Today I bring you a first for Crushing Comics – a guide to a licensed character who has lived with two different publishers over the course of his nearly 5o-year comics career: The Definitive Conan Comics Collecting Guide and Reading Order!
In fact, I’d say that Conan might be Marvel’s best-collected hero of all time – better than X-Men and Spider-Man! More on that, below.
I’ve always been fascinated with Conan, starting from catching scenes from Arnold’s 1982 film on my parent’s TV as a kid and a tattered old copy of Conan The Barbarian #62 I somehow inherited straight through my first attempt at penning new releases posts in 2015.
It was in researching that post that I became obsessed with how deep Conan’s reprinted archives were – Dark Horse had issued dozens of paperbacks covering his entire primary run at Marvel as well collections covering over 100 issues in the new Dark Horse continuity.
As I said then, “[N]ow I kind of want to read Conan. This is how it happens.” I’m a sucker for long runs, and an even bigger sucker for coherent collected shelves.
While I’ve managed to avoid the siren call of collecting these dozens of books, I couldn’t resist trying to untangle the various releases.
Marvel held Conan license from 1970 to 2000 and produced several distinct continuities of Conan in that period – including 23 years of Barbarian (the majority written by Roy Thomas) plus a magazine called The Savage Sword of Conan and King Conan, a title with stories of the more mature hero.
Marvel rebooted Conan in 1994 before Dark Horse acquired the rights (which included rights to reprint Marvel’s stories!). Then, in 2003, Dark Horse launched their own Conan continuity, originally written by Kurt Busiek and hewing very closely to the original Robert E. Howard stories.
Dark Horse’s Conan has run through s sequence of titles ranging from 12 to 50 issues in length, starting with plain old Conan, followed by Conan The Cimmerian – even though that’s actually a befitting title for an initial volume considering it’s how Robert E. Howard originally described him:
Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”
Between the two publishers, they’ve printed over 850 original Conan comics across multiple continuities and timelines – which definitely merits some guidance when it comes to collecting, especially seeing as some volumes have nearly the same names as each other! And so my Guide to Conan was born.
Just how collected are those Conan issues? Would you believe over 90% of them are available in a modern collected edition from 2003 and forward? Keep reading to learn how it breaks down.