not be appropriated or altered by others without the artist's consent. No other writer has Robert E. Howard's unique point of view, and no other writer knows what Howard would have done with his character had he lived. Upon his death, his canon, the expression of his artistic vision, became fixed. Tampering with it now is desecration."

#105 Crom

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 05:31 PM

All posts from #106 on have been removed at the thread-owners request. For those of you caught up in this feud I apologize for removing your contributions. Hopefully civility will return and no further action will be required. Be aware, this is a final warning.

#106 monk

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 08:31 AM

...nor do I rememeber a Howard story where the villian and his minions engage in canabalism.



would you consider the servants of bit-yakin cannibals?

they're kind of human, and eat human corpses at any rate...plus there's the house of aram baksh.
"I live, I BURN WITH LIFE, I love, I slay, and am content."
"Here's to brother Painbrush, we drink to his Shade..."
"All Art Is Martial"- RZA

"Our basic purist premise:
ROBERT E. HOWARD, ENTIRELY ALONE, WITHOUT ASSISTANCE FROM ANY OTHER PERSON, CREATED THE CHARACTER CONAN OF CIMMERIA. NO OTHER PERSON OR PERSONS SHOULD BE INTRUDING THEIR WORK INTO THE VOLUMES OF HOWARD'S CONAN STORIES.
In essence, we believe that the work of any creative artist -- writer, painter, illustrator, musician, what-have-you -- is a unique expression of an artistic point of view. It should not be appropriated or altered by others without the artist's consent. No other writer has Robert E. Howard's unique point of view, and no other writer knows what Howard would have done with his character had he lived. Upon his death, his canon, the expression of his artistic vision, became fixed. Tampering with it now is desecration."

#107 Gin-Wulf

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 02:56 PM

you are correct but in that story and the case with the other ape men from the hyborian age they eat humans. but it does not say they are eating there own kind.
to me that is what canabalism is , eating ones own kind ,such as those who file there teeth to points. not just any race/species eating humans.

#108 deuce

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 03:17 PM

you are correct but in that story and the case with the other ape men from the hyborian age they eat humans. but it does not say they are eating there own kind.
to me that is what canabalism is , eating ones own kind ,such as those who file there teeth to points. not just any race/species eating humans.



Objectively, I agree. B) However, I STILL say the Ewoks were cannibalistic teddy-bears. :P

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#109 mario

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 09:01 PM

its a hard call when reading between the lines.historically speaking man has feasted upon his own species in desparate situations, is it safe to assume a less evolved variant , be it man-ape of Howards writing or neanderthal would chow down for less extreme reasons? The popular opinion of apes at the time was that theywould munch on a human or three.I mean I know I wouldnt feel right munching on monkey brainslol...

#110 monk

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 09:01 PM

you are correct but in that story and the case with the other ape men from the hyborian age they eat humans. but it does not say they are eating there own kind.
to me that is what canabalism is , eating ones own kind ,such as those who file there teeth to points. not just any race/species eating humans.


there's still the house of aram baksh, which, like a sorceror turning into a snake, isn't that hard to think about if you are looking for howardian evidence of things. to me, there were certainly sprinkings of howard in both movies but I fail to see what the big deal about it is, because there are howardian bits to greater or lesser degree in all the pastiche too and so the question becomes, is it enough to make a story float and be considered very good? In the case of CtB 2011 the jury came in, and it's not, especially when it's not even done very well.

anyway before the thread-hoopla i was saying that a kind of rubric would not be too difficult to set up- take weaponry or arms and armor. it could be scaled on 1-5 or 1 - 10, with an extreme non howardian example at one end. this would be relatively easy to do, because howard was very often explicit as to what kind of armor or sword conan had, and we know he was a student of history.

so, bat wing hilt sword with spikey mace head pommel, would get a not very howard on the rubric, for example. artists or creatives who would adhere to the rubric system would be way better informed and have a simple to use guide to nudge their creative impulses in the right direction. we wouldn't get that crazy armor like what conan is sporting on that cover of SSoC we were talking about down in illustrated, we wouldn't have gotten the ridiculous swords in CtB 2011 either. maybe something for the Encyclopedia Taranaich is putting together.


