Sunday, December 29, 2013

Conan the Adventurer (The Animated Series) Episode 01: The Night of Fiery Tears

Hi all - Josh here. I've been thinking about how to incorporate this gem of a 90's animated series into our show's schema for a while. There have been several popular American animated series that fit into the sword and sorcery genre. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe come to mind almost immediately. I loved Masters of the Universe when I was young, but it went off the air in 1985 (and I wore my VHS copies out soon after.) Yes there were lots of great animated series to take the place of this show, but none in the sword and sorcery genre. Then, in 1992, Conan the Adventurer began to air, and I made it a point to wake up extra early every Monday through Friday so that I could watch the Cimmerian's next adventure before I went to school.

A very calm and soothing start to my mornings!
Recently, I found the first few episodes of Conan The Adventurer on YouTube, and thought I'd check them out and see how well they've held up. The general premise of the show is pretty cool, though it varies pretty significantly from the Howard canon. Sure, there are some staples present. There's an evil snake cult, wizards and princesses, warrior maidens, and Crom! In the first episode, titled The Night of Fiery Tears, we get a lot of story background. The series antagonist, Wrath-amon (Not Thoth-amon!), the high priest of the Serpent Cult of Set, has been charged by Set personally to build pyramids out of "star metal". This substance is very rare; it crashes from the darkness between worlds onto the surface of the planet. If these pyramids are built in the proper arrangement, it would allow Set and his army of serpent men to emerge from his dimension into ours, allowing him to achieve complete mastery over the entire world. Snakes EVERYWHERE, man! Obviously, this would be a very bad thing.

A VERY bad thing!
 Just a moment, though. His name is Wrath-Amon? Follower of Set, you say? He even has a magic ring, and without it his magical abilities are gone. Remind you of anyone?

"COOOOBRAAAAA!!!" Wait, wrong cartoon.
Clearly, Wrath-amon's character was based on our old pal Thoth-amon from The Phoenix on the Sword, the first Conan story ever published, and the first one we covered, way back in episode 1!

Anyway, Wrath-amon is looking for star metal. Well, it happens that a group of people in Cimmeria have a hoard of weapons forged from star metal, but they won't give it over to Wrath-amon. Naturally, this does not please Wrath-amon, who casts a spell of living stone on one Cimmerian family. All except one member. Take one guess who it could be.

You see, when Conan was younger, his father forged a star metal sword for him, and placed it under a boulder so that Conan could retrieve it once he became strong enough. That time has come at last! Conan retrieves the sword and fends off the serpent men - the star metal reveals their true nature and sends them back into Set's dimension. However, he is too late to save his family from getting stoned - I mean, turned to stone!

Looks like the odds are almost even.
Later, Conan stumbles upon a tomb and meets the ghost of Epimetrius the sage. He tells Conan about Set's plan, the star metal pyramids, and Wrath-amon's magic ring. If Conan could destroy the ring, he'd destroy Wrath-amon's magic, foil Set's plan, and return his family to life! Epimetrius gives Conan a magical shield with the mark of a phoenix. This is another excellent reference to The Phoenix on the Sword, however this time Conan can use the magical mark to summon forth a phoenix to aid him.

Or maybe Needle is a magical talking chicken...
The episode ends with Conan being drugged, captured by slavers, and put on a ship bound for the slave pits of Wrath-amon!

All in all, I think this show holds up fairly well. There is a nice, youthful, adventurous quality to Conan that I think kids can relate to. The violence is fairly typical of 90's cartoons - no one really gets hit with a sword or ax or arrow. Instead, Conan's sword transports the serpent men back into Set's dimension without much harm coming to them. There's a lot of lore and world building in this episode. It calls back nicely to the original source material written by Robert E. Howard, while building on the mythos and establishing a new world that the primary audience (kids) can get excited about exploring. Conan looks like a cross between the body builder portrayal of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the dark haired Cimmerian described by Howard, and I think this reflects the core of the animated series fairly well - it's a nice mix of various takes on Conan that adds a little something new.

The first episode of this series, at least, is a forgotten gem. While nostalgia can add a rosy tint to our views of what we liked when we were young, I think this show is a perfect entry point for kids into the exciting worlds of fantasy and sword & sorcery. You can find the DVD collections on Amazon, but there are several episodes available for perusal on YouTube if you're not ready to make the purchase just yet.

Check out this show! Or the serpent men win! 
I think I'll watch some more of these episodes and talk about them here on the blog every so often. We'd love to hear from you all - what do you think of the animated Conan the Adventurer? Leave a comment or shoot us an email and let us know!