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