Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Conan? Not so Much.

As I stated in a previous post, I spent much of my summer reading on all things Conan and Robert E. Howard in anticipation of the movie Conan The Barbarian (2011). While the new movie was largely a disappointment for me, re-reading, and in many cases reading for the first time, Howard's works was time well spent. I also sought out new "Conan" experiences. I watched, or attempted to watch both the 1997- 1998 TV series Conan the Adventurer and the 1992-1994 cartoon of the same name.

From the get-go, it was obvious to me that the live-action show, Conan the Adventurer, was going to be poor pastiche at best. I remember catching a few episodes when the show was originally airing, and thinking, "what is this happy horse-shit?" Meaning, anyone watching this show expecting Robert E. Howard's Conan, will be disappointed.

The Conan of the show is played by Ralf Moller. The Conan he portrays is kind, jovial and honorable. While REH's Conan could be those things, he was more of a loner and could be very unkind when the situation warranted. In the show Conan travels with a band of Adventurers to include Otli, a clever dwarf often used as comedic interlude, played by Danny Woodburn; Bayu, a martial-artist that must overcome his natural tendency towards greed and is often the brunt of Otli's jokes, played by T.J. Storm; and Zzeben, a mute, staff wielding, acrobatic warrior, played by Robert McRay. Many episodes often include the character Karalle The Queen of Thieves, who is a cross between Belit of "Queen of the Black Coast" fame and the character Valeria of the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian staring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Karalle is played by Aly Dunne.

In the show, Conan and crew face legions of bad guys that work for the evil sorcerer Hissah Zuhl (played by Jeremy Kemp). Hissah Zuhl enslaved Cimmeria and killed not only Conan's parents, but also the love of Conan's life (a girl that Conan met and fell in love with in a span of five days). I found it laughable that Hissah Zuhls minions were so easily beaten. They could have easily been replaced with cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica.

All in all, I couldn't stomach this awful Conan pastiche. I found the cartoon of the same name slightly better then the live-action Conan the Adventurer.

In the cartoon, Conan has a shield with a design of a phoenix upon it that comes to life via magic as a fledgling named Needle.This almost sounds cool, but Needle (irritatingly voiced by Michael Beattle) is the Jar-jar Binks of the Hyborean universe.

In the cartoon, Conan is voiced by Michael Donovan. In my opinion, Donovan tries way too damn hard to sound like a tough guy. He over does the machismo of his voice. Instead of machismo, he obtain cheese-mo. I will stop with the negatives of the show. The truth is, I suffered through four episodes and couldn't take it any more.

However, there were a few things I liked. The main bad guys of the show were serpent people. These are torn right from the pages of Howard's Kull stories, but have more in common with the same serpent people portrayed in Marvel Comics Kull books back in the day.

I may not have given the show that much of a chance, but I did find one episode I particularly enjoyed, "Hanuman the Ape God". It is worth mentioning that the Ape God of this episode is named after the Hindu Ape-God of the same name. In this episode, Conan and clan encounter an alien that is apish in appearance. The alien, Hanuman, is being held captive by the wicked ruler of a city that Conan comes upon. Conan ends up freeing him and returning his magic rod to him that allows Hanuman to return to his people. I really dug the science fiction angel of this episode, and appreciated how it reminded me of Robert E. Howard's Conan tale, "The Tower of the Elephant".

Unfortunately, despite how much I enjoyed the episode "Hanuman the Ape God", the show over all failed to resonate with my barbaric soul.

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