Aug 2, 2010

Re-envisioning Conan

I stumbled across this image, a cover of an early edition Conan book by an artist only identified as EMSH. What I find most fascinating about this image is there is no influence whatsoever of the iconic Conan created by the immortal Frazetta (and perpetuated by Barry Windsor Smith, and other Marvel artists). I can only assume the artist was either given some scarce description by an art director, or barely skimmed the book himself.

There are hints of Roman and comic-book superhero influences, and that mocking laugh as he points is not like any image of Conan I've ever seen.

It makes me wonder if it is possible to re-envision Conan. Perhaps by researching real barbarian dress forms, and seasoning it with a bit of REH's imaginative descriptions. And if you did that, could anyone recognize it as Conan? Or is Conan's form permanently marred by the common perception of who he is?


  1. Magaret Brundage's Conan from the Weird Tales covers doesn't resemble Frazetta's or Windsor-Smith's either--and predates them both.

    I suspect Conan's look is always going to interpreted a little bit by what's "cool" for a certain era or culture, but I don't know that historical "accuracy" is going to ever enter into it much.

  2. "Perhaps by researching real barbarian dress forms, and seasoning it with a bit of REH's imaginative descriptions."

    It seems to me, that an attempt at this was made (to a certain degree) in the last Conan DC series. In few of the issues he is wearing long "dresses" not unlike those of some Germanic tribes.

  3. Hey Thomas,

    “Emsh” was Edmund Alexander Emshwiller.

    I've thought quite a bit about this particular representation, I agree with your view of it being a heroic Greek/Roman pastiche but with heavier shades of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant influencing it. (See another of his Conan covers here...)

    I think you have had to been of a certain age to have avoided the Frazetta covers, Savage Sword artwork, and the unfortunate Arnold/bodybuilder stereotype influencing Conan's present image.

    This Conan cover was done in 1954/55.

  4. blopunk: thanks for the info. I'm surprised I haven't heard of Emshwiller before. And I like that Conan cover you linked to better.

  5. Thomas,

    You should try your hand at an original take on Conan. With your artistic talent and vision I am sure it would be very cool.