Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Poll: Who's Your Barbarian?

The Barbarian in Public Consciousness
Somewhere along the path of pop culture the concept of a barbarian became this hulking musclebound idiot.
Barbarians are really nothing of the sort. My friend Mike put it in the best possible terms when he said "They're warriors, not body builders."

And he's right.

Somewhere, the concept of barbarian became this bulky, giant sword wielding, long-haired heavy metal freak (no offense to any bulky, sword wielding long haired heavy metal fans out there).

So I'm taking a poll as to what is your iconic image of the Barbarian?

The samples are below while the poll itself is to the right.

1. 1930's pulp hero Conan?
2. The Savage Tarzan?
3. These more historical guys?
4. Greek Myth Hercules?
5. Keven Sorbo Hercules?
6. Genghis Khan?
7. Frazetta's Conan?
8. Barry Windsor Smith's Conan?
9. Buscema's Conan?
10. Margaret Brundage's Conan?
11. This Cartoon Guy?
12. Groo?
13. Cerebus?
14. A'nold
15. World of Warcraft barbarian?
16. The guy in this poster?

17. Sun-Sword wielding Thundarr?

18. A Spartan (the movie kind)?

This is America so feel free to vote more than once and let the bodies pile up!


  1. Groo is definitely mine... but where's Bobby?

  2. 9. Buscema's Conan...this is my favorite. Franztta is close second. But man, I've got to give Groo some props.

  3. I am gonna vote outside your poll with Mark Schultz Conan. Images here.

    I feel he captures REH's description to a Tee.

  4. I had to include Groo! It wouldn't be a fair poll without his contribution.

    @Mike - Yeah, Schultz's Conan is pretty nice but I thought I focused too much on Conan already. After this we may need another poll just to determine who's image of Conan captures the concept the best.

  5. Uh, difficult. I say something between Frazetta's Conan and Spartans of 300.

  6. Not an image but two REH stories:

    "Beyond the Black River"
    "Red Nails"

  7. I'm going with the two that made me laugh, and that's 11 and 12.

  8. One specific point I would like to touch on is…” Why are these barbarian characters built like rejects from Planet fitness commercials? ” Back in ancient times Warriors and Gladiators and Spartans and Roman legion soldiers did not train with weights and in the gym toning and isolating muscle groups. They fought death with weapons and skill and so on.

    Well…I’d like to clear the air on this right friggin’ now. Robert E. Howard the father of High adventure fantasy literature or the genre we know as “ Sword and Sorcery” had a very specific vision of who he wanted CONAN to be. Being a body building and boxing enthusiast he was around GYM’s and near guys who worked out and dabbled in body building and working out himself. He saw those guys at the Circus bending bars with 50 inch chests and so on ( Circus strong men )

    Go back yourself and read his books. His description of CONAN is one of a great big guy with corded rippling muscles who stood a complete head and shoulder over everyone else. CONAN in Howard’s mind…was a Monster of a man. He could pick up a foeman and break him in half by bending him over backwards with his bare hands.

    Now …add the element of a broadsword or a battle axe and put him out on a bloody battle field and you have Frank Frazetta’s iconic image of CONAN in the famous BARBARIAN painting.( seen above )

    I too had my reservations about this movie… but now I am looking forward to it. I do have my fingers crossed. But….the movie could bomb. I would rather be optimistic about it.

  9. @Geoffrey - the very first image is from Red Nails published in Weird Tales.

    @Whisk - What, Cerebus didn't tickle you?

    @Mikeyboy - Aye, summed up quite nicely!

  10. Oh...that TARZAN by Joe Kubert...Burne Hogarth was one of Joes inspirations though.

  11. @Mikeyboy - You're spot on about that Tarzan Illo. It is Kubert though Hogarth's name is at the bottom. So much for the accuracy of the interwebs!

  12. Dude...I been tooling around looking at your blog...this is going to be a regular stop. I dig it.

  13. @mikeyboy

    Yeah he did describe him as a muscular but not a bodybuilding muscular. I think of him more like the 1930's strong man. They lifted big and heavy and not isolated stuff. Conan grew up climbing,running and slaying. I picture him physique wise like a modern day Boxer or MMA fighter. Strong but not bulky.

  14. Exactly what 2 gun had in mind. Heroic proportion.
    These's just crazy. But you got to remember it's all about the visual.
    No one would have believed Richard Kiel as the HULKIE right?...So they put Big Louie in there...why? Muskles of ridiculous sizes and
    Same thing applies for CONIE...the suspension of disbelief is the key...Not reality.
    But I can love CONAN!!! Who's your Barbarian ?

  15. It has to be GROO,

    but as far as actors go . . .

    Mr. M is afraid of horses,
    while A'nald knocked out a camel with a single punch
    (that scene was not staged , sure pissed off PETA though ; - )

  16. Lords of Light! Where is He-Man on this list?

  17. He-Man! I know there was someone I was forgetting. I assume that you mean the cartoon and not Dolph.

  18. Conan of Queen Of The Black Coast. You can't get more barbarian than that.