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REH's Conan, How To Save The Franchise...


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#1 cimmerianbloke

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 04:50 PM

How come that after many gimmicks, failures and awkward choices (I mean funny-looking busts, statues, dodgy adaptations, weird editorial choices, and so on...), nobody came with the simple idea that launched Conan on the general market: a paperback series with awesome cover art. The new edition from Patrice Louinet is the perfect alibi to launch a cheap edition, plain text, no illustration, with, say, some really awesome cover art, my preference would go to Brom (see my avatar), and no cheap sword logo. A low-key promotional campaign (plain posters) could help bringing the collection into light. If Lancer and Frazetta have done it once, it can be done again using the same strategy. The Wandering Star edition proved to be a failure (the books are currently being offered at 50% of their original price when bought together) regardless of the effort put into the careful selection of artists and material.
At this stage, that would only be a calculated risk and could not hurt the franchise...

#2 sonny sixshooter

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:54 PM

I may be mistaken, but isn't that what this thread:

http://www.conan.com...?showtopic=9217

is all about?

#3 amster

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 01:15 AM

Cimmerianbloke, I don't think it's as simple as that. The world has changed since the mid sixties through the seventies. When Conan and Lord of the Rings hit the paperback shelves in the mid-sixties, there really wasn't that much competition for that kind of fiction out there. Plus, the market was different. There weren't a lot of bookstores around (or malls, for that matter). The majority of the Lancers got sold in drug stores alongside comic books and magazines (when's the last time you saw a drug store that sold comics?) In the 60s and 70s they were ubiquitous. Robert E. Howard's writing was new to most people, as was Frazetta's art. Now everyone has seen a Frazetta painting, whether they're aware of the artist who painted it or not (in most cases, not). Conan and Lord of the Rings were pre-Dungeons and Dragons, pre Xena, and pre-Harry Potter. Now fantasy is one of the most popular forms of fiction in print and in film. Granted, it's not Howardian Sword and Sorcery, but all of it has wizards and mythical creatures and faux medieval settings. Robert E. Howard's short stories and novellas have to compete in a market that favors long drawn out multi-volume soap operas that never seem to end.

As much as it grieves me to say it, this is simply not the time for Conan to achieve mass popularity like it did in the 60s through the 80s, judging by the performance of the film and what's popular on the bookshelves these days. But trends tend to go in cycles. And REH's work is steadily gaining acceptance as genuine literature. Just look what's happened to HP Lovecraft in the last few years. He's virtually on the same level as Poe and Hemingway. It will soon be the same for REH. His stuff is just to good to be ignored forever.
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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--

#4 mario

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 02:33 AM

. And REH's work is steadily gaining acceptance as genuine literature. Just look what's happened to HP Lovecraft in the last few years. He's virtually on the same level as Poe and Hemingway. It will soon be the same for REH. His stuff is just to good to be ignored forever.

And honestly maybe this is where the efforts of Howard studies should shift their emphasis on : Instead of worrying so much about getting the perfect adaptation or even worrying about which schmuck brings up the old Howard myths maybe focusing on getting REH into classrooms and colleges and gain genuine acceptance as legit literature is the next best natural course.One of the posters on this forum, Monk did this with his class with the Tower of the Elephant, and thats commendable to me.I think it will happen. i think it should happen. I may myself touch base with some old contacts I have in the local colleges from back (not 'waay' back, but 'back' enough!lol)in the day and see if anyone is interested.
And as far as Reh and Conan in pop culture, I think the hplhs has a strong thing going with what they do, maybe an REHhs?

#5 Almuric

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 02:53 AM

but all of it has wizards and mythical creatures and faux medieval settings.


Not entirely true. There is a lot of popular urban fantasy with modern settings, and a fair number of non-Western settings in more traditional fantasy novels.
"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard

#6 cimmerianbloke

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 05:08 AM

Definitely a strong point worth discussing, Amster. As a private teacher of English as a foreign language, I sometimes use the opening of Tower of the Elephant to discuss style and the emphatic use of adjectives, most students are blown away by the prose, and these few lines make many sweat, for grammar is definitely something you need to master to read Howard. I cannot agree any more that having kids reading a Conan story would bring them to a degree of intensity they would not even have dreamed of with an item that doesn't have a screen.
As for the paperback collection, Sonny, did I mention awesome covers?... I would rather be seen buying a Paulo Coelho novel than these lame covers if I were shopping for a book and would have no idea who Robert E Howard were...