you are correct but in that story and the case with the other ape men from the hyborian age they eat humans. but it does not say they are eating there own kind.
to me that is what canabalism is , eating ones own kind ,such as those who file there teeth to points. not just any race/species eating humans.


well what do you call then, a tribe of new guineaens who eat a european explorer- to invoke the classic joke lol.

it's a much broader term, going way back...neanderthals were thought to have eaten other hominids and vice versa, for example, as well as each other. mexica ritually consumed captured enemies, it's a theme from religion to culture to real life to literature like moby dick.



Objectively, I agree. B) However, I STILL say the Ewoks were cannibalistic teddy-bears. :P


with a little garlic and sea salt rub, that might have solved the problem of Ewoks all together. How he went from Wookie to Ewok is beyond me lol...

Edited by monk, 17 December 2011 - 09:05 PM.

"I live, I BURN WITH LIFE, I love, I slay, and am content."
"Here's to brother Painbrush, we drink to his Shade..."
"All Art Is Martial"- RZA

"Our basic purist premise:
ROBERT E. HOWARD, ENTIRELY ALONE, WITHOUT ASSISTANCE FROM ANY OTHER PERSON, CREATED THE CHARACTER CONAN OF CIMMERIA. NO OTHER PERSON OR PERSONS SHOULD BE INTRUDING THEIR WORK INTO THE VOLUMES OF HOWARD'S CONAN STORIES.
In essence, we believe that the work of any creative artist -- writer, painter, illustrator, musician, what-have-you -- is a unique expression of an artistic point of view. It should not be appropriated or altered by others without the artist's consent. No other writer has Robert E. Howard's unique point of view, and no other writer knows what Howard would have done with his character had he lived. Upon his death, his canon, the expression of his artistic vision, became fixed. Tampering with it now is desecration."

#111 amster

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 09:03 PM


...nor do I rememeber a Howard story where the villian and his minions engage in canabalism.



would you consider the servants of bit-yakin cannibals?

they're kind of human, and eat human corpses at any rate...plus there's the house of aram baksh.


You're right, I forgot all about The Man Eaters of Zamboula, definately cannibals as the title suggests, although the title characters are neither "ape-men" nor the villians of that particular yarn, more like secondary or even third tier villians at the most. REH does use cannabilsm in this story to explore his primary themes -the civilized folk, in constant fear of an uprising, appease their barbaric slaves by tolerating their abhorrent practices - but that point in lost in the Milius film, where Doom's inner circle, the priviledged few, feast on the flesh of Doom's naive hippy followers. Milius does borrow from Man Eaters of Zamboula, however. Conan's first opponent as a Pit fighter fits the description of a Darfarian Cannibal quite well, though how barbaric Vanaheim was able to import slaves all the way from the deep south is never explained, just as it's never explained how that country could possibly be in contact with Hyrkania, or even be aware of it's existence for that matter. Just more examples of what's un-Howardian about the Milius film, the lines between barbaric and civilized cultures are hopelessly blurred. The Vanir dress in animal skins, rape and pillage other villages, and yet they're apparently sophisticated enough to import and export slaves to the far corners of the continent. But I digress.

Not my favorite Conan yarn, and I think even less of The Servants of Bit Yakin, by far my least favorite Conan story.
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Money and muscle, that's what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won't do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won't enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#112 monk

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 09:16 PM


REH does use cannabilsm in this story to explore his primary themes -the civilized folk, in constant fear of an uprising, appease their barbaric slaves by tolerating their abhorrent practices...


kind of ironic if you consider that a lot of 'civilization' was brought to cannibalistic 'savages' along with a religion that featured....mythological cannibalism...
"I live, I BURN WITH LIFE, I love, I slay, and am content."
"Here's to brother Painbrush, we drink to his Shade..."
"All Art Is Martial"- RZA

