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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Animated > TV > Conan The Adventurer Season One (1992 Animated/Shout! Factory DVD)

Conan The Adventurer Season One (1992 Animated/Shout! Factory DVD)

Picture: B-     Sound: B-    Extras: D    Episodes: C+

Robert E. Howard's Conan character has enjoyed many lives across numerous mediums and incarnations.  Paperback novels from classic publishers Lancer and Ace featuring the amazing paintings of Frank Frazetta introduced thousands of fans to the bronze-themed barbarian. Marvel Comics adapted him in the 1970s, and in the 1980s Conan made the big screen.  Now with the release of the newest Conan movie in 2011, Hasbro and Shout Factory have re-released the Conan The Adventurer cartoon from the early 1990s.

Developed as a cartoon show suitable for the whole family, series writers Katherine Lawrence and Christy Marx were forced to sanitize the character and the Hyborian Age he roamed of nearly all of its edge.  The violence, romance, and adult situations that define Conan as a character never materialize in the thirteen episodes that make up this two disc set.  Credit should be given to the writers for their research, as they manage to blend in and re-use a lot of the best material and characters from Howard's stories and some of non-Howard stuff that followed in the decades after his tragic death.  Yet the "family show" format constantly hampers the plots, but does succeed in following the standard action cartoon format. This includes a cheesy theme song, annoying animal sidekick, and a recurring villain with plenty of lame henchmen.

While Conan does wield a sword, he never manages to cut anyone actually made of flesh (he does hack up the occasional stone golem). His nemesis, Wrath-Amon commands a legion of snake men disguised as humans, and when Conan waves his "star-metal" sword near them, it sends them careening back into their own dimension to rejoin Set, the "spirit of evil" they work for.  Note that the word "worship" was not used here, as the show's creative team made the decision to not
mention "gods" or the polytheism that permeates the Hyborian world. When Conan shouts "Crom" in the show he's referring to a village spirit" and not the dour god who rewards only strength in the face of adversity.

For younger viewers unfamiliar with Howard's original tales or even the long Marvel Comics run, this will all be immaterial.  The show's blocky and somewhat crude animation might impact them more, however. Similar to the style of Ruby-Spears Rambo cartoon released four years later in 1996, the action and line-work does not carry the quality of earlier favorites like Thundercats and Silverhawks.  Still, the scripts and animation deliver enough interesting visuals to interest younger viewers while not entirely boring parents.

This 2-disc set offers little in the way of extras, which is a shame. It would have been interesting to hear the lead writers' thoughts on the challenges of adapting such adult and violent material to a children's format.  Assembling a crew of stalwart companions along the way (Needle the Phoenix, Thunder the horse, Zula of the Wasai, Jezmine the Acrobat, Snagg the barbarian, and others), Conan tramps through the thirteen episodes on these discs with an innocence unbecoming of Howard's brooding warrior, but not wholly unwelcome for younger viewers.  Only the most ardent Howard fans will want this set for their Conan collections, but parents seeking some innocuous entertainment for their kids could do a lot worse.



- Scott Pyle


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