Welcome back, gang, and I hope you’re all ready for another installment of our animated shows you’ve probably never seen but should series, and I’ve got a really good one instore for you this week. For this time around I thought we’d move away from the action/adventure and scifi scenes and take a look at something that’s very near and dear to my heart, and that’s sword and sorcery, at least as much as a kid’s show can actually explore that sort of thing anyway. And who better to be the lead in such a series than everyone’s favorite sword swinging Cimmerian himself, and of course I’m talking about none other than Conan the Barbarian.
Let me get it out there right away and say that Conan is my favorite character ever, so it’s pretty much safe to say I’ll take a look at about anything that features him. Even the old issue of Marvel’s What If? series where he was transported to modern times, became a pimp, and fought Thor. Yeah, that actually happened. Anyway, Conan was the star of two animated series from back in the 90s, which is odd for a character known more for adult themes and gritty adventure rather than anything kid friendly. One was Conan and the Young Warriors, which I’ll be the first to admit was total crap and made me wish he would just go back to being a pimp again. But the other was the much better Conan the Adventurer, which was a sword swinging, magic flinging bag of a goodtime.
The show follow’s Conan as he sets off on a quest to save his family, his father and grandparents having been cursed with the spell of living stone by the evil wizard Wrath-Amon. Wrath-Amon leads the serpent men of Set, a shape changing race of reptiles from the Abyss who seek to bring their dark god into the world and conquer it. To do this, they require star metal, a rare alloy that fell to the world on a meteorite. The metal can open portals between dimensions so that Set can cross through if enough of it is collected together, but it’s also very dangerous to the serpent men, its slightest touch forcing them to transform to their reptilian selves or banishing them to the Abyss altogether. Wrath-Amon attacked Conan’s village in search of the star metal, which just so happens to be what Conan’s father forged the barbarian’s sword from. Now the Cimmerian seeks to defeat the vile wizard and restore his family, but since it’s a kid’s show, you just know he’s going to meet a colorful cast of friends to accompany him along the way.
To that end, we get Jezmine, the circus acrobat and part time thief who wields a set of star metal shuriken. She serves as Conan’s romantic interest in many episodes, as well as having an intriguing backstory of her own that gets explored. We also have Zula who is a liberated slave and tribal prince, helping Conan to escape form the serpent men’s clutches and becoming his closest friend throughout the show. We also get the shaman, Greywolf, and the viking-like, Snagg, who both help the barbarian from time to time in various episodes. And let’s not forget Conan’s animal companion to round out the cuteness factor, the talking phoenix, Needle, who lives on Conan’s shield and comes off as just plain annoying most of the time. But hey, kids love a talking bird, so we have to suffer through him.
But Wrath-Amon, of course, is not without his own cadre of minions, namely Wingfang the dragon, Mesmira the evil sorcerous, and his seemingly endless supply of serpent men soldiers to do his bidding. But my favorite of all his lackeys has to be his servant, Skulker, a skeletal knight that is enslaved by the wizard and commands his own horde of undead warriors against Conan and his friends. We also get the odd villain here and there from filler episodes, which all in all aren’t bad and connect everything together nicely.
What Conan the Adventurer did really well was blend two sets of stories together, bringing us original tales written just for the show while still paying homage to the barbarian’s roots. We get all of the side plots featuring the new characters and the supporting villains but we also see episodes based on works like Tower of the Elephant, The Phoenix on the Sword, and Shadows in Zamboula. Wrath-Amon also draws his background from Conan’s printed works, being a stand in for Thoth-Amon and the many other wizards and Stygian threats Conan has faced.
I’ll be the first to admit that the violence and tone of the Hyborian world was considerably toned down for the show, but the art style looks decent for something from 1993 and it’s a lot of fun to see how Conan’s original adventures are adapted from page to screen. The soundtrack is pretty good, too, and the voice acting, especially for the bad guys, is on point. If you know the character, it’s funny to see how they reined Conan in A LOT for this show, as he refuses to attack unarmed opponents and passes on the chance to become the captain of a pirate crew, which just made me laugh as that would never happen what so ever in any of the books. As always there was a toy line as well, but the figures pretty much just came off as weighty hunks of plastic with bad articulation. If anything, you might be able to bludgeon somebody into unconsciousness with one, but for playability, they fall way short on the fun factor.
For a Saturday morning cartoon based on a gritty barbarian, Conan the Adventurer does an admirable job, and in a time when I was younger and looking for anything fantasy related it delivered the goods. If you want to check it out the entire series is available for free on Tubi, so hop on over and give it a look, because Conan is worth getting to know.
Next week we’ll be wrapping up this little series of articles that we’ve been doing together, going deep beneath the surface of the earth to fight giant monsters, rock men, and sentient redwood trees. If that sounds up your alley then be sure to be here and check it out. It’s one of favorites and I can’t wait to share with you guys. Until then, later gang.