Conan the Barbarian #1-115 (1970-1980) – Marvel’s Conan Series

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Marvel Comics, a name synonymous with superheroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the X-Men, ventured into the sword-and-sorcery genre with the acquisition of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. This iconic series, spanning from 1970 to 1980, brought the Cimmerian warrior to life in a new medium, enthralling comic book readers across the world. In this article, we’ll dive deep into Marvel’s Conan series, exploring its history, characters, stories, and its impact on comic book collecting.

The Birth of a Legend: Marvel’s Conan


Early Beginnings

Marvel Comics launched the Conan the Barbarian series in 1970, following the success of the character in pulp fiction and other media. The series kicked off with the release of Conan the Barbarian #1, crafted by the legendary writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith. This adaptation marked a significant shift in the comic book landscape, as it introduced a character outside the traditional superhero genre.

Artistic Evolution

The series saw a notable evolution in its artwork. Barry Windsor-Smith’s initial style, heavily influenced by Jack Kirby, gradually transformed into a more distinctive, detailed form. Later issues featured artists like John Buscema, whose bold lines and dynamic compositions became synonymous with Conan’s adventures.

Storytelling Mastery

The stories in Marvel’s Conan series were characterized by their rich narrative depth. Roy Thomas, adept at adapting Howard’s original tales, also introduced new stories that expanded the Hyborian Age. His storytelling was marked by a combination of high adventure, mystical elements, and a complex protagonist who was more than just a muscle-bound warrior.

Exploring the Hyborian Age: Key Storylines and Characters

The Tower of the Elephant

One of the most revered stories in the series, “The Tower of the Elephant,” showcases Conan’s early adventures. This tale combines action, fantasy, and philosophical undertones, exemplifying the depth of the series.

The God in the Bowl

This story is a blend of horror and mystery, a testament to the series’ versatility. It reveals Conan’s detective-like qualities, as he unravels the mystery surrounding a god’s statue.

Red Nails

Originally a novella by Howard, “Red Nails” was adapted into the comic format, showcasing a dying city filled with intrigue, danger, and ancient secrets.

Supporting Cast

Conan’s world was populated by a rich cast of characters, from the wise sage Epemitreus to the fierce warrior Valeria. These characters added depth and variety to the series, making Conan’s world feel vibrant and real.

The Impact of Marvel’s Conan Series

Influence on the Fantasy Genre

Marvel’s Conan series played a pivotal role in popularizing the sword-and-sorcery genre in comics. Its success paved the way for other fantasy series in the comic book industry.

Cultural Significance

Conan the Barbarian influenced not only comics but also other media. The series’ success led to movies, TV shows, and merchandise, expanding Conan’s reach to a broader audience.

Collecting Marvel’s Conan

Conan the Barbarian #1-115 has become a collector’s gem. The series’ significance in comic book history, combined with its artistic and narrative quality, makes it a prized possession for many collectors.

Key Creators Behind the Series

Roy Thomas

Roy Thomas, the writer behind much of the series, is celebrated for his ability to adapt and expand the Conan lore. His contributions were crucial in shaping the series’ success.

Barry Windsor-Smith

Initially mirroring the popular comic styles of the time, Windsor-Smith evolved into a master of intricate and expressive artwork, leaving a lasting impact on the series.

John Buscema

Taking over from Windsor-Smith, Buscema brought a new dynamism to the series. His work is often credited with defining the visual style of Conan in comics.

Collecting Marvel’s Conan: A Guide

Key Issues to Collect

  • Conan the Barbarian #1: The first issue is a must-have, marking the beginning of Conan’s journey in Marvel Comics.
  • The Tower of the Elephant (Issue #4): A masterpiece in storytelling and art.
  • Red Nails (Issues #90-92): A pivotal storyline that is a fan favorite.

Condition and Value

The condition of comic books is crucial in determining their value. Issues in mint or near-mint condition are highly sought after by collectors.

Rarity and Demand

Some issues of Marvel’s Conan are rarer than others, affecting their collectibility. Limited print runs or significant storylines can increase demand.

FAQs about Marvel’s Conan Series

Q1: Was Marvel’s Conan series faithful to Robert E. Howard’s original stories? A1: While Marvel’s series took some creative liberties, it largely remained faithful to the spirit and tone of Howard’s work.

Q2: Who are some of the notable villains in the series? A2: Thoth-Amon, a powerful sorcerer, and the serpent god Set are among Conan’s most formidable foes in the series.

Q3: Can new readers enjoy the series today? A3: Absolutely! The series’ timeless storytelling and art make it accessible and enjoyable for new generations of readers.

Marvel’s Conan: Beyond the Comics

Adaptations and Spin-offs

The success of Marvel’s Conan series led to various adaptations and spin-offs, including “King Conan,” “Conan the Adventurer,” and “Conan the Savage.” These titles explored different aspects of Conan’s life, from his youth to his days as a king.

Influence on Modern Comic Creators

The series inspired a generation of comic book writers and artists. Creators like Frank Miller and Mike Mignola have cited Conan as an influence in their storytelling and artistic styles.