#7 sonny sixshooter

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 12:35 PM

As for the paperback collection, Sonny, did I mention awesome covers?...


Touché

#8 Almuric

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 04:47 PM

I'm not convinced of the need to "save" Conan at the moment. The DelRey's have put Howard's original, unedited stories back into print for the first time in ages. Pastiches, which used to be the only thing bearing the name Conan are mostly gone, with the only new ones for the forseeable future being the Dark Horse comic. It would have been nice if the movie did better, but Conan isn't doing that badly overall.

Besides, mass market paperbacks are widely preceived as being on the way out, with e-books being much less expensive. If you really want new readers, why not e-books of the Conan series? Why would we want to recreate the paperback market of the 1960s, which is long dead and buried, and ignore the modern equivalent? Posters? Where would we hang them? That's not how books are marketed these days.

Edited by Almuric, 07 February 2012 - 04:53 PM.

"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard

#9 Rargentum

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 09:44 PM

i think as far as books go, aren't all the original stories in public domain now? They will need some thing special; great cover art or nice packaging at least to stay out of the bargain bucket, although nearly 80 year after Howard's death this could bring a new lease of life?

As far as the movies go, I think there's an unavoidable catch 22 going on, in order to really "be" Conan, they need to be visceral, wild and violent, and that brings with it a certification that limits the audience of a "blockbuster."
In the UK the last movie was a cert 15, and I thought it was incredibly violent for a non 18 rated movie.

While I love swashbucklers like The Musketeer (Or even Pirates of the Caribbean) and the Prince of Persia movies, that sort of family friendly cartoonish violence just wouldn't work for Conan.

I don't know that I'm expressing this very well, but I hope you get what I mean...
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#10 KG Thunder

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 01:02 AM

Posters? Where would we hang them?

Wait, are walls a thing of the past too? I'd love a Conan poster! :P

#11 amster

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 01:18 AM

I don't see how one can look at the Del Reys and claim that Conan is lacking in the art department. The problem has never been the art. Even the awful pastiches of the 80s and 90s sported beautiful Ken Kelly covers. The problem is that the brand has been so deluded over the decades by those same pastiches, bad comics, awful TV shows (both live action and animated), and by Arnold Schwarzennegger that the casual consumer sees no difference between "bad" Conan and the genuine article. For the most part, Paradox has done an admirable job over the last decade at purifying the brand, but it may take several more decades to erase the stain of the last 30 years.
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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--

#12 Ironhand

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 08:28 AM

I don't see how one can look at the Del Reys and claim that Conan is lacking in the art department. The problem has never been the art. Even the awful pastiches of the 80s and 90s sported beautiful Ken Kelly covers. The problem is that the brand has been so deluded over the decades by those same pastiches, bad comics, awful TV shows (both live action and animated), and by Arnold Schwarzennegger that the casual consumer sees no difference between "bad" Conan and the genuine article. For the most part, Paradox has done an admirable job over the last decade at purifying the brand, but it may take several more decades to erase the stain of the last 30 years.

Too true to be good.
"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
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#13 Grimr

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 05:33 PM

I don't see how one can look at the Del Reys and claim that Conan is lacking in the art department. The problem has never been the art. Even the awful pastiches of the 80s and 90s sported beautiful Ken Kelly covers. The problem is that the brand has been so deluded over the decades by those same pastiches, bad comics, awful TV shows (both live action and animated), and by Arnold Schwarzennegger that the casual consumer sees no difference between "bad" Conan and the genuine article. For the most part, Paradox has done an admirable job over the last decade at purifying the brand, but it may take several more decades to erase the stain of the last 30 years.


I agree. The endless pastiches (I stopped reading them from Robert Jordan onwards) did dilute the Conan 'brand' and legacy a great deal. The Arnold version of Conan also did untold damage, strongly, and wrongly, influencing the general perception of the character. I just hope Howard's Conan re-emerges from this mess one day.
"I think of Life!" he roared. "The dead are dead, and what has passed is done! I have a ship and a fighting crew and a girl with lips like wine, and that's all I ever asked."

#14 ZackDavisson

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 09:20 PM

Massmarket paperbacks are definitely not the way to go--everyone I know that works in the book business, from small, independent retailers to amazon.com, admits that the massmarket paperback is essentially dead.

Publishers are moving in the opposite direction. eBooks for casual readers, with prestige hardbacks for collectors. The Wandering Star books were cool but they were TOO prestige; they priced themselves right out of the available market. The only one I own is Bran Mak Morn which I bought on sale.