"Our basic purist premise:
ROBERT E. HOWARD, ENTIRELY ALONE, WITHOUT ASSISTANCE FROM ANY OTHER PERSON, CREATED THE CHARACTER CONAN OF CIMMERIA. NO OTHER PERSON OR PERSONS SHOULD BE INTRUDING THEIR WORK INTO THE VOLUMES OF HOWARD'S CONAN STORIES.
In essence, we believe that the work of any creative artist -- writer, painter, illustrator, musician, what-have-you -- is a unique expression of an artistic point of view. It should not be appropriated or altered by others without the artist's consent. No other writer has Robert E. Howard's unique point of view, and no other writer knows what Howard would have done with his character had he lived. Upon his death, his canon, the expression of his artistic vision, became fixed. Tampering with it now is desecration."

#113 amster

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 09:30 PM

anyway before the thread-hoopla i was saying that a kind of rubric would not be too difficult to set up- take weaponry or arms and armor. it could be scaled on 1-5 or 1 - 10, with an extreme non howardian example at one end. this would be relatively easy to do, because howard was very often explicit as to what kind of armor or sword conan had, and we know he was a student of history.

so, bat wing hilt sword with spikey mace head pommel, would get a not very howard on the rubric, for example. artists or creatives who would adhere to the rubric system would be way better informed and have a simple to use guide to nudge their creative impulses in the right direction. we wouldn't get that crazy armor like what conan is sporting on that cover of SSoC we were talking about down in illustrated, we wouldn't have gotten the ridiculous swords in CtB 2011 either. maybe something for the Encyclopedia Taranaich is putting together.


The problem with trying to emforce such a rubic is that it runs the risk a stiffling an artist's creativity. Sure, there are loads of exaples of Conan art that use so many tired sword and sorcery cliche's that they practically become parodies (like the Cover of SSoC 11, or Conan the Destroyer), but on the other hand, look at the cover to Lancer's Conan the Conqueror. Conan doesn't wear a fur loin cloth at any point in HotD, or a necklace made of teeth, or a huge leather girdle, nor does he weild a scimitar, or hold his sword and sheild high up in the air -leaving himself fully exposed -while charging into battle, nor are there any skeleton warriors in HotD. By your rubic, this painting is a complete failure, and yet it helped sell millions of volumes and is considered one of Frazetta's most classic and iconic paintings. The cover of Conan of Cimmeria is another example. Conan isn't dressed that way in the story, and yet the cover captures the spirit of The Frost Giants Daughter perfectly.

From an academic standpoint, your idea is an interesting one, I just don't think that it would be very helpful when judging art. One artist could deliver something that would rate a 5 on your scale and still manage to be dull and lifeless, while the Frazettas and Buscemas of the world have delivered 1s and yet still managed to be more Howardian in spirit.
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--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#114 thedarkman

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 11:59 PM

In terms of judging weapons as Howardian or otherwise, that would be tough to prove. It is very unlikely that Howard's Conan would use a "bat wing hilt sword" with a "spikey" pommel, but Howard never said he didn't, either. From what I recall, detailed descriptions of weapons used by Conan are few. So it is possible that he would have used a large, wide hilted broadsword like the weapon in Conan2011. After several viewings, I have come to like that sword, but I did not care for Corin's "Father Sword". At the most, it could be said that Conan used whatever sword was available at the time, and most likely a plain, workman-like tool. No Excaliburs.

#115 monk

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 05:46 AM

well, think of it this way, if Frazetta's paintings HAD been informed by the use of such a rubric, they would actually be better, because if there is any gripe it's those few elements which have now become cliché- he just rocked it so hard a lot of people can shrug it off. it's not the tooth necklace or the girdle that make that painting, it's the dynamic and visual, I'd say, visceral feeling with which Frazetta delivers his scene...he captures the energy and delivers it. I'd wager Frank could have delivered some bananas paintings by using such a rubric...speculation of course, on my part. But the other thing I would say is, precious few artists can carry a painting like that the way Frazzetta could...