Revival in Modern Times

The Conan series experienced a revival in the 21st century, with Marvel reacquiring the rights to the character. This led to new stories and crossovers with other Marvel characters, introducing Conan to a new generation of readers.

The Art of Conan

Barry Windsor-Smith’s Legacy

Windsor-Smith’s detailed and expressive art in the early issues of the series set a high standard. His work, particularly in rendering the gritty and dynamic world of Conan, is celebrated for its artistic merit.

John Buscema’s Influence

Buscema’s art in later issues brought a different flavor to the series. His ability to depict intense action scenes and strong character expressions contributed significantly to the visual storytelling of Conan’s saga.

Covers That Captured Imagination

The covers of Conan the Barbarian are iconic in their own right. They captured the essence of each issue’s adventure and are remembered for their dramatic and engaging art.

The Narrative Themes of Conan

The Antihero

Conan, portrayed as an antihero, was a departure from the typical comic book protagonists of the time. His complex moral code and survival instincts made him a relatable and intriguing character.

Exploration of Fantasy Elements

The series delved deep into fantasy, with elements like magic, ancient gods, and mythical creatures. This exploration contributed to the rich tapestry of the Hyborian Age.

Reflections on Society and Morality

Conan’s adventures often reflected on broader themes like society, justice, and morality. These themes added depth to the stories, making them more than just action-packed adventures.

The Legacy of Marvel’s Conan Series

A Milestone in Comic Book History

Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian is not just a successful comic series; it’s a milestone that showcased the potential of the medium to tell diverse and complex stories.

Impact on Pop Culture

Conan’s influence extends beyond comics, affecting literature, cinema, video games, and even board games. The character has become a cultural icon, symbolizing strength, adventure, and resilience.

Inspiring Future Creations

The series has inspired numerous adaptations and reinterpretations, proving the timelessness of Conan’s character and the world he inhabits.

Exploring the World of Conan Collectibles

Merchandise and Memorabilia

Conan the Barbarian’s popularity led to a range of collectibles, including action figures, posters, and limited-edition prints. These items not only hold monetary value but also serve as nostalgic artifacts for fans.

Original Artwork

Original panels and covers from the Conan series are highly coveted items among collectors. The artwork, especially from prominent issues, captures the essence of the series and is a piece of comic history.

Trading Cards and Games

Trading cards featuring Conan and related characters, along with board and video games, have been popular among fans. These items offer another dimension to the Conan universe, extending the experience beyond the comic pages.

The Evolution of Conan in Comics

Changes in Storytelling and Art

Over the decades, Conan’s portrayal in comics has evolved, reflecting changes in storytelling techniques and artistic styles. This evolution showcases the character’s adaptability and the creators’ willingness to explore new directions.

Crossovers and Collaborations

Marvel’s recent acquisition of Conan saw him interacting with iconic Marvel characters, offering fresh narratives and expanding his universe. These crossovers present unique storylines that blend the best of both worlds.

The Future of Conan in Comics

Potential Storylines and Developments

The future of Conan in comics looks promising, with potential for new stories that delve deeper into the Hyborian Age. The character’s enduring popularity ensures his continued presence in the comic book world.

The Role of Digital Media

With the rise of digital comics, Conan’s adventures are more accessible than ever. This digital shift opens up new possibilities for storytelling and reaching a broader audience.

Conan’s Influence on Modern Fantasy

Setting Standards in the Genre

Conan the Barbarian set high standards for the sword-and-sorcery genre in comics. Its blend of action, adventure, and mystical elements became a blueprint for many fantasy comics that followed.

Inspiring Modern Fantasy Creators

The series has been a source of inspiration for modern fantasy writers and artists. Its influence is evident in various works that echo Conan’s themes and settings.

A Guide to Starting a Conan Collection

Where to Begin

For those interested in starting a Conan comic book collection, it’s advisable to begin with key issues and gradually expand. Online marketplaces, comic book stores, and conventions are great places to start.

Tips for Collecting

  • Prioritize condition: Look for well-preserved issues.
  • Research: Understand the market value and rarity of issues.
  • Protect your collection: Use proper storage methods to preserve the comics.

FAQs about Collecting Conan Comics

Q1: Are digital versions of Conan comics worth collecting? A1: While they don’t have the tangible value of physical copies, digital versions are a great way to read and enjoy the series.

Q2: How do I verify the authenticity of a rare Conan comic? A2: Consult with reputable comic book dealers or use grading services to verify authenticity and condition.

Q3: What’s the best way to display a Conan comic collection? A3: Use acid-free frames or display cases to protect and showcase your collection.


Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian series (1970-1980) is more than just a collection of comic books; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has stood the test of time. Its combination of compelling storytelling, rich world-building, and artistic innovation has left an indelible mark on the comic book industry and popular culture at large. For casual readers, collectors, and enthusiasts of the fantasy genre, Marvel’s Conan series remains a treasure trove of adventure, excitement, and artistic achievement. Its legacy continues to endure, captivating the imaginations of audiences around the world.

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