The only real hope was the movie, and that was an epic failure. I don't know how much influence Paradox had in that, but they really screwed the pooch.

Frankly, I am OK with that. There are better Howard books out right now than I have ever seen before. The Del Rey serious is beautiful, and I have access to everything. If Howard remains a niche author -- well, what is wrong with that? Almost everyone I read are niche authors. I don't need the stamp of approval of the populous.

The Arnold version of Conan also did untold damage, strongly, and wrongly, influencing the general perception of the character.


That's just ridiculous. If it wasn't for the Conan film I would probably have never picked up a Conan book, nor would most people my age that read Conan. I first heard about Conan in Starlog magazine when they were doing pre-production for the film, which got me to go to the library and check out the books.

I have no problem enjoying the Conan flick right along with Howard's Conan. There is no "untold damage."

Edited by ZackDavisson, 06 April 2012 - 09:24 PM.


#15 Libaax

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 10:35 PM

REH is accepted as fantasy classic and horror classic author and Del Rey has awesome new paperbacks that are great to read. I was surprised when i saw recently Conan volume 1 Del Rey version in library display in the middle of the library as showcase for english spoken literature the library recommended.

I think he will become mainstream classic like HPL,other fantastic genre greats have become. I wanted to him raise like that. Film adaptation is nothing to me. Popular blockbuster Conan film or BO fail is meaningless to me. I want Robert. E Howard to keep growing with the new readers who like his kind of literature and get even more literature classic reputation.

#16 EM Erdelac

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 06:07 PM

Yeah I don't think REH will ever gain widespread acceptance, but I'm fine with that too. I don't think the Conan franchise needs saving and sometimes I think when people say 'save it' they mean make it popular. It's understandable to want Howard to have the same level of acceptance as a mainstream author, but it's unlikely that's going to happen any time soon with the people who are currently handling trying to put the work out there. Maybe they 'get it,' but they don't appear to have the influence to really make it happen.

If anything did 'untold damage' to the public perception of Conan and Howard in terms of gaining a wider acceptance, it was that last abominable movie. It was just a terrible production, and has been negatively compared to the Schwarzenegger outing in almost every corner.

Like Zack, I would probably never have picked Howard out of the slew of imitators if I hadn't seen the Milius movie. It's not unadulterated Howard, but it remains the best jumping off point for the unitiated.

#17 Libaax

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 12:12 AM

Yeah I don't think REH will ever gain widespread acceptance, but I'm fine with that too. I don't think the Conan franchise needs saving and sometimes I think when people say 'save it' they mean make it popular. It's understandable to want Howard to have the same level of acceptance as a mainstream author, but it's unlikely that's going to happen any time soon with the people who are currently handling trying to put the work out there. Maybe they 'get it,' but they don't appear to have the influence to really make it happen.

If anything did 'untold damage' to the public perception of Conan and Howard in terms of gaining a wider acceptance, it was that last abominable movie. It was just a terrible production, and has been negatively compared to the Schwarzenegger outing in almost every corner.

Like Zack, I would probably never have picked Howard out of the slew of imitators if I hadn't seen the Milius movie. It's not unadulterated Howard, but it remains the best jumping off point for the unitiated.


Mainstream popularity is usually for current authors and most of them will be forgotten in 80-100 years. Im fine with Howard being classic author who is remembered unlike many of his contemporaries. Popularity of Conan in other medium doesn't do anything for his literary reputation. It makes some fans feel better and some pastiche creators have more money.

Most classic authors don't have widespread reputation unless they have written Sherlock Holmes or someone literary character other who has had 100s of films.

#18 amster

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 01:42 AM

I think it would be cool to trick people into seeing a Conan film. Don't even put "Conan" in the title, just call the film Black Colossus or Hour of the Dragon.
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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--

#19 Ironhand

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 02:36 AM

I think it would be cool to trick people into seeing a Conan film. Don't even put "Conan" in the title, just call the film Black Colossus or Hour of the Dragon.

Isn't that what Disney did with "John Carter"?
"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
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#20 Almuric

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 02:50 AM

"Sheesh, this Black Colossus looks like some kind of generic Conan rip-off to me."

"The title suggests some kind of Blacksploitation movie, but there's no black people in the cast. Racist!"

"Hour of the Dragon? What, did Michael Bay come up with that crappy title?"
"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard