Monday, September 12, 2011


Know, O Prince, that in the times known as the early 1990s, there was an age undreamed of. An age of weekday afternoon action-adventure cartoons, bad pop music and blurry VHS video. And, into that age, strode CONAN THE ADVENTURER (1992), an animated cartoon series based on the sword-swinging, head-crushing, wench-bedding pulp character created by Robert E. Howard.

Conan (voiced by Michael Donovan) is a young barbarian from the craggy Northern realm known as Cimmeria. His father, a blacksmith, has discovered a fallen meteor, the metal ore from which he has forged into a mighty sword and a variety of other weapons. The wizard Wrath-Amon (Scott McNeil/Long John Baldry), a priest of the evil serpent god, Set, comes in search of the precious "star metal" and curses Conan's family, turning them to living stone. Conan, with his "star metal" sword, sets out to undo the spell by vanquishing the sorcerer, his army of snakemen, and the evil Set. Along the way, he picks up several companions (all armed with "star metal" weapons) and a magic, talking phoenix called Needle, and discovers the extent of Wrath-Amon's ambitions and the secret of the "star metal"...

Produced for syndication by Sunbow (the production company behind Hasbro's TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE 'toons), CONAN THE ADVENTURER was a kid-friendly take on the famous barbarian, with a surprisingly clever and well thought-out over-story, decent characterizations, and reasonably accomplished late 80s-early-90s-styled animation. The character designs are credited to legendary comics artist, Russ Heath, and overall, the look of the show is pretty good. Under the guiding hand of story editor Christy Marx, the show plays  pretty well, too, with a clearly-defined ongoing narrative and well fleshed-out characters. The voice acting and music are better than adequate, as well - although the theme song makes my ears bleed. (Oh, and the comic relief phoenix, Needle, irritates the hell out of me.)

To tie-in with the already released (and already gone, in most places) new Conan feature film, Shout! Factory brings the complete first season of 13 episodes to DVD on two discs. The 1.33:1 "full-frame" transfers are quite decent, clean and sharp, with bright colors and no distracting blemishes or print damage. There are no extras included. The only problem I can note is that the episode list on the packaging doesn't quite match the order presented on the discs. In all, though, it's a perfectly satisfactory package for fans of the show.

I enjoyed CONAN THE ADVENTURER. I'm a  fan of the original Robert E. Howard pulp stories (and Marvel Comics' version), and I didn't really have any problems with the changes made for the cartoon. It was aimed at kids, after all. In fact, I was rather impressed with the thought put into adapting the material for a younger audience, and the generally higher-than-average quality of the writing. If you're a fan of the Cimmerian barbarian in other incarnations - or, more specifically, this one - the Shout! Factory DVDs aare worth checking out. Recommended.

BUYConan The Adventurer: Season One