Conan the Barbarian will be returning to fans sooner than expected. Until recently, the comic book adaptation rights for Conan the Barbarian were licensed by Marvel Comics, who ran both a solo series featuring the legendary fantasy character and crossovers with their mainstream comics, which led to the interesting circumstance of Conan the Barbarian fighting alongside Wolverine in an arctic jungle kingdom where dinosaurs still live. Comic books, right? Per The Hollywood Reporter Conan the Barbarian will be being published by the United Kingdom company Titan Comics, who are partnering with longtime intellectual property owners Heroic Signature.
Interestingly, this new deal with Titan Comics gives them the rights to the comics and graphic novels based on Conan the Barbarian previously published by Marvel Comics in addition to being able to produce new works. Furthermore, Titan Comics is getting the rights to adapt other works and characters from Robert E. Howard, the influential fantasy writer who came up with Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane, Red Sonja, Kull the Conqueror, and many others. This all seems like a pretty good deal for Titan Comics, which has announced it intends to launch a new Conan the Barbarian series in 2023 to celebrate the company’s tenth year of operations (and presumably to celebrate this massive fantasy character windfall).
Of course, Conan the Barbarian is significantly older (and more famous) than his new home at Titan Comics. Robert E. Howard’s character first appeared in a short story in 1932 titled “The Phoenix on the Sword” in the popular Weird Tales magazine. Howard would return to the character many times before his untimely death in 1936, and Conan the Barbarian would prove to be his most popular creation and a defining part of modern fantasy literature. The character has been utilized by many other others, including Robert Jordan, L. Sprague Camp, and Lin Carter, and set the archetype for a certain kind of savage, swords-and-sorcery warrior.
Conan the Barbarian came to even greater prominence in the 1980s with two film adaptations starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The films were a breakthrough for the then little-known Austrian actor and revitalized interest in the character; however, the film’s interpretation of the character as a golden-haired, nearly-mute weapon of brute force significantly departed from his original depiction as a shrewd, calculating mercenary, plus with dark hair. An attempt to reboot the property in 2011 with Jason Momoa did not capture the same magic, while a third film starring Schwarzenegger has been in development hell for decades.
It will be interesting to see what direction Titan Comics takes Conan the Barbarian in with its upcoming series, as well as the wealth of books and graphic novels they intend to release. The final run of Marvel Comics’ version of the character was marred by accusations of cultural appropriation and insensitivity in the King Conan series. Hopefully, Titan Comics do not wind up in the same circumstances, but at the very least, it is going to be a whole new day for Conan the Barbarian.