Conan the Barbarian makes a big return to Marvel Comics in 2019. But how will the largest comic company in the world handle the most popular barbarian in the world this time around?
It’s no secret that Conan the Barbarian has a massive fan-following. And it’s no secret that the franchise has made a boatload of money for Marvel Comics in the past.
Industry legends like Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, Gil Kane and many more have all taken the barbarian to new heights of popularity through the largest comic publisher in the world.
But what will our friends at Marvel do with Conan that hasn’t already been done?
I’ve been a comic book collector since I was in the first grade, so that mean’s I’ve watched the Cimmerian come and go in the medium for close to 40 years. I’ve seen three Conan major motion pictures. Then there was a television live-action series, as well as an animated series, too. If memory serves me well, I even had the Conan the Barbarian MEGO action figure when I was a kid. My point is that Conan has “been around the block.”
There are over 65 trade paperbacks of Marvel’s early material published by Dark Horse: 11 volumes of King Conan, 22 volumes of Savage Sword of Conan, and a mind-boggling 34 volumes of Conan the Barbarian. Those volumes are just the Marvel reprint collections – they don’t take into account any of the high-quality Conan stories Dark Horse produced on their own.
Unlike Marvel’s superhero universe, where anything can happen, I believe there are artistic and even creative limitations on what can be done in the World of Hyboria. Is it story-rich? Without a doubt. There wouldn’t be 60+ volumes of reprints alone if there were not tales to be told.
But it is difficult for me to think that many of these stories haven’t been told already. Conan has met Elric of Melnibone. He’s fought alongside (and with) Red Sonja. If my comic-fu serves me well, I think he’s even met, King Kull.
With the exception of a new issue of What If? I can’t see Conan striding down Park Avenue in New York, but you never know.
The questions, then, become simple: What will Marvel do with Conan the Barbarian that will make me pass up 65+ trade paperbacks and hundreds of back issues available on eBay, Comixology or Marvel Unlimited? What will keep me buying “new” issues at market price when there are so many other alternatives available to read good Conan stories? These are both interesting questions in a medium that is going through so many changes.
Will we see variant covers? That’s always a possibility. They sell well, and the right artist would be a draw. Dynamite Entertainment does a great job having variant covers on their fantasy properties, with Red Sonja coming to mind as a primary example.
Can Marvel mainstream characters cross over into Hyboria? Of course! Perhaps some of the more popular teams will make their way into an ongoing storyline.
An update for the Conan the Barbarian series (same stories, new art) starting with the original Conan #1? No one knows at this point, and I am certain I’m not the only one who is excited to see what Marvel will do in 2019. Sadly, it’s all speculation until Marvel is ready to let the cat out of the proverbial bag.
What do you think Marvel has in store for Conan? How will they keep the stories fresh and find a new take on a classic character?
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