You can say that again. I introduced my otherwise literature-eschewing brother to Howard's boxing stuff today; there was a 45 minute break in the soccer frenzy, so I tossed him the book on a whim, suggesting he check out this Costigan feller. Then I come here, read this... It feels very right, now -- very fitting: on the day of his death, another Howard fan is born.
Sword fighting isn't something that one is born to -- you have to learn it. No doubt the literary Conan learned it while growing up in Cimmeria, but the film Conan had been enslaved as a child, so Milius had to invent a way for him to become an uber-badass with a sword. And, as we know, the 'real' Conan did spend quite some time in the East, so the minute or two of screen time showing him training under Eastern masters is hardly that divergent from REH's vision. Furthermore, Conan, in the stories, spends many years as a mercenary fighting for civilized armies -- that doesn't 'corrupt' him in your eyes?
Ah yes, whenever I read something like this I recall the fight scene between Conan and Zaporavo in The Pool of the Black One. By now, Conan has (presumably, given the various chronologies) already seen the East and its various fencing/fighting styles, and ought to have picked up a trick or three, yet Howard describes the fight thusly:
Zaporavo was the veteran of a thousand fights by sea and by land. There was no man in the world more deeply and thoroughly versed than he in the lore of sword-craft. But he had never been pitted against a blade wielded by thews bred in the wild lands beyond the borders of civilization. Against his fighting-craft was matched blinding speed and strength impossible to a civilized man. Conan's manner of fighting was unorthodox, but instinctive and natural as that of a timber wolf. The intricacies of the sword were as useless against his primitive fury as a human boxer's skill against the onslaughts of a panther.
I suppose I could see someone of Batista's proportions portray a Buscema-Conan. Not my personal taste, but there you go. I'd be careful to keep him on land and out of armour, though, as that kind of bulk tends to make most comical visuals when heavily dressed; and Iloosh Khoshabe, of comparable size, who played Samson in the 1963 Ercole sfida Sansone, inspired much mirth trying to dive and swim (not that the rest of the film cast him in a very serious light).
Also, while I respect contrary opinion on the size, bulk, hairstyle, dress and mannerism of Conan (the many Conans, I should say), I find basing that opinion upon perceived truth by way of a work of art rather tenuous. Any artist knows how to exaggerate, embellish, enrich and enlarge -- and indeed, how to lessen, diminish and contract. Anyone who's ever hented pencils with intent to depict what they see could tell you as much. That said, I am positive there were men of impressive proportions, men largely denuded of hair, men of effeminate features, and men so short their limbs were rendered stockily powerful, just as there are today -- sans gym hours, razorblades, baby oils, et al. Of course, artists are also adept at blending the aforementioned crowd into an ideal...
I think budgie said it best last year, in the Ray Stevenson thread: we're influenced by the times, and have trouble disassociating massiveness (21st century definition) and physical prowess. Aesthetic sensibilities aside, I encourage you to look up strongmen from the early 20th century, like Arthur Saxon, who managed to achieve extraordinary strength and physiques void of today's lauded bloat.
Anyway, suggestions are good; the more the merrier!