In terms of judging weapons as Howardian or otherwise, that would be tough to prove. It is very unlikely that Howard's Conan would use a "bat wing hilt sword" with a "spikey" pommel, but Howard never said he didn't, either. From what I recall, detailed descriptions of weapons used by Conan are few. So it is possible that he would have used a large, wide hilted broadsword like the weapon in Conan2011. After several viewings, I have come to like that sword, but I did not care for Corin's "Father Sword". At the most, it could be said that Conan used whatever sword was available at the time, and most likely a plain, workman-like tool. No Excaliburs.


well, kind of. In Black Colossus the armor is very detailed- we basically know that Howard was a student of history, he definitely used historical terms to describe weapons and armor, so no...I don't think the 2011 sword really fits in with the world of original Conan, and definitely not the gladiator armor... Those are just gratuitous choices someone made who thought it would be "cool." I kind of liked the armor zyms soldiers wore because it was a tweak of asian stuff. but i couldn't have disagreed more with most of the rest. it was obvious we were in trouble as far as that was concerned with mr. Hood's first attempt at setting the tone, when he said something like, armor is cumbersome and swords were heavy...something like that.

look at Game of Thrones as an example of the aesthetic that is probably more in line with what Conan 2011 should have been given, the art direction in that delivers what is in the books- basically real world semi-historical treatments but tweak them just enough to give you a sense that you are not looking really at medieval europe, Jackson did a great job of this in LotR as well, the Rohirrim for example were clearly invoking Vikings but also were not.

When compared against those efforts which delivered those respective worlds and really made it come to the screen, Conan 2011 really fails to deliver the visceral basis that helped make the original stories resonate the way they did. Instead they brought a cliché of a cliché...so it just went flat. The Hyborian Age, it's pseudo history, but for that to be successful, it has to really have some general basis in real history, and that's how Howard built the substrate for his world, and he stuck to it. Trust me, it's not a problem for someone to flourish and make some really creative stuff happen that is based in reality.

But because we don't have that kind of mechanism in place like a rubric or some other guide, and clearly there is little actual respect for the sanctity -for lack of a better word- of the original works, we have such deviations as we see in the comics and the movies. We get other people's imaginings, problem is, it's already been pretty much imagined, and really well. and even worse, you have people imagining off the previous imaginings, artists notoriously reference other artists who worked on Conan, so it just perpetuates some problems.
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ROBERT E. HOWARD, ENTIRELY ALONE, WITHOUT ASSISTANCE FROM ANY OTHER PERSON, CREATED THE CHARACTER CONAN OF CIMMERIA. NO OTHER PERSON OR PERSONS SHOULD BE INTRUDING THEIR WORK INTO THE VOLUMES OF HOWARD'S CONAN STORIES.
In essence, we believe that the work of any creative artist -- writer, painter, illustrator, musician, what-have-you -- is a unique expression of an artistic point of view. It should not be appropriated or altered by others without the artist's consent. No other writer has Robert E. Howard's unique point of view, and no other writer knows what Howard would have done with his character had he lived. Upon his death, his canon, the expression of his artistic vision, became fixed. Tampering with it now is desecration."

#116 Ironhand

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 06:41 AM

It is not the weird swords or the fur diapers that make Frazetta's paintings great, it is Frazetta, and Conan, that make them great. If Frazetta had been following a bible, the paintings would have been just as great, yet more authentic. REH did describe Conan's swords, just by naming them: cutlass, tulwar, scimitar, saber, broadsword. Each of those names carries paragraphs of description. Just look up those names in Wikipedia; see how long those pages are, and how many pictures are on each page. REH, just by naming swords, conveys all that information.

Proper use of the Encyclopedia could keep errors from being perpetrated, and perpetuated.
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

Read my Conan screenplays at The Scrolls of Ironhand (in particular my transcription of THE FROST GIANT'S DAUGHTER in Act II of "The Snow Devil") at
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
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#117 deuce

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 01:21 PM

well, think of it this way, if Frazetta's paintings HAD been informed by the use of such a rubric, they would actually be better, because if there is any gripe it's those few elements which have now become cliché- he just rocked it so hard a lot of people can shrug it off. it's not the tooth necklace or the girdle that make that painting, it's the dynamic and visual, I'd say, visceral feeling with which Frazetta delivers his scene...he captures the energy and delivers it. I'd wager Frank could have delivered some bananas paintings by using such a rubric...speculation of course, on my part. But the other thing I would say is, precious few artists can carry a painting like that the way Frazetta could..


Right on. It really looks like Frazetta had Roy G. Krenkel (who we know was a keen fan/observer of REH) just give him descriptions of scenes and people. Then Frank ran with it. Personally, I don't see how FF sticking tighter to the stories would've hurt anything. Conan in hacked remnants of armor (in Berzerker) would've been cool. We KNOW Frazetta could do great knights/medieval. Some of his most famous works feature that.





in Black Colossus the armor is very detailed- we basically know that Howard was a student of history, he definitely used historical terms to describe weapons and armor
it was obvious we were in trouble as far as that was concerned with mr. Hood's first attempt at setting the tone, when he said something like, armor is cumbersome and swords were heavy...something like that.


Yeah, when you've got writers and artists who really don't understand pre-gunpowder times (I would argue that Frazetta DID, at an instinctive level) then you get silliness like the above quote.

Howard also gave a detailed description of Conan's rig in QotBC.

look at Game of Thrones as an example of the aesthetic that is probably more in line with what Conan 2011 should have been given, the art direction in that delivers what is in the books- basically real world semi-historical treatments but tweak them just enough to give you a sense that you are not looking really at medieval europe

The Hyborian Age, it's pseudo history, but for that to be successful, it has to really have some general basis in real history, and that's how Howard built the substrate for his world, and he stuck to it. Trust me, it's not a problem for someone to flourish and make some really creative stuff happen that is based in reality.


People like Lundemo and "Sharn" Stark have already done so. I guarantee that there would've been plenty of great bladesmiths/armorers who would've worked at scale for the 2011 movie. All they would've needed was a rubric/Encyclopaedia to work from in order to come up with Howardian stuff.

Honestly, considering how "fantasized" gear for HISTORICAL movies usually gets, I think that any armorers for fantasy movies should just be told they're doing a "historical" movie and given some historical guidelines. Maybe THEN weapons in fantasy flicks would start becoming practical. Instead, all of these guys seem to say WAHOO! The sky's the limit! ...and then we have "20lb broadswords" AND hooks AND serrations and all the other crap. :rolleyes: Oh yeah, and somebody needs to tell these guys that khopesh swords (the "new katanas") were NEVER particularly effective.



we have such deviations as we see in the comics and the movies. We get other people's imaginings, problem is, it's already been pretty much imagined, and really well. and even worse, you have people imagining off the previous imaginings, artists notoriously reference other artists who worked on Conan, so it just perpetuates some problems.


Exactly. Most artists aren't NEARLY as "creative" as they would like us to think. They're not continually pulling this stuff out of their subconscious. They say, "How did so-and-so do this?" I'm not baggin' on 'em for that. I did a lot of fantasy/sci-fi art back when. I referenced other artists constantly. For one thing, it saves time.

However, when you reference the "silly/non-Howard" stuff, you get what I call "Bad Inbreeding" (PLEASE, don't take this the wrong way). By that, I mean when stock is in-bred for certain traits, there really isn't a problem as long as the "root stock" (a term REH was fond of) is basically defect-free. In-breeding becomes a real problem when the stock used is tainted with defective genes. To offset this, "fresh blood" is brought in (very occasionally) to alleviate "bad genetic" problems. One of the original members of the gene pool might've been JUST FINE (if not exemplary) while retaining the hidden genetic defect. However, down the line, that defect recombines and becomes DOMINANT, leading to inferior stock. This is what happens all the time with (supposedly) "Howardian" art.

Basically, "Howardian" elements AND dynamism (which is ITSELF a "Howardian" trait) should be what we're aiming at.

Frazetta was definitely the "founding bull" of the entire Howardian artistic herd. It would be almost impossible (on the basis of awe-inspiring talent AND mindset) to find someone better suited to start the REH artistic tradition. However, Frank pulled it all off (as has been noted) through sheer artistic ability. If he even read REH's yarns is doubtful. By his own admission, he based Conan himself on Italian gangsters and Slavic actors (REH would be rolling in his grave). The elements making up each painting almost always deviate from Howard's descriptions.

Generations of artists have now learned to ape the SURFACE elements of Frazetta's renditions (or of HIS imitators) while hardly ever matching the unstoppable, visceral dynamism and menace which was their MOST "Howardian" aspect. Effectively, we've been "breeding" anything remotely "Howardian" out of the artistic "herd" for about four decades.

That said, I've always thought that Frank was great at coming up with "Hyborian Age gear" (even in non-Conan work) that harked back to medieval-era stuff while never being a copy. Almost all other artists (there are a few exceptions) seem incapable of it. Instead, they apparently just google "Roman armor". :rolleyes:

Perhaps we should start a thread on "Artistic Renditions of Conan" or somesuch. Or, maybe, "Howard's Conan vs. the Artists".

We have wandered a ways off-topic.

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#118 deuce

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 01:25 PM

It is not the weird swords or the fur diapers that make Frazetta's paintings great, it is Frazetta, and Conan, that make them great. If Frazetta had been following a bible, the paintings would have been just as great, yet more authentic. REH did describe Conan's swords, just by naming them: cutlass, tulwar, scimitar, saber, broadsword. Each of those names carries paragraphs of description. Just look up those names in Wikipedia; see how long those pages are, and how many pictures are on each page. REH, just by naming swords, conveys all that information. Proper use of the Encyclopedia could keep errors from being perpetrated, and perpetuated.


Amen, Ironhand. There needs to be a benchmark and the benchmark should be Robert E. Howard, not Milius or Frazetta.

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#119 deuce

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 02:02 PM

well, think of it this way, if Frazetta's paintings HAD been informed by the use of such a rubric, they would actually be better, because if there is any gripe it's those few elements which have now become cliché- he just rocked it so hard a lot of people can shrug it off.

Instead they brought a cliché of a cliché... We get other people's imaginings, problem is,so it just perpetuates some problems.


Like a lot of "extreme" forms of art, REH's yarns and Frazetta's paintings ride the razor's edge between profound comments on the darker aspects of humanity and utter silliness/parody. Their imitators almost always achieved the latter. :rolleyes:

Regarding a visual rubric/benchmark for the Hyborian Age, one has existed for 30yrs. It could be called "Tim Kirk's Illos for the Bantam Conan Paperbacks". While, IMO, not a very dynamic artist, KIrk was an awesome draftsman and took Howard at his word. Future visual pasticheurs of Howard's Conan legacy would do well to study Kirk's illustrations.

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#120 amster

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 03:57 PM

Getting the subject back on track, going back to Conan's interrogation of Lucius and his subsequent "bargain", I think that both Al Harron and myself offered vaild points. To summarize:

Taranaich:

After Lucius holds up his end of the bargain, we then come to Conan committing a sickening act of civilized duplicity. He forces Lucius to swallow his key, hauls him out into the middle of the quarry, and tells the slaves the key to their chains is in the captain’s belly. Lucius protests, saying Conan gave his word he wouldn’t kill him: Conan responds “I said I wouldn’t kill you.”

Here’s why this infuriates me: how is what Conan’s doing any different from what Khalar Zym did to his father? After all, technically Khalar Zym didn’t kill Corin, he simply set up the circumstances which resulted in his death. Conan is doing exactly the same to Lucius – but worse, because unlike Khalar, Conan promised that he would not kill him, and betrayed the spirit of his word by using the letter as an escape clause. So in a way, Conan is acting worse than the man who’s supposed to be the main villain! At least Khalar never gave his word to betray: how can we trust Conan’s “barbaric code of honour” if he’s so willing to break it? Again, this might be a case of Howard fans having different opinions on what constitutes Conan’s “code of honour,” but frankly, this is solidly a minus for me.

Amster: Likely, Lucius behavior in the prison is one of the reasons Conan let the mob have him rather than kill him personally. Instead of facing his death like a man, he turned into a sniveling RAT in order to save his own skin, exhibiting the worst sort of "civilized" behavior that a barbarian such as Conan would react to with utter contempt. As for Conan's duplicity in his promise "not to kill you", I found his behavior far less amoral than in Pool of the Black One. No, Conan doesn't explicitly say "I promise not to kill you and steal your ship and your woman" to Zaporavo when he agreed to take him on board, but I think there was an implicit understanding as such, just as there is in all employer/employee relationships. [Additionally, Conan did not feel particularly honor-bound to the Pirate code, which required him to first prove his worthiness in battle and then to challenge Zaporavo openly. No, he killed Zaporavo when no one was around. So here we have a case of Conan acting selfishly and dishonorably not just by an average person's standards, but by a pirate's standards as well. Should I point out that Zaporavo did nothing to Conan to deserve this (unlike Lucius)? In Vale of Lost Women, Conan behaves even worse, openly dishonoring a truce that he agreed to only hours before, his justification being that Bajujh would do "the same to him if he had the chance", and that "truces are made to be broken". Is there any doubt in your mind that Lucius would have had the entire Argossean Army after Conan had he let him live?

Looking back I think that one factor that was lost on both of us in making our arguments was Conan's unpredictability. It would seem just cut and dried to read these segments and have conan act accordingly....

He was not like the freebooters, civilized men who had repudiated all standards of honor, and lived without any. Conan, on the other hand, lived according to the code of his people, which was barbaric and bloody, but at least upheld its own peculiar standards of honor.
- “The Black Stranger”

“He is a wanderer and a plunderer, and a slayer, but he has his own code of morals. I don’t think we have anything to fear from him.”
- The Tombalku Fragment

...bu when writing pastiches, I don't think it's entirely possible to predict what Conan would do based on his barbaric code of honor, because Conan himself doesn't always follow it, as evidenced by his behavior in Pool of the Black One, Vale of Lost Women, and The Frost Giants Daughter, not to mention the atrocities he likely participated in when he sailed with the Black Corsairs. I think one of the major problems with a lot of pasiches as that they stuck too closely to his barbaric code of honor, making Conan something of a barbarian boyscout who would never harm a woman and always keeps his word. REH's Conan is more "real" than that. Most people (at least those who aren't sociopaths) have some sort of religion or personal code of honor that they uphold and try to live by, Very few, if any, never violate it at some point of their lives, very often for purely selfish and self-serving reasons.

I don't think Conan "planned" to commit what Taranaich characterizes as a sickening act of civilized duplicity. Do to his stormy and unpredicatable nature, Conan didn't look that far ahead. He didn't exactly know what he was going to do with Lucius once he got his hands on him. It was a whim of circumstance, and the bargain was merely a quick and efficient way for Conan to get what he wanted out of someone he was going to kill anyway. I don't think REH's Conan would spend a second wrestling with the moral ramifications of not living up to his own "code of honor" in such a circumstance.

I think whether or not Conan lives up to his code of honor depends a lot on who he's dealing with. It's easy to live up to it when dealing with characters who are honorable themselves, such as Belesa or Amalric. Not so much when dealing with pirates or, in the film, characters such as Lucius. In The Black Stranger, the story that very quote is lifted from, Conan strikes a bargain with Zarono and Strom and subsequently leads them into a trap, what could be interpreted as an act of civilized duplicity. It's not helped by the fact that neither pirate planned to honor their end of the deal, either. It merely means that Conan was no better than they were in this regard. I'm sure that every pirate who lived during the Hyborian Age rationalized their backstabbing nature with "He would do the same to me were he given the chance".

I'm curius to know whether people would have thought the scene was more or less in character if it had played out this way:

Lucius: Who promised not to kill me! You gave me your word!

Conan: I lied!

Conan slits Lusius' throat.

Edited by amsterdamaged, 18 December 2011 - 04:06 PM.

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