An Interview About the Legendary Barbarian Created By Robert E. Howard
“Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan
(The best part of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan in the two films made in the 1980s was that he looked like the iconic barbarian warrior. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger played Conan like a brutish ape and left the complexities of the character out in the cold. Conan the Barbarian was complicated – tough, merciless, but also with a keen intelligence and a wry sense of humor. Conan has become a mythical fictional character in the same category as Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and Peter Pan. Most people recognize Conan even if they’ve never read the stories by pulp writer Robert E. Howard, who created the Cimmerian warrior in 1932. DaRK PaRTY recently rediscovered the joy and wonder of Howard’s Conan (and eagerly awaits the new movie which could happen in 2009). We decided we needed more and sought out Joakim “Jay” Zetterberg, director of publishing at Paradox Entertainment (the company that owns the rights of Howard’s library of work – including the mighty Conan.)
DaRK PaRTY: How would you describe Conan in personality and in appearance?
Joakim: Uncompromising with a strong moral fiber. Impressive physical stature and strong as an oxe, yet lithe as a panther. DP: What is the biggest misconception about Conan?
Joakim: While stuck with the epithet "Barbarian" I find him being far from it. Yes, he beats up quite a lot of people but we all know they deserve it. He has a very straight-forward moral code which is easy to understand. He does what he has to do to survive which is more or less a combination of common sense and taking matters into his own hands. He only makes a couple of moral sidesteps with today's standards, like when he needs money for food. But barbarian, nope.
DP: Conan has become an iconic fictional character. Why do you think Conan appeals to so many people around the world?
Joakim: He does what many people would like to do, to live a free and adventurous life, to act on instinct and do unto other what they do to him. Imagine what Conan would do to the telemarketers of today.
DP: If you had to pick three of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories that really encapsulate the Conan mythos, which ones would they be and why?
Joakim: Asmy personal favorites I would start with "Frost-Giant's Daughter." It hardly begins before it ends and leaves me intrigued because it is so open-ended. What place is this, who is this Conan, where did he come from, where is he going? "Queen of the Black Coast" for showing that Conan is not only a sword-slinging brute. And of course "Hour of the Dragon', the only novel-length Conan story, featuring an older Conan on the throne of Aquilonia. From battlefield to king. That's quite a journey. DP:Do you think the two Conan films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger captured the true spirit of Conan? What did you like best about the films and what didn't work in your opinion?
Joakim: If by capturing the true spirit of Conan you mean being true to Conan as Robert E. Howard described him then there is something missing. Conan is more complex than how he is portrayed in the movie. However, the movies are iconic and whatever your opinion is of them they brought Conan back into the spotlight after some years of waning interest after the huge surge in popularity with the Frazetta paperbacks in the 1960s. We should all be thankful for that.