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Conan the Barbarian

I’m not a fan of fantasy. I’ve never cared for Lord of the Rings or stories with magic. I think I struggle with it being a completely different world, with a completely different set of physics. There is nothing to ground me, and because of that I’m just not much of a fan.

That dislike of fantasy extends to sword and sorcery, although my experience with the sub-genre was limited to the Conan movies in the 80’s. Outside of some cool artwork, I just didn’t know how that appealed to folks.

But as I’ve gotten older, I like to revisit my dislikes to see if they were prematurely established or created for irrational reasons. I think it’s nice to challenge yourself, and so I’ve tried to be more open to fantasy. I haven’t had a ton of success, but when it comes to sword and sorcery… well, I’ve fallen in love with Conan.

About six months ago, I found myself on a message board somewhere that was discussing Conan. I believe I was doing research on pulp heroes, and it led me to Robert E. Howard’s work. Thanks to a recommendation (and the ease of finding these public domain stories) I opened up The Tower of the Elephant and found myself enjoying the Cimmerian’s tale.

I was at a loss afterwards, I mean, where do I go next? The problem with fantasy (and some sci-fi and of course comics) it gets bogged down with decades of work, interpretations, retconning, and what not. The first Conan story was published in 1932, that’s almost 100 years of stories to get through.

Thankfully… and this may be what I love about Conan the most, all of the stories are independent. They don’t necessarily tell a linear story and you can pick up any of them, enjoy a fun, adventure tale and then go about your day. This type of short entertainment is something I’m always craving and knowing there is so much of it to enjoy just delights me.

Luckily for me, Titan began publishing a new line of Conan comics, so I quickly read what had been released to-date. I found the incredible artwork and fun storytelling captured my imagination and I realized why this hero has persisted for so long. I still get bogged down in the names of all the cities and tribes, but the comics help create visual link for me that just makes experiencing this foreign world that much easier.

As I tend to do, I find something I like, obsess over it for a few weeks/months, and then move onto something else with intention on circling back. My time with Conan was short, but after a recent post byJake, I found myself starting another Conan story and catching up on the comics I had missed. There was no need to do research on where to go next or read the Wiki to catch up on what storylines I missed elsewhere, I just started reading. We need more entertainment like this.

I decided to revisit the first film (I watched the 2011 film a few months ago) and I enjoyed it for the insanity that it was, although I much prefer the stories/comics.

I’m sure I’ll put Conan down again, but there is something to be said about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and challenging your pre-existing interests. I’ve surrounded myself with the same stories/movies/comics most of my life and it’s easy to just get comfortable with that. However, it can be extremely limiting and I don’t think I realized I’d grown a little bored with all the things I’ve championed over the years.

When combined with the non-stop exploitation of characters/franchises and a complete disregard for fans at times, I think it’s nice to retreat to someplace new where things aren’t so frustrating.  A little quiet fandom not so close to the beating pulse of pop culture where a simple man tries to navigate the world by cutting off other men’s heads one at a time.

Published in#WeblogPoMo2024

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